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James Skinner : a memoir online

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SEP 16







"Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best "





The subject of this memoir was so long withdrawn
from any active share in the Church's work, and
forced, through continual sickness and suffering, to
live for so many years in comparative retirement,
often out of England, that it was at first a question
whether there was a sufficient justification for
writing his life, or sufficient material for its com-
position. The circle of his friends had necessarily
become much narrowed, and to younger men the
position he occupied in the progress of the Church
movement was mostly unknown or forgotten.

But the work which James Skinner did before
sickness incapacitated him, was of an important kind,
and during his later years, confined almost to his
study, he was yet never unoccupied, except when
quite unequal to any exertion. Amidst his books — ■


he had a well-stocked and valuable library — he was
continually at work, either preparing private help
for those who looked to him for guidance in their
spiritual difficulties, or materials of a theological or
devotional kind, of more general usefulness, some of
which have been published.

It was felt therefore that there was cause for
requesting an intimate friend to undertake some
personal record, that the lessons to be derived from
his example and the fruits of his learning and
mental powers, always bent on the furtherance of
Divine truth and spiritual edification, might not be

At first it was intended only to publish his
letters and other spiritual papers, but afterwards it
w T as thought best, and more interesting, to introduce
them in a narrative.

I desire to offer very grateful thanks to those
who, at my request, kindly entrusted to me the
letters and certain other writings of my dear friend
which they had treasured. These have been freely
used according to their permission, where it was
thought they might be useful to others. It should,


however, be clearly stated that the author herself is
not responsible for the selections made. They have
been carefully considered at her express and anxious
desire, and a special debt is due to the Rev. W. H .
Cleaver for his patient labour in this matter, as well
as for his general assistance in the preparation of
this volume.

There has been another feeling actuating the
resolve to undertake this work. It was that the
lesson of patient endurance under continual suffer-
ing and inaction, on the part of one who had been
endued with specially ardent and energetic activities
of mind and body alike, might not be without some
fruit in encouraging and solacing others called to a
similar trial.

His nature was fitted and inclined to enter keenly
into the stirring interests of any great cause or oi
lofty duty, and equally so to enjoy with intense
brightness the innocent delights of the passing hour.
His whole spirit within him would stir with enthu-
siasm, or indignation, or eager zeal, as the cause
might dictate, and no one had a more joyous utter-
ance or a heartier laugh, as his quick imagination


kindled in loving intercourse with others ; for he

had a special gift of genial fellowship, and more than

ordinary conversational power.

It was felt, to use the author's words (in writing

to me to express her own thoughts as to her work),

that James Skinners life had been "a victory mainly

through suffering," as Charles Lowder's had been

" a victory through self-denying action," and that

this memoir, which her affectionate, reverent regard

for my dear friend led her to undertake, would be a

true practical comment on the words she has chosen

for the motto of her book,

" Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best."


St. John's Lodge, Clewer,
September 8, 1883.




Introduction — Birth — Parentage — Early Days — Durham University ... 1


1 839- 1 846.

Betrothal — King William's College — Ordained Deacon — Burton Agnes
— Ordained Priest — Windsor — Letters from Dr. Pusey — Southsea
Military Prison — Letter to Mr. George Skinner — St. Mary's, Read-
ing — Letter from Bishop Wilberforce — Corfu ... ... .. 15



Letters from Corfu — Visit to Ithaca — W T ork among the soldiers — Letters

from Rev. G. R. Gleig — Funeral of the Archbishop of Corfu ... 35



Visit to England — Journal— Marriage — Return" [to Corfu — Letters from
Corfu— Birth of a daughter— Resignation of Military Chaplaincy—
St. Barnabas', Pimlico ... ... ... ... ••• ••• ••• 5 1



1851, 1852.


