Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 2

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The second President of the College was the celebrated Thomas Blacklow, alias White. At the time of the death of the late President he was in Rome, engaged in transacting some of the affairs of the English clergy. On his way from that city to Douay, he received the letters nominating him President of the College, and an injunction to proceed without delay to Lisbon, where he arrived in May, 1630.

Though short, the period of his Presidency was not unimportant, as it was he who drew up the Rules which, though modified to meet the altered circumstances of the times, are fundamentally those which still govern the house. Moreover he was mainly instrumental by his regulations in giving stability to and consolidating the new establishment.

The Constitution given to the College by the Rules drawn up by Blacklow, differs widely from that of Douay and, probably, from that of any other similar establish ment. By these Rules, the government of the Lisbon House was vested in the Bishop of Chalcedon and his successors in the Vicariate of London. To them was given the nomination of the President whom they could remove at pleasure, and the confirmation of the Vice-President and the Confessarius. The President is not absolute in his authority, but has a Council of the other Superiors, to whom he is obliged to submit the consideration of all matters of importance and in which he has only a casting vote.

With regard to the studies, the regulation first laid down was, to have no other schools in the College but those of Philosophy and Theology; this, however, was soon abandoned as impracticable, and the Classical Course has since been conducted on nearly the same system as prevailed at Douay. Though a variety of select pieces composed by the early Professors and students of the College were lost in the confusion occasioned by the French invasion early in the last century, there are still in existence many Latin poems of a later date, which bear testimony to the attention which was given at the College to this department of Classical education.

At what time and by whom the uniform worn by the students was introduced there seems to be no record. It consists of a cassock of black lustrous material, a girdle and biretta. On occasions of ceremony, and when in public beyond the precincts of the College, over the cassock is worn a loose habit without sleeves, to which is attached a stripe of red cloth in the figure of an oar, the extremities of which fall over the shoulders behind, whilst the middle part is curved over the breast. This ornament is emblematic of the occupation of St. Peter the fisherman, under whose patronage, and that of his co-apostle St. Paul, the College is placed. The dress of the superiors was the same as that of the students, except that the cassock was of serge, and in place of the habit, in public they wore a black full length cloak, or ferraiolo, of the same material.

During his term of office Blacklow was ably seconded by the Rev. William Clifford, alias Mansel who, after ten years labour on the Mission, was sent to Lisbon in quality of Vice-President and arrived there in the same year as Blacklow, 1630. The difficulties with which he had to contend were very grave, both from the strange humour of the Founder and the extreme poverty under which" the College laboured, yet by his patience with the one and his wise conduct and management of the other, he so far overcame all, that soon he was able to leave the College in a flourishing condition. He was next employed in the government of Tournay College, which Cardinal Richelieu granted to the Bishop of Chalcedon for the education of the English clergy. After some years he retired to the Hôpital des Incurables in Paris, and there devoted his life to their service. He died after a long illness in the hospital above-mentioned, April 30, 1670, and was, by his own request, buried in the adjoin ing churchyard. Of him the Annals observe that he conducted the domestic economy in the most able manner; that he won the affection of all by the sweetness of his disposition; and that during the interval which preceded the drawing up of the regular Rules, he was himself a rule and model of perfection to the whole Community. During his Vice-Presidentship and whilst the President was absent on business, at Madrid, the new Community was in danger of extinction by sickness, which prevailed to such an extent in the house, that the number of those who were dangerously ill was greater than of those in health. On this occasion the College lost two of the number of its first students, Antony Morgan and Richard Arundel, both remarkable for talents and virtue, and equally deserving of a more lengthened notice.

Morgan was a native of Northampton and member of a gentleman s family. After completing his course of Philosophy at Douay he came to England in 1625. Two years afterwards he returned to the same Seminary, not with the intention of embracing the ecclesiastical state, but preparatory to making a tour on the Continent. Here, however, finding many of his former friends and companions preparing to depart with Father Harvey for the new establishment at Lisbon, he changed his design and joined their number. His abilities soon became conspicuous in the Theological School and he was selected, together with Mr. Daniel, to defend, under the President, Blacklow, the first public Thesis held in the College, with which it was intended to shed lustre on the commencement of the new Seminary. But divine Providence had otherwise disposed, for before the time appointed for the public display of his talents, he was called to a better life, August 11, 1631.

A quarter of an hour before his death, while in his perfect senses, he made an address partly in English and partly in Latin to those who stood around, expressive of the lively faith, firm hope, and ardent chanty with which he was animated; and in these acts he continued until his voice failed him in death. He bequeathed handsome remembrances to every one in the house, and to the College the important legacy of £24 a year; thus he has the honour of standing the first on the list of its English benefactors.

