Gisborne, Thomas (1758-1846) (DNB00)

GISBORNE, THOMAS, the elder (1758–1846), divine, descendant of a family, members of which during two centuries had been mayors of Derby, and eldest son of John Gisborne of Yoxall, Staffordshire, by Anne, daughter of William Bateman of Derby, was born 31 Oct. 1758. He was for six years under John Pickering, vicar of Mackworth, Derby, and entered Harrow in 1773. In 1776 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1780 as sixth wrangler and first chancellor's medallist. A political career was open to him, but he preferred the quiet life of a country squire and clergyman. He took orders, and in 1783 he was presented to the perpetual curacy of Barton-under-Needwood, settling in the same year at Yoxall Lodge, inherited by him on his father's death in 1779, within three miles of his church. He married Mary, daughter of Thomas Babington of Rothley Temple, Leicestershire, in 1784, and passed the rest of his life at Yoxall. His son James succeeded him as perpetual curate of Barton in 1820. In April 1823 he was appointed to the fifth prebend, and in 1826 to the first prebend in Durham. He died 24 March 1846, leaving six sons: Thomas (1794–1852) [q. v.], John, William, James, Matthew, and Walter; and two daughters, Mary, wife of William Evans of Allestree, Derby, and Lydia, wife of the Rev. E. Robinson.

Gisborne was an intimate friend of Wilberforce, whom he had known at college, and who spent many summers at Yoxall and Rothley Temple. Among his other friends were Bishop Barrington of Durham, Hannah More, and most of the eminent evangelicals. His ethical writings are directed against Paley's expediency, and endeavour to provide a basis of absolute right; but his criterion is mainly utilitarian. His sermons were held to rank with the best contemporary performances; but he shows more refinement and good feeling than intellectual force. The then unenclosed Needwood Forest was to him what Selborne was to Gilbert White, and his enjoyment of natural scenery is impressed in poems modelled chiefly upon Cowper. Many of his books went through several editions.

His works are: 1. ‘Principles of Moral Philosophy,’ 1789; 4th ed. 1798. To later editions were added ‘Remarks on Decision of the House of Commons on 2 April 1792, respecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade,’ first published in 1792. 2. ‘An Inquiry into the Duties of Men in the Higher Ranks and Middle Classes,’ 1794; 6th ed. 1811. 3. ‘Walks in a Forest,’ 1794; 8th ed. 1803. 4. ‘Inquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex,’ 1797; 8th ed. 1810, German translation 1803. 5. ‘Poems Sacred and Moral,’ 1798; later editions included an ode to the memory of William Cowper, published separately in 1800. 6. ‘Familiar Survey of the Christian Religion,’ 1799; 8th ed. 1836, Welsh translation 1801. 7. ‘Sermons,’ 1 vol. 1802. 8. ‘Sermons on Christian Morality,’ 1809; 2 vols. 1804–6. A collective edition of the above was published in 1813 in 9 vols. 8vo. 9. ‘Sermons on Epistle to the Colossians,’ 1816. 10. ‘Testimony of Natural Theology to Christianity,’ 1818. 11. ‘Essays on Recollection of Friends in a Future State,’ 1822. 12. ‘Inquiry concerning Love as one of the Divine Attributes,’ 1838; besides pamphlets on Church Establishment, 1829 and 1835; Maynooth, 1844, &c.

[Gent. Mag. 1846, i. 643, 661; Burke's Landed Gentry; Le Neve's Fasti; Life of William Wilberforce; Sir J. Stephen's Essays on Ecclesiastical Biography (Clapham Sect).]

L. S.