Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tait, Archibald Campbell
TAIT, ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (1811–1882), archbishop of Canterbury, born in Edinburgh on 21 Dec. 1811, belonged to a family that was in the seventeenth century settled in Aberdeenshire as bonnet-lairds or yeomen. The archbishop’s grandfather, John Tait, came to Edinburgh in 1750, joined the house of Ronald Craufurd, writer to the signet, and married in 1763 a Miss Murdoch, who was called Charles, after the Pretender. Their house in Park Place adjoined that of Sir Ilay Campbell [q. v.], the judge; and their only son, Craufurd, married, in 1795, Campbell’s younger daughter Susan. John Tait was a prudent man, and left to his son the estates of Harviestown in Clackmannanshire and Cambodden in Argyllshire. Craufurd, the archbishop’s father, ruined himself by unremunerative agricultural experiments, and had eventually to sell his estates. The family consisted of five sons and three daughters. The eldest son, John (1796–1877), became sheriff successively of Clackmannan and Perthshire; the second, James (1798–1879), was a writer to the signet. The third son, Thomas Forsyth (1805–1859), entered the Indian army as an infantry cadet in 1825, distinguished himself as the commander of ‘Tait’s horse,’ or the 3rd Bengal irregular cavalry, in the Afghan expedition under Nott and Pollock in 1842, and in the Sutlej and Punjab campaigns; he died in the house of his brother when bishop of London, on 16 March 1859, being buried at Fulham (cf. Gent. Mag. 1859, i. 429). The ninth and last child was the future archbishop.
Tait’s mother died in 1814, when he was three years old, and his childhood was passed under the care of his nurse, Betty Morton, whose name cannot be omitted from the number of those who influenced his career. In 1819 he all but died from scarlet fever, which carried off his brother, Kay Campbell. It was soon after this time that, as he records, he experienced his first deep religious impressions ‘as by a voice from heaven,’ which never left him. Tait’s ancestors had originally been episcopalians, but in the eighteenth century had joined the presbyterian church, in which the future archishop was brought up. From 1821 to 1826 he was at the Edinburgh high school, of which Dr. Carson was rector, and from 1824 to 1827 at the newly founded academy under Archdeacon Williams, where he greatly distinguished himself. Proceeding in 1827 to Glasgow University (1827–30), he there proved himself a laborious student, rising usually at 4 a.m. and reading much by himself; he seldom worked less than ten hours in the day. His chief teachers at Glasgow were the principal, Duncan Macfarlane [q. v.]; Robert Buchanan (1785–1873) [q. v.], the professor of logic; and Sir Daniel Keyte Sandford [q. v.], professor of Greek. His principal friends were Archibald Campbell Swinton [see under Swinton, James Rannie], who became a professor at Edinburgh and married Tait’s cousin, a daughter of Lady Sitwell; and Henry Selfe (afterwards his brother-in-law and a police magistrate in London).
During his career in Glasgow Tait came to the resolution to enter the ministry of the church of England. Owing to his father’s pecuniary difficulties, he competed in 1829 for a Snell exhibition to Balliol College at Oxford. He was successful and matriculated from Balliol on 29 Jan. 1830, and went into residence in October. In November he gained one of the Balliol scholarships. In the same month he was confirmed by Bishop Bagot.
His tutor at Balliol was George Moberly (afterwards headmaster of Winchester and bishop of Salisbury). He had introductions to Whately, then principal of St. Alban Hall, and to other distinguished men, including Shuttleworth, principal of Brasenose, the friend of Lord Holland (afterwards bishop of Chichester), at whose house he met many of the whig notabilities and intellectual men of the day. His contemporaries and pupils at Balliol included Herman Merivale, Manning, Wickens, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, James Lonsdale, Stafford Northcote, Jowett, Clough, John Duke Coleridge, William George Ward, and Frederick Oakeley. He became an influential member of the union, where he encountered Gladstone and Roundell Palmer. He was also a member of a new club, the Ramblers, and the question whether the members of that club could be also members of the union (then presided over by Robert Lowe, afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) gave rise to the mock-Homeric poem of the ‘Uniomachia,’ by Thomas Jackson (1812–1886) [q. v.], in which Tait figured as a foremost champion.
