Project Canterbury

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

London: Longmans, 1894
volume four

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002




PUSEY was of the same age as the century: and the infirmities of old age naturally began to show themselves in a body which never had been strong, but had been consistently presented as a living sacrifice to the work of the Church of God for nearly fifty years. The indomitable force of his will, the concentration  of his energy, and the unsparing devotion of his whole life to God had enabled him to labour on and to throw off illnesses in away that would hardly have been possible to any mere strength of constitution. But when  'the leaves were falling thickly round him,'  and the weight of sorrows was added to the weight of years, it was evident that his strength was beginning to fail. Ever since his illness at Genoa in I873, he had been an old man; but the shock of Bishop Forbes'  sudden death in 1875, and the death of Miss Sellon, the Foundress of the Devonport Sisterhood, in 1876, had brought on a sudden great increase of deafness.  'It is an odd life'  he writes to Liddon in December, 1876:--

 'God grant that I may be the more driven inwards. I passed three and three-quarter hours in the Hebdomadal Council to-day, not hearing a voice: but learning from my neighbour, the kind President of St. John' s, what was to be voted on. I have once only said a few words this term, because I do not know the right time to say them. It is such an odd contrast to former eagerness. Thank God that my books can speak to me; and He too, I hope.'

For upwards of twenty years Pusey had been continuously re-elected to this position on the governing body of the University. He held it as he did all his appointments, not as a piece of academical work, but as a position in which he could fight the Cause of God and His Truth against the dominant liberalism of the University. It was often weary work; and he sometimes had been tempted to regret what seemed to be a spending of strength in vain. Now, however, he began to feel that it was his duty to make room for a younger man. Yet he still held his place on the Council as long as health would allow. The last meeting that he attended was on December 10, 1877: the prolonged illness described in the last chapter prevented him from attending the Council in the Lent and Easter Terms of the following year, and he did not offer himself for re-election in the Michaelmas Term.

For some time longer he retained his place on the Council of Keble College, although he was rarely able to attend their meetings. All that concerned the welfare of this great memorial to his dear friend appealed to him most strongly; he was specially interested in the munificent gift of a Chapel by Mr. Gibbs-- 'indeed, a gift of God.'  One of his letters about the plans has a value of its own. Mr. Butterfield, the architect, proposed to place over the Altar a Mosaic, representing our Lord, as He appeared to St. John in Patmos, and the Council had accepted his design. Pusey was ill at Genoa, when the design was discussed; soon after his return to Qxford, he wrote to express his disapproval of it.


Christ Church, June 18, 1873.

It is only lately that I heard of this Symbol, which the Council, at Butterfield' s instance, acquiesced in for the East end of Keble College. I think that there are some symbols which may be represented in words, but cannot in material form. We have probably, most of us, been pained by representations of the  'Ancient of Days,'  because old age is, with us, necessarily associated with decay. So the symbol from Rev. i. cannot be really represented; no material form can represent Eyes which should be a flaming fire, or Feet like fine brass which burned in a furnace, or the seven stars in one Hand.

But I chiefly object

1. To the great austerity of it over the Altar. The represen–tations ' f Rev. i. is our Lord in the midst of the Church as Judge. It says,  'Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged.'  It is the opposite to,  'Come unto Me, all that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'  At the West end is to be the Judgment: at the East our Lord as Judge. It gives great prominence to the austere side of truth.

2. Since there are visible representations, I much miss the Crucifixion, which is relegated (I understand) to a side quasi-transept where it will be scarcely seen.

It might be represented (without destroying Butterfield' s plans) either by inlaying the figure of our Lord upon the Cross, which, I understand, is to be behind the altar, or by painting it upon the Cross after the manner of those devout pictures of Giotto at Florence.

I should wish, then, to be allowed to give notice of a motion on Monday--That it be represented to the Donor of'  the Chapel of Keble College, that it is desirable that there should be some conspicuous monument of our Lord' s Death fronting the Communicants, and that such representation be not relegated to the side.

