Perry, George Gresley (DNB01)
PERRY, GEORGE GRESLEY (1820–1897), church historian, born at Churchill in Somersetshire on St. Thomas's day, 1820, was the twelfth and youngest child of William Perry, an intimate friend and neighbour of Hannah More [q. v.] He was educated at Ilminster under the Rev. John Allen, and in 1837 he won a scholarship on the Bath and Wells foundation at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1840 he graduated B.A. with a second class in lit. hum. His fellowship at Corpus would have followed in due course, but meanwhile a vacancy occurred in the Wells fellowship at Lincoln College, for which Perry was the successful competitor, Mark Pattison [q. v.], who was then just beginning his intellectual reform of the college, strongly pressing his claims. He graduated M.A. in 1843, and was ordained by the bishop of Oxford deacon in 1844 and priest in 1845. He held for a short time, first, the curacy of Wick on the coast of Somerset, and then that of Combe Florey, near Taunton; but in 1847 he returned to Oxford as college tutor at Lincoln, which office he held until 1852. During the last year of his fellowship occurred the memorable contest for the rectorship, described with such painful vividness in Pattison's 'Memoir.' In this contest Perry took a leading and characteristically straightforward part. It was he who first told Pattison that the junior fellows wished to have him for their head, and from first to last he supported Pattison heartily.
In 1852 Perry accepted the college living of Waddington, near Lincoln, and there he remained to the end of his days. He entered upon his duties on Low Sunday, 1852, and in October of the same year married Miss Eliza Salmon, sister of the present provost of Trinity College, Dublin, a most happy union. The life of a country clergyman suited Perry. He was always fond of country pursuits, understood the minds of country people, and could profitably employ the leisure which such a life affords. He attended well to his country parish, and also threw himself heartily into the work of the diocese, which showed, as far as it could, its appreciation of him. In 1861 Bishop Jackson made him a non-residentiary canon and rural dean of Longoboby; in 1867 his brother clergy elected him as their proctor in convocation; and they continued to re-elect him (more than once after a contest) until he voluntarily retired in 1893. In 1894 Bishop King appointed him to the archdeaconry of Stow, which he held until his death.
Perry's parochial and diocesan work still left him abundance of time for study, which he employed conscientiously for the benefit of the church. The earliest work which brought him into notice in the literary world was his 'History of the Church of England,' in 3 vols. 8vo, the first of which appeared in 1860, the third in 1864. Its fairness and accuracy were at once recognised, and its value was increased by the fact that it was the first general history which included the dreary but highly important period of the eighteenth century, previous historians, as a rule, having stopped short at the Revolution of 1688. In 1868 he published for S.P.C.K. a short ‘Life of Henry Hammond’ and a similar ‘Life of Robert Boyle,’ and among his other minor works were ‘The Bishop's Daughter,’ 1860; ‘Vox Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,’ 1868, being extracts from English theologians; ‘History of the Crusades,’ no date; ‘Victor, a Story of the Diocletian Persecution,’ no date; ‘Croyland Abbey,’ no date. In 1872 came a book which greatly enhanced his reputation, the ‘Life of Bishop Grosseteste.’ His intimate knowledge of the university of Oxford and also of the diocese of Lincoln, with both of which Grosseteste was so closely connected, at once rendered the task a labour of love to him, and enabled him to carry it out successfully. This was followed in 1879 by an equally good ‘Life of St. Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln,’ though of course he had here to come into competition with the ‘Magna Vita’ (Rolls Ser.). In 1886 appeared a yet more successful production of his pen, a ‘History of the Reformation in England,’ written for the ‘Epochs of Church History’ series edited by Canon (afterwards Bishop) Creighton [q. v. Suppl.] This work gave scope for the development of Perry's most characteristic merits—his power of condensation and of seizing the salient points of a subject, his fairness, and his accuracy. Moreover, although Perry was a good all-round historian, the Reformation period was that with which he was most familiar. The volume ranks among the best of an excellent series. The same merits are found in his larger publication, ‘The Student's English Church History,’ the Second Period (1509–1717) appearing in 1878, the First Period (596–1509) in 1881, and the Third Period (1717–1884) in 1887. He also left two posthumous works. One was the ‘Diocesan History of Lincoln,’ for the series published by S.P.C.K. This he took up after the death of Edmund Venables [q. v.], and incorporated in it the work which Venables had done. It was not published until after his death, in 1897; but he lived just long enough to correct the final proofs. The other was the ‘Lives of the Bishops of Lincoln from Remigius to Wordsworth.’ In this he had been engaged for several years in conjunction with Canon Overton, to whom he proposed the joint undertaking, ‘as a pious tribute to our common alma mater’ (i.e. Lincoln College, of which bishops of Lincoln were founders, benefactors, and ex-officio visitors), but the work has not yet (1901) appeared. Perry was also a contributor to periodical literature and to the ‘Dictionary of National Biography.’ He died on 10 Feb. 1897, and was buried in Waddington churchyard. A tablet to his memory in Waddington church and a window in the chapter house of Lincoln Cathedral were erected by public subscription. He lost his wife in 1877. By her he had three sons and four daughters, five of whom are now living.
[Personal knowledge; private information; Perry's Works, passim; Mark Pattison's Memoirs; Times, 11 Feb. 1897; Athenæum, 13 Feb. 1897.]