His father died in 1832, his nurse in 1833, Tait being with her to the last. The long vacation of 1833 he spent with Roundell Palmer [q. v.] and three other graduates at Seaton in Devonshire, and a local bard (the Rev. J. B. Smith, a dissenting minister) augured, in a poem called ‘Seaton Beach,’ that Tait ‘a mitred prelate’ would ‘hereafter shine.’ In October 1833 he graduated B.A. with a first class in classics, and, after taking pupils for a year, he became fellow of Balliol in 1834, Ward being elected at the same time. He was appointed tutor in 1835, and was ordained in 1836. His lectures, especially those in ethics and logic, were highly valued. His personality, solid rather than inspiring, made a strong impression on all who worked with him, and before the completion of his seven years’ tutorship he had become one of the most influential tutors in the university. His journals, which give signs of constantly deepening reflection and fervency, show that he took up the college work as a sacred ministry. In 1839 he passed the summer in Bonn to acquaint himself thoroughly with the language and literature of Germany.
His political opinions were maturing slowly. At Oxford he showed himself favourable to the Reform Bill, and began to formulate ideas on university reform. Yet so gradual was the process that we find him in 1836 writing to a nonconformist minister, T. Morell-Mackenzie, an old Glasgow friend, that he is ‘more of a high churchman than he was,’ and that he disapproved of a petition from Cambridge for the removal of the university tests, and ‘does not see what good any party could gain from such a step.’ In 1838 he declined to be a candidate for the Greek professorship at Glasgow, vacant through the death of Sir Daniel Keyte Sandford, because he was unable to declare his acceptance of the rigid Calvinism of the Westminster confession.
A distinctive feature of his career as an Oxford tutor was his determination to discharge the duties of a clergyman by taking parochial work. Soon after his ordination, in 1836, he undertook the charge of the parish of Baldon, six miles from Oxford. When he visited Bonn in 1839 he at once set up an English service on Sundays, and provided for the continuance of a regular chaplaincy. He also, with three other tutors, commenced a system of religious instruction for the Balliol servants, and offered to create an endowment for its perpetuation.
But that which made the greatest impression on the world was his bearing and conduct in reference to the Oxford movement. Keble’s assize sermon on national apostasy was preached just before Tait took his degree (14 July 1833), and the ‘Tracts’ were begun in September. Tait’s closest friends and colleagues, William George Ward [q. v.] and Frederick Oakeley [q. v.], were entirely carried away by the current; and the vigour and eagerness of Tait’s own character would have disposed him to sympathise with the enthusiasm for a higher standard of clerical life by which most of the more earnest minds in the university were affected. But his attitude on the subject was singularly firm and consistent throughout his life. He never doubted or disparaged the piety of those who conducted the movement; there was no diminution of affection between him and his friends among them; and he steadily refused to be moved from his tolerance or to limit the liberty which the church of England allows. But the narrowness of view which ignores or depreciates the Christian life, except when bound up with the forms of the episcopalian church system, was abhorrent to him; and the attempt to ‘unchurch’ all but episcopalians seemed to him unjustifiable. Not even Newman’s personality could cast its spell upon him; and when in March 1841 ‘Tract XC’ appeared, with its claim to interpret the articles of the church of England in a sense favourable to the Romanist practices which they had been framed to condemn, he felt that the limits of honest interpretation had been transgressed, and that, if no protest were raised, the reputation of the teaching body of the university would be impaired. He therefore joined with three other tutors—Thomas Townson Churton of Brasenose, Henry Bristow Wilson [q. v.] of St. John’s (afterwards Bampton lecturer and editor of the ‘Essays and Reviews’), and John Griffiths (1806–1885) [q. v.] of Wadham (afterwards warden) in publishing a letter to the editor expressing this view of the tract, and calling on the author to lay aside his anonymity. This letter, though admitted by Newman and Ward to be a calm and Christian document, of which they had no cause to complain, became the signal for the outburst of a great controversy. In the bitterness and violence shown by many of those who condemned the tracts Tait entirely refused to take part; but he never retracted his original protest or declined responsibility for it.
Dr. Arnold died at Rugby on 12 June 1842, and on 28 July Tait was appointed to succeed him as headmaster of Rugby school. He was marked out for the post by his character and attainments. He was intimate with Stanley, Arnold’s biographer, and others of his favourite pupils; Arnold’s son Matthew had been his pupil at Balliol. Rugby, though missing the inspiration of Arnold, felt the strength, justice, and piety of the new headmaster. The work was hard; he was in school every day, winter and summer, by seven. The numbers of the school increased under him; and there was some advantage in the partial relaxation of the moral strain which was the note of Arnold's government.
