Fairfax, Thomas (1656-1716) (DNB00)

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FAIRFAX, THOMAS, D.D. (1656–1716), jesuit, a member of an old Yorkshire family, was born in that county in 1656. He studied in the college of the jesuits at St. Omer, entered the novitiate at Watten, 7 Sept. 1675, and was ordained priest 18 Dec. 1683. At one period he professed theology at Liège, and in 1685 he was minister at Ghent. On the accession of James II strenuous efforts were made by the jesuits to get a footing at Oxford. In order to give weight to the fathers and to assist them in obtaining academical chairs, the provincial, Father John Keynes, thought it advisable that the general of the society should be petitioned to allow those most fit to take the degree of D.D. Accordingly those who had professed theology at Liège took that degree at Trèves, ‘after due examinations and at much expense,’ among them being Fairfax, under the assumed name of Beckett. It is stated that Fairfax was appointed professor of philosophy in Magdalen College, Oxford, and that he was well versed in the oriental languages.

On 31 Dec. 1687 James II sent a letter to Dr. Samuel Parker, bishop of Oxford, who had been made president of Magdalen College, Oxford, against the fellows' wishes, commanding him to admit Fairfax and other catholics to fellowships. Accordingly Fairfax was admitted fellow on 9 Jan. 1687–8, and two days later was made dean of arts of the college. After Parker's death Dr. Bonaventure Giffard, one of the four vicars apostolic, was on 31 March 1688, by a mandatory letter from the king, nominated president. At that time the majority of the fellows and demies were catholics. The hopes of the catholics were, however, destroyed by the revolution. Fairfax was attacked in the streets of Oxford and narrowly escaped being murdered; and he was formally removed from his fellowship by the visitor on 30 Oct. 1688.

On 2 Feb. 1692–3 he was professed of the four vows. In 1701 and 1704 he was procurator of the English province of the Society of Jesus, and resided in London. He was stationed at Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, in 1710, and he died on 2 March 1715–16.

His works are: 1. ‘Some Reasons tendred to Impartial People, why Dr. Henry Maurice, Chaplain to his Grace of Canterbury, ought not to be traduc'd as a Licenser of a pamphlet entitled, a Plain Answer to a Popish Priest,’ &c. It was subjoined to ‘Twenty-one Questions further demonstrating the Schism of the Church of England,’ printed at the lodgings of Obadiah Walker, in University College, 1688. It was written in reply to the Rev. Abednego Seller's ‘Plain Answer to a Popish Priest, questioning the Orders of the Church of England,’ 1688. To a second edition of this pamphlet Seller annexed ‘An Answer to the Oxford Animadverter's Reflections,’ 1688. 2. ‘The Secret Policy of the Jesuits, and the Present State of the Sorbonne, with a Short History of Jansenism in Holland’ (anon.); 2nd edit. 1702, 24mo. The authorship is ascribed to Fairfax by Bishop Giffard. 3. ‘A Case of Conscience proposed to, and decided by, Forty Doctors of the Faculty of Paris, in favour of Jansenism. … With some remarks upon it, proper to clear this whole matter’ (anon.), 1703, 12mo.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 563; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, i. 406, 407, 418, 582; Bloxam's Magdalen Coll. Register (Index); Bloxam's Magdalen Coll. and King James II, pp. 225–8, 231–4, 245–8, 265; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 87; Oliver's Catholic Religion in Cornwall, p. 299; Foley's Records, v. 821, vii. 241; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Jones's Popery Tracts, p. 208.]

T. C.