Oxford Professor and London Preacher.
We regret to announce that Canon Henry Scott Holland, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, died at Christ Church at 12.50 yesterday morning.
Henry Scott Holland was the eldest son of Mr. George Henry Holland, of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and afterwards of Gayton Lodge, Wimbledon, by his marriage with Charlotte, eldest daughter of the first Lord Gifford, the Exeter lawyer, who became Lord Chief Justice in 1824. He was born near Ledbury on January 27, 1847, and educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1870 with a first class in Lit. Hum. He had previously taken a third class in Moderations, from which it may be assumed that his bent was more philosophy than for verbalia. In the same year he was elected to a Senior Studentship of Christ Church, where he became tutor in 1872. He was ordained deacon in 1872 and priest in 1874 by Dr. Mackarness, and quickly made his way to the front as a stirring and original preacher. In 1882 he was senior proctor. His work at Christ Church lasted some 15 years; he was a successful "Greats" teacher; but under the influence of Liddon the preacher in him outran the philosopher. It is difficult to realize that Scott Holland's merry, boisterous, ebullient disposition could have entrusted itself to Liddon's precise and uncompromising sway, but so it was, and it was all the more surprising as Liddon himself had kept himself deliberately aloof from the speculative and logical methods that were guiding the thought of young Oxford.
Another influence was concerned with the Church in the West. He found himself greatly drawn towards the first Bishop of Truro, and was so struck by Benson's addresses at a retreat at Koble that he wrote to Mr. Gladstone urging Benson's appointment to the Primacy. Then came the nomination of his friend Dr. G. H. Wilkinson to succeed Benson at Truro in 1883, and Wilkinson, who had been honorary canon of St. Petroc in Truro Cathedral, appointed Holland to that stall and made him examining chaplain. Holland resigned the stall on his appointment to St. Paul's, but retained the chaplaincy, and continued to serve Bishop Gott in that capacity. His enthusiasm for the Church in Cornwall was no less than that which he threw into other interests, into his zeal for Mr. Gladstone, whether as Churchman or politician, into the bringing together on the one famous occasion of Gladstone and Ruskin, and into the narration, in after years, of the burning and controversial questions around which the two men must needs keep hovering.
He received his appointment to a canonry of St. Paul's in 1884. Mr. Gladstone had nominated Dr. Stubbs to the see of Chester and gave the vacant stall to the Censor of Christ Church. Two years later he was made Precentor. His appointment greatly strengthened the preaching power of the Chapter, for, though he could not be compared to the incomparable Liddon, his was in many ways a keener intellect and his interests were wider and more human. But he lacked Liddon's economy of vocal powers; his speech was too rapid for a building that plays havoc with a hurried delivery. His style was at once redundant and vigorous. The epithets came in torrents, yet the shortest of sentences came often as check to the flow of words. He could stir zeal. He could delight the intellect. He could sometimes puzzle the shrewdest. But he could hardly set men's hearts aflame. And this was due to his deliberate choice for the most part if subjects that were partly political, partly social and economic. He came to St. Paul's with a desire to solve the social problems of London. It was not a new craze with him, for when he was preparing for holy orders, he had read for that purpose with Dr. Westcott, then Canon of Peterborough, from whom he learnt something more than methods of Greek Testament study. For Westcott's Peterborough period was the time of the idea of the cœnobium, and he was full of the need of applying Christianity to economic difficulties. Holland was a Christian Socialist before he read with Westcott, but it is not too much to say that the formation of the Christian Social Union drew its inspiration from the dwelling together of this Cambridge prophet and the Oxford son of the prophets. The union decide to have its journal, the Commonwealth, and Canon Holland proved himself an expert editor. The "Personal Studies" which he contributed to the paper were published in book form in 1905 and had a deservedly great success. He was no slave to a party. If he triumphed with the Liberal triumph at the beginning of 1906, he outspokenly condemned its Education Bill soon afterwards. If a Liberal Cabinet Minister professed that the Christian Church had got on without creeds till A.D. 325, Canon Holland from his pulpit would pour his scorn on the statement and ask if we were to understand that during the first three centuries Christian education was conducted under a Cowper-Temple Clause.
Another notable feature in his career must not be omitted. He was one of the distinguished band of Christian teachers in Oxford who between 1875 and 1885 found themselves "compelled for their own sake, no less than that of others, to attempt to put the Catholic faith into its right relation to modern intellectual and moral problems." The first essay, on Faith, was his work. Four of the 12 collaborators became Bishops. Canon Holland, on the other hand, declined in 1893, Mr. Gladstone's offer of the see of Norwich. The refusal was wise, for among his many gifts that of patient and laborious administration in a straggling agricultural diocese was hardly included. He revelled in huge audiences; he was at his best at some crowded missionary meeting, where he could let himself go and mingle the playful with the serious.
There was some surprise when, in 1910, Mr Asquith appointed the Canon of St. Paul's to the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Oxford in succession to Dr. Ince, but a little consideration served to account for the Prime Minister's choice. The theological teaching at Oxford needed the encouragement of a vigorous man of wide sympathies who could work well with various groups in the theological faculty. The new professor, in spite of his years, retained his youthfulness, and young men of the most varied character were attracted by his abounding enthusiasm. His grasp of modern theological thought was unmistakable, and few men could expound so attractively the Christian faith in the light of modern philosophy and criticism. He and his fellow-professors fought vigorously for reform in the conditions for the B.D. and D.D. degrees, but they were defeated largely by the country parsons, and if he did not accomplish as much as he wished and many expected, it must be borne in mind that his tenure of office coincided latterly with the war and its paralysing effect on the University.
Besides his writings already recorded, Canon Holland published seven or eight volumes of sermons, and a Life of Jenny Lind, who he knew at Wimbledon and visited during her long illness.