Wolverhampton BTW

Catherine Temple

Temple, Catherine, later Moberly, 1812—1892

by Benjamin Colbert

Catherine Temple was born on 6 August 1812 at Malta, the daughter of Major Octavius Temple (1784-1834), army officer, sub-inspector of militia on the Ionian Islands, and later Lieutenant-Governor of Sierra Leone (1831-34), and Dorcas Temple, née Carveth (1786-1866). Among her 15 siblings were Frederick Temple (1821-1902; ODNB), Archbishop of Canterbury, and Anne Laura Temple Thorold (1806-72), author of Letters from Brussels (1835).

Her childhood and adolescence were spent abroad, following her father’s military and diplomatic postings, first at Malta and, from 1819, the Ionian Islands (Santa Maura, Lefkada [1820-28]; Corfu [1828-30]). Though without formal schooling herself, her mother taught her children to read and write by rote, using a system of affectionate discipline that well-prepared them for future studies.

In June 1830, when Catherine Temple was about 18, her father resigned his colonial appointment and returned with his family to England where he bought a farm, Axon, near Culmstock in Devon. Following her father’s belief that all must ‘work for their bodily good’ (qtd. Sandford 24), Catherine and her sisters worked side by side with the female servants while their brothers laboured in the fields. The land, however, was poor, and the farming venture not a success. On 2 November 1833, Octavius Temple accepted the Lieutenant-Governorship of Sierra Leone, and soon after became general superintendent of the Liberated Africans’ Department. Catherine Temple accompanied her father to Sierra Leone, while her mother remained at Axon to supervise the education of her younger siblings.

At Freetown, Temple’s father attempted to institute reforms necessitating his constant supervision. His exertions weakened him and he died in August 1834. Catherine Temple returned to Devonshire thereafter, but saw her Sierra Leone; or, the Liberated Africans (1835) through the press the following year. Though silent on her father’s last years, the volume bespeaks Catherine Temple’s keen powers of observation and active curiosity (she describes her attempts to converse locally in native dialects, arousing surprise and distrust in her interlocutors). In the final letter, she underlines too her commitment to abolition and the colonial-Christian missionary imperative.

Sierra Leone appears to be Catherine Temple’s only published work. A picture of her intellectual life, however, is given in her brother Frederick’s correspondence with her from 1839-41 while he was away at Oxford. With her he shared his thoughts on the writings of Carlyle, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Newman, promising to bring back their books for her to read herself. In 1843, Catherine removed with her mother to Oxford where Frederick had become a fellow of Balliol, and it was here that she became engaged with her husband, the Reverend Robert Charles Edward Moberly (1820-93), then a Balliol scholar.

Catherine Temple Moberly died at Oxford on 11 August 1892.


Fyfe, Christopher. A History of Sierra Leone. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962. Repr. Aldershot: Gregg Revivals, 1993. 264. Print.

Sandford, Elmert G., ed. Memoirs of Archbishop Temple by Seven Friends. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co., 1906. Print.

The Standard, no. 21251 (Mon., 15 Aug. 1892): [1]. Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900. Web. 19 Feb. 2018.


Title Published
Sierra Leone; or, the Liberated Africans 1835

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