Historiography of the Jesuits in Britain in the Late Modern Period

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S.J., Jeffrey P. von Arx
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Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. Last modified: November 2019

Introduction: The Restoration

The English Jesuits1 resumed their official existence after the suppression of the Society in 1803 when they received oral permission from the pope, Pius VII (1742–1823; r.1800–23), to aggregate themselves to the Jesuits in Russia, and the Jesuit superior general there, Gabriel Gruber (1740–1805; in office 1802–5), appointed Marmaduke Stone (1748–1834) as provincial (1803–17). But even with the universal restoration of the Society of Jesus by Pius in 1814 in the bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, it took another fifteen years, until 1829, for the Jesuits to be officially recognized by the Catholic Church in England because of the resistance of the vicars apostolic (Catholic bishops, not yet diocesans, in charge of the mission church in England) to their official restoration.

Ironically, the English Jesuits had a continued corporate existence during the period of the suppression more than Jesuits in many other European countries. Given that they were not recognized by the English government—indeed, they were officially proscribed by penal laws still on the books (although by the late eighteenth century no longer much enforced)—there was no question of the promulgation of the bull of suppression and the (former) Jesuits continued in possession of the missions (i.e., parishes) in England with which they had been entrusted. They continued a voluntary corporate existence, especially as regards their temporalities, under the supervision of William Strickland (1731–1819), the “agent,” or “head administrator” of the former province.2 And by 1794, the former Jesuits had an institutional presence as well, at Stonyhurst, in Lancashire. Stonyhurst was the clear successor institution of the college founded by Robert Persons (1546–1610) in 1593 at St. Omer, France, to educate the sons of English Catholics and to train Jesuits for the English mission. Under pressure from the Society’s enemies in France, it was forced to move to Bruges in 1762 and then to Liège in 1773, and when Liège was threatened by French revolutionary troops in 1794, it made the move across the Channel, with the English government now receptive to Catholic exiles from the revolution, to Stonyhurst Hall, a gift of Thomas Weld (1750–1810), a former student at St. Omer. When the Jesuits reaffiliated with Society in Russia in 1803, they lost no time in establishing a novitiate at Stonyhurst in that same year.3

The historiographical issues regarding the post-restoration Society in England are, therefore, the following. First, their struggle to achieve recognition of their restored status, even after 1814, in the face of the resistance of the vicars apostolic; and the on-going struggle between the vicars, later bishops, and the religious orders, especially the Jesuits, over episcopal authority and the rights and privileges of the regulars culminating in the apostolic constitution Romanos pontifices in 1881. Second, the disposition of the “missions” (after the restoration of the hierarchy in 1851, parishes). Third, and connected with the last, their efforts to establish an institutional presence in Britain apart from the missions/parishes of the old dispensation. This included, obviously, new parishes, especially in urban settings, apart from the old missions: for example, the Farm Street Church in London; new schools, especially at the secondary level, in addition to Stonyhurst; and some provision for tertiary education for Catholics; and, finally, houses of formation for the training of Jesuits. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, new initiatives included foreign missions in southern Africa, the Caribbean and, briefly, India.


The sources for the historiography of the post-restoration Jesuits in England are incredibly rich. The well-curated archives of the British Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street in London are basically continuous with the original English mission in the late sixteenth century,4 complemented, obviously, by correspondence in the central archives of the Jesuits in Rome.5 The archives at Stonyhurst are continuous with St. Omers, and subsequent foundations, either schools (Beaumont, Mt St Mary’s, Wimbledon), parishes (Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, for example) or houses of formation (St. Beuno’s, Heythrop College, Campion Hall) sometimes have their own archival collections. In addition, there is the extraordinary resource of Letters and Notices, first published in 1863 from the novitiate in Roehampton and currently produced twice a year.6 Letters and Notices is the in-house newsletter for the English Province (“Printed for private circulation only,” but available in libraries). It contains extensive obituaries of members of the province, refined to an art form. There is also regular news from the various communities and apostolates of the province and from Jesuit missionaries abroad.

Given these riches, it is surprising that the historiography of the restored province is as sparse as it is, especially as regards general histories and monographs. There are two general histories by Bernard Bassett, S.J. (1909–88) and Francis Edwards, S.J. (1922–2006).7 Both are now dated. Bassett was not a professional historian but wrote mostly about spirituality. He undertook his history at the direction of superiors, and it is focused mostly on the pre-suppression Society. As province archivist (1960–86), Edwards’s knowledge of the Jesuit archives was unparalleled, but his book reflects some of his idiosyncrasies, and it is, as he intended it to be, a popular history. There is only one significant scholarly monograph on the Jesuits in England in this period, the unpublished Oxford DPhil thesis of Peter L’Estrange, S.J., “The Nineteenth-Century British Jesuits, with Special Reference to Their Relations with the Vicars Apostolic and the Bishops,”8 whose scope is inevitably narrow. But there is nothing like the work that has been done by Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. and others on the shape and development of the pre-suppression English Jesuits and so well described in this series by Hannah Thomas.9 This lack of interest in the Victorian Jesuits is somewhat surprising given the tremendous interest in the contemporaneous figure of John Henry Newman (1801–90) or preoccupation with the impact of the Oxford movement over the course of the century.

