Hough, Jons

, an English prelate, memorable for the firm and patriotic stand which he made against the tyranny and bigotry of James II. was the son of John Hough, a citizen of London, descended from the Houghs of Leighton in Cheshire, and iof Margaret, the daughter of John Byrche of Leacroft in the county of Stafford, esq. He was born in Middlesex, April 12, 1651; and, after having received his education either at Birmingham or Walsall in Staffordshire, was entered of Magdalen college, Oxford, Nov. 12, 1669, and in a few years was elected a fellow. He took orders in 1675, and in 1678 was appointed domestic chaplain to the duke of Ormond, at that time lord lieutenant of Ireland, and went over with him to that country; but he returned soon after, and in 1685 was made a prebendary of Worcester. He was also presented to the rectory of Tempsford in Bedfordshire, in the gift of the crown. From these circumstances, it should seem that he must have been considered as a man of talents and merit, before he acted the conspicuous part he did in October 1687.

In March of that year, the presidentship of Magdalen college being vacant by the death of Dr. Henry Clarke, the usual notice was given that the election of a president would take place on the 13th of April; but the fellows being afterwards informed, that his majesty James II. had granted letters mandatory, requiring them to elect Mr. | Anthony Farmer, who had not been fellow either of this or New college, as indispensably required by the statutes, who had also given strong proofs of indifference to all religions, and whom they thought unfit in other respects to be their president, petitioned the king, either to leave them to the discharge of their duty and conscience, and to their founder’s statutes, or to recommend such a person as might be more serviceable to his majesty and to the college. No answer being given to this petition, they met on the 13th of April, but adjourned first to the 14th, and then to the 15th, the last day limited by the statutes for the election of a president, and having still received no answer (except a verbal one by the rev. Thomas Smith, one of the fellows, from lord Sunderland, president of the council, which was, “that his majesty expected to be obeyed”) they proceeded to the election, according to the usual forms, and the Rev. Mr. Hough was chosen, who is stated in the college register to be “a gentleman of liberality and firmness, who, by the simplicity and purity of his moral character, by the mildness of his disposition, and the happy temperament of his virtues, and many good qualities, had given everyone reason to expect that he would be a distinguished ornament to the college, and to the whole university.

He was accordingly presented next day, April 16, to the visitor, Dr. Mews, bishop of Winchester, and was the same day sworn in president of the college. He returned next day, and was solemnly installed in the chapel. Many applications were made to the king during this and the tblflowing month in behalf of the fellows, both by themselves, the bishop of Winchester, and by the duke of Ormond, chancellor of the university: notwithstanding which, they were cited to appear at Whitehall, in June following, before his majesty’s commissioners for ecclesiastical causes, who decreed that the election of Mr. Hough, who had now taken his doctor’s degree, was void, and that he be removed from his office of president. Still as Farmer’s moral character was too strong to get over, another mandate was sent to the fellows on August 27, to admit Dr. Samuel Parker president, who was at that time bishop of Oxford, and a Roman Catholic. But this was declined, on the ground of the office heing full, and being directly contrary to their statutes and the oath they had taken, although the king went to Oxford in September in order to enforce his mandate, attended by lord Sunderland and others. Among | these was the celebrated William Penn the quaker, whose influence with his brethren, and the dissenters in general, James II. made use of to promote his own designs in favour of popery, under the colour of a. general toleration and suspension of the penal laws against all sectaries, as well as against the Roman catholics. Perm’s interference in the present business, however, does not appear to havebeen improper. He even allowed, after making himself acquainted with the circumstances of the case, that the “fe^ows could not yield obedience without a breach of their oaths, and that such mandates were a force on conscience, and not agreeable to the king’s other gracious indulgencies.

