George Horne (bishop)

George Horne (1 November 1730 – 17 January 1792) was an English churchman, academic, writer, and university administrator.

George Horne
Bishop of Norwich
DioceseDiocese of Norwich
In office1790–1792
PredecessorLewis Bagot
SuccessorCharles Manners-Sutton
Other postsDean of Canterbury (1781–1790)
Personal details
Born(1730-11-01)1 November 1730
Otham, Kent
Died17 January 1792(1792-01-17) (aged 61)
Bath, Somerset
BuriedEltham Church
EducationMaidstone Grammar School
Alma materUniversity College, Oxford

Early years

Horne was born at Otham near Maidstone, in Kent, the eldest surviving son of the Reverend Samuel Horne (1693-1768), rector of the parish, and his wife Anne (1697-1787), youngest daughter of Bowyer Hendley. He attended Maidstone Grammar School alongside his cousin and lifelong friend William Stevens, son of his father's sister Margaret, and from there went in 1746 to University College, Oxford (BA 1749; MA 1752; DD 1764). Three contemporaries at the college were also friends for life: Charles Jenkinson later first Earl of Liverpool, William Jones of Nayland.[1] and John Moore, later Archbishop of Canterbury. His two younger brothers were also Oxford graduates and clergymen, Samuel Horne (1733 – about 1772) becoming an Oxford academic while William Horne (1740 – 1821) succeeded their father as rector of Otham.

Academic career

In 1749 Horne became a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, of which college he was elected President on 27 January 1768.[2] As an influential college head, he served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1776 until 1780.[3][4] At the university, he fought against any relaxation of the law that required entrants to subscribe to the beliefs of the Church of England.[1]

Ecclesiastical career

Ordained priest in 1753, from 1760 to 1764 he was curate of the Oxfordshire village of Horspath.[5] Thereafter his religious duties were performed at Magdalen until 1771, when the prime minister Lord North appointed him to the Royal Household as chaplain in ordinary to King George III, a position he held until 1781.[1] In that year, he was appointed Dean of Canterbury, combining the post with the presidency of Magdalen. An energetic dean, he promoted Sunday schools to inform the young and delivered influential sermons against Unitarianism. He was also an active supporter of the Naval and Military Bible Society, now the Naval Military & Air Force Bible Society, founded in 1779 to supply Christian literature to the armed services and seafarers.

In 1790, by then in ill health from which he never recovered, with some reluctance he accepted the bishopric of Norwich, resigning from Canterbury and, the next year, from Magdalen. Unable to accomplish much in his diocese or in the House of Lords, one achievement was to support the bishops of the Episcopalian Church of Scotland who in 1789 came to London to petition Parliament for relief from their legal disadvantages. In what became his final circular to his diocesan clergy, as the French Revolution challenged most of the values for which he stood, he remained adamant that 'true religion and true learning were never yet at variance'.[1]

Intellectual influences

Through his preaching, journalism, correspondence and authorship of numerous works (some at the time anonymous), Horne actively defended the high church tendency in Anglicanism against Calvinism, the Church of England against other denominations, and Trinitarian Christianity against other beliefs. He had a reputation as a preacher, and his sermons were frequently reprinted. In his polemical pieces, some appearing in newspapers under the name of Nathaniel Freebody (a cousin who had died), he was influenced by the work of Charles Leslie[1] Having early adopted some of the views of John Hutchinson, he wrote in his defence, though disagreeing with Hutchinson's fanciful interpretations of Hebrew etymology. He also fell under the imputation of Methodism, but protested from the university pulpit against those who took their theology from George Whitefield and John Wesley rather than major Anglican divines. Nevertheless, he disapproved of the expulsion of six Methodist students from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, a high-profile event of 1768 in Oxford;[6] and later, when bishop, thought Wesley should not be forbidden to preach in his diocese.

Though impressed by the earlier writings of William Law, he later complained that he saw him ‘falling from the heaven of Christianity into the sink and complication of Paganism, Quakerism, and Socinianism, mixed up with chemistry and astrology by a possessed cobbler.’ In this 'sink', he included the views of Emanuel Swedenborg and Jacob Boehme. Despite criticising the plan of Benjamin Kennicott and some of his colleagues to collate a new text of the Hebrew Bible from manuscripts, in order to prepare for a new translation into English, the two became friends. He was also friendly with Samuel Johnson who with James Boswell came to tea at Magdalen, where they discussed producing a new edition of the Lives by Izaak Walton, and Boswell later wrote warmly of Horne's character and abilities. Though he enjoyed reading Edward Gibbon and admired his scholarship, he recorded his distaste for Gibbon's continual belittling of the Jewish and Christian tradition.[1]

