Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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FURNESS, William Henry (fur'ness), clergyman, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 20 April 1802. He was graduated at Harvard in 1820, and completed his theological studies at Cambridge in 1823. In January 1825, he was ordained pastor of the 1st Congregational Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, where he remained until he retired from the ministry, in 1875. He received the degree of D. D. from Harvard in 1847, and that of Doctor of Letters from Columbia at its centennial anniversary in 1887. The theological position of Dr. Furness is peculiar, belonging as he does to the extreme humanitarian school, as distinguished from that of Canning, Peabody, and Norton. He accepts, for the most part, the miraculous facts of the New Testament, yet accounts for them by the moral and spiritual forces resulting from the preeminent character of the Saviour, who, in his view is an exalted form of humanity. One of his constant labors as a preacher and an author has been to ascertain the historical truth and develop the spiritual ideas of the records of the life of Christ.
His books reveal a highly cultivated intellect, impelled by enthusiastic ardor, and enriched by a glowing fancy. "Esthetic considerations," remarks a writer of his own denomination, "weigh more with him, than historical proofs, and vividness of conception than demonstration." In the antislavery movement Dr. Furness took an intense interest, preaching frequently on the subject. From 1845 till 1847 he edited an annual entitled "The Diadem." Besides many occasional sermons he is the author of "Remarks on the Four Gospels" (Philadelphia, 1835 ; London, 1837); " Jesus and His Biographers" (Philadelphia, 1888); "Domestic Worship," a volume of prayers (1842; 2d ed., Boston, 1850); "A History of Jesus" (Philadelphia and London, 1850; new ed., Boston, 1858); "Discourses" (Philadelphia, 1855); "Thoughts on the Life and Character of Jesus of Nazareth" (Boston, 1859); "The Veil partly Lifted and Jesus becoming Visible" (Boston, 1864); "The Unconscious Truth of the Four Gospels " (Philadelphia, 1868); "Jesus" (1871); "The Power of Spirit Manifest in Jesus of Nazareth" (1877); "The Story of the Resurrection Told Once More " (1885); and "Verses : Translations and Hymns" (Boston, 1886).
He has also translated from the German Schubert's " Mirror of Nature" (1849); "Gems of German Verse" (1851); "Julius and Other Tales" (1856; enlarged ed., 1859); and translated and edited Dr. Daniel Schenkel's "Character build Jesus," an elaborate essay written as a reply to Renan's work, under the title of "Character of Jesus Portrayed" (2 vols., Boston, 1866). His version of Schiller's " Song of the Bell" is considered the best that has been made. Mrs. Annis Lee Wister, the translator, is his daughter.
His son, William Henry Furness, artist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 21 May 1828; died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 4 March 1867, left school at the age of sixteen, and entered a counting house, but a year later devoted himself to art. After spending two years studying in Dusseldorf, Munich, Dresden, Venice, and Paris, he settled at first in Philadelphia, but afterward removed his studio to Boston, residing in Cambridge. His improvement as an artist was rapid, and at the time of his death he held high rank as a painter of portraits, his best work being marked by firmness of drawing, truth of color, fidelity to characteristic traits, and a fine feeling for expression. He was fortunate in his subjects Charles Sumner, Lucretia Mort, his father, Dr. Furness, and other well known persons having sat to him. His most successful achievements, however, but gave promise of what he might have accomplished had he lived.
Another son, Horace Howard Furness, author, born in Philadelphia, 2 November 1833, was graduated at Harvard in 1854. He spent three years in Europe, returned to his native City, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. He has been a diligent student of Shakespeare, and undertook the editing of a new variorum edition, the first volume of which appeared in 1871, and six volumes have been issued up to this date (1887).
Helen Kate Furness, author, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 26 July 1837; died 30 October 1883, was the wife of Horace Howard. Her maiden name was Rogers. Mrs. Furness published a "Concordance to Shakespeare's Poems," intended as a supplement to Mrs. Clarke's concordance to the plays (Philadelphia, 1873), and also compiled an index to William Sidney Walker's "Text. of Shakespeare," which was printed privately.
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