English divine, Archbishop of Canterbury (1896-1902)
Born 1821 Died 1902
Frederick Temple was born in Santa Maura, one of the Ionian Islands, being the son of Major Octavius Temple, who was subsequently appointed lieutenant-governor of Sierra Leone. On his retirement he settled in Devonshire as a small landowner, and contemplated a farming life for his son Frederick, giving him a practical training to that end. But the boy was sent to Blundell's School, Tiverton, and soon exhibited abilities which marked him out for a different career. He retained through life a warm affection for the school, where he did well both in the classes and the games, and was famous as a walker. His fathers means were narrow, and the boy knew that he must win his own way in life. He took the first important step in that way by winning a scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, before he was quite seventeen years old.
The Tractarian Movement had set in five years earlier; but the memorable tract, No. 90, had not yet been written, and Temple entered a university which was vibrating with intellectual and religious excitement. After much discussion and reflection he drew closer to the camp of the Oxford Liberal Movement. In 1842 he took a double-first and was elected fellow of Balliol, and lecturer in mathematics and logic. Four years later he took orders, and with the aim of helping forward the education of the very poor, he accepted the headship of Kneller Hall, a college which the government formed for the training of masters of workhouse and penal schools. But the experiment was not altogether successful, and Temple himself advised its abandonment in 1855. He then accepted a school-inspectorship, which he held until he went to Rugby in 1858. In the meantime he had attracted the admiration of the prince consort, and in 1856 he was appointed chaplain-in-ordinary to the queen. In 1857 he was select preacher at his university.
At Rugby Dr Arnold had died in 1842 and had been succeeded by Dr Tait, who again was followed by Dr Goulburn. Upon the resignation of the latter the trustees appointed Temple, who in that year (1858) had taken the degrees of B.D. and D.D. His life at Rugby was marked by great energy and bold initiative. Whilst making the school a strong one on the classical side, he instituted scholarships in natural science, built a laboratory, and gave importance to that side of the school work. He had the courage also to reform the games, in spite of all the traditions of the playing fields. His own tremendous powers of work and his rugged manner somewhat alarmed his boys at first, but his popularity was soon undisputed, and he brought up the school to a very high level. His school sermons were deeply impressive: they rooted religion in the loyalties of the heart and the conscience, and taught that faith might dwell secure amid all the bewilderments of the intellect, if only the life remained rooted in pure affections and a loyalty to the sense of duty.
It was two years after he had taken up his work at Rugby that the volume entitled Essays and Reviews gave rise to an extraordinary storm. The first essay in the book, The Education of the World, was by Dr Temple. It was declared in a prefatory note to the volume that the authors were responsible only for their respective articles, but some of these were deemed so destructive that many people banned the whole book, and a noisy demand, led by Samuel Wilberforce, then bishop of Oxford, called on the headmaster of Rugby to dissociate himself from his comrades. Temple's essay had treated of the intellectual and spiritual growth of the race, and had pointed out the contributions made respectively by the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and others. It was generally declared by the critics of the volume to be in itself harmless, but was blamed as being found in bad company. Temple refused, so long as the storm lasted, to comply with the request that he would repudiate his associates, and it was only at a much later date (1870) that he saw fit quietly to withdraw his essay. In the meantime, however, he printed a volume of his Rugby sermons, to show definitely what his own religious positions were.
In politics Temple was a follower of Mr Gladstone, and he approved of the disestablishment of the Irish Church. He also wrote and spoke in favour of Mr Forster's Education Act, and was an active member of the Endowed Schools Commission. In 1869 Mr Gladstone offered him the deanery of Durham, but this he declined on the ground of his strong interest in Rugby. When later in the same year, however, Henry Phillpotts, bishop of Exeter, died, the prime minister turned again to Temple, and he accepted the bishopric of that city so dear to him from boyhood, and left Rugby for a home amongst his own people. The appointment, however, raised a fresh storm.
G. A. Denison, archdeacon of Taunton, Lord Shaftesbury, and others formed a strong committee of protest, whilst Pusey declared that the choice was the most frightful enormity ever perpetrated by a prime minister. At the confirmation of his election counsel was instructed to object to it, and in the voting the chapter was divided. But Gladstone stood firm, and Temple was duly consecrated on the 21st of December 1869. There were at first murmurings among his clergy against what they deemed his harsh control, but his real kindness soon made itself felt, and, during the sixteen years of his tenure of the see, his sound and vigorous rule dissipated the prejudices against him, so that when, on the death of Dr John Jackson in 1885, he was translated to London, the appointment gave general satisfaction. In 1884 he was Bampton Lecturer, taking for his subject The Relations between Religion and Science. In 1885 he was elected honourary fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.
Dr Temple's tenancy of the bishopric of London was marked. if possible, by more strenuous labours than ever. His normal working day at this time was one of fourteen or fifteen hours, and he refused to spare himself one hour of toil, though under the strain blindness was rapidly coming on. He was still felt by many of his clergy and by candidates for ordination to be a rather terrifying person, and to enforce almost impossible standards of diligence, accuracy and preaching efficiency, but his manifest devotion to his work and his zeal for the good of the people rooted him deeply in the general confidence. In London he was not less conspicuous as a temperance worker than he had been in Exeter, and the artisan classes instinctively recognized him as their friend. When, in view of his growing blindness, he offered to resign the bishopric, he was induced to reconsider his proposal, and on the sudden death of Archbishop Benson in 1896, though now seventy-six years of age, he accepted the see of Canterbury.
As archbishop he presided in 1897 over the decennial Lambeth Conference. In the same year Dr Temple and his brother archbishop issued an able reply to an encyclical of the pope which denied the validity of Anglican orders. In 1900 the archbishops again acted together, when an appeal was addressed to them by the united episcopate, to decide the vexed questions of the use of incense in divine service and of the reservation of the elements. After full hearing of arguments they gave their decision against both the practices in question. During his archbishopric Dr Temple was deeply distressed by the divisions which were weakening the Anglican Church, and many of his most memorable sermons were calls for unity. His first charge as primate on 'Disputes in the Church' was felt to be a most powerful plea for a more catholic and a more charitable temper, and again and again during the closing years of his life he came back to this same theme.
He was zealous also in the cause of foreign missions, and in a sermon preached at the opening of the new century he urged that a supreme obligation rested upon Britain at this epoch in the world's history to seek to evangelize all nations. In 1900 he presided over the World Temperance Congress in London, and on one occasion preached in the interests of women's education. In 1902 he discharged the important duties of his office at the coronation of King Edward VII, but the strain at his advanced age told upon his health. During a speech which he delivered in the House of Lords on the 2nd of December 1902 on the Education Bill of that year, he was seized with sudden illness, and, though he revived sufficiently to finish his speech, he never fully recovered, and died on the 23rd of December 1902. He was interred in Canterbury cathedral four days later.
His second son, William Temple (b. 1881), who had a distinguished career at Oxford, was in 1910 appointed headmaster of Repton.
See Archdeacon E. G. Sandford, Frederick Temple: an Appreciation (1907), with biographical introduction by William Temple; Memoirs of Archbishop Temple, by 'Seven Friends', ed. E. G. Sandford (1906).
Being the entry for TEMPLE, FREDERICK in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.