There was certainly a historiographical tradition in the English Province in this period and some very competent and prolific Jesuit historians. Indeed, the Twenty-Fourth General Congregation of the Jesuits recommended, and the new general, Luis Martín (1846–1906; in office 1892–1906), enthusiastically endorsed a project abandoned at the time of the suppression: a full and complete history of the Society. John Hungerford Pollen (1858–1925) was appointed historian of the Society of Jesus in England, and also, significantly, vice-postulator of the cause of the English martyrs.10 If Pollen’s history of the English Province never appeared, despite prodding from more than one Jesuit superior general, it was because so much of his time and energy was taken up in the cause of the martyrs. One finds a similar preoccupation with the pre-suppression Society, and especially with the period of heroic self-sacrifice of the early Jesuit missionaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the part of almost all of the significant Jesuit historians of the modern era.11 This focus is certainly comprehensible given the formative impact of the early period on British Jesuit self-understanding, the controversies of the period, and the preoccupation with the cause of the English (Jesuit) martyrs, but the result is that there is nothing like the historiographical tradition of the pre-suppression Jesuits in the post-restoration period.12

Therefore, in dealing with the historiographical issues regarding the post-restoration English Province listed above, in addition to the general histories and L’Estrange’s thesis, one must often mine institutional histories and biographical studies of individual notable Jesuits as well as book chapters and journal articles on more focused topics for insights into these questions.

Conflicts with the Episcopacy

The story of the long and frustrating effort to gain official recognition for the restored Society from the vicars apostolic is reasonably well told in the histories, especially in Edwards’s chapter “Late Spring: 1803–1829,”13 in an “Afterword” by McCoog in “Promising Hope”: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus 14 and probably most extensively in the first chapter of L’Estrange’s thesis, “The Restoration.”15 The resolution of that matter was the rescript of Leo XII (r.1823–29) of January 1, 1829, declaring Pius VII’s Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum in force in England.16 But this was not the end of the struggles between the vicars/bishops and the Jesuits, and L’Estrange picks up the story in his thesis.17 This struggle had to do in the first instance with the perennial issue in the Catholic Church of the rights, privileges, and exemptions of religious orders versus the authority of bishops in their dioceses. But, of course, in England the issue was sharpened by the long history of the Jesuits, especially, functioning autonomously as the strongest religious order of the church in England in the era of persecution, and the absence or weakness of episcopal authority without a regular diocesan structure. With the restoration of the hierarchy in 1851, and, indeed, even before, the bishops sought to reassert episcopal authority over religious, the Jesuits in particular, who for centuries had been used to functioning, of necessity, relatively independently.

The Jesuits, for their part, wanted to move away from the isolated existence of many of their members in one or two person missions or parishes in rural areas. They desired this because they did not think small parishes were compatible with the spirit of their institute, which since the time of Ignatius of Loyola (c.1491–1556) had been focusing on education, and because they thought the isolated existence of Jesuits in rural parishes was inimical to the observances of religious life, which depended on community. It was certainly also the case that they believed their standing and future in the Catholic community depended on sponsoring educational institutions for which they were preeminently suited, and from which they might recruit vocations, and from their presence in urban centers where they might have an impact through preaching and the confessional on the emerging Catholic middle classes. The bishops understood this, too, although from some of their perspectives, it was a matter of the Jesuits poaching vocations that might otherwise go to the diocesan clergy and drawing the more prosperous classes of Catholics to their churches to the disadvantage of diocesan parishes. Again, the best treatment of the issue of the missions is in L’Estrange’s thesis, chapter II, “Jesuit Missions.”18

The issue between the Jesuits and the bishops came to a head in 1875 over the efforts of the Jesuits to establish a college in the city of Manchester over the objection of the ordinary, Herbert Vaughan (1832–1903; bishop of Salford 1872–92; archbishop of Westminster 1892–1903; created cardinal 1893).19 The Jesuits had had a church in the city since 1869 and the provincial, Peter Gallwey (1820–1906; in office 1873–76), maintained this fact gave them the right to establish a college, even without the bishop’s permission, according to privileges that had been granted them by the Holy See with the approval of their Constitutions in 1540, and renewed with their restoration in 1814, and this he proceeded to do. Vaughan took his case to Rome where the Jesuit general was prevailed upon to order the school closed, but without any judgment on the matter of Jesuit privileges vis à vis the bishops’ authority.20

That was not a satisfactory resolution for the bishops of the issue between them and the religious orders, especially the Jesuits, over the privileges of regulars versus the authority of bishops. A number of the bishops, especially Cardinal Manning (1808–92, archbishop of Westminster 1865–92, created cardinal 1875), wanted the issue of episcopal jurisdiction over religious resolved once and for all, and Manning pressed his fellow bishops to refer the matter to Rome for settlement. When the matter was finally resolved with the issuance of the apostolic constitution Romanos pontifices, it was a decisive victory for the bishops, and religious orders could not open new schools or colleges, residences or churches without the express permission of the ordinary.21 The Constitution would govern the relations between bishops and religious orders not only in Britain but worldwide until the revision of canon law in 1917.


The outcome of the Manchester case did not, of course, affect the colleges that the Jesuits had already established, nor prevent them from establishing new foundations when they had the bishop’s permission to do so, and the history of the post-restoration Society of Jesus in Great Britain is, in many ways, the history of its engagement with these institutions.

