Project Canterbury

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

London: Longmans, 1894
volume three

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002








AMIDST the din of controversy, Pusey lost none of that interest in social and philanthropic questions which had distinguished his earlier years. This interest was sus–tained not only by his own conviction of the essentially religious character of such questions, but by his intercourse with his elder brother, of whose public life they formed a prominent if not an engrossing feature. He was, for instance, very keenly interested in the question of helping the poor, especially in Ireland. In February, 1845, his brother had paid him a visit at Christ Church; and their conversation, had mainly turned on the subject. He followed up the talk by an earnest letter, which concludes in the following words:--

March 4, 1845.

 'Life is whirling on rapidly with both of us: each year seems to me more intensely rapid; and this, my dear Philip, will be a blessed close of your course, to be the benefactor of the poor of Christ.  " Seek judgment, righten the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." This will be far better than any such occupation such as I have heard you express the wish you had been early engaged in, as a lawyer' s: for these end in themselves; they furnish an occupation and there end. Loving, earnest exertions for Christ' s poor last beyond the grave.  " I never remember to have read," says the aged St. Jerome (and he was most widely read),  " I never remember to have read that any died by an evil death, who readily showed works of mercy. He hath many intercessors, and it cannot be but that the prayers of many should be heard." Has He not Himself said,  " Whatsoever ye have done to one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me”?...

 'God bless you ever, my dear Philip.'

In deference to his brother' s suggestion Philip Pusey formed a plan of riding round Ireland, with a view to making accurate observations of the condition of the Irish peasantry. In a letter to his brother, he writes:--

July 31, 1845.

The case of the Irish peasantry seems to me very strong, and though their murders and cruelties should not be palliated, their combinations seem to me to have been founded on the preservation of their families from starvation, because the possession of land is their sole dependence since they have had neither employment nor poor-rate to look to. However, I hope to be able to go over, and that some good or other may come of it.

Your affectionate brother,

                            PH. PUSEY.

Mr. Gladstone was to have accompanied Mr. Pusey in the projected Irish tour. The Times, however, anticipated them, by sending a Commissioner to Ireland whose reports appeared to exhaust the subject. Pusey had earnestly desired that his brother might concentrate his mind on one definite and philanthropic object in his political life; and feared a fresh disappointment might throw him into a de–spondent inactivity. To Mr. Gladstone he writes:--

Christ Church, Sept. 3, 1845.

 'I have just seen Philip at Pusey, and was very grieved to find him in bad spirits about giving up his Irish tour with you, and yet feeling that The Times reporter had taken his work completely out of his hands, and that there was now no longer any object for him. I am very sorry for it, for I had looked forward with great pleasure to his having such an employment for his mind, and to his travelling with you.

It is sad to think of his clear mind left without any adequate occupa–tion, to waste itself, because it has none, and that he might do much for the moral restoration of our land, and no one employs him. I do not wish for any merely political employment for him; but I think Sir R[obert] P[eel] has made a miserable mistake in not finding out some unpaid employment in which he might turn his clear mind to good account.'

To Philip himself, after much sympathy and encouragement, he writes:--       

 'Christ Church, Oct. 6, 1845.

 "  ' Cheerily on," then, my dear Philip; I find it such a comfort to commend myself and my own work to God, and then to trust to Him what becomes of it. And so nothing discourages me. I am heavy–hearted at times: but I spring up again: and I find that nothing relieves heavy-heartedness so much, as to be at work for God, in what measure one may. And yours is such, as well as mine, for it is for His poor. You cannot think what a relief it is, at the beginning of each of one' s employments, to commit it and oneself, if but in one thought, to God. It so lightens everything. And then one may go on, as if one were not one' s self, or working for one' s self, but for Him. And one trusts that He will bring it to good somehow. And He has signally blessed you last year. To have undone that griping Scotch Report, and brought people to think of the poor in Scotland, and see how to relieve them, would be no slight thing, were it a work of a whole life.

 'So that be of good cheer, and may He ever cheer and bless you.'

