1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Liddon, Henry Parry
LIDDON, HENRY PARRY (1829–1890), English divine, was the son of a naval captain and was born at North Stoneham, Hampshire, on the 20th of August 1829. He was educated at King’s College School, London, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated, taking a second class, in 1850. As vice-principal of the theological college at Cuddesdon (1854–1859) he wielded considerable influence, and, on returning to Oxford as vice-principal of St Edmund’s Hall, became a growing force among the undergraduates, exercising his influence in strong opposition to the liberal reaction against Tractarianism, which had set in after Newman’s secession in 1845. In 1864 the bishop of Salisbury (W. K. Hamilton), whose examining chaplain he had been, appointed him prebendary of Salisbury cathedral. In 1866 he delivered his Bampton Lectures on the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. From that time his fame as a preacher, which had been steadily growing, may be considered established. In 1870 he was made canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, London. He had before this published Some Words for God, in which, with great power and eloquence, he combated the scepticism of the day. His preaching at St Paul’s soon attracted vast crowds. The afternoon sermon, which fell to the lot of the canon in residence, had usually been delivered in the choir, but soon after Liddon’s appointment it became necessary to preach the sermon under the dome, where from 3000 to 4000 persons used to gather to hear the preacher. Few orators belonging to the Church of England have acquired so great a reputation as Liddon. Others may have surpassed him in originality, learning or reasoning power, but for grasp of his subject, clearness of language, lucidity of arrangement, felicity of illustration, vividness of imagination, elegance of diction, and above all, for sympathy with the intellectual position of those whom he addressed, he has hardly been rivalled. In the elaborate arrangement of his matter he is thought to have imitated the great French preachers of the age of Louis XIV. In 1870 he had also been made Ireland professor of exegesis at Oxford. The combination of the two appointments gave him extensive influence over the Church of England. With Dean Church he may be said to have restored the waning influence of the Tractarian school, and he succeeded in popularizing the opinions which, in the hands of Pusey and Keble, had appealed to thinkers and scholars. His forceful spirit was equally conspicuous in his opposition to the Church Discipline Act of 1874, and in his denunciation of the Bulgarian atrocities of 1876. In 1882 he resigned his professorship and utilized his thus increased leisure by travelling in Palestine and Egypt, and showed his interest in the Old Catholic movement by visiting Döllinger at Munich. In 1886 he became chancellor of St Paul’s, and it is said that he declined more than one offer of a bishopric. He died on the 9th of September 1890, in the full vigour of his intellect and at the zenith of his reputation. He had undertaken and nearly completed an elaborate life of Dr Pusey, for whom his admiration was unbounded; and this work was completed after his death by Messrs Johnston and Wilson. Liddon’s great influence during his life was due to his personal fascination and the beauty of his pulpit oratory rather than to any high qualities of intellect. As a theologian his outlook was that of the 16th rather than the 19th century; and, reading his Bampton Lectures now, it is difficult to realize how they can ever have been hailed as a great contribution to Christian apologetics. To the last he maintained the narrow standpoint of Pusey and Keble, in defiance of all the developments of modern thought and modern scholarship; and his latter years were embittered by the consciousness that the younger generation of the disciples of his school were beginning to make friends of the Mammon of scientific unrighteousness. The publication in 1889 of Lux Mundi, a series of essays attempting to harmonize Anglican Catholic doctrine with modern thought, was a severe blow to him, for it showed that even at the Pusey House, established as the citadel of Puseyism at Oxford, the principles of Pusey were being departed from. Liddon’s importance is now mainly historical. He was the last of the classical pulpit orators of the English Church, the last great popular exponent of the traditional Anglican orthodoxy. Besides the works mentioned, Liddon published several volumes of Sermons, a volume of Lent lectures entitled Some Elements of Religion (1870), and a collection of Essays and Addresses on such themes as Buddhism, Dante, &c.
See Life and Letters, by J. O. Johnston (1904); G. W. E. Russell, H. P. Liddon (1903); A. B. Donaldson, Five Great Oxford Leaders (1900), from which the life of Liddon was reprinted separately in 1905.