The first such institution was, of course, Stonyhurst, whose settlement in England in 1794 predates the restoration, and which provides an essential continuity in the history of the English Province from the establishment of St. Omer’s in 1594.22 For much of the first half of the nineteenth century, the history of the English Province was essentially the history of Stonyhurst, where provincials resided, where vocations emerged and formation took place and which staffed the missions. Stonyhurst was effectively the motherhouse of the Society of Jesus in England in a way that was not typical of the Jesuits. Bassett and Edwards situate Stonyhurst in the larger story of the modern English Jesuits and especially as the redoubt and refuge of the Society in its long campaign for recognition from the vicars apostolic. There is a fine institutional history by Thomas E. Muir,23 beautifully illustrated, which provides also a bibliography.24 The foundation of the University of London in 1838, and the subsequent association of Stonyhurst with that institution meant that civilly recognized academic degrees were now available to students of Stonyhurst who could sit for the London degrees.25

Stonyhurst was the original Jesuit school in Britain, but the addition of others illustrates the gradual transformation of the English Society from a missionary organization to one focused on (mostly) secondary education for the sons (initially) of the upper and middle classes. The Jesuits established both boarding schools (Mt St Mary’s, Spinkhill in Derbyshire, 1842; Beaumont College, Windsor, 1861, closed 1967; and day schools (St Aloysius College, Glasgow, 1857; Wimbledon College, Wimbledon, London, 1893; and St Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, London, 1894). Other secondary schools were started by the Jesuits, but later transferred to other sponsorship or merged or closed, including colleges in Liverpool (1841), Preston (1865) and Leeds (1905).26

The fact that no Jesuit schools were established in London until the 1890s, and the first (Wimbledon) in the diocese of Southwark, and the second, Stamford Hill, only after Cardinal Manning’s death, was due his opposition to the Jesuits establishing any school in the archdiocese of Westminster, and, indeed, his hostility to the Jesuits in general. The reasons for this hostility are long and complex, having to do with Manning’s perception of the baleful impact of the Jesuits on Catholic life in England during penal times (in the absence of bishops, he thought they introduced a “Presbyterian” polity into the church); the jurisdictional issues that let to Romanos pontifices; his desire to improve the morale and standing of the diocesan clergy; and the conviction, which he represented preeminently among his episcopal brethren, that the Jesuits used their institutions to arrogate to themselves vocations from the best and the brightest and donations from the wealthiest.27

In addition to their schools, the other important institutional commitment of the English Jesuits was to the formation and training of their own members. Before the suppression, and during penal times, this training had, of necessity, occurred abroad, in Leuven, then Liège (philosophy and theology), the novitiate at Watten and the tertianship at Ghent. At the first opportunity, as we have seen, the Jesuits established a novitiate at Stonyhurst in 1803, and all of Jesuit formation up to ordination took place there until 1848, when the decision was made to open a theologate or seminary at a property the Jesuits owned near Tremeirchion, North Wales, and which they dedicated to a local saint, St. Beuno (545–640). Novitiate, juniorate, and philosophy continued at Stonyhurst for the time being, the novitiate relocating itself frequently, first to Beaumont in 1854 and then, more permanently, to Roehampton, outside London, in 1861, then Lincolnshire, Rainhill (Liverpool), briefly in Scotland and thence to its present location, Manresa House in Harborne (Birmingham), where it serves the provinces of Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and North Belgium. The philosophate remained at Stonyhurst until 1926, when, with the encouragement of several Jesuit superior generals in a row, the English Jesuits finally opened a Collegium Maximum, both a philosophate and theologate, at Heythrop in Oxfordshire, which they named Heythrop College. St Bueno’s then became the tertianship of the English Province and persists today as a spirituality center. There are histories of St Bueno’s and Heythrop, the first a work of Jesuit obedience, although with a first-hand account by the author of the legendary tertian director (from 1958 to 1974), Paul Kennedy; the second by the former Jesuit and sometime editor of the Heythop Journal.28 Michael Walsh’s book on Heythrop College needs to be supplemented by John Wilkins’s long piece in The Tablet on the controversial closing of the institution in 2018.29

The Jesuits’ other important house of formation was Campion Hall, Oxford, established in 1896. Campion Hall was a place for English Jesuits to do first university degrees and, ultimately, for Jesuits from all over the world to do graduate degrees. Initially, as we have seen, Jesuits and other students at Stonyhurst were able to sit for University of London degrees if they wanted to obtain a civil degree. They could not, however attend Oxford or Cambridge: initially, because religious tests excluded Catholics from either matriculation or degrees until 1871; subsequently, because the English Catholic bishops forbade Catholics to attend. This prohibition by the bishops was lifted in 1895 and the Jesuits were quick to establish a private hall at Oxford, eventually named after the early Jesuit martyr, St. Edmund Campion (1540–81), where their own students could obtain degrees. The Jesuits were not much involved in providing higher education for lay students, apart from the Stonyhurst/University of London connection (a small number of students from Mt St Mary’s and Beaumont also sat for the London exams), although more recently, the Jesuits have staffed university chaplaincies at Oxford (2007) and Manchester (2012: for the second time). Previously, the Jesuits also had chaplaincies at Cardiff and Glasgow. When Cardinal Manning established a university college in Kensington in 1874, to provide higher education to Catholics, it was without the cooperation of the Jesuits and, indeed, was opposed by them because they would not control it, and the institution closed after only a few years.30 There is a certain irony that when the Jesuits decided to move Heythrop College from the Oxfordshire countryside to London in 1970, it was to affiliate with the University of London as a constituent college. And although that relationship was successful for a while, it ultimately became unsustainable for the British Province to support a free-standing institution within the university that offered enrollment to significant numbers of lay students. As part of the contribution of the Jesuits to the intellectual life of Catholic Britain, one should note three periodicals, The Month (published 1864 to 2001), a journal of general cultural and literary interest; The Heythrop Journal (from 1960), a peer-reviewed academic journal sponsored by Heythrop College and specializing in philosophy and theology; and The Way (from 1961) a journal of Christian spirituality.31

