Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Horsley, Samuel
HORSLEY, SAMUEL (1733–1806), bishop of St. Asaph, son of John Horsley, by his first wife, Anne, daughter of William Hamilton, D.D., principal of Edinburgh University, was born on 15 Sept. 1733 in St. Martin's Place, by St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, at which his father was lecturer. He was baptised on 8 Oct., and Zachary Pearce, vicar of St. Martin's, afterwards bishop of Rochester, was his godfather. The bishop's grandfather, Samuel Horsley, who was born on 17 March 1669 and died on 4 July 1735, was second son of William Horsley of Broxbourne, Hertfordshire (d. 10 Feb. 1709). John Horsley, the bishop's father (1699–1777), born on 13 Nov. 1699, was educated for the dissenting ministry at the university of Edinburgh, where, on 24 Feb. 1723, ‘Johannes Horseley’ and Isaac Maddox (sic), ‘Angli præcones evangelici, academiæ olim alumni,’ were ‘nunc demum’ admitted to the degree of M.A., the diploma being given on 9 March. Neither John Horsley nor Madox (afterwards bishop of Worcester) seems to have held any dissenting pastorate; both are included by Calamy among those who conformed about 1727. John Horsley, while still lecturer at St. Martin's, became (1745) rector of Thorley, Hertfordshire; he further received from Madox the rectory of Newington Butts, Surrey, a peculiar in the gift of the Bishop of Worcester. As his second wife, he married Mary, daughter of George Leslie; by whom he had three sons and four daughters. Mary, his second daughter (1747–1824), married William Palmer, of Nazeing Park, Essex, grandfather of Roundell Palmer, first earl of Selborne. He died on 27 Nov. 1777, aged 78; his widow died on 21 Oct. 1787 at Nazeing, Essex.
Samuel Horsley received his early training from his father. In a letter of 20 Feb. 1770 he says that he learned Latin without a master. A letter to his maternal grandmother from William Cleghorn, professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh, dated ‘Huntingdon, 26th Octr. 1750,’ gives a minute description of him at the age of seventeen; his eyes and his complexion ‘dark as a raven, his nose even set,’ his brows ‘begin to shew that they are somewhat capable of assuming his father's frown.’ He was admitted pensioner at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, on 24 Oct. 1751, became a fellow-commoner in 1757, and took his name off the books in 1758, in which year he graduated LL.B. He became curate at Newington, succeeding to the living on his father's resignation in 1759. On 4 April 1767 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society; his pursuit of astronomical and geometrical science is proved by his earliest publications. In 1768 he went to Oxford as private tutor at Christ Church to Heneage Finch, lord Guernsey, afterwards (1777) fourth earl of Aylesford. It is an instance of his sagacity that in his letter of 20 Feb. 1770, dealing with education, he specifies as the finest subject for historical study the ‘decline of the Roman Empire,’ lamenting that in English there is nothing on this period that is not superficial. His conjectural restoration of a lost treatise of Apollonius of Perga was printed (1770) at the Clarendon Press. On 30 Nov. 1773 he was elected one of the secretaries of the Royal Society. In the ‘Transactions’ of the society (Phil. Trans. lxiv. 96) is a letter addressed to him (21 Dec. 1773) by Richard Price, D.D., occasioned by Priestley's experiments on gases. On 14 Jan. 1774 he was incorporated B.C.L. at Oxford, proceeding D.C.L. on 18 Jan. In the same month he was presented by the father of his pupil to the rectory of Albury, Surrey, holding it by dispensation along with Newington. Lowth, as soon as he became bishop of London, made him his domestic chaplain, with a prebend at St. Paul's in 1777. At the end of the year he succeeded his father as lecturer at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. In 1779 Horsley resigned Albury; in 1780 Lowth presented him to Thorley, on the resignation of Archdeacon Eaton; in 1781 Lowth made him archdeacon of St. Albans, and in 1782 presented him to the vicarage of South Weald, Essex, when he resigned Thorley.
