Open main menu


JOHNSTON, HENRY (d. 1723), Benedictine monk, a native of Methley, near Leeds, Yorkshire, was son of John and Elizabeth Johnston, and brother of Nathaniel Johnston, M.D. [q. v.] From 26 May 1666 to 31 May 1669 Dugdale employed him as one of his clerks, at Nathaniel Johnston's request (Dugdale, Diary, ed. Hamper, pp. 123, 131). He professed at Dieulouard in Lorraine, for the English monastery of St. Edward the King at Paris, on 26 May 1675. He was sent on the mission in the south province, and during the reign of James II he was stationed at St. James's Chapel, London (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. pp. 463, &c.) Leaving England in 1696 in consequence of the assassination plot, he was in the following year elected prior of St. Edmund's at Paris, but resigned the office in 1698, and retired to St. Farons at Meaux. In 1700 he was at the monastery of St. Gregory at Douay. In 1701 he was appointed sub-prior of St. Edmund's at Paris, and was prior from 1705 to 1710, when he was appointed definitor of the regimen. In 1717 he was made titular prior of Durham. He died at Paris on 9 July 1723.

Constable, writing to Hearne 23 March 1733–4, says: ‘I knew and have often met the old Doctor's [i.e. Nathaniel Johnston's] brother, who was prior of the English Benedictines at Paris when I was there. He fled out of England at the assassination plot, and a reward was offered by the king to apprehend him; but he kept out of the way, and dyed at Paris’ (Reliquiæ Hearn. ed. Bliss, iii. 126). He is further described as a ‘good little monk’ and a pleasant and good-natured man, but ‘no writer, though long a Superiour’ (ib.)

His chief works are:

  1. ‘An Exposition of the Doctrine of the Catholic Church in Matters of Controversie,’ translated from the French of J. B. Bossuet, and published by command of James II, London, 1685, 4to. This anonymous translation, which is erroneously attributed in the Bodleian Catalogue to John Dryden, elicited from William Wake, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, an answer, to which Johnston replied in
  2. ‘A Vindication of the Bishop of Condom's Exposition of the Doctrine of the Catholic Church. With a Letter from the said Bishop,’ London, 1686, 4to. The appended letter was addressed to Joseph Shireburn, president of the English Benedictine congregation, who had written to Bossuet, enclosing a letter from Johnston which asked for information to enable him to reply to Wake and others. The correspondence is given in the Versailles edition of Bossuet's ‘Works,’ xviii. 169. Replies to the ‘Vindication’ were published by Wake and by John Gilbert (fl. 1680) [q. v.]
  3. ‘A Pastoral Letter from the Lord Bishop of Meaux to the New Catholics of his Diocese, exhorting them to keep their Easter, and giving them necessary Advertisements against the false Pastoral Letters of their Ministers,’ translated from the French, and ‘published with allowance,’ London, 1686, 4to.
  4. ‘A Reply to the Defence of the Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church of England; being a further Vindication of the Bishop of Condom's Exposition, &c. With a second Letter of the Bishop of Meaux,’ London, 1687, 4to. Wake rejoined in a ‘Second Defence,’ and Johnston continued the controversy in
  5. ‘A Full Answer to the Second Defence of the Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church of England, in a Letter to the Defender’ [London], pp. 12. Wake returned to the charge in part ii. of ‘A Second Defence,’ 1688.
  6. ‘A Letter from the Vindicator of the Bishop of Condom to [William Clagett, D.D.] the Author of a late Discourse concerning the Sacrament of Extreme Unction,’ folio. Clagett published a reply to this in 1688.
  7. ‘The History of England's late most holy and most glorious Royal Confessor and Defender of the True Faith, King James II’ (unpublished; Addit. MS. 10118).

[Gillow's Bibl. Dict. iii. 642; Dugdale's Visitation of Yorkshire (Surtees Soc.), p. 6; Jones's Popery Tracts, pp. 112–15, 347; Oliver's Catholic Religion in Cornwall, p. 518; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 62; Snow's Necrology, p. 93; Weldon's Chronicle, pp. 238, 250, 251, 254, App. pp. 19, 21.]

T. C.