Nearly the entire engagement of the Jesuits in England itself in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century had been in the missions (later parishes), and this involvement continued in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Only in this latter period, the Jesuits “traded up,“ closing or transferring to the dioceses many of their smaller, rural parishes, and establishing larger parishes in cities, often in connection with their colleges, as in Glasgow (St Aloysius), Wimbledon (Sacred Heart, now diocesan), Stamford Hill (St Ignatius), as well as large churches in Liverpool (St Francis Xavier), Manchester (Church of the Holy Name of Jesus), Edinburgh (Sacred Heart) and Preston (St Ignatius, now a Malabar rite cathedral).32 The initiatives of opening a college in Glasgow and parishes in that city and in Edinburgh in the late 1850s represented entrance, or, perhaps, the return of the Jesuits to Scotland.33 There was some discussion of establishing a separate Scottish vice-province in Britain in the 1960s, and a separate Scottish novitiate had been set up in Edinburgh in 1963. But as it became apparent that the demographic trend of vocations was turning down, the idea was dropped.34 By 1985, the change in name to British Province acknowledged the presence of the Province in Scotland and of Scottish Jesuits in the province.

Certainly, the most famous Jesuit church in England was the Church of the Immaculate Conception, usually referred to as the Farm Street Church for its location on that street in Mayfair, London. The establishment of the church in the 1840s partook of the controversies between the Jesuits and the vicars apostolic: the Jesuits, encouraged by their aristocratic clientele, very much wanting a presence in fashionable London; the vicar apostolic, Bishop Thomas Griffiths (1791–1847; vicar apostolic of the London district 1836–47) opposing them because he did not want Jesuit competition with diocesan parishes in the vicinity (he offered the Jesuits a number of sites in the poorer East End). The Jesuits prevailed in this matter by appealing to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide in Rome and were allowed to open a church, but only on the condition that they would not be a parish and could not perform baptisms, marriages, and funerals (or collect fees associated with them).35 The church only finally became a parish in 1966.

The foundation stone for the Farm Street Church was laid in 1844, and it was acclaimed for the beauty of its design by architect Joseph John Scoles (1798–1863): it was one of the first Catholic churches in the Gothic style built after Catholic Emancipation; and for its interior decoration by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–52), who had earlier done the interior decoration of the new Palace of Westminster, after its destruction by fire in 1834. Given its location, the Jesuits staffed the Farm Street Church with some of their best men and most effective preachers, like Bernard Vaughan (1847–1922), Cyril Charles Martindale (1879–1963), and Martin D’Arcy (1888–1976). The church attracted a distinguished clientele and was famous for notable converts received there, especially by D’Arcy, including Evelyn Waugh (1903–66) and Edith Sitwell (1887–1964) in the modern period.36

Finally, in the period between the wars (1918–1939), the Jesuits established a number of retreat houses: in Bothwell, Scotland; Rainhill, Lancashire; Birmingham and Sunderland; as well as Southwell House in Hampstead, London. St Bueno’s, the tertianship of the English Province since 1926, became an increasingly popular center for the giving of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, first for nuns, then for laypeople, and was dedicated to that ministry exclusively when the tertianship closed in 1980.37

Osterley, a retreat house established by the Jesuits in West London in 1911, went on to become a seminary for delayed vocations, especially among soldiers returning from World War I and World War II. When vocations declined, it became a home for refugees—Vietnamese, Eritreans, and Kosovars—and then mostly a retreat house until it closed in 2008.38 The English Jesuits have subsequently established centers for spirituality, community outreach, and adult faith formation in Glasgow (Ignatian Spirituality Centre), Edinburgh (Lauriston Jesuit Centre), London Mayfair (Mount Street Jesuit Centre), and the East End (The Hurtado Jesuit Centre).

Notable Jesuits

Given the lack of a systematic historiography of the English Jesuits after the restoration, an inevitably important part of public perception of the Jesuits were those men who in the public mind represented what it was to be an English Jesuit. Probably the most famous of these today was not famous at all when he was alive, the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89), whose works were not published until after his death through the intervention of his friend and fellow poet, Robert Bridges (1844–30). The bibliography on Hopkins is, of course, extensive,39 but a few works illustrate his Jesuit life.40 The English (actually, he was Irish, but a member of the English Province) Jesuit who has generated the second most extensive bibliography is George Tyrrell (1861–1909), one of the most important modernists (along with Alfred Loisy [1857–1940]) in that difficult period of the church’s history. Tyrell was, of course, both dismissed from the order and excommunicated, although he considered himself a faithful Catholic until his death.41

A number of English Jesuits made their reputations in preaching and public speaking (including radio broadcasting), popular writing, scholarship, and social action. We have mentioned Vaughan, Martindale, and D’Arcy as preachers at the Farm Street Church. Vaughan was no mere society preacher, however, but had an extensive apostolate among the poor in the East End, as did Martindale.42 Martindale was a prolific, accessible writer in many fields, and active in ministry to wounded soldiers, to university students, and much involved in the liturgical movement.43 D’Arcy was probably the most famous of this trio not only as preacher at Farm Street but also as Master of Campion Hall (1932–45), where he commissioned the great English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944) to design their new building, and proceeded to fill it with beautiful works of sacred art (objets D’Arcy, as they were called).44 But he was also a prolific writer whose works in philosophy and theology were popular in their time and appealed to a well-educated and sophisticated audience. His personal charm and empathy attracted a large circle of friends and converts that included many of the most important literary and cultural figures of modern Britain.45

