Dalgairns, John Dobree (DNB00)

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DALGAIRNS, JOHN DOBREE, in religion BERNARD (1818–1876), priest of the Oratory, was born in the island of Guernsey on 21 Oct. 1818, being the son of William Dalgairns, who had done gallant service as an officer of Fusileers in the Peninsular war. Of Scottish descent on the father's side, on the mother's he came from the Dobrees, one of the old Norman families of Guernsey. He went very early to Oxford, became a scholar of Exeter College, and graduated B.A. (second class in literis humanioribus) in 1839, and M.A. in 1842 (Cat. of Oxford Graduates, ed. 1851, p. 168). While still a youth he was conspicuous among the catholicising party in the Anglican church, and he became a marked man from a letter written by him to the Paris ‘Univers’ on ‘Anglican Church Parties.’ The Rev. Thomas Mozley, referring to this period, remarks that ‘Dalgairns was a man whose very looks assured success in whatever he undertook, if only the inner heat which seemed to burn through his eyes could be well regulated’ (Reminiscences, ed. 1882, ii. 13). He was engaged with others in translating the ‘Catena Aurea,’ a commentary on the gospels, collected out of the works of the fathers by St. Thomas Aquinas, and published with a preface by John Henry Newman (4 vols. Oxford, 1841–5). To the ‘Lives of the English Saints,’ edited by Newman, while yet an Anglican, Dalgairns contributed biographies of St. Stephen Harding, St. Helier, St. Gilbert, and St. Aelred. The first of these was translated into French (Tours, 1848), and German (Mainz, 1865). Dalgairns joined Newman's band of disciples at Littlemore, and to the austerities of his life there was probably due the failing health of his later years.

On Michaelmas day 1845 he was received into the Roman catholic church by Father Dominic the Passionist, who on the 9th of the following month performed the same office for Dr. Newman (Oliver, Catholic Religion in Cornwall, p. 166; Browne, Annals of the Tractarian Movement, 3rd edit. p. 101). He then proceeded to France, and resided for some time at Langres in the house of a celebrated ecclesiastic, the Abbé Lorain, and there he was admitted to holy orders in 1846. The following year he joined Father Newman in Rome, where he resided at Santa Croce, and learned the Oratorian institute under Padre Rossi. After a brief sojourn at Maryvale and at St. Wilfrid's in Staffordshire, he settled with the London Oratory in King William Street, Strand, in May 1849, and laboured with great zeal as a preacher and confessor. For three years (October 1853 to October 1856) he stayed at Birmingham, by permission of the London Oratory, to assist that branch of the congregation, but he resumed his labours in the metropolis in 1856, became superior of the London Oratory (then removed to Brompton) in 1863, and held that office till 1865 (Gillow, Bibl. Dict. of the English Catholics, ii. 3). During this period he published ‘The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; with an introduction on the History of Jansenism,’ Lond. 1853, 8vo, frequently reprinted; ‘The German Mystics of the Fourteenth Century,’ Lond. 1858, 8vo, reprinted from the ‘Dublin Review;’ and ‘The Holy Communion, its Philosophy, Theology, and Practice,’ Dublin, 1861, 12mo.

In 1865 his health began to break down, though he still laboured hard in religious and philosophical literature; and from that time till 1875, when his sufferings culminated in paralysis, his life was passed under extreme trials of sickness and sorrow. Latterly his studies chiefly turned on religious metaphysics, and he was a distinguished member of a celebrated society for the discussion of such subjects to which some of the most noted men of the age in England belonged (Nineteenth Century, xvii. 178, 181). ‘Few in their day have been more beloved or admired; nor was his influence limited to his own land, but was familiar to many in France, Italy, and Germany’ (Tablet, 15 April 1876, p. 499). He died in the monastery of the Cistercians at Burgess Hill, near Brighton, on 11 Feb. 1876, and was buried at Sydenham, near the body of Father Faber, in the cemetery of the Oratorian Fathers (Weekly Register, 15 April 1876, pp. 243, 254). Besides the works already mentioned, he wrote: 1. A treatise on ‘The Spiritual Life of the First Six Centuries,’ prefixed to a translation of the Countess Hahn-Hahn's ‘Lives of the Fathers of the Desert,’ Lond. 1867, 8vo. 2. ‘An Essay on the Spiritual Life of Mediæval England,’ prefixed to a reprint of Walter Hilton's ‘Scale of Perfection,’ Lond. 1870, 8vo. 3. An Essay on ‘The Personality of God,’ in the ‘Contemporary Review’ (1874), xxiv. 321.

[Authorities cited above.]

T. C.