Horsley made his first controversial allusion to Priestley in a Good Friday sermon (17 April 1778) on the distinction between moral and physical necessity. Priestley in June published a very courteous letter in reply, treating the difference between his position and Horsley's as merely verbal. On 22 May 1783 Horsley delivered a charge to the clergy of his archdeaconry, in which he submitted to severe criticism the first part of Priestley's ‘History of the Corruptions of Christianity’ (1782), dealing with the development of opinion on the person of our Lord. Almost simultaneously Samuel Badcock [q. v.] attacked Priestley in the ‘Monthly Review’ (June 1783). Into the main argument Horsley declined to enter, though he gave it as his own view that the opinion of the church was uniform on this point during the first three centuries. He restricted his polemic to an endeavour to show that Priestley was ‘altogether unqualified to throw any light upon a question of ecclesiastical antiquity’ (Tracts, 1789, p. 85). Priestley was a pioneer of the modern method of investigating the development of doctrine, but the weak places in his scholarship and his haste in drawing conclusions were exposed by Horsley with much learning and in a style of extraordinary vigour, combining great dignity with an unsparing force of sarcasm. The controversy lasted till 1790; in the course of it Priestley published his maturer work, ‘History of Early Opinions,’ 1786, which Horsley declined to read.
In December 1783 Horsley became a member of the club then established by Johnson at the Essex Head, Essex Street, Strand; he attended Johnson's funeral in the following year. During the session 1783–4 occurred a very acrimonious dispute respecting the management of the Royal Society, in which Horsley took a prominent part against the president, Sir Joseph Banks [q. v.] Horsley at length withdrew from the society. His speech is given in ‘An Authentic Narrative of the Dissensions in the Royal Society,’ 1784. Kippis, in his ‘Observations,’ 1784, criticised Horsley's action and defended Banks. In 1785 Horsley completed his edition of Sir Isaac Newton's works, which he had projected in 1776, and begun in 1779. He had access to Newton's papers in the possession of John Wallop, second earl of Portsmouth, and found ‘a cartload’ of manuscripts on religious topics, but did not deem them fit to be published.
Thurlow's favour promoted Horsley to a prebend at Gloucester 19 April 1787. In 1788 he was raised to the see of St. David's, still retaining the rectory of Newington. His primary charge was delivered in 1790. He did much to improve the condition of his clergy, helping them in their difficulties with his purse as well as his counsel, and raising the minimum stipend for curates from 7l. to 15l. It had been customary for Welsh candidates for orders to receive their whole training at one of the nonconformist academies. Horsley declined to accept certificates from Castle Howel [see Davis, David]. He urged his clergy by letter (24 Aug. 1789) to use their influence at the Carmarthen election against John George Phillips, who had voted for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and who notwithstanding was re-elected (1790). In the House of Lords, however, he spoke (31 May 1791) in favour of the Catholic bill. He took an active part in 1792 in favour of the measure for the relief of the Scottish episcopal church; the clause requiring the Scottish clergy to signify their assent to the Anglican articles was of his introduction. On 30 Jan. 1793 he preached a remarkable sermon before the House of Lords at Westminster Abbey, depicting the dangers of the revolutionary spirit; as he began his peroration the whole assembly rose in rapt enthusiasm.
In November 1793 Horsley was translated to the see of Rochester, holding with it the deanery of Westminster, and resigning Newington. He led an active life; during his stay at the episcopal residence at Bromley, Kent, his favourite exercise was rowing. He pursued in his new diocese his endeavours for the welfare of the clergy, and had much to do with a movement for augmenting the value of livings in the city of London. Stanley has referred to the pompous style of his chapter orders at Westminster: ‘We, the Dean, do peremptorily command and enjoin.’ The abbey clergy and other officials warmly expressed their gratitude for his attention to their interests. The charge at his second visitation (1800) of Rochester alludes to Priestley's removal to America, ‘the patriarch of the sect is fled.’ In November 1801, at four o'clock in the morning, he made a speech in the lords against the terms of the peace with France. He was translated to St. Asaph on 26 June 1802.