Mr. Gibbs had a very strong feeling against making any change after the design had once been accepted. Yet he was willing,  'because of  'the very great reverence'  that he felt for Pusey, to accept his suggestion, if he were to press it.      Pusey could only thank Mr. Gibbs for his kindness, and decline to press any unwelcome change upon such a generous benefactor of Keble College.

When the Chapel was opened on St. Mark' s Days 1876, Mr. Keble' s birthday, Pusey preached the first Sermon, on the Beatitude pronounced upon the Meek. After speaking in general on the meaning of this Beatitude, he explained why he had chosen the text. Meekness, he said, which is the rarest of all graces, was  'eminently possessed by him in memory of the gift of whom to us, on this day, this day has been chosen for the dedication of this magnificent chapel.'  He glowingly sets forth as an example to the students of the College, the beautiful lowliness of character, and the lifelong low estate of one of Oxford' s greatest scholars, and of the Church' s wisest teachers.

In connexion with the working of Keble College, he left on record some of his latest anxieties about University edu–cation. He was very anxious that a more thorough training in Theology should be given to the future clergy. This was his hope when he had assisted the foundation of the Theo–logical School in the University, and he deeply regretted the continued predominance of classical studies to the exclusion of the accurate and systematic study of Theology, which was so essential a part of the education of the clergy.


Advent Sunday, 1876.

I suppose that there is no one solution as to the course of intellectual education here. People look at the two sides of the shield. One party asks,  'When is our (simply intellectual) education to be broken off?'  The other (of whom I am one),  'When are the studies of our life to begin? Is any solid foundation ever to be laid?'  You have the advantage in the one question, I (I think) in the other. If life were long enough and the possible length of education had no limits, nothing could be said against your side. Make the preliminary education as long and as solid as you can; extend it on and on until the young mind and the activity of intellect have reached their fullest development. When you have gone on and on, I ask,  'jurisprudence and Theology are real studies, what room will you leave for them?'  Both will develop the fullest faculty of mind. St. Paul (granted that a person is fit to read him, but Aristotle requires the same) will develop a person' s reasoning power as well as Aristotle. It is reasoning as close.

The history of the Early. Church and its struggles into recognition, or with heresy, is as instructive as that of Grecian independence in Herodotus or the selfishness and ambition of the Peloponnesian war. Human nature can be studied as well in its conflict and sub–mission to faith as to Sparta. . .

Do not trouble yourself to answer this, but think how you can solve the problem,--how are our young men, to learn solidly, or lay the foundation of solid knowledge of God and His truth? If they are not laid here there will be no building.

But old age compelled him to give up this office also: for the sake of the College, and of the memory of  'dearest J.     K.,'  he was very anxious about his successor. Nine years'  experience had shown how extremely difficult was the task of maintaining the stamp of definite Churchmanship in an Oxford College in the presence of the almost purely academical tone of the rest of the University. The letter in which he resigned his office and expressed his earnest wish about his successor is a very careful statement of this deep anxiety.


South Hermitage, Ascot Priory, Oct. 19, 1879.

My increasing and now (for a time at least) total deafness makes me a useless member of the Keble College Council. I am extremely anxious about my successor.

Members of Council affect very indirectly the character of the training of the young men, which is, by the Charter, wholly lodged in the hands of the Warden. Still, the only pledge of the fidelity of the College, as a foundation, to the teaching which characterized John Keble and which is stamped by the Charter on the College, lies in the soundness of the Council. Higher duties might by God' s Providence be imposed upon you. The character of the successor who should carry on the lamp of truth would depend upon the then Council. If a majority of members of the Council should once be unfriendly or even indifferent to the claims of Catholic truth, or should make the office of Keble College to train good soldiers of Christ Jesus subordinate to Academic distinction, all would be lost, and that irretrievably. What would become of it, God only knows.

My own part with Keble College relates to my successor in the Council. I, with one other, am mainly responsible for the existence of the College and the name which it bears; great as the enthusiasm was, with which that name was received, and the pecuniary sacrifices made for it. I have then a responsibility for it, which one only shares besides. I am then intensely anxious that my successor should be one who should intelligently and definitely, with whatever influence a member of the Council has, maintain the principles upon which it was founded. Mine is an anxiety which no other can have, since at that meeting of mourners, on the day when his earthly remains were parted with out of sight, I gave the impulse, at Hursley Park, to the foundation of the College.

