1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ward, William George
|←Ward, William||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28
Ward, William George
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WARD, WILLIAM GEORGE (1812-1882), English Roman Catholic theologian, was born on the 21st of March 1812. His career is extremely interesting as illustrating the development of religious opinion at a remarkable crisis in the history of English religious thought. Ward is described by his son and biographer as somewhat unequally gifted by nature. For pure mathematics he had a special gift almost a passion. For history, applied mathematics for anything, in fact, outside the exact sciences he felt something approaching to contempt. He was endowed with a strong sense of humour and a love of paradox carried to an extreme. He went up to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1830, but his father's subsequent pecuniary embarrassments compelled him in 1833 to try for a scholarship at Lincoln College, which he succeeded in obtaining. His examination for mathematical honours exhibited some of the peculiarities of his character and mental powers. Four out. of his five papers on applied mathematics were sent up absolutely blank. Honours, however, were not refused him, and in 1834 he obtained an open fellowship at Balliol. In the previous year the Tractarian movement had commenced, and Ward's relations with that movement were as original as the rest of his life. He was attracted to it by his hatred of moderation and what he called “respectability” in any shape — a characteristic of which some amusing instances have been handed down. He was repelled from it by the conception he had formed of the character of Newman, whom he regarded as a mere antiquary. When, however, he was at length persuaded by a friend to go and hear Newman preach, he at once became a disciple. But he had, as Newman afterwards said of him, “struck into the movement at an angle.” He had no taste for historical investigations. He treated the question at issue as one of pure logic, and disliking the Reformers, the right of private judgment which Protestants claimed, and the somewhat prosaic uniformity of the English Church, he flung himself into a general campaign against Protestantism in general and the Anglican form of it in particular. He nevertheless took deacon's orders in 1838 and priest's orders in 1840.
In 1839 Ward became the editor of the British Critic, the organ of the Tractarian party, and he excited suspicion among the adherents of the Tractarians themselves by his violent denunciations of the Church to which he still belonged. In 1841 he urged the publication of the celebrated “Tract XC.,” and wrote in defence of it. From that period Ward and his associates worked undisguisedly for union with the Church of Rome, and in 1844 he published his Ideal of a Christian Church, in which he openly contended that the only hope for the Church of England lay in submission to the Church of Rome. This publication brought to a height the storm which had long been gathering. The university of Oxford was invited, on the 13th of February 1845, to condemn “Tract XC.,” to censure the Ideal, and to degrade Ward from his degrees. The two latter propositions were carried and “Tract XC.” only escaped censure by the non placet of the proctors, Guillemard and Church. The condemnation precipitated an exodus to Rome. Ward left the Church of England in September 1845, and was followed by many others, including Newman himself. After his reception into the Church of Rome, Ward gave himself up to ethics, metaphysics and moral philosophy. He wrote articles on free will, the philosophy of theism, on science, prayer and miracles for the Dublin Review. He also dealt with the condemnation of Pope Honorius, carried on a controversial correspondence with John Stuart Mill, and took a leading part in the discussions of the Metaphysical Society, founded by Mr James Knowles, of which Tennyson, Huxley and Martineau were also prominent members. He was a vehement opponent of Liberal Catholicism. In 1851 he was made professor of moral philosophy at St Edmund's College, Ware, and was advanced to the chair of dogmatic theology in 1852. In 1868 he became editor of the Dublin Review. He gave a vigorous support to the promulgation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility in 1870. After his admission into the Roman Catholic Church he had, rather to the dismay of his friends, entered the married state, and for a time had to struggle with poverty. But his circumstances afterwards improved. He died on the 6th of July 1882. (J. J. L.*)
See William George Ward and the Oxford Movement (1889); and William George Ward and the Catholic Revival (1893), by his son, Wilfrid Philip Ward (b. 1856), who has also written the Life and Times of Cardinal Wiseman; and Ten Personal Studies (1908).