Arthur James Mason.

Memoir of George Howard Wilkinson, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and primus of the Scottish Church, formerly Bishop of Truro (Volume 2) online

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n u vv A K u W 1 L a i r^ d '




. j.iiviES MASON D.D.




















All riglits reaerved


First Edition, 2 vols. 8vo. March 1909.
Reprinted June 1909.




I. The Durham Offer i

II. Appointment to Truro 7

III. The New Bishop and his Predecessor ... 22

IV. Consecration and Enthronement 40

V. Diocesan Work 56

VI. Impressions and Recollections 71

VII. Miscellaneous Letters 88

VIII. Work Beyond the Diocese 94

IX. Letters to the Archbishop 102

X. The Cathedral 119

XL The Beginnings of his Community . . . -139

XII. The Community at Alverton 153

XIII. Later Letters to the Sisters 165

XIV. Illness and Resignation 179

XV. The Voyage to South Africa 202


I. Entering upon Work in Scotland .... 229

II. The Cathedral Centre 241

III. Diocesan and Other Work 258

IV. Reminiscences 278

V. The Primus and his Work 304

VI. The Mission of Help 321

VII. Unity 364

VIII. Personal Life in the Last Days 406

IX. The End 419


■" j*^'. t-'i


Portrait of the Bishop (Photogravure) . Frontispiece

From a Photograph by IV. Dower, Truro

St. Ninian's Cathedral, Perth, 1908 . . . To face f. 241

Front a Photograph by W. Crooke, Edinburgh

Bishop Wilkinson in 1903 (Photogravure) . . „ ,,417

From a Photograph by IV. Dower, Truro








It was towards the end of the year 1882 that Wilkinson re-
ceived the most attractive invitation which had yet come to
him to leave his work at St. Peter's. The great Lightfoot, who
had been consecrated to the see of Durham in 1879, offered him
a canonry at Durham with a view to his doing evangelistic
work in the diocese at large. Such situations were as yet novel.
Bishop Benson had recently made an experiment of the kind
in Cornwall, but none of the older dioceses had been provided
with a ' Canon Missioner.' The position of a canon in such
a cathedral as that of Durham is one of the highest dignity ;
and to have the offer of the position from such a man as Light-
foot exalted the dignity a hundredfold. To have returned
to the old diocese under that patronage and in those con-
ditions would have been sweet to the heart of any man,
especially to anyone who cared for his native county as
Wilkinson did.



He set himself as usual to consult friends. Their advice
varied. One wrote :

To consider your points one by one :

1. The influence at St. Peter's. This seems to me the most
important point to consider carefully. There is so much in
what you say, ' I have long felt that the work is beyond me,' that
one asks, what would become of St. Peter's if your health should
break down under the strain ? . . . God who sent you there
will, if you are not leaving through any wrong motive or self-
will, provide for your work in London. The fact that your
work is in a good state to be handed over to another is an im-
portant one.

2. The fact that Bishop Lightfoot invites you to come is in
itself important. He is far too wise a man to ask you to leave
work in London without some urgent cause.

... I saw or heard the other day that there is a large
increase in the number of undergraduates at Durham, and
there may be a work to be done among them which will be very
greatly for the good of the Church. Your connexion with the
North is certainly not to be disregarded.

3. The canonry would give you what would perhaps prolong
your life — work without the terrible strain of such a parish
as yours or the far more terrible burden of a bishopric. Men of
a less sensitive temperament than yours could bear the responsi-
bility of a bishop's office better than you. If God clearly
and unmistakably called you to the episcopal office, it would be
like a call to martyrdom. . . . You will be a free man — free to
speak to us all as occasion serves. You can speak to Bishops,
clergy, to all, with a greater freedom than you would have
in almost any position. Surely this is worth consideration.
No one is so free as a canon. . . .

Perhaps what weighs most strongly with me is that you
must probably under any circumstances soon give up St. Peter's,
and one can hardly picture to oneself any position in which
without a break down of health you could do more good than in
this canonry.

