TKC was the first person whom `Abdu'l-Bahā
met on his arrival in Oxford on December 31, 1912. The encounter was "fraught
with pathos" (Blomfield, 168). Impressed with TKC's ardent devotion and intense
scholarly activity despite disabilities, `Abdu'l-Bahā several times lovingly
kissed and caressed his head. The angelic qualities of the Biblical scholar's
wife and carer in infirmity, the poetess Elizabeth Gibson Cheyne, were very
greatly praised by the Master (Zarqani cited Balyuzi, 353). During this period `Abdu'l-Bahā'
accorded TKC the epithet Ruḥānī ("Spiritual"), subsequently addressed him as "my
spiritual philosopher" (SW IV:16 [Per. 3-4]). He reckoned him unique among
professors in entering the "world of the Kingdom" (ibid). In a letter to the
Manchester Bahā 'ī Mr. Craven dated Jan. 31st 1914 TKC wrote, "Allah-u-Abhā!
Dear Bahā'ī brother..Why I am a Bahā'ī is a large question, but the perfection
of the character of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha is perhaps the chief reason.." (`9' Beginning.. 8-9). Partially indirectly supervised by `Abdu'l-Bahā,
his work The Reconciliation of Races and Religions was published in
London in 1914 (xx+260 pp.). It largely consists of Bābī- Bahā'ī biographical
and historical notes and, among other things, was, "designed to contribute to
the cause of universal peace" (Preface vii). TKC's becoming a Bahā'ī did not
completely overrule his church membership or, in fact, his supportive and open
attitude towards other spiritual pathways (i.e. The Society of Friends).
After becoming a Bahā'ī and though in
very poor health, he continued to write several works of Biblical scholarship
championing a North-Arabian/ Jerahmeelite theory (i.e. Fresh Voyages on
Unfrequented Waters) becoming further "renowned for his extreme and
unconventional views" (Bowden, 30). Uninformed by Bahā'ī Biblical exegesis and
in large measure the eccentric products of his philological genius, they were
generally very badly received. His Bahā'ī status was largely ignored or played
down though his thirst for knowledge, his kindly, gargantuan scholarly spirit
was much respected. Doubtless referring to his championing of liberal academic
insights in biblical studies and related fields as well as to his Bahā'ī
activity and writing (rather than simply to his increasingly eccentric biblical scholarship) `Abdu'l-Bahā in a
scriptural Tablet or letter to TKC wrote, "It is.. my hope that in the future the East and the West
may become conscious that thou wert a divine philosopher and a herald of the
Kingdom" (cited Balyuzi, 354).
Click to enlarge
Anon. `Cheyne, Thomas Kelly' in The New
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge III 1963:27.
------ `Cheyne, Thomas Kelly' in British
Authors of the Nineteenth Century . New York: Kunitz and Haycroft/ The H. W.
Wilson Company 1936.
------- `9' The Beginning of the Bahā'ī
Cause in Manchester n.p. March 1925.
Balyuzi, H. M. `Abdu'l-Bahā... Oxford:
George Ronald, 1971.
Blomfield, Lady (Sitārih Khanum). The Chosen Highway. Wilmette, Illinois, 1967.
Bowden, J. Who's Who in Theology.
London: SCM, 1990.
Charles, R. H. `Thomas Kelly Cheyne' in Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. vii. 1915-16, pp.545-51.
Cheyne, T. K. The Prophecies of Isaiah (2 Vols., 1880-81);
Job and Solomon
The Origin and Contents of the Psalter
(1891; the Bampton Lectures for 1889);
& J.S. Black, Encyclopædia Biblica (4
Vols., London, 1899-1903);
The Reconciliation of Races and Religions.
London: A. and C. Black, 1914.
Clements, R. E. A Century of Old Testament
Study. Guildford & London: Lutterworth Press, 1976.
Duff, A. History of Old Testament
Criticism. London: Watts & Co., 1910.
Lambden, S. `Thomas Kelly Cheyne (1841-1915),
Biblical Scholar and Bahā'ī' (forthcoming).
Nicholson, E. Interpreting the Old
Testament, A Century of the Oriel Professorship, An Inaugural Lecture deliverede
before the University of Oxford on 3rd February 1981. Oxford: Clarendon
Peake, A. S. `Cheyne, Thomas Kelly' in Dictionary of National Biography 1912-1921. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Rogerson, J. Old Testament Criticism in the
Nineteenth Century. London: SPCK, 1984.
Star of the West Vol. IV No. 16 (December 31, 1913) Persian sect. p.4; Vol. IV No. 17 (January
19, 1914) pp.286f; Vol. IV No. 18 (February 7, 1914) Persian sect. pp.3-4.
Wilkinson, J. T. Arthur Samuel Peake, A
Biography. London: Epworth Press, 1971.
For further bibliograpical and other
details about TKC and his second poetess wife see URLs
The first wife of TKC was Frances E. Godfrey (1844-1907),
the third daughter of the Revd D. R. Godfrey, fellow of Queen's College, Oxford,
and rector of Stow, Norfolk, whom he married on 31st January 1882. His second
wife was the poetess Elizabeth Gibson
Cheyne (1869-1931) daughter of John Pattinson Gibson (a chemist of Hexham) whom he married
(aged 69) on August 28th [19th] 1911 about four years after
the death of his first wife. Elizabeth Gibson was the sister of the `War Poet'
Wilfred Wilson Gibson (b. Hexham 1878-1962): see
http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/gibson.htm. Both of T.K. Cheyne's
marriages were childless.