13 February 2024

Archdeacons galore

 Quite close to Mrs Fletcher in Dorchester Abbey under the stones of the Abbey, is the memorial tablet to Michel Desvalpons (ob March 1798). He was archdeacon and Vicar General of Dol in Brittany; he is buried in Dorchester because he was a refugee in flight from the Revolution. The local Davey family, of Overy Manor within the same parish, were Catholics, which is one reason why that exquisite little church by the river, lovingly restored by Fr John Osman, is where it is and the way it is.

I have run into refugee French Archdeacons before, in the quiet little convent graveyard at Lanherne in Cornwall. Apparently, Bath was awash with them, and sometimes they did duty in convents.

Can anybody think of a reason why refugee French clergy never ... I think ... get into the pages of Jane Austen? Maria Edgeworth wasn't afraid to introduce an occasional expatriate Catholic, was she?


Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

Given that Miss Austen lived so close to, and then in Winchester which was full of emigre French clergy living in the abandoned Royal Palace it is surprising that one or two do not appear in her novels. Maybe she was too much part of the Establishment of Georgian England to notice them? Equally she basically ignores the fact that the country was fighting the French for virtually all her time as an author.

fr. Thomas said...

Perhaps because she had never met one, and only wrote about what she knew.

Atticus said...

At least one scholar* has noted Austen's comment in her juvenile (and playfully ironic) History of England (1791, the year of one of the Catholic Relief Acts) that "I am myself partial to the roman catholic religion." Although the same article cites widespread "sympathy for French émigré clergy as a major motivating factor" in the support for Catholic relief, it seems that Austen herself makes no direct or even oblique reference to such in her work. Pity.

*Beth Kowaleski Wallace, " 'Penance and mortification for ever': Jane Austen and the Ambient Noise of Catholicism" (2012).

El Codo said...

Father, I can see you as a hoary Archdeacon, covered in dignity and cheese. I keep referring to our Vicar General as the Archdeacon, such was the powerful impression the Archdeacon of Lichfield made on my curiatal imagination all those years ago.