SEWELL, WILLIAM (1804-1874), English divine and author, was born at Newport, Isle of Wight, on the 23rd of January 1804, the son of a solicitor. He was educated at Winchester and Merton College, Oxford, was elected a fellow of Exeter College in 1827, and from 1831-1853 was a tutor there. From 1836- 1841 he was Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy. Sewell, who took holy orders in 1830, was a friend of Pusey, Newman and Keble in the earlier days of the Tractarian movement, but subsequently considered that the Tractarians leaned too much towards Rome, and dissociated himself from them. When, however, in 1849, J. A. Froude published his Nemesis of Faith, Sewell denounced the wickedness of the book to his class, and, when one of his pupils confessed to the possession of a copy, seized it, tore it to pieces, and threw it in the fire. In 1843 he, with some friends, founded at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, St Columba's College, designed to be a sort of Irish Eton, and in 1847 helped to found Radley College. SewelTs intention was that each of these schools should be conducted on strict High Church principles. He was originally himself one of the managers of St Columba, and sub-warden of Radley, but his business management was not successful in either case, and his personal responsibility for the debts contracted by Radley caused the sequestration of his Oxford fellowship. In 1862 his financial difficulties compelled him to leave England for Germany, and he did not return till 1870. He died on the 14th of November 1874- His publications include translations of the Agamemnon (1846), Georgics (1846 and 1854) and Odes and Epodes of Horace (1850); An Introduction to the Dialogues of Plato (1841); Christian Politics (1844); The Nation, the Church and the University of Oxford (1849); Christian Vestiges of Creation (1861).
His elder brother, RICHARD CLARKE SEWELL (1803-1864), practised successfully as a barrister in England, and then went to Australia, where he obtained a large criminal practice. In 1857 he was appointed reader in law to the University of Melbourne. He was the author of a large number of legal works.
A younger brother, HENRY SEWELL (1807-1879), who became a solicitor, acted in London as secretary and deputy-chairman of the Canterbury Association for the Colonization of New Zealand, and eventually went out to the colony, and in 1854 was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1856 he became first premier of New Zealand. Subsequently he held the office of attorney-general (1861-1863) an d minister of justict (1864- 1865 and 1869-1872). In 1876 he returned to England, where he died on the 14th of May 1879.
Another brother, JAMES EDWARDS SEWELL (1810-1903), warden of New College, Oxford, was educated at Winchester and New College. In 1830 he became a fellow of his College, and practically passed the rest of his life there, being elected to the headship in 1860. The first University Commission had just released the colleges from the fetters of their original statutes, and Sewell was called on to determine his attitude towards the strong reforming party in New College. Though himself instinctively conservative, he determined that it was his duty to give effect to the desire of the majority, with the result that New College led the way in the general reform movement, and from being one of the smallest became the second largest college in Oxford. Sewell was vice-chancellor of the university 1874- 1878. He died in his ninety-third year on the 2gth of January 1903, having been warden for 43 years, and was interred in the College cloisters.
A sister, ELIZABETH MISSING SEWELL (1815-1906), was the author of Amy Herbert and many other High Church novels, and of several devotional books. An edition of her works was published in eleven volumes (1886).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)