Tait held aloof during his headmastership, so far as was possible, from the current controversies of the church. But he saw clearly the dangers to all parties of narrowing the church and the universities, and on two occasions he was necessarily drawn into the field. When the book of his old friend Ward, ‘The Ideal of a Christian Church,’ was condemned by the convocation of Oxford in 1845, Tait, though obliged to acquiesce in the sentence, wrote a pamphlet protesting against the proposal of the heads of houses to guard against Romanism by the imposition of a new test. And when in 1847 a vast number of the clergy joined in a protest against Lord John Russell’s nomination of Renn Dickson Hampden [q. v.], the regius professor of divinity, to the bishopric of Hereford, Tait was one of 250 members of convocation who signed a counter memorial in Dr. Hampden’s favour. He thought, however, that Hampden was bound to answer the objections brought against him at his confirmation.
A severe illness in the early part of 1848 completely prostrated him, and on convalescence he was glad in October 1849 to accept the easier post of the deanery of Carlisle. He left Rugby in the summer of 1850, and was succeeded by his old pupil, Edward Goulburn. Though the necessary duties of his deanery were light, Tait at once, with his earnest pastoral interest, made new work for himself. His advocacy was sought by many religious associations, and he spoke for the Church Missionary Society at their anniversary in 1854; but he refused to join any of the more extreme protestant societies, and maintained his determination not to be a party man. His influence and reputation spread; and as early as 1851 Lord John Russell made no secret of his wish to recommend him for a bishopric.
In 1850 he was nominated a member of the Oxford University commission. He was already known as a university reformer by a pamphlet on the subject in 1839, and he had been consulted by the prime minister as to the issuing of the commission. He readily accepted the nomination, and urged Lord John Russell to persevere against all opposition. He was assiduous in his attendance at the commission, and many of the recommendations were due to him, especially that which tended to modify the oaths and subscriptions then required, and the proposal, upon which his Glasgow experience gave him a title to speak, relating to the admission of non-collegiate students. His suggestion on this subject bore fruit many years later.
His last year at Carlisle was overclouded by a great family disaster. He had married in 1843, and he had at the beginning of 1856 seven children, ranging from ten years old to a few weeks. Between 6 March and 8 April five died from scarlet fever. Leaving their desolate home after the last of these deaths, the parents went with their son of seven years old and the infant daughter, who alone remained to them, to Ullswater for the summer. They returned for a short time in September to another house in Carlisle, and were making arrangements for resettling at the deanery, when a letter from Lord Palmerston arrived offering Tait the bishopric of London. He was consecrated at the chapel royal, Whitehall, on 22 Nov. 1856.
Tait’s entrance into the bishopric of London was by no means easy. He was, with one exception, the only man for nearly two hundred years who had been made bishop of London without having held any other see. He had not the full support of either of the two great clerical parties; he sympathised with what was best in each of them; but neither of them entered into the object which he set before him—that of claiming an all-embracing national influence for the church of England—and only a few, of whom Walter Farquhar Hook [q. v.] was one, showed that they could welcome the appointment of a just man not precisely of their own views.
Tait’s first acts as bishop were designed to stimulate evangelistic efforts. Within a month of his consecration he attended a meeting in Islington at which it was resolved to build ten new churches, and he promised to subscribe 60l. to each. He preached himself in omnibus yards, in ragged schools, in Covent Garden Market, and to the gipsies at Shepherd’s Bush. In 1857 he founded the Diocesan Home Mission, and arranged a series of services, at some of which he was himself the preacher, for the working people throughout the north and east of London. In 1858 he obtained the opening of Westminster Abbey for the popular evening services, an example which was followed by St. Paul’s not long afterwards; and he expressed a modified sympathy with the movement for making use of theatres and public halls for evangelistic services.
The church controversies of the day, which took up much of his episcopal life, though of less permanent interest, proved his diligence, his courage, and his impartiality. He had little taste for the minutiæ of ceremonial or of doctrinal definition; his sole desire was that the law, for the enforcement of which he was responsible, should be made clear, and that within its limits earnest men should be able to use the church system freely as they thought most conducive to the good of those entrusted to them. A serious question, that of confession, was brought before him in 1858, which led to his withdrawing the license of Alfred Poole, curate of St. Barnabas, Pimlico, on the ground that his practice of confession was inconsistent with that recognised by the prayer-book. Poole appealed, with Tait’s full consent, to the archbishop, John Bird Sumner [q. v.], who confirmed Tait’s sentence.
