Owen, John (1766-1822) (DNB00)

OWEN, JOHN (1766–1822), divine, was son of Richard Owen of Old Street, London. He entered St. Paul's school on 18 Oct. 1777, whence he proceeded in 1784, as Sykes exhibitioner, to Magdalene College, Cambridge (admitted a sizar 10 May). He migrated to Corpus Christi College, and was admitted a scholar on the old foundation on 17 Nov. 1784, graduated B.A. in 1788, became a fellow 11 April 1789, and proceeded M.A. in 1791.

In the spring of 1791 he went on the continent, at first as tutor to a young gentleman. In September 1792 he left Geneva for the south of France, and arrived in Lyons to find it in the hands of a revolutionary mob. He with difficulty escaped to Switzerland. On his return to England, early in 1793, Owen published some letters which he had addressed to W. Belsham as ‘Travels into Different Parts of Europe, in the years 1791 and 1792, with familiar Remarks on Places, Men, and Manners,’ London, 1796, 2 vols. Soon after his return he was ordained, and on 1 Sept. 1794 he married and settled at Cambridge. On 11 March and 5 Aug. 1794 Owen preached two assize sermons in the university church of St. Mary's. These were published at Cambridge in 1794. In the same year he published ‘The Retrospect; or Reflections on the State of Religion and Politics in France and Great Britain,’ London, 1794. At the end of 1795 Owen was presented by Beilby Porteus [q. v.], bishop of London, to the curacy of Fulham, Middlesex, where he resided for seventeen and a half years. Porteus had presented him in 1808 to the rectory of Paglesham, Essex; and when, in 1813, Dr. Randolph, Porteus's successor, required Owen's residence there, he resigned the Fulham curacy. He afterwards became minister of Park Chapel, Chelsea.

Owen's connection with the British and Foreign Bible Society is his chief claim to remembrance. From 23 April 1804—a few weeks after its foundation—until his death he was its principal secretary, although unpaid. He wrote, in defence of the society, a ‘Letter to a Country Clergyman, occasioned by his Address to Lord Teignmouth, &c., by a Suburban Clergyman;’ and to an attack by Thomas Twining and Major Scott Waring on the society's work in India, on the ground that a conquered nation's free exercise of religion was improperly interfered with, Owen replied in ‘An Address to the Chairman of the East India Company,’ &c., London, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions, 1807. At the request of some of its members Owen wrote ‘The History of the Origin and First Ten Years of the British and Foreign Bible Society,’ 2 vols. London, 1816. This was reviewed by Robert Southey [q. v.] in the ‘Quarterly Review,’ 1827, vol. xxxvi. pp. 1–28, who, while calling Owen one ‘of its most amiable as well as able advocates,’ severely censures the society's translations. A French translation of the work appeared.

In August 1818 Owen went abroad, to assist at the establishment of a branch bible society in Paris, and to inspect the progress of the Turkish New Testament, then in course of preparation for the society by Professor Kieffer. He visited Pastor Oberlin and the branches established at Zurich, St. Gall, Constance, and other Swiss towns. He returned to England in December, and published ‘Brief Extracts from Letters on the Object and Connexions of the British and Foreign Bible Society,’ London, 1819. He also wrote ‘Two Letters on the Subject of the French Bible,’ London, 1st and 2nd editions, 1822. This was in reply to a charge of Socinianism brought against the translation.

Owen died at Ramsgate on 26 Sept. 1822, and was buried at Fulham. His widow, whose maiden name was Charlotte Green, and several children survived him. One of his daughters married the eldest son of William Wilberforce [q. v.]

Besides sermons and the works noted, Owen wrote: 1. ‘The Christian Monitor for the last Days,’ 1799; 2nd edit. 1808. 2. ‘An Earnest Expostulation with those who Live in the Neglect of Public Worship,’ London, 1801. 3. ‘The Fashionable World Displayed,’ by ‘Theophilus Christian, esq.,’ 1st edit. London, 1804; 2nd edit., with a dedication to Beilby Porteus, bishop of London, 3rd edit. 1805; 5th edit. 1805; 7th edit. 1809. An eighth edition was published before 1822. A New York edition from the fifth London edition appeared in 1806.

[Graduati Cantabr. p. 352; Masters's Hist. of Corpus Christi, Cambridge, ed. Lamb, 417–20; Gent. Mag. September 1813, pp. 226–8; works above mentioned; Faulkner's Historical and Topographical Account of Fulham, p. 269; extracts from the Register of Corpus Christi College, per the Rev. J. R. Harmer, librarian. Owen's funeral sermon, entitled The Character and Happiness of them that die in the Lord, was preached by William Dealtry [q. v.] on 13 Oct. at Park Chapel, and published, London, 1822; 2nd edit. same place and date. Another by Joseph Hughes, M.A., surviving secretary of the Bible Society, preached at Dr. Winter's meeting-house, New Court, Carey Street, on 27 Oct., was also published, London, 1822. A Tribute of Gratitude, by one of his congregation, and an Ode to Owen's memory, were published, London, 1822, and Thetford, 1823, respectively.]

C. F. S.