John Bargrave and the Jesuits

By Brennan, Michael G. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview
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John Bargrave and the Jesuits


Brennan, Michael G., The Catholic Historical Review


I. An English Exile During the Civil War

In May, 1645,John Bargrave (c. 1610-1680), a member of a prominent Protestant family from Kent and a former fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, crossed the Channel to begin, like many other royalist emigres of the period, an extended peregrination through France and Italy.1 As a Cambridge student, Bargrave had matriculated from St. Peter's College (Peterhouse) in July, 1629, and had proceeded to B.A. (1633) and M.A. (1636) degrees before being elected a fellow in 1637.2 In 1643, however, as a firm opponent of Archbishop Laud's liturgical reforms, he had fallen foul of both the University and college authorities, resulting in the loss of his fellowship. The likelihood of John Bargrave gaining any other form of employment commensurate with his abilities and qualifications was also significantly hampered by his being the nephew of the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, Isaac Bargrave (1586-1643). Dean Bargrave (who had served as King Charles I's personal chaplain before his coronation in 1625) was a vociferous supporter of the King and had been hounded out of his deanery by the notorious Parliamentarian, Colonel Edwin Sandys, resulting in a brief incarceration in the Fleet Prison and an early death in January, 1643.3 It seems likely that John Bargrave's decision to spend an extended period of time traveling abroad was simply the resuit of no other viable employment options then being available to him.

During these travels John Bargrave acted as a tutor-governor to three Kentish youths,Alexander Chapman and John Richards (or Rycaut), and his own nephew, John Raymond, who were probably being sent abroad by their families primarily to avoid the aftermath of the Kentish Rebellion of 1643. Both Raymond and Rycaut belonged to prominent Protestant royalist families and Chapman was either the son or nephew of Alexander Chapman (d. 1629), formerly a prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral.4 When Bargrave's small party arrived at Paris, one of his first concerns was to ensure that there would be adequate provision for their spiritual welfare and regular worship, as he recorded in his diary:5

On Sunday I went to Sir Richard Browns lodgings whoe was Agent for his Majesty of England, where wee had read the English liturgie, and an English sermon by Mr Crowder, chaplaine to the Lord Germie Earle of Yarmouth; which being ended, wee received the sacrament in the forme appointed by the Church of England. On this day I mett with Dr Cosins att the Loover (or Court) whoe is Master of the same Coll: whereof I am a [member deleted] fellow. viz. St Pet Coll Cantabrig.6

In view of this clearly stated commitment to the Church of England, it is interesting to learn from numerous other entries in Bargrave's diary just how extensive his contacts were with French Catholicism, especially through the Society of Jesus. His hitherto unexamined autograph diary, which has recently surfaced in Canterbury Cathedral Archives (U11/8), covers the period May, 1645, until February, 1646, and is crammed with his incidental observations, jottings, sketches, and reminiscences. Although many of the surviving records of English travelers in France and Italy during the 1640's and 1650's-both Protestant and Catholic alike-- reveal a passing interest in the religious practices and church architecture of these countries, John Bargrave's diary is notable for its detailed record of the Society of Jesus at Bourges. Unlike most of the other surviving English travel accounts from the period, which usually satisfy themselves with a cursory description of the buildings and/or educational practices of the various Jesuit colleges visited (or merely passed by), John Bargrave's diary records detailed descriptions of the academic pursuits of the college at Bourges (which, as far as I am aware, does not figure in any other of the surviving diaries compiled by seventeenth-century English travelers).7 Secondly, the subject matter and argumentative tactics of Bargrave's frequent debates with three student members of the Jesuit order-two Scottish men, named by Bargrave as "Father Sprowd" (Robert Spreule) and "Father Browne" (James Browne), and one English man,"Father Carew" (Thomas Cary)-are fully documented in his diary.

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