Henry Scott Holland

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Henry Scott Holland

Henry Scott Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

Family and education[edit]

He was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, the son of George Henry Holland (1818–1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, the daughter of Lord Gifford. He was educated at Eton where he was a pupil of the influential Master William Johnson Cory, and at the Balliol College of the University of Oxford where he took a first class degree in Greats. During his Oxford time he was greatly influenced by T.H. Green. He had the Oxford degrees of DD, MA, and Honorary DLitt.

Religious and political activity[edit]

After graduation, he was elected as a Student (fellow) of Christ Church, Oxford. In 1884, he left Oxford for St Paul's Cathedral where he was appointed canon.

He was keenly interested in social justice and formed PESEK (Politics, Economics, Socialism, Ethics and Christianity) which blamed capitalist exploitation for contemporary urban poverty. In 1889, he formed the Christian Social Union.

In 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, a post he held until his death in 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints church, Cuddesdon near Oxford. Because of his surname, Mary Gladstone referred to him affectionately as "Flying Dutchman" and "Fliegende Hollander"[citation needed].

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled Death the King of Terrors, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, Death is nothing at all, is drawn:


Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

The frequent use of this passage has provoked some criticism that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland's theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular.[1]

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Academic offices
Preceded by
William Ince
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford
1911—1918
Succeeded by
Arthur Cayley Headlam