Browne, Edward Harold (DNB01)

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BROWNE, EDWARD HAROLD (1811–1891), successively bishop of Ely and Winchester, born on 6 March 1811 at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, was son of Colonel Robert Browne of Morton House in Buckinghamshire, who came of an Anglo-Irish family, claiming descent from Sir Anthony Browne [q. v.] His mother was Sarah Dorothea, daughter of Gabriel Steward {d. 1792) of Nottington and Melcombe, Dorset. Browne was educated at Eton and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He graduated B. A. in 1832, and then in succession carried off the Crosse theological scholarship in 1833, the Tyrwhitt Hebrew scholarship in 1834, and the Norrisian prize in 1835. He graduated M.A. in 1836, B.D. in 1856, and D.D. in 1864. For a few years he filled minor college offices, and found some difficulty in obtaining a title for holy orders; but he was ordained deacon by the bishop of Ely in 1836 and priest in 1837. In the latter year he was elected to a fellowship at his college, and in 1838 was appointed senior tutor. In June 1840 Browne resigned his fellowship, married Elizabeth, daughter of Clement Carlyon [q. v.], and accepted the sole charge of Holy Trinity, Stroud. In 1841 he moved to the perpetual curacy of St. James's, Exeter, and in 1842 to St. Sidwell's, Exeter. In 1843 he went to Wales as vice-principal of St. David's College, Lampeter; but, dissatisfied with the administration of the college, he left it in 1849 for the living of Kenwyn-cum-Kea, Cornwall, to which a prebendal stall in Exeter Cathedral was attached. In 1854 he was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge, but retained his living of Kenwyn until 1857, when he accepted the vicarage of Heavitree, Exeter, with a canonry in Exeter Cathedral. He had already published his 'Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles' (1850-3), and now, by an article on Inspiration in 'Aids to Faith' and by a reply to Colenso, 'The Pentateuch and the Elohistic Psalms' (1863), became prominent on the conservative side in the developing controversy on biblical criticism. The see of Ely falling vacant by the death of Thomas Turton [q. v.], it was offered by Lord Palmerston to Browne, and he was consecrated at Westminster Abbey on 29 March 1864. He proved himself an excellent administrator, acted as a moderating influence during the Colenso controversy and the excitement evolved by the discussion of 'Essays and Reviews,' and, in spite of much opposition, was one of the officiating prelates when Frederick (now Archbishop) Temple was consecrated for the see of Exeter in 1869. In 1873 the see of Winchester fell vacant by the death of Samuel Wilberforce [q. v.], and it was offered by Gladstone to Browne. After some hesitation he accepted translation, and was enthroned at Winchester on 11 Dec. 1873. Here, as at Ely, he sought to hold a middle course between opposing church parties. On the death of Archibald Campbell Tait [q. v.] in 1882, he entertained some hope of being appointed to Canterbury, but the queen herself wrote to Browne pointing out that 'it would be wrong to ask him to enter on new and arduous duties … at his age.' His health slowly failed; in 1890 he resigned the see, and on 18 Dec. 1891 he died at Shales, near Bitterne, Hampshire.

Browne published a large number of sermons and pamphlets, and, in addition:

  1. 'The Fulfilment of the Old Testament Prophecies relating to the Messiah,' his Norrisian prize essay, London, 1836, 8vo.
  2. 'An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles,' London, 8vo (vol. i. 1850, vol. ii. 1853); new edit. 1886.
  3. 'The Pentateuch and the Elohistic Psalms,' Cambridge, 1863, 8vo.

He was also a contributor to 'Aids to Faith' and to the 'Speaker's Commentary.'

[Dean Kitchin's Life of Edward Harold Browne, 1895.]

A. R. B.