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GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN (1809-1878)

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 615 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN (1809-1878), English bishop, second son of William Selwyn (1795-1855), a distinguished legal writer, was born at Hampstead, London, on the 5th of April 1809. He was educated at Eton and at St John's College, Cambridge, where in 1829 he rowed in the first university boat-race. He took his degree (second in the classical tripos) in 1831. He returned to Eton as private tutor, was ordained deacon in 1833, and devoted himself with characteristic energy to work in the parish of Windsor. In 1841 it was proposed that he should go out as first bishop to New Zealand, then just beginning to be colonized. Despite the advice of his friends he accepted the offer. He studied navigation and the Maori language on the voyage, and gave himself up to a life of continual strain and hardship. He spent days and sometimes nights in the saddle, swam broad rivers and provided himself with a sailing vessel. Unfortunately, just when he had gained the confidence of the natives, his ascendancy was rudely shaken by the first Maori war. Selwyn endeavoured to mediate, but incurred the hostility of both parties. He went to the battlefield to minister to the sick and wounded in both camps; but the Maoris were persuaded that he had gone out to fight against them, and years afterwards one of them pointed out a scar on his leg to an Anglican bishop which he declared had been inflicted by Selwyn's own hands. It was long before he regained the confidence he had forfeited by his strict adherence to duty. In 1854 he returned to England for a short furlough; but he spent much of it in pleading the needs of his diocese. He returned to New Zealand with a band of able associates, including J. C. Patteson, and began to divide his large diocese into sees of more manageable proportions. The colonists came to respect his uprightness, and the Maoris learned to regard him as their father. In 1868, while he was in England to attend the first pan-Anglican synod, the bishopric of Lichfield became vacant, and after some hesitation he accepted it. In his new sphere of work he displayed the same unselfish activity as before, and in the " Black Country " portion of his diocese he won the hearts of the working classes. He called his clergy and laity together for consultation in the diocesan conference, an innovation the value of which he had proved by his colonial experience. On his death, on the 11th of April 1878, his great work for the church was celebrated by a remarkable memorial, Selwyn College, Cambridge, being erected by public subscription and incorporated in 1882. See Lives by H. W. Tucker (2 vols., 1879) and G. H. Curteis (1889). His son, JOHN RICHARDSON SELWYN (1844-1898), bishop of Melanesia, was born in New Zealand on the loth of May 1844. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was ordained deacon in 1869. At first he laboured with energy and tact as vicar of Wolverhampton in his father's diocese of Lichfield; but the martyrdom of John Coleridge Patteson, bishop of Melanesia, led him to volunteer for service in the Australasian Archipelago. After three years' service, during which the bishopric remained vacant, he was nominated as Patteson's successor (1877). For twelve years he threw himself with intense energy into his arduous work, but his health broke down and he returned to England in 189o. There he found an appropriate sphere in the mastership of Selwyn College, where he remained until his death on the 12th of February 1898.
End of Article: GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN (1809-1878)
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