Frederick Temple (30 November 1821 – 23 December 1902) was an English academic, teacher, churchman, and Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1896 until his death.
Temple was born in Santa Maura, one of the Ionian Islands, the son of Major Octavius Temple, who was subsequently appointed lieutenant-governor of Sierra Leone. On his retirement, Major Temple settled in Devon and contemplated a farming life for his son Frederick, giving him a practical training to that end.
Temple’s grandfather was William Johnson Temple, Rector of Mamhead in Devon, who is mentioned several times in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson.
Temple was sent to Blundell’s School, Tiverton, and soon showed signs of being suited to a different career. He retained a warm affection for the school, where he did well both academically and at physical activities, especially walking.
The family was not wealthy, and Temple knew he would have to earn his own living. He took the first step by winning a Blundell scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, before he was seventeen.
The Tractarian Movement had begun five years earlier, but the memorable Tract 90 had not yet been written. In the intellectual and religious excitement, he drew closer to the camp of “the Oxford Liberal Movement.” In 1842 he took a double first and was elected fellow of Balliol, and lecturer in mathematics and logic.
Four years later he was ordained, and, with the aim of improving the education of the very poor, he accepted the headship of Kneller Hall, a college founded by the government for the training of masters of workhouses and penal schools. The experiment was not successful, and Temple himself advised its abandonment in 1855.
He then accepted a school-inspectorship, which he held until he went to teach at Rugby School in 1858. In the meantime he had attracted the admiration of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and in 1856 he was appointed Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria. In 1857 he was select preacher at his university.
At Rugby School, Thomas Arnold had died in 1842 and had been succeeded by Archibald Campbell Tait, who again was followed by Edward Meyrick Goulburn. Upon the resignation of the latter the trustees appointed Temple, who in that year (1858) had taken the degrees of B.D. and D.D. His life at Rugby School was marked by great energy and bold initiative.
Temple strengthened the school’s academic reputation in the classics, but also instituted scholarships in natural science, built a laboratory, and recognised the importance of these subjects.
He reformed the sporting activities, in spite of all the traditions of the playing fields. His own tremendous powers of work and rough manner intimidated the pupils, but he soon became popular, and raised the school’s reputation. His school sermons made a deep impression on the boys, teaching loyalty, faith and duty.
It was two years after he had taken up his work at Rugby that the volume entitled Essays and Reviews caused a controversy. The first essay in the book, “The Education of the World,” was by Temple.
The authors of the volume were responsible only for their respective articles, but some of these were deemed so destructive that many people banned the whole book, and a noisy demand, led by Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, called on the headmaster of Rugby to dissociate himself from his comrades.
Temple’s essay had dealt with the intellectual and spiritual growth of the race, and had pointed out the contributions made respectively by the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and others. Though accepted as harmless, it was blamed for being in the book. Temple refused to repudiate his associates, and it was only at a much later date (1870) that he decided to withdraw his essay.
In the meantime, he printed a volume of his Rugby sermons, to show definitely what his own religious position was.
In politics Temple was a follower of William Ewart Gladstone, and he approved of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. He also wrote and spoke in favour of the Elementary Education Act 1870 of William Edward Forster, and was an active member of the Endowed Schools Commission.
In 1869, Gladstone offered him the deanery of Durham, but he declined because he wanted to stay at Rugby School. When later in the same year, however, Henry Phillpotts, bishop of Exeter, died, the prime minister turned again to Temple, and he accepted the bishopric of the city he knew so well.
Temple had a lifelong interest in the relationship between science and religion. In 1860 at the famous meeting of the British Association which saw the debate between Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, Temple preached a sermon welcoming the insights of evolution.
In his Eight Brampton Lectures on the Relations between Religion and Science (1884) Temple stated clearly that “doctrine of Evolution is in no sense whatever antagonistic to the teachings of Religion.”
These lectures also addressed the origin and nature of scientific, and of religious belief and the apparent conflicts between science and religion on free will and supernatural power.
he Temple Reading Room and Museum at Rugby School is named after him, and contains an 1869 bust of him by Thomas Woolner.