Parish of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge— The Rev. W. J. E. Bennett-
Foundation of St. Barnabas', Pimlico— "Papal Aggression"— Dis-
missal of Mr. Bennett — Troubles at St. Barnabas' — Correspondence
with Rev. and Hon. R. Liddell — Letters to Charles Lowder —
Difficulties with Bishop Blomfield — Letters to Rev. and Hon. R.
Liddell— Letter from Rev. W. J. E. Bennett — Domestic sorrows ... 60


Letters on spiritual subjects ... ... ... ... ... •■- ••• 9$


Severe illness — Winter at Clifton — Letters of spiritual counsel 122



Failure of health — Letter from Mr. Liddell — Departure from England —
Storm in Mediterranean — Cairo — Journey through the Desert —
Death of Mr. Ewbank — Jaffa — Jerusalem — Journey to Alexandria 145


Return home — Archbishop of Malabar — Letters to Bishop Blomfield —
Dr. Lushington's judgment — Serious illness — Letters from Rev. and
Hon. R. Liddell — Resignation of curacy — Departure from St. Bar-
nabas' — Mentone — Lenten Rules — Letters ... ... ... ... 165


Return to England — Letters — Ilillingdon — Foundation of English Church
Union — Letter from Hon. Colin Lindsay — Tour abroad — Sunday at
Zurich — Munich — Breslau ... ... ... ... ... ... 1S7




i 861-1865.

Almshouses at Newland — Acceptance of parish and Wardenship — First
days at Malvern— Increased services — First Church Congress— Death
of Mrs. Raymond — The Warden's Lodge — Consecration of St.
Leonard's Church — Dedication of almshouses — Life at Newland ... 202



Work at Newland — Mid-Lent retreat — Notes on humility — Considera-
tions as to Roman claims— Letters of spiritual counsel 223


1867, 1868.

Death of George Ure Skinner — Agnes Raymond Skinner— Childhood —

Illness— Death 251



Letter from Bishop Wilberforce — Lent in London — Daily Celebration
at Newland — Use of vestments — Frescoes — " Synopsis of Moral
Theology" 273


Introduction to the " Synopsis of Moral Theology " ... 285



Increased work — Ammergau and North Italy — Letter from Brighton —

Serious illness — Letters of counsel— Fasting Communion 296





Failure of health— Spring abroad— San Remo— Val Ansasca— Monte
Generoso — Letter from Pontresina — Return to England — Letter
from Father Benson — Letter to Canon Carter — Winter abroad —
Return home — Bristol — Resignation of Newland — Letters from
Dr. Pusey — Departure from Newland ... ... ... ... ... 314



Winter on the Riviera — Letters from Dr. Pusey — Return to England —
The Hermitage — Religious communities — Winter at Cannes — Letter
to a young priest — Letter from Dr. Pusey — Cimiez — Visit to Dr.
Doellinger — Summer at the Hermitage — Visit to Newland — Letter
from Dr. Pusey ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 337



Winter at Bath — Letter from Dr. Pusey — Whitsuntide at Ascot — Visit to
Newland — Letters from Dr. Pusey — Last Celebration — Letters from
Bath — Letters from Dr. Pusey — Last summer at Ascot — Last visit
to Newland — Letters on St. Augustine — Resignation of Chaplaincy
— Letters from Dr. Pusey — Departure from Ascot 356


Letters from Bath— Last illness — Death — Burial at Newland 376

Appendix 3S7




" Chacun des Saints est un mot d'un discours infini, une note d'une
symphonie immense. "

There is a remarkable account in Cardinal Newman's
"Apologia" of his ardent desire, in the spring of 1833, to
return to England, after an absence of six months in Italy,
and his conviction that he had a work to do in this country.
After various hindrances from illness and other causes, he
arrived, he tells us, on July 9th, the Tuesday before Mr.
Keble preached the Assize Sermon in the University
pulpit at Oxford, on that Sunday, July 14th, which Dr.
Newman says he ever considered and kept as the start of
the religious movement of 1833.

When I got home from abroad (he continues), I found that
already a movement had commenced in opposition to the specific
danger which at that time was threatening the religion of the
* t B


nation and its Church. Several zealous and able men had united
their counsels, and were in correspondence with each other. The
principal of these were Mr. Keble, Hurrell Froude, who had
reached home long before me, Mr. William Palmer of Dublin
and Worcester College, Mr. Arthur Perceval, and Mr. Hugh Rose.

