Project Canterbury

Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey
by Henry Parry Liddon, D.D.

London: Longmans, 1894
volume one

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002









PUSEY had returned from his wedding tour with the intention of settling in Oxford as a student of theology who had not yet found, but might reasonably expect to find, some definite occupation. With this view he had taken a house in Broad Street on a year's lease; but it was almost at once surrendered to make way for Dr. Wootton, who was engaged to be married, and wished to settle immediately. Pusey was thus, as he expressed it, 'on the pavement.' Nothing was settled beyond the month's visit to Bishop Lloyd. If he could not get another house in Oxford, it was apprehended by Mrs. Pusey's relations that the young people 'would go to some German University, and then good-bye to them, for he would never know when to come back again.' This apprehension was not altogether groundless. Four months before his mar–riage Edward Pusey, when writing to Miss Barker on the difficulty of getting a house in Oxford, had suggested that 'if we cannot get a nice house at an English University, we must, I suppose, at a German one; and Bonn is much prettier, more learned, though not perhaps so " proud," as Oxford.'

However, for the time being Mr. and Mrs. Pusey were the guests of Bishop Lloyd at Christ Church. They occupied the lodgings which belonged to the Bishop as Canon and Regius Professor of Divinity. The Bishop himself was living at Cuddesdon; he used to ride into Oxford to give his lectures. He reserved one room in the house for his books and pupils, and placed the other apartments at the disposal of his guests.

Mrs. Pusey's brief journal enables us to follow the newly-married couple in this their first joint experience of Oxford. The day after they arrived they visited Pusey's rooms at Oriel, Mrs. Pusey being introduced to the new Provost. The next day, Sept. 14th, was Sunday,--the twenty-eighth anniversary of Edward Pusey's baptism. They went twice to St. Mary's, where Newman had lately entered on his duties as successor to the Provost of Oriel. Mrs. Pusey mentions the sermons as being preached by Dr. Whately, then Principal of St. Alban Hall. On the following Thursday 'Dr. and Mrs. Whately and Mr. Newman called' upon them. Among their friends whose visits were alluded to were Mr. and Mrs. Burton, Dr. and Mrs. Buckland, Mr. Dornford, Mr. Vaughan Thomas, the Provost of Oriel, Mr. Mills of Magdalen, Mr. R. I. Wilberforce, Sir Walter Riddell, Mr. Acland, Mr. J. G. Copleston, the Warden of Merton, and Blanco White. They had several small dinner parties of four or five persons, and must have made a very fair acquaintance with Oxford society. Pusey took his wife about Oxford as if they were visiting a foreign town; and she records her impressions. The casts of statues in the Radcliffe Library, the chapel of All Souls, the altarpiece of Magdalen, seem to have interested her particularly; but she is still more preoccupied with Bishop Heber's portrait at All Souls, doubtless by reason of her daily study of the Bishop's Journal. For under her husband's direction Mrs. Pusey was reading a great deal and reading it carefully. Her attention was at this time divided between Latin authors, in particular Tacitus and Sallust, whom she could follow easily in the original, Whately's 'Logic,' and Kent's 'Lives of the British Admirals,'--a work which kept alive and in some sense satisfied an old enthusiasm about the Navy. Among religious works she was studying Chandler's

Bampton Lectures, Bloomfield on S . John, Whately's 'Essays on the Difficulties of St. Paul,' Bishop Heber's Journal, and especially the sermons of Theremin, whose preaching had interested her husband when in Germany. Theremin occupied an intermediate position between the Pietists as represented by Reinhard, and the older Luther–anism; and his influence at Berlin and in Germany was at this time considerable. He died in 1846 full of honours, a member of the Consistory, Professor in the University, and preacher at the Court and in the Cathedral.

