Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilson, Henry Bristow
WILSON, HENRY BRISTOW (1803–1888), divine, born on 10 June 1803, was elder son of Harry Bristow Wilson [q. v.], by his wife Mary Anne, daughter of John Moore (1742–1821) [q. v.] He entered Merchant Taylors' school in October 1809, and was elected to St. John's College, Oxford, in 1821. Matriculating on 25 June 1821, he graduated B.A. in 1825, M.A. in 1829, and B.D. in 1834, and received a fellowship in 1825, which he retained until 1850. In 1831 he was appointed dean of arts, and he acted as tutor from 1833 to 1835. He also filled the office of Rawlinsonian professor of Anglo-Saxon from 1839 to 1844. In 1850 he was presented by St. John's College to the vicarage of Great Staughton in Huntingdonshire, which he retained until his death.
Wilson identified himself in theology with the school of which Benjamin Jowett (afterwards master of Balliol) and Frederick Temple (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury) became the best-known members. In the spring of 1841 Wilson joined Archibald Campbell Tait [q. v.] in the ‘protest of the four tutors’ against ‘Tract XC.’ In the Lent term of 1851 he delivered the Bampton lectures, taking as his subject ‘The Communion of the Saints: an Attempt to illustrate the True Principles of Christian Union’ (Oxford, 1851, 8vo). His lectures were remarkable for eloquence and power, and still more as ‘the first clear note of a demand for freedom in theological enquiry.’ The widening of theological opinion and of Christian communion was thenceforward the main interest of his life. In 1857 he contributed ‘Schemes of Christian Comprehension’ to ‘Oxford Essays,’ and in 1861 he published a dissertation on ‘The National Church’ in ‘Essays and Reviews.’ Passages in the latter essay were regarded as inculcating erroneous doctrine, particularly in regard to the inspiration of scripture and the future state of the dead. John William Burgon (afterwards dean of Chichester) was especially dissatisfied with his views, and in 1862 proceedings for heresy were instituted against Wilson in the court of arches. On 25 June Wilson, whose case was tried together with that of Rowland Williams [q. v.], was found guilty on three out of eight of the articles brought against him, and was sentenced to suspension for a year by the judge, Stephen Lushington [q. v.] Wilson and Williams both appealed to the judicial committee of the privy council, and their appeals were heard together in 1863. Wilson's defence occupied 19 and 20 June, and was afterwards published. The appeal was successful, and on 8 Feb. 1864 the judicial committee reversed Lushington's decision. Wilson's health, however, was broken by the anxieties of his position, and he never completely recovered from the strain. During later life he did not reside in his benefice. He died, unmarried, at 1 Lawn Villas, Eltham Road, Lee, on 10 Aug. 1888.
Wilson wrote an introduction to ‘A Brief Examination of prevalent Opinions on the Inspiration of the Old and New Testaments’ (London, 1861, 8vo).
[Funeral Sermon by R. B. Kennard, 1888; Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees, 1874, vol. ii., s.v. ‘Fountayne-Wilson;’ Robinson's Reg. of Merchant Taylors' School, 1883, ii. 188; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Mrs. Wilson's Life and Letters of Rowland Williams, 1874, vol. ii.; Abbott and Campbell's Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, 1897, i. 209, 273, 300–1, 404; Brodrick and Freemantle's Judgments of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, 1865, pp. 247–90; Liddon's Life of Pusey, ii. 167, iv. 38–68; Prothero's Life and Letters of Dean Stanley, 1893, ii. 30–44, 157–8; Kennard's Essays and Reviews, 1863; Peterborough and Huntingdonshire Standard, 18 Aug. 1888; Men of the Time, 1887; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]