Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Bustling Intermeddler? the Life and Work of Charles James Blomfield

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Bustling Intermeddler? the Life and Work of Charles James Blomfield

Article excerpt

MALCOLM JOHNSON. Bustling Intermeddler? The Life and Work of Charles James Blomfield. Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing, 2001. Pp. vii + 210, appendix, select bibliography, index. £14.99 (paper).

Bustling Intermeddler is a work driven by admiration. Malcolm Johnson makes no bones about that. Fondness for a subject sometimes plays a biographer false, but Johnson has avoided most of the problems. Furthermore, a modem biography of Blomfield is certainly a worthwhile contribution to the history of the Anglican Church and of the first half of nineteenth-century England. Unfortunately, there are some problems with Bustling Intermeddler that prevent it from completely filling the scholarly gap.

Johnson does a limited but effective job of setting the stage and depicting Blomfield's early life in his first chapters. He also provides useful context for the social activitism that marked several aspects of Blomfield's career. He then moves to his discussion of Blomfield as bishop of London. The bishop was protean and describing his career is not an easy task. His social activism ranged from debates about Roman Catholic Emancipation and disestablishment of the church in Ireland, both of which he opposed, to working on the Poor Law Commission, attempting to improve the living and working conditions of the poor.

Blomfield was also busy in church matters. He was active as a diocesan leader, and this was his weakest area of endeavor. Philosophically he seems to have been moderately conservative, though he was concerned that the message of the church become more accessible to the poor, uneducated working class. As bishop, however, he was often pressed by the evangelicals for more outreach than he found comfortable and by Tractarians for a more formal liturgy than he thought acceptable. Mistakenly, he made the occasional concession, appeared inconsistent, and brought down on himself renewed demands for change. Such problems were not his real interest, and Johnson is appropriately critical of his handling of them.

Blomfield's most impressive accomplishment was building churches. Quickly, after being consecrated as bishop of London, he realized that the number of churches in his new diocese could not adequately serve its burgeoning population. Government financial support was minimal, and so he began to create building funds, giving generously from his own pocket. Unfortunately, the church was not simply a spiritual and charitable institution; each parish represented income and patronage for the incumbent. …

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