Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Oxford Movement

Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Oxford Movement


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The Oxford Movement, initiating what is commonly called the Catholic Revival of the Church of England and of global Anglicanism more generally, has been a perennial subject of study by historians since its beginning in the 1830s. But the leader of the movement whose name was most associated with it during the nineteenth century, Edward Bouverie Pusey, has long been neglected by historical studies of the Anglican Catholic Revival. This collection of essays seeks to redress the negative and marginalizing historiography of Pusey, and to increase current understanding of both Pusey and his culture. The essays take Pusey's contributions to the Oxford Movement and its theological thinking seriously; most significantly, they endeavour to understand Pusey on his own terms, rather than by comparison with Newman or Keble. The volume reveals Pusey as a serious theologian who had a significant impact on the Victorian period, both within the Oxford Movement and in wider areas of church politics and theology. This reassessment is important not merely to rehabilitate Pusey's reputation, but also to help our current understanding of the Oxford Movement, Anglicanism and British Christianity in the nineteenth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780857285652
Publisher: Anthem Press
Publication date: 10/15/2012
Series: Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series
Pages: 174
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Rowan Strong is Associate Professor of Church History at Murdoch University, Australia. He is the author of several books on the Oxford Movement and Anglicanism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and has published numerous articles on Christianity in the British Empire. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Carol Engelhardt Herringer is Professor of History at Wright State University, USA. She is the author of the monograph ‘Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85’ as well as of several articles on Victorian religion and culture.

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Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Oxford Movement

By Rowan Strong, Carol Engelhardt Herringer

Wimbledon Publishing Company

Copyright © 2012 Rowan Strong and Carol Engelhardt Herringer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-85728-565-2



Rowan Strong and Carol Engelhardt Herringer

In an era noted for its outsized personalities and high achievers, Edward Bouverie Pusey was one of the most prominent and influential Victorians. Born into a minor aristocratic family and educated at Eton and Oxford, his early academic success culminated in his appointment as canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford at age 28. For the rest of his long life, from this prestigious academic position Pusey was at the forefront of public disputes over religion. As one of the co-leaders of the Oxford Movement, he was a staunch defender of the Catholic identity of the Church of England; he was also a very influential figure to the younger generation of Anglo-Catholics, including his biographer Henry Parry Liddon and Christina Rossetti.

Shortly after his death, Pusey's life and achievements were commemorated in the four-volume Life of Pusey, begun by Liddon and completed after Liddon's death by John Octavius Johnston, Robert John Wilson and William Charles Edmund Newbolt; and in Pusey House, which still houses a library, chapel, and rooms for scholars. Yet since that flurry of post-mortem recognition, Pusey has largely dropped from public memory, and from prominence among scholars of nineteenth-century British Christianity. When he is remembered, it is as a caricature. His popular image is now that of an excessively austere defender of an increasingly irrelevant and even incomprehensible way of life. Both the lack of scholarly attention and the caricature are all the more striking when contrasted with the public memories of his colleagues and close friends, John Keble and John Henry Newman, both of whom are remembered with great affection.

The stereotype of Pusey as a grim, humourless scold, more interested in the minutia of ecclesiastical rules than in the family and friends that surrounded him, does a disservice not just to him but also to Victorian religion and, more broadly, Victorian culture. To perpetuate this stereotype is also to maintain the stereotype of Victorian Christianity as a repressive, unpopular force in a culture that was happily becoming secular and progressive. In fact, however, Victorian mainstream culture was Christian, and Christians were engaged in the most pressing issues of the day, including the alleviation of poverty, the role of women, and foreign affairs.

This volume which reconsiders Pusey's life and legacy began as a three-day conference, 'Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Catholic Revival', held at Ascot Priory in September 2009. This gathering of scholars from Australia, Britain, Germany, and the United States offered new insights into the historic and theological significance of Pusey, and provided challenges to the prevalent historiography. Some of those papers serve as the basis for the essays in this collection.