The Irish famine of 1847, as might be anticipated, laid great hold on Pusey' s mind: and he was delighted at the appointment of Wednesday, March 24, as a fast-day, on which the nation, in view of this judgment, was to humble itself before God.

 'How,'  he wrote to Keble,  'would you advise one to observe the day of humiliation? . . . I am to be in London, and have (alas for me) six general confessions (I mean six confessions of a life) to receive. Would it be wrong to receive one on that day, if one bumbled oneself all the while as much as one could?'

Keble replied:  'Receiving confessions seems to me a most appropriate work for the fast-day. It is so great an humiliation.'  Pusey, who was staying with his mother at 35 Grosvenor Square, spent the day--indeed, the whole week before and after--in very hard work. His way of spending Sundays in London at this time is described incidentally by his mother:--

           'Feb. 1, 1847.

 'Edward preached at Margaret Street at the eleven o' clock service yesterday; he went out of the house at seven o' clock, and did not return for his breakfast until half-past two, and preached at Mr. Dods–worth' s at seven, and had some gentlemen to call upon him here near ten o' clock. . . . He was up a great part of Saturday night, writing his sermons.'

The fast-day was observed with every outward mark of solemnity and strictness. Many columns of The Times were devoted to reports of sermons in the metropolis; and that journal stated that every shop in London was closed, with the exception of a Quaker' s. Pusey' s remarkable sermon at Margaret Chapel shows how intimately the preacher had made himself acquainted both with the general char–acter and the particular details of Irish misery, which he describes with the accuracy of an inspector' s report, but with the intensity of Holy Scripture:--

 'Deaths are now uncounted, counted here and there by fifties or by hundreds; but the dead are often buried unheeded, uncoffined, unwept, amid the extremity of misery, by those who loved them most.  " There are no widows to make lamentation." The husband carries his wife' s uncoffined remains, the brother his sister, the mother her child, without a tear, to the grave; the inward misery and cry to God, the only prayer over their remains! The prophet' s words seem fulfilled,  " Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him”; or again,  " I praised the dead that are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive' .”'

Another passage may be quoted:--

 'They who witness it say,  " It exceeds all, save the siege of Jeru–salem." Horrors there are, which one could scarce name except in the solemnity of Scripture language. The curse on the house of Ahab is fulfilled on members of Christ,  " Him that dieth of Ahab in the city shall the dogs eat." More horrible yet is the temptation to sin; for what must be the misery where, for a morsel of food, one matt could be found to murder two children! Well-nigh all the sorrows of the Lamentations over the city,  " once full of people, that sitteth solitary," are there;  " the tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst”; the young children, hundreds upon hundreds in one city,  " ask for bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.”'

But sympathy with suffering, and even present self-denial with a view to relieving it, would be unequal to the demands of the occasion, if they did not lead to some efforts to resist the habits of luxury, which, in Pusey' s judgment, were increasing their hold, with fatal effect, on modern life. It must be remembered that he was preaching to a well-dressed congregation, some of them related to the wealthiest people in the country.

 'Whatever amendments there may have been among us, luxury and self-indulgence have been increasing among us: no class has been contented with the expenditure of their forefathers; new luxuries have invaded us; luxuries have become comforts, and comforts have become necessaries and our idols. In its turn, luxury is the parent of covetousness; and covetousness of unjust gain, and of the grinding of the poor. We will not limit our self-indulgence; and so in order to obtain it cheaply, we pare down the wages of our artisans. They who have seen it, know that full often the very clothes we wear are, while they are made, moistened by the tears of the poor. How has the same desire of cheapness, to vie with others, impaired the char–acter of our trade, and made practices common which our forefathers would have counted, what they are, dishonesty!'

Sir Robert Peel' s Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws interested Pusey deeply. lie probably did not give much thought to its political bearings, but he wished it well, as a measure designed for the relief of the poor. Again, writing to his brother on the question of the endowment of Roman Catholicism, he says:--


Christ Church, June 13, 1846.