In the House of Lords Tait’s tact and power at once made an impression, which grew deeper as time went on. The first measure on which his influence in the house told conspicuously was the divorce bill of 1857. Though the bill was vehemently opposed by Mr. Gladstone and Bishop Wilberforce, its justice was acknowledged by the archbishop of Canterbury, with whom nine bishops voted for the second reading. Tait, while voting with the government, had a considerable share in modifying the bill in accordance with the conscientious wishes of the clergy. His speech helped to carry the clause which, while maintaining the divorced person’s right to be married in his parish church, left the clergyman free to refuse to officiate.
Tait’s primary charge, delivered in November 1858, summed up the work of his first two years as bishop of London and gave his views of the position of the church generally. It was far more comprehensive than such documents had previously been, and occupied five hours in its delivery under the dome of St. Paul’s. It attracted much attention, went through seven editions in a few weeks, and was viewed by all organs of opinion as a masterly exposition of church affairs.
The year 1859 was made notable by the disastrous riots at St. George’s-in-the-East, occasioned by the dislike of the people to the innovations of Charles Fuge Lowder [q. v.], the high-church incumbent. By a succession of conciliatory measures the bishop was finally successful in restoring peace. A memorial was addressed to him by more than two thousand of the parishioners thanking him for his action.
Other embarrassments followed. In 1860, the year following that of the appearance of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species,’ the volume entitled ‘Essays and Reviews’ was issued. It contained a series of seven papers, all but one by clergymen, which aimed at showing how Christianity was affected by the modern conditions of knowledge and thought. Two of the writers—Benjamin Jowett, tutor (afterwards master) of Balliol, and Frederick Temple, headmaster of Rugby (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury)—were Tait’s personal friends; and when an outcry was raised in orthodox circles against the book, the bishop held a conference with them, at which they gathered that he saw nothing in their essays which could fairly be blamed. He also defended them when the matter was brought before convocation, though saying that they should distinctly dissociate themselves from the other writers. But, when largely signed memorials were sent in to the archbishop, in which, notwithstanding the disclaimer in the preface of any common responsibility, the book was treated as a whole, and the authors were spoken of as holding rationalistic and semi-infidel views, Tait joined the rest of the bishops in a reply deprecating the publication of such opinions, and declaring them essentially at variance with the formularies binding on the clergy. The effect of this utterance was violently to fan the flame of popular alarm, and to give an apparent justification for indiscriminate condemnation. The position of Jowett and Temple was seriously compromised; the governors of Rugby school all but resolved to call upon the latter, who was their headmaster, to resign; a correspondence ensued between Tait and Temple, in which Tait defended himself against the charge of treachery to his friends, but it was long before confidence between them was restored. The agitation led to proceedings against two of the essayists, Rowland Williams [q. v.] and Henry Bristow Wilson [q. v.], in the ecclesiastical courts; but of the numerous counts of accusation, the larger number were disallowed by the court of arches. Two points—namely, whether it was lawful for a clergyman (1) freely to criticise the scriptural writings, and (2) to express the hope for the ultimate salvation of all mankind—came for final decision before a committee of seven privy councillors, including Tait and the two archbishops. The decision of the majority of this committee, which was not given till February 1864, was on both counts favourable to the accused. Tait concurred in this judgment, and his action was made more conspicuous by the fact that, contrary to all precedent, the only other prelates in the court, Archbishops Longley and Thomson, announced their dissent in pastoral letters. Tait held his ground amid much obloquy, and, to prevent undue alarm, published a volume of sermons showing his views on some of the fundamental points in dispute. He also suggested the publication of the ‘Ecclesiastical Judgments of the Privy Council’ (edited by the Hon. G. C. Brodrick and the present writer), which appeared in the beginning of 1865, with a preface by himself.
In 1862, on the death of Archbishop Sumner and the translation of Charles Thomas Longley [q.v.] from York to Canterbury, the archbishopric of York was offered to Tait, and declined by him. He had been suffering then, as on many intervening occasions, from his old weakness of the heart. But he preferred the risk of remaining in London, believing that his proper place was at the centre of government.
