Massey, John (DNB00)

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MASSEY, JOHN (1651?–1715), catholic divine, born about 1651, was son (according to the entry in the Oxford matriculation register) of John Massey, ' pleb.,' of Bristol, Somerset. His father is said to have been a presbyterian minister, at one time settled in Wiltshire. Becoming clerk at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1666, he matriculated there on 26 Nov. 1669, at the age of eighteen, and graduated B. A. from Magdalen Hall in 1673. Meanwhile in 1672 he was elected a fellow of Merton, proceeded M.A. on 29 Jan. 1675-1676, and was senior proctor in 1684. After the accession of James II he became a Roman catholic. Dodd states that for several years he had 'entertained some thoughts that way, by the instructions he received under' Obadiah Walker, master of University College. Walker's influence, or that of Philip Ellis (see Ellis Correspondence), secured him in October 1686 the deanery of Christ Church, which had been vacant since Fell's death in June, and of which Aldrich and Parker had had expectations. Burnet asserts that Massey 'had neither the gravity, the learning, nor the age that was suitable to such a dignity,' and Macaulay is equally depreciatory; but Dodd describes him as 'well skilled in the classics, and much esteemed for his talent in preaching.' It is expressly stated in the king's letter granting him a dispensation from the oaths that he had not taken priest's orders. He fitted up a catholic chapel in Canterbury quadrangle, and James heard mass in it when staying at the deanery in September 1687. Massey, like Walker, was appointed a magistrate for Oxfordshire, and there was talk, according to Luttrell, of a mandamus being sent to the university to make him a D.D. Had this idea been carried out, he would have been not merely the first deacon dean, but the first deacon D.D. He was one of the six founders of the Oxford Chemical Society in 1683, and he is styled 'mon bon ami' by the scholarly Abbé de Longuerue, to whom, in proof of the perfidy of James's ministers, he related a curious story of his receiving what falsely purported to be a royal order, countersigned by Sunderland, for the expulsion of the eighty students of Christ Church, unless they embraced Romanism. Massey says he went up to London to remonstrate, whereupon James disclaimed all knowledge of the order, and commended him for not obeying it.

After the arrival of William III in England Massey left Oxford for London before daybreak on 30 Nov. 1688, in company with Thomas Deane, a fellow of University, who had also become a catholic, and secretly embarked for France. He repaired to St. Germain, was admitted on 17 Sept. 1692 as a student at Douay, was ordained priest, and returning to Paris, resided in the Oratorian seminary of St. Magloire till 1696, when he became chaplain to the English Conceptionist nunnery, or the convent of Blue Nuns, in Paris. In this obscure post he remained till his death on 11 Aug. 1715.

[Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 348, 393; Dodd's Church Hist.; Luttrell's Diary; Gutch's Collectanea Curiosa; Burnet's Hist. of his Own Time; Longueruana, Berlin, 1754; Brodrick's Memorials of Merton, Oxford, 1885; Macaulay's Hist. of England, chap. vi.; T. F. Knox's Diaries of Donai, London, 1878; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1715; Welch's Alumni Westmonasterienses, p. 28; Bloxam's Reg. of Magdalen Coll. Oxford, ii. 75.]

J. G. A.