Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Otter, William

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OTTER, WILLIAM (1768–1840), bishop of Chichester, born at Cuckney, Nottinghamshire, in 1768, was the fourth son of Edward Otter (1724–1785), vicar of that parish, and of Bolsover, Scarcliffe, and Upper Langwith in Derbyshire. His mother was Dorothy, daughter of John Wright of North Anston in Yorkshire (she died at Cuckney on 13 Feb. 1772). He was admitted into Jesus College, Cambridge, on 23 July 1785; was a Rustat scholar there; graduated B.A., being fourth wrangler, in 1790; proceeded M.A. in 1793, and B.D. and D.D. in 1836. About 1791 he was ordained to the curacy of Helston in Cornwall, and held it, with the mastership of the grammar school, for a few years, being recalled to Cambridge on his election to a fellowship at his college on 8 Feb. 1796.

A man of liberal views, he protested while at Cambridge against the sentence on William Frend [q. v.], and was very intimate with Edward Daniel Clarke [q. v.], the traveller, and with Thomas Robert Malthus [q. v.], the political economist. On 20 May 1799 Otter, Clarke, Malthus, and a young student called Cripps, left Cambridge for Hamburg, and travelled for some time in the north of Europe. They separated at the Wenern Lake in Sweden, Clarke and Cripps proceeding northwards, while Otter and Malthus, as their time was more limited, continued 'leisurely their tour through Sweden, Norway, Finland, and a part of Russia.' He remained at Cambridge as fellow and tutor until 1804, when he was instituted on 30 June to the rectory of Colmworth in Bedfordshire, and married at Leatherhead in Surrey, on 3 July 1804, Nancy Sadleir, eldest daughter and eventual coheiress of William Bruere, formerly secretary to the government and member of the supreme court at Calcutta.

In May 1810 Otter was appointed to the rectory of Sturmer in Essex, and held it, with Colmworth, until the following year, when he obtained the more lucrative rectory of Chetwynd in Shropshire. From 1816 he held, with Chetwynd, the vicarage of Kinlet in Shropshire. He went to Oxford with his wife and family in 1822, as private tutor to the third Lord Ongley (cf. Life of Heber, ii. 56). Under a license of non-residence Otter became the minister of St. Mark's Church, Kennington, in 1825, and in 1830 he was appointed the first principal of King's College at London, thereby vacating all his previous preferments. He continued in charge of that institution until 1836, when he was advanced to the bishopric of Chichester, being consecrated at Lambeth on 2 Oct. The chief acts of Otter's episcopate were the establishment (1838) of the diocesan association for building churches and schools, and for augmenting the incomes of poor livings and curacies; the foundation, conjointly with Dean Chandler, of the theological college (1839); the setting on foot of a training school for masters; the institution of a weekly celebration in the cathedral (1839); and the revival of the rural chapters. A training college was erected at Chichester by public subscription in 1849-50 as a memorial of his labours, and is still called the Otter College, though occupied as a training college for mistresses of elementary schools.

He died at Broadstairs, Kent, on 20 Aug. 1840, and was buried in Chichester Cathedral on 28 Aug. A small brass plate bearing a mitre, and simply inscribed 'Gul. Otter, Epis. mdcccxxxvi-mdcccxl,' marks the place of his interment at the east end of the choir, near the entrance to the lady-chapel. A more pretentious monument, with a bust of him by Towne, is in the chapel at the end of the north aisle. His portrait, nearly full-length, and seated in an armchair, was painted in replica by John Linneil in 1840. One picture belongs to his grandson, Robert Otter Barry, of Emperor's Gate, South Kensington, and, the other to Lord Belper. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy, and a mezzotint-engraving was struck off in 1841 (Life of John Linneil, i. 294, ii. 244, 251). His widow died at Effingham in Surrey on 12 March 1860, and was buried there on 17 March. Their eldest son, the Venerable W. B. Otter, was archdeacon of Lewes; the second son, Alfred William Otter, settled in Canada. The eldest daughter married the Rev. Henry Malthus, vicar of Effingham, son of the political economist; the second married the first Lord Romilly; the fourth became the wife of Sir William Milbourne James [q. v.], lord justice; and the fifth was married to the first Lord Belper.

Otter was author of 'The Life and Remains of E. D. Clarke,' 1824, a new edition of which, with a few alterations and additions, was published in 1825 in two volumes. It contained numerous letters which he had addressed to Clarke. A memoir of Malthus contributed by him to the 'Athenæum' in January 1835 (pp. 32–4) was expanded into the memoir published with the 1836 edition of the 'Principles of Political Economy,' He was 'thoroughly acquainted with the character and views' of Malthus, and had followed the rise and progress of his opinions. Mr. Bonar suggests that the epitaph in Bath Abbey to that philosopher was written by Otter (Malthus and his Work, p. 426).

Otter also published many single sermons and charges, and after his death a volume of 'Pastoral Addresses' (1841) was published by his widow, with the assistance of Archdeacon Hare. In 1812 he wrote 'A Vindication of Churchmen who become Members of the British and Foreign Bible Society' from the strictures of Br. Herbert. Marsh [q. v.], which was printed at Cambridge, and reissued in a second edition at Broxbourne; and he also published in that year 'An Examination of Dr. Marsh's Answer to all the Arguments in favour of the British and Foreign Bible Society.' Many letters to and from him are in the possession of Mr. J. L. Otter of Dr. Johnson's Buildings, Temple. The bishop was a fellow of the Linnean Society.

[Gent. Mag. 1840 pt. ii. pp. 539-41, 1860 pt. i. p. 422; Reliquary, xiii. plate 29; Miscell. Geneal. et Heraldica, iii. new ser. 304-5, 328-9; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 254; Baker's St. John's, Cambridge, ed. Mayor, ii. 736, 824-5; Stephens's S. Saxon Diocese, pp. 261-4.]

W. P. C.