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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]

The Right Rev. John Richardson Selwyn

The Right Rev. John Richardson Selwyn, second son of George Augustus Selwyn, D.D., Bishop of New Zealand, and subsequently of Lichfield, was born at Waimate,
Bishop Selwyn.

Bishop Selwyn.

Bay of Islands, New Zealand, on the 20th of May, 1844. His father's duties taking him much from home, the early years of the future Bishop were mostly spent under the care of his mother (Sarah Harriet, daughter of Sir John Richardson, Q.C.), and of Archdeacon Abraham, subsequently Bishop or Wellington. Young Selwyn was sent to Eton College in 1854. There he distinguished himself as an athlete; he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1862; and passed in the third class of the Classical Tripos in 1866. In 1867 he visited his father in New Zealand, and, under the influence of his parents and friends and Bishop Patteson, he decided to abandon the study of law and seek holy orders. He was ordained at Trinity in 1869, and was placed in charge of St. George's, Wolverhampton, in 1870. After the death of Bishop Patteson, in 1871, Mr. Selwyn went out with his wife and his friend, the Rev. J. Still, to Melanesia. In 1874 he was nominated by the Melanesian Mission staff as their Bishop (Dr. Codrington, the acting head of the Mission, declining the post), and was consecrated Bishop at Nelson, New Zealand, in February, 1877. His episcopate was marked by a steady development of the work in all parts of his island diocese; his tact was exhibited in gaining an entrance into the difficult Santa Cruz group; and conspicuously in assisting Her Majesty's naval officers in dealing with the natives of Florida, and bringing the murderers of Lieutenant Bower to justice. The Banks Islands, the Torres Islands, the northern New Hebrides, the South-East Solomon Islands, page 222 were largely evangelised during his episcopate; and Florida became practically Christian. The Bishop suffered much from rheumatism and malarial sciatica, incurred in the unsparing prosecution of his missionary work; and in 1890 he was taken to England crippled for life. In 1893 he was unanimously elected Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he lived long enough to leave his mark, both on that College and on the University of Cambridge. His manly directness, his magnificent pluck, his tender sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men, and, chief of all, his deep piety, caused him to be a wide influence for good. After his retirement from the bishopric of Melanesia, he devoted himself with untiring zeal to furthering the Mission cause in England; and his unsparing exertions probably hastened his end, which came at Pau, France, on the 12th of February, 1898, at the early age of fifty-three. The Bishop was twice married; in January, 1872, to Miss Clara Innes, by whom he had three children, Margaret, Rebie, and Stephen; the last-named is now a graduate of Trinity, Cambridge, and in holy orders. Mrs. Selwyn died at Norfolk Island in 1878, and in 1885 the Bishop married again, his second wife being Miss Annie Mort, daughter of a well-known and hearty supporter of the Mission from the days of Bishop Patteson. Three children. Dorothy, Mary, and George Augustus, are the issue of this marriage. The Bishop's life and work are to be commemorated (a) in connection with Selwyn College, by the stall work in the College Chapel; (b) in Mclanesia by a stone church in the Solomon Islands. Besides his pamphlets and single sermons, a small brochure written by him and published by the S.P.C.K., on “Work in the Colonies and in the Mission Field,” has had a wide circulation, and has exercised a farreaching influence. A memoir of his life, by J. J. How, son of the late Bishop of Wakefield, gives an admirable picture of the man and of his work.