Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 10

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On the death of Father Fryer, the Rev. Edmund Winstanley was called upon, as Senior Superior, to take charge of the House until a successor to the late President should be appointed. The choice fell upon the Rev. James Buckley. Born in London, February 24, 1770, he was admitted into the College in February, 1785. He was gifted with great talents which he displayed throughout his College Course, especially in poetry, in which his compositions were of such beauty and excellence that Father Allen, his master, himself gifted with a most refined taste, expressed his opinion that not even Pope could have struck off more elegant verses in so short a time. As we have seen he had been chosen Superior in 1795, a position which he held until 1801, when, at his own request, he came to England; to return again, however, as President in May, 1806.

In the following year France and Spain having agreed to divide Portugal between them,[1] the reigning House of Braganza fled from Lisbon to a refuge in Brazil. On the very day of their departure the French entered Lisbon, and one of their first acts was to incarcerate the persons and confiscate the property of all British subjects who had not anticipated the violence by a timely flight. From these rigorous measures, however, some exception was made in favour of the College and its inmates. At the intercession of the Pope s Nuncio and other influential persons the property of the house though nominally confiscated, was left in the administration of the Superiors, and though both they and the students were declared prisoners of war, they enjoyed the liberty of
"Dr. James Buckley"


walking out in the city, and had the second story of the college, and church and garden assigned for their use. The rest of the house was occupied by 280 soldiers all new recruits and twelve veteran officers. The latter though entirely destitute of religion, observed in general the greatest politeness towards all the members of the Community, and carefully restrained the soldiers within the bounds prescribed them, or severely punished the slightest transgression.

Among them however there were some who did not deserve the encomium just passed. One in particular a consequential little lieutenant, took every opportunity to display his importance and once committed himself at table to the utter disregard of all politeness in the manner that has been described in the account of Father Allen.

Another whose character was the reverse of that of the last mentioned, was the caterer and chief cook of the mess, an employment which he had voluntarily undertaken, being much more remarkable for his fondness for good cheer, than for his military spirit. A rather ludicrous scene occurred with respect to this individual in the college kitchen which was common to the soldiers and the Community. One day the cook in the service of the House, who was a sturdy Gallego, happened in some way or other to interfere with the Frenchman s cookery, upon which the latter flew into a passion, uttered an oath, and put his hand on his sword. Antonio, for such was the name of the cook, no way terrified at the menace, instantly grasped a spit and fiercely turning round bade defiance to his enraged antagonist. This was enough to cool the courage of the Frenchman who was glad to extricate himself from his perilous situation by declaring that what he had said and done was merely a joke.

The French continued in the College for nearly nine months, during which time four of the Students with the tacit consent of the Superiors made their escape by night to the English fleet which was cruising off the port and were conveyed home. The rest remained in the house, and pursued as far as circumstances permitted their usual duties. To the honour of the corps quartered in the College it should be said, that at their departure they scrupulously restored the articles which had been lent them during their stay, the only deficit in the delivery being that of a single sheet.

Scarcely had the rejoicings for the departure of these unwelcome guests ceased in Lisbon, when news arrived that Soult at the head of a fresh army was preparing to reoccupy the Portuguese territory. Prudence now suggested to the Superiors, the necessity of taking measures for the preservation of the College as well as for the safety of the inmates, in case of success on the part of the French. They therefore adopted the resolution of sending the students to England, and with them the library and the more valuable part of the effects, and of forming in the House a temporary Academy for the education of Seculars. Thus it was hoped that not only might the Establishment be preserved, but its means augmented, and by temporarily diverting it, during the continuance of the war, from the great object of its institution, it might at a more favourable conjuncture and with brighter prospects, be again employed in the education of the peaceful members of religion. The result corresponded to the expectations of the Superiors.

The plan and terms of instruction were no sooner made public, than applications for admission poured in from every quarter. The system followed gave general satisfaction, and in a few months the house was found too small for the numbers who solicited admission. Dr. Buckley, the President, undertook the general direction of the schools, assisted by the Revv. Messrs. Colegate and Spain while the spiritual instruction was assigned to the Rev. Thomas Hurst.

In the meantime war continued to desolute the Peninsula, and Lisbon was the grand depôt of the combined British and Portuguese armies. The heat of the climate and the hardships of the campaign contributed with the sword in thinning the ranks. Upwards of twenty hospitals were established in different parts of the city, and they were all kept constantly filled by the crowds of sick and wounded that daily poured in from the army. As many of the regiments were almost exclusively composed of Catholics from Ireland, a most laborious and extensive mission was thus created. The task of administering the succours of religion to all these distressed objects was assigned to the Rev. Edmund Winstanley who for this purpose was retained at the College and unremittingly continued to exert him self in the discharge of these severe duties until the close of the war. He was assisted in this charitable work by the Rev. Thomas Hurst, who devoted to the hospitals, or to the making private or public exhortations, whatever time he could spare from his duties in the Academy.

In the year 1813, the Rev. John Paul Colegate who during the past six years had devoted himself to the duties which fell to him in the carrying on of the Academy, died from an attack of European cholera, and he deserves more than a passing mention.

He was born at Faversham in Kent. His parents were members of the Established Church, and in the early years of his life he was directly brought up in the tenets and practice of Protestantism. The occasion of his conversion to the Catholic Faith was remarkable. During the course of his education which was carried on under his father s roof, he had for a Master in the French tongue, one of the numerous emigrant clergy, who about this period, flying from the horrors of the Revolution, found hospitality in England. The talents and virtue of his Preceptor struck young Colegate with admiration, and lamenting to see so much worth obscured by the gross delusions of Popery, he resolved to attempt his conversion.

