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Maclagan, William Dalrymple (DNB12)

MACLAGAN, WILLIAM DALRYMPLE (1826–1910), successively bishop of Lichfield and archbishop of York, born in Edinburgh on 18 June 1826, was fifth son of Dr. David Maclagan, 'physician to the forces,' who served with distinction as a medical officer in the Penisular war, and was president of both the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons at Edinburgh. His mother was Jane, daughter of another physician, Dr. Philip Whiteside, and granddaughter of Dr. William Dalrymple of Ayr ('D'rymple mild') [q. v.]. His eldest brother. Sir Douglas Maclagan (1812–1900), who was knighted in 1880, distinguished himself at Edinburgh in his father's profession, being president, like his father, of the two Scottish royal colleges and serving as professor of medical jurisprudence and public health at Edinburgh University from 1869 to 1896.

William, after education at the Edinburgh High School, attended law classes in the university, and in 1846 became a pupil in the office of Messrs. Douglas & Co. As early as 1843 he had joined the episcopal church. Changing his plans, he sailed for India in Feb. 1847, and in April landed at Madras, where he joined the Madras cavalry. He retired from the army in Oct. 1849, when, having attained the rank of lieutenant, in obedience to urgent medical advice he came home invalided. He drew his modest military pension to the last. In later periods of his life there were signs of his training as a soldier and of the habit which it had engendered of expecting as well as yielding obedience to orders.

In 1852 he went into residence at Peterhouse, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1857 as a junior optime in the mathematical tripos of the previous year. Among his college contemporaries was his lifelong friend George Palmer (afterwards canon and a successor of his at Newington); out of college he was intimate with Montagu Butler (the present Master of Trinity). To his college Maclagan remained warmly attached through the rest of his life. On Trinity Sunday 1856 he was ordained and was licensed to the curacy of St. Saviour's, Paddington. From 1858 he served as curate at St. Stephen's (Avenue Road), Marylebone, until 1 Jan. 1860, when he became organising secretary of the London Diocesan Church Building Society, in which capacity his power of organisation first found scope. Shortly before this he had issued a popular tract, 'Will you be confirmed ? a Word to the Young. By a London Curate' (1859). From 1865 to 1869 he was curate in charge at Enfield, where some of the first parochial missions were held during his tenure of office. In Sept. 1869 he was appointed by the lord chancellor, Lord Hatherley, to the rectory of the large south London parish of Newington, where he remained till 1875. His labours there are commemorated by an east window in the little mission church of St. Gabriel, the building of which had at first exposed him to many attacks. Always a moderate high churchman, Maclagan in 1870 and 1872 edited with Dr. Weir, vicar of Forty Hill, Enfield, two series of essays entitled 'The Church and the Age,' treating of the 'principles and position' of the Church of England. To the earlier series Maclagan contributed an essay, 'The Church and the People,' which is distinguished by its candid and cheerful tone, but still more by a characteristic determination to apply direct and practical remedies to the alienation of the working classes from the church and her services. In 1873 he visited Rome and Naples with Dr. Weir in the interests of his health. In 1875 he was transferred to the living of St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, where his renown as a parish clergyman and as the organiser of parochial religious agencies rapidly rose. In 1876 he declined Lord Beaconsfield's offer of the bishopric of Calcutta; but in 1878, after being named prebendary of Reculverland in St. Paul's Cathedral and chaplain-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria, he accepted the bishopric of Lichfield, vacant by the death of George Augustus Selwyn [q. v.].

He was enthroned at Lichfield Cathedral on 11 July 1878. Practical work and efficient discharge of pastoral duties distinguished his episcopate. He brought his clergy together in synods and retreats, and directed the aid of the laity into various concurrent channels. He issued many letters to the diocese in the 'Lichfield Diocesan Magazine,' the most important of them being a series addressed 'Ad Clerum.' A volume of 'Pastoral Letters and Synodal Charges,' published by him later, in 1892, notably illustrates his spirit of moderation and gentle sympathy. In October 1887, at the request of Archbishop Benson and in company with John Wordsworth, bishop of Salisbury [q. v. Suppl. II], he attended a conference of Old Catholics at Bonn, where he had an interview with Döllinger. In 1890 he testified in a different way to his desire for unity among Christians by welcoming a body of nonconformists to his palace and to the cathedral service, a proceeding which in 1895 he repeated at Bishopthorpe. So late as 1904, in an address on Christian Brotherhood, he advocated the admission of nonconformists to Holy Communion.

