Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

nounced upon his merits, amongst which his bequest to the followers of Loyola was not the least conspicuous.

When I arrived at Stonyhurst College, the principals, and the more eminent teachers, were gentlemen who had held similar situations in the Jesuit establishment at Liege. After they had settled in Lanca. shire, there were some new recruits added to their numbers; but, generally speaking, the members of the Society had been educated out of England, according to the system adopted in the institutions under the management of that literary order. They were about twenty-five in number, and were, in every respect, superior to the Pères de la Foi, with whom I had sojourned at Kensington, and who merely passed themselves as Jesuits. They were almost all gentlemen by birth, some of them belonging to the best Catholic families in England. Their manners were also distinguished by an urbanity, which it is one of the maxims of their order that they should assiduously cultivate, and which their love of elegant literature had tended to heighten. There were, of course, a few amongst them who were a little uncouth, but these were chiefly persons who had been enrolled in the body since its establishment in Lancashire. Those who had been brought up at St. Omer's, or at Liege, were greatly superior in address to the generality of persons to whom the education of boys is confided. Of the Jesuits whom I found at Stonyhurst, by far the greater number had become members of the Society of Jesus from motives which were entirely free from all mercenary consideration. They were, as far as I could form a judgment of them, actuated by a sincere piety, and a deep conviction of the truths of their religion, and a zealous solicitude for the welfare of others, which they conceived that they should best promote by dedicating themselves to the education of youth. At the head of the college was the Rector of the English province, the Rev. Dr. Stone. He was a man, whom neither his long vigils, nor his habits of abstinence, could reduce into the meagritude of sanctity; and by his portly belly and his rosy countenance, he seemed to bid defiance to the power of fasting, and to the devotion of prayer. Nothing could subdue his goodly corpulency, or invest his features with the emaciation which ordinarily attends the habits of mortification and of self-denial which he practised. He was the most uninterruptedly devout person I have ever seen, and verified those descriptions of lofty holiness with which the writings of Alban Butler (the uncle of the celebrated conveyancer) had rendered me familiar. The students were accustomed to the perusal of the Lives of the Saints, and found in Dr. Stone (except in his external configuration, in which Guido would certainly not have selected a model,) a realization of those pictures of exalted piety which occur in the pages of that learned compiler. He seemed to be in a perpetual commerce with heaven; for even in his ordinary occupations, at his meals, or while he took the exercise necessary for the purposes of health, his eyes were constantly raised, and ejaculations broke from his lips. At first view, one might have taken him for an enacter of piety; and, indeed, his swelling cheeks, and the abdominal rotundity of his person, gave him an exceedingly sublunary aspect; but, after a little while, it was difficult not to feel convinced that his enthusiasm was unaffected, and that his whole heart was devoted in the spirit of the most exalted Christianity to God. The reader will think it strange that such a person should have been entrusted with the direction of so great an establishment as this extensive college, the conduct of whose finances would alone have been sufficient to engross the mind, and would have been so utterly alien to the spiritual addictions of Dr. Stone. The Jesuits, however, were too shrewd to leave their money to the care of a person who spent so little of his time in this world. The care of their souls was, by a just division of labour, committed to this great master of spirituality; but they did not molest him with any pecuniary considerations ; these fell to the exclusive province of the Rev. Father Wright, a brother of the Catholic banker in Henrietta-street, of that name. Father Wright would have excelled in the counting-house of the first trafficker in money in the metropolis ; but from some strange intermixture of the habits of devotion with the tendencies to thrift, he became a priest, and entered the society of Jesus. His associates were not slow in discovering those propensities, which it is their study not to extinguish, but to direct; and, bringing nature and devotion into alliance, made him purse-bearer to the college. Father Wright had no solicitude for gain upon his own account, but, for the benefit of the order, was in perpetual pursuit of it. He managed the farm, regulated the whole domestic economy, and laid out the grounds of the society. He was a sharp, hawk-eyed, bustling little man, with an aspect of rapacious shrewdness, and that intensity of look, in which the eagerness for the acquisition of money is combined with the prudence which is necessary to retain it. He was much more profoundly versed in Cocker than in Suarez, and far fonder of consulting his ledger than of unlocking the brass clasps of his breviary. He was of infinite service to the establishment, by restraining every disposition to expense, and by the regular system of economy to which he undeviatingly adhered. In the grand speculation, however, he was completely foiled, to his own great mortification, and that of his associates. There was a sum of 16,0001. in the hands of Father Beattie, che last of the Irish Jesuits who had survived the abolition of the order. This sum had been bequeathed to the old priest by a Father Callaghan, who held it himself in trust, and left it for the purpose of having a Jesuit college built in Ireland. Wright, the English Jesuit, suggested that Ireland ought to be annexed to the English province, and that the money should be sent to Stonyburst; and accordingly be put every expedient into practice in order to prevail on Father Beattie to apply the sacred treasure to the extension of Stonyhurst. Beattie, however, who hated every thing English, resisted. Wright applied to the General of the Jesuits in order to effect his purpose; but the Irish Jesuit countermined his Anglican brother, and, in place of swelling the coffers of Stonyhurst, the fund was laid out in the purchase of an estate in Ireland, and in the establishment of the College of Clongowes.

