Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Thomas William Allies

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 1
Thomas William Allies

by Mary Helen Agnes Allies


An English writer b. 12 February, 1813; d. 17 June, 1903. He was one in whom the poetical vein was tenderly blended with the philosopher's wisdom. His musings as a boy were uttered in poetry; conabar scribere et versus erat. From a very early age he loved books more than men, or rather he preferred to read of men rather than to deal with them. Circumstances, which fashion lives, but do not make them, played into his hands. For a long time he was an only child; at fourteen he went to Eton, and at sixteen was the first to win the Newcastle Scholarship. His lonely boyhood, his retired home at a country parsonage, and the lack of early companions tended to make him serious. He was born at Midsomer Norton, Somersetshire, England. His father, the Rev. Thomas Allies, was at that time curate of Henbury, in Worcestireshire, later Rector of Wormington, some twelve miles from Cheltenham. His mother, who died a week after his birth, was Frances Elizabeth Fripp, daughter of a Bristol merchant. The first act of father and mother after the birth was to thank God for their little son. The Rev. Thomas Allies married again, his second wife being Caroline Hillhouse, who took little "Tom" to her heart and loved him as one of her own children. He received his first lessons at the Bristol Grammar School and began there his early triumphs. Among his papers is recorded: "A Prize Essay, given by Sir John Cox Hippesley, Baronet, to Thomas William Allies, ages 12 years, and by him delivered before the Mayor and Corporation of Bristol, September 28th, 1825." In 1827, at his own request, he went to Eton, though in after years he used to regret his early advent at that famous school. He was possibly too young to cope with his contemporaries, but at no period of his life could his mind have been young. There is a certain maturity about even his youthful poetry. At Eton he was in the house of the Rev. Edward Coleridge, who always remained his devoted friend. From Eton he passed to Oxford, taking his M.A. degree in 1832. Wadham was his college. His classical mind learnt classical speech at Eton and Oxford, for no writing of English or of any other spoken tongue can be acquired without a deep study of the ancients. Mr. Allies's Latin prose has probably not been surpassed. He was not called upon to write Greek in the same way, but he feasted upon the Greek mind in its purest ideals. Pythagoras, he said, was the greatest of the Greek philosophers. Of modern languages he knew Italian in his youth as well as English; German, and French well, and he was thoroughly conversant with the literature of the three languages. He took Anglican orders in 1838, and began his Anglican career as Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of London, Dr. Blomfield, a post exactly suited to his taste, bringing him in contact with many minds. In those days, however, it was premature to have Church principles. The outspoken expression of them on Allies's part led him to a country preferment, and so, indirectly, to the Catholic Church. In 1840 he married the beautiful Eliza Hall Newman, daughter of an Essex squire, who offered a complete contrast to himself. She had her father's tastes for horses and dogs, none for books. With the wife of his choice he retired to his Oxford parsonage, a capital living of L600 which Dr. Blomfield gave to him in fear of his Church principles. The real work of his life began in the quiet country. He bought the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, and began to study theology for himself, as he had not studied it on the University benches. The Fathers, especially St. Augustine, revealed to him the Catholic Church. Moreover, they revealed him to himself, and when he now set pen to paper it was to write prose. He thought to find Anglicanism in the Fathers, and his first book is the result of this delusion. It was entitled "The Church of England Cleared from the Charge of Schism", published in 1846, a second and enlarged edition appearing in 1848. It gives the key-note of his lifelong labour and the whole question between Anglican and Catholic in a nutshell. As he perceived early in the day, the choice of the Royal Supremacy or Peter's Primacy constitutes the kernel of the entire controversy.

