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Burroughs, Edward Arthur (1882–1934), bishop of Ripon, was born at Kingstown, co. Dublin, on 1 October 1882, the elder child and only son of William Edward Burroughs (1845–1931), incumbent of the Mariners' Church, Dublin, and his wife, Annie Isabella, née Gaussen (d. 1917). Raised in an evangelical home in Ireland, he was sent to a preparatory school near St Albans in 1892, from which he won an open scholarship to Harrow School four years later. A ‘quiet, dutiful, religious boy’, separated from his contemporaries by his ‘delicate health and sensitive nature’ (The Times, 25 Aug 1934), he eschewed sport but excelled academically, first at Harrow and then at Balliol College, Oxford, where he proceeded as a scholar in 1900. He won the prestigious Craven, Hertford, and Derby scholarships, was awarded the chancellor's prize for Latin verse and achieved a first class in classical moderations (1902) and Greats (1904). A glittering academic career, attracting the envious admiration of the young William Temple, continued with his election as lecturer and fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, in 1905.

Inheriting his mother's ‘passion for souls’ (Mulliner, 5), although not her exuberant personality, Burroughs was active in evangelical circles in Oxford, supporting the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union and the Oxford Pastorate, an evangelistic agency working with undergraduates. He was ordained deacon in 1908 and priest in 1909. Although his title to ordination derived from his fellowship at Hertford, and he never held a curacy or parochial living, he exercised an extensive pastoral ministry among undergraduates and public school boys, taking part in university camps and developing a vast network of correspondents. He was a conscientious member of the Hertford senior common room, but spent his evenings there writing letters, rather than passing wine or playing cards.

Burroughs came to public attention with a series of letters to The Times in the early months of 1915. Moved by the loss of friends and former pupils in the first year of the world war, he challenged the nation to recover the spiritual ideals with which it had entered the conflict in August 1914. His letters were collected and published as The Eternal Goal (1915) and the theme of spiritual renewal was developed more fully in The Valley of Decision (1916), his only major book. He criticized the lazy pragmatism of contemporary British society, comparing it unfavourably with the deep (though misguided) intellectual seriousness of Germany. He castigated self-centredness and moral decline, particularly targeting gambling, immorality, the craze for leisure, and the political influence of the drink trade, and called for repentance and faith. This message caught the national mood and chimed with the Church of England's plan for a National Mission of Repentance and Hope in 1916.

Declared unfit for military service, Burroughs busied himself with the League of the Spiritual War (1915–20), an organization seeking to stimulate the spiritual lives of men on active service through publications, personal correspondence, and a regular ‘Letter from HQ’. He made visits to France, assisted forces chaplains, and was in much demand as a preacher and public speaker. ‘Bursting into fame’ (Methodist Recorder, 4 Feb 1937) with the publication of The Eternal Goal, he was hailed as a prophet for the times, and he received preferment, being appointed a chaplain to the king and canon of Peterborough Cathedral in 1917.

The war years also brought a steady modification of Burroughs's inherited evangelicalism, as he moved to a liberal evangelical stance and became increasingly involved in the Group Brotherhood, a network of evangelical clergy seeking to refashion evangelical theology and spirituality for the twentieth century. When the brotherhood took public shape as the Anglican Evangelical Group Movement (AEGM) in 1923, he was a prominent supporter, contributing essays to the AEGM's manifesto Liberal Evangelicalism (1923) and the companion volume The Inner Life (1925). He was a speaker at the AEGM's annual Cromer convention, and he left the movement a substantial legacy of £1000 to develop its work; the eventual fruit of this bequest was the triennial series of Burroughs memorial lectures at the University of Leeds.

The post-war period brought further preferment. Burroughs left Hertford for Trinity College, Oxford, in 1921, but within a year had been appointed dean of Bristol. At his installation in April 1922 visitors noticed a sign on the deanery railings: ‘Very timid’; this was, however, a reference to the new dean's Persian cat. In convocation, church assembly, and church congress, and in regular letters to the press, he was far from timid, continuing to urge the need for spiritual renewal on church and nation, and resisting the growing influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England. His final message to his friends in the AEGM was that ‘he believed it was the official policy of the Bishops to capture the Church for Anglo-Catholicism.’ (Anglican Evangelical Group Movement archives, Central Committee minutes, 17 Sept 1934).

Leaving Bristol reluctantly for the see of Ripon in 1925, Burroughs threw himself into the work of the diocese while continuing to be heavily involved in wider activities, including the World Alliance for International Friendship through the Churches. Although elevation to the bishops' bench brought new opportunities, such as regular ‘wayfarers' services’ for hikers and cyclists, and a Whit Sunday service broadcast from the cathedral across the whole diocese in May 1934, he found the detail of administration irksome and the sheer pressure of work taxed his fragile health. Emotionally reserved and intellectually frank, he was ill-equipped to be an effective ecclesiastical politician. His influence as a wartime prophet waned rapidly in the years after 1918, as the nation turned away from the bracing challenge of The Valley of Decision, while a dignitary comfortable with Oxbridge undergraduates and public school boys struggled to connect with the new democracy of the 1920s. One observer dismissed him in 1929 as ‘a rather fussy personage’ (The Unknown Layman, 53); many saw his later career as a failure to build on early promise.

A three-month rest at the beginning of 1934 brought little improvement in Burroughs's health. He fell ill in June, and died, unmarried, of streptococcal septicaemia and infective endocarditis at the bishop's palace, Ripon, on 23 August 1934. He was buried on 27 August at St Peter's Church, Tiverton, Devon.

Martin Wellings


H. G. Mulliner, Arthur Burroughs: a memoir (1936) · The Times (24 Aug 1934); (25 Aug 1934); (27 Aug 1934); (28 Aug 1934); (29 Aug 1934); (30 Aug 1934) · The Record (1 Oct 1925); (31 Aug 1934) · E. A. Burroughs, The valley of decision (1916) · Methodist Recorder (4 Feb 1937) · The Unknown LaymanThe looking-glass of Lambeth1928 · archives of the Anglican Evangelical Group Movement, Hull History Centre · d. cert.


W. Stoneman, bromide print, 1933, NPG, London · W. Stoneman, negative, copied 1941, NPG, London · J. Russell & Sons, bromide print, NPG, London

Wealth at death  

£14,909 7s. 0d.: resworn probate, 10 Dec 1934, CGPLA Eng. & Wales