WILBERFORCE, Samuel. The Letter-Books of Samuel Wilberforce 1843-1868. Published jointly by the Buckinghamshire Record Society and the Oxfordshire Record Society, 1970.
8vo, original buff buckram, upper board stamped centrally in gilt with the escutcheon of Buckinghamshire, spine lettered in blue; very good.
First edition. Volume 16 from the Buckinghamshire Record Society. The letters that comprise this collection were discovered in 1955 in the attic of a bungalow attached to Backsettown, a Sussex rest-home established by the actress Elizabeth Robbins and Dr Octavia Wilberforce. The letters span the period 1843-1868 and deal with Wilberforce's administration of the diocese of Oxford. The period was a turbulent one for the Church of England. Newman's move to Rome in 1845 highlighted serious dissension on ecclesiastical and theological matters, and debate raged between Tractarians, the Oxford Movement, dissenters and various other factions. These letters show the intensity of the debate, and the difficult position of a bishop with regard to his diocese, as well as the daily work of administering his parishes. They touch on the burial of the dead, restoration of churches, subjects for sermons and the psalms and show the wide range of doctrinal and liturgical variance that could develop even within one parish. Although Wilberforce would become famous later in his life for his involvement with the furore over Darwinism, this correspondence shows him as a capable administrator and authoritative shepherd of a fractious flock and reveal something of the man who would later clash with Huxley.