Edward Bouverie Pusey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Vanity Fair caricature, 1875

Edward Bouverie Pusey (/ˈpjzi/; 22 August 1800 – 16 September 1882) was an English churchman, for more than fifty years Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford. He was one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement.

Early years[edit]

He was born in the village of Pusey in Berkshire. His father was Philip Bouverie (d. 1828), a younger son of the 1st Viscount Folkestone, and took the name of Pusey on succeeding to the manorial estates there. Philip Pusey was his brother.[1]

After attending Eton College, Pusey became a commoner of Christ Church, and was elected in 1824 to a fellowship at Oriel College. John Henry Newman and John Keble were already at Oriel.[1]

Between 1825 and 1827, Pusey studied Oriental languages and German theology at the University of Göttingen.[1] A claim that, during the 1820s, only two Oxford academics knew German, one being Edward Cardwell, was advanced by Henry Liddon; but was not well founded, given that Alexander Nicoll, ignored by Liddon, corresponded in German.[2][3]

In 1828 Pusey took holy orders, and married shortly afterwards. His views had been influenced by German trends in theology.[4] That year, also, the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister appointed Pusey as Oxford Regius Professor of Hebrew, with the attached canonry of Christ Church.[1]

Oxford Movement[edit]

Main article: Oxford Movement

In the years which immediately followed, Pusey became attracted to the revolt against individualism. By the end of 1833, Pusey began sympathizing with those who had already begun to issue the Tracts for the Times.[1] "He was not, however, fully associated in the movement till 1835 and 1836, when he published his tract on baptism and started the Library of the Fathers".[5]

Pusey closely studied the Church Fathers and Caroline Divines who revived traditions of pre-Reformation teaching. Pusey's sermon before the university in May 1843, The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent, so startled the authorities by the re-statement of doctrines which, though well known to ecclesiastical antiquaries, had faded from the common view, that he was suspended for two years from preaching (authorities citing near-obsolete traditions as their justification). The condemned sermon nearly immediately sold 18,000 copies; for the next quarter century, Pusey became possibly the most influential person in the Anglican Church.[1]


The Oxford movement was popularly known as Puseyism and its adherents as Puseyites. Pusey was behind the scenes of every major controversy, theological or academic. In the Gorham controversy of 1850, in the question of Oxford reform in 1854, in the prosecution of some of the writers of Essays and Reviews, especially of Benjamin Jowett, in 1863, in the question as to the reform of the marriage laws from 1849 to the end of his life, in the Farrar controversy as to the meaning of everlasting punishment in 1877, he was occupied with articles, letters, treatises and sermons.[1]

The occasions when Pusey preached before his university were memorable; some marked distinct stages for the High Church party he led. The practice of confession in the Church of England practically dates from his two sermons on The Entire Absolution of the Penitent, in 1846, which both revived high sacramental doctrine and advocated revival of the penitential system which medieval theologians had appended to it. The 1853 sermon on The Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, first formulated the doctrine round which almost all his followers' theology later revolved, and revolutionized the practices of Anglican worship.[1]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Dr. Pusey with his family at breakfast, by Clara Pusey, c. 1856

In private life Pusey's habits were simple almost to austerity. He had few personal friends, and rarely mingled in general society; though bitter to opponents, he was gentle to those who knew him, and his munificent charities gave him a warm place in the hearts of many to whom he was personally unknown.[1]

From 1880 Pusey was seen by only a few persons. His strength gradually declined, and he died on 16 September 1882, after a short illness. He was buried at Oxford in the cathedral of which he had been for fifty-four years a canon. In his memory his friends purchased his library, and bought for it a house in Oxford, now Pusey House. It was endowed with funds to support librarians, who were to perpetuate in the university Pusey's principles.[1]

Pusey is mainly remembered as the eponymous representative of the earlier phase of a movement which carried with it no small part of the religious life of England in the latter half of the 19th century. His own chief characteristic was an almost unbounded capacity for painstaking work. His chief influence was that of a preacher and a spiritual adviser. As a preacher he lacked all the graces of oratory, but compelled attention by his searching and practical earnestness. His correspondence as a spiritual adviser was enormous; his deserved reputation for piety and for solidity of character made him the chosen confessor to whom large numbers of men and women unburdened their doubts and their sins.[1]

Pusey aged about 75, painted by Rosa Corder

More a theological antiquary than a theologian, Pusey was in fact left behind by his followers, even in his lifetime. His revival of the doctrine of the Real Presence, coinciding as it did with the revival of a taste for medieval art, naturally led to a revival of the pre-Reformation ceremonial of worship. With this, Pusey had little sympathy. He protested against it (in a university sermon in 1859) and, though he came to defend those who were accused of breaking the law in their practice of it, said that their practice was alien to his own. But this revival of ceremonial became the characteristic of the new movement, and "Ritualist" thrust "Puseyite" aside. Pivotal in his own teaching was the appeal to primitive antiquity, which proved influential.[1]

Pusey edited the Library of the Fathers, a series of translations of the work of the Church fathers. Among the translators was his contemporary at Christ Church, Charles Dodgson. He also befriended and assisted Dodgson's son "Lewis Carroll" when he came to Christ Church. When Carroll faced the death of his wife, Pusey wrote to him:

