Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn
STANLEY, ARTHUR PENRHYN (1815–1881), dean of Westminster, born at Alderley Rectory on 13 Dec. 1815, was the second son and third child of Edward Stanley [q. v.], bishop of Norwich, and Catherine Leycester, his wife. In September 1824 he went to a private school at Seaforth. There he was distinguished by an insatiable love of reading, and by gifts as a raconteur which kept his schoolfellows entranced by stories from Southey's poems and Scott's novels. He was also a fluent writer of English verse. Already an indefatigable sightseer, he showed signs of those powers of picturesque description in which he was, in later life, unsurpassed. His diary of a visit paid to the Pyrenees in 1828 contains passages which are not only precocious in their promise, but striking in themselves.
On 31 Jan. 1829 he entered Rugby school, where Dr. Arnold had been installed as headmaster in the previous summer. His progress up the school was rapid. In August 1831 his promotion into the sixth form brought him into close contact with Dr. Arnold, whose influence was the ‘lodestar of his life.’ His respect for his headmaster quickly ripened into affection, and rose to veneration. ‘Most sincerely,’ he writes in May 1834, ‘must I thank God for His goodness in placing me here to live with Arnold. Yet I always feel that the happiness is a dangerous one, and that loving him and admiring him as I do to the very verge of all love and admiration that can be paid to man, I fear I have passed the limit and made him my idol, and that in all I may be but serving God for man's sake’ (Prothero, Life of Dean Stanley, i. 102). At Rugby, where Stanley won all the five school distinctions, he held a position which was almost unique at a public school. In spite of his incapacity for games, he so impressed the roughest of his contemporaries that they recognised in him a being of a higher order than themselves, not to be judged by their conventional standards (see the character of ‘Arthur’ in Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays).
In November 1833 Stanley gained a scholarship at Balliol, and in the following October went into residence at Oxford. There he was plunged into the midst of influences hostile—on religious, political, and social questions—to those of his ‘oracle and idol,’ Dr. Arnold. Even at this stage of his career his chivalry in defending friends, detachment from party ties, and power of criticising those whom he most reverenced were conspicuous. Though the names of Faber, W. G. Ward, Marriott, and Keble often occur in his letters, and though for a time he felt ‘the strong attraction of Newmanism,’ he remained staunch to the views which he brought with him from Rugby. At Oxford he won the Ireland scholarship in 1837, and in the same year the Newdegate prize for English verse (‘The Gypsies:’ see Letters and Verses of Dean Stanley, pp. 29–38), and a first class in the final classical schools. In July 1838 he was elected a fellow of University College, finding that his views on church and state would probably prevent his election at Balliol. He also gained in 1839 the chancellor's Latin essay, and in 1840 the chancellor's English essay and the Ellerton theological essay.
In December 1839 he was, after prolonged hesitation, ordained by the bishop of Oxford. His reluctance to take orders proceeded not from any doubts respecting the central doctrines of Christianity, but from the stringent subscription to the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed which was then exacted from candidates for ordination. So great was his difficulty in this respect that he did not expect to take priest's orders. In the hope of procuring some relaxation in the stringency of the terms of subscription, he helped to promote a petition for the relief of the clergy, which was presented to the House of Lords in 1840. The petition was rejected, but Stanley adhered to his point with his usual tenacity. In 1863, when Lord Ebury's bill was before the House of Lords, his brilliant ‘Letter to the Bishop of London’ (published in 1863) effectively supported the proposal. The bill was lost. But a royal commission reported in favour of relaxation, and in 1865 effect was given to their recommendations by an act of parliament (28 & 29 Victoria, c. 122), and by the corresponding alterations which convocation made in the canons.