For myself, I hope that everything done for the Roman Catholics will work to good, both in doing away irritation at present, and tending ultimately to bring us together. I do not see anything to object to in giving seats to Irish Roman Catholic bishops, or endowing Colleges for them, or paying their clergy if they would receive it. I do not see anything amiss, or any principle violated, in doing any–thing positively for the R. C.s.

But  'robbing Paul to pay Peter'  never does any good. Be it ever so much that they were ill-treated at the Reformation (although all their Bishops came over), yet there is not more of Church property, after all the miserable squandering, than is sufficient for the needs of the English-speaking Irish Church. They say, too, that the Irish Church will not accept it. It is worse than the fable of the dog in the manger, to desire to deprive others of what they do not want themselves, to bring them down, without raising themselves. I objected to the Appropriation Clause, because I think it went to confiscate Church property to secular purposes. No blessing ever came of this or will come. This wealthy nation, which could afford--was it twenty millions or forty ?--for a theory about slavery, can do what it will, if it will. Or, at least, let people be consistent. If the act was wrong, let them begin by undoing their own share in it. The spoliation of monasteries, which was a real robbery of the poor, which all acknow–ledge to have been the original cause of the evil system of the poor-laws, is as bad as any one can make out the transfer of Church property in Ireland. Let people come to such work with clean hands. If the Dukes who possess Church property, Whig or Conservative, would give up what no one can doubt was wrongfully given them, they may say what they will about the Church in Ireland. I examined the subject, you will recollect, very carefully some years ago, according to the returns of the Commissioners, and I found that almost every case of inadequate provision for our poor people had its root in the transfer of monastic property. The monks did provide for their wants: their ecclesiastical non-resident successors have been learning to do it: the laymen have done nothing.

I did not mean, however, to get into this subject. My object in writing this letter was to show how far I go along with you. I should think that people will bear anything done positively for the Roman Catholics; that they will not bear spoliation.

For myself; I am more and more indifferent to everything outward, in my inward self: and that from the deep conviction that things are in higher Hands than ours, and that He  'shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.'

There is an inward life in the Church (I do not mean, of course, in the clergy) which ever thrives in difficulties, and draws life out of death.

God bless you ever.

The brothers were not at one on the Irish Church question. Mr. Pusey had supported the suppression of the Irish bishoprics in 1833: but the subject was not referred to between them except indirectly. Pusey' s method was to drop extinct controversies, and to make the most of present occasions for suggesting or doing good. The relations between the brothers may be illus–trated by one more letter, written in the autumn of the year of Pusey' s illness at Tenby.


Pusey, Vigil of St. Simon and St. Jude, 1846.

I will not say many words of thanks for all the kind thought for me and my children; but I pray daily that we may all be gathered together, where there is no weariness, nor sickness, nothing to harass without, no sinking of the heart within, no sorrowful memories, nor heavy anticipations, no combats, nor sins, nor failings, but the everlasting, ever-blessing Presence of God.

To this end, I cannot say with how very much of interest I see any and every exertion of yours for the poor: for I believe that the prayers of the poor for us here are among our best treasures, and good deeds done for them a choice treasure at the Day of Account. And so politics, your seat in Parliament, agriculture, your studies, all interest me in this one way, that they may be turned to account for the poor. We, the clergy, are bound by our vows (even so far as we are employed in secular studies) to draw  'all our desires and studies that one way.'  We may engage in many things, we must have one end. And one end we all have, the glory of God in the good of man; and so I will pray, and you will too, that God will accept the work of your hands, and make you an instrument of good to His poor, and, so making you, bless you here and hereafter.

God bless you all.         