Another wrote in like manner :

I think your eyes should be always open to the fact that the
continual effort of keeping such a parish work as yours to the
high pressure mark is a most tremendous strain, so continual,


so many-sided. Hence the qucere, may not a change to another
work be meant as a rehef, granting a new power to the faculties
by a shifting of the pressure of thought and care ? Such a
change, I beheve, is at our time of life, a very useful, often a
needful one. Where we work for God is immaterial — a refreshed
force by which to do it is often a benediction.

But the doctors, on the whole, were against the proposal,
and so were other weighty voices. From beside the dying bed
of Archbishop Tait, one who was Bishop Lightfoot's Examining
Chaplain — the present Archbishop of Canterbury — wrote :

After the most careful and prayerful weighing of the matter,
I have myself been led pretty decidedly to the conclusion that
you ought not to leave St. Peter's for such work as is proposed,
important though it is. I have considered every word of what
you say as to your link with the North, your inclination and
experience in Mission work, and the importance you rightly
attach to the great battlefield ' of the colliery land. My own
little experiences of Auckland and Newcastle and Durham at
Ember-tides, and my talk with the ordinands, enable me to
know something of what the needs and possibilities of those
districts are, and I do not underrate them.

But, then, I do know, too, what you are in London, not merely
as a parish priest (of that others can judge better), but as a
centre of influence and usefulness and peace, far beyond any
parochial relations direct or indirect. I honestly do not think
I am looking at it, as the Bishop of Durham seems to fear,
merely from a Londoner's point of view. The anomalous position
I have come — in God's providence — to hold gives me perhaps
quite exceptional opportunity of judging how far and deeply
your influence direct and indirect does extend in the Church
problems and difficulties of to-day. That this sort of influence
on the side of peace and loyalty in these troubled days could
be maintained in any activity if you were living at Durham
is, I think, obviously out of the question. Others, of whom I
claim to be one, can judge, I think, better than you can, what
is the power God has at present placed in your hands, and how
weighty the consequences might be, were you to lay it down.
In short, I cannot feel that you have any call to Durham

' Bishop Lightfoot had said that the battle of the Church must be fought ia
the North.


sufficiently emphatic to bid you resign your present position
in the affairs of the Church at what must, after all, be its real
centre. I do not at all say that these same objections would
stand, were you called to a higher office. A Bishop's position in
the Church of England of to-day is not a local one : a Canon
Missioner's position is a local one, and you could not possibly
retain, while working at Durham, the place in the Church at
large which God enables you to fill at present.

The Bishop of London had no hesitation in giving his judg-
ment. On November 15 he called at Wilkinson's house to talk
the matter over with him, and was met by the question — probably
not often put to a Bishop of London at the door of one of his
presbyters — whether he came by appointment. There was no
admittance for him otherwise. He wrote next day :

My dear Wilkinson, — When I called yesterday, and was
asked ' whether I had an appointment,' I thought that when
an Incumbent, not being either a professed student or a sluggard,
finds it expedient to lay down any such rule, it can be no slight
work that he is doing.

I had been trying all day to strip off, on the one side, all my
own prcejudicia (which are no doubt very strong) against your
going, arising from personal feeling and from natural preference
for my own diocese, and on the other hand, the very natural
and perhaps strong attraction which you may have towards the
old country, but which may be classed among the sentimental
motives — so as to view the question in the lumen siccum of duty.

On the whole I cannot but think it your duty to decUne.
I do not undervalue the work which a missionary clerg5mian
or canon may do — and still less what you as a missionary canon
would do — in a diocese ; but I consider that many might be found
who could do that work as well, or nearly as well, as you would,
while there are very few indeed in comparison who could supply
your place as a parish priest, even were you beginning in a fresh
place. But as it is, with the position you have established,
the influence you have gained, and the machinery you have set
at work, the value of the services done to our Lord's Church —
not merely to your parish — is much greater, in my judgment,
than could be rendered in the position now offered you. I may
mention inter alia the proof you have given and are giving that
it is possible in the Church of England to furnish all the aids,


ministerial and sacramental, needed for the spiritual health
of her children, without the exaggerations (to use a mild term)
which, borrowed from the Church of Rome, have a tendency to
lead to it.

