Tulk, Charles Augustus (DNB00)

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TULK, CHARLES AUGUSTUS (1786–1849), Swedenborgian, eldest son of John Augustus Tulk, was born at Richmond, Surrey, on 2 June 1786. His father, a man of independent fortune, was an original member of the ‘Theosophical Society’ formed (December 1783) by Robert Hindmarsh [q. v.] for the study of Swedenborg's writings. Tulk was educated at Westminster school, of which he became captain, and was famed for his excellent voice in the abbey choir. He was elected a king's scholar in 1801, and matriculated as a scholar from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1805. Leaving the university, he began to read for the bar, but, having ample means, he married early and followed no profession. In 1810 he assisted, with John Flaxman [q. v.] in founding the London ‘society’ for publishing Swedenborg's works, served on its committee till 1843, and often presided at its annual dinners [cf. art. Spurgin, John]. He never joined the ‘new church’ or had any connection with its ‘conference.’ After leaving Cambridge he rarely attended public worship, but conducted a service in his own family, using no prayer but the paternoster. He became connected with the ‘Hawkstone meeting,’ projected by George Harrison, translator of many of Swedenborg's Latin treatises, fostered by John Clowes [q. v.] and held annually in July for over fifty years from 1806, in an inn at Hawkstone Park, Shropshire. Tulk presided in 1814, and at intervals till 1830. In social matters he early took part in efforts for bettering the condition of factory hands, aiding the movement by newspaper articles. He was returned to parliament for Sudbury on 7 March 1820, and retained his seat till 1826; later, on 7 Jan. 1835, he was returned for Poole, retiring from parliament at the dissolution in 1837. His political views brought him into close friendship with Joseph Hume [q. v.] He was an active county magistrate for Middlesex (1836–47), and took special interest in the management of prisons and asylums, acting (1839–47) as chairman of committee of the Hanwell asylum. From capital punishment he was strongly averse.

Tulk turned to physical science, particularly to chemistry and physiology, partly in order to combat materialism on its own ground. He corresponded with Spurzheim, and was intimate with Coleridge. He devoted much time to the elaboration of a rational mysticism, which he found below the surface of Swedenborg's writings, as their underlying religious philosophy. He contributed for some years to the ‘Intellectual Repository,’ started in 1812 under the editorship of Samuel Noble [q. v.] His separate publications were ‘The Record of Family Instruction’ (1832; revised, 1889, as ‘The Science of Correspondency,’ by Charles Pooley), an exposition of the Lord's Prayer (1842), and ‘Aphorisms’ (1843). His papers in the ‘New Church Advocate’ (1846) were much controverted. He began the serial publication of a magnum opus, ‘Spiritual Christianity’ (1846–7), but did not live to finish it. In 1847 he went to Italy, returning in the autumn of 1848. He died at 25 Craven Street, London, on 16 Jan. 1849, and was buried in Brompton cemetery. He married (September 1807) Susannah Hart (d. October 1824), daughter of a London merchant, and had twelve children, of whom five sons and two daughters survived him.

[Brief Sketch, by Mary C. Hume, 1850, enlarged edition, by C. Pooley, 1890; White's Swedenborg, 1867, ii. 599, 616 sq.; Compton's Life of Clowes, 1874, pp. 84, 144 sq.; Welch's Alumni Westmonast. p. 464; Barker and Stenning's Westminster School Reg., 1892; Official Returns of Members of Parliament.]

A. G.