Richard Arundel his companion, who died on the same occasion, was a native of Bedfordshire, and also of a gentleman s family. After completing his Classical Course at Douay, he went to Rome in the beginning of the Pontificate of Urban VIII, from motives of devotion. Thence he returned a second time to Douay, for the purpose of accompanying Mr. Morgan on his Continental tour. Finding, however, that his friend had given up his design and had formed the resolution of going to the new foundation at Lisbon, he decided to follow his example; and abandoning all other prospects resolved to dedicate his life to the English Mission. The exemplary piety and uncommon application of Mr. Arundel are highly extolled in the brief memoirs of his life contained in the Annals. At his death, which happened one month and fifteen days after that of Mr. Morgan, he renewed the edifying spectacle which had been exhibited to the Community by his friend and companion. "Quomodo in vita sua dilexerunt se, ita et in morte non fuer unt separati."

From this short account we may gather what was the character of those who were the foundation stones, so to speak, of Lisbon College. Indeed small and very imperfectly endowed as it was, it acquired from its very commencement by the piety and learning of those whom it fostered and gave to the Mission, such a reputation that the celebrated Dr. Barnard, who came from Paris about the year 1740 to the College to take the office of Vice-President used to say: "That the College at Lisbon never had a morning, but shone out at once in all the splendour of meridian day."

Blacklow after holding the office of President for two years, came to England for the purpose of obtaining a fresh supply of students, but principally to procure the means to enable him to place the College in such a position that it might be of greater utility to the Mission. Not being able to succeed in this latter object he resigned the Presidency.

The spirit which pervades an Institution is derived, in great measure, from the Rules by which it is governed; they are the agencies by which its members are chiefly moulded, he, therefore, who frames its rules infuses into it his own spirit and imprints upon it, to a large extent, his own indviduality. From this point of view the sons of Alma Mater are indebted, perhaps, more to Blacklow than to any other single individual connected with the College, and therefore some more detailed account of this remarkable man may not be without interest.

Thomas Blacklow, alias White, was the second son of Robert White of Hutton in Essex, and was born towards the close of the sixteenth century. He was carefully educated in the Catholic religion, and sent when still very young to Douay, where he manifested an extra ordinary capacity and genius for all kinds of learning. He was ordained priest at Arras House in Paris,[1] March 25, 1617, and afterwards employed at Douay in teaching Classics, Philosophy and Theology. He visited England on some private business in August, 1623, returning, however, to Douay the following October, and taking with him as a relic one of the ribs of Mr. Thomas Maxfield, a priest, who had suffered a few years before on account of his priesthood.

In April, 1624, he went to Paris for the purpose of studying Canon Law, and after some time was deputed by the clergy in England to manage some affairs at Rome, where he was in 1626. In the year 1630, he was sent as President of the English College to Lisbon, a position which he resigned after two years, and returned to England to take up the work of the Mission. His name was sent to Rome in 1635 for the Episcopacy, in place of Dr. Smith Bishop of Chalcedon, who was in banishment. He was recommended by the clergy for his " learning, prudence and regular behaviour."

In 1650 he was again at Douay as Professor of Theology, but soon afterwards returned to England where he devoted himself chiefly to the publication of works, some of which created considerable stir in the religious world.

The opinions broached in them seemed at variance with orthodox teaching, and were repudiated by his fellow clergy, and twenty-two propositions taken from one of his works were condemned by the University of Douay.

In this connection, it may be interesting to note, that while still in Lisbon, having on one occasion drawn up some Theses, to be defended by one of his disciples in the Theological school, and obtained for them the approbation of the Inquisition, he was by a sudden order of the head Inquisitor forbidden to defend them, at the moment when the persons invited were preparing to assemble, and all things were in readiness for the exhibition.

Afterwards on a re-examination of the Theses, his doctrine was declared orthodox, and permission was given for them to be held.

The objection taken to his writings was carried to Rome, which, however, remained passive; "for though as is stated by Dodd, he had wit and learning enough to have occasioned a great disturbance in the Church, yet he wanted interest to make any considerable party, and they had the Charity to think he wanted the will."

One of the charges against him was for attacking the personal Infallibility of the Pope.

Another was for maintaining, in a pamphlet, that all Governments as soon as established might be accepted as accomplished facts.

This seems to have been written for Cromwell, in the hope of gaining some measure of toleration for Catholics from the Commonwealth.

Blacklow was not only a theologian, but a skilful mathematician, and was an intimate friend both of Descartes and Hobbes.

He died at his lodgings in Drury Lane, July 6, 1676, aged 94, and was buried in St. Martin s Church, in the Fields, near the pulpit. His portrait has been engraved by Vertue.

"His learning and parts were universally acknowledged and his morals without a blemish." Dodd, vol. iii. p. 285.

His Latin works were thirty-five in number, dealing chiefly with Philosophical and Theological subjects. His English works—chiefly Theological, devotional or controversial—numbered thirteen.

  1. " The House or College of Arras in the University of Paris, had been founded partly as an Institution where the clergy who had completed their course of studies in the Colleges, might improve and perfect their acquirements; and partly as a residence where a certain number of writers might be maintained for the defence of religion against the attacks of her adversaries." Dodd, vol. iv. p. 133.