                   Your very affectionate brother,

                                                              E. B. P.

In July, 1847, Parliament was dissolved, and Mr. Est–court, who, with his colleague Sir R. Inglis, had for many years represented the University, announced to his constituents his intended retirement. That Mr. Gladstone should be asked to become a candidate for the vacant seat was almost a matter of course. After a brilliant Univer–sity career, he had forced his way rapidly to the Secretary–ship of the Colonies; he had been, while still a young man, in the language of the public press,  'not only a Minister but a leading Minister.'  His intimate relations with Church–men in the University were sufficiently well known: he was in active sympathy with them; and it was well under–stood that his loyalty to Church principles had obliged him to make political sacrifices. He was opposed by Mr. Edward Cardwell, nephew of the Principal of St. Alban Hall. Mr. Cardwell was a man of ability and cul–ture, but hardly likely to elicit the enthusiasm of the Uni–versity. He had no relations with the Church movement; but as he had voted for the Maynooth grant,  'the anti-popery fire-engine' --to quote The Times-- 'played on both the candidates with absolute impartiality.'

In a short time, however, it became clear to Mr. Cardwell' s Committee that he had no chance of success as against Mr. Gladstone. His name was withdrawn; and thenceforth the contest lay between Mr. Gladstone and a candidate who was already in the field, and who repre–sented frankly the Low Church and Protectionist interest. This was Mr. C. G. Round, of Balliol College, Recorder of Colchester, and member for North Essex. Mr. Round' s Oxford Committee was almost entirely composed of the opponents of Tractarianism: the only distinguished ex–ception was Mr. William Sewell, whose presence on that Committee was a sign of the alarm with which he had been inspired by the events of 1845. The contest now was rather a religious than a political one; and Mr. Gladstone' s cause was generally taken up by High Churchmen with great warmth and alacrity.

Pusey, of course, shared this feeling. He did not join Mr. Gladstone' s Committee; his name, in the existing state of things, would have provoked more opposition than it could have conciliated support. Moreover, among Mr. Gladstone' s supporters there were men of distinction with whom serious Churchmen could not have had much in common. But the real meaning of the contest may be gathered from a comparison of the members of the Oxford Committees: and they show that Mr. Round represented the anti-Tractarian policy of the Heads of Houses, Mr. Gladstone all that the Heads had endeavoured to crush.

The election was held in what was then the dead of the Long Vacation. The poll was opened on Thursday, July 29, and was closed on Tuesday, August 3. Mr. Gladstone was proposed by Dr. Richards, the high-minded and generous Rector of Exeter, in a speech which did justice to his subject. The Master of Balliol, Dr. Jenkyns, proposed Mr. Round. In the event, Sir R. H. Inglis, the sitting member, was returned at the head of the poll with Mr. Gladstone as his colleague, whose majority over Mr. Round was 173.

Pusey was staying at Hayling Island; and he came up, as was then necessary, to vote for Mr. Gladstone.  'I am very thankful,'  he wrote two months later to the Rev. H. A. Woodgate,  'for Gladstone' s election; but we too had allies who have no great love for us or the truths we hold.'  But a question soon arose which led Pusey to modify his satisfaction. On Dec. 2 Lord John Russell announced his intention of introducing on Dec.16 a motion for the removal of the civil and political disabilities affect–ing her Majesty' s Jewish subjects; and Mr. Gladstone intimated to Pusey, through Mr. T. D. Acland, that he should feel it his duty to support the motion. Pusey immediately sent an almost violent protest to Mr. Glad–stone. At its conclusion, he says:--


[Dec. 13], 1847, Gloucester Gate,

Mo. night, returning to O. on Wed.

You would put great difficulties in the way of those who wish or are bound to pray for the Parliament as Christian: I could pray for it only as apostate, and as having prepared by this step for the coming of Antichrist.

I know that this is an idle protest. But as you in a manner wished me to know, I am bound in conscience to make it. I felt, when I supported you, that I should witness acts which I should regret. There was one past act (the  'godless colleges' ) which I deplored. Still I voted, and wished others to vote, on the plain principle of personal confidence in you as a religious statesman, who felt the responsibility of your own acts. I voted for you out of personal affection and regard for you, and the confidence which I had in you as a religious man. Had I known that you would have joined in what I account an anti-Christian measure, I could not have helped to put you in a position which would have led to such a result. I would rather, for your own soul' s sake, that you had been out of Parliament.

