Page:Some aspects of the Victorian age.djvu/28

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

the higher and more spiritual conceptions of man's nature and functions. The lead in this sense was at once taken by a picturesque and interesting personage—the then Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce. This is the last place in the world where he needs a re-introduction. But one or two things may be said about him. He was in his day the foremost member of his own profession: by general consent the most effective preacher, by universal consent the greatest Bishop, in the Church of England. Through a curious malignity in the chapter of accidents, he just missed both Primacies, first that of York, and then that of Canterbury. Outside the ecclesiastical fold, he was in the House of Lords and on the platform one of the first orators in a time of great speakers: nor was he surpassed by any of his contemporaries in attractive social gifts. His more than Pauline capacity of being all things to all men gained him an undeserved reputation for time-serving, and even for insincerity. He had a whole-hearted belief in the Anglican position. In the field of action he was a wary and resourceful, and therefore a formidable, strategist.

Among other accomplishments the Bishop, who loved country life, had a good outside knowledge of Natural History, and after a little coaching from Owen, the doyen of British Biologists, he set to work to demolish Darwin in an article in the 'Quarterly Review'. He thought to pursue his advantage at the meeting of the British Association which was held here in Oxford in 1860, where, however, in his own chosen arena, Huxley, the young gladiator of Evolution—he was then only thirty-five—gave him a nasty fall.