The charge at his quadrennial visitation in 1862 was chiefly remarkable for a definite pronouncement in favour of a relaxation in the forms of subscription demanded from the clergy. The mass of the clergy resisted all change. The archdeacons of London and Middlesex, on behalf of the diocese, had recently addressed the bishop in that sense, and the convocation of Canterbury had passed resolutions to the same effect. But the government determined to act. A royal commission was appointed in 1863, and unanimously recommended the adoption of a simpler and looser form of declaration. In 1865, at Tait’s request, the government introduced and passed a measure for giving this arrangement the force of law. Convocation co-operated in making the needful changes in the canons.
Another matter which was agitating men’s minds was the publication in 1862 by Colenso, bishop of Natal, of the first volume of his work on the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, which showed complete divergence from orthodox views on the subject of inspiration. There was a great outcry against Colenso, who had come to England; several of the English bishops inhibited him from preaching in their dioceses, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel withdrew from him the disposal of their grant for Natal. To both these steps Tait was opposed. He believed that the bishop ought to be tried by the courts in England, and that pending the trial he must be treated as bishop of Natal. Robert Gray (1809–1872) [q. v.], metropolitan of Cape Town, summoned the bishops of South Africa and St. Helena to form a court, which deposed the bishop of Natal and formed a new see—that of Maritzburg—whose bishop was to replace the bishop of Natal. The privy council annulled their decision on Colenso’s appeal, but the South African bishops refused to acknowledge the council’s authority, declaring the church of South Africa independent of the church of England. The dispute was one of the causes for summoning the first Lambeth conference in 1867. Tait was from the first doubtful of the ad vantages of the conference, which ended in disagreement. The attempt made in it to organise an independent Anglican communion in South Africa, and every scheme for obtaining the legal consecration of a bishop of Maritzburg in England or Scotland, were successfully opposed. In that opposition Tait played the leading part. He considered that the recognition by the colonial dioceses of the appellate jurisdiction of the privy council was the only guarantee for the maintenance of the principles of justice, and that these principles had not been observed in the proceedings against Bishop Colenso, who, in the result, retained his see till his death [see Colenso, John William, and Gray, Robert].
Meanwhile, throughout his episcopate Tait’s zeal for evangelistic and charitable work never flagged. In August 1866, when the cholera ravaged the east of London, though he had in the spring been prostrated by an attack of internal inflammation, he gave up his usual time of rest in order to stimulate the efforts made to cope with the disease; and his wife, besides being constantly on the scene of the epidemic, provided an orphanage at Fulham for the children of those who had died. Finding the ordinary machinery inadequate for overtaking the requisite supply of clerical ministrations, even though supplemented by the Diocesan Home Mission, he founded the Bishop of London’s Fund. Its object was to subdivide the overgrown parishes, to send mission agents at once into the districts inadequately provided with clergy, and by degrees to build up the whole church system in them. It was shadowed out in the ‘Charge’ of 1862, and begun in April 1863. Churchmen of all shades of opinion supported it and worked on its council; and in the first year more than 100,000l. was subscribed, with promises of almost as much more. It has since become a permanent institution, with an annual income of from 20,000l. to 30,000l.
On 28 Oct. 1868 Archbishop Longley died, and on 12 Nov. Tait received a letter from Mr. Disraeli, then prime minister, asking his leave to nominate him for the primacy. Tait assented to the proposal, and he was enthroned as archbishop of Canterbury in February 1869.
Tait entered on the primacy at a stormy time which called forth all his powers of statesmanship. Mr. Gladstone’s suspensory bill, which was intended to be the preliminary step to the disestablishment of the Irish church, had been thrown out in the lords in the summer of 1868, Tait himself opposing it. But in the autumn the general election showed the country to be unmistakably in favour of Mr. Gladstone’s policy, and the new archbishop, accepting the inevitable, bent his mind to the consideration of the lines on which the new church system ought to be established. The queen herself addressed him, expressing her anxiety lest the rejection of the prime minister’s measure should result in a year of violent controversy. A long interview with Mr. Gladstone revealed the wish of the statesman to make the path smooth; and Tait aided powerfully in obtaining a second reading for the bill in the House of Lords, but set himself to make alterations in committee favourable to the Irish clergy. For some days he held the balance of parties in his hand, and the eventual settlement was in a great degree due to his patience and good sense, and to the confidence which he inspired on both sides of the house.
