Tomline, George Pretyman (DNB00)
|←Tomkis, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57
Tomline, George Pretyman
|Tomlins, Frederick Guest→|
|1904 Errata appended.|
TOMLINE, Sir GEORGE PRETYMAN (1750–1827), tutor of the younger Pitt, and bishop of Winchester, was the son of George Pretyman of Bury St. Edmunds, by his wife Susan, daughter of John Hubbard. His father represented an ancient and respectable Suffolk family which had held land at Bacton in Suffolk from the fifteenth century. Tomline (who until 1803 bore the name of Pretyman) was born at Bury St. Edmunds on 9 Oct. 1750, and educated at the grammar school at that town and at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in mathematics, being senior wrangler and Smith's prizeman in 1772. He graduated B.A. in 1772, and was appointed fellow and shortly afterwards tutor of his college in 1773.
On William Pitt being sent to the university at the early age of fourteen, Tomline was appointed his tutor, probably on the recommendation of the master of Pembroke Hall. Pitt early developed a close friendship with his tutor (letter of Pitt to Pretyman, 7 Oct. 1774, Orwell Collection), which he maintained till his death, and which established Tomline's fortune. In 1775 Tomline proceeded M.A., and was appointed moderator of the university in 1781. He took an active part in the Cambridge election in September 1780, when Pitt failed to win the university seat (Cambridge Poll Books, Orwell Collection), and went to London with Pitt and Pitt's elder brother, Lord Chatham, after the loss of the election. On Pitt's appointment in December 1783 as first lord of the treasury, Tomline became his private secretary, but did not at first bear the name of secretary, as the minister thought it might be detrimental to him in his profession. He continued in this position until 1787. In 1782 he was collated to the sinecure rectory of Corwen, Merionethshire; in 1784 was appointed to a prebendal stall at Westminster, and the same year was created D.D. In 1785 he was presented by George III to the rectory of Sudbourn-cum-Offord, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Tomline's mathematical abilities enabled him to be of great service to Pitt during the conduct of the latter's financial proposals. He formulated the objections to Richard Price's scheme for the reduction of the national debt, and performed most of the calculation involved in Pitt's plan for the same purpose. In January 1787 Tomline succeeded Thurlow as bishop of Lincoln and dean of St. Paul's. It is said that on Pitt's application on behalf of his friend the king remarked, ‘Too young, too young; can't have it!’ but that on the minister replying that had it not been for Tomline he would not have been in office, the king answered, ‘He shall have it, Pitt; he shall have it, Pitt!’ Though Tomline ceased to act as secretary on taking up his episcopal residence at Buckden Palace, his very close intimacy with the prime minister was not relaxed, and he frequently visited him in London for the purpose of conferring with him and doing secretarial work for him. From 1787 to 1806 the bulk of the ecclesiastical patronage was exercised according to his advice, and his opinion on the general conduct of political affairs was generally sought and not infrequently followed by Pitt (Rose, Diary and Correspondence, i. 323).
In 1799 Tomline justified his episcopal appointment by his publication of the ‘Elements of Christian Theology’ (London, 2 vols. 8vo; 12th edit. 1818). This work, which was dedicated to Pitt, was composed for the use of candidates for ordination, the idea being suggested to the bishop owing to the ignorance displayed by most of the candidates who presented themselves to him. Though ‘without pretensions to depth or originality’ (Stebbing, preface to ed. Elements of Christian Theology), the work became very popular and went through many editions. It was revised by Henry Stebbing (1799–1883) [q. v.] in 1843. Several abridgments appeared, and the first volume was published alone in 1801 and 1875 under the title ‘An Introduction to the Study of the Bible.’ On the question of catholic emancipation Tomline took up so strong an attitude that he was prepared to oppose the measure even if brought in by his patron (letter, Mrs. Tomline to Tomline, 8 Feb. 1801, Orwell Collection), but on his urging his arguments on Pitt ‘did not seem to make much impression on this point’ (Rose, Diary and Correspondence, i. 443).
Tomline was much opposed to Pitt's negotiations and intimate relationship with Addington in 1801 (letter to Rose, 19 Nov. 1801, Orwell Collection). Addington he appears to have despised and distrusted, and he did all in his power, eventually with success, to induce Pitt to withdraw his support from the ministry. He was especially anxious that all matters in doubt between the king and Pitt at this period should be cleared up, and suggested the wording of Pitt's guarantee to the king never during his majesty's life to bring forward the catholic question (Rose, Correspondence, i. 407). When in 1801 the question arose among his most intimate friends as to how provision should be made to meet Pitt's most pressing debts, Tomline undertook the task, and somewhat nervously broached the subject at a tête-à-tête dinner with the ex-minister. He successfully arranged this delicate matter, and himself contributed 1,000l.
In June 1803 the bishop of Lincoln took the name of Tomline on a considerable estate at Riby in Lincolnshire being left him by the will of Marmaduke Tomline. Between the testator and legatee there was no relationship, and but very slight acquaintance, the bishop not having seen Tomline more than five or six times in his life (letter to Mrs. Tomline, 23 June 1803, Orwell Collection).
On the approaching death of John Moore (1730–1805) [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, Pitt was anxious that Tomline should be appointed, but clearly anticipated a struggle with the king (letter to Mrs. Tomline, 21 Jan. 1805). There are numerous stories as to what was said at the final interview between sovereign and minister on this subject. According to Lord Malmesbury, the king remarked that if a private secretary of a first minister was to be put at the head of the church, he should have all his bishops party men (Lord Malmesbury, Diaries, iv. 383). Lord Sidmouth told Dean Milman that such strong language had rarely ever passed between a sovereign and his minister. Tomline's account of what happened, written to his wife immediately after seeing Pitt on his return from Windsor (23 Jan. 1804), was that the king said he should not feel himself to be king if he could not appoint the archbishop, and that he considered it his duty to appoint the person he thought fittest. The king secured his own way, and Charles Manners-Sutton (1755–1828) [q. v.] was appointed.
