b Southampton 1776, d Ballymoney, Co Antrim, N Ireland 1848. Taught first by his father and showing an early love of Lat classics and English verse, he attended Winchester Coll in 1789, where with others he forfeited a scholarship and with it a place at New Coll Oxford because of a school rebellion and a town riot. However, he entered Trinity Coll Oxford (BA 1797, MA 1801), winning the Chancellor’s English Essay Prize. In 1798 he became Fellow of Oriel, and a college tutor from 1801. In 1802, when his first verses and a memoir of Thos Warton was published, he was ordained, as curate initially to his father, then for an absentee vicar at Buriton, Hants. There he introduced an innovation to the psalmody: ‘All the people, instead of sitting as usual, rose and stood up during the singing; and I hope that when the strangeness of the thing shall have worn off, our singing will be what it ought to be, a devotional service of the congregation in general’. A volume of further poems appeared in 1806, while around this time his preaching included appeals against blood sports and cruelty to animals.
He served a further curacy at Crawley and another brief spell with his now ailing father in Southampton before in 1810 becoming vicar of Coggeshall, Essex. Here the Puritan leader Dr John Owen had ministered 1646–51; whether or not through his legacy, dissent was strong in the parish. Invited to nonconformist prayer meetings, the new vicar gave 5 reasons for declining; there is unintended humour in his printed explanation, ‘I have selected prayers from our Liturgy, because I know no better’! Earlier at Southampton in 1796 some disparaging remarks about extempore prayer provoked the only controversial work known to come from the Independent Southampton minister and hymnwriter William Kingsbury. As Bampton Lecturer in 1811 Mant characteristically took the opportunity to ‘defend’ (as he saw it) the CofE against popery, Puritanism and Calvinism; compare and contrast Toplady. From 1813 to 1815, when he gained his Oxford DD, he was Domestic Chaplain at Lambeth to the Archbp of Canterbury, before moving to St Botolph’s Bishopsgate as Rector, to which was added a small country benefice in Surrey, held in plurality. This marginally increased his income and also provided both urban and rural homes. In 1817 he co-edited an annotated Family Bible (1817) and a similar edition of the BCP, 1820. In that year he became Bishop of Killaloe, Ireland, and was warned of the danger of assassins’ bullets while in his garden. In 1823 he moved to the Diocese of Down and Connor in the north, with Dromore added in 1833; here he revived the neglected practice of Confirmation. Many prose works, useful in their day, were possibly written a little too easily but well-supplied with indexes, and he produced several books of verse including The Country Curate (1804) and Christmas Carols (16 songs with an introduction, 1833); Ellerton called him ‘a rather voluminous versifier’.
In 1824 he issued his complete (but now obsolete) metrical Psalter in several metres: ‘My Shepherd is the Lord most high;/ his care shall all my wants supply;/ lay me in pastures green to feed,/ and to the tranquil streamlet lead’, etc. More adventurous are his Pss 40 and 50, both in the lyrical metre chosen by Milton for his ode On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity. Collections of hymns (translations and original texts) followed in 1828, 1831 and 1837 (Ancient Hymns from the Roman Breviary for Domestic Use, etc) and in 1840 came The History of the Church of Ireland. Even his proposal, to Elizabeth Woods in 1804, had been in verse; when she died in 1846 after over 41 years of marriage, the bishop never fully recovered, and was taken ill and died, aged 72, while visiting his sister. A year later, an elderly clerical friend and established author wrote an affectionate but anonymous memoir. Mant was a school friend of Anthony Trollope and an admirer of the very different careers of Geo Herbert and Wm Wilberforce. Although Julian lists several of his hymns, only one has survived (in varied forms) into general use today. No.193*.