Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oliver, George (1781-1861)

OLIVER, GEORGE, D.D. (1781–1861), catholic divine and historian of Exeter, was born at Newington, Surrey, on 9 Feb. 1781, and was educated, first at Sedgley Park, Staffordshire, and afterwards at Stonyhurst College, where he taught humanities for five years. From an early age he was devoted to the study of antiquities, and while at Stonyhurst he rode with John Milner, afterwards bishop of Castabala, to explore the abbey of Whalley (Husenbeth, Life of Milner, p. 121). During the eleven years that he spent at Stonyhurst, Father Charles Plowden was his spiritual director, and took much interest in the progress of his literary studies (Oliver, Jesuit Collections, p. 168). He was promoted to holy orders at Durham by Dr. Gibson, bishop of Acanthus, in May 1806. In October 1807 he was sent to the ancient mission of the Society of Jesus at St. Nicholas, Exeter, as successor to Father Thomas Lewis (Western Antiquary, iv. 42). This mission he served for forty-four years, retiring from active duty on 6 Oct. 1851. He continued, however, to reside in the priory, and occupied the same room till the day of his death. During the whole of his career he enjoyed the regard of members of his own faith, and was highly esteemed by his fellow-citizens of all denominations.

Oliver was nearly the last survivor of a number of catholic priests, pupils of the English Jesuits, who, though never entering the society, always remained in the service of the English province, and subject to its superiors (Foley, Records, vii. 559). On 30 March 1843 he was elected an honorary member of the Historical Society of Boston, U.S., and on 15 Sept. 1844 he was created D.D. by Pope Gregory XVI. On the erection of the canonical chapters in 1852, after the restoration of the hierarchy by Pope Pius IX, Oliver was appointed provost of the chapter of Plymouth, which dignity he resigned in 1857. He died at St. Nicholas Priory, Exeter, on 23 March 1861, and was buried on 2 April near the high altar in his chapel. Oliver's numerous works relate principally to the county of Devon, and are standard authorities. The titles of his chief publications are: 1. 'Historic Collections relating to the Monasteries in Deyon,' Exeter, 1820, 8vo. 2. 'The History of Exeter,' Exeter, 1821, 8vo; 2nd edit. Exeter, 1861, 8vo. In some respects the first edition is more useful than the second. An index to the second edition, privately printed in 1884, was compiled by J. S. Attwood. 8. A translation of Father John Gerard's Latin 'Autobiography' from the manuscript at Stonyhurst College; printed in fourteen Numbers of the 'Catholic Ipectator,' 1823-6. 4. 'Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Devon, being Observations on many Churches in Devonshire, originally published in the "Exeter and Plymouth Gazette," with a Letter on the Preservation and Restoration of our Churches,' Exeter, 1828, 12mo; written in conjunction with the Rev. John Pike Jones of North Bovey, who, however, only contributed the introduction and the descriptions of twelve churches. 5. 'Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon, being Observations on several Churches in Devonshire, with some Memoranda for the History of Cornwall; 3 vols., Exeter, 1839-40-1842, 8vo. Although professedly a second edition of the former work, it possesses claims to be considered an entirely new one. The introduction is the only contribution of the Rev. J. P. Jones that was retained. An extended edition was sent to the press, and partly printed, but never published. It was intended to contain a complete list, arranged in alphabetical order, of all the churches described by Oliver, many of which had not appeared in the previous editions. 6. 'Cliffordiana,' privately printed, Exeter [1828], 12mo, containing a detailed account of the Clifford family, three funeral addresses, and a descriptive list of the pictures at Ugbrooke Park. The author made collections for an enlarged edition of this work. These were probably utilised in a series of thirteen articles on the 'Cliffords of Devonshire' that appeared in the 'Exeter Flying Post' between 1 June and 29 Sept. 1857. 7. 'Memoir of the Lord Treasurer Clifford,' London [1828 ?], 8vo, reprinted from the 'Catholic Spectator;' the article was subsequently rewritten, and appeared in the 'Exeter Flying Post,' 22 and 29 June 1867. 8. 'Collections towards illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English, and Irish Members of the Society of Jesus,' Exeter, 1838, 8vo; a second edition, limited to 250 copies, London, 1845, 8to. Theea valuable biographical notices appeared originally in the 'London and Dublin Weekly Orthodox Journal,' vols. ii.-iv. (1836-7). An interleaved copy of the work, with numerous corrections and additional notes by Canon Tierney, and notes and transcripts by W. B. Turnbull, is in the possesion of the Bishop of Southwark (Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. p. 410). 9. 'Merrye Englaunde; or the Goldene Daies of Goode Queene Besse' (anon.), London, 1841, 12mo. This first appeared as a serial story in the 'Catholic Magazine,' vols, ii., iii. {1838-9). The plot is laid in Cornwall, and is based upon the adventures and persecutions of some catholic families in that county. 10. 'Description of the Guildhall, Eieter,' in conjunction with Pitman Jones, Exeter, 1846, 13mo;9nd edit. 186S. 11. 'A View of Devonshire in MDCXXX, with a Pedigree of most of its Gentry, by Thomas Westcote,' edited by Oliver in conjunction with Pitman Jones, Exeter, 1845, 4to. 12. 'Monasticon Diœcesis Exonientis, being a Collection of Records and Instruments illustrating the ancient conventual, collegiate, and eleemosynary Foundations in the Counties of Cornwall and Devon, with Historical Notices, and a Supplement, comprising a list of the dedications of Churches in the Diocese, an amended edition of the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, and an Abstract of the Chantry Rolls,' Exeter, 1846, fol. An 'Additional Supplement . . . with a Map of the Diocese, Deaneries, and Sites of Religious Houses,' appeared in 1654. Without these additions the edition of Dugdale's 'Monasticon' by Ellis and Bandinel must be considered incomplete. 13. 'Collections illustrating the History of the Catholic Religion in the Counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wilts, and Gloucester. . . , With notices of the Dominican, Benedictine, and Franciscan Orders in England,' London, 1857, 8vo. Some of the manuscripts of this work are in the Cambridge University Library (Mm. vi. 40); others are at Stonyhurst College (Cat. of MSS. in Univ. Library, Cambridge, iv. 401), The copyright he presented to Dr. F. C. Husenbeth, together with very copious additions, and several corrections for a second edition. 14. 'Lives of the Bishops of Exeter, and a History of the Cathedral,' Exeter, 1861, 8vo. 15. Letters on ecclesiastical and parochial antiquities, family history, and biography, extending over a period of nine yeare, and communicated, under the signature of 'Curiosus,' to local newspapers, and principally to the 'Exeter Flying Post.' Upwards of two hundred of these communications were collected and inserted in two folio volumes by Pitman Jones, who added many valuable notes. Sir Winslow Jones, son of the latter, presented these volumes in 1877 to the library of the Devon and Exeter Institution. Forty-eight of the communications contain the memoirs of about seventy-five celebrated Exonians,

