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Dean Stanley in United Kingdom

Life and Work

From the book “Studies in Contemporary Biography”, by James Bryce:

Stanley was born in 1815. His father, then Rector of Alderley, in Cheshire, afterwards Bishop 70 of Norwich, belonged to the family of the Stanleys of Alderley, a branch of that ancient and famous line the head of which is Earl of Derby. His mother, Catherine Leycester, was a woman of much force of character and intellectual power. He was educated at Rugby School under Dr. Arnold, the influence of whose ideas remained great over him all through his life, and at Oxford, where he became a fellow and tutor of University College. Passing thence to be Canon of Canterbury, he returned to the University as Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and remained there for seven years. In 1863 he was appointed Dean of Westminster, and at the same time married Lady Augusta Bruce (sister of the then Lord Elgin, Governor-General first of Canada and afterwards of India). He died in 1881.

He had an extraordinarily active and busy life, so intertwined with the history of the University of Oxford and the history of the Church of England from 1850 to 1880, that one can hardly think of any salient point in either without thinking also of him. (…)

In civil politics he was all his life a Liberal, belonging by birth to the Whig aristocracy, and disposed on most matters to take rather the Whiggish than the Radical view, yet drawn by the warmth of his sympathy towards the working classes, and popular with them. One of his chief pleasures was to lead parties of humble visitors round the Abbey on public holidays. Like most members of the Whig families, he had no great liking for Mr. Gladstone, not so much, perhaps, on political grounds as because he distrusted the High Churchism and anti-Erastianism of the Liberal leader. However, he never took any active part in general politics, reserving his strength for those ecclesiastical questions which seemed to lie within his peculiar province.[17] Here he had two leading ideas: one, that the Church of England must at all hazards continue to be an Established Church, in alliance with, or subjection to, the State (for his Erastianism was unqualified), and recognising the Crown as her head; the other, that she must be a comprehensive Church, finding room in her bosom for every sort or description of Christian, however much or little he believed of the dogmas contained in the Thirty-nine Articles and the Prayer-Book, to which she is bound by statute.

The former view cut him off from the Nonconformists and the Radicals; the latter exposed him to the fire not only of those who, like the High Churchmen and the Evangelicals, attach the utmost importance to these dogmas, but of those also among the laity who hold that a man ought under no circumstances to sign any test or use any form of prayer which does not express his own convictions. Stanley would, of course, have greatly preferred that the laws which regulate the Church of England should be so relaxed as to require little or no assent to any doctrinal propositions from her ministers. He strove for this; and he continued to hope that this might be ultimately won. But he conceived that in the meantime it was a less evil that men should be technically bound by subscriptions they objected to than that the National Church should be narrowed by the exclusion of those whose belief fell short of her dogmatic standards. It was remarkable that not only did he maintain this unpopular view of his with unshaken courage on every occasion, pleading the cause of every supposed heretic against hostile majorities with a complete forgetfulness of his own peace and ease, but that no 80 one ever thought of attributing the course he took to any selfish or sinister motive. It was generally believed that his own opinions were what nine-tenths of the Church of England would call unorthodox. But the honesty and uprightness of his character were so patent that nobody supposed that this fact made any difference, or that it was for the sake of keeping his own place that he fought the cause of others. (…)



  1. James Bryce, “Studies in Contemporary Biography” (1903), MacMillan and Co., Limited, New York

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  • Article Name: Dean Stanley
  • Author: International
  • Description: Life and Work From the book Studies in Contemporary Biography, by James Bryce: Stanley was born in 1815. His father, then [...]

This entry was last updated: October 28, 2016

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