I have not touched on considerations arising from health,
family, and income, because your decision would not hinge on
these ; but it is material that they all bear in one direction.
I would rather talk on such a matter than write, but I shall not
be in London again this week, and to-day is all engaged ; and
I fear you have not much opportunity of reaching Fulham,
where, however, I shall be at home at luncheon time (1.30)
to-morrow and Saturday.

May God guide you aright !

Affectely. yours,

J. London.

I have just been talking to the Bishop of Lichfield, who
agrees with me.

These counsels did not immediately determine Wilkinson's
questionings. He wrote to Bishop Lightfoot asking for time,
and telling the opinions of friends who advised him to go. The
Bishop answered on November 24 that he did not wish him to
hurry his decision in a matter of so great importance.

Important it is, he added — more important perhaps than
either you or I foresee — for the future of the Gospel and the
Church in England. I have nothing to add to your summary
of the views of those friends who see in this invitation to the
North a call to a new and great work for Christ. It exactly
expresses the ideal which I had in my mind. It would be
faithless to suppose the problem insoluble ; and honestly I say
it, I do not know any man in England who seems better marked
out than yourself for attempting the solution. I was disap-
pointed that you were not called to Newcastle,^ but I should
at once recognise my short-sightedness in this disappointment,
if you should see your way to the acceptance of this canonry.
For I seem to see here the potentiality of a far greater, because
an exceptional, work than in any ordinary episcopate.

The results, however, are in God's hands. I can only assure

' Through the exertions of Bishop Lightfoot the see of Newcastle had been
founded that year. Ernest Wilberforce was chosen for the first Bishop.


you, if you need assuring, that, if you come, you shall have my
confidence whoUy. It is not in my way to distrust those whom
I have deliberately appointed to important positions, and in
this case I have carefully considered the matter in all its bear-

How true the last paragraph of the great Bishop's letter was
would be amply testified by Dr. George Body, to whom he turned

Wilkinson now proceeded to write out fully, on several
sheets of foolscap paper, his ' Reasons for not leaving London.*
They were conclusive, as against the Durham offer, but when
he made this estimate of the situation, Wilkinson Uttle knew
how soon the whole matter would be reopened, and with a
different issue.



On the first Sunday in Advent, December 3, Archbishop
Tait died. Three clergymen were engaged in taking a Mission
together in Cornwall. One of them was Wilkinson's old friend
the Rev. J. H. Moore. When they heard next morning of the
Archbishop's death, one of them said, ' Now you will see ; they
will take our Bishop for Canterbury, and send Wilkinson to
succeed him here.' Mr. Moore replied, ' If they do, I shall
melt into a week of thanksgiving.' He was voti reus ; the
prophecy came true. The letter in which Mr. Gladstone offered
the see of Canterbury to Bishop Benson ended with the post-
script : ' Were not this letter sufficiently charged already, I would
ask what information can your Lordship give me concerning
Mr. Wilkinson (of St. Peter's, Eaton Square).' ^

Wilkinson's connexion with Cornwall was already formed.
In 1877, within a few months of the consecration of the first
Bishop of Truro, the Bishop was walking with a friend, and
asked him whom he should appoint to be one of his Examining
Chaplains, as the number was not yet complete. The friend
suggested Wilkinson. Bishop Benson was much struck by the
suggestion, but he did not yet know Wilkinson well. ' Isn't
he a very High Churchman ? ' he enquired. In a short time the
chaplaincy was offered, and was accepted, and in the following
summer Wilkinson was installed in the Canonry of St. Petroc
in the humble building which then served as the cathedral of
the new diocese.

