Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lanigan, John
LANIGAN, JOHN, D.D. (1758–1828), Irish ecclesiastical historian, born at Cashel, co. Tipperary, in 1758, was the eldest of the sixteen children of Thomas Lanigan, a schoolmaster of that city, by his wife Mary Anne [Dorkan]. He was educated by his father, who afterwards placed him in a seminary kept at Cashel by Patrick Hare, a protestant clergyman. Here he was a great friend of Edward Lysaght [q.v.], and remained for some time as usher. In 1776 he was recommended by Dr. James Butler, archbishop of Cashel, for a burse in the Irish College at Rome (Moran, Spicilegium Ossoriense, iii. 351). He sailed from Cork to London, where he was robbed of his money by a fellow-passenger; but fortunately a priest afforded him a refuge in his house until a remittance from home enabled him to continue his journey to Rome. His progress in theological and philosophical studies was brilliant and rapid, and after having attended a course of lectures on canon law at the Sapienza he was ordained priest. Soon afterwards he was induced by Tamburini to settle at Pavia, where he was afterwards appointed to the chairs of Hebrew ecclesiastical history and divinity in the university. In 1786 he declined to attend the schismatical diocesan council held at Pistoia under the presidency of the Jansenist bishop Scipio Ricci. In 1793 he published the first part of his 'Institutiones Biblicæ,' which, it is said, was suppressed in consequence of some of the opinions advanced (Orme, Bibliotheca Biblica, p. 284). He was created D.D. by the university of Pavia on 28 June 1794. Two years later, when Napoleon's victorious troops overran the duchy of Milan, the members of the university of Pavia were dispersed, and Lanigan hurriedly returned to his native country, in company with several other Irish ecclesiastics.
On landing in Cork as a penniless wanderer he vainly applied for pecuniary assistance to Dr. Moylan, bishop of that diocese, and his vicar-general, Dr. MacCarthy, who both regarded Lanigan as a Jansenist, on account of his intimacy with the notorious Tamburini. He was compelled therefore to walk to Cashel, where he was welcomed by his surviving relatives. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain the spiritual care of a parish in the diocese of Cashel, he proceeded to Dublin, and was attached to the old Francis Street Chapel, by invitation of its pastor, Martin Hugh Hamill, the vicar-general and dean of Dublin, who had been his fellow-student at Rome. Shortly afterwards he was nominated, on the motion of the primate, seconded by the Archbishop of Dublin, to the chair of sacred scripture and Hebrew in the Royal College of St. Patrick, Maynooth. The Bishop of Cork, still suspecting him to be a Jansenist, suggested that he should subscribe the formula which had been drawn up as a test for the French refugee clergy after the revolution. This Lanigan indignantly refused to do, though he declared that he would cheerfully subscribe the bull 'Unigenitus Dei Filius,' issued by Clement XI in 1713. The result of the dispute was that he resigned the professorship.
At the suggestion of his friend General Vallancey he was engaged by the Royal Dublin Society as assistant-librarian, foreign correspondent, and general literary supervisor, with a salary of a guinea and a half per week; but it appears that he was not regularly appointed as an officer of the society until 2 May 1799. In 1808 his salary was increased to 150l. per annum. He was intimately associated with the literary enterprises of the time in Dublin. His wit, learning, liberal catholicism, and the dignity and suavity of his continental manners were a ready passport to the best society. Among his friends were General Vallancey, Richard Kirwan, president of the Royal Irish Academy, Archbishop Troy, Dennis Taaffe, and the Celtic scholars William Halliday and Edward O'Reilly. He assisted the latter to found the Gaelic Society of Dublin in 1808. He wrote on current affairs under the pseudonyms of 'Irenæus' and 'An Irish Priest;' in 1805 he engaged in a controversy with John Giffard concerning catholic disabilities.
Symptoms of cerebral decay appeared in 1813, and he was removed to Cashel, where he was tenderly nursed by his sisters. Although for a time able to resume work, and even to superintend the removal of the Royal Dublin Society's library from Hawkins Street to Kildare Street, he ultimately became a permanent patient in Dr. Harty's asylum at Finglas. He died on 7 July 1828, and was interred in Finglas churchyard, where a monument was erected to his memory in 1861, with appropriate inscriptions in Irish and Latin. His library was sold 6 and 7 March 1828.
His principal work is 'An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, from the first Introduction of Christianity among the Irish to the beginning of the thirteenth century,' 4 vols., Dublin, 1822, 8vo; 2nd edition, Dublin, 1829, 8vo. This work he began in 1799. It contains, in chronological sequence, biographies of the principal Irish saints, with their 'acts' abridged, while their recorded miracles are for the most part suppressed. His other works are: 1. 'De Origine et Progressu Hermeneuticæ Sacræ,' Pavia, 1789, being his inaugural address as professor of Hebrew and sacred scripture at Pavia. 2. 'Saggio sulla maniera d'insegnare a' giovani ecclesiastici la Scienza de' Libri Sacri,' Pavia, pp. 159, a work of great rarity. 3. 'Institutionum Biblicarum pars prima, qua continetur Historia Librorum Sacrorum Veteris et Novi Testamenti,' vol. i. (all published), Pavia, 1793, 8vo, dedicated to Count Joseph de Wilzeck, knight of the Golden Fleece, containing much valuable matter. 4. 'An Essay on the Practical History of Sheep in Spain, and of the Spanish Sheep in Saxony, Anhalt Dessau, &c. By George Stumpf, M.A., and member of the Academy of Mentz, Leipsick, 1785. Translated from the German,' Dublin, 1800, 8vo. In vol. i. pt. i. of the 'Transactions of the Dublin Society.' 5. 'Introduction concerning the Nature, Present State, and true interests of the Church of England, and on the means of effecting a reconciliation of the Churches; with remarks on the False Representations, repeated in some late Tracts, of several Catholic Tenets, particularly the Supremacy of the See of Rome, by Irenæus,' prefixed to a book of 66 pages entitled 'The Protestant Apology for the Roman Catholic Church. By Christianus, i.e. William Talbot of Castle Talbot, co. Wexford,' Dublin, 1809, 8vo. 6. An edition of Alban Butler's 'Meditations and Discourses,' Dublin, 1840, 8vo, is said to have been revised and improved by Lanigan.[Irish Wits and Worthies, including Dr. Lanigan, his Life and Times, by W. J. Fitzpatrick, LL.D., Dublin, 1873; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit. ii. 1058; Brenan's Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, 1864, p. 649; Dublin Rev. December 1847, p. 489; Horne's Introd. to the Holy Scriptures; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1309; Cat. of Library of Trin. Coll. Dublin, v. 39.]