Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Plowden, Charles

1169501Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45 — Plowden, Charles1896Thompson Cooper

PLOWDEN, CHARLES (1743–1821), rector of Stonyhurst college, seventh son of William Ignatius Plowden, esq., of Plowden Hall, Shropshire, by his wife, Frances Dormer, daughter of Charles, fifth baron Dormer, of Wenge, was born at Plowden Hall on 1 May or 10 Aug. 1743. His brother, Francis Peter Plowden [q. v.], is separately noticed. At the age of ten he was sent to a school at Edgbaston, and on 7 July 1754 was transferred to the college of the English jesuits at St. Omer. Upon the conclusion of his humanity studies he entered the Society of Jesus at Watten on 7 Sept. 1759; and, after completing his theology at Bologna, he was ordained priest at Rome on 30 Sept. 1770. At the time of the suppression of the jesuit order in 1773 he was minister at the English College, Bruges, or the ‘Great College,’ as it was called, to distinguish it from the preparatory college in the same city. Upon the violent destruction of the Bruges colleges by the imperial government in 1773, Plowden was detained prisoner, with other ecclesiastics, for several months. On regaining his liberty, he joined the English academy established at Liège by the fathers of the old society.

In 1784 he became chaplain and tutor to the family of Mr. Weld at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, and in November 1794 he rejoined his former colleagues at Stonyhurst, three months after their migration from Liège. In 1796 he acted as chaplain to the convent at York. Upon the first restoration of the English province of the Society of Jesus, vivæ vocis oraculo, in 1803, a novitiate was opened at Hodder Place, near Stonyhurst, and Plowden was appointed master of novices, and there wrote a series of exhortations to novices which has always been held in the highest esteem. He was professed of the four vows on 15 Nov. 1805. After the bull of restoration issued by Pius VII, Plowden was declared provincial on 8 Sept. 1817, and at the same time rector of Stonyhurst college. In 1820 he was summoned to Rome for the election of a new general of the society, and on his return through France he died suddenly, at Jougne in Franche Comté, on 13 June 1821. In consequence of some misunderstanding, he was buried, with military honours, as a general, in the parish cemetery.

He was a writer of great power, and Foley remarks that ‘the English Province can boast of but few members more remarkable for talent, learning, prudence, and every religious virtue.’ Richard Lalor Sheil [q. v.], who had been his pupil, declares that Plowden ‘had every title to be considered an orator of the first class,’ and says: ‘He was a perfect Jesuit of the old school; his mind was stored with classical knowledge; his manners were highly polished; he had great eloquence, which was alternately vehement and persuasive, as the occasion put his talents into requisition; and with his various accomplishments he combined the loftiest enthusiasm for the advancement of religion’ (‘Schoolboy Recollections’ in New Monthly Mag. August 1829).

His works are: 1. ‘Considerations on the modern opinion of the Fallibility of the Holy See in the Decision of Dogmatical Questions, with an Appendix on the Appointment of Bishops,’ London, 1790, 8vo. 2. ‘A Discourse delivered at the Consecration of Dr. John Douglass, Bishop of Centuria, at Lullworth,’ London, 1791, 8vo. 3. ‘An Answer to the second Blue Book, containing a Refutation of the Principles, Charges, and Arguments, advanced by the Catholic Committee against their Bishops,’ London, 1791, 8vo. 4. ‘Observations on the Oath proposed to the English Roman Catholics,’ London, 1791, 8vo. 5. ‘Letter to the Staffordshire Clergy,’ 1792. 6. ‘Remarks on the Writings of the Reverend Joseph Berington, addressed to the Catholic Clergy of England,’ London, 1792, 8vo. 7. ‘Remarks on a book entitled Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani, preceded by an Address to the Rev. Joseph Berington,’ Liège, 1794, 8vo, pp. 383. 8. ‘A Letter … to C. Butler, W. Cruise, H. Clifford, and W. Throckmorton … Reporters of the Cisalpine Club. In which their Reports on the Instrument of Catholic Protestation lodged in the British Museum are examined,’ London, 1796, 8vo. 9. ‘The Letters of Clericus to Laicus.’ They appeared originally in the ‘Pilot’ newspaper in reply to the diatribes of one Blair, an apothecary, who assumed the style of ‘Laicus.’ Plowden's letters were reprinted by R. C. Dallas in his ‘New Conspiracy against the Jesuits detected and briefly exposed,’ London, 1815, 8vo. 10. ‘The Case is altered,’ in a letter addressed to the catholics of Wigan, 1818, 8vo. 11. ‘Account of the Preservation and Actual State of the Society of Jesus in the Russian Empire Dominions,’ 1783–4. Published in ‘Dolman's Magazine,’ 1846–7. Inserted in ‘Letters and Notices,’ Roehampton, 1869, 8vo, pp. 131–43, 279–92. There remain in manuscript at Stonyhurst ‘Narrative of the Destruction of the English Colleges at Bruges,’ with an account of Plowden's imprisonment from 20 Sept. 1773 to 25 May 1774, and his ‘Instructions to Novices.’ Many of his letters and papers are preserved in the archives of the English province.

[Amherst's Hist. of Catholic Emancipation, i. 168, 176, 197, 201–4; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, p. 276; Caballero's Bibl. Script. Soc. Jesu, i. 227; Catholic Advocate, 15 July 1821, p. 264; Catholic Progress, 1880, ix. 195; Coleridge's St. Mary's Convent, York, p. 254; De Backer's Bibl. de la Compagnie de Jésus; Foley's Records, iv. 555, vii. 601; Gerard's Stonyhurst, pp. 37, 114, 123; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. i. 567; MacNevin's Memoir of Shiel, 1845, p. xix; Oliver's Cornwall, p. 382; Oliver's Jesuits, p. 166; Panzani's Memoirs, pref. p. xxxi.]

T. C.