I am very anxious that that successor should be .one whom I have known intimately for many years, who is one of singular moderation as well as wisdom, who can discriminate with singular sagacity what is essential from what is not essential--C. Wood. I do not think that I was ever more impressed than by a public address which I heard him deliver now many years ago, in which Theology of necessity largely entered, in which, without controversy or anything which could have offended any one, he expressed his own faith on deep subjects with a precision, which reminded me of Hooker' s wonderful enunciation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

His future secular position will make him a useful member of the Council secularly also.

As to his being President of the E. C. U. he is the sense and moderation of it, and, in the eyes of the Rock, he would only replace one much blacker.

Five, I know, of the members of the Council strongly wish thai he should be my successor. I myself, when the election occurs, car of course only give my earnest wishes and prayers. You, I hope. will not object to it.

His earnest recommendation was accepted and Mr. Wood succeeded to his place on the Council.

As his life was drawing to a close, his friends greatly desired that a good portrait of him might be painted, so that future generations might not have to ask in vain  'what manner of man was he in aspect?'  The request had often been made before, but always met with the same answer. In 1843, soon after the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford had suspended him from preaching before the University, Keble forwarded to him a request of this kind from Mr. Justice Coleridge. He answered on July 27, 1843: There is no likeness of me, and I have put off my brother' s wish to have one, because people give me such an undue place already, and I wish to sink back.'  A last attempt was made in 1878. Early in that year, just before his serious illness, Dr. Acland mentioned that Dean Liddell would in a few days present him a paper signed by all the resident members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, requesting that he would allow his portrait to be painted and placed in the Hall. As soon as his health permitted, he anticipated the Dean' s intention by writing to decline.


Christ Church, Oxford, May 13 [1878].

Acland told me, before I became so i11 that you and he and some others kindly wished that some likeness of me should be preserved. People, with much more modesty than I, have acceded to the expres–sion of such a wish, so much as a matter of course, that it seems almost a piece of conceit in me to shrink from it. When Newman and Keble and C. Marriott and Bishop Selwyn have done it, what am I that I should make a fuss about it? To explain this, I must give you a little piece of autobiography. From the time when I began to work hard at Theology, as a young Fellow of Oriel, and people spoke kindly of me, I always thought,  'Well, they will see one day how much they have over-rated me.'  And then I resolved never to do anything to put myself forward. When my future patron, Bishop Lloyd, asked me what was the end of all my reading, whether I was thinking of this corner of the quadrangle (i. e. the Hebrew Professorship), I remember simply shrugging my shoulders and saying,  'Quid valeant humeri.'  A religious book, which instanced having a likeness taken of one' s-self as implying that one thought well of one' s-self, fixed me, and I settled with myself not to have it done. It surprised me when Newman, Keble, &c., one by one did it, but I declined all wishes of relations, friends, &c.; and it became to me a part of my religion not to have it done. At times it pained me to decline, when I was asked affection–ately, and the more so because some whom I respected and loved did it. And now it has gone on for some forty years.

It might naturally seem strange to you, that I who have been (as censured or praised) so much before the world, should think of not putting myself forward. However, if people put me forward, it was no doing of mine. I only followed the rule,  'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.'  ... When in early days (Sir R. Peel' s) people spoke of  'Dr. Burton' s and my stocks rising,'  the thought only crossed me, how it might be an occasion of putting any real power into the hands of another. In later years, when it was spoken of, I prayed it might not be offered me, but determined not to accept it. When the new school was rising, though I thought it mistaken in many things, I could not meddle, without taking the office of a leader of a party; so I went on my way, they theirs. In Newman' s day, I looked at things mainly as they would affect him.

Now all this egotism is in order to ask you not to ask me to do, what it would pain me to decline, yet what I must decline, because it has been a religious ground personal to myself, upon which I have declined before, and all my past declinings would look like a piece of mock–miodesty.

