Gleig, George (1753-1840) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


GLEIG, GEORGE (1753–1840), bishop of Brechin, came of a family of Scotch episcopalians, which had adhered to the house of Stuart and suffered for it. He was born on his father's farm at Boghall, in the parish of Arbuthnot, Kincardineshire, on 12 May 1753. After some instruction at the school of Arbuthnot he entered, at about thirteen years of age, King's College, Aberdeen, where he carried off the first prizes in mathematics and the moral and physical sciences. In 1773 he took orders in the Scottish episcopal church, and was appointed almost immediately to the charge of Crail and Pittenweem, Fifeshire. In 1786 he went to London, chiefly to negotiate for the repeal of the penal laws, and appears to have obtained from Moore, archbishop of Canterbury, a draft of a bill to which the government might assent. The Scotch bishops, however, desired a measure of relief not involving the requirement to pray for the king by name. This ‘foolish attempt,’ as Gleig described it, was fatal to the scheme. Bishop Skinner was then all powerful in the church, was suspicious of his efforts, and had resented Gleig's criticism of his consecration sermon in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1785 (pt. i. p. 438). Though he was elected by the clergy bishop of Dunkeld in November 1786, in September 1792, and for the third time in the summer of 1808, the hostility of Skinner rendered the election on all three occasions ineffectual.

Gleig removed from Pittenweem to Stirling in 1787. He became a frequent contributor to the ‘Monthly Review,’ the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ the ‘Anti-Jacobin Review,’ and the ‘British Critic.’ He also wrote several articles for the third edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ and on the death of the editor, Colin Macfarquhar, in 1793, was engaged to edit the remaining six volumes (xiii–xviii.). Three of his principal contributions to this work were the articles on ‘Instinct,’ ‘Metaphysics,’ and ‘Theology.’ The two supplementary volumes, which appeared in 1801, he wrote almost unaided. King's College, Aberdeen, conferred on him the degree of LL.D.; he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, contributed to their ‘Transactions,’ and became also fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

On 28 Sept. 1808 Gleig was unanimously chosen successor to Bishop Strahan in the episcopate of Brechin, and having bound himself to maintain the Scotch office—a test imposed upon him by Skinner, now primus—he was consecrated in St. Andrew's Church, Aberdeen, on 30 Oct. He at once attacked the old abuses. He immediately addressed to his clergy a long circular pastoral letter, dated 18 Nov. 1808, recommending strict adherence to the English liturgy in every office of the church, except that of the Holy Communion. In 1810 he suggested a plan for enabling the clergy to improve their education. On 20 Aug. 1816 he was appointed primus, but failed to fulfil the promise of his ordinary episcopate. The chief cause of his comparative failure in administration was his persistent and abortive interference in diocesan elections. During 1820–3 Gleig contributed some able articles to the ‘Scottish Episcopal Magazine,’ the organ of his friend, Dr. Russell. In June 1823 he made another journey to London, and did what he could to forward a measure for securing the regium donum for the church. Increasing infirmities obliged him to send in his resignation of the primacy on 15 Feb. 1837. He died 9 March 1840, and was buried in a chapel attached to the Greyfriars Church, Stirling, which belongs to the Graham Moirs of Leckie. In 1789 he married Janet, widow of Dr. Fullton, and youngest daughter of Robert Hamilton of Kilbrackmont. By this lady, who died 15 June 1824 (Scots Mag. new ser. xv. 255), he had three sons and one daughter. He survived all his children except the youngest son, George Robert Gleig [q. v.]. Besides various sermons and charges Gleig was the author of:

  1. ‘Some Account of the Life and Writings of William Robertson … late Principal of the College of Edinburgh,’ 8vo (1812), prefixed or intended to be prefixed to an edition of Robertson's works.
  2. ‘Directions for the Study of Theology in a Series of Letters from a Bishop to his Son on his admission into Holy Orders,’ 8vo, 1837 (in great part a reprint from periodicals).

He likewise edited Jerome Lobo's ‘Voyage to Abyssinia,’ 8vo, 1789, and Thomas Stackhouse's ‘History of the Holy Bible,’ 4to, 1817. He was attacked for lax views upon original sin expressed in his edition of Stackhouse. His letters to Alexander Henderson of Edinburgh, from 1810 to 1818, are in the British Museum (Additional MS. 28960), as is also a single letter addressed in 1792 to John Douglas, bishop of Salisbury (Egerton MS. 2186, f. 62).

[Life by William Walker, incumbent of Monymusk (1878); Life by G. R. Gleig in Encycl. Brit. (8th edit.) x. 676–7, which is full of extraordinary inaccuracies; Life in Encycl. Brit. (9th edit.) x. 677.]

G. G.