I have stated that there was a minute allocation of different pursuits, according to their respective talents, to the members of the fraternity. The selection of Father Wright to preside over the finances, was not more appropriate than the choice of the remarkable individual who was at the head of what was called the Noviceship. About two miles from the college there stood upon a hill, on the banks of the river Odder, a small house, which was dedicated to the residence of the young men who, desiring to become Jesuits, were, according to the rules of the company, obliged to go through a probation for two years of continued meditation and prayer. During that space of time, a candidate for admission to the society must remain entirely secluded from the world, and occupied exclusively in the work of religious perfection. The novices are not allowed to read out of any profane book more than ten lines a day. The college itself was considered to be too worldly and full of turmoil for such a process of complete purification; and in order that their sequestration might be more complete, a little edifice was raised upon a slight elevation which overhung the river Odder. Here no other sounds but the murmurs of the stream as it gurgled over its pebbly bed through the deep groves that hung on either side of it, were heard by the votaries of silence and of solitude, who were embowered in this beautiful abode. How often have I paused to look upon it, in the walks which we were occasionally allowed to take in the vicinity of this pious and lonely spot! On the opposite side of the river was a wood, in which we used to go either to gather nuts or to hunt squirrels. Many a time I have left the pastimes in which my companions were engaged, and, descending to the banks of the stream, have fixed my eyes upon “ the Noviceship" upon the other side; and as I heard the voices of its inmates rising in their evening hymn through the trees which surrounded it, I have felt myself thrilled with all those sensations which belong to the elevation of piety, and what the profane would designate as the romance of religion. In this probationary hermitage the novices were secluded, and over them there presided a man the most remarkable for what I may call the chivalry of Jesuitism whom I have ever seen. Father Plowden was the younger brother of a very ancient Catholic family, and was, I believe, descended from the great lawyer of that name. He had been originally educated in Rome, and was from thence, after spending many years in Italy, transferred to St. Omer's. He was a perfect Jesuit of the old school : his mind was stored with classical knowledge ; his manners were highly polished; he had great eloquence, which was alternately vehement and persuasive, as the occasion put his talents into requisition; and with his various accomplishments he combined the loftiest enthusiasm for the advancement of religion, and an utter immolation of himself to the glory of the order, of which he was unquestionably a great ornament. Though greatly adVanced in years, he stood erect and tall, with all the evidences of strong and inextinguishable vitality about him. His cheek, though worn, had the hues of health upon it ; and though his head was quite bald, the vivacity of his eyes, that shot their light from beneath their broad and shaggy brows, exhibited a mind whose faculties it did not seem to be in the power of time to impair. His powers as a preacher were of a very high class. Students at a public school listen to religious instruction as if it were only a part of the mere routine of their ordinary, occupations. When, however, Mr. Plowden ascended the pulpit, every eye and every ear were fixed in attention. His command of lofty diction; his zealous and forcible delivery; the noble port wbich he assumed as the herald of intelligence from Heaven; and, more than any thing else, the profound conviction which he manifestly entertained of the truth of the doctrines which he interpreted, and the strenuousness of his adjuration in calling men's hearts to God, gave him every title to be considered an orator of the first class. Certainly, the belief that he was altogether devoted to the spiritual welfare of those whom Providence had, in his opinion, assigned to his tutelage, greatly enhanced the impressiveness of his exhortations. He was looked upon as a model of exalted virtue. It was not to the College of Stonyhurst that he confined his labours; he was also busy in the conversion of the population in the vicinity. It not unfrequently happened that he was informed, in the midst of a winter's night, that some person at a considerable distance from the college was on the point of death, and stood in need of his spiritual aid. The old man, who did not seem to know what hardship was, would leap from his hard bed, and having hurried on his clothes, he would go forth with a lantern, attended by a lay-brother of the order, and, making his way over the fens and morasses by which the college was surrounded, hasten to the door of the expiring sinner, and arrive at his bed-side in time, as he conceived, to speed his soul to Heaven. This truly zealous and exalted Christian was the President of the Noviceship; and certainly no man could be better calculated to infuse into the minds of others that heroical self-abnegation, and that surrender of all the passions to the advancement of the society, wbich constitute the perfection of a Jeşuit. If he could have contributed to the saving of the soul of a sinner, or to the promotion of the glory of St. Ignatius, by laying his head upon the block, he would, I am sure, have knelt down to it at the warning of an instant, and cried “strike !" Yet with all this extraordinary energy of zeal, and though he carried his enthusiasm to the highest point to which it could reach, he was, notwithstanding, wholly free from those weaknesses and credulities which are sometimes found in minds deeply imbued with religious feeling. He was a firm believer in the tenets of his church; but he did not himself practise, nor did he encourage in others, those usages which, in truth, do not belong to the general plan of Catholicity, but have grown out of individual fantasy, and ought not, in fairness, to be regarded as component parts of the general system. It is but doing justice to the Stonyhurst Jesuits to say, that they were by no means given to the inculcation of those opinions, or to the observance of those forms, which have chiefly contributed to create a disrelish for the Roman Catholic religion amongst persons who dissent from its doctrines. I must, however, note one exception. The Reverend Father Reeves, who was at the head of an institution called the Sodality, (I have made some mention of a similar body in my account of the Pères de la Foi, given in a former number,) and was as strange a specimen of exiguous eccentricity as I remember to have seen. The Sodality itself was a curious instance of the mechanism by which the Jesuits contrived to keep perfect order in their schools. It consisted of the majority of the boys, who voluntarily enrolled themselves in a corporation, which was instituted in honour of the Blessed Virgin. The students who belonged to this society were compelled to select a certain number of individuals from among themselves, who were called admonitors, and who bound themselves to disclose to the heads of the school every malpractice which should fall under their cognizance. They were, in fact, a set of tell-tales, to whom no degradation attached, because they were elected to the office by the very persons whose conduct it was their duty to superintend. Thus their functions were not dishonourable, although the habit which they engendered was not, per