You will not understand this as expressing a regret, either that you were elected, or that I had any share in your election. We did it with our eyes open, as to your general line of politics, though not expecting this. We have no reason to complain. It seems one more hint to Churchmen to have nothing to do with politics. Your election seemed the one thing which could still interest me in them. If the Legislature pass this, I could take no other interest in it than, I believe, St. Paul would have had me take in Nero.

God have mercy.           

                         In Him your affectionate friend,

                                                                  E. B. PUSEY.

To this Mr. Gladstone sent an answer expressive of his sincere regard for Pusey' s feelings, and a real deference to his opinions. He explained his own grounds for his action, and the pain and reluctance with which he was now pre–pared to surrender the view in which he had previously agreed with Pusey. He had, however, come to feel that so far from individuals only being responsible for the attenuation and corruption of the Christian profession of the State, the State had with open eyes deliberately, though gradually, withdrawn its religious tests--even for the Divinity of Christ. While influenced by the civil argument for the Jew, he was still more impressed by the danger to religion from insisting on tests, which were notoriously in very many cases mere hollow professions.

Pusey thought that government, like everything else, should be conducted on purely Christian principles. Mr. Gladstone replied,  'That any man in any country can in this age of the world give full effect to Christian principles in the work of government is, alas I very far beyond my belief.'

Another question--of social as well as theological im–portance--which at this period occupied much of Pusey' s attention, was the proposal to repeal the laws which pro–hibit marriage with a deceased wife' s sister. Even in 1840 he had been greatly concerned about an agitation in this direction: and wrote a vigorous criticism of a pamphlet which was designed to promote it' . In this notice Pusey made use for the first time of the remarkable Epistle of St. Basil' , which has since been so familiar and effective a feature of the controversy: but he was by no means only occupied with the Biblical aspect of the discussion.

 'I wish,'  he writes to Harrison on Oct. 7, 1840,  'that there could be some counter-demonstration of abhorrence and disgust: showing, too, how the repeal (of the present law) would inflict a real hardship on many who now live as brothers and sisters, but would then be separated. One advocate has already given people to understand, on Paley' s maxim, that there is nothing morally offensive in any incest, beyond that of own brother and sister.'

Harrison suggests in reply that  'some party or parties were bent on such a marriage,'  and he describes a peremp–tory refusal, on the part of Archbishop Howley, even to discuss the subject with them. Pusey threw himself into the matter with his wonted energy: suggested that the advertisements on the subject which were appearing in the papers should be collected and commented on by Mr. Maitland, the Archbishop' s Librarian; explained to Har–rison that on studying Lev. xviii. 6 he found that it was more decisive than he had anticipated; and, finally, wrote a letter to the British Magazine which might serve as a guide and encouragement to - others, and which was reprinted as a separate pamphlet. His reason for this republication was that already, both in 1841 and 1842, Bills were brought into Parliament with a view to repealing more or less of the existing Law of Marriage.

From this date, so far as Pusey was concerned, the subject dropped until 1847, when it was again forced on his attention. The parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields refused a charity to the child of a marriage with a deceased wife' s sister, on the ground of the child' s illegitimacy and at the same time a Mr. Chadwick of Liverpool based his defence against a charge of bigamy, on the ground that one of his two so-called wives was the sister of his previously deceased wife. In view of these cases, Mr. Stuart Wortley moved in the House of Commons on May 13 for a  'Royal Commis–sion to inquire into the state and operation of the Law of Marriage, as relating to the prohibited degrees of affinity, and to marriages solemnized abroad or in the British Colonies.'  Sir Robert Inglis spoke against the motion, but would not divide the House; and the Commission was accordingly appointed. Mr. Edward Badeley was retained as counsel for the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields in the Court of Queen' s Bench; and he applied to Pusey for assistance in the preparation of his argument. The substance of Pusey' s replies may be gathered from the striking argument which that accomplished lawyer presented to the Judges of the Queen' s Bench on June 15 and June 30, 1847' . But, before long, Pusey had to take a more directly personal and public part in the question. Early in December, 1847, he was summoned to give evidence before the Royal Commission, which was by that date at work. And a week later (Dec. 11, 1847) his mother wrote:--

 'Edward has been sadly busy of late. For many nights be has not gone to bed until three o' clock, and last night he sat up entirely. His business has been to enlarge the evidence which he gave when he was examined by the Commissioners about the marriage of sisters.'

