Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Burgon, John William
BURGON, JOHN WILLIAM (1813–1888), dean of Chichester and author, son of Thomas Burgon, was born on 21 Aug. 1813 at Smyrna. His great-aunt, Mrs. Jane Baldwin nee Maltass (1763-1839), knew Dr. Johnson, and was painted by Pyne, Cosway, and Reynolds, the last portrait being now in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne at Bowood (see Gent. Mag. 1839, ii. 656); her husband was George Baldwin [q. v.] Burgon's father, Thomas Burgon (1787-1858), a Turkey merchant and member of the court of assistants of the Levant Company, removed from Smyrna to England in 1814, and settled in Brunswick Square. His business suffered severely in 1826, when the Levant Company lost its monopoly, and collapsed altogether in 1841; he was subsequently employed in the coin department of the British Museum, which had been enriched by the results of his excavations in Melos, and to which his collection of Greek antiquities was now sold. He was a great collector and connoisseur of ancient art, and was especially learned in all that related to coins. In 1813 he discovered at Athens one of the most ancient vases known, which was named after him (Wordsworth, Greece, ed. 1882, pp. 31-3). He died on 28 Aug. 1858 (see Athenæum, 11 Sept. 1858), and was buried in Holywell cemetery, Oxford. He married Catharine Marguerite (1790-1854), daughter of the Chevalier Ambroise Hermann de Cramer, Austrian consul at Smyrna, by Sarah, daughter of William Maltass, an English merchant of Smyrna (Standard, 16 March 1892; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. i. 292). Dean Goulburn, in his 'Life' of Burgon, suggests that possibly she had Greek blood in her veins; but there is no corroboration for the hypothesis. By her Burgon had issue two sons and several daughters, of whom Sarah Caroline married Henry John Rose [q. v.], and Emily Mary married Charles Longuet Higgins [q. v.]
John William was the elder of the two sons, and was only a few months old when the family returned to England. On the way they stayed at Athens, where their friend, Charles Robert Cockerell [q. v.], carried the infant up the Acropolis, and playfully dedicated him to Athene. At the age of eleven Burgon was sent to a private school at Putney, kept by a brother of Alaric Alexander Watts [q. v.] Thence in 1828 he went to a private school at Blackheath, and in 1829-30 he attended classes at London University, afterwards University College. In the latter year, in spite of his desire to enter the church, he was taken into his father's counting-house. He inherited his father's love of archaeology, and in 1833 he published a 'Mémoire sur les Vases Panathenaiques par le Chevalier P.O. Bönsted, traduit de l'Anglais par J. W. Burgon' (Paris, 4to). He corresponded with Joseph Hunter [q. v.] on Shakespeare, thought he had discovered a clue to the sonnets, and wrote an essay on the subject which he did not publish. Among the Burgons' friends were Thomas Leverton Donaldson [q. v.], the architect, Charles Robert Leslie [q. v.], the painter, and Samuel Rogers (Clayden, Rogers and his Contemporaries, ii. 240, 241). At Rogers's house young Burgon met Patrick Fraser Tytler [q. v.], whose friendship he further cultivated in the state paper office, and whose life he wrote under the title 'Portrait of a Christian Gentleman: a Memoir of P. F. Tytler' (London, 1859, 8vo; 2nd edit, same year).
In 1833 the lord mayor of London offered a prize for the best essay on Sir Thomas Gresham. Burgon thereupon began a work which won the prize in 1836; this developed into his 'Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham' (London, 1839, 2 vols. 8vo), a valuable book based upon laborious researches into original authorities. During the course of these researches he visited Oxford, which he described as 'an infernally ill-governed place,' and suffered much from librarians, whom he denounced as 'knowing and desiring to know nothing of what was under their charge.' In 1837 he won the prize for a song given by the Melodists' Club, and in 1839 he began contributing to the 'New General Biographical Dictionary,' edited by his brother-in-law, Henry John Rose. His father's failure in 1841 left him free, with the financial aid of his friend, Dawson Turner [q. v.], to carry out his intention of taking orders, and on 21 Oct, in that year he matriculated, at the age of twenty-eight, from Worcester College, Oxford. He graduated B. A. with a second class in lit. hum. in 1845, and in the same year won the Newdigate with a poem on 'Petra' (Oxford, 1845, 8vo; 2nd edit., with a few additional poems, 1840). In 1847 he won the Ellerton theological prize, and the Denyer theological prize in 1851. He was elected fellow of Oriel in 1846, graduated M.A. in 1848, and was ordained deacon on 24 Dec. 1848, and priest on 23 Dec. 1849. From 25 Feb. 1849 to 20 March 1850 he was curate of West Ilsley, Berkshire, in 1850-1 of Worton in Oxfordshire, and from 1851 to 10 June 1853 of Finmere in the same county.
