Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Horne, George

HORNE, GEORGE (1730–1792), bishop of Norwich, born at Otham, near Maidstone, on 1 Nov. 1730, was son of Samuel Horne, rector of the parish; his mother was the daughter of Bowyer Handley. He received his early education from his father, and was then sent for two years to Maidstone school. In his sixteenth year he won ‘a Maidstone scholarship’ at University College, Oxford, matriculating 17 March 1745–6. During his undergraduate course he became acquainted with William Jones, his future chaplain and biographer; Charles Jenkinson, afterwards earl of Liverpool, his constant friend and patron; and John Moore, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. He graduated B.A. in October 1749, and was elected to a Kentish fellowship at Magdalen College in 1750. Here he passed the greater part of his life; he graduated M.A. in 1752, and was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford in 1753; he was junior proctor in 1758; and in 1768 he was elected president of Magdalen. In March 1776 Dr. Johnson and Boswell drank tea with him at Magdalen on their visit to Oxford. He impressed his guests very favourably. From 1771 to 1781 he was chaplain in ordinary to the king. In 1776 he became vice-chancellor of the university; this introduced him to the acquaintance of Lord North, then chancellor of the university. With two such powerful friends as Lord Liverpool and Lord North and with his own intrinsic merits he was clearly marked out for preferment. Accordingly, in 1781 he was made dean of Canterbury. He intended to resign his presidentship and reside exclusively in his native county of Kent, but was dissuaded by a friend; and ‘submitted to the unsettled life of a pilgrim between the two situations of his college and his deanery; and with everything that lay between Oxford and Canterbury he was acquainted, and with little besides.’ In 1788 his health seems to have broken down prematurely; but in June 1790, after some hesitation on this account, he accepted the bishopric of Norwich. His health grew worse, and on a journey to Bath he suffered a paralytic stroke, from which he never fully recovered. He died at Bath on 17 Jan. 1792, and was buried in the churchyard at Eltham. There is a marble tablet to his memory on a pillar on the north side of the choir of Norwich Cathedral.

About 1769 Horne married the daughter of Philip Burton of Eltham, by whom he had three daughters.

Like many earnest men of the day, Horne fell under the imputation of methodism. He adopted the views of John Hutchinson (1674–1737) [q. v.], and wrote in his defence, although he disagreed with his fanciful interpretations of Hebrew etymology. Hutchinsonianism had some points in common with methodism, notably its intense appreciation of holy scripture, and its insistence upon spiritual religion. But Horne was distinctly what would now be called a high churchman, and he publicly protested from the university pulpit against those who took their theology from the Tabernacle and the Foundry (Whitefield's and Wesley's headquarters) instead of from the great divines of the church. Nevertheless, apart from his position as a Hutchinsonian, Horne personally showed a sympathy with the methodists. He strongly disapproved of the expulsion of the six methodist students from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. He would not have John Wesley, ‘an ordained minister of the Church of England,’ forbidden to preach in his diocese, and John Wesley thoroughly appreciated Horne's action. Horne was an active promoter of the Naval and Military Bible Society, founded in 1780. Towards the close of his life he espoused the cause of the Scottish bishops, who in 1789 came up to London to petition parliament for relief from the penalties under which they had long suffered.

Horne wrote from an early age many pamphlets against such antagonists as Newton, Hume, Adam Smith, and William Law, all of whom he ludicrously underrated. His chief works are:

  1. ‘A Fair, Candid, and Impartial Statement of the Case between Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Hutchinson’ (anon.), 1753. He ‘allowed to Sir Isaac the great merit of having settled laws and rules in natural philosophy; but at the same time claimed for Mr. Hutchinson the discovery of the true physiological causes by which, under the power of the Creator, the natural world is moved and directed’ (Jones).
  2. ‘An Apology for certain Gentlemen in the University of Oxford, aspersed in a late anonymous pamphlet,’ 1756. The anonymous pamphlet was called ‘A Word to the Hutchinsonians.’
  3. ‘Cautions to the Readers of Mr. Law, and, with very few varieties, to the Readers of Baron Swedenborg,’ 1758, to which was added ‘A Letter to a Lady on the subject of Jacob Behmen's Writings.’ Horne had been deeply impressed by the earlier writings of William Law, and he was proportionately grieved when he saw him ‘falling from the heaven of Christianity into the sink and complication of Paganism, Quakerism, and Socinianism, mixed up with chemistry and astrology by a possessed cobbler.’
  4. ‘A View of Mr. Kennicott's Method of Correcting the Hebrew Text,’ 1760, adversely criticising the design of Benjamin Kennicott [q. v.] and some of his friends to collate the text of the Hebrew Bible with such manuscripts as could then be procured, in order to reform the text and prepare it for a new translation to be made from it into the English language. In spite of their differences Horne and Kennicott became firm friends, and lived at Oxford on terms of great intimacy.
  5. ‘A Letter to Dr. Adam Smith’ (anon.), 1777, a humorous refutation of Smith's account of David Hume's life and death.
  6. ‘Letters on Infidelity,’ 1784, addressed to ‘W. S., Esqr.,’ that is, no doubt, William Stevens, his cousin and life-long friend, the founder of ‘Nobody's Club,’ and treasurer of Queen Anne's Bounty. Several of these letters are on the same subject as the letter to Dr. Adam Smith, and the titles of the rest tell their own tales. A satirical vein runs through all these letters.
  7. (with Jones of Nayland) ‘Answer to Dr. Clayton's Essay on Spirit.’ He purposed writing a ‘Defence of the Divinity of Christ’ against Dr. Priestley, but did not live to execute the task.

The work by which Horne still lives is

  1. his ‘Commentary on the Psalms,’ 1771, 4to, which occupied him twenty years, and, as he tells us in his well-written preface, proved to him a most delightful occupation. The ‘Commentary’ is partly exegetical and partly devotional; it proceeds on the principle that most of the psalms are more or less Messianic, and cannot be properly understood except in relation to the Messiah. Dr. Richard Mant has transferred the preface almost en bloc to the pages of his annotated ‘Book of Common Prayer.’ Hannah More, of whom Horne was a great friend, was much attracted by its ‘sweet and devout spirit.’

Of a similar character is

  1. his ‘Considerations on the Life and Death of St. John the Baptist,’ 1769, which was an expansion of a sermon preached by him on St. John the Baptist's day 1755 from the open-air pulpit in the quadrangle of Magdalen College.

Horne had a great reputation as a preacher, and his earnest and scholarly sermons were frequently reprinted. He also wrote a few short fugitive pieces in verse, which are not remarkable in any way.

[Works of Bishop Horne, to which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life by William Jones, 6 vols. 8vo, 1799; Todd's Some Accounts of the Deans of Canterbury, 1793; Hannah More's Life and Works, passim; Abbey's English Church and its Bishops (1700–1800), 1887; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill.]

J. H. O.