But meanwhile an event had occurred which was, as it proved, to determine Pusey's home and work for the remaining fifty-four years of his life. On September 25th, 1828, Dr. Alexander Nicoll, Regius Professor of Hebrew, died at the early age of thirty-five. He had come up to Balliol College as a Scotch Exhibitioner; he had only obtained a Second Class in the Schools, but he had early displayed an original capacity for languages, both Scandi–navian and Eastern, which led to his being made, at the age of twenty-one, Sub-Librarian in the Bodleian Library. To the astonishment of the University, and still more to his own astonishment, on the vacancy created by the elevation of Dr. Laurence to the Archbishopric of Cashel, he was in 1822 appointed by Lord Liverpool to the Chair of Hebrew. Always a hardworking, patient, accurate student, he carried into his new office the formed habits of earnest study which had marked him out for it; and the premature close of a career that promised rare philological distinction was partly hastened by excessive devotion to his duties. His successor always spoke of his 'removal from among us as a wellnigh irreparable loss to sacred scholarship'; Nicoll's self-depreciation, simplicity, candour, and self-denial had won Pusey's heart, These qualities were not unconnected with his remarkable accuracy as a scholar,--the distinction on which Pusey would insist when conversing with his own pupils in later years. Assuredly the modesty, courtesy, and blamelessness of life, which are commemorated on Nicoll's tomb in Christ Church, were far from being flowers of monumental rhetoric; they are attested by all who knew him.

To Pusey Dr. Nicoll's loss was a very serious one. 'He was the only person here,'--so Pusey writes to Mr. R. I. Wilberforce,--'whom I could consult on our common pursuits, in which he could give me so much assistance. His loss will be felt more on the continent than in England.'

Speculation was at once rife as to Dr. Nicoll's successor. Dr. Wyndham Knatchbull, the Laudian Professor of Arabic and a Fellow of All Souls; the Rev. B. P. Symons, Sub-warden and Tutor of Wadham College; Mr. Forshall, Keeper of the Manuscripts in the British Museum, and formerly Fellow of Exeter College, together with Dr. Van–sittart and Mr. Marsh, were mentioned in Oxford as possible objects of the favour of the Prime Minister. Of these names Mr. Forshall's was supposed to represent the widest scholarship: his knowledge of Oriental manuscripts and in particular his reputation as a Syriac scholar were much insisted on. He himself applied to the Duke of Wellington and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, expressing his readiness to be entrusted with the work of finishing Dr. Nicoll's Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and of preparing another of the Hebrew and Syriac manuscripts.

Fifteen years had passed since the date of Archbishop Howley's leaving Oxford; and he may have been imperfectly informed as to the state of Hebrew studies in the University. Certainly the tone of his letter to Bishop Lloyd on the subject is almost desponding.


                                                                                                             Addington, Oct. 4, 1828.

MY DEAR LORD,                                         

The death of Dr. Nicoll places a preferment of considerable importance at the disposal of Government.

Whether the Duke of Wellington will give the preferment to the candidate who is the best qualified, or whether the University at present can furnish a man of high pretensions in this line, I do not know. And if a man is appointed with no other qualifications than knowledge of Hebrew sufficient to construe the Bible, and go over the verbs with beginners, it is very indifferent to me who has the professorship.

But if there are persons in other respects fit for the station, and distinguished as Oriental scholars, it would be a pity that the oppor–tunity of doing credit to the University and bestowing an appropriate reward on merit should be lost. .

If you can give me information for or against any supposable applicants I shall of course receive it in confidence, having no other object than that of giving my opinion, if it should be required, in favour of the fittest man.

Believe me, my dear Lord,

Most truly yours,

                                                                                         W. CANTUAR.

Of the feeling in the University, the subjoined may perhaps be taken as a sample


                                                                                                                             Iford, Oct. 6, 1828.


I feel very deeply the loss we have sustained in poor Nicoll. He has left a gap in the University which cannot, as far as I see, be filled up. I thought ill of him when I left you in May last, but did not apprehend that his end would have been so rapid.

If we cannot have so able a man to replace him as we could wish, I hope they will find us some one who shall be harmless....

