Henry Scott Holland
27th January 1847 – 17th March 1918

Henry Scott Holland was born in  LedburyHerefordshire, eldest son of George Henry Holland (1818-1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham,
and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, eldest daughter of Robert Gifford (1779-1826), 1st Lord Gifford and Lord Chief Justice (1824).

He was educated at Eton and Oxford. At Eton, he was influenced by William Johnson Cory (1823-1892). He failed his first entrance examination to Oxford University. In 1866 he made successful attempt. At Balliol College Oxford, Henry was inspired by senior philosophy lecturer Thomas Hill Green (1836-1882) on the matters of religion, and social reform. He obtained a First in Greats.

In 1870, he was elected as a Fellow of Christ Church, Oxford, and became a tutor there in 1872. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1872 and as a Priest by William Mackarness, Bishop of Oxford in 1874.

He received a Doctorate of Divinity and an Honourary Doctorate of Letters. He lectured at Oxford and published several books. In 1882 he was senior proctor of Oxford University.

In 1883 his friend George Wilkinson (1833-1907), became Bishop of Truro, and he appointed Henry as Honorary Canon of St Petroc in Truro Cathedral. Henry was made an examining Chaplain.

Henry was appointed Canon at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1884. Two years later he was made Precentor.

He introduced his friends William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) and John Ruskin (1819-1900) to each other.

Henry became aware of London's social problems. He visited slum areas and was shocked by what he found. He believed that the Church of England needed to change, advocating the building of mission houses to serve as a point of contact between the "academic community and the deprived classes".

In 1889 his contribution to Lux Mundi (1889), a collection of controversial essays edited by Charles Gore (1853-1932), Henry argued that Christianity was to be experienced, not contemplated.

That same year, he formed the Christian Social Union to "investigate areas in which moral truth and Christian principles could bring relief to the social and economic disorder of society".

By the turn of the century, at least sixty branches of the Christian Social Union had been formed across Britain.

In 1893, Gladstone offered Henry the post of Bishop of Norwich. Henry declined.

Henry and the Christian Social Union journal, Commonwealth were at odds with Liberal Party leaders when, in 1897, they suggested that the Party had failed to protect the working class from capitalism. They claimed that wealthy Liberals showed no sympathy for the poor and that they should be expelled from the Party.

The Commonwealth also investigated and described solutions to, bad housing, pollution and low wages, and campaigned vigorously against the Poor Law. Solutions included state regulation, state benefits for the unemployed and a minimum wage for those in work.

Henry beleived that the Church of England's role was to convince society that "duty to God and duty to man are the same thing".

After the Liberal election victory of 1906, he condemned the Education Bill.

In a 1910 sermon following the death of King Edward VII, Henry spoke of the natural but apparently contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from this that his poem, ‘Death is nothing at all’ comes.


Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!


Henry returned to Oxford University when, in 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity. He published seven or eight volumes of sermons, and a biography of the Swedish-born opera singer Jenny Lind (1820-1877).

His health deteriorated after 1914, and he died at Christ Church, Oxford, on 17th March 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon, near Oxford.