In 1891 Archbishop Magee died after but two months' tenure of the see of York, and Lord Salisbury offered the archbishopric to Maclagan. He was confirmed at St. George's, Hanover Square, and was enthroned in the Minster on 15 Sept. 1891. At York he worked on the same lines which he had followed at Lichfield. He introduced the same regulations restricting the preaching of deacons which he had promulgated there; on the other hand, he established guilds of youths inclined to pastoral life. In 1892 he established at York a training college for clergy under the name of ‘Scholæ Episcopi.’ From the same year onwards he spent much time in visiting his clergy, and within three years became personally acquainted with the 650 parishes of his diocese. He was generous in diocesan gifts, more especially to the Poor Benefices Fund, which he started; and on two occasions—in 1897 and in 1906—he offered to surrender 2000l. of his annual income in order to facilitate the subdivision of his diocese. He discouraged the more advanced usages, from the practisers of which his chief troubles as a bishop proceeded. In 1889 and 1890 he took part in the hearing at Lambeth of the charges against Edward King, bishop of Lincoln [q. v. Suppl. II], and was in full accordance with both Archbishop Benson and his successor, Archbishop Temple. A protracted struggle with Sir Edmund Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe [q. v. Suppl. II], vicar-general of his province and chancellor of his archdiocese, who insisted on the issue of licences to guilty divorcees, ended only in 1900 when Lord Grimthorpe was succeeded in these offices by Sir Alfred Cripps.

Maclagan was responsible, with Archbishop Temple, for the substance if not for the form of the ‘Responsio’ made in 1896 to the bull ‘Apostolicæ Curæ,’ in which Pope Leo XIII had denied the validity of Anglican orders (see Lord Halifax's account in F. D. How's Archbishop Maclagan, ch. xxxiii.). In the following year, accompanied by W. J. Birkbeck, he paid a private visit to Russia, where he was cordially received by the authorities of the Russian Church as well as by the Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsaritsa. At the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 he crowned Queen Alexandra, although it was decided that this function appertained to the Archbishop of York by grace rather than by right. In 1906 Maclagan celebrated the eightieth year of his life, and the fiftieth of his ministry, by a special offering of 2000l. for charitable purposes. But his physical powers—especially those of memory—were then declining, and in the autumn of 1908, after taking a passive part in the Lambeth Conference and many meetings incidental to the Pan-Anglican Congress, he resigned his archbishopric (thereby setting a precedent). At the beginning of 1909 he took up his abode at Queen's Gate Place, London, where, after a short illness, he died on 19 Sept. 1910. He was buried in Bishopthorpe churchyard, in the grave next to that of his lifelong friend Canon Keble. At Lichfield a large stone cross, erected by himself, marks the spot which he had chosen for his grave.

Maclagan's pastoral activity has been rarely surpassed. Although his literary style was pure and clear he never attained great renown as a preacher. Late in life he prefixed a brief monograph to an edition of ‘The Grace of Sacraments’ (1905) by Alexander Knox [q. v.], a forerunner of the Tractarians. In 1855 he published for private circulation a small volume of sonnets and other short poems. But those of his writings which will live longest are his hymns. Among them is the beautiful hymn for All Saints' Day (‘The Saints of God’), two Good Friday hymns, and one for St. Luke's Day (for list see Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), p. 709). He also composed the tunes of a number of hymns, among them those of the Communion hymn ‘Bread of Heaven,’ of Wesley's ‘O Thou before the world began,’ and of the hymn ‘Palms of Glory’ (for festivals of martyrs). He wrote some other ‘Ancient and Modern’ hymn tunes; others have been published in the ‘Church Monthly,’ a magazine begun in 1888.

Maclagan was twice married: (1) in April 1860 to Sarah Kate (d. July 1862), daughter of George Clapham, by whom he had two sons; and (2) in Nov. 1878 to Augusta Anne, youngest daughter of William Keppel Barrington, sixth Viscount Barrington, a lady whose powers of organisation well matched his own. She survived him with a son and daughter.

A portrait was painted by Sir William Richmond; another, by the Hon. John Collier, is in the hall of Peterhouse, Cambridge; a third is to be placed in the Maclagan Memorial Hall, under which name the ancient St. William's College, York (the church and convocation house of the province), was restored in 1909, after the archbishop's resignation.

[F. D. How's Life, 1911; The Times, 20 Sept. 1910; The Guardian, 23 Sept. 1910; private information from Mr. F. D. How and others.]

A. W. W.