                         Yours truly,


But a less keen and far-sighted person than Bishop Lloyd would not have waited for the advice of corre–spondents before taking his own measures with respect to a matter of such serious importance to the University and Church. It is highly probable that the Bishop made up his mind at once on hearing that the Hebrew Chair was vacant. Mrs. Edward Pusey's diary shows that her husband and the Bishop were constantly meeting: thus they breakfasted together on Sept. 28th; the Bishop called on the 30th, and so on. Pusey used to say that one day Bishop Lloyd made a private incursion into his study, spent some time in examining the Hebrew and Arabic papers on which he was at work, and thus finally decided on submitting the writer's name to the Duke of Wellington. At the same time he advised Pusey to write to influential personal friends, stating his qualifications for the office. Pusey wrote accordingly, at the Bishop's direction, to Lord Colchester, Archdeacon Cambridge, and the Rev. R.          I. Wilberforce. What he felt, he well describes to Wilberforce: --

'It would be a splendid field for exertion: it would give me an opportunity for active employment, without sacrificing theology, which I have so long wished for; and for promoting the study of the original language of the Old Testament, whose neglect I have so long regretted. I am not therefore without hopes, for I should not dare to hope, I should hope against myself, unless I thought myself better fitted for the office than my competitors.'

Pusey's unstinted devotion to Oriental studies for several years had undoubtedly made him feel that he was qualified for the vacant post; and any fear that he might be guilty of undue ambition, had been set at rest by the decisive judgment and injunction of one whose position and character appeared t6 deserve unhesitating deference.

The Bishop's only hesitation was caused by Pusey's first book on the Theology of Germany. This had been in circulation for four months, and already adverse inter–pretations of its language were current. For instance, Archdeacon Cambridge, replying to Pusey's letter, men–tioned that some dignitaries thought him 'latitudinarian,' although he himself acquitted Pusey of the charge. The Bishop, having referred to these criticisms, received in reply a candid statement of Pusey's theological position on the chief points on which he thought exception might be taken--Inspiration, Original sin, and the Procession of the Holy Ghost. The passage on the first point is of sufficient importance to be quoted in full. It is an inde–pendent restatement of his thoughts on the subject before his book had been openly challenged. In spite of some defects, nothing can exceed the emphasis with which he asserts a strong theory of the Inspiration of Scripture. The letter concludes with a brief account of the writer's ecclesiastical position.


                                                                              [Christ Church], Oct. 6, 1828.

On the doctrine of Inspiration. I do not essentially differ from those who regard it as dictation, and I should come to entirely the same result with those who, as yourself; suppose a preventive superin–tendence: the mode however in which I should conceive it is that of the communication of religious knowledge (or rather of that knowledge necessary for the propagation and maintenance of religion) once for all.

To explain myself by an instance: I should suppose that St. Paul before he wrote the Epistle to the Romans must have frequently taught and written on the great points of doctrine contained in it: that he had spoken of them, not as a mere machine, but as one whose understanding was enlightened to understand their height and depth; and that consequently when he came again to write upon them there was no necessity for any second illumination, but that he wrote upon them as upon subjects which he had been by these original com–munications enabled thoroughly to understand, and in which conse–quently he could be liable to no error.

I have perhaps scarcely sufficiently explained myself; but I do not thereby abate the slightest tittle of the authority of any syllable in the Scriptures.

I differ only in the mode of deriving that authority, in which I think that which I adopt (I hope you will not deem arrogantly) adheres closer to Scripture.

With regard to the Historical Books (about which Mr. R[ose]'s friends attack me, though I have not said one syllable about it), I should think it amounted to the communication of such an insight into the objects of the two revelations as guided the writers to the selection of those facts whose transmission was important for those objects in each. In the New Testament it must of course be extended to the bringing back to the remembrance those discourses of our Saviour, whose preservation was especially necessary, and which have been preserved.

Prophecy of course stands by itself...