The king, however, with whom no good advice had any weight, as soon as he arrived at Oxford, sent for the fellows, Sept. 4, to attend him in person, at three in the afternoon, at Christ Church, of which the bishop of Oxford was dean. The fellows accordingly attended, and presented a petition, recapitulating their obligations to obey the statutes, &c. which the king refused to accept, and threatened them, in a very gross manner, with the whole weight of his displeasure, if they did not admit the bishop of Oxford, which they intimated was not in their power; and having returned to their chapel, and being asked by the senior fellow whether they would elect the bishop of Oxford their president, they all answered in their turn, that it being contrary to their statutes, and to the positive oath which they had taken, they did not apprehend it was in their power. Their refusal was followed by the appointment of certain lords commissioners to visit the college. These were, Cartwright bishop of Chester, sir Robert Wright, chief justice of the king’s bench, and sir Thomas Jenner, baron of the exchequer, who cited the pretended president, as he was called, and the fellows, to appear before them at Magdalen college on Oct. 21, the day before which the commissioners had arrived at Oxford, with the parade of three troops of horse. Having assembled on the day appointed in the hall, and their commission read, the names of the president and fellows were called over, and Dr. Hough was mentioned first. It was upon this occasion that he behaved with that courage and intrepidity, prudence and temper, which will endear his memory to the latest posterity. The commissioners, however, struck his name out of the books of the | college, and admonished the fellows and others of the society no longer to suhmit to his authority. At their next meeting the president came into court, and said, “My lords, you were pleased this morning to deprive me of my place of president of this college I do hereby protect against all your proceedings, and against all that you have done, or hereafter shall do, in prejudice of me and my right, as illegal, unjust, and null: and therefore I appeal to my sovereign lord the king in his courts of justice.” As he had refused them the keys, they sent for a smiHi to force the door of the president’s lodgings. Burnet savs, “the nation, as well as the university, looked on all this proceeding with a just indignation. It was thought an open piece of robbery and burglary, when men, authorized by no legal commission, came forcibly and turned men out of their possessions and freeholds.

It is remarkable, and highly honourable to the college, that out of twenty-eight fellows, there were only two who at all submitted to these proceedings; the rest were all deprived of their fellowships; and those demies, or probationer fellows, who did not appear when summoned, amounting to fourteen, were removed and dismissed. These proceedings, harsh as they may seem, were confirmed by the commissioners for ecclesiastical causes, who met at Whitehall Dec. 10 following, and who, “having taken into consideration all that had passed in the business of St. Mary Magdalen college, Oxford, and the contemptuous and disobedient behaviour of Dr. John Hough, and several of the fellows of that college,” whom they named individually, declared and decreed, that they should be incapable of receiving, or being admitted to, any ecclesiastical dignity, benefice, or promotion. Such of them as were not yet in holy orders, were adjudged incapable of receiving or hieing admitted into the same and all archbishops, bishops, &c. were required to take notice of the said decree, and to yield obedience to it .*


Parker did not long enjoy the advantages of this most illegal and arbitrary art. He was installed by proxy Oct. 25, 1637, and, after presiding over an almost empty house fo: a few months, died March 20, 1688, The king, whose infatuation was now at its height, sent another mandate to the college to elect one Bonaventttre Gifford, a doctor of the Sorbonne, who accordingly took possession June 15, but was removed by the king himself as mentioned p.221.

It was not until the end of September in the following year, 1688, that the infatuated James II. began to see the folly of 4iis conduct, and, conscious both of his past | error and present danger, began to be alarmed. Among other steps taken too late for the preservation of his crown, he ordered lord Sunderland to write to the bishop of Winchester, that “the king, having declared his resolution topreserve the church of England, and all its rights and immunities, his majesty, as an evidence of it, commanded him to signify to his lordship his royal will and pleasure, that, as visitor of St. Mary Magdalen college in Oxford, he should settle that society regularly and statuteably.” In consequence of this, Dr. Hough, as president, and the fellows and demies who had been expelled, wej;e all restored.