An Outline of Pusey's Life

Edward Bouverie Pusey was born on 22 August 1800 to the Honourable Philip Bouverie, who had taken the Pusey surname as a condition of inheriting the Pusey estate, and the former Lady Lucy Sherard. He was the second of nine children, five of whom survived into adulthood. The elder Puseys were known as pious but somewhat severe parents. From them, Pusey learned the values that would characterize his adult life: Anglican piety, austerity, love of family, self-control, and a sense of reserve towards the larger world. His mother, who was both younger and gentler than his father, was in charge of his education until the age of seven, and Pusey retained a great affection for her throughout her long life. Pusey was particularly close to his elder brother, Philip, with whom he was educated, first at the Rev. Richard Roberts' boarding school in Mitcham, Surrey, then at Eton from 1812 to 1817 before being tutored for a year by the Rev. Edward Maltby, Vicar of Buckton and future Bishop of Durham. At Eton Pusey had the reputation of being studious and kind, as well as reserved and non-athletic.

In January 1819, Pusey went up to Christ Church, Oxford. In 1822 he received a first-class degree and met his future great friend, John Henry Newman. In 1825, Pusey was elected a fellow of Oriel College, which was then known as the most intellectually rigorous college in Oxford. As a fellow, his closest friends were Edward Hawkins, who later became provost of Oriel and an opponent of the Oxford Movement; Newman, with whom he initially lodged in the same building on the High Street; and Richard William Jelf, the future principal of King's College, London. Keble left Oxford for the life of a rural parson shortly after Pusey's election, but the two men became acquainted when Keble periodically returned to Oxford.

In June 1825, Pusey left for Germany in order to study at first-hand the rising liberal and biblically critical theology there, one of very few Englishmen to do so at the time. In Berlin, he met the leading theologians contributing to the construction of liberal Protestantism, Augustus Tholuck and Friederich Schleiermacher. After five months in Germany, Pusey returned again in June of 1826 to study first Syriac and Chaldee, and then Arabic as well as modern German theology. This time Pusey stayed for a year, returning to England in June 1827 where he was ordained in the Church of England in 1828. The culmination of Pusey's academic career came early in his life, with his appointment in 1828 as Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford and canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. He held both posts until his death in 1882.

Pusey's young adulthood was marked by frequent periods of ill-health severe enough to make him unable to work, and by a burgeoning but difficult relationship with Maria Barker, whom he had met in 1818. Opposition to their marriage from both sets of parents ensured a lengthy courtship, and it was not until after the death of Mr Barker that Pusey and Maria became engaged in the autumn of 1827 and married in April 1828. The marriage – which lasted until Maria died in 1839 and which produced four children (three of whom died during Pusey's lifetime) – has been characterized by Pusey's biographers (even the sympathetic Liddon) as the gradual domination of Edward over Maria, as he turned her from a gay and religiously questioning young woman to an orthodox Anglican and strict parent.

As one of the prominent leaders of the Oxford Movement, Pusey's adult life was marked by the Tractarian agenda to assert the Catholic identity of the Church of England. Pusey was not one of the initial contributors to the series known as Tracts for the Times instigated by Newman, which marked the beginning of the Tractarian Movement, or the Catholic Revival of the Church of England. His first contribution was Tracts 67–69 in 1835, Scriptural Views of Holy Baptism (followed by Tract 70, an appendix to these tracts); the following year he contributed Tract 81, a catena of authorities on the Eucharist. These lengthy tracts altered the nature of the tracts from short pithy pamphlets.

The 1840s were a difficult period for Pusey. The storm of protest generated by Tract 90 (1841), in which Newman argued that the Thirty-Nine Articles were compatible with the doctrines of the Council of Trent, dismayed Pusey and led to Newman's resignation from the university church of St Mary the Virgin and his withdrawal to live in quasi-monastic retirement in the nearby village of Littlemore. In the midst of this controversy, Pusey created his own when he preached a sermon on The Holy Eucharist a Comfort to the Penitent at Eastertime 1843. As a result of his advocating the Eucharistic doctrine of the Real Presence in this sermon, Pusey was suspended for two years from preaching before the University of Oxford. This sentence effectively barred him from preaching in any Anglican church. However, when he returned to the pulpit, he continued to preach on the doctrine of the Real Presence and to encourage others to do so, as well. In 1845, Newman's slow withdrawal from the Church of England was completed by his conversion to Roman Catholicism. His defection meant that Pusey effectively lost one of his closest friends and had to assume leadership of the Movement, Keble having left the university in 1835, although he held the non-resident post of Professor of Poetry until 1841. Pusey and Newman continued to correspond for the next two decades, but they did not meet again until 1865 at Keble's house.

