Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Daubeny, Charles (1745-1827)

DAUBENY, CHARLES, D.C.L. (1745–1827), archdeacon of Salisbury, the second son of George Daubeny, an opulent Bristol merchant, was baptized 16 Aug. 1745, educated at a private school at Philip's Norton, and sent when fifteen years old to Winchester College. Shortly after his admission he had a severe illness which incapacitated him for more than a year, and from which he never entirely recovered. He nevertheless rose to be head boy of the school, and at eighteen gained an exhibition at New College, Oxford, where he afterwards obtained a fellowship. When of age, owing to the death of his father, he came into a considerable fortune, but the precarious state of his health obliged him to live in great retirement. In 1770 he went abroad and derived much benefit from the German mineral springs. In 1771 he visited St. Petersburg, where, by the influence of the Princess Dashkow, whose acquaintance he had made in Paris, he was introduced at court, and made some study of Greek catholicism. On his return to England in 1772 he resided for some months at Oxford in order to prepare for holy orders, which were a necessary qualification to his admission to a fellowship at Winchester College. He was ordained deacon in 1773 by the Bishop of Oxford, and priest in the following week by Dr. Terrick, bishop of London, and in the same year graduated B.C.L. He obtained his fellowship in 1774, but only held it for two years, when the college living of North Bradley, Wiltshire, was offered him. This living, nominally a valuable one, he found so eaten up with dilapidations that the income only averaged 50l. a year, and the parish was in a state of great spiritual neglect. He now married a Miss Barnston, and till his vicarage could be made habitable resided at Clifton. He at once set about restoring his church, which was falling into decay, and supplemented the customary Sunday morning service by others in the evening and during the week. He also nearly rebuilt the vicarage, spending altogether about 3,000l., and by his business abilities raised the income of the living to upwards of 180l., besides starting and supporting a Sunday school. He was at first highly unpopular with his parishioners, both on account of his rigidly orthodox principles, most of the inhabitants being dissenters, and because he had purchased and pulled down three cottages so as to enlarge the vicarage grounds. He would therefore have left the place had he not set on foot several plans for the benefit of the villagers, and after a few years his generosity made him extremely popular. In 1784 he was appointed to the prebend of Minor Pars Altaris in Salisbury Cathedral, and four years later published his first work, ‘Lectures on the Church Catechism.’ For the two following years Daubeny resided abroad, and was at Versailles at the outbreak of the French revolution. In 1790 his health was so weak that, leaving his parish in charge of a curate, he wintered in Bath, and while there interested himself in promoting the erection of a free church for the poor of that city. His first sermon in aid of this object produced over 1,200l. This building, Christ Church, Walcot, was opened in 1798, and was the first free and open church in the country. By the desire of the subscribers, of which he was one of the largest, Daubeny became the first minister. He had prepared a series of lectures, delivered to his parishioners at Bradley, embodying a scheme for the union of different parties in the christian church, which he published this year under the title of ‘A Guide to the Church,’ and in 1799 he followed it with an appendix which constituted a second volume. This work, which endeavours to prove that the discipline of the church of England is of apostolic origin, and that, therefore, any departure therefrom is schismatical, became at once very popular; it was, however, warmly attacked by nonconformists. In 1804 he was appointed archdeacon of Salisbury. Some higher preferment had been expected for him, as in 1801 he had been thanked and invited to court for a sermon preached before the king and queen at Weymouth. Daubeny declined the invitation, as his retired habits rendered him unfit for a court chaplain. George III, however, more than once urged his claims for a bishopric upon various ministers. In 1808 he founded and endowed an almshouse for four poor inhabitants of North Bradley, and also built a school at the same place at his own expense. In a charge delivered in 1812 he gave strong reasons for supporting the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in