Historical account of Lisbon college/Chapter 6

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The Rev. Matthias Watkinson resigned the President ship of the College in 1706, and was succeeded by the Rev. Edward Jones, the eleventh President. He was a native of Staffordshire, arrived in Lisbon in 1684, was promoted to the priesthood in 1691, and in the following year was appointed Professor of Philosophy. He shortly afterwards paid a short visit to England for the purpose of transacting some family affairs, and on his return in 1699, was named Vice-President and Professor of Theology. On the resignation of Father Watkinson, the entire government of the House devolved upon him.

The first object which Father Jones proposed to himself in his new dignity was the repairing, or rather the rebuilding of the College. The edifice as originally erected, had fallen into a most dilapidated state, and had the appearance rather of a group of small houses than of a College. By the Will of the Founder, the right of patronage of the College had been committed to an Institution called the Misericordia, to which the possession of the buildings and whatever property might belong to them, was to be made over in case the inmates were withdrawn from Lisbon and returned to England.

This right of patronage both by Civil and Canon Law, imposed upon the Misericordia the obligation of keeping the College in a proper state of repair, with which, however, it refused to comply. The Superiors had recourse to the law and obtained a decision to the effect, that the Misericordia should forfeit its right of patronage or rebuild the College. At length both sides agreed to a compromise, by which the Superiors took upon themselves the onus of rebuilding and keeping in repair for the future the fabric; the Misericordia, on its part, yielding to them the half of its patronal rights. On the termination of this suit, Father Jones proceeded to pull down well nigh the whole of the existing buildings and laid the foundations for the College as it now exists. The funds necessary for this work, were partly supplied from his own private resources, and in part received from England, and collected principally from the British residents in the City. The Inquisitor of that time also contributed a sum which sufficed for the building two rooms.

The zealous enterprise met with encouragement and success, and in a short time a sufficient sum was collected to justify the commencement of the work. The building was begun on June 14, 1714. The ancient dilapidated edifice was gradually removed, and on its site were laid the new foundations. In procuring the means for so serious an undertaking, Father Jones received considerable assistance from Father John Shepperd the College Agent in England. In spite, however, of the earnest efforts made for raising contributions, the sums collected were soon found inadequate to complete the work, and it was owing to this circumstance that no less than thirteen years were spent in raising the edifice to the elevation of a single story, and when it was at last roofed, in 1727, the interior was left in so rude and unfinished a state, that for a considerable time the College rejoiced in the name of the "Lisbon Barn."

While Father Jones was engaged in this meritorious work, the number of students was, of necessity, limited. The schools, however, seem never to have been entirely interrupted; and it is not the least among the many honourable testimonies recorded of this zealous and worthy President, that when no one was found to undertake the teaching of the Classics, he condescended whilst head of the Establishment, and though he had previously occupied the Chairs of Philosophy and Theology, to employ himself in teaching the first rudiments of Grammar.

After holding the Presidency for twenty-three years with such credit to himself and benefit to the College, for some unexplained reason he was superseded in the office by the Rev. Father Manley who was sent from England for that purpose by Bishop Giffard in 1729. Though thus deposed from the highest position in the house Father Jones did not withdraw from the College, but with admirable simplicity and humility was content to occupy an inferior position amongst those whom, for so many years, he had governed. Father Manley thus became the twelfth President. He was a native of Hampshire and son of a clergyman of the Established Church. The Annals do not mention what circumstance led to his being educated in the Catholic Faith, but that he arrived at the College in 1692, when only twelve years and one month old. After the completion of his Classical Studies, he applied himself for three years to Philosophy and four years to Theology.

