Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shirley, Walter Augustus

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SHIRLEY, WALTER AUGUSTUS (1797–1847), bishop of Sodor and Man, born on 30 May 1797 at Westport, Ireland, where his father held a curacy, was only son of Walter Shirley, by his wife Alicia, daughter of Sir Edward Newenham [q. v.] His grandfather was Walter Shirley [q. v.] At the age of nine Shirley was placed under the care of the Rev. Legh Richmond [q. v.]; but as he seemed to be making little progress under his tutor he was soon removed to a school at Linton in Essex. He became a scholar of Winchester College in 1809, and six years later was elected to a scholarship at New College, Oxford, of which society he became a fellow in 1818. Immediately after his ordination on 7 Aug. 1820 he took charge of the parish of Woodford, one of the livings held by his father. In 1821 he became curate of Parwich in Derbyshire, and in 1822 he was appointed assistant lecturer of Ashbourne and curate of Atlow. In the latter year he was awarded the prize for the English essay at Oxford, the subject being ‘the Study of Moral Evidence.’ He acted as chaplain at Rome in the winter of 1826–7, and during his residence there he became intimately acquainted with the Bunsens and Thomas Erskine, as well as with Eastlake and Wilkie. In the autumn of 1827 he was married at Paris to Maria, daughter of William Waddington, and at the same time his father resigned the living of Shirley in his favour. He took possession of his new home in January 1828. After nine years' residence at Shirley he accepted the living of Whiston, near Rotherham, which he held conjointly with Shirley. He gave up the former cure two years later, when he was appointed to the incumbency of Brailsford, a parish adjoining that of Shirley. He was made archdeacon of Derby by the bishop of Lichfield on 21 Dec. 1840. In November 1846 he was appointed bishop of Sodor and Man by Lord John Russell; but in consequence of a serious illness he was not consecrated until 10 Jan. 1847. He had been elected Bampton lecturer for that year, but lived only long enough to deliver two of the lectures of his course. He died at Bishop's Court, Isle of Man, on 21 April 1847. His only son, Walter Waddington Shirley, is separately noticed.

Shirley was reared in the straitest sect of the evangelicals, and, though in middle life his views were somewhat modified by the influence of Bunsen and Arnold, he continued faithful in the main to the teaching of his early years. His kindly disposition prevented him from running, as so many did at that time, to extremes of partisanship. In 1829 he alienated some of his friends by his outspoken advocacy of catholic emancipation, as in later years he estranged others by refusing to support violent measures against the tractarians. In politics Shirley was a constitutional whig. A man of wide reading, possessed of a keen sense of humour, he exerted great influence over young men. He helped to mould the character of two distinguished statesmen, his pupil, Stafford H. Northcote (afterwards Earl of Iddesleigh), and his nephew, W. H. Waddington, the French minister, who was accustomed to speak of Bishop Shirley as his ‘second father.’

In addition to the Oxford prize essay already mentioned, Bishop Shirley published ‘A Charge to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of Derby,’ 1846. The two Bampton lectures that he had delivered, together with two others which he had completed before death overtook him, were published in 1847 under the title of ‘The Supremacy of the Holy Scriptures.’

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Letters and Memoir of the late Walter Augustus Shirley, D.D., edited by Thomas Hill, B.D.; E. P. Shirley's Stemmata Shirleiana, 1873; information kindly supplied by the warden of New College, Oxford.]

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