In the endeavour to clear the Church of England from the charge of schism, he saw the faint glimmering of dawn leading to perfect day. In 1849 he published his "Journal in France", which went so far as to say that for the Church of England to be reunited with Rome would be an "incalculable blessing". Newman had left the Church of England in 1845, yet Allies plodded on without his "polar star". The publication of the "Journal" caused a storm to burst over his head. The Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Wilberforce, called him to account sharply for the logical expression of his church principles. He has told the story of the struggle in his "Life's Decision." He broke with his Anglican career on the day of his conversion, for on that day, 11 September, 1850, he most certainly "chose to be an abject in God's House rather than dwell in the tents of sinners." He renounced his living, his occupation, his prospects, and, with a wife and three sons, faced the world without friends or resources. His sole riches lay in himself. Over and above his faith, he had his mind, which he dedicated to the cause of Catholic truth as soon as he had resolved the problem of how to live. The Hierarchy was re-established in England in 1850, and at that time, and during many subsequent years, there was no Catholic position in England. A man of letters and of mind was lost in a body which scarcely knew how to read and write. Mr. Allies took pupils at first and tried to utilize his splendid scholarship. Then, in 1853, he was nominated Secretary to the Poor School Committee, a board composed of priests and laymen, instituted in 1847 by the Bishops of England to represent the interests of Catholic Primary Education. About the same time he was appointed Lecturer on History to the Catholic University of Ireland. These two events made his career as a Catholic. He distinguished himself greatly in the cuase of education, particularly by furthering the work of Training Colleges and the system of religious inspection of primary schools. He was instrumental in setting up the Training College for Women at Liverpool, which has done magnificent work. Greater, even, was the distinction he won by the work which the scheme for a Catholic University in Ireland led him to compose. The idea fell through, but the lectures lived, and live on in "The Formation of Christendom", of which Cardinal Vaughan said, "It is one of the noblest historical works I have ever read." The Poor School committee and "The Formation of Christendom" ran on parallel lines in his life, each representing a period of some thirty odd years. Beginning in 1853, his connection with the Poor School Committee ended in 1890, when he retired on his full pension of £400. The opus magnum similarly ran over a lifetime, from 1861 to 1895, when the closing volume on "The Monastic Life" appeared. The friends of his mind were numerous and largely represented by the Oxford Movement, of which he was the last survivor. In 1885 Pope Leo XII created him a Knight Commander of St. Gregory, and in 1893 conferred upon him the signal favour of the gold medal for merit. He expressed his gratitude to the Pope in a letter composed in Ciceronian Latin. "Liceat ergo mihi", he wrote, "pro summo vitae premio usque ad extremum halitum Verbum Tuum donumque gremio amplecti." His great achievements were the books he wrote, for they were an alms to God of his whole being as well as of his substance. He outlived all his contemporaries. A biography of his inner mind from the pen of Mary H. Allies is in course of preparation. The following is a complete list of his works both before and after his conversion:—

Sermons, 1 vol. (1844); The Church of England Cleared from the Charge of Schism (1846); Journal in France (1849); The See of St. Peter, the Rock of the Church, the Source of Jurisdiction and the Centre of Unity (1850); St. Peter, His Name and His Office (1852); The Formation of Christendom, 8 vols. (1861-95); showing the philosophy of history from the foundation of the Church up to Charlemagne. Some of these volumns have sub-titles, which it has been found well to retain. Thus, The Christian Faith and Society, (vol. II); The Christian Church and the Greek Philosophy (vol.III); Church and State (vol. IV); The Throne of the Fisherman (vol. V); The Holy See and the Wandering of the Nations (vol. VI); Peter's Rock and Mohammed's Flood (vol. VII); The Monastic Life (vol. VIII). Each volume is complete in itself. A Life's Decision, ALLIES'S Apologia pro Vita Sua, was published in 1880, and has taken a high place in English Catholic literature. Two volumes entitled Per Crucem ad Lucem appeared in 1879. They contained, besides the Treatises on St. Peter, nine important essays on the Royal Supremacy and cognate subjects. These volumes and The Journal in France are now out of print. The two volumes on St. Peter have been re-published by the Catholic Truth Society, the smaller one at the express desire of Pope Leo XIII, to whom the book is dedicated. A Life's Decision is in the second edition, which contains an important addition. Five volumes of the Formation have appeared in the popular edition; the three remaining volumes will follow at, it is hoped, no distant date.

MARY H. ALLIES