Tomline was with Pitt for the last two days of his life and attended him on his deathbed; the dying statesman's last instructions, under which the bishop was left literary executor, were taken down by Tomline and signed by Pitt (original document in the Orwell Collection), and his last words to the bishop, ‘I cannot sufficiently thank you for all your kindness to me throughout life,’ exhibit the deep and lasting character of their friendship. Though by Pitt's death Tomline's intimate connection with politics came to an end, his advice and assistance were sought by Lord Grenville, with whom he continued in confidential communication.
In 1811 he continued the campaign against Calvinistic doctrines, which he had begun in his episcopal charge in 1803, by the publication of ‘A Refutation of Calvinism.’ The work was widely read, and reached an eighth edition in 1823; it drew its author into controversy with Thomas Scott (1747–1821) [q. v.], Edward Williams (1750–1813), and anonymous writers. In his episcopal charge in 1812 Tomline still showed himself strongly opposed to Roman catholic emancipation, upholding the view that Roman catholic opinions were incompatible with the safety of the constitution, and he wrote to Lord Liverpool desiring to set on foot petitions against the measure, which action the government deprecated. On the death of John Randolph (1749–1813) [q. v.] in 1813 Tomline was offered the see of London by Lord Liverpool, but refused it, as he felt the need of relief from episcopal work which the bishopric of London could not afford. In 1820 he was appointed bishop of Winchester, and at the same time vacated the deanery of St. Paul's.
The memoir of Pitt by Tomline, extending only to 1793, in two quarto volumes, appeared in 1821; a second edition, in three octavo volumes, appeared in 1822. In the preface the author speaks of his qualifications for his task from his long intimacy with Pitt. Much was expected of the work owing to Tomline's unique opportunities of knowledge, and the fact that Pitt's correspondence was in his possession; but Tomline altogether disappointed public expectation by the scanty use he made of Pitt's letters (Quart. Rev. xxxvi. 286). In the opinion of the Edinburgh reviewer the work was ‘composed, not by means of his lordship's memory, but of his scissors.’ Another volume promised in the preface, and which was to deal mainly with Pitt's private life, never appeared, but the bulk of the manuscript for this final volume is among the other Pitt papers at Orwell Park. Tomline's extreme caution made him unwilling to print the work. Writing to his son on 4 Sept. 1822, he says he had made sufficient progress to show him that he must either not tell the whole truth of 1802 or not have the work published till Lord Sidmouth's death; the same, he was sure, would be the case with respect to Lord Grenville in 1803. Though not as interesting as it might have been, the memoir was accurate, and went through four editions. In his account of Pitt's policy in 1791 and of the negotiations between Great Britain and Russia with regard to the conditions of peace between Russia and Turkey, Tomline repeated the severe attack made on Fox by Burke in his observations on the conduct of a minority (published 1793), declaring that the truth of Burke's assertions was proved by authentic documents among Pitt's papers (Memoir of Pitt, ii. 445). This statement was challenged by Robert (afterwards Sir Robert) Adair on 23 May 1821, who denied that he had acted in 1791 as Fox's emissary at the court of St. Petersburg. As Tomline, in the controversy which ensued, fell back upon Burke's authority and Pitt's speeches without quoting the ‘authentic documents,’ Adair's defence of Fox and himself gained credence (Lecky, History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. v.; Stanhope, Life of Pitt, ii. 120). Copies, however, of letters, partially in cipher, from Adair at St. Petersburg to Fox and others, of such a character as to justify, if not conclusively to prove, Tomline's statements and inferences, were at the time when he wrote in his possession, and possibly were not published owing to some pledge having been given to the person through whose agency they were secured (copies of these letters are among the Pitt papers at Orwell Park).
In 1823 Tomline established his claim to a Nova Scotia baronetcy which, on the death of Sir Thomas Pretyman in 1749, had been allowed to lapse (Genealogist, iv. 373), and was served heir male in general on 22 March 1823. Henceforward to the end of his life he was known as Sir George Pretyman Tomline; his eldest son, however, on succeeding to the estates, laid no claim to this honour.
Tomline died on 14 Nov. 1827 at Kingston Hall, Wimborne, the house of his friend Henry Bankes. He was buried in Winchester Cathedral, near the western end of the south aisle. He married in 1784 Elizabeth, eldest daughter and coheir of Thomas Maltby of Germans, Buckinghamshire, a woman of considerable ability and character, who was informed and consulted by her husband on all important political matters in which he was engaged. By her the bishop had three sons: William Edward Tomline, M.P. for Truro; George Thomas Pretyman, chancellor of Lincoln and prebendary of Winchester; and Richard Pretyman, precentor of Lincoln. There is a portrait of Tomline, by J. Jackson, now in the possession of Captain Pretyman at Riby Hall, Lincolnshire; an engraving of this by H. Meyer appears in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and as a frontispiece to Cassan's ‘Bishops of Winchester.’
Tomline's political views are fairly defined by one of his biographers, who described him ‘as a supporter of the prerogative and an uncompromising friend to the existing order of things’ (Cassan, Lives of Bishops of Winchester). His judgment and prudence were fully recognised by Pitt, who admitted him to his confidence more unreservedly than any other friend.[Gent. Mag. 1828, i. 202 (with portrait); Cassan's Lives of the Bishops of Winchester; Lord Malmesbury's Diaries; Stanhope's Life of Pitt; Pellew's Life of Lord Sidmouth; Pitt Papers and private papers at Orwell Park, to which access was kindly given the writer of this article by Captain Pretyman.]
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