Upon practical subjects, as my habits have removed me from those occupations which press them upon one's mind, I can say very little, except that I believe that, practically, my opinions are the same as those of the High Church; that, however I may respect individuals, I feel myself more and more removed from what is called the Low Church; and that it has been my object (not certainly on any secular grounds, but because I think that its predominance and final preva–lence would be most beneficial to the Church) to remain in that body which I most respected and valued.

As you dwelt on what I said of Spener, I may add that I should have thought very differently of him had it not been his object to prevent any disunion in the Church, and had he not opposed it with all his power whenever there seemed to be any ground to apprehend it.

I will just add that I do not know any subject of controversy between the High and the Low Church in which I do not agree with the former: but neither do I know any one upon which I should be likely to preach.

I scarcely know whether you may not think this statement very superfluous, and I fear perhaps encroaching on your time; yet though I believe you have known for some years the principal points, I thought anything preferable to running the risk of committing you by recommending me without candidly stating what my opinions were.

Before Saturday I had not thought that there was any difference between my creed and that of him we have lost.

Perhaps the whole letter (as is the case with other of Pusey's early opinions) may without injustice be considered one of many instances in the controversies of the Church, where men of genius or position attempt to pronounce off–hand on theological questions, the depths of which they have not attempted to explore. Doubtless in Bishop Lloyd's eyes the real value of the letter consisted less in its particular statements than in its generally positive drift; he was satisfied that Pusey--though, as Newman had graphically described, his mind did not move in exactly conventional lines--was quite unlikely to cause serious anxiety on the score of rationalism or even latitudin–arianism.

There is no doubt that Pusey was anxious to obtain the Chair: he was alternately hopeful and despondent about his success. He heard from Archdeacon Cambridge, who enclosed an encouraging note from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Lloyd had written to the Primate, strongly pressing Pusey's claims; and this had not been without its effect. 'But my spirits,' Pusey writes, 'rather sink with every day of suspense. However, I think very little about it except at letter-time.' On Nov. 12th the visit to Bishop Lloyd's lodgings in Christ Church came to an end, and Pusey and his wife went to Pusey to visit Lady Lucy. Philip Pusey had gone abroad for two years, and had lent his home to his widowed mother.

But Nov. 12th--the day of their migration from Oxford to Pusey, in great uncertainty as to their future life--was also the date of an important letter on the part of the Prime Minister. The Duke of Wellington wrote to Sir W. Knighton:--

                                                                                               'Nov. 12, 1828.

'As it gives the King so much pain to write, I beg you to take His Majesty's pleasure upon the appointment of the Rev. Mr. Pusey to be Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. He is strongly recommended by the Heads of the Church, and by all those capable of forming an opinion of the qualifications of the individual who ought to be appointed to fill that office.'

The King must have replied immediately, since on Nov. 14th the Duke of Wellington's letter, offering Pusey the Hebrew Professorship, reached Oxford.


                                                                                                                         London, Nov. 13, 1828.


I have the honor to inform you that His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve of your being appointed Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford.

                                                           I have the honor, &c

Rev. E. B. Pusey.                                                         WELLINGTON.

This letter was of' course sent to Oriel College, where William Pusey had just begun to reside as an under–graduate. He took the letter to Newman, who was his tutor, and who, at his request, opened it, and then gave him leave to ride over to Pusey with it. By the same post Bishop Lloyd was informed that his exertions had been successful. 'What will Pusey do?' said a clergyman who was staying at Cuddesdon. 'If,' said the Bishop, 'he belongs to the old school, he will come over and see me: if to the new, he will write me a letter.' On his brother's arrival at Pusey, the carriage was at once ordered, and Pusey drove over to Cuddesdon with his wife to thank Bishop Lloyd for an appointment which was, as he knew, so largely due to the Bishop's judgment and exertions. He then returned to Oxford and wrote to the Prime Minister:--




I have this morning had the honor of receiving your Grace's letter informing me that His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve of my being appointed to the Regius Professorship of Divinity in this University.

