NIXON, Francis Russell (1803-1879)

NIXON, Francis Russell (1803-1879)
first anglican bishop of Tasmania
was born in August 1803. His father, the Rev. Robert Nixon, was an amateur painter who exhibited about 20 pictures at the exhibitions of the Royal Academy between 1792 and 1808. Nixon was educated at the Merchant Taylors' school and St John's College, Oxford, of which he was successively a scholar and a fellow. He took the degree of bachelor of arts with third-class honours in classics in 1827. He subsequently obtained the degrees of M.A. and D.D. He was chaplain at Naples and afterwards held the perpetual curacies of Sandgate and Sandwich. While addressing a public meeting at Canterbury his eloquence brought him to the notice of the archbishop of Canterbury, who appointed him one of the six preachers at the cathedral. In September 1840 he preached a sermon in the presence of the archbishop which was published with notes in the same year. In 1842 Nixon was consecrated first bishop of Tasmania, but he did not arrive at Hobart until June 1843. His first task was the organization of the church in Tasmania, and being a moderate high churchman he came into conflict with some of the clergy of evangelical views. His Lectures, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical on the Catechism of the Church of England, a volume of over 600 pages, was published in London in 1843, and a second edition was called for in the following year. His letters patent declared his jurisdiction "spiritual and ecclesiastical throughout the diocese according to the ecclesiastical laws of England". Endeavouring to act on his letters of appointment, he came into conflict with the governor, Eardley-Wilmot (q.v.), and the Presbyterian and other denominations petitioned the queen on the subject. Nixon returned to England to get the question settled, and fresh letters patent were issued which confined his powers to his own church. His administration of the diocese was firm and energetic, and he set a good example to the colonists by devoting a large proportion of his own income to the needs of the church and education. In 1847 he addressed a vigorous communication to Earl Grey on the evils of transportation, which was printed by order of the house of commons in that year. It was also privately printed and issued at Launceston in November 1848. He resigned his see on account of ill health in March 1863, and was given a valuable living at Bolton Percy in Yorkshire; but finding his health would not allow him to give proper attention to his duties he resigned it in 1865, and went to live near Lake Maggiore in Italy. He died at his residence there on 7 April 1879. In addition to the works already mentioned Nixon published a short History of Merchant-Taylors' School in 1823, The Cruise of the Beacon, A Narrative of a Visit to the Islands in Bass's Straits (1857), and some charges and sermons. Like his father he practised painting, his sketchbook containing drawings and paintings of Tasmanian scenes is at the Mitchell library, Sydney. He was an exhibitor at the first exhibition of pictures held in Australia, which was opened at Hobart on 6 January 1845, and in the same year he published his Views of Adelaide and its Vicinity, drawn, etched, and printed by himself. He was married three times (1) to Miss Streatfield, (2) to Miss Woolcock, (3) to Miss Müller. A profile portrait in wax by Mrs Walker is at the national gallery at Hobart.
The Times, 12 April 1879; The Mercury, Hobart, 27 May 1879; W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; J. Fenton, A History of Tasmania.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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