Accept, my dear Dean, my warmest thanks for the kindliness which has made you take part in this, and for all your other kindness; but, pray, do me one kindness more, to express to any who have joined you in this, or to whom you have given the weight of your name, my earnest wish that they would not by asking me put me to the pain of declining the wish of persons whom I respect or love.

The Dean replied that in spite of Pusey' s  'very interesting and touching letter,'  he was bound to present the memorial with which he had been entrusted, and he begged him to consider the strong claims of a request which expressed (he goodwill and interest of the great foundation to which he had belonged for more than half a century. Accordingly a few days later, the Dean and Dr. Acland called at Pusey' s lodgings, presented the address, and urged every argument to induce him to yield. They specially pointed out that, if he persisted in his refusal, a few caricatures would be the only answer to the natural desire of future generations to know what he was like.  'With a peculiarly winning smile and gentle manner,'  the Dean writes,  'he took up the address and said how much he was gratified by the loving wish of so many members of the House, and that he greatly desired to comply with their kind wishes.'  He went on, however, to explain that nearly forty years before, he had announced, in a conversation with Keble, his solemn determination never to have his portrait painted: arid on this resolution he had always acted. His visitors still continued to press him with arguments.  'All was of no effect,'  the Dean writes.  'He shook his head, smiled gently, and said,  " It is a matter of religion with me"(I remember this phrase distinctly)  " and I cannot go back from it,"We expressed our great regret at his decision, and parted with a friendly shake of hands.'  On the next day he wrote the following formal reply to the request:--


Christ Church, Oxford [May, 1878].

I hope that I have not seemed ungrateful to the love and kindness and goodwill of the members of the Governing Body, and others whose wish you and Dr. Acland made me acquainted with, with your usual kindness. To them it might be enough to say, that an old man verging on seventy-eight does not get over a rooted repugnance of thirty-nine years.

To you, my dear. Dean, I may give another glimpse. I was much shocked to see that a Roman Catholic writer of controversy opened with some such sentence as this,  'We are told that Dr. P. is a vain man. This would account for'  &c. We are all agreed that vanity is a most absurd thing, that no one could be vain who had not a low ideal; besides being very ungrateful to Almighty God Whose gift everything is, however little. I, of course, know that I have nothing to be vain about. However, I had seen, in the care of souls, that people often are brimful of a leading fault of which they have no suspicion. So my not suspecting it was no proof that I had not it. A caricature often suggests the truest likeness. Chantry got his suggestion for Dean Jackson' s statue from one. Himself he had never seen. Anyhow, proud flesh needs a caustic. I fear that I have not applied it near enough. Nobody could accuse Newman or John Keble of being  'vain,'  however sharp they may have written against either.

And now having our Lord' s words sounding in my ears,  'Whoso exalteth himself shall be abased,'  I cannot withdraw a precaution which I have acted upon for thirty-nine years. I have an instinctive repugnance against it. J. H. N. and J. K. of course did naturally what they did. . They had no need to take precautions against conceit. And now, when just passing out of the world with all my failures, self-confidences, mistakes and mischiefs, I cannot expose myself to any temptation or rescind my desire to make myself nothing. Haeret lateri, lethalis arundo. Rather, in the days of memorials, when people begin planning memorials before a person' s remains are hid out of sight, I must add a codicil to my will requesting that none may be made of me.

In sending these letters and an account of the interview, Dean. Liddell added,  'The portrait that now represents him in Christ Church Hall was painted after his death by Mr. George Richmond. Mr. Richmond had known Dr. Pusey well, and had of his own accord executed a fine bust of his departed friend. Three of these busts were taken in terra cotta. . . . The painted portrait is not equally successful. It gives the sentiment and general bearing of Dr. Pusey, but fails, I think, to represent his countenance and expression. But it was the best thing to be got. Dr. Pusey suffers still from his unshaken resolution not to have his portrait taken. Perhaps we ought not to have attempted it. But it was undertaken in accordance with the earnest desire of a great number of friends, and I did not think it right to disregard their wishes.'


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