Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Du Pin in England

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Du Pin in England

Article excerpt

Louis Ellies Du Pin (1657-1719) was one of the most famed church historians of his time. Building on the foundation of critical methods pioneered by Jean Mabillon and the Maurists, he became a trusted source for theologians and historians on both sides of the English Channel. Du Pin was also an avid Gallican, who spent his life defending die rights of local churches against the hegemony of Rome. Much has been written on the life and works of Du Pin by Sykes, Grès-Gayer, and Blewett.1 But little has been written about his English editions (of which there were at least twenty-six) and how they were received by his British readers. This article will review the editions of his most famous English translation, A New History of Ecclesiastical Writers, and attempt to gain an understanding of the reasons for his popularity in England from the work's prefaces and dedications.

While this article concerns a French Catholic author, it focuses on how Anglican divines used his work. Indeed, Du Pin may have been die most translated French author during this period. What does his reception tell us about Anglican views on Roman Catholicism during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries? Did Anglican audiors such as William Wotton, Edward Stillingfleet, and William Cave value his anti-papal views, his critical history, and his theological positions? As discussed below, Du Pin also engaged in an ecumenical correspondence with the archbishop William Wake of Canterbury during the final years of his life. Were Anglican divines open to union with semi-autonomous national Catholic churches like the one in France?

The original French title of Du Pin's signature work was the Nouvelle Bibliothèque des auteurs ecclésiastiques, which sought to provide "a new library of all the ecclesiastical authors since Jesus Christ until our [time], containing the history of their lives, the catalog, critique and chronology of their works, the summary of those [works] which they contain, a judgment on their style and on their doctrine, and an accounting of the different editions of their works."2

The Nouvelle Bibliothèque was attacked by famed court preacher Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, who, as bishop of Meaux, served as an apostolic guardian of the University of Paris. He felt that Du Pin's anti-papal conclusions would only give aid and comfort to Protestant controversialists. At Bossuet's insistence, the work was condemned by the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal François Harlay de Champvallon in 1696, and Du Pin chose to retract many of his own conclusions which had been criticized by Bossuet and others.3

In 1704, Louis XIV banished Du Pin to the small town of Châtellerault for his supposed Jansenist views related to his signing of the pro-Jansenist Cas de conscience and subsequent refusal to remove his signature. This document held that a priest could grant absolution to a penitent who refused to disavow Jansenist doctrine but was nevertheless willing to maintain a respectful silence on the matter. The king correctly saw this approach as a means for Jansenists and Gallicans like Du Pin to avoid adhering to settied doctrine and papal audiority.4

During his exile, Du Pin took on the strongly Gallican tasks of editing a collection of medieval conciliarists' writings, with special emphasis on Jean Gerson ( 1 706) , and writing a defense of the Four Gallican Articles (1707). In 1711, Du Pin updated the Nouvelle Bibliothèque through the end of the seventeenth century. Du Pin's fortunes improved following Louis XIV's death in 1715 and the accession of his great grandson, five-year old Louis XV, and the regent Philippe d'Orleans. Royal attitudes towards Gallicans and Jansenists were more favorable, and Du Pin was allowed to return from exile.5

In his final years, Du Pin actively opposed Clement XI's antiJansenist apostolic constitution Unigenitus (1713), which had denounced Jansenist Pasquier Quesnel's Réflexions morales, a French translation and commentary of the New Testament. …

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