Bird, Charles Smith (DNB00)

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BIRD, CHARLES SMITH (1795–1862), theological writer, has written his own biography. He traces his descent from John Bird [q. v.], the first protestant bishop of Chester and prior of the Carmelite monks in the reign of Henry VIII. The father of Charles Smith Bird was a West Indian merchant, who was taken prisoner in one of his voyages during the war of American independence. He was of a highly religious character, objecting, for instance, to his children reading Shakespeare. He died in 1814. Charles Smith was the last but one of six children, born in Union Street, Liverpool, 28 May 1795. After attending several private schools, he was articled to a firm of conveyancing solicitors at Liverpool in 1812. His leisure time was spent at the Athenæum reading-room in the study of theology. He returned to school at Dr. Davies's, of Macclesfield, in 1815, and thence went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he ‘chose no companion unless there was christianity in him.’ He became a scholar of Trinity in 1818, was third wrangler in 1820, and elected a fellow of his college. He was then ordained and became curate of Burghfield, six miles from Reading. He took a house at Culverlands, near Burghfield, in 1823. He added to his income by taking pupils, a practice he continued for twenty years. One of them was Lord Macaulay. On 24 June of this year he was married to Margaret Wrangham, of Bowdon, Cheshire. He now frequently sent contributions to the ‘Christian Observer,’ edited by Mr. Cunningham. It was against the Irish educational measures that he wrote his ‘Call to the Protestants of England,’ now inserted among his poems. In 1839 Bird edited a monthly periodical called the ‘Reading Church Guardian,’ in the interests of protestant truth. The publication languished for a year and then died. In 1840 Bird became a sort of Sunday curate to a Mr. Briscoe at Sulhamstead. Having given up his house at Burghfield, he was glad to accept the curacy of Fawley, some three miles from Henley-on-Thames. In 1843 he secured the vicarage of Gainsborough, to which was attached a prebendal stall of Lincoln. In this old-fashioned market town Bird passed many happy years. His course of life was regular and tranquil. Occasionally he lectured at the Gainsborough Literary and Mechanics' Institute on natural history, English literature, and other subjects of interest. In the summer of 1844 he went to Scotland, and in the next year preached before Cambridge university four sermons on the parable of the sower. About this time the proposal for the admission of Jews into parliament aroused Bird's indignation. His ‘Call to Britain to remember the Fate of Jerusalem,’ one of his longer poems, may be read with interest. In 1849 the cholera ravaged Gainsborough. Bird assiduously and bravely administered to the wants of the sufferers. His conduct was marked by exemplary devotion to the wants of his parishioners, to his own great and abiding honour. In 1852 Bird suffered himself a severe illness. In 1859 he was appointed chancellor of the cathedral of Lincoln, and left Gainsborough. He died at the Chancery, aged 67. The grateful people of Gainsborough decorated their church with a painted window in his memory. He was buried in the country churchyard of Riseholme.

Bird was an ardent entomologist, and had managed to satisfy himself that insects were almost, if not entirely, destitute of feeling; yet he would not allow any to be killed by his children until he was convinced of their rarity. He became a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1828. There is an excellent article of his in the ‘Entomological Magazine’ for August 1833, and the Liverpool feather-horned Tinea, or Lepidocera Birdella, was honoured by Curtis with his name. As a proof of his conscientiousness we read in his ‘Diary’ that when young he embezzled 6d., and spent it in pegtops and lollipops. His modesty prevented him from forming many acquaintances. Among his friends were Sir Claudius S. Hunter, bart., of Mortimer, Berkshire, Rev. G. Hutton, rector of Gate-Burton, Alfred Ollivant, D.D., regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, and the Rev. J. Jones, of Repton.

Besides sermons he published: 1. ‘For Ever, and other Devotional Poems,’ 1833. 2. ‘The Oxford Tract System considered with reference to the principle of Reserve in Preaching,’ 1838. 3. ‘Transubstantiation tried by Scripture and Reason, addressed to the Protestant inhabitants of Reading, in consequence of the attempts recently made to introduce Romanism amongst them,’ 1839. 4. ‘A Plea for the Reformed Church, or Observations on a plain and most important declaration of the Tractarians in the “British Critic” for July,’ 1841. 5. ‘The Baptismal Privileges, the Baptismal Vow, and the Means of Grace, as they are set forth in the Church Catechism, considered in six Lent Lectures preached at Sulhamstead, Berks,’ 1841; 2nd ed. 1843. 6. ‘A Defence of the Principles of the English Reformation from the Attacks of the Tractarians; or a Second Plea for the Reformed Church,’ 1843. 7. ‘The Parable of the Sower, four Sermons preached before the University of Cambridge in May 1845.’ 8. ‘The Dangers attending an immediate Revival of Convocation detailed in a letter to the Rev. G. Hutton, rector of Gate-Burton,’ 1852. 9. ‘The Sacramental and Priestly System examined; or Strictures on Archdeacon Wilberforce's Works on the Incarnation and Eucharist,’ 1854. 10. ‘The Eve of the Crucifixion,’ 1858.

[Gent. Mag. (1862), ii. 755; Brit. Mus. Catal.; Bird's Sketches, &c.]

J. M.