Amongst these remarkable men, perhaps Mr. Hurrell
Froude possessed the most original genius ; certainly he
was the one who felt himself the least fettered in his course
of thought and action. Now that half a century has passed
away, it is not unfitting that the following letter, written
by him to Mr. Perceval, should be made public. It was
written exactly a month after Mr. Keble preached the
Oxford Assize Sermon, and is one of so much historical
value that to withhold it would be a loss.*

My dear Perceval,

The impression left on my mind after my visit to Rose
was on the whole a gloomy one, i.e. that in the present state of
the country we have very poor materials to work upon among the
clergy and laity ; and that the only thing to be done is to direct
all our efforts to the dissemination of better principles.

Since I have been back at Oxford, Keble has been here, and
he and Palmer and Newman have come to an agreement, that the
points which ought to be put forward by us are the following : —

I. The Doctrine of the Apostolical Succession as a rule of

i.e. (i) That the participation of the Body and Blood of
Christ is essential to the maintenance of Christian
life and hope in each individual.
(2) That it is conveyed to individual Christians only by
the Hands of the Successors of the Apostles and
their delegates.

* It is given here by the kind permission of Miss Perceval, eldest daughter
of the late Rev. and Hon. Arthur Perceval.


(3) That the Successors of the Apostles are those who are
descended in a direct line from them, by the impo-
sition of Hands ; and that the delegates of these are
the respective presbyters whom each has commis-

II. That it is sinful voluntarily to allow the interference of
persons or bodies, not members of the Church, in matters spiri-

III. That it is desirable to make the Church more popular as
far as it is consistent with the maintenance of its apostolical

Newman and Palmer add, but Keble demurs :

IV. We protest against all efforts directed to the subversion
of existing Institutions, or to the Separation of Church and State.

V. We think it a duty steadily to contemplate and provide for
the contingency of such a separation.

Keble demurs to these, because he thinks the union of Church
and State, as it is now understood, actually sinful. In the rest we

VI. We hold it to be the duty of every clergyman to stir up
his brother clergy to the consideration of these and similar sub-
jects, and if possible to induce them to do the same.

If you object to any of these, or anything else strikes you of
greater or equal importance, is it troubling you too much to ask
that you will write to one of us ?

It is very important that we should all pull together, and
preach the same thing ; at least, if our opinions ever make a noise
it will be so.

So much for principles — next as to their application. Does
any plan strike you on which we could organize arrangements for
the wide publication of tracts on such subjects?

Could we not, by means of our friends and our friends' friends,
contrive railroads and canals for the diffusion of apostolical know-
ledge ?

We mean to have the Epistle of St. Ignatius printed very
cheap ; perhaps on handbills with woodcuts of his martyrdom on


the top, and the parts about Bishops printed in capitals, perhaps
in red letters. But this will be of little use if we cannot circulate
them widely. As to the clergy, perhaps the British Magazine
is the best way of getting at them.

But we may do much by writing on the subj ects aforesaid to all
our friends, insisting much on their importance, and getting them
to do the same.

Such of us as know each other well and can be sure of never
splitting on minor points, may perhaps form a joint stock company
to supply means for printing tracts we approve on a large scale,
but all this is for a much more advanced stage of our proceedings,
only it is as well to keep it in view.

I shall leave Oxford next Friday, and shall be in Devonshire
for the next month at Darlington, near Totnes, Devon ; but you
had best write, not to me but to Keble or Palmer, for whom I
only officiate as an understrapper.

I am sorry to say I forget the watering-place you were going
to, so I direct to your Parsonage.

Yours very truly,

R. H. Froude.

Oriel College, August 14, 1833.

Palmer has, I believe, written to Rose, and we shall of course
be much guided by his advice.

To the Hon. and Rev. A. P. Perceval,

East Horsley Rectory, Surrey.

" A bold rider, as on horseback, so also in his specula-
tions," this letter proves to have been a true saying of
Froude, who had, indeed, "that strong hold of first prin-
ciples, and that keen perception of their value, that he was
comparatively indifferent to the revolutionary action which
would attend on their application to a given state of
things." *

* "Apologia pro Vita sua," p. 106. 1864.