The English Jesuits’ best-known scholar was undoubtedly Frederick Copleston (1907–94), whose multi-volume History of Philosophy was praised both for its comprehensiveness and for its even-handedness. Copleston was both a scholar and a public intellectual, lecturing widely, and notable for his willingness to debate on the BBC important atheist philosophers like Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) and Alfred Jules Ayer (1910–89), with whom Copleston developed a close friendship. As the Jesuits’ most distinguished intellectual, he was the first principal of Heythrop College when it moved to London and affiliated with London University46 Another considerable and well-known Jesuit scholar was Herbert Thurston (1856–1939). He wrote for the Catholic Encyclopedia and extensively for the Catholic press, where he proved himself an accomplished controversialist. He is probably best known for his work in and publications on spiritualism and the paranormal and for his extensive revision of Butler’s Lives of the Saints.47 The distinguished historian Philip Caraman (1911–88) also had a following both scholarly and social, and was editor of The Month, and wrote on many subjects in Jesuit historiography, but principally on Jesuits in the recusant period and novelistic treatments of the early Jesuit missions.48 Maurice Bévenot (1897–1980) was a distinguished scholar of the patristic period and a notable ecumenist.49 Charles Plater (1875–1921) was well regarded for his commitment to Catholic social teaching and his outreach to the working classes. He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic Workers’ College in Oxford, which was renamed Plater College in his memory after his untimely death at forty-six.50


The last important aspect of the history of the English Jesuits in the period after their restoration was their missionary outreach. Maryland had been a mission of the English Province since Andrew White and a small company of Jesuits accompanied the Catholic settlers of Lord Baltimore’s Maryland colony in 1634. After the suppression, the former Jesuits in Maryland sought to preserve their association (and their property) and organized as the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen. In 1803, a number of them wanted to link themselves with the re-founded English Province, but they were refused by the English Provincial, Stone, because the United States was no longer part of the British Empire. Instead, they sought admission into the Society directly and were readmitted by Superior General Gabriel Gruber, in 1804. Bishop John Carroll (1735–1815, bishop of Baltimore 1789, archbishop 1811–15), himself a former Jesuit, appointed a Jesuit mission superior in 1805, and turned over to the reconstituted Jesuits the newly founded (1789) Georgetown College. And so, what would become the Maryland Province of the Jesuits went its separate way through the restoration period.51

New missionary endeavors by the English Province of Jesuits included Jamaica (1837–94, whence it passed to the Maryland/New York and then to the New England Province, and will now join with the British Province Guyana Region);52 Calcutta (1841–51, whence to the Belgian Jesuits, now an independent province);53 Malta (1849–1907, whence to the Sicilian Jesuits, and established as an independent vice-province in 1947, and now to the Southern European Province);54 British Honduras, now Belize (1864–93, whence to the Missouri, now the US South Central Province, as a dependent region);55 Guyana (from 1858, still a region within the British Province); Zambesi, today Zimbabwe and Zambia (from 1893, now the Zambia-Malawi Province and the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province);56 and South Africa, at present a dependent region of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province, but the two provinces and South Africa are slated to become one province in 2021.57


It is clear from this survey of the historiography of the English Jesuits after the restoration how much work there is yet to be done in the history of the province in this period. There are, as have been indicated, extensive sources that have yet to be mined, especially the archives of the British Province and the invaluable resource of Letters and Notices, where a historian who wanted to trace the history of a parish or an educational institution or an overseas mission of the province could follow that story through the years. The extensive and well-written obituaries of just about every member of the province contained therein offer a wonderful opportunity to assess the changing culture not only of the Society in England, but also of the English Catholic Church. But there is certainly no well-researched, synthetic history of the Jesuits nor major historical monographs apart from L’Estrange’s still unpublished dissertation.

There are certainly broad trends in the history of the modern Society in Britain that are discernable. Obviously, there is the growth in numbers from the handful of former Jesuits who reconstituted themselves as the restored Society in 1803 to nearly a thousand members in the 1960s to the dramatic decline since then, with approximately 125 Jesuits in Britain now. The struggle for recognition of the restored Society by the vicars apostolic and the difficult relations of the Society with them and with the bishops after the restoration of the hierarchy, culminating in Romanos pontifices, continued to reverberate and affect the work of the Jesuits in England certainly through the nineteenth century. It was the background against which they sought to make the transition from their immersion if not their interment in isolated rural missions in penal times to the work in educational institutions, principally secondary schools, and urban parishes that characterized their apostolic engagement and public perception of them in the latter part of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

As far as the contribution of the Jesuits to intellectual life in Britain was concerned, while Copleston was probably the best-known modern Jesuit scholar, there were others in more recent times who were respected in their fields. John Coventry (1915–98) was a noted ecumenist, as was Edward Yarnold (1926–2002) who was also a distinguished liturgist, master of Campion Hall and active in university affairs at Oxford. John (Jack) Mahoney (1931–) taught and continues to write in the field of moral theology and applied ethics, first at Heythrop College and then at the University of London and is now honorary fellow at Campion Hall. Peter Levy (1931–2000) was a Jesuit for twenty-nine years but left the order in 1977. He was a prolific poet and professor of poetry at Oxford. But as numbers of British Jesuits decline, there are, of course, fewer of them to make a contribution.

