Gibson, Edmund (DNB00)

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GIBSON, EDMUND (1669–1748), bishop of London, son of Edmund Gibson of Knipe by his wife Jane Langharne, and nephew and heir of Thomas Gibson, M.D. [q. v.], was baptised at Bampton, Westmoreland, 19 Dec. 1669, and educated at the free grammar school there. In 1686 he was admitted as a ‘poor serving child’ at Queen's College, Oxford, and proceeded B.A. 25 June 1691. As early as 1691 he appeared in print, as the editor of a macaronic poem by William Drummond (1585–1649) [q. v.], entitled ‘Polemo-Middinia,’ with ‘Christ's Kirk on the Green’ by James I of Scotland, and an original dissertation on macaronic poetry. Gibson's energies were now attracted towards Anglo-Saxon studies, then somewhat the rage at Oxford, through the reputation and teaching of Dr. Hickes [q. v.] In 1692 he published an edition of the ‘Saxon Chronicle,’ with a Latin translation and notes, a preface, and a chronological index. In the same year Gibson published an account of the manuscripts in the library made by Tenison when rector of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and in the collection of Sir W. Dugdale bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford (cf. Hearne, Coll. ed. Doble, ii. 45–6). This served to bring him to the notice of Tenison, lately (1691) made bishop of Lincoln, and led to his future promotion. An edition of Quinctilian was published in 1693 by Gibson, who, according to Hearne, ‘took little pains in it,’ and in the same year he supplied notes to an edition by James Brome [q. v.] of Somner's ‘Roman Ports and Forts in Kent,’ and in 1694 issued his own Latin translation of Somner's ‘Julii Cæsaris Portus Iccius.’ Gibson proceeded M.A. 21 Feb. 1694, was admitted a fellow of his college, and took holy orders. In 1695 he published an English translation of Camden's ‘Britannia,’ with the aid of William Lloyd, of Jesus College, who revised the whole work. Dr. John Smith furnished the additions on the bishopric of Durham in the second edition; the observations on Oxfordshire were by Bishop Kennett; large collections made from Dodsworth's papers were communicated by Dr. Nat. Johnston (2nd edition, 2 vols. fol. 1722; 3rd edition, 1753, and again 1772). Gibson's edition of Sir Henry Spelman's English works, published in the author's lifetime, together with his posthumous works, both in Latin and English, appeared, with a life of the author, under the title of ‘Reliquiæ Spelmannianæ,’ 1698. Gibson had now been made domestic chaplain to Archbishop Tenison and librarian at Lambeth. Through the same patronage he became lecturer of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, rector of Stisted (1700), and rector of Lambeth (1703). Being thus closely connected with the archbishop, Gibson was necessarily involved in the acrimonious controversy as to the rights and powers of convocation which raged at that period and produced a vast crop of pamphlets. On the meeting of the convocation of Canterbury, at the beginning of 1701, Atterbury endeavoured to substantiate his views that the relations between the upper and lower houses of convocation were similar to those existing between the houses of lords and commons; that the lower house had a right to prorogue itself and arrange for its own sittings, and was not subject to the archbishop. This view was strongly combated by Gibson and others. Gibson's first pamphlet, published 1700, was entitled ‘A short state of some present questions in Convocation.’ Soon afterwards (1701) he published ‘The right of the Archbishop of Canterbury to prorogue the whole Convocation,’ and the next year two other pamphlets on the same subject. These led to a more important work, which forms now the text-book for all proceedings in convocation. It is entitled ‘Synodus Anglicana; or the Constitution and Proceedings of an English Convocation, London, 1702, a work showing great research and clear judgment (ed. Cardwell, Oxford, 1854). In the following years other pamphlets in defence of his views on convocation were published by Gibson anonymously. Many of his single sermons were also published. In 1710 Gibson was promoted to the archdeaconry of Surrey. In 1713 he brought out his great work, a magnificent monument of research, entitled ‘Codex Juris Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ; or the Statutes, Constitutions, Canons, Rubrics, and Articles of the Church of England digested under their proper heads, with a Commentary Historical and Juridical,’ 