At the conclusion of his studies he taught Classics for four years, when it was proposed to him to undertake the Professorship of Philosophy, but this he declined unless he were permitted to have one who would share the duties with him. As this condition was not acceded to he continued for some time without any fixed occupation in the schools, and though he repeatedly petitioned to be sent on the Mission, the Superiors were reluctant to deprive the College of a person so deserving and such a model of exact discipline. In the meantime he usefully employed himself in arranging the College Library, and occasionally supplying the place of Classical Professor. The Annals make special mention of his attention to the sick, and his solicitude in seeing in cases of danger that they were early provided with the succours of religion. At length in the year 1711, he received the Ordinary Missionary faculties and was permitted to return to England. During the eighteen years he laboured on the Mission, he was chiefly occupied in the humble but highly useful office of instructing children in the rudiments of knowledge and religion. It would seem from this statement, that he was principally engaged in some educational establishment, or possibly himself instituted some such establishment. Indeed humility of mind and heart was the prevailing feature of his character through life; and it was with evident feelings of regret, that in 1729 he received the news of his promotion to the Presidency of the College at Lisbon. He lacked, however, that vigour and firmness which are not less necessary in the head of a College than piety and virtue. Aware that abilities for government were possessed by his predecessor to which he could lay no claim, he obtained the consent of Bishop Giffard to resign his office into the hands of him from whom he had received it, and thus at the end of three years he gladly delivered over to his predecessor, Father Jones, his letters of nomination. He returned to England a second time in 1732, having previously been elected by the clergy Canon of the Chapter.

From the time of Father Jones second appointment to the Presidency of the College until his death five years later, 1737, he continued to display in the government of the House those same qualifications which had previously distinguished him, and if to have deserved well of the College is an encomium merited by any President, it certainly may be pronounced of Father Jones. Besides the rebuilding of the College, another event of great and permanent advantage happened during his tenure of office, which will ever awake in the memory of every son of the College the pleasantest and fondest recollections.

This was the donation by Mr. Francis Nicholson of a country house, vineyard, and other lands, on a spot called Pera on the south side of the Tagus, which is so familiarly known as the Quinta. If the value of a gift may be measured by the joy and delight which it imparts, then may this donation be said to be priceless, for it is not possible to estimate the intense pleasure of which it has been the source to every succeeding generation of Lisbonians not only whilst in the actual enjoyment of its beauties and attractions, but perhaps even more by the pleasing recollections which even the very name of the Quinta brings crowding back to the memory in after years, and which never lose their zest by repetition. No apology, therefore, is needed for inserting here a short sketch of the life of the donor, whose name should ever be a household word cherished by the sons of Alma Mater.

Mr. Francis Nicholson was the son of Thomas Nicholson, and was born in Manchester, in 1650. In his sixteenth year he was sent to Oxford and continued servitor to University College for three years, at the end of which he received the degree of B.A. In 1673 he took his M.A., received Orders, and performed duty first near Oxford, and afterwards became Rector of a parish in the neighbourhood of Canterbury. At the University Mr. Nicholson had had for tutor the celebrated Obadiah Walker, from whom he imbibed principles favourable to Catholicity. Even whilst he was at College the peculiarity of his religious opinions did not escape observation; but it was not till 1680 that they subjected him to public censure. In a sermon which he preached in that year on the text "Surely there is a reward for the righteous," (Psalm lviii. ii.), the following passage appeared. " In consideration of which eternal punishment, after repentance, Holy Church imposes penances on penitents, not only to satisfy other Christians, but also to appease divine displeasure, and through the all-sufficient satisfaction of Jesus, to escape sovereign judgments by suffering imposed or voluntary austerities, &c." Dr. Wallis who was present immediately communicated his suspicions concerning the preacher's orthodoxy to Dr. Burry, and it was agreed to report him to the Vice-Chancellor. Mr. Nicholson was now ordered to produce a copy of the obnoxious sermon. The doctrine which it contained was examined by a body of Professors and Doctors of Divinity. As it was judged to contain heterodox opinions, its author was called upon to make a formal recantation, and on his refusal his name was sent to the Bishops, with a view to his exclusion from all further preferments.

