1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Creighton, Mandell

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
5968391911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 7 — Creighton, Mandell

CREIGHTON, MANDELL (1843–1901), English historian and bishop of London, was born at Carlisle on the 5th of July 1843, being the eldest son of Robert Creighton, a well-to-do upholsterer of that city. He was educated at Durham grammar school and at Merton College, Oxford, where he was elected to a postmastership in 1862. He obtained a first-class in literae humaniores, and a second in law and modern history in 1866. In the same year he became tutor and fellow of Merton. He was ordained deacon, on his fellowship, in 1870, and priest in 1873; in 1872 he had married Louise, daughter of Robert von Glehn, a London merchant (herself a writer of several successful books of history). Meanwhile he had published several small historical works; but his college and university duties left little time for writing, and in 1875 he accepted the vicarage of Embleton, a parish on the coast of Northumberland, near Dunstanburgh, with an ancient and beautiful church and a fortified parsonage house, and within reach of the fine library in Bamburgh Keep. Here he remained for nearly ten years, acquiring that experience of parochial work which afterwards stood him in good stead, taking private pupils, studying and writing, as well as taking an active part in diocesan business. Here too he planned and wrote the first two volumes of his chief historical work, the History of the Papacy; and it was in part this which led to his being elected in 1884 to the newly-founded Dixie professorship of ecclesiastical history at Cambridge, where he went into residence early in 1885. At Cambridge his influence at once made itself felt, especially in the reorganization of the historical school. His lectures and conversation classes were extraordinarily good, possessing as he did the rare gift of kindling the enthusiasm without curbing the individuality of his pupils. In 1886 he combined with other leading historians to found the English Historical Review, of which he was editor for five years. Meanwhile the vacations were spent at Worcester, where he had been nominated a canon residentiary in 1885. In 1891 he was made canon of Windsor; but he never went into residence, being appointed in the same year to the see of Peterborough. He threw himself with characteristic energy into his new work, visiting, preaching and lecturing in every part of his diocese. He also found time to preach and lecture elsewhere, and to deliver remarkable speeches at social functions; he worked hard with Archbishop Benson on the Parish Councils Bill (1894); he became the first president of the Church Historical Society (1894), and continued in that office till his death; he took part in the Laud Commemoration (1895); he represented the English Church at the coronation of the tsar (1896). He even found time for academical work, delivering the Hulsean lectures (1893–1894) and the Rede lecture (1894) at Cambridge, and the Romanes lecture at Oxford (1896).

In 1897, on the translation of Dr Temple to Canterbury, Bishop Creighton was transferred to London. During Dr Temple’s episcopate ritual irregularities of all kinds had grown up, which left a very difficult task to his successor, more especially in view of the growing public agitation on the subject, of which he had to bear the brunt. As was only natural, his studied fairness did not satisfy partisans on either side; and his efforts towards conciliation laid him open to much misunderstanding. His administration, none the less, did much to preserve peace. He strained every nerve to induce his clergy to accept his ruling on the questions of the reservation of the Sacrament and of the ceremonial use of incense in accordance with the archbishop’s judgment in the Lincoln case; but when, during his last illness, a prosecutor brought proceedings against the clergy of five recalcitrant churches, the bishop, on the advice of his archdeacons, interposed his veto. One other effort on behalf of peace may be mentioned. In accordance with a vote of the diocesan conference, the bishop arranged the “Round Table Conference” between representative members of various parties, held at Fulham in October 1900, on “the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist and its expression in ritual,” and a report of its proceedings was published with a preface by him. The true work of his episcopate was, however, positive, not negative. He was an excellent administrator; and his wide knowledge, broad sympathies, and sound common sense, though they placed him outside the point of view common to most of his clergy, made him an invaluable guide in correcting their too often indiscreet zeal. He fully realized the special position of the English Church in Christendom, and firmly maintained its essential teaching. Yet he was no narrow Anglican. His love for the English Church never blinded him to its faults, and no man was less insular than he. As he was a historian before he became a bishop, so it was his historical sense which determined his general attitude as a bishop. It was this, together with a certain native taste for ecclesiastical pomp, which made him—while condemning the unhistorical extravagances of the ultra-ritualists—himself a ritualist. He was the first bishop of London, since the Reformation, to “pontificate” in a mitre as well as the cope, and though no man could have been less essentially “sacerdotal” he was always careful of correct ceremonial usage. His interests and his sympathies, however, extended far beyond the limits of the church. He took a foremost part in almost every good work in his diocese, social or educational, political or religious; while he found time also to cultivate friendly relations with thinking men and women of all schools, and to help all and sundry who came to him for advice and assistance. It was this multiplicity of activities and interests that proved fatal to him. By degrees the work, and especially the routine work, began to tell on him. He fell seriously ill in the late summer of 1900, and died on the 14th of January 1901. He was buried in St Paul’s cathedral, where a statue surmounts his tomb.

He was a man of striking presence and distinguished by a fine courtesy of manner. His irrepressible and often daring humour, together with his frank distaste for much conventional religious phraseology, was a stumbling-block to some pious people. But beneath it all lay a deep seriousness of purpose and a firm faith in what to him were the fundamental truths of religion.

Bishop Creighton’s principal published works are: History of the Papacy during the Period of the Reformation (5 vols., 1882–1897, new ed.); History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome (6 vols., 1897); The Early Renaissance in England (1895); Cardinal Wolsey (1895); Life of Simon de Montfort (1876, new ed. 1895); Queen Elizabeth (1896). He also edited the series of Epochs of English History, for which he wrote “The Age of Elizabeth” (13th ed., 1897); Historical Lectures and Addresses by Mandell Creighton, &c., edited by Mrs Creighton, were published in 1903.

See Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton, &c., by his wife (2 vols., 1904); and the article “Creighton and Stubbs” in Church Quarterly Review for Oct. 1905.