Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lingard, John
LINGARD, JOHN, D.D. (1771–1851), Roman catholic historian of England, was descended from a family, which, though in humble circumstances, had been established from time immemorial at Claxby, Lincolnshire. His father, John Lingard, was a carpenter, and his mother was Elizabeth, daughter of a farmer named Rennell, who was prosecuted on account of his attachment to the Roman catholic religion, sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and mulcted in a heavy fine. This, added to previous misfortunes, rendered it desirable for the young couple to remove to Winchester, and there their son John was born on 5 Feb. 1771. At an early period he was recommended to the notice of Bishop Challoner, and Bishop James Talbot, Challoner's successor, sent him to the English College at Douay, which he entered as a student on 30 Sept. 1782. After a brilliant course of humanities, he entered the school of theology in October 1792. He adopted the strongly Gallican views entertained by his teachers. At the commencement of the revolutionary troubles he had a narrow escape from the fury of the populace, and left the college on 21 Feb. 1793, in company with William (afterwards Lord) Stourton, and two brothers named Oliveira. On arriving in England he was invited to the residence of Charles Philip, lord Stourton, who appointed him tutor to his son and heir. In 1794 he removed to Tudhoe, Durham, to join some of the Douay students, who had escaped from the citadel of Dourlens. In that year he migrated with his companions to Pontop Hall, the missionary residence of the Rev. Thomas Eyre, and afterwards to Crookhall, near Durham, where they resumed their collegiate exercises [see Eyre, Thomas, 1748–1810]. Lingard, who had rapidly completed his course of theology, received the appointment of vice-president in the new college of Crookhall. On 18 April 1795 he was ordained priest by Bishop Gibson at York; about the same time he became prefect of studies; and for many years he filled the chair of natural and moral philosophy. He made his first appearance as an author in 1805, when he contributed to the ‘Newcastle Courant’ a series of letters which were afterwards collected under the title of ‘Catholic Loyalty Vindicated.’ These were followed in 1806 by the first edition of ‘The Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church.’ In 1808 Lingard removed with the Crookhall community to their final destination at St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, and remained there till September 1811. On the 21st of the following month he was appointed to the professorship of Sacred Scripture and Hebrew in the Royal College of St. Patrick, Maynooth, but the former holder of the office, Matthias Crowley, had gone over to the established church, and Lingard refused to accept a chair which had been ‘infected by the leprosy of hypocrisy’ (Fitz-Patrick, Irish Wits, pp. 90, 91). At a later period he declined an offer from Bishop Poynter of the presidency of the seminary at Old Hall Green.
On retiring from Ushaw he withdrew to the secluded mission at Hornby, nine miles from Lancaster. In this quiet village he spent nearly all the remainder of his long life. His residence, near Hornby Castle, the seat of his devoted friend Pudsey Dawson, was a small, unpretentious building, connected with a little chapel, built by himself, where he regularly officiated. There he pursued his literary studies without interruption, and soon after his settlement at Hornby he began to work at his ‘History of England,’ which was originally intended to be a modest ‘abridgment for the use of schools.’ In April 1817 he left England with a party of friends on a tour to Rome and the southern states of Italy, having been commissioned by Dr. Poynter to negotiate some matters of importance with the holy see. He was graciously received by Consalvi, the cardinal secretary of state, who granted him facilities for obtaining transcripts of unpublished documents in the Vatican archives. When he left Rome he was able to inform Dr. Poynter that he had succeeded in his mission, and that, among other matters, the English College was again restored to the government of the secular clergy.
Before the close of 1817 his work was so far advanced that he made proposals for publication to Mr. Mawman, who purchased for a thousand guineas so much of the ‘History’ as should extend to the death of Henry VII, and early in 1819 the three volumes embracing that period made their appearance. The portion embracing the reigns from Edward III to Henry VII was written in seven months and under great pressure. ‘It was a greater labour,’ Lingard subsequently wrote, ‘than I ever underwent in my life; nor would I have done it, had I not found that unless I fixed a time, I should never get through’ (letter to Kirk quoted in Tierney's Memoir, p. 28). To the graces of style Lingard avowedly paid little attention (ib.) In 1820 the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI appeared in a fourth volume; those of Mary and Elizabeth, James I, Charles I, and Charles II followed at various intervals, and in 1830 the eighth and concluding volume brought the ‘History’ down to the revolution of 1688.