The two men had corresponded before. On February 13 of

' Life of Archbishop Benson, i. 548.


that year, 1877, Wilkinson wrote to ask the Bishop Designate
if he could preach at St. Peter's on a Sunday in Lent. He said :

Mr. Mason has been telling me some of your plans for Truro,
in which I am deeply interested. They promise to supply the
one great need which in a similar diocese (Durham) — so far as
the power of Wesleyanism is concerned — was forced upon my
mind continually. I should like, apart from my own wish to
have the privilege of making your acquaintance, that my people
should know you, so as to follow your new work with their
sj^mpathy and prayers. Pray forgive me for writing so freely,
but I cannot feel that we are really strangers to each other.

Dr. Benson could not go, but he rephed :

The thought of such a people and church as yours ' following
my work (in its newness) with their sympathy and prayers '
is indeed a thought which would draw me to your bidding at
once, if it could be. . . . You rejoice me much by saying that
you do not feel we are strangers to each other. I have learnt
so much from you, directly or indirectly, and had my thoughts
so much in many ways directed to your work in hfting the souls
of men — mine among them — that I think your sense of the
bond with me comes from a sympathy which is not quite of this
world. A thousand thanks — and the hope that you will let the
word Cornuhia just appear in your long Bede-roll.

The next letter was that which invited Wilkinson to be

chaplain :

Kenwyn, Truro : 8 Aug., 1877.

My dear Sir, — I could not and should not complain if you
thought this letter a presumptuous one, my personal acquaint-
ance with you is so little, and is, in this, so contrasted with my
reverence for your work and you.

But Arthur Mason shall sponsor me on the personal side, and
he is most, most anxious that I should feel justified in writing.

After this long preface I ask you whether you will confer on
me the very particular honour of being my chaplain, taking
part (even occasionally, if it must be so) in my ordinations.
I know that you throw your heart earnestly in with the im-
portance of this Cornish work ; I can only say that it seems to
me so appallingly important, that fifty times a day I can only
fall back on the call, to enable myself the least to understand


how I can be supposed to face it, while viri vere apostolici have
to work in beaten tracks.

I know that you fully appreciate this, that there is nothing
whatever to be done here, except by enabling our overwhelming
Nonconformity — a zealously religious people here at least —
to find Godliness, Life, and a Moving Spirit in Churchmen.
This they do not believe (and they have their reasons for it),
and hence Church Doctrines which seem to them to have effected
so little for us, come out to them in aU the colours of superstition.
There is nothing to be done except by traversing them through
and through with a spiritual clergy.

You must not wonder then that I ask you if it is possible
for you to think of coming down to see the groups of candi-
dates and influence them from time to time, when you can spare
yourself from your work in London. My dear Chaplain on the
spot bids me say that for paper work in the examinations you
shall have only just what you like to take — if it is only enough
to enable you to judge of their pastoral views. Anything
more we will not ask, but only apponemus lucro if you give it.
But if I might call you Chaplain, and Examining Chaplain,
and so have a claim not only to your prayers but to such good
offices as you can add, I shall be indeed,

Your ever grateful,

E. W. Truron :

Wilkinson answered :

Aug. 16, 1877.

My dear Lord,— I am very much obliged to your Lordship
for the proposal which you have made to me. I have the greatest
interest in your Diocese, not only from my personal respect for
yourself, but from the strong conviction which I entertain that
you are called by God quietly to develop in Cornwall those
Evangelical- Catholic principles which, having been tested in
your Diocese, will be accepted by the Church at large in the
next generation. In all my parishes (to compare small things
with great) I have found that God generally begins to bless the
work in some out of the way part and then sends the fire so
kindled into the heart of the parish. God grant it may be so
with Truro.

For myself you will kindly allow a word of personal explana-
tion. The work here is overpowering. Apart from strangers,
I have 12,000 (6000 rich, 6000 poor) and three churches. The
upper divide into two or three different sets (so to speak) residing


for different periods of the year. Hence their number is more
like 12,000 upper class. Public Church Work grows upon me
as Church difficulties increase. Added to this, God was pleased
three years ago to let me break down. Since then I am obliged
to hve by rule, not work beyond a certain hour in the evening,
have food at regular hours, in fact obey Dr. Andrew Clark
absolutely. Whenever I disobey I find that all my work suffers.
I lose the calm spirit on which all my work here depends (under
God), and undo much that had been accomplished when I was
more obedient.