Though in his seventieth year Horsley again addressed himself to the needs of a Welsh diocese. He speaks (ib. p. 333) of a ‘dislike of trouble’ in his natural disposition, and accuses himself of indolence. But he shirked no labour in his public work, and kept up his literary and mathematical activity. He seems, indeed, to have neglected his private affairs. He spent money thoughtlessly, and was deep in debt. His coach was always drawn by four horses. He insured his life for 5,000l., but allowed the policy to lapse two days before his death. In July 1806 he visited his diocese. Intending to visit Thurlow at Brighton, he arrived there on 20 Sept., having heard on the way the news of Thurlow's death on the 12th. On 30 Sept. he was seized with dysentery; it appears from a letter written that day, that he had adopted millennial notions, expecting Napoleon to set up as Messiah. He died at Brighton on 4 Oct. 1806. A funeral service was held at Westminster Abbey; he was buried under the altar at St. Mary's, Newington Butts; the Latin inscription on his monument was written by himself; his remains, with those of his second wife, and daughter by his first wife, were removed to Thorley on 18 July 1876, on the demolition of St. Mary's to make way for a railway. His funeral sermon was preached on 19 Oct. by Robert Dickinson, lecturer at St. Mary's, Newington Butts. Horsley is described as somewhat irritable in temperament and dictatorial in manner; apart from polemics he was notably generous, and so charitable as to be easily imposed upon. His intellectual force was great, and his learning admirably digested. As a speaker and preacher his deep-toned and flexible voice gave due effect to his strong argumentative powers.
Horsley married, first, on 16 Dec. 1774, Mary (d. August 1777), daughter of John Botham, his predecessor at Albury, by whom he had a daughter, who died young, and a son, Heneage (b. 23 Feb. 1776), of Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford (M.A. 1802), rector of Woolwich, afterwards rector of Gresford, Denbighshire, and prebendary of St. Asaph, ultimately episcopal clergyman at Dundee, and Dean of Brechin (d. 6 Oct. 1847); secondly, Sarah Wright, a protégée of his first wife and in her service; she died without issue on 2 April 1805, aged 53; on her presentation at court, Queen Charlotte noticed her ladylike bearing. There is a portrait of Horsley at the Deanery, Westminster; another is in the possession of Professor Jebb at Cambridge, and a miniature on ivory is in the National Portrait Gallery. A portrait, by James Green [q. v.], was engraved by Meyer; another, by Ozias Humphrey [q. v.], was engraved by James Godby [q. v.], and again by Blood. His episcopal seal is in the possession of the Rev. H. H. Jebb, at Awliscombe, Devonshire.
His publications may be thus classed: Scientific: 1. ‘The Power of God, deduced from the computable instantaneous productions of it in the Solar System,’ &c., 1767, 8vo. 2. ‘Apollonii Pergæi Inclinationum libri duo. Restituebat,’ &c., Oxford, 1770, 4to. 3. ‘Remarks on the Observations made in the late Voyage towards the North Pole,’ &c., 1774, 4to (a letter to Constantine John Phipps [q. v.]). 4. ‘Isaaci Newtoni Opera … Commentariis illustrabat,’ &c., 1779–85, fol. 5. ‘Elementary Treatises on … Practical Mathematics,’ &c., Oxford, 1801, 8vo. 6. ‘Euclidis Elementorum libri priores xiii,’ &c., Oxford, 1802, 8vo. 7. ‘Euclidis Datorum liber,’ &c., Oxford, 1803, 8vo. 8. ‘A Critical Essay on Virgil's … Seasons … With a … Method of investigating the Risings … of the Fixed Stars,’ &c., 1805, 4to. Also papers in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ vols. lvii.