Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 11

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CHAPTER XI.

Early in the year 1820, the Rev. Edmund Winstanley received from Dr. Poynter formal letters appointing him President of the College, and on January 17, took at the hands of the Protector the oaths of office.

In the month of May in this year, the College Library was largely increased by books bequeathed by Joseph Maria de Mello, Bishop of Algarve. About the year 1785, he resigned his Bishopric, to become the Confessor of the Queen and Inquisitor General, which latter office he retained until the arrival of the French in 1807. He died on January 10, 1820, leaving his large library to be divided between the Bishopric of Algarve, the House of the Oratorian Fathers de Spiritu Saiicto and the College. Amongst the books received on this occasion were Walton's Polygiotte and a very beautiful English illuminated Manuscript. This accession of books, necessitated the enlargement of the library, which was done by removing the partition wall that had hitherto divided the former small library from the large room, which prior to the enlargement of the College had served as a dormitory for the students. The condition attached to this legacy was, that for twenty years an annual Mass should be offered for the Soul of the Testator. In this year also the Philosophers Class Room was fitted up with the necessary physical and chemical instruments.

With the accession of Dr. Winstanley to the Presidentship, may be said to have commenced the contemporary history of Lisbon College, for there are still living those who if not precisely at this period, only a few years later entered upon their Collegiate course under his administration, and many still survive, upon whose memories there remains vividly impressed the image of his venerable and stately if somewhat stern and rugged presence. The future prospects too of the Establishment were bright and hopeful. The fabric had been enlarged to the dimensions which it at present retains, providing accommodation for some fifty students and Superiors, the wise administration of the last two Presidents had freed it in a great measure from those financial difficulties which formerly had much crippled its usefulness, and the downfall of Napoleon restored to Europe what seemed likely to prove a permanent peace.

The departure of Dr. Buckley to England, in 1818, left Edmund Winstanley and Thomas Hurst the only two Superiors, and upon them therefore devolved all the professorial duties of the Establishment. The rapid increase however of the number of students after the reconstitution of the College, soon made it necessary for them to seek assistants from among the inmates, accordingly Father Le Clerc by virtue of a special dispensation owing to his being under the canonical age, was ordained priest and elected Superior in 1822, and in 1829 was nominated Vice-President in succession to Father Hurst who received the appointment of Confessarius.

In the year 1832, a resolution was adopted by the Superiors, eminently conducive to the comfort, pleasure and health of the students. It was decided to rent a villa in Palma de Cima, some three miles out of the city, in order that during the heat of the summer months a division of the students might go thither in alternate weeks, and thus whilst continuing their studies derive the benefit of a change to the country. This villa pleasantly situated in its own gardens and grounds, from the locality in which it was placed, came to be familiarly designated Palma, and for those Lisbonians whose memories can carry them back to the early forties and fifties, next to the Quinta there is no name round which cluster so many pleasing reminiscences as that of Palma.

Those only who have had experience of the close heated atmosphere of a southern city in the summer months, can adequately appreciate the boon which this decision conferred upon the inmates of the College. It speaks well for the sturdy self-denying spirit of those generations of students, who during all the years of their course were contented to live within the narrow precincts of the College grounds with no other break in the monotony of their surroundings save what was afforded by an occasional walk in the city or its suburbs, and the recreation so keenly prized of "the fortnight at Pera."

But the pleasures and benefits of Palma were not confined to the summer months; it offered facilities for a "day in the country" on the Thursdays of each week which by rule is always a free day. On such occasions, with a liberty not conceded as far as the writer is aware to the inmates of any other ecclesiastical college, yet justified by the absence of abuse, the students sallied forth not formed in line two abreast like a young ladies school out for a walk, but in parties of two or three, with no rule limiting their rambles either in city or country, except that of meeting at the stated hour for dinner. The frequent visits made in the season to the orange groves where visions of the golden fruit either still hanging on the branches or strewn in profusion on the ground whetted the young appetite, which, at the cost of a few pence only, might be indulged to satiety; the free entrance kindly conceded by the proprietors and often availed of, to the grounds of the various villas in the neighbourhood, afforded additional change and amusement, and all returned home in the evening refreshed and invigorated for the close application of the ensuing week.

Nor would the pleasant reminiscences of Palma be complete if mention were omitted of those occasional afternoon teas with the accompaniment of sweet cake and marmalade, not the modern concoction known under that name, with which the different parties provided themselves en route. These were the more enjoyable because, if the truth must be told, surreptitiously indulged in, and flavoured with the risk sometimes though rarely realized, of some one in authority suddenly appearing on the scene, truly an unbidden and unwelcome guest. Thus was the poet s principle literally illustrated: ("Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci.")

With Palma too are associated the pleasant recollections of the Easter weeks spent there, when the strict College regime was somewhat relaxed and as the result of the students being allowed to cater for themselves, a privilege only conceded at this festive season, such luxuries as ham and eggs invariably appeared on the breakfast table! With the strength thence derived and literally " with loins girt and staves in their hands," the whole party would issue forth, bent upon breaking the record of the pedestrian feats of their predecessors, returning home in the evening having covered their thirty miles or more, to dine and compare notes with previous expeditions, but how many of them dead beat and foot sore!

Details such as these, it may be said are trifling and unworthy of record, and in truth they will fail to awaken a response in the hearts of the more recent generations of Lisbon s sons, yet there remains a goodly number, few alas comparatively, to whom the memory of those far-off days still continues to be a source of ever recurring pleasure.

("Claudite jam rivos pueri, sat prata biberunt")