Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 17. Hook; The Wilberforces

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XII. The Oxford Movement

§ 17. Hook; The Wilberforces

Walter Farquhar Hook was one of the most masterful figures of his time, first as vicar of Leeds for twenty-two years and then as dean of Chichester. He accepted nearly all the principles of the tractarians, but frequently stood apart from their expression and was often a vehement critic. He was an industrious compiler of dictionaries and biographies, without sufficient research or originality to give them permanent vitality. His successor at Chichester, John William Burgon, held a similar position of independent judgment. He was a keen and biting controversialist and the most conservative of biblical critics; but he had an intense love of “good men,” among whom he placed some of the authors of the tracts. His biographies are essential to a knowledge of the movement.

Two sons of the famous statesman and philanthropist, and brothers of that bishop of Oxford who revolutionised the ideal of English episcopacy, Robert Isaac and Henry William Wilberforce, both at Oriel, passed into the Roman church. The elder had been an archdeacon and yet had written theological books of real value, notably one on The Doctrine of The Incarnation, which was on strictly tractarian lines and won great fame. The younger after his secession gave important help to the Roman catholic cause in the press.

Some of those who had abandoned their orders and left the English church seemed eager to disclaim any connection with it. Some vehemently attacked what they had before as vehemently defended, but no one of them save Newman made any great mark in literature. Some were content with a change of clothes substituting for their customary suits of solemn black the vagaries of “blue ties and ginger-coloured trousers.”

More formidable was the Anglo-Roman hierarchy created in 1850, whose head announced its creation by a letter “from out the Flaminian Gate.”