Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rule, William Harris

RULE, WILLIAM HARRIS (1802–1890), divine and historian, born at Penrhyn on 15 Nov. 1802, was son of John Rule, by his wife Louisa, daughter of William Harris, a Cornish quaker. The father, a native of Berwick-upon-Tweed, was of Scottish parentage; while a surgeon in the army he was captured and detained for some years a prisoner in France; after his release he entered the naval packet service, and was stationed in the West Indies. When his son was seventeen years old he turned him out of doors in a passion. Young Rule took refuge for a time with an aunt. His education was much neglected, but he received some instruction in Latin from the rector of Falmouth, Thomas Hitchens. He very soon left Cornwall, and tried to make a living as a portrait-painter in Devonport, Plymouth, Exeter, and finally in London, where he cheerfully bore great privations. Early in 1822 he left the church of England for the Wesleyan body, and became a village schoolmaster at Newington in Kent. He was ordained a Wesleyan preacher on 14 March 1826. During his probation he devoted much time to classical study. On 22 March he left England with his newly married wife on a projected mission to the Druses of Mount Lebanon, which, however, he abandoned. Rule acted for more than a year as resident missionary in Malta. During this time he studied Italian and learned some Arabic. While in the island he was several times stoned by the mob as a supposed freemason. On 31 May 1827 he left Malta. He was sent in November 1827 by the Wesleyan Missionary Society to the island of St. Vincent. In March 1831 he came home, and was next year appointed Wesleyan pastor at Gibraltar, where he founded the first charity school, besides four day and evening schools, and had both English and Spanish congregations. He also lectured in Spanish on protestantism, prepared Spanish versions of the four gospels, the Wesleyan Methodist catechism, and Horne's ‘Letter on Toleration,’ and compiled a Spanish hymn-book, which obtained a large circulation in Spanish America. A Wesleyan mission established by Rule at Cadiz was suppressed by the Christinist government in 1839; but subsequently, with the help of Sir George William Frederick Villiers (afterwards Lord Clarendon) [q. v.], the English ambassador, he obtained a royal order repealing the edicts which prohibited foreigners from taking part in Spanish education. While on a visit to Madrid he met George Borrow [q. v.], by whom he was introintroduced to ‘an accomplished highwaywoman’ and ‘an expert pickpocket.’ Rule returned to England in July 1842. In 1878 he again visited Spain to report on Wesleyan missions at Gibraltar and Barcelona.

From 1842 till 1868 he undertook ministerial duty in England. From 1851 to 1857 he acted as joint-editor at the Wesleyan conference office. From 1857 till 1865 he was minister to the Wesleyan soldiers at Aldershot, and obtained an official recognition of their worship by royal warrant in 1881. After 1868 he acted as supernumerary minister at Croydon till April 1873. He was elected member of the Croydon school board in 1871. He died in Clyde Road, Addiscombe, on 25 Sept. 1890. He was twice married: first, on 24 Feb. 1826, to Mary Ann Dunmill, only daughter of Richard Barrow of Maidstone, who died in 1873; and secondly, on 10 March 1874, to Harriette Edmed of Maidstone. By his first wife he had several children.

Rule was a scholarly preacher and a prolific writer, and is said to have been master of ten languages. He received the degree of D.D. from Dickenson College (methodist episcopal church), Ohio, in July 1854.

His principal work, published in 1868, and reissued in two volumes in 1874, was a ‘History of the Inquisition from the Twelfth Century.’ It is founded on the best Roman catholic authorities. The narrative is clear and the tone restrained, if not absolutely judicial. In 1870 Rule published a ‘History of the Karaite Jews,’ the first attempt to deal with the subject in England. He afterwards re-wrote the work, but the new version was not published. Between 1871 and 1873, with the help of M. J. Corbett Anderson as illustrator, Rule began to issue a work on ‘Biblical Monuments.’ The undertaking had the support of the primate, Dr. Tait. All the copies were destroyed by fire at the binder's, but the work was reissued in an extended form in 1877, 2 vols. 8vo, as ‘Oriental Records, monumental and historical, confirmatory of the Old and New Testament.’

Rule also published together with numerous pamphlets: 1. ‘Memoir of a Mission to Gibraltar and Spain, with collateral Notices of Events favouring Religious Liberty … from the Beginning of the Century to the Year 1842,’ 1844, 12mo. 2. ‘Wesleyan Methodism regarded as the System of a Christian Church,’ 1846, 12mo. 3. ‘Martyrs of the Reformation,’ with portraits, 1851, 8vo. 4. ‘The Brand of Dominic, or the Inquisition,’ 1852, 8vo; American edition, 1853, 12mo. 5. ‘Celebrated Jesuits,’ 2 vols., 1852–3. 6. ‘The Religious Aspect of the Civil War in China,’ 1853, 8vo. 7. ‘Studies from History,’ vol. i. 2 pts., 1855, containing ‘The Third Crusade.’ 8. ‘Narrative of Don Herreros de Mora's Imprisonment, translated from the Spanish,’ 1856, 8vo; originally published in the ‘Church of England Monthly Review.’ 9. ‘Historical Exposition of the Book of Daniel,’ 1869, 8vo. 10. ‘The Holy Sabbath instituted in Paradise and perfected through Christ,’ 1870, 8vo. 11. ‘Councils, Ancient and Modern,’ 1870, 12mo. 12. ‘The Establishment of Wesleyan Methodism in the British Army,’ 1883, 8vo. 13. ‘Recollections of Life and Work at Home and Abroad,’ 1886, 8vo, in which is a portrait of the author.

[Rule's Autobiographical Works; Methodist Times, 2 and 16 Oct. 1890; Croydon Advertiser, 27 Sept. 1890; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 607–9 and Suppl.]

G. Le G. N.