Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Archer, James (fl.1822)

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ARCHER, JAMES, D.D. (fl. 1822), was a renowned catholic preacher, of whose personal history little appears to be known. We are informed by Dr. Husenbeth (Life of Bishop Milner, 13) that 'the celebrated preacher, Dr. Archer, began his preaching at a public-house near Lincoln's Inn Fields, at which the catholics assembled on Sunday evenings to hear the word of God in a large club-room in Turn Style.' In 1791 he was chaplain to the Bavarian minister in London. Archer published 'Sermons on various Moral and Religious Subjects, for some of the Principal Festivals of the Year,' London, 1789, 8vo; 2nd edit. 4 vols. London, 1794, 12mo; 3rd edit. 2 vols. London, 1817, 8vo; and 'Sermons on Matrimonial Duties, and other Moral and Religious Subjects,' London, 1804, 12mo. Bishop Milner, in a pastoral (1813), denounced the mixture of erroneous and dangerous morality in Archer's sermons, and absolutely forbade them to be publicly read in the chapels of his district. This feud was of old standing, as it appears, by 'A Letter from the Rev. James Archer to the Right Rev. John Milner, Vicar-Apostolic of the Midland District,' London, 1810, 8vo, that the bishop had 'added to the charge of irreligion a charge of immorality.' The nature of the latter charge may be inferred from the following allusion by Archer to his conduct on a certain occasion at the Clarendon Hotel: 'The smallest voluntary aberration from the rules of temperance is certainly never to be justified. Yet, in certain moments of peculiar interest or exultation, and when men meet together to exhilarate their humanity, such a failing will, in liberal minds, meet with a gentle, mild disposition to give it some degree of extenuation.'

Archer continued to preach to crowded audiences, and his pulpit eloquence was greatly admired, though it appears to have been somewhat stilted and artificial, according to the fashion set by Dr. Hugh Blair, Charles Butler, writing in 1822 of his sermons, remarks: 'It has been his aim to satisfy reason, whilst he pleased, charmed, and instructed her; to impress upon the mind just notions of the mysteries and truths of the Gospel; and to show that the ways of virtue are the ways of pleasantness, and her paths the paths of peace. No one has returned from any of his sermons without impressions favourable to virtue, or without some practical lesson which through life, probably in a few days, perhaps even in a few hours, it would be useful for him to remember. When we recollect that this is the fortieth year of Mr. Archer's predication, that he has preached oftener than fifty-two times in every year, and that in the present his hearers hang on all he says with the same avidity as they did in the first, we may think it difficult to find an individual to whose eloquence religion has in our times been so greatly indebted.'

He was created D.D. by Pope Pius VII 24 Aug, 1821, at the same time as Dr. Lingard.

[Butlers Hist. Memoirs of the English Catholics, ed. 1822, iv. 441, 442; Husenbeth's Life of Bishop Milner, 13, 228; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Notes and Queries, 6th series, viii. 426; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 9.]

T. C.