haps, very useful. Reynolds (the celebrated Irish Jaffier) was brought up at Liege, and was eminent for his skill in detecting, and his fidelity in disclosing the offences of his fellow-students. In the Sodality (1 have parenthetically described its main object), a number of rites were introduced which might, in my judgment, have been quite as well omitted. The little gentleman, of whom I have above made mention, was the director of this Sodality ; and by his fanaticism contributed not unfrequently to throw a burlesque upon it. His favourite tenet was, that England was “the dower of the Blessed Virgin," and had been assigned to her by a peculiar gift from Heaven. Accordingly, in his spiritual exhortations, he never called England by any other name than “Dos Mariæ." Every sentence was concluded with this strange appellation, to the utterance of which he gave, by his shrill and almost infantine intonations, accompanied by his wild but pigmy gestures, and the contortions of a withered countenance, a great peculiarity of ridicule. He used to fall into paroxysms of prophecy in the pulpit, when he announced that England would speedily be converted, that the Virgin would be restored to her rights, and that she would be reinstated in the plenitude of possession in - dos Mariæ.” These homilies of the poor man created nothing but merriment among the students, and pity among his brethren ; but they were loth to deprive him of his office, as it was his only enjoyment, and he had filled it for several years. Many jokes were practised upon him. He had in his possession some handfuls of flour, which he declared, and verily believed, had been consecrated by St. Alagrius Gonzaga, and which he regarded as a sovereign specific for all maladies. Those who were fond of waggery would call at his chamber with a very devout aspect, and beg a little of this flour, which he would give with many encomiums upon its virtues. It was then contrived to have it replaced, and Father Reeves would exultingly exclaim, that it had all the properties of the oil in the widow's cruise in the Scriptures, and was incapable of sustaining a diminution. But if Father Reeves created mirth at his expense, he had dreadful opportunities, during what was called “ The Retreat,” of retaliating upon the laughers, by depriving them of all use of the organs of risibility, and putting the muscles of yawning into exclusive use.“ The Retreat” is a period of annual seclusion, which lasts about seven days, during which the students are forbidden to speak even at their meals, and are compelled to expend the time in religious contemplation. In all Jesuit colleges, some days in every year are appropriated to the holy sequestration from which it derives its name. To persons living in the world, it might be of considerable use to retire for a limited period from its pursuits; but I question whether it does schoolboys, who have, at a Jesuit school at least, an abundance of daily prayer, any very substantial or permanent good. The minds of even the most pious and seraphic can scarcely sustain themselves for such a continuance upon the wing in the loftier and more rarified regions of devotion. It must therefore have been no very easy task for boys of fourteen or fifteen years not to alight for repose upon more sublunary objects. However, every thing that could be devised in the way of external form was resorted to for the purpose of giving impressiveness to the observances of this dismal week. Adjoining the great dormitory, there was a large apartment situated immediately beneath the two

« ElőzőTovább »