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A History of Nineteenth Century Literature (1780-1

With Phrontisterion and other things


There

are some who think that Henry Longueville Mansel was actually in more than one respect, and might, with some slight changes of accidental circumstance, have been indisputably, the greatest philosopher of Britain in the nineteenth century. Of the opinion entertained by contemporaries of great intellectual gifts, that of Mark Pattison, a bitter political and academical opponent, and the most acrimonious critic of his time, that Mansel was, though according to Pattison's view, an "arch-jobber," an "acute thinker, and a metaphysician" seems pretty conclusive. But Mansel died in middle age, he was much occupied in various kinds of University business, and he is said by those who knew him to have been personally rather indolent. He was born in Northamptonshire on 6th October 1820, and after school-days at Merchant Taylors' passed in the then natural course to St. John's College, Oxford, of which he became fellow. He was an active opponent of the first University Commission, in reference to which he wrote the most brilliant satire of the kind proper to University wits which this century has produced--the Aristophanic parody entitled _Phrontisterion_. But the Commission returned him good for evil, insomuch as he became the first Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy, a post created in consequence of it. In 1859 he was Bampton Lecturer, and his sermons in this office again attained the first excellence in style, though they were made the subject of severe criticism not
merely by the disciples of Liberal philosophy, but by some timid defenders of orthodoxy, for their bold application of the philosophy of the conditioned, on scholastic lines, to the problems of theodicy. Mansel was not a more frequent lecturer than the somewhat indulgent conditions of the English Universities, especially Oxford, even after the Commission, required; but his deliverances were of exceptional importance, both in conception and expression. At the death of Milman, his political friends being in power, he was made Dean of St. Paul's, but enjoyed the dignity only a short time, and died in 1870. Besides _Phrontisterion_ and his _Bampton Lectures_, which bring him under both the divisions of this chapter, he had published in his lifetime an excellent edition of Aldrich's "Logic," _Prolegomena Logica_ (the principal work of the Hamiltonian school, though quite independent in main points), and an enlarged edition of an Encyclopaedia dissertation on _Metaphysics_. His essays, chiefly from the _Quarterly Review_, were published after his death, with _Phrontisterion_ and other things.

It will appear from this brief summary that Mansel was a many-sided man; and it may be added that he possessed an exceptionally keen wit, by no means confined to professional subjects, and was altogether far more of a man of the world than is usual in a philosopher. But though this man-of-the-worldliness may have affected the extent and quantity of his philosophical work, it did not touch the quality of it. It may be contended that Mansel was on the whole rather intended for a critic


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