Jacobson, William (DNB00)

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JACOBSON, WILLIAM (1803–1884), bishop of Chester, son of William Jacobson, a merchant's clerk, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, by his wife Judith, born Clarke, was born on 18 July 1803. His father died shortly after his birth, and as his mother's second husband was a nonconformist, he was sent when about nine to a school at Norwich kept by Mr. Brewer, a baptist, father of John Sherren Brewer [q. v.] Thence he went to Homerton (nonconformist) College, London, and in 1822–3 was a student at Glasgow University. On 3 May 1823 he was admitted commoner of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, being, it is said, befriended by Dawson Turner of Yarmouth, a member of the Society of Friends (Times). His means were small, and he lived a life of great self-denial. In May 1825 he was elected scholar of Lincoln College (B.A. in 1827), taking a second class in literæ humaniores. Failing to win a fellowship at Exeter College, he was a private tutor in Ireland until 1829. He then returned to Oxford, obtained the Ellerton theological prize, was elected fellow at Exeter on 30 June, and proceeded M.A. On 6 June 1830 he was ordained deacon, was appointed to the curacy of St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford, and was ordained priest the following year. In 1832 he was appointed vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, where he did much to encourage industry and enforce discipline. With a view to preparing an edition of the ‘Patres Apostolici,’ he went at this period to Florence, Rome, and elsewhere to consult manuscripts. In 1836 he was offered a mastership at Harrow by Dr. Longley, the head-master, afterwards archbishop of York; but as Longley was that year made bishop of Ripon, nothing came of it. He offered himself as Longley's successor at Harrow, but was not appointed. In 1839 he became perpetual curate of Iffley, near Oxford, was made public orator of the university in 1842, and was chosen select preacher in 1833, 1842, and 1863, but did not serve on the last occasion. By the advice of Lord John Russell, then prime minister, Jacobson was in 1848 promoted to the regius professorship of divinity at Oxford, which carried with it a canonry of Christ Church, and at that time also the rectory of Ewelme, Oxfordshire. In politics he was a liberal, and he was chairman of Mr. W. E. Gladstone's election committee at Oxford in 1865. On 23 June 1865 he accepted the offer of the see of Chester, and was consecrated on 8 July.

Jacobson was a man of universally acknowledged piety and of simple habits. Although extremely reserved and cautious, he never hesitated to act in accordance with his sense of right, and was a kind and considerate friend. He was a high churchman of the old scholarly sort; the Oxford movement exercised no influence on him, and he took no part in it. While his theological lectures, given when he was divinity professor at Oxford, were replete with erudition, those at which the attendance of candidates for orders was compulsory were unsuited to the larger part at least of his audience. He diligently performed his episcopal duties, and in the general administration of his diocese he showed tact and judgment; he continued to live simply, and gave away his money liberally. In his charge at his primary visitation in October 1868 (published) he spoke without reserve on the duty of rubrical conformity. Although personally he had no liking for new or extreme ritual, he made it clearly understood that he would discountenance prosecutions, and that he viewed with displeasure laxity and defect in order. His call to conformity gave offence to the more violent low churchmen, and in the earlier years of his episcopate he was twice mobbed by ‘Orangemen’ in Liverpool when on his way to consecrate churches intended for the performance of an ornate service. He promoted the division of his diocese made by the foundation of the bishopric of Liverpool in 1880. Failure of health caused him to resign his bishopric in February 1884; he was then in his eighty-first year. He died at the episcopal residence, Deeside, on Sunday morning, 13 July 1884. His portrait, painted by Richmond, has been engraved. He married, on 23 June 1836, Eleanor Jane, youngest daughter of Dawson Turner. By his wife, who survived him, he had ten children, of whom three sons and two daughters survived him.

Jacobson published an edition of Dean Alexander Nowell's ‘Catechismus,’ with Life, 1835, 1844; an edition of the extant writings of the ‘Patres Apostolici,’ with title ‘S. Clementis Romani, S. Ignatii … quæ supersunt,’ &c., 2 vols. 1838, 1840, 1847, 1863, a work of great learning, and specially important with reference to the genuineness of the longer recension of the Ignatian epistles [see under Cureton, William]; an edition of the ‘Works of Robert Sanderson,’ bishop of Lincoln, 6 vols., 1854, and a few smaller books, sermons, and charges. He also wrote annotations on the Acts of the Apostles for the ‘Speaker's Commentary.’

[Dean Burgon's Lives of Twelve Good Men, ii. 238–303, in the main a reproduction of the dean's art. in the Guardian newspaper of 30 July 1884; see also Guardian of 13 Aug. following; Saturday Review of 19 July 1884; Times newspaper of 14 July 1884, where the obituary notice is not quite accurate; Maurice's Life of F. D. Maurice, i. 99, 179, 356.]

W. H.