Oliver was a contributor to all the English catholic periodicals of his time, his articles relating generally to catholic biography, history, or antiquities. He also had the principal share in preparing for publication the 'Liber Pontificalis of Edmund Lacy, bishop of Exeter, which appeared in 1847, as edited by Robert Barnes, without any mention of its chief editor, A copy of Polwhele's 'History of Devonshire,' with copious manuscript notes by Oliver, is preserved in the British Museum.

A very characteristic lithographed portrait of Oliver was published shortly after his death by George G. Palmer of Exeter. This was reproduced as a frontispiece to Dr. Brushfield's 'Bibliography.' There is also an excellent statuette (Western Antiquary, v. 153).

[The Bibliography of the Rev. G. Oliver, D.D., of Exeter, by T. N. Brushfield, M.D.. was reprinted in 1885, 8vo, from the Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature, and Art, xvii. 266-76. Use has been made in this article of a copy of Dr. Bruahfleld's Bibliogruphy, with Dumsrous manuscript additions, kindly lent by the author. See also Boase and Courtney's Bill. Cornubiensis, i. 379, 410; Catholic Miscellany, 1828, ii. 148; Gent. Mag. May 1861. p. 576; Husenbeth's Life of Milner, pp. 121. 361; Journal of Archæological Institute, xviii, 405; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1723; Martin's Privately Printed Books, 1854, p. 360; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 404, 514, 3rd ser. v. 137, 202, 6th ser. v. 396. 7th ser. i. 467, 514; Oliver's Cornwall, p. 368. and Jesuit Collections, p. 188; Tablet, 13 April 1861 p. 235 (by Dr. Hasenbeth), and 20 April p. 261; Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, 27 March 1861; Weekly Register, 6 April 1861 p. 2, 13 April p. 2, 20 April p. 10.]

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