On his return to Oxford Burgon devoted himself to literary work, and in 1855 produced 'Historical Notices of the Colleges of Oxford,' which formed the letterpress for Henry Shaw's 'Arms of the Colleges of Oxford' (Oxford, 1855, 4to). For three months in 1860 he took charge of the English congregation at Rome, to which he dedicated his 'Letters from Rome' (London, 1862, 8vo). From September 1861 to July 1862 Burgon was absent on a tour in Egypt, the Sinaitic peninsula, and Palestine. On 15 Oct. 1863 he was presented to the vicarage of St. Mary's, Oxford, where he revived the afternoon services instituted by Newman. In 1864 he declined an offer from Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter of the principalship of the theological college at Exeter, but in December 1867 he accepted the Gresham professorship of divinity, which did not oblige him to leave Oxford. There Burgon was a leading champion of lost causes and impossible beliefs; but the vehemence of his advocacy somewhat impaired its effect. A high churchman of the old school, he was as opposed to ritualism as he was to rationalism, and every form of liberalism he abhorred. In 1869 he denounced from St. Mary's pulpit the disestablishment of the Irish church as 'the nation's formal rejection of God;' and he was even more scandalised by the appointment of Dr. Temple (now archbishop of Canterbury) to the bishopric of Exeter in the same year. In 1872 he led the opposition to the appointment of Dean Stanley as select preacher before the university, and he strenuously advocated the retention of the Athanasian creed in its entirety. He objected to the new lectionary of 1879, and so long as he lived waged war on the revised version of the New Testament. In 1871 he had published 'The last twelve Verses of the Gospel according to St. Mark vindicated' (Oxford, 8vo), and when the revisers indicated their doubts of the authority of these verses by placing them in brackets, Burgon attacked them for this and other delinquencies in the 'Quarterly Review;' his articles were republished as 'The Revision Revised' (London, 1883, 8vo). Burgon devoted much time to textual criticism, and his two posthumous works, 'The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels vindicated and established,' and 'Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text' (both edited by the Rev. Edward Miller, and published London, 1896, 8vo), are considered the most thorough exposition of ultra-conservative views on the subject.
In university politics Burgon was equally reactionary; he opposed the abolition of tests, the admission of unattached students, and attacked the lodging-house system on the ground that it afforded facilities for immorality. The university commissions of 1850-1854 and 1877-81 he denounced as irreligious; he had been nominated a commissioner on the latter body, but the conservative government was compelled to withdraw his name in face of the opposition it evoked both in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons. The election of Miss Eleanor Elizabeth Smith [see under Smith, Henry John Stephen ] to the first Oxford school board in 1870 was made the occasion of a sermon, in which Burgon deplored the appearance of women on public bodies, and in a sermon preached in New College chapel on 8 June 1884 he denounced the education of 'young women like young men' as 'a thing inexpedient and immodest;' the occasion was the admission of women to university examinations (29 April 1884). On the other hand, Burgon strongly urged the importance of a more systematic study of ancient and medifeval art, and successfully advocated the establishment of a school of theology in 1855.
On 1 Nov. 1875 Disraeli offered Burgon the deanery of Chichester, in succession to Walter Farquhar Hook [q. v.] He accepted it, and was installed on 19 Jan. 1876. By his retirement from Oxford Burgon lost some of his prominence, and his relations with his chapter were, largely owing to his brusquerie, often somewhat strained. He devoted himself to theological studies and literary work, and in 1888, shortly before his death, completed his most popular work, 'The Lives of Twelve Good Men' (London, 1888, 2 vols. 8vo), which has gone through many editions. Burgon died unmarried at the deanery, Chichester, on 4 Aug. 1888; his remains were conveyed to Oxford on the 10th, and buried in Holywell cemetery on the 11th (Times, 6 and 13 Aug. 1888), where also were buried his father, mother, two sisters, and a brother; besides the monument in Holywell cemetery, a memorial window to Burgon was erected in 1891 in the west window of the nave of St. Mary's, Oxford. Two portraits, reproduced from photographs, are prefixed to the two volumes of Dean Goulburn's 'Life of Dean Burgon' (London, 1892, 2 vols. 8vo).
Besides the works mentioned above, numerous single sermons, mostly of a controversial character, and contributions to Rose's 'New Biographical Dictionary,' the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' and other periodicals, Burgon was author of: 1. 'Ninety Short Sermons for Family Reading,' 1855, 8vo ; 2nd ser. 1867, 2 vols. 8vo. 2. 'Inspiration and Interpretation; seven Sermons . . . being an answer to . . . "Essays and Reviews,"' Oxford, 1861, 8vo. 3. 'Poems, 1847 to 1878,' London, 1885, 8vo. He also contributed an introduction to Sir George Gilbert Scott's 'Recollections,' 1879, and left voluminous collections on his family history which he called 'Parentalia,' journals, and sixteen volumes of indexes to the fathers, and several unfinished theological works, including a 'Harmony of the Gospels.' Many of his letters are printed in Dean Goulburn's 'Life of Burgon.
[Goulburn's Life of Burgon, 1892, 2 vols.; Burgon's Works in Brit. Museum Library; Liddon's Life of Pusey; Prothero's Life of Dean Stanley; Davidson and Benhani's Life of Archbishop Tait; Dean Church's Oxford Movement; Thomas Mozley's Reminiscences ; Tuckwell's Reminiscences of Oxford, 1900; Campbell and Abbott's Life of Jowett ; Crockford's Clerical Direct. 1883; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886;
Times, 6 and 13 Aug. 1888; Athenæum, 1888. ii. 194; Guardian, 1888, ii. 1164; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vi. 15, 7th ser. vi. 120, 8th ser. i. 186, 303, 392, 459.]