Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eden, Robert (1804-1886)
EDEN, ROBERT (1804–1886), bishop of Moray, Ross, and Caithness, the third son of Sir Frederick Morton Eden [q. v.], was born 2 Sept. 1804 and educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He took a third class in classics in 1826 and proceeded B.A. in 1827. Ordained deacon and priest by the Bishop of Gloucester in 1828, he served successively the curacies of Weston-sub-Edge in Gloucestershire, and Messing and Peldon in Essex, and became rector of Leigh in Essex in 1837. Here, on the resignation of Bishop Low, he accepted the offer of the Scottish see of Moray and Ross; he was consecrated at St. Paul's, Edinburgh, 9 March 1851. On this occasion his university conferred on him the degree of D.D. In 1862 he was elected primus of the Scottish church, in succession to Bishop Terrot. In 1827 he married Emma, daughter of Justice Allan Park, by whom he had five sons and five daughters. He died peacefully on the evening of 26 Aug. 1886, at his official residence in Inverness.
The progress which Scottish episcopacy made in his time must be attributed largely to his influence. He had given up a comfortable English living worth 500l. or 600l. a year for a position of which the yearly emoluments were not more than 150l., and where there was no settled residence. His pro-cathedral was a small cottage, fitted up as a mission chapel, on the bank of the river Ness. During his tenure he quadrupled the income of the see, founded the beautiful cathedral of St. Andrew in Inverness, and was mainly instrumental in securing a residence for his successor. Dignified and firm in character, he was a good and sound, rather than a brilliant, preacher. He was on the most intimate terms of friendship with Archbishop Longley and Bishops Blomfield, Selwyn, Hamilton, and Wilberforce, the last of whom said that his power of surmounting difficulties was just that of his ability at school to jump over anything that he could reach with his nose. Among his most noticeable public acts were his cordial recognition of M. Loyson (Père Hyacinthe); his co-operation with the Duke of Buccleuch in removing the disabilities of Scottish orders in the ministry of the church of England; his labours to promote union with the Eastern church; and his enlisting Archbishop Longley to take part in the foundation of Inverness Cathedral. His defence, in opposition to all the other Scottish bishops, of Bishop Wilberforce, who had held an English service in the presbyterian chapel of Glengarry, Inverness-shire, was perhaps due less to the somewhat Erastian tone which uniformly pervaded Eden's political acts than to the mollifying effect produced by the personal visit of Wilberforce.
Not the least service rendered by the primus to the Scottish church was in 1876. Large and excited meetings of its members were held in Edinburgh for the purpose of remodelling the whole financial system of the church. The Church Society, the creation of the popular Dean Ramsay, had long shown signs of inability to cope with the growing wants of the church. A small body of reformers aimed at replacing this society by an organisation which should represent every congregation, and those who had worked hard and generously on the old lines were opposed to this. The result, therefore, depended on the view which the primus would take. He threw in his lot with the reformers, and composed many heated debates by his courtly suavity and excellent knowledge of business. The new financial body thus formed, known as the Representative Church Council, has been so successful as to justify his action.
Eden was perhaps a better primus than diocesan bishop. His bonhomie and love of telling jocose stories somewhat scared strict spirits. But his grand manner, which, said one of his clergy, ‘made you feel proud of yourself in five minutes,’ was very telling. Theologically he was a moderate high churchman, politically an uncompromising tory.
His published works comprised: 1. Three tracts against Wesleyan methodism, published before his episcopate began. 2. Four charges. 3. Various sermons in defence of Scottish episcopacy. 4. Miscellaneous sermons on the Prayer Book, on the ‘International Society of Workmen,' and against teelotalism. 5. 'Impressions of a Recent Visit to Russia, a Letter addressed to Chancellor Massingberd, on Intercommunion with the Eastern Orthodox Church,' 1866. In addition to these he wrote prefaces to Mr. Shutte's translation of the 'Heliotropium,' and to Count Tolstoi's 'Romanism in Russia.'
[Times; Guardian; Church Times; Scotsman; Crockford's Clerical Directory; personal recollections from one of Eden's clergy.]