Brethren Archive

William Vivian

Born: 7th April 1803
Died: 11th May 1836

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

Syd said ...
Tom, are you able to relook at the scanning of Parts 1 & 2 of “The Cake of Barley Bread”? See your comments. Do you, or anyone else know more about William Vivian?

He refers to his book, “Essays on Prophecy.” Does someone have access to it? I’m also not sure about authorship of all the hymns in the listed “Christian Hymns.”

This young believer had remarkable insight into the Scriptures. He died at the age of 33! He attended the Christian Church at Tor (Torquay, Devon) it seems. Was he the minister? The “Customs and Practices” of the Church at Tor in the Appendix to Part 1 seem so much along the lines of the “Brethren,” and that in the early 1830’s.
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2024 : 22:20
Timothy Stunt said ...
The following are some notes I made on William Vivian some years ago:
Captain William Vivian (7 Apr 1803 – 11 Apr 1836) was the third surviving child and second surviving son of Richard Vivian (1754-1825, Fellow of Exeter College and Rector of Bushey, 1797- 13 May 1825, who died ‘suddenly whilst walking along the Strand, London’ [G.C. Boase, Bibliotheca Cornubiensis ii. 834]) and his wife Mary Catherine Emmett (d. 22 Oct 1843).
He was born at Bushey (a living with a long established connection with Exeter College where he was christened 10 May 1803. He retired as a Captain in the 52nd Regiment on half-pay in November 1828. At some point (date unknown) he married Anne Sivewright, daughter of John Sivewright of Old Windsor, but they had no children.
Many years after his death he was ‘renamed and ordained’ as the Rev. John Vivian by David Beattie (in Story of Great Recovery,63) with Tim Grass following (Gathering to His Name, 42)
His father was a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford where his (William’s) younger brothers Charles (aged 19) and Edward (aged 16) both matriculated in 1824 (which was the year in which B W Newton matriculated from the same college). Edward went on to be a geologist, writing several books on the subject (Climate, caves, meteorology etc) and living at Woodfield, Torquay not far from his brother William. Their uncle William Henry Vivian also matriculated from Exeter College and became the Rector of Charles, Plymouth where he died in 1840.
William Vivian wrote The Cake of Barley Bread; or Emancipation of the People of Christ from Protestant Domination, which was published in London by E Palmer and Son, and in Torquay by E. Cockren, c. 1836. [E. Cockren appears to have been a publisher with evangelical or at least anti-catholic sympathies…]
The book begins with an enquiry, “What is the truth as regards the transmission of apostolic authority and who are the rightful rulers in the church of Christ?” This appears to have been a previous publication to which the Rev. R. B. Paul, Minister of Torquay Chapel, had published an answer A Letter to William Vivian, Esq. in Answer to a Pamphlet, entitled, “The Cake of Barley Bread,” &c. (Torquay: Cockren, ?1835), because, following his opening enquiry, Vivian replies to Paul’s answer.
The second part of Vivian’s work asks the question “To whom is the office of teacher committed and limited in Protestant establishments and what are the means which the Lord has appointed for the edification of His churches?”
The third part offers “A comparison of the articles and practices of the Christian church at Tor, with the word of God, and an examination of the administrative authority assumed in Protestant establishments, with reference to baptism and the supper of the Lord.”
In a review of Vivian’s book, the editor of The Spiritual magazine; or, Saint's treasury (a magazine published in London) commented:
“Under each of these discourses, Mr. Vivian has very fully explained his views of church discipline, and of the departure from apostolic direction and gospel simplicity among all denominations of professors. He confines the government of the churches to two officers, overseers as rulers, and deacons or servants. The term elder, he contends applies exclusively to aged men, whom the Holy Ghost has made its overseers. Mr. V. also advocates the breaking of bread every Lord's day—submission to the written word of God — approves of believer's baptism, but adopts open communion — any male member at liberty to give a word of exhortation at their public meetings — opposes the setting apart as exclusive ministers any body of men, as paid dispensers of the word. These are the leading views of Mr. Vivian, and which he defends with much earnestness, and we think with an evident anxiety to promote what he believes to be the primitive usage of the church. We must refer our readers to the work itself, which is worthy a careful perusal.” (The Spiritual magazine; or, Saints’ Treasury, xii [June 1836] p. 189.)
A couple of years later, J E Howard, a one time Quaker, writing for dissatisfied Quakers in The Inquirer (ii [1839] 598-601) wrote an approving critique of Vivian’s Cake of Barley Bread but had reservations about his “old men eldership.”
William Vivian also wrote a poem Contemplation, or a Christian’s Wanderings (London: Simpkin and Co, 1836.)
Timothy Stunt
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2024 : 23:23
Marty said ...