May I take leave to beg your Grace to convey to His Majesty my acknowledgments of this distinguished favour, in such terms as may appear to your Grace most adequately to express the deepest sense of gratitude?

To your Grace I am at a loss for words to express my obligations for your exceeding kindness in recommending me to His Majesty for this important office-- an office which comprises everything which I wished, and more than I ought to have hoped for. I will only say that I will endeavour to show my gratitude to your Grace by a sincere and earnest devotion to the duties of the office, which I owe entirely to your goodness.

                       With the greatest respect,

                                    I have the honor to remain

                                                Your Grace's obliged and obedient servant,

                                                                                         E. B. PUSEY.

It will be observed that Pusey describes himself as appointed Regius Professor of Divinity. This inaccuracy on such an occasion, and in so brief a letter, though prob–ably owing to a slip of the pen in a moment of excitement, is not without significance. It shows how, in his conception of the office he was undertaking, the theological interests were already uppermost, even though he was keenly alive to its literary or philological aspects; it explains why he regarded his work in the Tractarian movement as quite germane to the duties of his chair; it anticipates his earnest remonstrances with the Vice-Chancellor in 1853 when, to his great annoyance, he was classed among the Professors of Languages. The mistake does not appear to have been noticed the letter is docketed as a 'grateful acceptance' of 'the Regius Professorship of Hebrew by the Rev. B. B. Pusey.'

One of the persons who had expected the post wrote to the Duke of Wellington to remonstrate with him for appointing 'a relation of that great Radical, Lord Radnor,' while overlooking the claims of a sound Tory. 'I ap–pointed Mr. Pusey,' replied the Duke, 'because I have reason to believe that he is the best scholar.'

Later in the day on which he wrote to the Prime Minister, Pusey wrote to the Bishop of Oxford, and with characteristic generosity offered to buy all the library and furniture of the late Professor, if his widow wished to part with them.

Pusey's offer was accepted. The bookshelves which remained in his small study to the end of his life were those which had been placed there by his predecessor. As was natural, many of Dr. Nicoll's books were duplicates of his own.

'I fear,' he writes again to Bishop Lloyd, 'that I have almost got into a scrape about the books, as I have already many of the most ex–pensive, and the number seems much larger than I had expected. If, however, the sum does not exceed £500 or £600 I should be most glad to relieve Mrs. Nicoll from all anxiety.'

In the end he bought all Dr. Nicoll's books, and sold, of course at a loss, those of them which he did not want.

The appointment seems to have been generally received with expressions of warm satisfaction. The Dean of Christ Church, Dr. Smith, wrote a very friendly letter of welcome to the new member of his Chapter; and this was only one of many 'very gratifying congratulations' which poured in upon the new Professor from his Oxford friends. Nor were his more recent friends in Germany backward to express their satisfaction. Of the foreign congratulations which remain, that of Dr. LŸcke was simple and hearty, while Freytag did not disguise his warm satisfaction at the prospect of securing in Pusey a useful coadjutor at Oxford. 'Nicoll's death,' he wrote, 'has been a great sorrow to me: what a comfort it is that you are to succeed him!' Pusey himself in later years always dwelt with a certain satisfaction on the fact that he owed his appointment to the favour of the Crown. He was fond of resolving the Latin epithet 'Regius,' which distinguished his Chair, into its English equivalent. He had been presented to George IV., he used to say, as 'Your Majesty's Professor of Hebrew.' When at the close of his life he subscribed to a testimonial offered to Prince Leopold on his marriage, he signed him–self Her Majesty's Professor of Hebrew. This trait was not accidental. In his most Liberal days as a young man, the old feeling of personal devotion to the sovereign re–mained, and it strengthened with his advancing years.

At the date of his appointment to the Professor–ship, Pusey was only in deacon's orders. The Hebrew Chair being attached to a canonry of Christ Church, he had to be ordained Priest before he could occupy his stall. In those days the bishops were wont to insist less upon the Ember seasons than is, happily, the case now; and it was thought desirable that the ordination should be hastened as much as possible. The nine days which elapsed between Pusey's appointment and his ordination as Priest were spent in retirement at his old home.

