Project Canterbury

Bryan King and the Riots at St. George's-in-the-East

By William Crouch

London: Methuen, [1904]

Chapter II. Oxford

BRYAN KING went into residence at Brasenose College, Oxford, on April 15th, 1831, having gone up for matriculation during the previous term. Dr. Gilbert was then Principal of the College, and was regarded by the young undergraduate, who went up to Oxford with very strong Conservative tendencies, as a most favourable specimen of the Oxford Don, a type of character for which he always retained the most profound veneration. Later on when, as Fellow of the College, he came to take part in the election of a Fellow, he was much impressed by the calm, deliberate statement of the Principal that they were "Domus," that the college was the extension of the "Family," and that they were not bound in the election of a Fellow merely by considerations of purely intellectual pre-eminence, the term "Socius" in its primary meaning implying qualities of another character. He vividly recalled and recognised the force of these old-fashioned notions, when, long after he had left Oxford, being present as a guest at the annual audit [14/15] on St. Thomas's Day, and meeting some of the former Fellows whom he had not seen for some thirty years, they greeted each other with all the warmth and affection of the reunited members of one family. Oxford--the Oxford of his day--was always to him a veritable Alma Mater, regarded with the deepest filial reverence and affection; and the admission of dissenters to University honours and official positions was regarded by him with abhorrence as a most reprehensible breach of trust. Dr. Gilbert had been tutor to the celebrated sportsman, Jack Mytton, who had, as might be expected, led the staid tutor a not very happy life. When a Fellow of the College, Bryan King informed the Principal, whilst calling on him one day, that he had just bought at Wheeler's, the bookseller's, an illustrated copy of the Life of Mytton, asking if he had not been Mytton's tutor. "Yes," the Principal replied, "I was, and a most extraordinary pupil he was. One day, when we were going out shooting together, on my making some assertion on some unimportant subject, he raised his gun and threatened to shoot me. I rushed behind a large tree, perfectly convinced that he would have shot me with as little compunction as he would have shot a hare or a rabbit. Now, King, you will easily understand that, as Head of this house, I cannot send to a bookseller for the life of such a character, but I shall be obliged if you will go and procure for me a copy of the [15/16] book"; which of course the junior Fellow immediately did.

During Bryan King's first term of residence at Brasenose the College was disturbed by a set of fast and riotous men, principally from Eton, whom he regarded with unqualified aversion. To his satisfaction the strong measure of sending down one or two of these men resulted in the very orderly behaviour of the undergraduates for the rest of his residence in Oxford.

He became a member of the Union, which at that time met at Wyatt's rooms in the High Street, the prominent speakers then being Ward (author of the Ideal), Cardwell (afterwards Viscount Cardwell), and Robert Lowe (afterwards Viscount Sherbrooke). As was natural, he formed at Oxford many lasting friendships, amongst which may specially be mentioned Rev. T. T. Bazely, Tutor of Brasenose (afterwards Rector of Poplar), and one of his staunchest friends during the troubles at St. George's-in-the-East.

The Tractarian movement was commenced, and gradually developed during Bryan King's residence at Oxford; but, strange to say, although he was subsequently one of the first to apply its teaching in a practical way to the conduct of the Church services, he was at the time of its commencement at Oxford little influenced by it. He says of it:--

[17] "Like all other movements, great in their influence and effect, it began in a quiet and unobtrusive manner; we on the spot (not in the immediate circle of the Tractarians) heard but little of it for some time, until general attention was called to the movement by the noisy opposition to some of the later tracts. Mr. Newman, as Vicar of St. Mary's, was preaching on Sunday evenings those calm but most impressive sermons which were doing their quiet work in the hearts of many members of the University, who cared to miss their dinner in Hall (then usually at S p.m.) in order to attend his service. For myself I rarely, if ever, attended this service; my religious sympathies indeed were at this period not at all on the side of Mr. Newman, or of the movement with which his name was identified.

"I had fallen under the influence of our tutor, Rev. T. T. Churton, a man of a sincerely religious character, and of decidedly 'Evangelical' principles, and consequently regarded the Tractarian movement with some distrust. The violent articles of some periodical (I think the Christian Observer), in which the leaders of this movement were attacked, when contrasted with the calm and consistent conduct of the victims of such treatment, served gradually to enlist my sympathies to them and their cause (as it is written that 'the good seed are the children of the kingdom'); and when I state further (and it will be readily inferred with what extreme reluctance I now make such an avowal) that the two occasions in my life on which I had experienced the profoundest spiritual influences were, first, at my confirmation in St. Peter's Church, Liverpool, by Bishop Sumner, of Chester; and, [17/18] secondly, in the act of receiving the elements of the most Blessed Sacrament in my college chapel, it will not be a matter of surprise that I was thenceforth led to expect supernatural help and guidance through the ordained channels of the Church rather than through the subjective action of my own mind and faith."

Holding one of the Hulme's Exhibitions, which entailed continued residence to the time of taking his M.A. degree, he regarded this period as that of the most important part of his education. Besides attending, as was required, the lectures of his college tutor in Hebrew, the works of some of the early Fathers, and the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, he also attended the courses of several professors, including those of Dr. Burton, Regius Professor of Divinity, Mr. Sewell on Moral Philosophy, Dr. Buck-land on Geology and Mineralogy, and Dr. Pusey on the Study of Prophecy, the intense reverence with which Dr. Pusey habitually treated such subjects making a lasting impression on his mind.

Speaking of this time, he says: "It was my habit to attend the University sermons, and on such occasions when Dr. Pusey preached, which was at the cathedral, it was the indication of his character, of his profound and habitual realisation of 'things not seen,' which made the deepest impression on my mind and heart."

Having been elected Fellow of Brasenose, he [18/19] remained in residence at Oxford until the year 1837. The life and surroundings of a college don were thoroughly congenial to him, and his University and college kept firm hold of his affections to the end of his life.

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