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Art. I. - Memoir of Edward Copleston, D. D. Bishop of
Llandaff. By WILLIAM JAMES COPLESTON, M. A. &c.
London: John W. Parker. 1851. The name of Copleston, both from the well-earned personal reputation of the late Bishop of Llandaff, and also from many associations connected with the principal scene of his active life, as Provost of Oriel College, will ever meet with respect and honour from those who are acquainted with the literary, religious, or academic world of the last sixty years. We say this advisedly, though conscious of many differences of opinion which would naturally prohibit him from occupying a very important niche in the hero calendar of this Review. In a fair and open discussion of principles and parties during so long a period of time as Dr. Copleston was an active member of society, it is bad taste, and not at all to the point, to make any matters of disagreement subjects of personal disparagement, especially with regard to one who had much liberality and candour of mind, and in whom anything which may have appeared to the contrary may justly be ascribed to the physical temperament of declining years
rather than to a moral fault of the vigorous mind. Dr. Copleston always maintained the character of a gentleman, which is no matter of course in the various positions of life in which he was placed, and he therefore merits gentle treatment in return; but if another argument were wanting to the reviewer of his Memoirs, all severity of criticism is entirely disarmed by the unassuming modesty and high-bred feeling of what is due to all parties concerned, in which the nephew has drawn up the uncle's life for the perusal of the public. There is an honourable wish to give a tribute of respect to an uncle, and there is also an ever-present anxiety not to be wearisome or obtrusive of individual feelings. There is throughout the volume an affectionate wish to give Dr. Copleston his well-earned place in public esteem, and yet to avoid any party-spirited means of accomplishing this end. A loving and grateful tribute to the memory of the dead is shown to be not incompatible with independence of sentiment on the part of the living
NO. LXXV.- N.S.
A few of the landmarks of biography are always essential, even to comprehend the most general idea of an individual character. Dr. Copleston was son of a Devonshire clergyman, rector of Offwell. He was born 1776, educated by his father till the age of fifteen, when he was elected scholar of Corpus Christi College. It is remarked that his early boyhood has left no records of unusual precocity. A good scholar, however, he undoubtedly was when he left the paternal rectory, for he obtained various undergraduate prizes, and in 1795 was elected fellow of that college, with which his name is ever after associated. In two years he became Tutor, and was elected Provost in 1814, an office which he held to the great advantage of Oriel, till in 1827 he was raised to the episcopal bench; and from that year to his death, in 1849, he divided his time between residence at the deanery of St. Paul's and the management of his diocese.
Dr. Copleston entered life in an academical age, when scholarship was almost the only standard of excellence at all recognised, with the exception of conversational powers, wherewith the somewhat convivial habits of the day might have an intellectual tinge infused into them. Theology was sunk in general estimation, as being no longer a subject on which the human intellect need much puzzle itself. A quiet and decorous comprehension of the elements of the Christian religion was all that men of even ambitious minds thought it necessary to aim at.
Further than this the science of theology was thought to have no connexion with religion; and the general style of conversation too often made it desirable, for the sake of reverence, that sacred things should not be introduced as subjects of social interest. Science of a physical kind was but just dawning on the minds of literary men, and had hardly penetrated into the casual dreams of common-room talk. Oxford thought herself a classic retreat, and bred up many true friends, many loving sons, on this ideal alone, who in better times would have been equally willing to take a higher ground of affection. Men do not always know what the spirit is which really attracts them to .some object which they love. Men loved, as they thought, in singleness of devotion, the classic groves of Alma Mater, when all the time they would have been little won by equally fine gardens and equally polished society, under less consecrated associations than Oxford involuntarily carries with it, by its natural momentum, even through generations of apathy.
May we picture to ourselves the better kind of Oxford society half a century back, when Copleston was Tutor of Oriel, and a universal favourite, both from the reputation of his tutorial labours and his powers of conversation? These labours were, in