The history of the movement which he evidently ex-
pected would " make a noise " remains to be written. We
can but gather up a few records of those who took a part
in it, more or less prominent ; believing that it will not be
without profit to tell the story of men inspired and working
with a fresh keen ardour for principles which they had
accepted with all the strength of their being.

Dr. Newman's words concerning Mr. Froude, quoted
above, may be truly said of the subject of this memoir.
But in considering his life and his work there is this draw-
back, that the task has fallen upon one who, in attempting
to fulfil it, can only tell the story of a friend. Yet it may
be that love unseals our eyes more than it blinds them,
permitting us to behold, even here, that vision of inward
beauty which in eternity will be fully unveiled.

" Clear stands Love's perfect image now,
And shall do evermore,
And we in awe and wonder bow
The scorified before.

James Skinner was born at Forfar, in Scotland, June
23, 1 818, the youngest of ten children. He came of a
family remarkable both for ability and for devotion to the
Church. His great-grandfather, the Rev. John Skinner,
born in 172 1, had been brought up in Presbyterian prin-
ciples, but while still a lad his poems in the Scottish dialect
attracted the attention of Lady Grant of Monymusk, near
Aberdeen, who, in the words of a memoir prefixed to his

was pleased to encourage his rustic muse, by affording him in


the house of Monymusk every accommodation for prosecuting
his studies, and improving his mind in the attainment of useful
learning. Here it was that, enjoying the conversation and the
benefit of reading under the direction of a worthy clergyman in
that neighbourhood, he became a convert to the principles of
Episcopacy, and united himself to the venerable remains of the
old-established Church of Scotland.

He married the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Hunter, the
only clergyman of the Episcopal communion in the Shet-
land Isles, " whose unwearied assiduity in discharging the
duties of his office, often at imminent risk of his life in
those boisterous seas, endeared him to the people under his
pastoral charge, and made his memory precious among

Mr. Skinner received holy orders from Bishop Dunbar,
and was placed in charge of the Episcopal congregation
at Longside, near Peterhead, to whom he ministered for
sixty-five years. It was a time of trial to his steadfast
principles, for, in the words of his biographer,

after the last Stuart rising in 1745, the Scotch Episcopal Church
was doomed to feel, as a community, not only the rigour of the
law, but some of the most cruel effects of military violence.
Their chapels, or meeting-houses, were either burnt to the ground,
or otherwise demolished by parties of armed men sent through
the country for that purpose ; and many of the clergy were obliged
to leave their houses, under the terror of immediate imprisonment
if found at home ; nay, to leave them to the mercy of plundering
soldiers, out of the reach of discipline, or acting under the com-
mand of officers of the lowest rank, eager, by the strict execution
of this barbarous service, to raise themselves in the esteem of
some furious and enraged superior.

Such was the state of things through the North of Scotland in


the summer of 1746, during which the Episcopal clergy could
hardly find a home or place of safety ; and poor Mr. Skinner was
for the most part a prisoner, either in custody or on his parole,
uncertain how or when he might be called to undergo some
heavier punishment. The writer of this memoir has often heard
him tell that, on coming home one evening from performing an
occasional office in the way of his duty, he found his house in the
possession of a military party, some of them guarding a door with
fixed bayonets, and others searching the several apartments, even
the bedchamber where Mrs. Skinner was lying-in of her fifth child,
and little able to bear such a rude, unseasonable visit. No lenity
was to be looked for from such unfeeling visitors, who pillaged the
house of everything they could carry with them, hardly leaving a
change of linen to father, mother, or child in the family. The
chapel with all its furniture was destroyed, and for several years
the congregation could find no place to meet in for public worship
but the clergyman's house, which not being sufficiently large,
many of them were obliged to stand in the open air during divine

In 1746 and 1748 (says a writer in the " Encyclopedia
Britannica ") two laws were enacted against the Scotch Episco-
palians, which, under the pretence of eradicating their attachment
to the house of Stuart, were so contrived as to preclude such of
their clergy as were willing to pay allegiance to the reigning
sovereign, and to pray for the royal family by name, from reaping
the smallest benefit from their loyalty.