Heythrop College after the move to London was the closest the English Jesuits came to institutional academic distinction, but that initiative was not ultimately sustainable. The Heythrop Library, one of the largest theological and philosophical libraries in the United Kingdom, with over 250,000 volumes, while still owned by the Jesuits, was transferred to the University of London Library in Senate House.58 Campion Hall, especially under D’Arcy, offered cultural and social éclat to the Jesuits’ image, but now the Jesuit Community at Campion Hall is mostly graduate students and has become quite international. There are, in addition to Jesuit members of staff, a broad and diverse group of (mostly lay) visiting and research fellows.59

Lacking a true institutional history, public perception of Jesuits in the modern period is still shaped in many ways by the brilliant preachers, popular writers, and engaging personalities who came and went from Farm Street or Campion Hall and attracted notable converts and clientele. To what extent they were representative of the work done by Jesuits in less glamorous surroundings or more recently is a good question that requires further research and study, but certainly all Jesuits were affected and many were influenced by the image of the urbane and sophisticated English Jesuit that they conveyed. This interaction is another area for further study of the influence of the Jesuits on cultural life in the English Catholic community when their reputation was at its height.60


1 The English mission became a province, Provincia Angliae, in 1623, and was renamed the British Province in 1985.

2 See Geoffrey Holt, William Strickland and the Suppressed Jesuits (London: British Province of the Society of Jesus, 1988).

3 Thomas E. Muir, Stonyhurst College 1593–1993 (London: James and James, 1993); Hubert Chadwick, St. Omers to Stonyhurst: A History of two Centuries (London: Burns & Oates, 1962).

4 Francis Edwards, “The Archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London,” in Journal of the Society of Archivists 3 (1966): 107–15. Another extraordinary resource is Edmund F. Sutcliffe’s Bibliography of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, 1773–1953 (London: Manresa Press, 1957); also, Geoffrey Holt, The English Jesuits, 1650–1829: A Biographical Dictionary (Catholic Record Society, 1984). The best short treatment of the history of the English Jesuits, pre- and post-restoration is Philip Caraman’s entry “Inglaterra” in the Diccionario histórico de la Compañía de Jesús (Rome: Institutum Historicum, S.I., 2001), 3:2021–28.

5 Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu.

6 Letters and Notices (Roehampton, 1863–).

7 Bernard Bassett, The English Jesuits from Campion to Martindale (London: Burnes & Oates, 1967); Francis Edwards, The Jesuits in England from 1580 to the Present Day (Tunbridge Wells: Burns & Oates, 1985).

8 Peter L’Estrange, “The Nineteenth Century British Jesuits, with Special Reference to Their Relations with the Vicars Apostolic and the Bishops” (DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1990).

9 Hannah Thomas, “Historiography of the Jesuits in England in the Early Modern Period,” in Robert A. Maryks, ed., Jesuit Historiography Online (Leiden: Brill, 2017); (accessed October 29, 2019).

10 See Thomas McCoog, S.J., “The Hues of History (1858–1925): John Hungerford Pollen, S.J., English Martyrs and Jesuit Historiography,” in John Broadley and Peter Phillips, eds., The Ministry of the Printed Word: Scholar Priests of the Twentieth Century (Bath: Downside Abbey Press, 2016), 119–44.

11 For example, John Morris (1826–93), biographer of John Gerard and also a postulator of the English Martyrs; Leo Hicks (1888–1968), Pollen’s successor as historian and archivist of the English Province who wrote on Elizabethan and Jacobean Catholics but never completed the history of the province; Basil Fitzgibbon (1896–1980) archivist and also a postulator for the cause of the English and Welsh Martyrs; Edwards, most of whose work focused on the Elizabethan period. Geoffrey Holt (1912–2009), the next province archivist after Edwards, was the exception, but focused on the Jesuits in the eighteenth century (his English Jesuits in the Age of Reason [London: Burns & Oates, 1993]), although his biography of William Strickland cited above takes us into the period of the restoration. Philip Caraman (1911–88) again, mostly focused on the recusant period, and Thomas McCoog, Edwards’s successor as province archivist and historian of the British Province, has written extensively on the early period.

12 McCoog envisioned a multi-volume history of the British Province in 1989 and approached potential contributors, but the project never came to fruition. See McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland and England 1589–1597 (New York: Routledge, 2016), xi. 

13 Edwards, Jesuits in England, 159–72.

14 Thomas M. McCoog, ed., “Promising Hope”: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003), 273–79.

15 L’Estrange, “Nineteenth Century British Jesuits,” 47–89.

16 Ad there is an irony in this date. One of the reasons the vicars apostolic were reluctant to recognize the Jesuits officially was that they believed it would hinder Catholic Emancipation, the granting of civil and political rights to Roman Catholics who had suffered legal disabilities during penal times. When the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in this same year, 1829, it specifically excluded the Jesuits from the country and forbade their return. This provision of the act was ignored by both church and state.

17 For earlier relations see Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “‘Libera nos Domine?’: The Vicars Apostolic and the Suppressed/Restored English Province of the Society of Jesus,” in James Kelly and Susan Royal, eds., Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity, Memory and Counter-Reformation (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 81–101.

18 L’Estrange, “Nineteenth-Century British Jesuits,” 90–125.

19 Salford is a suburb of Manchester. When the Roman Catholic hierarchy was reestablished in 1851, the bishops did not take the names of any existing Anglican dioceses, which, strictly speaking, was forbidden under the terms of the 1829 relief act. It was refined under the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851 to exclude any territorial title in the United Kingdom. This act was repealed by Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809–98) in 1871.