2 vols., fol. London, 1713. This was reprinted at Oxford in 1761, and is still the highest authority on church law. An abstract, ‘A System of English Ecclesiastical Law,’ by R. Grey (1730), reached a fourth edition. In 1715 Gibson's patron, Archbishop Tenison, died, and the vacancy at Canterbury was filled by the translation of Dr. Wake from Lincoln. The new primate, who was of a kindred mind with Gibson in his opinions and studies, recommended him strongly as his successor at Lincoln, and in 1716 he was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln. During the four years of his occupancy of this diocese the only works attributed to Gibson are several separate sermons. In 1720, on the death of Bishop Robinson, Gibson was translated to London. Here his literary activity quickly revived, and both by writing and action he resolutely resisted prevailing evils. Masquerades were much patronised by the court, and caused great scandal. Gibson remonstrated privately with the king, and procured a petition signed by several bishops for the abandonment of these entertainments. The establishment of Whitehall sermons by members of the universities appointed by the Bishop of London was due to him. It may have been to make way in London for a bishop of less strict views that Gibson was offered translation to the rich see of Winchester. But this he declined, and by pastoral letters, charges, sermons, and tracts continued to oppose the prevailing laxity. His ‘Family Devotions,’ 1705, 8vo, reached an eighteenth edition in 1750. Some of his pastorals were directed against the deists and freethinkers (1728–9). Of these the second was answered by John Jackson in ‘Four Tracts on Human Reason.’ Another pastoral was directed against the methodists, especially George Whitefield. Gibson collected and edited, in three volumes folio, with prefaces, ‘A Collection of the principal Treatises against Popery in the Papal Controversy, digested under proper heads and tables,’ London, 1738. His ‘Earnest Dissuasive from Intemperance’ appeared in 1743 (15th edition, 1771), and his ‘Pastoral Letter for Reformation of Life’ in 1745. His ‘Serious Advice to Persons who have been Sick,’ his ‘Sacrament of the Lord's Supper explained,’ and his ‘Sinfulness of profaning the Lord's Day’ all reached numerous editions. Gibson long lived on intimate terms with Sir Robert Walpole; and after Archbishop Wake was incapacitated by illness, he was Walpole's chief adviser in ecclesiastical matters. ‘His [Walpole's] esteem for the Bishop of London had been so great that when he was reproached with giving him the authority of a pope he replied: “And a very good pope he is”’ (COXE). Gibson's influence was sufficient to prevent the consecration of Rundle to the see of Gloucester (1734), as he was believed to hold deistical opinions. In 1736, however, Gibson alienated Walpole by his strenuous opposition to the Quakers' Relief Bill. The rejection of this measure in the House of Lords was partly caused by this opposition, which appears to have been ill-judged. The bill provided for the recovery of tithes and church rates from quakers by distraint. Gibson procured votes against it, and Walpole never forgave him. Horace Walpole remarks (Letters, ii. 130) that, in spite of the quarrel, Gibson always spoke of the statesman in the highest terms. At the death of Wake in 1737 Gibson, who had always been regarded as the ‘heir-apparent of Canterbury,’ was passed over, and the primacy was conferred on Potter, bishop of Oxford. At the death of Potter, ten years afterwards, it was offered to Gibson, but declined by him on account of age and infirmities. Contemporary notices represent Gibson as a patron of learned men. When librarian of Lambeth he commenced the catalogue of the library, finished by Dr. Ducarel, and arranged a collection of manuscripts left by Archbishop Tenison. Gibson died at Bath on 6 Sept. 1748. A portrait was engraved by Vertue in 1727. He is said to have married a sister of John Bettesworth, dean of the arches. He was survived by seven of twelve children. The bishop's brother John was provost of Queen's College, Oxford, from 1717 to 1730.

[Some Account of the Right Rev. Dr. E. Gibson, Lond. 1749, attributed to Richard Smalbroke, bishop of Coventry; Coxe's Walpole, ii. (1798); Nichols's Lit. Anecd. of the Eighteenth Century; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 540; Lathbury's Hist. of Convocation, 1853; Biog. Brit. 1766, suppl.; Hearne's Collections (Oxford Hist. Soc.), i. ii. iii.]

G. G. P.