Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Evans, William Edward

EVANS, WILLIAM EDWARD (1801–1869), divine and naturalist, was born 8 June 1801 at Shrewsbury. He inherited a taste for poetry and natural history from his father, John Evans, M.D., who was a physician in that town, and author of a poem in four books on bees (1806–13). His mother was Jane Wilson. A brother, Robert Wilson Evans [q. v.], became archdeacon of Westmoreland. From Shrewsbury School, then ruled by Dr. Butler, Evans gained a scholarship at Clare Hall, Cambridge, where he proceeded to the degree of B.A. in 1823 and M.A. in 1826. After taking holy orders he became curate of Llanymynech, Shropshire, till his marriage to a cousin, Elizabeth Evans, when he was presented to the living of Criggion, Montgomeryshire. This, however, he resigned in order to live at Burton Court, Leominster, which his wife had inherited, and to hold the sole charge of the parish of Monkland. In 1841 he was appointed prebendary of Hereford and prælector of the cathedral. After holding Monkland for eighteen years, in 1850 Evans accepted the living of Madley with Tibberton, Herefordshire. In 1861 he became canon of Hereford Cathedral. His health failed for the last two or three years of his life, and he died in the Close, Hereford, 21 Nov. 1869.

Evans possessed a lively apprehension of natural objects and beauties, some wit, and a fair amount of reading. He was an eloquent and effective preacher, a careful student of animals, especially of birds, and an excellent angler. His chief work is ‘The Song of the Birds; or Analogies of Animal and Spiritual Life,’ 1845, 8vo, in which the habits of birds are shown to be instinct with higher lessons. Thus their ‘rising and soaring,’ he states, is emblematical of the ‘spiritual flights of the renewed spirit.’ The introduction displays much observation, and has been rightly called ‘full of grace and beauty;’ but the versification falls short of his aim, although its sentiments are frequently elevated, and a pure and religious strain of thought everywhere pervades it. The twenty-two chapters on our chief song birds show the minute carefulness and accuracy of Evans's powers of observation. Besides this he wrote ‘Sermons on Genesis,’ ‘Family Prayers,’ ‘First Revelations of God to Man’ (Sermons), and a ‘Letter to the Bishop [of Hereford] on Diocesan Education,’ 1850, with one or two occasional sermons. He left one daughter and three sons, one of whom is the present vicar of Holmer, Herefordshire.

[Athenæum, 19 July 1845; Luard's Graduati Cantabr. p. 170; Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1860; information from his son, the Rev. E. A. Evans.]

M. G. W.