Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hawkins, Edward (1789-1882)
HAWKINS, EDWARD (1789–1882), provost of Oriel College, Oxford, was born at Bath 27 Feb. 1789. He was the eldest child of Edward Hawkins, successively vicar of Bisley in Gloucestershire and rector of Kelston in Somersetshire, who died in 1806. His family had possessed estates in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire, but suffered greatly during the civil war. Two of his brothers, Cæsar Henry and Francis, are separately noticed. After passing about four years at a school at Elmore in Gloucestershire, Edward was sent to Merchant Taylors' School in February 1801. While he was a schoolboy he was placed in a position of great responsibility by the death of his father, who left behind him a widow with ten children, and had appointed Edward one of his executors. In June 1807 he was elected to an Andrew exhibition at St. John's College, Oxford, and in 1811 graduated B.A. with a double first class (M.A. 1814, B.D. and D.D. 1828). In 1812 he became tutor of his college, and in 1813 he was elected fellow of Oriel.
With Copleston, John Davison, Whately, and Keble among its fellows, Oriel was at this time the most distinguished college in Oxford. There Hawkins lived, first as fellow and then as provost, for more than sixty years. Becoming tutor for a few months to Viscount Caulfeild, son of the second Earl of Charlemont, he was in Paris at the time of Napoleon's escape from Elba in 1815, and left that city on the morning of the day on which Napoleon entered it, 20 March. Devoting himself to divinity he was ordained, and in 1819 became tutor of his college. On 31 May 1818 he preached in the university pulpit perhaps the most remarkable of all his sermons. The substance of the sermon was published in 1819, and was reprinted by the Christian Knowledge Society in 1889, with the title, 'A Dissertation upon the Use and Importance of Unauthoritative Tradition.' Cardinal Newman, who as an undergraduate heard it preached, says of it in his 'Apologia' (p. 372): 'It made a most serious impression upon me. … He lays down a proposition, self-evident as soon as stated, to those who have at all examined the structure of Scripture, viz. that the sacred text was never intended to teach doctrine, but only to prove it; and that if we would learn doctrine we must have recourse to the formularies of the church; for instance, to the Catechism and to the Creeds.' Hawkins afterwards treated the same subject more fully in his Bampton lectures (1840) under the title, 'An Inquiry into the connected Uses of the principal means of attaining Christian Truth;' these being the scriptures and the church, human reason and illuminating grace. From 1823 to 1828 he was vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford, a college living. During his incumbency, and in a great measure owing to his energy, the present internal arrangement of the church was carried out; and he is believed to have introduced the Sunday parochial afternoon sermon, which afterwards became so famous under his successor, Cardinal Newman. He was select preacher to the university in 1820, 1825, 1829, and 1842, and Whitehall preacher in 1827 and 1828.
On 2 Feb. 1828 Hawkins was elected by the fellows provost of Oriel, in succession to Dr. Copleston [q. v.], appointed bishop of Llandaff. The choice lay between Hawkins and Keble, whose 'Christian Year' had just been published; and Hawkins's election was in a great measure due to Pusey and Newman (at that time fellows of the college). Newman had for some few years previous been thrown very much in Hawkins's way, and had become very intimate with him. He speaks of him with great affection in his 'Apologia,' and testifies to the advantage, both philosophical and theological, which, as his junior by about twelve years, he derived from his conversation. Annexed to the provostship were a canonry at Rochester and the living of Purleigh in Essex. From 1847 to 1861 Hawkins was the first Ireland professor of exegesis in the university.
Hawkins showed notable prescience by writing, when Thomas Arnold [q. v.], at one time a fellow of Oriel, was a candidate for the head-mastership at Rugby in 1828, that Arnold would, if elected, 'change the face of education all through the public schools of England.' But notwithstanding Hawkins's great qualities, both religious and intellectual, his headship was not entirely successful, and when Dean Burgon gives him the title of 'the great provost,' the epithet requires much qualification. He was not happy in manner with the undergraduates, though extremely kind and considerate, and really anxious for their welfare. In 1831 the three tutors, Newman, Richard Hurrell Froude [q. v.], and Robert Wilberforce, wished to make some changes in the tutorial system, especially to establish a more intimate connection with their pupils. The provost refused his assent, and the three tutors resigned. He made energetic efforts to supply their place by lecturing himself and getting Renn Dickson Hampden [q. v.] to assist him, but the college seems to have never quite recovered their loss. In his relations with the fellows Hawkins was very jealous of his authority.