On Sunday, November 23, 1828, being the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, Edward Pusey was ordained Priest by Bishop Lloyd in the parish church of Cuddesdon. On Saturday, the 22nd, he and his wife drove from Pusey to the Palace at Cuddesdon for the ordination on the following day. No one else was ordained, and the service was of the simplest character: the only music was the singing of Brady and Tate's psalms by the rude village choir of that day. Four persons only witnessed the scene, be–sides the villagers and the Bishop's own family. The Rev. Edward Burton, of Christ Church, Examining Chaplain to the Bishop, and his successor as Regius Professor of Divinity, was present in his official capacity. In order to take part in the service he must have examined Pusey; but the examination, of which no record has been preserved, was probably of a formal character. Another witness was Pusey's old and dearly-loved tutor, the Rev. T. Vowler Short, Student of Christ Church, who died Bishop of St. Asaph. Besides these were two Students of Christ Church--the Rev. Augustus Page Saunders, at that time Curate of Cuddesdon, but subsequently Head Master of the Charterhouse and Dean of Peterborough, and the Hon. John Chetwynd Talbot.

Few of the village churches in England have witnessed so many interesting scenes, or have echoed to the voices of so many remarkable men, as the parish church of All Saints, Cuddesdon. During the episcopate of Bishop Wilberforce there were few men eminent for learning, or work, or character in the Church of England who did not, under the spell of his genius and sympathy, find themselves at some time ministering or worshipping within its walls; and to many hundreds of the clergy that old Norman tower-arch and that narrow chancel are associated with the most solemn experiences of their life. But it may be safely asserted that no event, in itself or in its consequences, more momentous, more pregnant with influences far-reaching and incalculable, has ever taken place within those walls than was enacted on that dark Sunday in November when Charles Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford, conferred the order of Priesthood upon Edward Bouverie Pusey.

On Monday, November 24th, Pusey and his wife returned to Pusey, through Oxford, where they spent the greater part of the day. Bishop Lloyd had advised him to lose no time in setting to work on Nicoll's unfinished Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. On his way through Oxford Pusey possessed himself of all Nicoll's papers bearing on the subject, and on the following morning he set to work on them.

On Tuesday, December 9th, he was installed in the Cathedral as Canon of Christ Church. On Sunday, December 14th, he first attended the morning and evening service in Christ Church as one of the Canons; and on the following day he returned to Pusey to spend Christmas there. This Christmas Day was always remembered as an anniversary in Pusey's later years. On that day he 'took the whole duty at Pusey Church,' celebrating the Holy Communion for the first time in the church where he was baptized. He preached on Phil. iv. 4, 'Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say; Rejoice'--one of the sentences of St. Paul which were dearest to him throughout his life, and which he would repeat to himself, again and again when ill, in his last years. The sermon follows the guidance of the text; it is an invitation to holy Christian joy in view of the blessings of Redemption. The language about immor–tality seems to be coloured by the recollection that within a few yards of the preacher lay his father's body. The sermon concludes with an invitation to receive the Holy Sacrament, which he describes as 'that means by which in a more especial manner, as the Apostle tells us, we become partakers of the Body of Christ.' 'That Body,' he adds, 'which was broken for you, is now before you.' He after–wards speaks of 'partaking of the symbols of Christ's sufferings.' This sermon foreshadows very definitely his later Eucharistic teaching.

On the following Sunday, December 28th, being Holy Innocents' Day, he again took the whole service in Pusey Church, and christened an infant after the afternoon prayers. At the morning service he preached on Phil. ii. 3, 'In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself.'

The rest of the vacation, with the exception of a three days' visit to Fairford, was spent quietly at his old home, Pusey occasionally taking part in the services and preaching. On January 12, 1829, he and his wife took up their abode in their own house at Oxford.



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