preference to the Bible Society, which occasioned a bitter controversy between the supporters of the different societies, but in which the archdeacon did not take a very active part. From 1805 to 1816 he was chiefly engaged in literary work and the performance of his parochial duties. In the latter year he had a paralytic stroke, which did not, however, affect his intellect, and by the following year he was sufficiently recovered to superintend the erection of a poor-house he built for the use of his parishioners. In 1821 he published seventeen sermons, by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, which he had modernised with the view of rendering them more popular, but the experiment did not meet with sufficient success to cause him to repeat it. The university of Oxford in 1822, in recognition of his services to the church, conferred upon him the degree of D.C.L. During the following year his parishioners expressed a wish that a church should be erected at Road to serve a distant part of the parish, and Daubeny at once set about collecting subscriptions for the purpose. While thus occupied he was seized by fever, and his life was for some time despaired of. Shortly after his recovery he lost his wife, and his grief permanently weakened his health. To divert his mind he commenced ‘The Protestant's Companion,’ which was published in 1824, and at once attained considerable popularity. During this year the church at Road was consecrated, Daubeny preaching the sermon; its cost, with the endowment and parsonage, was upwards of 13,000l., of which he contributed nearly 4,000l. The winter of 1826 and spring of 1827 were chiefly occupied in writing a charge delivered on 3 July and three following days. On the following Sunday, the 8th, he officiated both at Bradley and Road, and on Monday morning he was taken suddenly ill and died 10 July 1827. By his will he left several thousands towards parochial objects. Daubeny was a man of extensive ecclesiastical erudition, an ardent lover of truth, and rigidly orthodox. Passionately attached to his own church, he had no sympathy with dissent, and attacked popery as unsparingly as he did protestant nonconformity, frequently overstepping the bounds both of courtesy and prudence. Although of quick temper and indifferent to the opinions others might entertain regarding him, he was constitutionally shy and avoided general society; among his private friends, however, were many of the prominent ecclesiastics, philanthropists, and scholars of his day. In his theories of the dignity and importance of the church and her ministers he anticipated the tractarian party. Frugal almost to penuriousness in his personal expenses, he was munificent towards objects of which he approved, nor did he begrudge time or trouble in promoting them. He was a strong advocate for education, though he wrote against the system introduced by Joseph Lancaster. His diary and letters show him to have been a man of earnest piety and humble disposition, equally disliking enthusiasm and quietism in religious matters. Daubeny was a voluminous writer, happy in illustration, and well skilled in controversial argument. His principal writings are: 1. ‘Lectures on the Church Catechism,’ 1788. 2. ‘A Guide to the Church, in several discourses,’ 2 vols. 1798–9. 3. ‘The Fall of Papal Rome,’ &c. 1798. 4. ‘Letters to Mrs. Hannah More, on her Strictures on Female Education,’ 1799. 5. ‘Eight Discourses on the Connexion between the Old and New Testament,’ 1802. 6. ‘Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,’ 1803. 7. ‘The Trial of the Spirits; a Warning against Spiritual Delusion,’ 1804. 8. ‘Reasons for Supporting the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in preference to the new Bible Society,’ 1812. 9. ‘A Word to the Wise,’ 1812. 10. ‘A few Plain Thoughts on the Liturgy,’ 1814. 11. ‘Remarks on the Unitarian Mode of Explaining the Scriptures,’ 1815. 12. ‘On the Doctrine of Regeneration,’ 1816. 13. ‘Thirteen Discourses,’ 1816. 14. ‘On Schism,’ 1819. 15. ‘Seventeen Sermons of Bishop Andrewes Modernised,’ 1821. 16. ‘The Protestant's Companion,’ 1824. 17. ‘Supplement to the Protestant's Companion,’ 1825. He also published his charges to the clergy in the archdeaconry of Salisbury in 1805, 1806, 1807, 1809, 1810, 1812, 1813, 1815, 1819, 1821, 1824, 1825, and 1827.

[Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Dodson's Salisbury; Smith's Antiquakeriana; Memoir prefixed to A Guide to the Church, 3rd edit. 1830; Bath, Salisbury, and other local papers, various dates.]

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