Soon after the revolution, viz. in April 1690, Dr. Hough was nominated bishop of Oxford, with a licence to hold the presidentship of Magdalen -college in commendam, which he did till he succeeded Dr. William Lloyd, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, in 1699. It must have been a singular satisfaction to him, as it was a most appropriate reward, that he should receive that mark of elevation in a place which was the scene of his degradation-, or rather of his exemplary fortitude and manly virtue; nor does it appear that this accession of rank at all altered the general benignity of his nature towards those with whom he was connected, either in his college or in his diocese; for even they who had taken a different part at the time of his election, or were of a different opinion with himself, were always treated by him with the greatest humanity and indulgence.

The remainder of bishop Hough’s life affords few incidents for biography, as he very seldom employed his pen, unless in correspondence, or other compositions not intended for the press, but the steady virtues of his character appeared throughout his whole conduct, and afforded subject for many a heart-felt and many a studied panegyric. Whilst in the see of Lichfield and Coventry, he repaired and almost rebuilt as well as adorned the episcopal house at Eccleshall, and afterwards, on his removal to Worcester, he rehuilt great part of the palace there, particularly the whole front, where his arms are impaled with those of the see in the pediment, and made considerable improvements at his other seat at the castle of Hardebury, so as to have laid out many thousand pounds upon them. He had before repaired the lodgings at Magdalen college at his own expence, and contributed 1000l. towards the | hew building at that place of his education. He likewise contributed 1000l. towards building All Saints church in Worcester. In 1715 the metropolitan chair was offered to him, on the death of archbishop Tenison, which he declined, from the too modest and humble sentiments which he entertained of himself; but afterwards, in 1717, he succeeded bishop Lloyd in the see of Worcester. As his public benefactions have been just mentioned, it is necessary to add that his private acts of charity were very extensive. His usual manner of living was agreeable to his function, hospitable without profuseness, and his conversation with all was full of humanity and candour, as well as prudent and instructive.

His earliest biographer says, that *' his heavenly temper of mind, his contempt of the world, and his indifference to life, were most visible in the latter period of his own; his firm faith in the promises of the gospel exerted itself most remarkably in his declining years, as well in conversation with some of his friends about his hopes of a better state, and even in his own private thoughts on the nature of that state, as in several letters to others about the gradual decay of his body, the just sense he had of his approaching dissolution, and his entire resignation to the will of God. As he had on many occasions expressed his well-grounded hopes of immortality, so they gradually grew stronger on him, and seemed to be more vigorous in proportion to the decays of his body. Indeed, even the temper of his mind bore so just a proportion to his well-tempered constitution of body, as by an happy result of both, to extend his age to the beginning of his ninety-third year, and almost to the completion of the fifty-third year of his episcopate. But he cast only a cursory eye upon the minute distinctions of human life, as the whole is at best of a short duration. Bishop Hough’s lamp of life burnt clear,- if not bright, to the last^ and though his body was weak, he had no pain or sickness, as he himself acknowledged on several occasions, not only at a considerable distance from his death, but even a few minutes before he expired.“A little before his death, he wrote a letter to his friend lord Digby, where we find the following remarkable wordsI am weak and forgetful In other respects 1 have ease to a degree beyond what I durst have thought on, when years began to multiply upon me. I wait contentedly for a deliverance out of this life into a better, in humble | confidence, that by the mercy of God, through the merits of his Son, I shall stand at the resurrection on his right hand. And when you, my lord, have ended those days which are to come, which I pray may be many and comfortable, as innocently and as exemplary as those which are passed, I doubt not of our meeting in that state where the joys are unspeakable, and will always endure." He died March 8, 1743, and was buried in Worcester cathedral near his wife, where his memory is preserved by an elegant monument.

It does not appear that Dr. Hough ever prepared any thing for the press, except eight occasional sermons, and he gave a strict charge that none should be published from his manuscripts after his death. Many of his letters, however, with various important documents to illustrate his character and public services, have lately been given to the world in a splendid publication, entitled “The Life of the rev. John Hough, D. D. &c.” by John Wilmot, esq. F. It. S. and S. A. To this we are indebted for the preceding sketch; and Mr. Wilmot has accumulated so much information respecting Dr. Hough, that it is now unnecessary to refer to any other authority. 1


Life, as above.