In July 1840 Stanley left England for a prolonged tour through Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and Sicily. The tour was memorable. It confirmed his love of foreign travel; it also revealed to himself and his friends his descriptive powers. Henceforward scarcely a year passed without his making some more or less lengthy tour in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America. External nature scarcely attracted him, except as the background of history or human interest. But no one ever experienced a keener delight in seeing places which were connected with famous people, striking events, impressive legends, or scenes in the works of poets and novelists. Few persons have rivalled him in his powers of communicating his own enthusiasms to his readers, of peopling every spot with living actors, of seizing the natural features which coloured local occurrences and modified events, of noting analogies in apparent opposites, or detecting resemblances beneath superficial differences. It is from the exercise of these gifts that his letters derive their charm and his historical writings their value.
After his return to England in May 1841, Stanley found Oxford divided into two hostile camps, with neither of which could he ally himself. So uncongenial was the atmosphere of religious animosity that he contemplated retiring from the university. But the appointment of Dr. Arnold in 1841 to the chair of modern history reconciled him to his position. To his lectures Stanley looked for the infusion of new life into a decaying professorial system, the restoration of a healthier tone in university life, the destruction of the barriers which then separated religious from secular learning. His hopes were disappointed by the sudden death of Arnold on 12 June 1842. The event was described by Stanley as the greatest calamity that had happened to him, and almost the greatest that could befall him. To the task of writing Arnold's life he devoted his utmost energies. His ‘Life and Correspondence of Dr. Arnold’ (published on 31 May 1844) was in some respects the work of Stanley's life. It gave him an assured position not only in Oxford, but in the wider world of letters.
In 1843 he had been ordained priest and appointed a college tutor. The university was still convulsed by a series of religious struggles, towards which he took up a consistent position. He advocated the toleration of divergent views, and opposed alike the degradation of W. G. Ward in 1845 and the agitation against Dr. Hampden, who was appointed to the bishopric of Hereford in 1847. Without sympathising with the views of either, he insisted on the injustice of the indiscriminating clamour with which evangelicals assailed the one and high churchmen the other. Meanwhile, in the midst of literary labours and ecclesiastical conflicts, he steadily pursued his tutorial duties. His efforts met with unprecedented success. Giving his time and his best self to the undergraduates, he fired his pupils with his own enthusiasms; his colleagues were stimulated by his example, and the college rapidly rose to a high position in the university. In October 1845 he was appointed select preacher, and preached a course of four sermons, beginning in February 1846 and ending on 31 Jan. 1847. The sermons were published in November 1847, with additions and appendices, under the title of ‘Sermons on the Apostolical Age.’ They were preached at a crisis in Stanley's career, and at a point of transition between the old and the new Oxford. They marked his divergence from the views of both ecclesiastical parties; they acknowledged obligations to Arnold and German theologians; they championed the cause of free inquiry as applied to Biblical studies. From this time he was an object of suspicion to both evangelicals and high churchmen, who politically identified him with the party of reform, theologically with the German rationalists. On 6 Sept. 1849 Stanley's father, the bishop of Norwich, died; on 13 Aug. of the same year his younger brother, Captain Charles Stanley, R.E., and on 13 March 1850 his elder brother, Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., also died. He was now the sole prop and stay of his mother and his two sisters, and by his succession to a small estate was obliged to resign his fellowship at the university. Immediately after his father's death he had been offered the deanery of Carlisle, vacated by the appointment of Dr. Hinds to the see of Norwich. This offer he refused; but now, deprived of his home at Oxford, and desirous of providing one for his mother and sisters, he was not prepared to refuse any independent post. In July 1851 Stanley accepted a canonry at Canterbury, and left Oxford. The five succeeding years were a period of great literary activity. Before accepting the canonry Stanley had been appointed secretary of the Oxford University commission (July 1850). The report of the commission, which was mainly his work, was issued in May 1852. Thereupon he started on a tour in Egypt and the Holy Land, which produced his ‘Sinai and Palestine’ (published March 1856), perhaps the most widely popular of his writings. His ‘Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians’ (published June 1855) was a companion work to Jowett's ‘Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans.’ On the picturesque, historical, and personal side it is valuable; but doctrinally it is weak, and in scholarship and accuracy it is deficient. Stanley wisely accepted the criticism of Dr. Lightfoot, afterwards bishop of Durham, in the ‘Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology’ (iii. 81–121), that critical notes were not his vocation. In his ‘Memorials of Canterbury’ (published December 1854) he found full scope for his gifts of dramatic, pictorial narrative. To make others share in his enthusiasms for the historical associations of the cathedral and the city was one side of his ideal of the duties of a canon. Another side of that ideal is illustrated in his ‘Canterbury Sermons’ (published March 1859), in which he endeavours to enforce the practical side of religion; to make it a life rather than a creed; to set forth its truths, not to attack its errors.