This evidence, together with Mr. Badeley' s speech in the Queen' s Bench, he published separately in 1849, when Mr. Stuart Wortley was bringing a Bill into Parliament to legalize the hitherto prohibited unions.

It is anticipating the course of events to refer to this publication; but the opinion may here be expressed that the Preface to these two documents is the most vigorous of Pusey' s contributions to the subject. When he composed it he had had time to marshal his knowledge and to con–sider fully all that could be said against him. All the most important evidence that was given before the Royal Commission is passed in review: Pusey' s Preface is in fact a Report to the public on the opinions and information offered by the other witnesses. He has to defend the existing prohibition against many lines of assault of various opponents. Mr. T. Binney, who held that bigamy as well as slavery were  'apparently tolerated'  under the circum–stances of the Apostolic age and by Scripture itself, is asked what authority can he on his principles produce whereby it should be forbidden now. Archbishop Whately, who held that the Levitical degrees are not binding upon Christians, is begged to consider the authority of the  'Table of for–bidden degrees.'  Dr. Wiseman, in order to accentuate the authority of the Roman Church, and in particular its dis–pensing power, had maintained that these marriages are disapproved of in the Mosaic law, yet that they are not contrary to the Christian law, but are a mere matter of ecclesiastical legislation; Pusey reminded him that, if he is right, it must follow that  'amid the hardness of heart'  of the earlier people, marriages were forbidden to them which are allowed under the light and grace of the Gospel. With deep regret he reviews also the evidence of his old Oriel    friend, the Rev. J. E. Tyler, who held that the Mosaic law of marriage referred to the political or municipal rather than the moral branch of the Mosaic dispensation.

Then, after summarizing the Scriptural evidence, Pusey points out that the hope that man' s moral instincts will save him, if the relaxation of the Divine law is once allowed, from going further, is contrary to all that we know of human nature.

 'We are disinclined to see the consequences of what we are doing. People wish to act blindfold, when they are resolved to act, and doubt what the results may be. And, on that very ground, it is of moment to open their eyes, if we can. An alarming range of lax practice is laid open in this, which is the very centre of morals. For if the Levitical degrees are abandoned, there remains no safeguard (save where and as far as the Church holds her ground), except man' s natural instincts. But what are these instincts? Are they one uniform, distinct, powerful voice of nature, making herself heard equally under all circumstances, in every moral or religious condition, so that she cannot be mistaken, nor, without a convulsive shock to nature herself, be disobeyed? All experience tells us the contrary. It is against nature itself to say that our moral instincts do not very materially depend upon our whole moral condition. Such as we ourselves are, as moral or religious agents, such are our moral instincts. These sacred instincts are not a dream, nor a mere creation of custom, because they vary indefinitely in different stages of man' s moral being. God forbid! Like conscience itself, they are the Voice of God within the soul, sweeping over the very inmost strings of our moral being, although the sounds be jarring, unharmonious, uncertain, low, when the instrument itself is discordant or unattuned; the sounds are fine, and delicate, and harmonious, then only, when the Finger of God, the Holy Spirit, bath repaired and conformed it anew to that state wherein His Hand formed it, and it yields itself to His touch.'

In acknowledging a copy of Dr. Pusey' s and Mr. Badeley' s joint work, which had been placed in his hands with a view to the debate on Mr. Stuart Wortley'  s measure, Mr. Glad–stone wrote asking Pusey' s assistance in preparing his own speech in opposition to the measure…

The debate was distinguished by a long speech from Mr. Gladstone, in which he reproduced several arguments from this letter: but the motion for the second reading was carried by a majority of 34--177 to 143. The Bill, however, did not live to be read a third time during that session.

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