“One of the most conspicuous and remarkable figures” of his generation the versatile Bishop of Oxford is said to have come “next to Gladstone as a man of inexhaustible powers of work.” Known from his Oxford days as Soapy Sam, he was involved through no fault of his own, in some of the odium attached to the “Essays and Reviews” and “Colenso” cases: his private life was embittered by the secession to Rome of his two brothers, his brother-in-law, his only daughter, and his son-in-law. “He was an unwearied ecclesiastical politician, always involved in discussions and controversies, sometimes, it was thought, in intrigues; without whom nothing was done in convocation, nor, where Church interests were involved, in the House of Lords.” The energy with which he governed his diocese for twenty-four years earned for him the title of “Romodeller [Transcriber’s note: sic] of the Episcopate.”
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The attempt, by a man whose “relaxations” were botany and ornithology, but who had no claims to be called an expert, to defeat Darwin on his own ground—and the dignified horror of a Churchman at some deductions from evolution—is eminently characteristic of the period.
The earnest criticism of Newman’s conversion to Rome concerns one of the most striking events of his generation, and illustrates the “church” attitude on such questions.
We have hinted already that the responsibility for this group of ill-mannered recriminations may probably be distributed between Gifford, Croker, and Lockhart. It is curious to notice that the second attack on Scott appeared after his admission to the ranks of contributors; and the author of Waverley is perhaps the one man said to have friends both on the Edinburgh and the Quarterly. That on Leigh Hunt, always the pet topic of Toryism, from whom he certainly provoked some retaliation, is only paralleled in Blackwood. We have included the Shakespeare and the Moxon as attractively brief samples on the approved model of savage banter, and the Jane Eyre as perhaps the most flagrant example of bad taste to be found in these merciless pages. It was George Henry Lewis, by the way, who so much offended Charlotte Bronte by the greeting, “There ought to be a bond between us, for we have both written naughty books.”
It is interesting to find Thackeray among those it was permitted to praise: though the “moral” objection to his “realism” reveals a strange attitude.
We may notice, with some surprise, that the attitude towards George Eliot is nearly as hostile as towards Charlotte Bronte.
GIFFORD ON WEBER’S “FORD”
[From The Quarterly Review, December, 1811]