In December 1856 Stanley was appointed professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford. To the chair was attached a canonry at Christ Church; the appointment, therefore, though he was not installed as canon till March 1858, required his removal from Canterbury and return to the university. At the same time he accepted the post of examining chaplain to Dr. Archibald Campbell (afterwards archbishop) Tait [q. v.], who in September 1856 had been appointed bishop of London. His ‘Three Introductory Lectures on the Study of Ecclesiastical History’ (published in 1857) were delivered in February 1857. His ‘Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church’ (published in 1861) and his ‘Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church’ (part i. 1863; part ii. 1865; part iii. 1876) were also based upon lectures delivered as professor of ecclesiastical history. Through the lecture-room, the pulpit, and social life, he exercised a remarkable influence over young men at Oxford. To Stanley, for example, John Richard Green attributed his devotion to historical studies; from him also he learned the ‘principle of fairness’ (Prothero, Life of Dean Stanley, ii. 13–15). Among older men he was not an intellectual leader, though always a stimulating force. He could not join himself unreservedly to any party, and hated the spirit of combination for party purposes. His passion for justice plunged him continually into ecclesiastical conflicts. It was this feeling, even more than personal friendship, which stirred him to support Professor Jowett's claims to the endowments of the Greek chair against those who, on theological grounds, withheld his salary while they accepted his services. Though he regretted the publication of the first volume of Dr. Colenso's work on the Pentateuch (October 1862), he championed the writer's cause, because he could not ‘join in the indiscriminate outcry against an evidently honest and single-minded religious man.’ He disapproved of some of the contents of ‘Essays and Reviews’ (1860); but he pleaded that each essay should be judged by itself, and urged the unfairness of involving the different writers in the same sweeping censure (see his article on ‘Essays and Reviews’ in the Edinburgh Review for April 1861).
In January 1862 he was asked to accompany the Prince of Wales on a tour in the east. Leaving England in February, he returned home in the following June. The ‘Sermons in the East’ (published in 1863) were preached on this tour. During his absence abroad his mother died (Ash-Wednesday, 7 March 1862). This second tour in the Holy Land produced two results which were important in his career: it connected him closely with the court; it also made him better known to Lady Augusta Bruce (1822–1876), fifth daughter of the seventh Earl of Elgin, whom he had first met in Paris in 1857, and whose brother, General Bruce, his fellow-traveller throughout the prince's tour, died in 1862 of a fever caught in the marshes of the Upper Jordan.
On 22 Dec. 1863 he was married to Lady Augusta in Westminster Abbey, and on 9 Jan. 1864 was installed as dean of the abbey in succession to Richard Chenevix Trench [q. v.], who was promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin.