* * *

Pusey was one of the earliest supporters of Anglican sisterhoods, because he believed in female vocations and because he thought that the Church of England needed to provide support to women who chose not to marry. His endorsement of the vowed religious life began at home, when his eldest daughter, Lucy, expressed a desire to lead a single life dedicated to God. When she died in 1844, Pusey saw his efforts to encourage the establishment of Anglican sisterhoods as part of her legacy. He encouraged the founding of the first Anglican sisterhood, the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross at Park Village, Regent's Park, in 1845. He was also significantly involved in the establishment of the Society of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Trinity at Devonport and Plymouth in 1848 under the direction of the formidable Priscilla Lydia Sellon. These two orders merged in 1856 under Sellon's leadership as the Society of the Most Holy Trinity, eventually based at Ascot Priory, and were dedicated to nursing and the care of children.

Pusey's support for Anglican sisterhoods stemmed from many of his concerns, including the high value he placed on chastity, the concern that Anglicans would convert to Roman Catholicism if the established church did not offer attractive options, a willingness to work outside episcopal authority, and a belief in a hierarchical society that coexisted with his view that a call to a holy life could be heard by women as well as men. However, not all Victorians shared Pusey's belief in the need for sisterhoods, and as a consequence these orders were very controversial, primarily because they seemed to encourage Roman Catholic–like practices and so lead to (in the minds of the most suspicious) the overtaking of the Church of England by Roman Catholicism. They also challenged Victorian ideals of family life, where women were expected to be under the supervision of an appropriate male. In addition, bishops tended to be sceptical of the sisterhoods because they operated to some degree outside of episcopal control.

In 1839 Maria Pusey died, and Pusey interpreted the sad event as a punishment for his sinfulness. In compensation, he became the anonymous donor for the building of a church, St Saviour's, in Leeds, a project supervised by his friend Walter Farquhar Hook, Vicar of Leeds. The first controversy associated with the church was Pusey's desire that the injunction, 'Ye who enter this holy place, pray for the sinner who built it', be placed over the entrance to the church. Although this seemed to some to imply sanctioning prayers for the dead, Charles Taylor Longley, Bishop of Ripon (and later Bishop of Durham [1856], Archbishop of York [1860] and Archbishop of Canterbury [1862]), eventually allowed it on the grounds that the donor (represented as a friend of Pusey's who wished to remain anonymous) was still alive. Given the controversies associated with Tract 90, Pusey was advised by Hook not to lay the first stone, the ritual instead being performed quietly by Hook in September 1842. The design and construction of the church – including whether to have an altar or a moveable 'holy table' and the content of some of the windows – caused controversy with the bishop, who initially refused to consecrate the church. A longer-running controversy was the association of the new church with ritualism and ensuing conversions to Roman Catholicism, an association that appeared to be validated by the two main series of conversions, one in 1847 and the other in 1851. While Pusey was never a ritualist, in the popular mind there was no distinction between 'Puseyism' and ritualism, and so he was condemned for practices he did not necessarily support. The ritualism and conversions at St Saviour's also caused a breach in the friendship between Pusey and Hook which was not healed until both were old men.

Pusey's relations with Roman Catholics were marked by ambivalence as well as by controversy. Since his involvement with the Oxford Movement he had been pilloried in the press as a secret Roman Catholic leading others to Rome. The reality, of course, was more complex. While Pusey desired and worked towards reunion, he also had deep reservations about aspects of Roman Catholicism. His involvement – indeed, his inception – of the Eirenicon controversy demonstrates this. Even when he met Newman at Hursley Vicarage in September 1865, Pusey was working on an Anglican response to the prominent Roman Catholic convert, Henry Edward Manning, whose book, The Workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church of England (1864), argued that the Holy Spirit was not much in evidence in the church of Manning's birth. Pusey's response was published in 1865 as The Church of England a Portion of Christ's One Holy Catholic Church, and a Means of Restoring Visible Unity: An Eirenicon in a Letter to the Author of 'The Christian Year'. While his professed intent was, Pusey said, to determine the areas of agreement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, his condemnation of Roman Catholic devotional practices was not seen as especially eirenic, even by Keble. Newman famously chided his friend that 'you discharge your olive branch as if from a catapult'. Newman, who had been initially hesitant to enter the controversy, responded almost immediately, delineating doctrines from devotional practices, and Continental practices from English ones, in A Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D., on Occasion of his Eirenicon (1865). Pusey then responded directly to his old friend with his First Letter to the Very Rev. J. H. Newman, D.D., in Explanation Chiefly in Regard to the Reverential Love due to the Ever-blessed Theotokos, and the Doctrine of her Immaculate Conception (1869). This work focused more on the debate over Marian devotional practices, and Pusey followed it in 1870 with Is Healthful Reunion Possible?, a second letter to Newman.