–lxvi.; astronomical observations corrected for John Robinson's ‘History of Hinckley,’ 1782; and dissertation on the Pleiades in William Vincent's ‘Voyage of Nearchus,’ 1797, 4to. Theological: 1. ‘Providence and Free Agency,’ &c., 1778, 4to. 2. ‘A Charge … to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of St. Albans,’ &c., 1783, 4to. 3. ‘Letters … in reply to Dr. Priestley,’ &c., 1784, 8vo. 4. ‘A Sermon on the Incarnation,’ &c., 1785, 4to. 5. ‘Remarks upon Dr. Priestley's second Letters,’ &c., 1786, 8vo. (Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 were reprinted, with supplements, in ‘Tracts in Controversy with Dr. Priestley,’ &c., Glocester (sic) and London, 1789, 8vo; the 3rd edit., Dundee, 1812, 8vo, has appendix by Heneage Horsley; No. 4, with his first charge as bishop of St. David's, was published in Welsh, Brecon, 1791, 12mo). 6. ‘The Analogy between the Light of Inspiration and the Light of Learning,’ &c., Glocester , 4to. 7. ‘On the Principle of Vitality in Man,’ &c., 1789, 4to. 8. ‘A Review of the Case of the Protestant Dissenters,’ &c., 1790, 8vo. 9. ‘An Apology for the Liturgy and Clergy … By a Clergyman,’ &c., 1790, 8vo. Also separate sermons (1786–1806), included with many posthumous sermons (not prepared for publication) in ‘Sermons,’ Dundee, 1810–22, 8vo, 4 vols. (edited by Heneage Horsley); reprinted, 1829, 8vo, 2 vols.; and episcopal charges (1790–1806), included in ‘Charges,’ 1813, 8vo (edited by Heneage Horsley); reprinted, 1830, 8vo. His ‘Three Sermons on the Sabbath,’ &c., were reprinted by the S.P.C.K., 1853, 12mo. Philological: 1. ‘On the Prosodies of the Greek and Latin,’ &c., 1796, 8vo (anon.). 2. ‘Critical Disquisitions on the 18th chapter of Isaiah,’ &c., 1799, 4to. 3. ‘Hosea translated … with Notes,’ &c., 1801, 4to; 1804, 4to. Posthumous were: 4. ‘The Book of Psalms translated,’ &c., 1815, 8vo; 3rd edit., 1833, 8vo. 5. ‘Biblical Criticism on the first fourteen Historical Books of the Old Testament … first nine Prophetical Books,’ &c., 1820, 8vo, 4 vols. (edited by Heneage Horsley); 2nd edit., 1844, 8vo, 4 vols. Political: 1. ‘A Circular Letter to the Diocese of Rochester on the Scarcity of Corn,’ &c., 1796 (WATT). 2. ‘Another Circular Letter … on the Defence of the Kingdom,’ &c., 1798 (ib.) Posthumous was: 3. ‘Speeches in Parliament,’ &c., Dundee, 1813, 8vo, 2 vols. (edited by Heneage Horsley). Horsley adopted some peculiarities of orthography, e. g. ‘ledde,’ ‘redde’ (sometimes ‘red’). The last editions of his Sermons, Charges, Psalms, and Biblical Criticism, making 8 vols., have been reissued, without date, with general title ‘Theological Works.’
[No good life of Horsley exists. Chalmers failed to obtain information ‘from the only quarter whence it could have been expected.’ See Funeral Sermon by Dickinson, 1806; Gent. Mag. 1806, ii. 987 sq., 1073; Wilson's Dissenting Churches of London, 1808, i. 380; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, 1812 iv. 673 sq., 1814 viii. 509; European Mag. 1813, i. 371 sq., 494 sq.; Chalmers's Gen. Biog. Dict., 1814, xviii. 181 sq.; Priestley's Works, 1824–32, iv. xviii. xix.; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, 1827, iii. 273; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 503; Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biog. 1850, iii. 461; Cat. of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858, p. 192; Boswell's Johnson (Wright), 1859, ii. 241, viii. 250; Grubb's Ecc. Hist. of Scotland, 1861, iv. 103 sq.; Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, 1865, ii. 325 sq.; Stanley's Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey, 1868, p. 474; Good Words, 1874, p. 825 sq. (article by J. W. Daniell); Times, 21 July 1876, p. 5; Rees's Hist. Prot. Nonconformity in Wales, 1883, p. 442; information and documents kindly furnished by Horsley's great-grandson, Rev. Heneage Horsley Jebb; information from records of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, per the librarian, C. E. S. Headlam, Esq., and from family papers per Mrs. William Le F. Robinson.]