As a member of the old 'hebdomadal board,' which expired in 1854, Hawkins exercised great influence. He was at first a liberal reformer, but afterwards stoutly resisted all change. He sided with Dr. Hampden at the time of his appointment to the regius professorship of divinity in 1836, and opposed the 'tractarian movement.' When, in February 1841, the heads of houses proposed a sentence of condemnation on the famous Tract 90, Hawkins was commissioned to draw up the document; and for several years his life was embittered by the struggle with the tractarians.
He was one of the heads of houses who supplied no official information to the university commissioners appointed in 1850; but when, in 1854, a new order of things was established both in the college and the university, he faithfully (however unwillingly) accepted it. In 1874 a vice-provost was on Hawkins's petition to the visitor (the crown) appointed at Oriel, and Hawkins, at the age of eighty-five, finally left Oxford. He retired to his house in the precincts at Rochester, where he had almost always been a reformer among his fellow-canons. He protested in vain in 1875 against the future severance of the canonry at Rochester from the provostship of Oriel, and in 1879 addressed a memorial to the Oxford University commissioners against the abolition at Oriel of the necessity for all the fellows, except three, to be in holy orders. He died, after a few days' illness, on 18 Nov. 1882, within three months of completing his ninety-fourth year, and was buried in the cathedral cemetery at Rochester.
Hawkins was of middle size, or rather under, slender, with pale, finely cut, and beautiful features. There is a lifelike portrait of him in the common-room at Oriel, by Sir Francis Grant, taken when he was in his sixty-sixth year. He married on 28 Dec. 1828 Miss Mary Ann Buckle who with a son and daughter still survives him. Two daughters and his eldest son died before him; the latter, of whom he wrote a most touching account for private circulation, went out on the universities' mission to Central Africa, and died in 1862 at the age of twenty-nine.
Hawkins edited Milton's poetical works, with notes original and selected, and Newton's life of the poet, 8vo, 4 vols. Oxford, 1824. He also published numerous sermons, of which may be noticed those on 'The Duty of Private Judgment,' Oxford, 1838; 'The Province of Private Judgment and the Right Conduct of Religious Inquiry,' 1861; and 'The Liberty of Private Judgment within the Church of England,' 1863. Other of his works are: 1. 'Discourses upon some of the Principal Objects and Uses of the Historical Scriptures of the Old Testament,' Oxford, 1833, 8vo. 2. 'A Letter … upon the Oaths, Dispensations, and Subscription to the XXXIX Articles,' &c., 1835. 3. 'The Duty and the Means of Promoting Christian Knowledge without Impairing Christian Unity,' London, 1838. 4. 'The Apostolical Succession,' London, 1842. 5. 'The Nature and Obligation of Apostolic Order,' London, 1842. 6. 'Sermons on the Church,' London, 1847. 7. 'A Manual for Christians; designed for their Use at any time after Confirmation,' Oxford, 1826, the most popular of his writings, which went through at least seven editions before 1870. 8. 'Sermons on Scripture Types and Sacraments,' London, 1851. 9. 'The Duty of Moral Courage,' Oxford, 1852. 10. 'A Letter … upon the Future Representation of the University of Oxford,' Oxford, 1853. 11. 'A Letter … upon a Recent Statute … with Reference to Dissent and Occasional Conformity,' 1855. 12. 'Spiritual Destitution at Home,' Oxford, 1860. 13. 'Notes upon Subscription, Academical and Clerical,' Oxford, 1864. 14. 'Additional Notes on Subscription,' &c., Oxford, 1866. 15. 'The Pestilence in its Relation to Divine Providence and Prayer,' London, 1867.[Cardinal Newman's Apologia pro Vita sua; Dean Burgon's Lives of Twelve Good Men, 'The Great Provost;' Guardian, 4 Nov. 1874 p. 1413, 22, 29 Nov. 1882 pp. 1640, 1675–6, 30 Jan. 1889 p. 169; Thomas Mozley's Reminiscences of Oriel, &c. vol. i.; personal knowledge and private inquiries.]