In the latter part of his life, Pusey was involved in yet further controversies, including, in 1863, his leadership of the fight to prevent Charles Kingsley from receiving an honorary degree from Oxford, on the grounds that Kingsley's novel Hypatia (1853) was immoral. Longer-lasting was Pusey's outspoken support of the practice of auricular confession and his defence of the compulsory use of the Athanasian Creed in public worship by the Church of England. The optional use of the creed, which became problematic as a result of its damnatory clauses, had been recommended by the Royal Commission on Ritual established in 1867. Pusey was prominent in the battle by conservatives to retain the creed without adaptation, which was ultimately agreed to by both houses of the Convocation of Canterbury in 1873. Pusey's stand in this instance reunited him, to some extent, with the non-Anglo-Catholic High Churchmen, who had been alienated from him over the Romanist tendencies of Anglo-Catholics he was seen to lead.

Where Pusey was, ultimately, more out of step with the historical developments of the later Victorian period was in his repudiation of the methods of biblical criticism. These were moderately upheld by the contributors to Essays and Reviews (1860), resulting in a vociferous conservative reaction by the majority of Anglican clergy, including a number of bishops. Biblical criticism was ultimately to be accepted by the rising generation of Anglo-Catholics and younger High Churchmen in the publication of the essays from theologians of these groups known as Lux Mundi in 1889. But to the end of his life Pusey opposed such treatment of the Bible on the grounds that liberal criticism undermined the doctrines of the inspiration of scripture and everlasting punishment. Ultimately he saw biblical criticism as one aspect of the liberal attack on Christianity as a divinely revealed religion.

By the late 1870s Pusey's health was beginning to fail. He was increasingly deaf, and most of his own generation had already died, including Keble in 1866. His son, Philip, died in 1880. Pusey remained much concerned about the Public Worship Regulation Act, passed in 1874 to regulate the activities of the more extreme Anglo-Catholics and inspired by Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Act failed when it was discovered that such Anglo-Catholics willingly went to prison for breaking the law rather than abandon or moderate their practices. Pusey was still able to issue a number of public statements in support of such priests, but by his 82nd birthday he was clearly failing. He died at Ascot Priory on 16 September 1882, and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, beside the bodies of his wife and two daughters.


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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements, vii,
Notes on Contributors, ix,
Chapter One Introduction Rowan Strong and Carol Engelhardt Herringer, 1,
Chapter Two The History of the History of Pusey Ian McCormack, 13,
Chapter Three Editing Liddon: From Biography to Hagiography? K. E. Macnab, 31,
Chapter Four From Modern-Orthodox Protestantism to Anglo-Catholicism: An Enquiry into the Probable Causes of the Revolution of Pusey's Theology Albrecht Geck, 49,
Chapter Five Defining the Church: Pusey's Ecclesiology and its Eighteenth-Century Antecedents R. Barry Levis, 67,
Chapter Six Pusey's Eucharistic Doctrine Carol Engelhardt Herringer, 91,
Chapter Seven Pusey, Alexander Forbes and the First Vatican Council Mark Chapman, 115,
Chapter Eight Pusey and the Scottish Episcopal Church: Tractarian Diversity and Divergence Rowan Strong, 133,
Bibliography, 149,
Index, 161,

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‘In a wide-ranging set of essays that are both scholarly and accessible, the authors make a persuasive case for a reassessment of Pusey’s life and significance. He emerges from these pages a greater theologian and a more sympathetic human being than he is usually considered to be. This is an exciting contribution to our understanding of the High Church Revival in Anglicanism, and a provocative and important study of one of its greatest figures.’ —Reverend Dr Jeremy Morris, Dean, King’s College, University of Cambridge

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