Capt. William Vivian – 7th April 1803 ~ 11th April 1836, age 33.
   Birth: Bushey, Hertfordshire, England.
   Marriage: 17th June 1828 in Shalford, Surrey, England.
   Death: England.
Wife: Ann (Anne} Sivewright – 30th July 1801 ~ October 1896, age 95.
   Burial: Torre Churchyard, Torquay, Devon, England.
Father: Rev. Richard Vivian – 1st August 1754 ~ 13th May 1825, age 70.
   Rector of Bushey, Herts.  Burial: St. James Churchyard, Bushey.
Mother: Mary Catherine Emmett – 20th Dec. 1769 ~ 22nd October 1843, age 73.
   Married on 7th August 1798 in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
   Mary Vivian Scott – 11th May 1799 ~ 11th April 1879
      Married Rev. Matthew Robert Scott, Chaplain, R.A.
  Capt. Robert Vivian – 3rd March. 1802 ~ 18th Dec. 1871, age 69.
      Married Patience Susan Stawell on 25th Aug. 1827.
  Charles Vivian – 10th Nov. 1804 ~ 8th July 1822, age 18.
     (English seaman drowned with Percy Bysshe Shelley)
  Lucy Vivian – 14th October 1806 ~ 15th Nov. 1806.
  Major Edward Vivian, M.A., J.P. – 2nd April 1808 ~ 30th March 1893, age 84.
      Bio. GENUKI: Edward Vivian, M.A. [Obituary], Devon
      Married Harriet Bacon on 1st August 1832.  d. 1834.
      Married Emma Catherine Johnson on 14th July 1836.
      Father of Lt. Richard Henry Dansey Vivian, R.A.
  Lucy Vivian Sivewright – 6th Nov. 1810 ~ 9th April 1882, age 71. (14 children)
     Married Charles Kane Sivewright, Esq. on 14th May 1832. (Brother of Ann)

See notes: Hymnology and Poetry | Plymouth Brethren Archive

Thursday, Jan 11, 2024 : 03:51
Syd said ...
Thanks so much, brethren; this is an interesting part of "ecclesiastical dissenters'" and "Brethren" history.

Sorry, I took the lazy route to ask, and should have searched the site. The notes under "Hymnology and Poetry" fill in quite a bit on the Vivian's history. And then, DavidS's note there from 2016 - even after Timothy's reply - may still invite further contributions:

"If anyone has any other information about Vivian, or these early days at Torquay, I would be interested in hearing from them."
Thursday, Jan 11, 2024 : 11:37
Tom said ...
Hi Syd, I've put it on my list for next time at the British Library, to rescan the missing pages, though might be a while before I go back.
Monday, Jan 22, 2024 : 00:58
Tmothy Stunt said ...
At the beginning of this exchange Syd spotted that on the title page of the 'Cake of Barley Bread' Part 1, the author, William Vivian, acknowledged that he was the author of 'Essays on Prophecy'. I have been unable to find such a title written by Vivian, but I suspect he published the book under the pseudonym, "Biblicus". The only book I can find (with that exact title is by "Biblicus" and was published by the evangelical London publisher John Hatchard in 1831. It is subtitled Part I but it seems that subsequent volumes were not forthcoming which would tally with William Vivian's early death in 1836. The volume is accessible on line at .
Timothy Stunt
Monday, Mar 18, 2024 : 21:42
Greg said ...
There's another item by "Biblicus" in 1852.

Might this suggest another "Biblicus" or that it was not Vivian?
Tuesday, Mar 19, 2024 : 16:32
Greg said ...
Another on prophecy by "Biblicus". 1819 might be a bit early for WV.
Tuesday, Mar 19, 2024 : 16:36
Marty said ...
Thorn, William, 1794-1870, also called himself Biblicus.
"The history of tithes: patriarchal, levitical, Catholic, and Protestant:
with reflections on the extent and evils of the English tithe system, and
suggestions for abolishing tithes and supporting the clergy" by Biblicus.
Author: Thorn, William, 1794-1870
Published: London : J. Dinnis, 1831.
Edition: 2nd ed., enl.
Physical Description: iv, 64 pages
(Access digital copy through HathiTrust)
Wednesday, Mar 20, 2024 : 01:51
Timothy Stunt said ...
"Biblicus" is a predictably popular religious pseudonym likely to be taken by many anonymous authors, but the title "Essays on Prophecy" seems only to occur in 1831 and there is no Part II to follow Part I. From the Introductory dedication to "Contemplation" we know that William Vivian was physically challenged before December 1835. If Biblicus in 1831 is William Vivian we need not be surprised to find the writer advocating a pre-millennial second coming and that "nothing remains to be fulfilled before his coming, and that therefore we know neither the day nor the hour" (p. 42)
On another issue we may also observe that William's younger brother, Charles, cannot have drowned with the poet Shelley in 1822 as he matriculated at Exeter College in 1824; see "Register of Exeter College" (1894) p. 102. Timothy Stunt
Thursday, Mar 21, 2024 : 21:14
Marty said ...
Could not find the reference online for
"Register of Exeter College" (1894) p. 102.
Ancestry has his death as 1822, 1824 & 1841.
I may have had the wrong Charles Vivian.
Friday, Mar 22, 2024 : 23:22

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