I thank God for the trial, for I needed it, and it has now
almost ceased to be a trial. The result, however, is that I dare
not (as in olden days) make spurts — overtake arrears by late
hours, &c., &c. By hardly ever leaving home, I am able (thank
God) to do, I hope, as much work as most men, but each time
I leave home upsets everything. My first duty is to St. Peter's.
I might never be able to go to Truro, much as I might desire it.
For Examining Chaplain I have no capacity, as twenty years'
hard practical work has developed another part of my being.

Now, my dear Lord, I have told you all and I leave myself
in your hands. I can never fail (please God) to feel the deepest
interest in your Lordship's work. If it will help forward that
work to give me any office under your Lordship, I will thank-
fully accept it, but I know that God will guide you to do what
is best for your Diocese and for His glory.

Forgive a long, egotistical letter, and believe me.

Your faithful servant,

G. H. Wilkinson.

To this the Bishop answered :

Kenwyn : Aug. 21, 1877.

My dear Sir, — I have been very much humbled, and very
much lifted up — as who should help being ? — by your letter.
You do indeed bid one lift up one's eyes to the Hills ....

I cannot help trusting that somehow you will find oppor-
tunity, and perhaps even sometimes health in the opportunity,
for coming to show the Teachers here something of what you
understand and express by ' Evangelical-Catholic ' teaching.
And in this trust I cannot help repeating, with deep earnest-
ness, after seeking guidance very simply, my request that you
would honour my work in the best way by binding yourself to
it as a Chaplain. If you think you could come down here even
once a year, especially if that could be alternately at Trinity


and at Advent, you would have had one word said to each of the
men whom you desire to see work in this spirit, catching each
company at either their deacon or priest ordination. . . .

Yours sincerely,

E. W. Truron :

In the following November (Mrs. Wilkinson had died in the
mean time) the two men met face to face for the first time.
The Bishop wrote to Mrs. Benson :

I've been to see Wilkinson — tell Mason ' the half was not
told me.' We had a very long, very serious talk, full of fears
and yet of joyfulness. I knew him in a former state of existence
very intimately.'

Wilkinson's first visit to Cornwall took place at the Trinity
Embertide of the following year. He gave the addresses in
preparation for the ordination, and preached at the ordination
itself. Among those who were ordained was the Rev. G. H, S.
Walpole, now Rector of Lambeth, whose works on ' Vital
Religion ' and similar subjects have done so much to carry on
the characteristic work of Wilkinson. The effect produced
upon the candidates was very strong. One of them, the Rev.
Alfred Swainson, now deceased, said that in the afternoon of
Trinity Sunday he met in the street of Truro a layman whom
he knew. The layman, by a momentary confusion of nomen-
clature, congratulated him upon having been ' converted,'
and then saw his mistake and profusely apologised. ' No,'
said Mr. Swainson, ' you were quite right ; that was exactly
what happened to us.'

There was an excellent institution of long standing in the
diocese of Truro — long before the foundation of the see — known
as the Devotional Conference, held twice a year for two con-
secutive days. That year the Bishop sent round to the clergy
a printed notice, in which he said that he had invited Wilkinson
to take part in the summer meeting of the Conference, and to
read a paper on the Wednesday afternoon.

But hoping for your kind approval, he added, I have asked
Mr. Wilkinson to remain with us two days more — until the

' Life of Archbishop Bcnsojt, i. 43S.


Friday evening, when he leaves for London — to continue
devotional exercises and addresses with us in the cathedral,
while we assign the intervals to as much of quiet thought and
prayer as we can gain.

Wilkinson took for his subject on the Wednesday afternoon
the way to bring souls into peace, laying down instructions in
the clearest as well as the most spiritual manner, as was his
wont. Then, after a vigorous summary from the Bishop, the
gathering passed on into a kind of Diocesan Retreat, in the

Online LibraryArthur James MasonMemoir of George Howard Wilkinson, Bishop of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and primus of the Scottish Church, formerly Bishop of Truro (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 42)