Soon after the accession of James II, Mr. Nicholson embraced the Catholic Faith. What were the immediate results to him of this event does not appear, but shortly after the revolution he retired to the Continent and took the Carthusian habit in the English monastery of that Order in Nieuport in Flanders. The austerities of the Carthusian Order were soon found to be too great for Mr. Nicholson s constitution, and he quitted the Order about the year 1692. He then returned to England and, after a short stay, embarked for Lisbon in the service of Queen Catharine the Consort of Charles II. After a residence of some years at the Portuguese Court, during which time he formed a close intimacy with the Superiors of the College, Mr. Nicholson employed a considerable portion of his property in the purchase of a country house, vineyard, and other lands, on a spot called Pera, distant about a mile and a half from the southern bank of the Tagus. In this retreat he spent several years, dividing his time between devotion, study, and agricultural pursuits. About the year 1720 he came to the resolution of making over the whole of his property to the College, on condition that his debts, which were considerable, should be paid, and that lodging, food, and an annual income of about twelve pounds should be allowed him for life.

On these conditions he proposed to bestow on the Establishment not only his landed property in Portugal, but the whole of what he held in the funds. Mr. Nicholson died, August 13, 1731, and splendid obsequies were performed for the repose of his soul in the church of the College. In the deed by which he made over his property, there are two clauses not unworthy of notice. One is, that if ever circumstances should render it necessary or expedient for the College to alienate the villa of Pera, the proceeds of the sale should be employed in the purchase of some other country residence: the other clause requires, that a portion of the income which might be derived from the property thus bestowed, should be spent in the education of two students from Mr. Nicholson s native County of Lancashire.

The estate, or as it is called in the Portuguese language the Quinta, is situated in a part of the country which, from its fertility, has received the name of Capa Rica or Rich Cloak. This district forms a kind of peninsula or tongue of land, jutting out towards the west, and lying between the river Tagus on its northern side, and the Atlantic on the south, which here forms the bay so familiar to all Lisbonians, extending from the mouth of the Tagus to Cape Espitchel.

The Quinta lies about a mile from the western extremity of this tongue of land, and almost at an equal distance from the Tagus and the Atlantic. The name of Pera was given to it from the abundance of pears formerly produced in its neighbourhood. The house was neither handsome large nor commodious, but some twenty years ago it was considerably enlarged by the addition of another story, which was made by the late President, the Right Rev. Monsignor Baines, and at present is large enough to accommodate all the inmates of the College under its roof. On the ground floor its consists of a tolerably large cellar used for the storing of the casks of wine, and remarkable for its coolness, and rooms destined for the accommodation of the Cazeiro or Farmer and his workmen. On the first floor there is a good kitchen, a small chapel, and six rooms, one of which is large and serves as a refectory when the Community is there. On the upper story are rooms for the Superiors, and sleeping accommodation for the rest of the establishment. The out-houses consist of a new and neat distillery, a wine cellar, wine press, and stable.

The plainness of the building is amply compensated by the charming scenery which surrounds it. Running east and west, it stands about half-way up the northern slope of a beautiful valley, or rather basin about a mile in diameter, having opposite gently inclined hills of nearly equal height though of no great elevation, extending in a westerly direction as far as the Atlantic whose shores they overhang. The whole valley is clothed from its base to its utmost rim with vineyards interspersed here and there with cornfields. Innumerable white
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cottages are scattered on its gently inclining sides, whilst on the summit of the hills may be seen to the south-west a church and convent now, alas, in ruins and serving the purposes of a barn, which until the suppression of the religious houses was occupied by Friars of the Order of St. Francis. On the south, in front of the Quinta, the scene is varied by hamlets, wind mills, and small plantations of pine trees, whilst on the north and lying behind the Quinta are the two villages of Pera, each with its wind mill. Through the middle of the valley there runs a narrow public road hedged with canes, which give it
House formerly of the Marquis of Valada


the appearance of a brook. At the western extremity beyond the opening where it pierces the hills, and at the distance of about a mile, a part of the Atlantic is discried, the hollow roar of whose waves beating on the shore is incessantly heard.