On 18 Nov. 1869 he was struck down by a cataleptic seizure, the result of overwork and anxiety. As soon as he recovered he petitioned the government to be allowed the services of a suffragan-bishop. Recourse was had to an unrepealed act of Henry VIII, and on 25 March 1870 he consecrated his first chaplain and former Rugby pupil, Edward Parry (1830–1890) [q. v.], to the titular see of Dover. With Parry’s aid he got through the year 1870, and, having passed the winter at San Remo, he returned to his post in full vigour in the spring of 1871.
It was a time of some ferment in ecclesiastical matters. Abroad the Vatican council had resulted in the formation of the old catholic body in Germany and Switzerland, and the secession of Père Hyacinthe and others in France. Though refusing to make any pronouncement at the time, the archbishop later on gave effectual aid to the work of Père Hyacinthe, and invited the old catholic bishops, Reinkens and Herzog, to Addington.
The report of the ritual commission in 1870 led to several acts of parliament, in each of which Tait took part by advice and action. In dealing with the Athanasian creed the ritual commission had recommended an explanatory rubric, but the archbishop wished that the creed, while remaining like the articles in the prayer-book, should not be used in the public services; and declared in convocation that neither he nor any of those present accepted the creed in its literal sense. A long controversy ensued, which was terminated abruptly by the threat of Dr. Pusey and Dr. Liddon to withdraw from the ministry of the church if the damnatory clauses were omitted or if, after the example set in America and in Ireland, the creed were placed in an appendix. After a great meeting of bishops and clergy at Lambeth in December 1872, a synodal declaration was adopted stating that the creed did not make any addition to the doctrine contained in scripture, and that its warnings were to be taken in a general sense, like similar passages in holy writ.
In reference to ritual questions, which continued to be pressed on his notice, Tait took a tolerant position, and concurred with Archbishop Thomson in replying to a petition presented to them by Lord Shaftesbury on 3 May 1873, that they were willing to enforce the law when the offence was clear, but not on every trivial complaint. In 1869 a resolution had been passed by convocation in favour of legislation ‘for facilitating, expediting, and cheapening proceedings for enforcing clergy discipline.’ Thus the ground was prepared for the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. The original draft of this measure, as agreed to by the whole episcopate, aimed at the revival of the forum domesticum of the bishop, and at giving legal effect to the sentence in the preface to the prayer-book which requires those who doubt about the ‘use and practice’ of its directions to resort to the bishop, who is to ‘take order’ for the resolution of these doubts. Legal and constitutional difficulties, however, presented themselves, and Tait found it impossible to carry through the original design. There was a demand out of doors for legislation of a more stringent character; the bill was considerably modified; and finally in the committee stage in the House of Lords clauses were inserted by Lord Shaftesbury providing for the determination of cases a single court, the judge of which should be appointed by the two archbishops with the consent of the crown. These amendments were supported by the representatives of the church party, only two bishops voting against them. It was impossible for the archbishop to go back without losing all control over the measure. He therefore accepted the changes under protest, but obtained the insertion of a clause giving the bishop an absolute veto upon all proceedings under the act. The feeling of the country was strongly in favour of the measure, and the archbishop became the object of popular ovations on several public occasions.
Many results followed the passing of the bill through parliament on 3 Aug. 1874. The bishops in 1875 issued a pastoral explaining the situation and deprecating alarm. The archbishop, in a long pamphlet addressed to Mr. Carter of Clewer, described the actual relation of the church system to the government and the regular process of legislation. In the ritual cases brought before him he adopted the plan of holding a personal interview with the accused clergyman, in order to see whether it was desirable for him to place his veto on the proceedings. He maintained to the last that, though the act was quite different from what he had intended, yet, if only some other mode for enforcing it could be devised, it was a just and beneficial measure.
The archbishop’s remaining years were passed in comparative peace. The second Lambeth conference passed quietly in 1878. The question of ritualism was fully discussed, and a petition from Père Hyacinthe was favourably entertained. In 1880 the burial question was solved. It had been long before the country, and Tait had consistently, amid much obloquy, advocated the rights of non-conformists to burial with their own service in the churchyards. He used all his influence to give the bill a form which rendered it a measure of relief to the consciences of the clergy. At the time they generally viewed it with dislike and apprehension, and many strongly opposed the archbishop’s course. But in no case were his courage and foresight more signally vindicated. Hardly any of the predicted evils occurred.