The work met from the first with a good reception. Its reputation grew with the appearance of each succeeding volume. Its temperate tone, especially on religious topics, commended the work to the attention of protestant readers, who seemed surprised to find a Roman catholic ecclesiastic treating controverted questions in a spirit of candour and truthfulness. Many of the mistakes and misstatements of Hume and other historians were unostentatiously exposed and refuted in the notes, in order that—to use Lingard's own words—he might not repel protestant readers, while furnishing every necessary proof in favour of the catholic side. Indeed, his avowed object was to shock popular prejudices as little as possible, and to do good to the cause he had at heart by writing a book which protestants would read. ‘I succeeded,’ he says in one of his letters, ‘in awakening the curiosity of some minds in the universities, in provoking doubts of the accuracy of their preconceived opinions, and in creating a conviction that such opinions were unfounded.’ As early as 1825 this was fully understood at Rome. ‘Your History,’ wrote Dr. Gradwell, ‘is much spoken of in Rome as one of the great causes which have wrought such a change in public sentiment, in England, on Catholic matters.’ The work was nevertheless regarded with suspicion from the outset by the ultra-papal party, who disliked Lingard's Gallican tendencies, and who were offended at the timid, apologetic attitude which he often assumed. As early as 1819 Bishop Milner attacked the ‘History’ in the ‘Orthodox Journal,’ and in 1828 Father Ventura, in some anonymous ‘Osservazioni sulla Storia d'Inghilterra,’ bearing the imprint of Bastia, though really published at Rome, described Lingard as a dangerous enemy of the rights of the church.
From the protestant point of view the work was subjected to severe criticism in two articles in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ by Dr. John Allen (April 1825 and June 1826). The first article discussed Lingard's treatment of Anglo-Saxon history and the second his account of the St. Bartholomew's Massacre. Throughout the critic charged Lingard with suppression and perversion of the facts. Lingard replied to the second article in ‘A Vindication of certain Passages in the fourth and fifth Volumes of the “History of England,”’ London, 1826. In the fifth edition (1827) Lingard answered a reply by Allen and defended himself from Todd's strictures on his character of Cranmer and from an attack on his account of Anne Boleyn in the ‘Quarterly Review’ (vol. lxv.) Macaulay, while admitting that Lingard was ‘a very able and well-informed writer,’ said that his ‘fundamental rule of judging seems to be that the popular opinion on an historical question cannot possibly be correct.’
The ‘History’ passed through many editions, and Lingard spared himself no pains in revising his information in the light of recently published authorities. The original edition, ‘A History of England, from the first Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of William and Mary in 1688,’ London, 1819–30, 4to, appeared in 8 vols.; the 2nd edit. in 14 vols. London, 1823–31, 8vo; the 3rd edit. in 14 vols. London, 1825, 8vo; the 4th edit. in 13 vols. London, 1839; 5th edit. 10 vols. London, 1849–51 (the last edit. revised by the author); 6th edit. 10 vols. London, 1854–5. Several abridgments and American reprints have appeared, and the work has been translated into French, Italian, and German.
As regards the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods the ‘History’ has been superseded by more recent investigation, but his accounts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are still useful, and the work remains an authority for the period of the Reformation, as representing the views of an enlightened catholic priest concerning the events which led to the abolition of the papal jurisdiction in this country.
In recognition of the author's merits Pius VII on 24 Aug. 1821 caused a brief to be issued, conferring upon him the triple academical laurel, and creating him doctor of divinity and of the canon and civil law. Pope Leo XII was as much attached to him as his predecessor. When in 1825 Lingard paid his second visit to Rome, the pontiff saw him frequently and tried to persuade him to take up his residence there. Leo gave him the gold medal which etiquette then generally confined to cardinals and princes, and at the creation of cardinals in 1826 the pope informed the consistory that among those whom he had reserved in petto for the same dignity one was ‘a man of great talents, an accomplished scholar, whose writings, drawn ex authenticis fontibus, had not only rendered great service to religion, but had delighted and astonished Europe.’ In Rome, according to Canon Tierney, this was generally understood to refer to Lingard. Cardinal Wiseman, however, held the opinion that the person thus reserved was not Lingard, but the Abbé de Lamennais (Recollections of the last four Popes, 1858, p. 328); and an able writer in the ‘Rambler’ for November 1859 (ii. 75–83) came to the conclusion that Leo intended to raise both Lingard and Lamennais to the purple and that both received a verbal promise of the cardinal's hat. A summary of this controversy, by Mr. Joseph Gillow, appeared in the ‘Catholic News’ (Preston), 9 April 1892.
Lingard returned from Rome in October 1825. In 1839 Lord Melbourne, at the request of Lord and Lady Holland, granted him 300l. from the privy purse of the queen (Athenæum, 1 July 1871). He had previously received for the first two editions of his ‘History’ a gross sum of 4,133l., and with this money and other proceeds of his pen he established several burses for the education of ecclesiastical students at Ushaw. In the preface to the last edition of his ‘History’ (1849) he informed the public that ‘a long and painful malady, joined with the infirmities of age, had already admonished him to bid final adieu to those studies with which he had been so long familiar.’ He survived, however, more than two years, suffering intensely from an accumulation of maladies, and died at Hornby on 17 July 1851 in his eighty-first year. His body was interred in the cloister of the college cemetery at Ushaw.