Immediately below the Quinta stands the country house, formerly belonging to the Marquis of Valada, which, half concealed behind a tuft of ancient lofty trees, forms a picturesque object, particularly on a summer evening, when as in former times the cattle were let loose to feed on the neighbouring fields. The valley is cooled during the heats of the summer by the sea breeze which enters at the opening on the west, and the spot is so salubrious that its inhabitants generally arrive at an extreme old age. The lands of the College which consist almost entirely of vineyards lie round the house, extending from the summit of the northern hill, upon which it stands, to the road on the south which runs through the middle of the valley. From time to time as opportunities offered additions of land by purchase have been made to the original property.

Charming as is this spot from its natural beauty, the love of the sons of Lisbon for the Quinta must be sought

"Looking south from house"


in the happy days to which they can look back during the "fortnight at Pera," which annually in September, the Community spends there. The absolute freedom from restraint, which the seclusion of the district in which the Quinta is situated, makes possible, the relaxation of the strict College discipline, the delicious sensation of the "dolce far niente," succeeding to the severe mental strain of preparation for examinations; the soft yet pure and bracing atmosphere enriched by the breezes borne in from the broad expanse of the Atlantic, of themselves impart a special charm to the two or three weeks which are annually spent there, and which are familiarly known as "Quinta time." To these must be added the beauty of the landscape with "Its vine clustered hills and its oft rambled vale," and the numerous points of interest and of surpassing beauty which lie within reach of a pleasant evening stroll.

The mere mention of the ridge of precipitous heights forming here the coast line, and looking out upon the vast Atlantic, will suffice to bring back a host of pleasurable reminiscences to each successive generation of Lisbon

"Looking south east from Quinta House"


students. To watch the sturdy fishermen draw in their nets laden with the silvery tribute exacted from the prolific waters, or to wander along the bleak shore and gaze upon the heaving billows as they gradually approach and curving their superb necks, as if impatient of restraint, hurl themselves angrily against the hollow sounding beach, were sources of enjoyment which repeated visits never robbed of their freshness. Here the grander aspects of nature presented themselves to view, and the mighty ocean could be studied in its ever varying moods.

With this scene will be associated in their minds another much favoured resort, to which the discriminating taste of the inhabitants has given the name of Bella Vista, or beautiful view. Here from the summit of the vine-clad hills, which rise well nigh perpendicularly from the bosom of the noble river, there lies spread out to view a picture of surpassing beuaty. Far to the right Lisbon may be seen rising stately and beautiful from the very margin of the magnificent Tagus, whilst on the extreme left tower the rugged crags of Cintra crowned by its beautiful convent and palace, and forming a back ground to the receding tiers of hills, which stretch far away to its base. The centre of the picture is formed by the gently sloping hills of Alcantara, profusely studded with villas, whose brilliant tints blending with the more sober shades of the various coloured soils which form the surface of the undulating country around, combine to produce a scene fairy-like in its loveliness. In the fore ground may be seen gracing the banks of the intervening river the picturesque forms of the Castle of Belem, and the beautiful gothic church and convent of the Jéronimites, flanked on either side by numerous snow-white villages which impart life and beauty to an exquisite picture.

But the pleasurable memories associated with the "Quinta time" will, probably, for the great majority, centre round the delightful sea bathing, for which the proximity of the Quinta to the mouth of the river offers every facility. In such a climate as that of Portugal, in which the summer heats usually linger far into September, the delights of sea bathing, at least to English youths, will scarcely admit of exaggeration; and the name of Portinho, or Little Port, where this bracing and health giving exercise is each morning indulged in, will ever awaken in Lisbon students the most pleasing recollections.

Apart from the beneficial effects upon health thence derived, there is also acquired a perfect ease and self-possession, in deep water, and an expertness and power in swimming, which is always a permanent advantage to those who possess them, and there are few who having passed their Course in Lisbon, may not, when leaving it, claim to be fairly expert swimmers. The present writer attributes, humanly speaking, the saving of his life to these qualities; when on one occasion having unconsciously ventured upon weak ice it gave way under him, and had it not been for the facility he had acquired of getting into a boat from deep water, the accident might easily have proved fatal.