Project Canterbury

Alexander Penrose Forbes:
Bishop of Brechin, the Scottish Pusey
by William Perry

London: SPCK, 1939.


THIS book has been written in scattered intervals of a busy life. In 1927 I endeavoured to rescue from oblivion the name of one of the greatest liturgical scholars since Mabillon, by writing his Life, under the title of George Hay Forbes, a Romance in Scholarship. Liddon's Life of Pusey had shown in some measure the important part played by his brother, Bishop Forbes, in the Oxford Movement, especially in the years preceding the Vatican Council of 1870. But in spite of a short biography by Canon Mackey and a few monographs, the Bishop's work is known little more than his brother's, even in Scotland; this book is an attempt to keep green the memory of one who may be justly described as the Scottish Pusey. Unfortunately much, if not most, of the Bishop's correspondence was destroyed either in his lifetime or later. When his friend and colleague, Dean Nicolson, opened the box which was supposed to contain a large amount of his papers and letters, he was disappointed to find only a comparatively small number. An admirer saw a mass of papers in flames, including the Bishop's large diary, the lock of which she rescued and preserved. Bishop Forbes wrote hundreds of letters to Dr. Pusey, for he was his most intimate friend; nearly all these were destroyed, probably by his own desire. His letters to his father and mother as well as to his sisters have also disappeared, apparently within recent years. In spite of this, a considerable number of letters to and from the Bishop have survived, some from such distinguished men as the statesman and loyal churchman Mr. W. E. Gladstone, the poet and theologian John Keble, the historian Dr. von Döllinger, and others. No one knows better than the author the imperfections of this book. But if the volume should in any degree revive interest in a singularly versatile character, and exhibit the notable part he played in a critical period of the history of the Church, I shall be thankful. Like his brother, the Bishop received little appreciation in his lifetime, save from intimate friends; that has been the fate of many great and good men. It is for those who have entered into the heritage bequeathed by their labours and sufferings to redress the injustice. In that spirit I have tried to write this book.

So many friends and correspondents have sent useful materials that it is impossible to mention them by name: they will, I trust, be satisfied with this thankful acknowledgment of their assistance. One friend to whom I owe an unforgettable debt of gratitude must be named, Miss Isabel C. Grieve, Librarian of St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, without whose co-operation for five years in making searches, typing letters, visiting libraries, and helping in numberless other ways the book could never have been written. To my friend and former pupil, the Rev. D. S. Borland, M.A., Chaplain of the Theological College, Edinburgh, I am much indebted, for his kindness in reading the manuscript and making valuable suggestions, as well as for revising the proofs.

May I, 1939.

Project Canterbury