20 The correspondence between and among Vaughan, Gallwey, and the Jesuit general, Peter Jan Beckx (in office 1853–87), and other helpful documents are contained, along with a helpful introduction by the editor, in Martin John Broadley, ed., Bishop Herbert Vaughan and the Jesuits: Education and Authority, Records Series 82 (Catholic Record Society Publications: 2010).

21 Again, the story of the Manchester college and Romanos pontifices is most exhaustively told in L’Estrange’s thesis, chapter III, “The Provincial Synods and the Manchester College,” 126–69, and chapter IV, “Romanos Pontifices,” 170–214; also, in the contemporaneous article by Oliver Rafferty, S.J., “The Jesuit College, Manchester, 1875,” in Recusant History 20, no. 2 (October, 1990): 291–304.

22 For the history of the migration of the college, see Hubert Chadwick, From St. Omers to Stonyhurst (London: Burns & Oates, 1962).

23 Thomas E. Muir, Stonyhurst College, 1593–1993 (London: James & James, 1992).

24 See especially Thoimas E. Muir’s Stonyhurst through Documents (Stonyhurst College, 1998) and various articles cited in the bibliography from Stonyhurst Magazine.

25 See Edwards, Jesuits in England, 174.

26 Beyond Stonyhurst, Beaumont is the only one of these schools to have histories written: one, an act of pietas by the noted poet and former Jesuit, Peter Levi, Beaumont, 1861–1961 (London: Andre Deutsch, 1961), the other the history of St John’s, Beaumont, the preparatory school for Beaumont College, which includes a discussion of the controversial decision by the English Province to close the college in 1967: David Hoy, The Story of St. John’s Beaumont, 1888 –1988 (Old Windsor: St. John’s Beaumont, 1987). There is, of course, frequent mention of the other schools in Letters and Notices.

27 Again, a story best told in L’Estrange’s thesis, chapter 5, “Manning and the Jesuits.”

28 See also Appendix I of Edwards’s The Jesuits in England, 298–302 (“Cardinal Manning and the Society of Jesus”), where he reproduces Manning’s strictures on the Jesuits that were to have appeared in Edmund Purcell’s Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster (London: MacMillan, 1895), the so-called “lost chapter,” which was suppressed at the request of Cardinal Vaughan, Manning’s successor. Edwards, Paul, Canute’s Tower: St. Bueno’s (Leominster: Fowler Wright Books, 1990), Walsh, Michael, Heythrop College: A Commemorative History (London: Heythrop College, 2014), especially 125–31 for Kennedy.

29 John Wilkins, “Heythrop College Closure: The Fall of a House of Learning,” The Tablet (August 4, 2018): 4–6.

30 See Vincent Alan McClelland, English Roman Catholics and Higher Education, 1830–1903 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 277–97 (“The Fourth Provincial Synod and Jesuit Counter-moves”).

31 See John Coventry, “The Way, 1961–1986,” The Way 5, no. 1 (January 2011): 9–20.

32 The best source for the historiography of the comings and goings of the Jesuits from their various parishes, and for the history of the parishes themselves is, again, Letters and Notices.

33 For an account of the Jesuits in Scotland both before and after the suppression, see the chapter in Edwards’s Jesuits in England, 257–93 (“The Jesuits in Scotland: Two Beginnings”).

34 See Oliver Rafferty, “Gordon George and the English Province, 1964–1965,” in Thomas M. McCoog, ed., “With Eyes and Ears Open”: The Role of the Visitors in the Society of Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 291.

35 For the story, see Sheridan Gilley, “The History of Farm Street to 1914,” in Michael, Hall, Sheridan Gilley, and Maria Perry, Farm Street: The Story of the Jesuits Church in London (London: Unicorn Publishing Group, 2016), 11–29.

36 Maria Perry, “Farm Street between the Wars and beyond,” in Hall, Gilley, Perry, Farm Street, 93–115.

37 Edwards, Canute’s Tower, 132–47.

38 See Ann Smith, The Story of Campion House (London: James House, 2004).

39 See Cheryl Stiles, Hopkins Stricken: Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Selective Bibliography (Kennesaw State University, 2010), available at (accessed October 31, 2019). Good general biographies are Norman White, Hopkins: A Literary Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) and Paul Mariani, Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life (New York: Viking, 2008).

40 Alfred Thomas, Hopkins the Jesuit: The years of Training (London: Oxford University Press, 1969) and John Pick, Gerard Manley Hopkins: Priest and Poet (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), Noel Barber, S.J., “Hopkins and the Irish Jesuits,” The Hopkins Quarterly 33 (2006): 34–54. In recent years, Oxford University Press has been publishing Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins,

41 For a general treatment of Tyrrell, see David Schultenover, George Tyrrell: In Search of Catholicism (Shepherdstown, WV: Patmos Press 1981), also Oliver Rafferty, “The Enigma of George Tyrrell, S.J. (1861–1909): Catholic Apologist and Excommunicate,” in Broadley and Phillips, eds., The Ministry of the Printed Word, 41–64; for a discussion of Tyrrell’s Jesuit life, see Rafferty, “Tyrrell and the English Jesuits,” in Oliver Rafferty, ed., George Tyrrell and Catholic Modernism (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), 153–78; also Robert Butterworth, A Jesuit Friendship: Letters of George Tyrrell to Herbert Thurston (London: Roehampton Institute, 1988).

42 See the biography of Vaughan by Cyril Charles Martindale, Bernard Vaughan, S.J. (London: Longmans, 1923) and the entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) by Geoffrey Holt, “Vaughan, Bernard John (1847–1922),” (accessed October 31, 2019).

