Oxenham, Henry Nutcombe (DNB00)


OXENHAM, HENRY NUTCOMBE (1829–1888), Roman catholic writer, eldest son of William Oxenham, a clergyman of the church of England, and second master at Harrow School, by his wife, a sister of Thomas Thellusson Carter, afterwards honorary canon of Christ Church, Oxford, was born at Harrow on 15 Nov. 1829. He was educated at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a classical scholarship on 27 Nov. 1846. He graduated B.A. (second-class classical honours) in 1850, and proceeded M.A. in 1854. An easy and persuasive speaker, and an earnest high churchman, he aired his views at the union, of which he was president in 1852, and thus spoiled his chances of a fellowship. He took holy orders in the church of England, and was curate first at Worminghall, Buckinghamshire (1854), and afterwards at St. Bartholomew's, Cripplegate.

During his residence at Worminghall Oxenham published a thin volume of religious verses, intensely catholic in sentiment and of considerable literary merit, entitled ‘The Sentence of Kaires and other Poems,’ Oxford, 1854, 8vo; 2nd edit. London, 1867; 3rd edit., with additions and suppressions, and the title ‘Poems,’ London, 1871. He also edited ‘Simple Tracts on Great Truths, by Clergymen of the Church of England,’ Oxford, 1854, 8vo, and compiled a ‘Manual of Devotions for the Blessed Sacrament,’ London, 1854, 8vo.

In November 1857 Oxenham was received into the church of Rome by Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Manning [q. v.] at Bayswater. In the following year he justified his secession in a ‘letter to an Anglican friend’ entitled ‘The Tractarian Party and the Catholic Revival,’ London, 8vo. He took the four minor orders in the church of Rome, but scrupled to go further, being unable to rid himself of his belief in the validity and consequent indelibility of his Anglican orders. After some time spent at the Brompton Oratory, a place was found for him on the professorial staff of St. Edmund's College, Ware, and he afterwards held a mastership at the Oratory School, Birmingham. In middle life he studied in Germany under Dr. Döllinger, for whom he always retained a profound veneration. In 1865 he published ‘The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement,’ London, 8vo (2nd edit. 1869), a work of some value as a contribution to the history of theological theory; and in 1866 a translation of Dr. Döllinger's ‘First Age of Christianity and the Church,’ London, 2 vols. 8vo; 3rd edit. 1877.

With a view to promoting a better understanding between the Roman and Anglican churches, Oxenham greeted the appearance of Pusey's ‘Eirenicon’ by the publication of a sympathetic letter to his friend Father William Lockhart [q. v.], entitled ‘Dr. Pusey's “Eirenicon” considered in relation to Catholic Unity,’ London, 1866, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1871; and a ‘Postscript on Catholic Unity’ among the ‘Essays on the Reunion of Christendom,’ edited by the Rev. F. G. Lee, 1867. In 1870 he contributed to the ‘Saturday Review’ a series of papers on the proceedings at the Vatican council, which were written with much pungency in a spirit of intense hostility to ultramontanism, and were widely read. In 1872 he published a translation of Dr. Döllinger's ‘Lectures on the Reunion of the Churches,’ London, 8vo. He attended the synod of ‘old’ catholics held at Bonn, under Döllinger's presidency, in September 1874, and had at first some sympathy with the movement which it initiated, but of its later development he entirely disapproved. For the English version of Bishop Hefele's monumental work, ‘The History of Christian Councils,’ Edinburgh, 1871–83, 3 vols. 8vo, Oxenham edited and translated the second volume, which was published in 1876. The same year appeared his ‘Catholic Eschatology and Universalism,’ a reprint, revised and expanded, of a series of articles from the ‘Contemporary Review,’ vol. xxvii. (cf. a reply by the Rev. Andrew Jukes in Contemporary Review, vol. xxviii. July 1876, and Oxenham's rejoinder in the Christian Apologist, October 1876). In 1879 he edited, under the title ‘An Eirenicon of the Eighteenth Century,’ a reprint of an anonymous ‘Essay towards a Proposal for Catholic Communion,’ first published in 1704, and commonly ascribed to Joshua Basset [q. v.] In 1884–5 he reprinted from the ‘Saturday Review’ ‘Short Studies in Ecclesiastical History and Biography,’ and ‘Short Studies, Ethical and Religious,’ London, 2 vols. 8vo.

Tall, thin, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and with the mien and gait of the recluse, Oxenham might have sat to a painter for ‘Il Penseroso.’ In fact, however, he was a keen observer of men and things, had little capacity for abstract thought, and still less of the submissiveness characteristic of a loyal and humble catholic. Throughout life he retained his affection for the church of England, his belief in the validity of her orders, and the friendship of some of her most distinguished clergy, while he occasionally attended her services. He was also an active member of a theological society which, from its comprehending thinkers of almost all shades of opinion, was humorously called the ‘Panhæreticon.’ Oxenham died, in the full communion of the Roman catholic church, at his residence, 42 Addison Road, Kensington, on 23 March 1888, and was buried at Chislehurst, Kent. Besides the works mentioned above, Oxenham, who was for many years a regular contributor to the 'Saturday Review,' was the author of several religious tracts and of a 'Memoir of Lieutenant Rudolph de Lisle, R.N.,' London, 1886, 8vo.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. p. 1299, and Collect. Cornub. p. 646; Obituary signed Vicesimus, i.e. John Oakley [q. v.], reprinted from Manchester Guardian 27 and 31 March 1888, Weekly Register 31 March 1888, Saturday Review 31 March 1888, Athenæum 31 March 1888, Times 26 March 1888, Church Times 29 March 1888, Tablet 7 Nov. 1857 and 31 March 1888, Guardian 29 Feb., 21 March, and 28 March 1888; Ward's Hist. of St. Edmund's College, pp. 253, 279; Reusch's Rep. Reun. Conf. Bonn, English translation, ed. H. P. Liddon, p. xxxix.]

J. M. R.