I have often thought, since I had to think of this, how, in all adversity, what God takes away He may give us back with increase. One cannot think that any holy earthly love will cease, when we shall "be like the Angels of God in Heaven." Love here must shadow our love there, deeper because spiritual, without any alloy from our sinful nature, and in the fulness of the love of God. But as we grow here by God's grace will be our capacity for endless love.[6]


Pusey's first work, An Historical Enquiry Into the Probable Causes of the Rationalist Character Lately Predominant in the Theology of Germany of 1828, was an answer to Hugh James Rose's Cambridge lectures on rationalist tendencies in German theology. Rose's State of Protestantism in Germany Described has been called "over-simplified and polemical", and Pusey had been encouraged by German friends to reply.[1][7][8] Pusey showed sympathy with the Pietists; misunderstood, he was himself accused of holding rationalist views. In 1830 he published a second part of the Historical Enquiry.[1]

Other major works by Pusey were:

  • two books on the Eucharist, The Doctrine of the Real Presence (1855) and The Real Presence ... the Doctrine of the English Church (1857));
  • Daniel the Prophet, supporting the traditional historical dating of that boo);
  • The Minor Prophets, with Commentary, his main contribution as Professor of Hebrew; and
  • the Eirenicon, an endeavour to find a basis of union between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church).[1]


The Church of England remembers Pusey annually with a feast day on the anniversary of his death; the Episcopal Church translates his memorial on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) to September 18.


Pusey married in 1828 Maria Catherine Barker (1801–1839), daughter of Raymond Barker of Fairford Park; they had a son and three daughters. His son, Philip Edward (1830–1880), edited an edition of Saint Cyril the Philosopher's commentary on the minor prophets.[1][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pusey, Edward Bouverie". Encyclopædia Britannica 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ Denys P. Leighton (30 November 2015). The Greenian Moment: T. H. Green, Religion and Political Argument in Victorian Britain. Andrews UK Limited. p. 64 note 72. ISBN 978-1-84540-875-6. 
  3. ^ M. G. Brock; M. C. Curthoys (1 November 1997). Nineteenth-century Oxford. Clarendon Press. pp. 38 note 205. ISBN 978-0-19-951016-0. 
  4. ^ Gregory P. Elder (1996). Chronic Vigour: Darwin, Anglicans, Catholics, and the Development of a Doctrine of Providential Evolution. University Press of America. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7618-0242-6. 
  5. ^ Newman's Apologia, p. 136.
  6. ^ The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll
  7. ^ Don Cupitt (29 July 1988). Sea of Faith. Cambridge University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-521-34420-3. 
  8. ^ a b Cobb, Peter G. "Pusey, Edward Bouverie". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22910.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading[edit]

  • Strong, Rowan, and Carol Engelhardt Herringer, eds. Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Oxford Movement (Anthem Press; 2013) 164 pages; new essays by scholars
  • Faught, C. Brad (2003). The Oxford Movement: A Thematic History of the Tractarians and Their Times, University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0-271-02249-9.
  • James Harrison Rigg, Character and Life-Work of Dr Pusey (1883)
  • Bourchier Wrey Savile, Dr Pusey, an Historic Sketch, with Some Account of the Oxford Movement (1883)
  • Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey by Henry Parry Liddon, completed by J. C. Johnston and R. J. Wilson (5 vols, 1893–1899),
  • Newman's Apologia, and other literature of the Oxford Movement.
  • Mark Chapman, "A Catholicism of the Word and a Catholicism of Devotion: Pusey, Newman and the first Eirenicon," Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte, 14,2, 2007, 167–190.
  • Geck, Albrecht, From Modern-Orthodox Protestantism to Anglo-Catholicism: An Enquiry into the Probable Causes of the Revolution of Pusey’s Theology, in: Rowan Strong/Carol Engelhardt Herringer (edd.), Edward Bouverie Pusey and the Oxford Movement, London/New York/New Delhi (Anthem Press) 2012, 49-66.
  • Geck, Albrecht, "Pusey, Tholuck and the Oxford Movement," in: Stewart J. Brown/Peter B. Nockles (ed.), The Oxford Movement. Europe and the Wider World 1830-1930, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 2012, 168-184.
  • Geck, Albrecht (Hg.), Authorität und Glaube. Edward Bouverie Pusey und Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck im Briefwechsel (1825–1865). Teil 1-3: in: Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte 10 (2003), 253-317; 12 (2005), 89-155; 13 (2006), 41-124.
  • Geck, Albrecht, "Edward Bouverie Pusey. Hochkirchliche Erweckung," in: Neuner, Peter/Wenz, Gunter (eds.), Theologen des 19. Jahrhunderts. Eine Einführung, Darmstadt 2002, 108-126.
  • Geck, Albrecht, "Friendship in Faith. E.B. Pusey (1800–1882) und F.A.G. Tholuck (1799–1877) im Kampf gegen Rationalismus und Pantheismus - Schlaglichter auf eine englisch-deutsche Korrespondenz," Pietismus und Neuzeit, 27 (2001), 91-117.
  • Geck, Albrecht, "The Concept of History in E.B. Pusey’s First Enquiry into German Theology and its German Background," Journal of Theological Studies, NS 38/2, 1987, 387-408.

External links[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pusey, Edward Bouverie". Encyclopædia Britannica 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.