His lifelong emphasis on revealed religion rather than natural religion and his acceptance of what would become high church beliefs formed an important link between the nonjurors of the seventeenth century and the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth.[1]


Among his publications were:

  • The Theology and Philosophy of Cicero's Somnium Scipionis 1751, a satirical pamphlet.
  • (With William Jones) A full answer to the Essay on Spirit by Bishop R. Clayton, with a particular explanation of the Hermetic, Pythagorean, and Platonic Trinities, 1752. Against the views of Robert Clayton.[7]
  • A Fair, Candid, and Impartial Statement of the Case between Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Hutchinson (anon.) 1753.
  • An Apology for certain Gentlemen in the University of Oxford, aspersed in a late anonymous pamphlet 1756. The anonymous pamphlet was called ‘A Word to the Hutchinsonians’.
  • Cautions to the Readers of Mr. Law, and, with very few varieties, to the Readers of Baron Swedenborg 1758, to which was added A Letter to a Lady on the subject of Jacob Behmen's Writings.
  • A View of Mr. Kennicott's Method of Correcting the Hebrew Text 1760.
  • Considerations on the Life and Death of St. John the Baptist 1769, an expansion of a sermon preached by him on St. John the Baptist's day 1755, from the open-air pulpit in the quadrangle of Magdalen College.
  • Commentary on the Psalms, 1771. His best known work, the ‘Commentary’ is partly exegetical and partly devotional, proceeding on the principle that most of the Psalms are more or less Messianic, and cannot be properly understood except in those terms. Richard Mant transferred Horne's preface almost verbatim to his annotated Book of Common Prayer. Hannah More, another of Horne's friends, admired it.
  • A Letter to Dr. Adam Smith (anon), 1777. An attack on Adam Smith's life of David Hume, attempting to refute Hume's contempt for Christian belief.
  • Letters on Infidelity 1784, addressed to his cousin William Stevens. In addition to his bête noire David Hume, these attacked other Enlightenment rationalists such as Voltaire and d'Alembert.[1]

He intended writing a ‘'Defence of the Divinity of Christ'’ against Joseph Priestley, but did not live to do that. Horne's collected Works were published with a Memoir by William Jones in 1799.


On 22 June 1768, he married Felicia Elizabetha (1741–1821), only child of lawyer and legal author Philip Burton and his wife Felicia, daughter of Ralph Whitfield.[8] They had three daughters: Felicia Elizabetha (1770–1829) [9] who in 1791 married the Reverend Robert Hele Selby Hele; Maria (1773–1852) unmarried;[10] and Sarah (1775–1853), a pupil of Hannah More,[1] who in 1796 married the Reverend Humphrey Aram Hole.[11]

Aged 62, he died at Bath, Somerset on 17 January 1792[1] and was buried in his father-in-law's vault at Eltham.[12]


  1. Aston, Nigel (2004). "Horne, George (1730–1792)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
  2. Salter, Herbert E; Lobel, Mary D, eds. (1954). "Magdalen College". A History of the County of Oxford. Victoria County History. 3: The University of Oxford. Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research. pp. 193–207. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  3. "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  4. "Vice-Chancellors from the year 1660". The Oxford University Calendar. University of Oxford. 1817. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  5. Lobel, Mary D, ed. (1957). "Horspath". A History of the County of Oxford. Victoria County History. 5: Bullingdon Hundred. London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research. pp. 177–189.
  6. "A Brief History". St Edmund Hall, Oxford.
  7. "Horne, George" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  8. St Andrew Holborn, Register of marriages by licence, 1768 – 1774, Guildhall Library Ref: P69/AND2/A/01/Ms 6671/4
  9. Felicia Elizabetha Horne, 22 Jun 1770, Saint Andrew, Holborn, London, England England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 FHL microfilm 374,354, retrieved 18 March 2016
  10. PROB 11/2149/262 Will of Maria Horne, Spinster of York House Hotel, Bath, Somerset, proved 23 March 1852 Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, retrieved 18 March 2016
  11. Humphrey Aram Hole and Sarah Horne, 19 Nov 1796, Saint David, Exeter, Devon, England England Marriages, 1538–1973 FHL microfilm 917,097, retrieved 18 March 2016
  12. Lysons, Daniel (1796), "Eltham", The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent, London, pp. 394–421, retrieved 18 March 2016


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Horne, George". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 708–709.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Horne, George". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Jenner
President of Magdalen College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Martin Joseph Routh
Preceded by
Thomas Fothergill
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Succeeded by
Samuel Dennis
Church of England titles
Preceded by
James Cornwallis
Dean of Canterbury
Succeeded by
William Buller
Preceded by
Lewis Bagot
Bishop of Norwich
Succeeded by
Charles Manners-Sutton
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