Gordon, Osborne (DNB00)

GORDON, OSBORNE (1813–1883), divine, son of George Osborne and Elizabeth Gordon, was born at Broseley, Shropshire, on 21 April 1813. He was educated at Bridgenorth school, from which he was elected a Careswell exhibitioner to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1832, and he went into residence the following year. In 1835 he gained the Ireland university scholarship, chiefly through the merits of eight exquisite lines of Doric Greek on the subject of Sir F. Chantrey's monument to two children in Lichfield Cathedral. In 1836 he proceeded B.A., taking a double first class in both classics and mathematics. He further proceeded to his degree of M.A. in 1839, and to that of B.D. in 1847. In 1845 Gordon was appointed rhetoric, and in 1846 Greek, reader to the university. In 1846 he succeeded the Rev. H. G. Liddell as proctor in the university and censor in Christ Church. In 1850 he took an active part in the movement against the 'papal aggression,' and was on the deputation from Oxford to the queen. In 1852, as censor, he delivered a funeral oration upon the Duke of Wellington. In 1850 he became a prominent member of the Tutors' Association, a body formed for considering the plan of legislation as suggested by the university commission. He served on two of their committees, and on one occasion entered into a controversial correspondence with Mr. Gladstone, in which he urged the importance of retaining the studentships in Christ Church. Between 1848 and 1852 Gordon was university examiner, and in 1849 he was nominated on the board of select preachers. He was, moreover, one of the members first elected on the hebdomadal council, which in 1854 superseded the old board of houses and proctors. He pronounced a funeral oration on the death of Dean Gaisford in 1855. During the ensuing years Gordon was employed in the schools and in the council, as well as in the business of his college. Among his pupils were many who became distinguished in after life. The Prince of Wales was entered on the Christ Church books in 1859 as a pupil of Gordon. In 1860 he was presented to the living of Easthampstend, Berkshire. During his incumbency the parish schools were enlarged and the church rebuilt, the parish institutions were likewise reorganised, and several improvements carried out. He proved an excellent farmer, as was shown by the condition of his glebe lands, and was universally popular, alike from his affable manner, his genial witticisms, and his shrewd common sense. He took part in the examination for the Indian civil service and for the army, in remodelling the arrangements of the Britannia training ship, and in determining the system to be adopted at the Naval School, Greenwich. In 1876 he was appointed chairman of a commission to inquire into the constitution of the councils of the queen's colleges in Ireland, and into the position of the presidents, professors, and other paid officers of those institutions. His last appointment was to supply the place of Mr. Justice Grove on the board of commissioners for the university of Oxford. Early in 1883 Gordon fell into very ill-health, which was further weakened by the shock he received on hearing of the suicide of a servant whom he had dismissed. He died on Friday, 25 May 1883, and was buried at Easthampstead, where a memorial, consisting of a window and mosaic pavement, is dedicated to his memory. The inscription is written by Mr. Ruskin, who speaks of him as 'an Englishman of the olden time, humane without weakness, learned without ostentation, witty without malice, wise without pride; honest of heart, lofty of thought, dear to his fellowmen, and dutiful to his God.' A monument is also dedicated to him at Oxford in the cloister of the cathedral of Christ Church. The 'Times' said of him: 'He was of a temper essentially averse to exertion. … He might have commanded success in any career. But he preferred to exercise over his little world an easy and good-natured despotism, tempered with his own epigrams, and to be the soul of common-room life with its genial humours and local witticisms.' Gordon was never married. He bequeathed all his property to a younger brother, who met with his death within a month of Gordon's by being thrown from his carriage.

His published works are as follows:

  1. 'Εύσεβίου τού ΠαμΦιλιον Ίστορίας έκκλησιαστικής λόγοι δέκα. Eusebii Pamphili Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ Annotationes variorum,' Oxford, 1842, 8vo.
  2. 'Considerations on the Improvement of the Present Examination Statute, and the Admission of Poor Scholars to the University,' Oxford, 1847, 8vo; the two editions of this work were published in the same year.
  3. 'A Sermon preached in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford on Easter Day, 1861,' Oxford, 1861, 8vo.
  4. 'The a Great Commandment and Education,' London, 1870, 8vo.
  5. 'A sermon delivered by the Rev. Osborne Gordon, B.D., to his congregation at Easthampstead, on the deficiency of religious instruction in connection with certain proposals for national education.' Gordon also addressed a letter, 'School Boards and Religious Education,' to Lord Sandon (now Lord Harrowby) when the latter was first elected to the London School Board.

[Osborne Gordon: a Memoir, with a Selection of his Writings, edited by G. Marshall, M.A., Oxford, 1885, 8vo; Times, 29 May 1883; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Ruskin's Præterita.]

W. F. W. S.