Two royal commissions were issued in 1880, both due to Tait’s initiation—the cathedrals commission and the ecclesiastical courts commission—and in the deliberations of both he took a prominent part. He had given, as far back as 1855, in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ his opinions as to the way in which cathedrals could be made useful in the general church system, and he hoped that his plans might now be carried into effect. By the commission on ecclesiastical courts he hoped that the simplification of proceedings in disputed cases, which had been very partially realised by the Public Worship Act, might be effected. The work of these commissions was his main public occupation in his two remaining years. Their sittings were constant, and he attended nearly all of them, the reports being drawn up, the one just before, the other just after, his death.
The great objects of the pastoral ministry became dearer to Tait than ever in his last years. He preached constantly, and, since writing became more difficult to him, he reverted to the method of extempore address. He prayed constantly with his household and his children, together or separately, and gave short expositions in the chapel, and as the end approached he sought for interviews with his old friends, wishing to leave with each some message of help or encouragement.
In the spring of 1882, by his physician's order, he visited the Riviera, and on his return at the end of April recommenced his regular work. But he suffered from sleeplessness, sickness, and nervous weakness. The question of resignation was often before him, but he was encouraged by medical advice to continue, only doing what was absolutely necessary. His last speech in the House of Lords was on 9 July, on the Duke of Argyll's oaths bill. At the end of that month he finally left Lambeth for Addington. The end came on Advent Sunday, 1 Dec., his wife having died on Advent Sunday four years before. He was buried simply at Addington, the offer of a funeral in Westminster Abbey being declined by the family with the queen's consent. Memorials of him were erected in the chapels of Balliol College and of Rugby, at St. Paul's, and in Canterbury Cathedral. The recumbent figure by Sir John Edgar Boehm on the cenotaph at Canterbury, in the north-eastern transept, the portrait by George Richmond at Lambeth Palace (a replica of which is in Balliol College Hall), the portrait by S. Hodges in the possession of Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and the bust by Boehm in the National Portrait Gallery worthily represent his noble and dignified personality.
Tait was of a strong build, and six feet in height. His grey eyes were clear and penetrating, the brow strong and large, the jaw massive, the features not very marked but mutable in their aspect, and growing under emotion to a fine expressiveness. The hair was worn long and parted in the middle, without whiskers or beard. He was active and fond of riding, and took great pleasure in foreign travel. His constitution was strong, and capable of hard and sustained work. His bearing was stately, but his conversation was enlivened by humour. He was a great and miscellaneous reader, and had the taste for art and literature and the respect for scientific knowledge belonging to men of the highest culture. His interest in political life, both at home and abroad, was very keen. He was a whig, not hereditarily, but by early conviction. As a speaker he was forcible and at times very eloquent; his voice was singularly sonorous and impressive; and he produced conviction not so much by the rhetorical temperament as by the gravity and good sense of his argument.
The influence exerted by Tait was that of a churchman of great statesmanlike ability. No archbishop probably since the Reformation has had so much weight in parliament or in the country generally. His efforts were directed not primarily to enhance the power of the clergy, but to build up a just and God-fearing nation. For this purpose he endeavoured to expand the church system, giving it breadth as well as intensity. His administration of the archbishopric of Canterbury greatly increased its importance, and converted the office from that of a primate of England to something like a patriarchate of the whole Anglican communion.
Tait married, at Elmdon, Warwickshire, on 22 June 1843, Catherine (1819–1878), daughter of William Spooner, archdeacon of Coventry and rector of Elmdon, near Rugby. Mrs. Tait's force of character and sympathy strengthened every part of her husband's work; her beauty and her social power made his home attractive. She had a great capacity for business, especially for accounts: on one occasion she set to rights the complicated finance of Rugby school. She entered keenly into the difficult problems of his work as a bishop, tempering, though not deflecting, his judgment; while her deep piety, simple tastes, love of literature, and care for the poor, made the home of the prelate akin to that of all classes of his clergy.
Of the archbishop's nine children, four survived infancy. The only surviving son, Craufurd, who graduated M.A. of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1874, was curate of Saltwood, Kent, 1874–5, and died, before his father, 29 May 1878. Of the three surviving daughters, the second, Edith Murdoch, married the Rev. Randall T. Davidson (now bishop of Winchester). [A full life of Tait by his son-in-law, the Right Rev. Randall T. Davidson, and the Rev. Canon Benham, was published in 1891 (2 vols.). An account of the archbishop's wife and son—Memoirs of Catherine and Craufurd Tait—was issued by Canon Benham in 1879. The present writer's personal recollections have supplied some details for the article.]