43 Philip Caraman, C. C. Martindale: A Biography (London: Longmans, 1967); and the entry in the DNB: “Martindale, Cyril Charlie (1879–1963),” (accessed October 31, 2019). Also T. D. Roberts et al., “C. C. Martindale: A Symposium,” in The Month 30 (1963): 69–90; I. Evans, “C. C. Martindale, S.J. 1879–1963,” in America (April 6, 1963): 466–67.

44 There is an entry on D’Arcy in DNB by Edward Yarnold, one of his successors as master of Campion Hall, “D’Arcy, Martin Cyril (1888–1976),” (accessed October 31, 2019) and a somewhat polemical biography by the Catholic traditionalist, Henry J. A. Sire, Father Martin D’Arcy, Philosopher of Christian Love (Gracewing: Leominster, 1997). See also Martin D’Arcy and William S. Abell, Laughter and the Love of Friends: Reminiscences of the Distinguished English Priest and Philosopher, Martin Cyril D’Arcy (Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1991).

45 See Richard Harp, “A Conjuror at the Christmas Party,” in Times Literary Supplement (December 11, 2009): 13–15.

46 Frederick Copleston, Memoirs of a Philosopher (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1993). For a Copleston bibliography, see “Frederick C. Copleston: An 80th Birthday Bibliography,” The Heythrop Journal 28, no. 4 (October 1987): 418–38. See the entry in the DNB by his Jesuit confrère, Gerard Hughes, “Copleston, Frederick Charles (1907–1994),” (accessed October 31, 2019) and Michael Walsh, “Frederick Copleston, S.J., (1907–1994): An English Philosopher,” in John Broadley and Peter Phillips, eds., Ministry of the Printed Word, 335–73.

47 Joseph Crehan, Father Thurston: A Memoir with a Bibliography of His Writings (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951), John Murry, “Father Herbert Thurston, S.J,” The Month 174 (December, 1939): 492–502; see also the entry in the DNB by Mary Heimann, “Thurston, Herbert Henry Charles (1856–1939),” (accessed October 31, 2019) and Nicholas Schofield, “Herbert Thurston, S.J. (1856–1939): A Kind of Ecclesiastical Sherlock Holmes,” in Broadley and Phillips, eds., Ministry of the Printed Word, 162–93.

48 June Rockett, A Gentle Jesuit: The Life of Philip Caraman, 1911–1998 (Leominster: Gracewing, 2004).

49 See Robet Murray, S.J.’s appreciation of him, “Maurice Bévenot, Scholar and Ecumenist (1897–1980),” The Heythrop Journal 3, no. 1 (January 1982): 1–17.

50 Cyril Charles Martindale, Charles Dominic Plater (London: Harding and More, 1922) and the DNB entry by Martindale, revised by Edward Yarnold, “Plater, Charles Dominic, 1874–1921,” (accessed October 31, 2019).

51 See Robert Emmett Curran, Joseph Durkin and Gerald Fogarty, The Maryland Jesuits, 1634–1833 (Baltimore: Corporation or Roman Catholic Clergymen, 1976).

52 See Gerald L. McLaughlin, Jesuitana Jamaica 1837 –1996 (Kingston: Arawak Publications, 2000).

53 See Udayan Namboodiry, St. Xavier’s: The Making of a Calcutta Institution (Delhi: Viking, 1995), for an account of the first failed mission to found the school under the British and then the later Belgian success; see also in the Brill series Jesuit Historiography Online, Savio Abreu, S.J., “Themes and Trends in the Historiography of the Restored Society of Jesus in India from 1834 until the Present,”*-SIM_192564 (accessed October 31, 2019).

54 John Scicluna, “The History of the Society of Jesus in Malta: Our Presence, Houses and Apostolates,” in Jesuits in Malta Online, (accessed October 31, 2019).

55 Charles M. Woods, Sr. et al., Years of Grace: The History of Roman Catholic Evangelization in Belize 1524–2014 (Belize City: Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan, 2015).

56 Festo Mkenda, S.J., “Jesuit Historiography in Africa,” in Jesuit Historiography Online, ed. Maryks, (accessed October 31, 2019) and Edward Murphy, ed., A History of the Jesuits in Zambia (Nairobi: Paulines, 2003).

57 The best general treatments of the Jesuit missions, albeit brief, are Basset, English Jesuits, especially 417–21 and Edwards, Jesuits in England, 223–27.

58 See the Heythrop website: (accessed October 31, 2019).

59 See the Campion Hall website: (accessed October 31, 2019).

60 There is an intriguing insight into the culture of the English Province in the mid-nineteen sixties offered by Oliver Rafferty’s chapter, “Gordon George and the English Province, 1964–1965,” in McCoog, ed., “With eyes and ears open,” 286–304, at least as it was perceived by Gordon George (1911–94), the Canadian visitor sent to the province by the Jesuit general in 1964, in the midst of the Vatican Council. Although the visit was quite controversial, especially for George’s decision to close Beaumont, the Jesuit boarding school in Windsor, he identified a number of factors which resulted in a shakeup of personnel and administration in the province: an “exaggerated devotion to tradition” and a “mindset that generated attitudes that were in the modern era ‘inappropriate, irrelevant or obsolete,’” which resulted in the inability of the Society of Jesus in Britain to keep up with changes in British society; also a certain intellectual stultification and “state of anomie,” especially among younger Jesuits that required major changes in Jesuit training (290–91).

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