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NEW SERIES.—No. 9.
REV. STOPFORD A. BROOKE, M.A. If there be anything in heredity, Mr. Stopford Brooke ought to be endowed with elements military, clerical, artistic, and literary. One of his ancestors migrated from Cheshire to Ireland early in the 17th century, and different branches of the family tree have bent since that time in various directions of life. The military line is represented by Brookes of St. Helena, Madras, and afterwards of Bath. In the clerical line there have been nine Rectors Brooke since 1640. In the province of art there have been several members, chiefly painters. In literature, Henry Brooke may be especially named, the son of parents who were great friends of Dean Swift, and the grandson of Mr Stopford Brooke's great great grandfather. Henry Brooke is best known by his theological novel, full of a fine mysticism, the "Fool of Quality.” The first edition of this work was edited by John Wesley, the last by Mr Stopford Brooke's father, the Rev. Dr. R. S. Brooke, with a preface by Charles Kingsley. Dr. Brooke is also himself the author of poems, and of some pleasant gossipy volumes on the Irish Church. There are certain elements of romance in the family also. There is a story told about one member who was of the refugee Irish clergy, and whose house and effects had been burned, receiving with such polite dignity a shilling offered to him by Charles the First's bishop, Juxon (who, with great ceremony, extracted it from a long purse heavy with gold pieces), that the prelate became his friend thenceforth. This clergyman's wife, when close to her confinement, had braved the fury of the insurgents, one of whom threatened her with a dagger as she was escaping through the fields at night. Each time he pointed his blade at her she exclaimed, “ God will not suffer you,” until the man became daunud and volunteered to be her guide to a place of safety if she would trust to his honour. When she reached a friendly house, as she thanked him she vowed that if her babe were given her it should be called Honor, in remembrance of his conduct. The infant was born and thus baptised, and the name evidencing the narrative has been repeated through six generations of daughters. Brooke.
On the maternal side Mr. Stopford Broc!e traces to the Courtown family of Stopfords. Outside the elder branch, this race has run to parsons nearly as much as the Brookes, two at least being bishops, and several, like the Brookes, being clerical friends of Dean Swift. They had practical qualities, these Stopfords. One clergyman of the name had a mechanical turn, built steam carriages, and bound his own theological folios in a workmanlike fashion. A good story is told of Dr. Edward Stopford, Bishop of Meath, who was skilled in the science most useful to preachers—acoustics. Dr. Brooke's huge unfinished church at Kingstown was found to have a distressing echo, which an eminent elocutionary preacher complained came back at every third sentence of his sermon, and boxed him on the ear. Bishop Stopford affirmed that in every large building there was “an arc of sound,” out of which a voice proceeding was sure to be audible, and not to come back like a boomerang returning to the head of the finger. The bishop went himself to the church, where he sat at the far end, got the pulpit set on wheels, and moved to and fro over the building, with his son-in-law reading psalms from it, until the voice rang audible and clear. The patient hearer then marched to other spots in the church, and found the same happy result followed the reading. The arc was found, and the bishop screwed a big gimlet into the floor to mark the place, saying to Dr. Brooke, “There's the tap-root of the tree of your pulpit.” And the pulpit stood in that spot for thirty years.
Stopford Augustus Brooke, eldest son of the Dr. R. S. Brooke just named, was born in the county Donegal in 1832, and passed a tranquil childhood in his father's parsonage at Glendoen and afterwards at Kingstown. He manifested great delicacy of health as a young child, which was succeeded by much vigour in his youth. He was a brighteyed lad, and when an old Roman Catholic bishop shook him by the hand and said, “Well, I am proud of you, for you are nothing less than a real Glenswilly boy,” a compliment was meant both to the boy and to the county Donegal. He was educated at Kidderminster School, and also at Kingstown. In 1850 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, which must have been like an old family mansion to him, so many of his relatives had dwelt within its walls. He took honours, and gained several vice-chancellor's prizes for poetic composition, proceeding to his B.A. degree in 1855.
He was marked very early by an intense love of literature and art, which has never left him; and in these days, in which mere culture is so often regarded with contempt, it is interesting to trace the evident connection between this early training and the gifts of style which have helped to raise Mr. Brooke's sermons out of mediocrity, and have made his lectures on literature so valuable. Studying con amore, he was able to make himself generally well-informed; and his skill as a draughtsman
evidences that consciousness of form which, converted into the sphere of literature, is so valuable a gift of style. When in college he contributed both prose and verse to the Dublin University Magazine. We may trace in his work of that time the unshackled spirit that characterises him now. The following appeared in October, 1853, under the signature “S. A. B.” :
A lay of freedom! Oh, ye slaves that now
Cramp the broad mind to fashion, form, and rite,
Rise like a falcon to the living light;
And whirling error to its native night,
It rolls, loud, bright, and broad, impetuously grand. Deciding to enter the Church, he was ordained in June 1857 by the Bishop of London on a nomination to a curacy of Dr. Spencer's, in Marylebone, and in the close of 1859, became curate to Archdeacon Sinclair at Kensington Church. During four years' occupancy of that important post, he won the affection of rich and poor, learned and unlearned, by the eagerness and cheeriness with which he threw himself into every kind of parochial work, by the depth and vigour of his preaching, and especially by the bright openheartedness of his daily life.
Being offered the Chaplaincy to the British Embassy at Berlin, after much hesitation he accepted the post. But after about a year, finding the circumscribed circle of employment uncongenial to his tastes, he returned to London in 1865, and took York-street Chapel, St. James's, at a yearly rent. Here it was that the power and beauty of his sermons attracted notice, and he became a popular preacher among the cultivated classes.
In 1857 Mr. Brooke married Miss Emma Diana Beaumont, daughter of Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, of Bretton Park, Yorkshire, M.P. for Northumberland, and soon after his return from Berlin the Queen made him one of her honorary chaplains.
When the lease of the St. James's Chapel expired in 1875, Mr. Brooke was for a short time without any appointment.
There being no prospect of any promotion in the Church for so independent a thinker as Mr. Brooke, certain members of his old congregation wisely determined that his voice should not be hushed in London, if they could help it. Accordingly, in 1876, and for a considerable sum, the lease was purchased and presented to him of Bedford Chapel, Bloomsbury, where he now officiates, and where he has gathered together a large and influential congregation from many different quarters of London.
The peculiar characteristic of the position of a minister officiating