Africa, and having passed first into the staff college at the examination in 1880, was on his way out to Egypt, where he had volunteered for service, when he was accidentally killed by the falling of a spar during a gale of wind in 1882.
[War Office Records; Royal Engineers' Journal, No. 261, August 1892, obituary notice.]
PORTEUS, BEILBY (1731–1808), bishop of London, born at York on 8 May 1731, was youngest but one of the nineteen children of Robert Porteus. Both his parents were natives of Virginia, and lived on their own estate in that colony. His mother was daughter of Colonel Jennings, who was superintendent of Indian affairs for the province, and for some time acted as deputy governor; she is said to have been distantly related to Sarah Jennings, duchess of Marlborough. In order to procure a better education for his children, and on account of ill-health, the father left America for England in 1720, and settled at York. Beilby was educated at York until 1744 and at Ripon, whence he was admitted on 1 June 1748 as a sizar at Christ's College, Cambridge. He became a scholar on 19 Nov. 1748, graduating B.A. in 1752 as tenth wrangler. He also won the second chancellor's medal for classics on the first occasion on which it was awarded. On 26 May 1752 he was elected fellow of his college, and shortly afterwards was appointed esquire bedel. That office he held for a little more than two years, resigning it in order to devote himself to private tuition. In 1757 he was ordained deacon and priest. In 1759 he won the Seatonian prize for an English poem on ‘Death.’ He wrote feelingly, for he had recently lost both his parents; but his extravagant eulogy of George II caused him to be gibbeted by Thackeray in a well-known passage in ‘The Four Georges.’ He was brought into further notice by preaching in 1761 an able university sermon on the character of King David, in reply to the notorious pamphlet, ‘History of the Man after God's own Heart’ (1761), attributed to the deist, Peter Annet [q. v.] In 1762, on his appointment as domestic chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Secker), he quitted Cambridge for Lambeth. In 1765 he was presented by the archbishop to the two small livings of Rucking and Wittersham in Kent; but he soon resigned them for the rectory of Hunton in the same county. On 25 Sept. 1764 he received a prebend at Peterborough. In 1767 he was appointed rector of Lambeth, and proceeded D.D. at Cambridge, when he preached on the instruction of youth, especially in the principles of revealed religion. Some extracts from this sermon fell into the hands of John Norris (1734–1777) [q. v.], who was thereby moved to found the Norrisian professorship of divinity. In 1769 he was appointed chaplain to the king, and shortly afterwards master of the hospital of St. Cross at Winchester. In 1773 he joined in an abortive petition to the bench of bishops to promote a reform of the Liturgy and Articles. In 1776 Porteus was promoted to the bishopric of Chester. Thereupon he resigned Lambeth, but retained the valuable living of Hunton, and was held to have shown a praiseworthy self-denial in not keeping both. As bishop of Chester, Porteus was very energetic. He encouraged the activity of the rising evangelical school; he instituted a fund for the relief of the poorer clergy in the diocese; and he warmly encouraged the establishment of the new scheme of Sunday-schools in every parish. Acting for Dr. Lowth, bishop of London, who was incapacitated by ill-health, he carried through the House of Lords in 1777 a measure putting a stop to the evil custom of incumbents giving general bonds of resignation (that is, bonds to resign whenever the patrons required them), and he fought successfully a long contest, which ended in 1800, against a species of simony which was gaining ground in the purchase of the advowson of a living (Life, p. 153). He took the deepest interest in the welfare of the negro slaves in the West Indies, and vainly endeavoured, first by a sermon preached in 1783, and then by a pamphlet written in 1784, to persuade the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to set an example to slave-owners on its own trust estate in Barbados.
Meanwhile, on the death of Bishop Lowth in 1787, Porteus was translated to London. There he at once avowed himself a warm supporter of the schemes of piety and benevolence originated by the evangelical party, though he did not identify himself with all their views, being decidedly anti-calvinistic. Hannah More, in especial, found in him a staunch and powerful friend in her various beneficent enterprises. One of his first acts as bishop of London was to throw himself heart and soul into the work of the newly formed ‘Society for Enforcing the King's Proclamation against Immorality and Profaneness.’ His position enabled him to do yeoman service to the cause of the abolition of slavery. He took great but unsuccessful pains to get passed through the lords Sir William Dolben's ‘Slave-Carrying Bill’ (1788). He succeeded in transferring to a new ‘Society for the Conversion and Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the West