Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: A Life

By Gregory, Alan P. R. | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: A Life


Gregory, Alan P. R., Anglican Theological Review


Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: a life. By Peter Hinchliff. Oxford: Clarendon Press, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. iv + 311 pp. $75.00 (cloth).

In 1857, Frederick Temple was elected headmaster of Rugby School. One of his pupils later described him as "a beast; but a just beast" (p. 138). The future archbishop's brusque, abrupt manner, still the subject of comment on his appointment to Canterbury, may well be the beastliness in question. It is as likely, though, that any decidedly firm headmaster qualifies as beastly to schoolboys only in that this lad, at least, recognized his beast to operate with "justice"-a tried confidence in the capacity of rules to establish fairness. That confidence persisted throughout Temple's career. In the ecclesiastical sphere, it shows in his insistence on the comprehensiveness of the Church of England, a comprehensiveness made possible by strict attention to its limits as laid down by law.

Peter Hinchliff's biography provides a detailed, psychologically nuanced account of Temple's rise from an impoverished Devon family through academic success at Oxford, educational leadership as principal of Kneller Hall and headmaster of Rugby, to episcopal responsibility as bishop of Exeter, then London, and finally as archbishop of Canterbury. Temple's achievements are impressive. He made significant contributions to the establishment of a national education system, to the advocacy of science within the curriculum, to the reform of diocesan administration, and to the debate on "Science and Religion." All this involved Temple in furthering social and intellectual change. Temple's career, however, as this biography presents it, offers us an indirect measure of the difficulties of change in the Victorian period, its complexity and pace reflected through the ambiguities of an intelligent and, broadly speaking, progressive ecclesiastic's response.

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