Stanley at once made his mark in his new position. In convocation, in literature, in society, in his official duties as dean, and in the pulpit, his work was rich in results and his influence grew in extent. By the ancient instrument to which he declared his assent at his installation as dean, he held his office for ‘the enlargement of the Christian church.’ To obtain recognition for the comprehensiveness which was, in his opinion, secured to the church by its union with the state, and, within the limits of the law, to widen its borders so that it might more worthily fulfil its mission as a national church, were the objects to which he devoted himself. In this double meaning of the enlargement of the church lies the key to his sermons, speeches, and writings. The sacrifices which he was prepared to make for the attainment of his ideal repelled numbers of the best men in his own church, whether their views were high or low. On the other hand, the breadth of his charity attracted thousands of the members of other communions. Outside the pale of his own church no ecclesiastic commanded more respect or personal affection. Within its limits no one was more fiercely assailed. In the controversies in which he took part or provoked, such as those which centred round Dr. John William Colenso [q. v.] or Dr. Vance Smith, his attitude was at least consistent. He opposed every effort to loosen the tie between church and state, to resist or evade the existing law, or to contract the freedom which the widest interpretation of the formularies of the church would permit. In his ‘Essays, chiefly on Questions of Church and State, from 1850 to 1870’ (published in 1870), as well as in the ‘Journals of Convocation,’ are preserved the memories of many forgotten controversies.
In Westminster Abbey he found the material embodiment of his ideal of a comprehensive national church, an outward symbol of harmonious unity in diversity, a temple of silence and reconciliation which gathered under one consecrated roof every variety of creed and every form of national activity, whether lay or ecclesiastical, religious or secular. It was one of the objects of his life to open the abbey pulpit to churchmen of every shade of opinion, to give to laymen and ministers of other communions opportunities of speaking within its walls, to make its services attractive to all classes and all ages, to communicate to the public generally his own enthusiasm for its historical associations by conducting parties over the building, as well as by compiling his ‘Memorials of Westminster Abbey’ (published in 1868).
As a preacher he pursued the same objects. He insisted that the essence of Christianity lay not in doctrine, but in a Christian character. He tried to penetrate to the moral and spiritual substance, which gave vitality to forms, institutions, and dogmas, and underlay different and apparently hostile views of religion. On this bed-rock, as it were, of Christianity he founded his teaching, because here he found the common ground on which Anglican, Roman catholic, presbyterian, and nonconformist might meet (see his Lectures on the Church of Scotland, 1872; Addresses and Sermons delivered at St. Andrews, 1877; Addresses and Sermons delivered in the United States and Canada, 1879; Christian Institutions, 1881.
In the midst of multifarious activities, social, political, literary, and official, he continued his annual tours, on the continent, in Scotland, or in America, the record of which is preserved in some of his published letters. In January 1874 he performed at St. Petersburg the marriage service between the Duke of Edinburgh and the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia. Later in the same year Lady Augusta Stanley, who had represented the queen at the wedding, fell ill, and, after months of suffering, died on Ash Wednesday, 1 March 1876. Her portrait, painted by George Richmond, R.A., belongs to the Lady Frances Baillie. By her bedside the third part of her husband's ‘Lectures on the Jewish Church’ was mainly written (1876). Stanley never recovered the shock of his wife's death, though his life to the last was full of activity. In the summer of 1881 he was preaching a course of sermons on the Beatitudes on Saturday afternoons in Westminster. At the service on Saturday, 9 July 1881, he spoke his last words in the abbey. He left the pulpit for his bed. His illness proved to be erysipelas, of which he died on Monday, 18 July 1881. On Monday, 25 July, he was buried in Westminster Abbey by the side of his wife.
Stanley's principal works have been already mentioned. None of them, with the possible exception of the ‘Life of Dr. Arnold,’ belong to the highest or most permanent class of literature. His personal charm was a stronger influence than his books. Of the fascination that he exercised over his friends, a vivid picture will be found in Dean Bradley's ‘Recollections of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley’ (1883).
A full-length recumbent figure of Stanley, modelled by Sir Edgar Boehm, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London, of which Stanley had been appointed a trustee in 1866. A portrait by G. F. Watts is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.[Prothero's Life and Correspondence of Dean Stanley (1893) and Letters and Verses of Dean Stanley (1895) contain the fullest information respecting the life and works of Stanley. Other books which also illustrate the subject are Dean Bradley's Recollections (1883), My Confidences, by F. Locker-Lampson (1896), and the Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, by Messrs. Campbell and Abbott, 1897.]