It must have been a big shock to everybody when the Church of Ireland Bishop of Ferns and Leuighlin, Dr Thomas Elrington, fell down dead in Liverpool when on the way to his Parliamentary duties at Westminster.
Mind you, this was in 1835, when an independant Irish legislature was still both a living memory and a realistic political aspiration; and the bigots of the Six Counties had not yet grabbed their grubby little statelet. The "Southern Unionists" had not yet been deserted to wither on Mr deValera's branch. Anglican (and, in some places, Methodist) communities still patchily thrived in parts of Ireland. Dr Elrington was a big fish in what was still a respectably fair-sized pool.
(I wonder why, after less than two years as Bishop of Limerick and Ardfert and Aghadoe, he had been translated to Ferns. Could it be anything to do with a greater ease in accessing Dublin, and his See, and the ferries to England?)
Elrington was by background a don. He had held chairs or lectureships in Theology, Natural Science, and (principally) Mathematics. (I find it easy to be sentimental about a culture like this, before the invention of our modern fad for highly specialised and compartmentalised industrial scholarship.) From 1811 to 1820, he had been Provost of Trinity College Dublin. (He is buried in TCD Chapel; I have not been able to discover on the Internet the text of the Latin inscription over his grave.)
Among his very many writings, The Validity of English Orders Established in Answer to the the Revd P Gandolphy's sermon on John X:1, 1818, was his second foray into the question of the Validity or Invalidity of Anglican Orders. When Canon Estcourt wrote his own 1873 treatise on the same subject, he still, apparently, found it necessary to deal with Elrington's book. (I will add, for those still interested in this subject, that those were the days when attacks on Anglican Orders by English RC controversialists still attempted to impugn the physical succession of Bloody Bess's episcopate ... the days of the Nag's Head Fable; and of 'doubts' about 'Barlow's consecration'. Anglican apologists like Elrington were accordingly led to believe that their main task was to settle these purely historical allegations. Even after Apostolicae curae had substantially shifted the goal-posts, Eric Mascall was still in 1955 able to make wicked fun out of the fact that its English RC defenders had profoundly different views about what that document actually meant; and a Jesuit who had written a book on the subject withdrew it in 1961, with the words "whereas three years ago I felt confident that I had found the key to the theological question and incidentally to the argument of Apostolicae curae -- which, it must be remembered, has been very variously interpreted, I no longer feel that confidence".)
When Sir Harry Trelawny had his long discussions with Cardinal Odescalchi in 1830, which ended in his acceptance of Conditional Ordination, he took with him ... and shared with his Eminence ... a handwritten translation into Italian of the main parts of Elrington's work. Odescalchi found it impressive (or was he just being polite and pastoral?).
I wonder whether Sir Harry made that translation himself.
Rather more interestingly, I wonder whether, in any of the other Reformation ecclesial communities, there was ever as much interest as there was was among some academic Anglicans, for arguing in favour of the Validity of their Orders.
However intangibly, there was, I feel, a certain je ne sais quoi about Anglicanism which distinguished it from bog-standard proddery.