In his personal character and demeanour he was most gentle, kind, and obliging, and in the quiet village and neighbourhood to which he had retired he was a universal favourite. At assize time several leaders of the northern circuit, including Scarlett, Pollock, and Brougham, were in the habit of visiting Hornby on a Sunday or other vacant day, in order to have the pleasure of his society. Although he never aspired to ecclesiastical honours he had a great share in the direction of the affairs of the Roman church in England, and was frequently consulted by the bishops on matters of importance.
Besides his ‘History’ his works are: 1. ‘Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church,’ 2 vols. Newcastle, 1806, and again 1810, 8vo; Philadelphia, 1841, 12mo. A so-called third edition, bearing the title ‘The History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church,’ 2 vols. London, 1845, is really a new work, although the substance of the old work is incorporated in it. Another edit. 2 vols. London, 1858, 8vo. 2. ‘Remarks on a Charge delivered to the Clergy of theDiocese of Durham by Shute [Barrington], Bishop of Durham,’ 1807; a reply to strictures on this pamphlet by Thomas Le Mesurier, G. S. Faber, and others, with ‘some observations on the more fashionable methods of interpreting the Apocalypse,’ was issued by Lingard in 1808. 3. ‘Documents to ascertain the Sentiments of British Catholics in former ages respecting the Power of the Popes,’ 1812, 8vo. 4. ‘A Review of certain Anti-Catholic Publications, viz. A Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Gloucester, in 1810, by G. I. Huntingford … and a Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Lincoln, in 1812, by G. Tomline,’ London, three editions, 1813, 8vo. 5. ‘Examination of certain Opinions advanced by Dr. Burgess, Bishop of St. David's, in two recent Publications, entitled Christ, and not Peter, the Rock, and Johannis Sulgeni versus hexametri in laudem Sulgeni patris’ (anon.), Manchester, 1813, 8vo. 6. ‘A Collection of Tracts on several Subjects connected with the Civil and Religious Principles of the Catholics,’ 1813, and London, 1826, 8vo. 7. ‘Strictures on Dr. Marsh's “Comparative View of the Churches of England and Rome,”’ London, 1815, 8vo. 8. ‘A Reply to the Observations of the “Edinburgh Review” on the Anglo-Saxon Antiquities,’ in the ‘Pamphleteer,’ vol. vii. London, 1816, 8vo. 9. ‘Observations on the Laws and Ordinances which exist in Foreign States relative to the Religious Concerns of their Roman Catholic subjects,’ London, 1817, 8vo. 10. ‘Supplementum ad Breviarium Romanum adjectis officiis Sanctorum Angliæ,’ London, 1823, 8vo. 11. ‘A new Version of the Four Gospels, with Notes critical and explanatory, by a Catholic,’ London, 1836, 8vo. This version was coldly received by the extreme papal party. In general Lingard translated from the Greek text, and gave reasons for preferring it to the Latin Vulgate. 12. ‘Catechetical Instructions on the Doctrines and Worship of the Catholic Church,’ 2nd edit. London, 1840, 12mo; new edit. London, 1844, 12mo.
Lingard wrote prefaces to Ward's ‘Errata of the Protestant Bible,’ Dublin, 1810 and 1841, 8vo, and to ‘The Faith and Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, proved by the testimony of the most learned Protestants,’ anon. [by the Hon. William Talbot], Dublin, 1813, 12mo. Replies to some of his controversial works were published by Bishop Barrington, Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter, and N. J. Hollingsworth.
A fine portrait of Lingard by James Lonsdale hangs in the hall of Ushaw College, and an engraving by Henry Cousins was published in 1836. A miniature taken in 1849 by T. Skaife was engraved by M'Cabe for the fifth edition of the ‘History.’
[Memoir by Canon Tierney in the Metropolitan and Provincial Catholic Almanac, 1854, reprinted with additions in the 6th edit. of the History of England, 1855; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, pp. 206, 440; Cotton's Rhemes and Doway, p. 407; Cunningham's Biog. and Critical Hist. of the Literature of the last Fifty Years, 1834, p. 195; Dibdin's Library Companion, 1825; Dublin Review, April 1856, p. 1; Gardiner and Mullinger's Introd. to the Study of English History, 2nd edit. pp. 241, 326, 353, 366; Gent. Mag. 1851, ii. 323; Gibson's Lydiate Hall, p. 169; Husenbeth's English Colleges and Convents, p. 6; Husenbeth's Life of Milner, pp. 16, 393, 396; International Mag. (New York), iv. 172, 285; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1365; Tablet, 26 July 1851, pp. 466, 474, and 2 Aug. 1851, p. 484; Times, 21 July 1851, p. 3, col. 3, and 28 July, p. 7, col. 5; Wiseman's Recollections of the last four Popes, 2nd ed. p. 207.]