Arthur, William (1819–1901), methodist minister and author, was born 3 February 1819, probably in Kells, Co. Antrim, son of James Arthur and Margaret Arthur (née Kennedy), and spent his childhood in Westport, Co. Mayo. Though brought up an episcopalian, he attended (1837–9) Hoxton Theological Institution, London, graduating as a Wesleyan minister. Throughout his career he was involved with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS) and was a passionate enthusiast for overseas missions. He served in Mysore, India (1839–41), learned the native language, Kanarese, and described his experiences in A mission to the Mysore (1847). He later served in France (1846–8). Returning to England in 1841 due to ill health, he was stationed mainly at the WMMS Mission House in London, and established the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund (1862). Influential in the councils of the church, he was a member of the legal hundred (1856) and president of the Wesleyan conference (1866), served as Fernley lecturer (1883), and published On the difference between physical and moral laws (1883). He was secretary (1851–68, 1871–88) and hon. secretary (1888–91) of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and secretary of the Evangelical Alliance for many years. He is credited with having a thorough understanding of missionary problems and contributing to the development of world methodism; he expressed concern for racial justice, the dignity of women, and the need for social reform. Always interested in Ireland, he raised funds in the USA for the Irish methodist church (1855), and in 1868 was seconded to Belfast to assist in the founding of the Methodist College, Belfast, serving as principal from 1868 until 1871, when it was soundly established.
He earned a worldwide reputation as a preacher and lecturer, though his main contribution lay in his varied and numerous writings. The tongue of fire: or the true power of Christianity (1856; 18th ed. 1859) was his most influential book; notable were his biographies, which included The life of Gideon Ousley, the Irish evangelist (1876), and three books on Italy and the papacy: Italy in transition (1860), The modern Jove (1873), and The pope, the kings, and the people (1877); he also published sermons, lectures, and pamphlets. A bibliography of his work is in K. E. Rowe (ed.), Methodist union catalogue: pre–1976 imprints, i (1975). In 1888 he retired to Cannes, France, where he died 9 March 1901. He married (1850) Elizabeth Ellis Ogle; they had four, possibly six daughters.