Accordingly one day when the good priest was not at all expecting an attack on his faith, his scholar led him into the garden where, instead of repeating his task, he opened a conference on religion and began by expressing his astonishment that a man of such abilities, and so much apparent candour, should give his assent to the gross errors of the Church of Rome. He rehearsed the usual charges of superstition, idolatry, &c., to which the priest listened with the utmost composure, and then contented himself with giving a fair and dispassionate statement of the real doctrines of the Catholic Church. Mr. Colegate, though far from assenting to all that was alleged, discovered in what he said sufficient reason for making further investigations. The study of French was now laid aside, and religion became the sole subject of his conferences with his French Preceptor. After a diligent perusal of books of controversy and instruction during some months, and most earnest prayer to be guided to the truth, young Colegate found every doubt removed, every difficulty cleared up, and his animosity against the religion of his tutor changed into a fixed conviction of its truth, and at once he resolved to become a Catholic.

In order that his determination might not be thwarted by his friends, he one night privately quitted home, and having proceeded on foot to Canterbury, took his place on the first coach to London where, on his arrival, he directed his steps to the residence of Dr. Douglas. The Bishop received the young and earnest convert with every mark of kindness, caused his religious instruction to be completed and then admitted him a member of the Catholic Church. Soon after he was sent to the College of Old Hall Green, but as this was a situation in which he might be molested, he was thence removed to Lisbon, where he arrived February 19, 1802. From Lisbon he sent the first account to his friends of his change of religion and of the motives by which it had been wrought, and pleaded his cause so well, as to obtain their forgiveness if not their approbation.

After completing his studies he was ordained priest, and retained in the College as Prefect or Superintendent of the Academy, in which office he continued till his death. In his last illness he was heard to declare that nothing gave him so much concern as the thought that his relatives were strangers to that faith from which, in his dying hour, he received so much consolation. After the death of Colegate the Rev. Thomas Hurst, in addition to the other duties with which he was already charged, undertook to fill the vacant offices of Master and Prefect. The Rev. Edmund Winstanley being still engaged in missionary duty among the British troops did not then, though residing in the College, hold any office.

On the re-establishment of peace in 1814, the Superiors began to take measures for the gradual closing of the Academy and the restoration of the College to the original purpose of its foundation. The same year eleven new students for the Church arrived from England and commenced their Course of Humanities, on the conclusion of the Peninsular War in 1815. The British army having been recalled, Winstanley was again inscribed amongst the regular Superiors of the House. On the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29, of this year, solemn High Mass with elaborate music, the first time for four years, was celebrated on the occasion of the reopening of the church after the improvements and alterations which had been made. The College Church had always enjoyed the reputation of being the worst and the meanest in the city, and in 1814 had fallen into such a wretched state, as to become even dangerous to those who frequented it for religious purposes. The first thought of Father Buckley, after peace had been restored, was to put the church into a fitting state of repair and render it more becoming the purpose for which it was erected, and in this he was seconded by Father Hurst who, at that time, was the only other Superior. An entirely new roof was placed upon it, the old altars replaced by those at present existing, a wooden floor succeeded to the old tiles, and the walls and ceiling were beautifully adorned. The handsome doors now seen at the entrance, and the rails dividing off the centre of the church, the movable throne and canopy for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and many other things decided upon by Father Buckley were completed after his departure. During these alterations Mass was celebrated and the devotions performed in the large room which opens from the south side of the present arches. In this same year the glass partition which separates the arches from the garden was erected.

After the completion of these works, Father Buckley began to contemplate the resignation of his office of President, which he had only accepted on account of the solemn promise which the Alumni departing on the Mission make to return to the College if recalled by the Superiors. He accordingly applied to Dr. Poynter for permission to resign his office. This was given, but only with the view of his appointment as Vicar Apostolic of Trinidad and the neighbouring islands, for which office he had been recommended to the Pope by Dr. Poynter as admirably fitted. He left the College in 1818.

His last act as President prior to his departure, was to draw up and publish, with the consent of the Protector, a new Code of Rules, which had been contemplated and in a great measure prepared under the Presidency of Father Fryer, but owing to the disturbed state of the times had never been completed. A few days after their publication he entrusted the government of the Establishment, by the Bishop s desire, to the Rev. Edmund Winstanley, and returned to England, there to learn for the first time his appointment as Vicar-Apostolic of Trinidad and the Dutch and Danish West Indies, which he was only induced to accept by the express command of the Pope. After a visit to Rome for the purpose of giving an account of his Vicariate, and of obtaining the sanction of the Holy See for some changes which he thought necessary, he returned to his diocese having been absent for two years, and in a few months succumbed to the fever peculiar to the Island, on March 26, 1828.

In the year 1818, on the death of Father Joseph Glover, an alumnus, the College received by his Will £1000, and in the following year an offer was made through the Rev. William Fryer, the College Agent in London, by the Countess de Front of £1000 on the condition that during her life she should be allowed 10% interest. As she was already upwards of seventy, the Superiors agreed to accept the offer. Half of this sum was spent in the erection of tenements on the ground to the east of the church which hitherto had served as a garden for the Superiors, in hopes that they might prove a source of income. Hopes, however, which the untoward circumstances of the times prevented from being realized.