Under these Acts Mr. Skinner was very unexpectedly
apprehended in 1753, and being not willing to give the
court any trouble in calling evidence to prove his having
been guilty of the offence with which he was charged, he
" emitted before the sheriff a voluntary confession, acknow-
ledging that, in the discharge of his professional duty, he
had been in the practice of officiating as a clergyman to


more than four persons besides his own family." In con-
sequence of this confession, he was sentenced to six months'

His " Verses in the Scottish Dialect " are full of true
poetical genius. Robert Burns, in his " Strictures on Scot-
tish Songs and Ballads," says —

This first of Songs (Tullochgorum) is the masterpiece of my
old friend Skinner. He was passing the day at the town of
Ellon in a friend's house, whose name was Montgomery. Mrs.
Montgomery observing e7i passant that the beautiful Reel of Tul-
lochgorum wanted words, she begged them of Mr. Skinner, who
gratified her wishes, and the wishes of every lover of Scottish song,
in this most excellent ballad.

In 1787 Burns made a tour in the north and west of Scot-
land, and by chance met Mr. Skinner's son at Aberdeen,
who wrote the following account of their meeting to his
father : —

Calling at the printing-office the other day, whom should I
meet on the stair but the famous Burns, the Ayrshire Bard ! And
on Mr. Chalmers telling him that I was the son of Tullochgorum,
there was no help but I must step into the inn hard by, and drink
a glass with him and the printer. Our time was short, as he was
just setting off for the south, and his companion hurrying him ;
but we had fifty "auld sangs " through hand, and spent an hour or
so most agreeably. "Did not your father write the ' Ewie wV the
crooked horn ' .?" " Yes." " O, an I had the lown that did it ! "
said he, in a rapture of praise; "but tell him howl love and
esteem and venerate his truly Scottish muse." On my mentioning
his " Ewie " and how you were delighted with it, he said it was all
owing to yours, which had started the thought. He had been at
Gordon Castle and come by Peterhead. " Then," said I, " you
were within four Scottish miles of Tullochgorum 's dwelling." Had
you seen the look he gave, and how expressive of vexation, — had


he been your own son, you could not have wished a better proof
of affection.

A few days later, Burns writes to Mr. Skinner :

I regret, and while I live shall regret, that when I was in the
North, I had not the pleasure of paying a younger brother's dutiful
respect to the Author of the best Scotch song ever Scotland saw —
" Tullochgorum's my delight ! " The world may think slightingly
of the craft of song-making if they please, but, as Job says, " O !
that mine adversary had written a book ! " let them try.

One extract from Mr. Skinner's answer to Burns must
be given ; the letter is dated November 14, 1787 :

While I was young I dabbled a good deal in these things ;

but on getting the black gown, I gave it pretty much over, till my

daughters grew up, who being all tolerably good singers, plagued

me for words to some of their favourite tunes, and so extorted

those effusions which have made a public appearance beyond my

expectations, and contrary to my intentions ; at the same time

that I hope there is nothing to be found in them uncharacteristic,

or unbecoming the cloth, which I would always wish to see

respected. . . . Meantime, while you are thus publicly, I may

say, employed, do not sheath your own proper and piercing

weapon. From what I have seen of yours already, I am inclined

to hope for much good. One lesson of virtue and morality

delivered in your amusing style, and from such as you, will

operate more than dozens would do from such as me, who shall

be told it is our employment, and be never more minded;

whereas, from a pen like yours, as being one of the many, what

comes will be admired, admiration will .produce regard, and regard

will leave an impression, especially when example goes along.

" Now binna saying I'm ill bred,
Else by my troth I'll no be glad !
For cadgers, ye have heard it said,

An' sic like fry,
Maun ay be harling in their trade,

An' so maun I."


Wishing you, from my poet-pen, all success, and in my other
character, all happiness and heavenly direction, I remain with

Online LibraryJohn Scribner JennessJames Skinner : a memoir → online text (page 1 of 34)