Strangers and brothers: The émigré clergy of the French revolution in Great Britain and their impact
- Číslo 57 
PublisherUniverzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta
SourceLitteraria Pragensia, 2019, 57, 91-101
KeywordsKeywords not found
The French Revolutionary émigré community in Britain was disproportionately clerical in its composition. In 1800, official statistics from the Alien Office (formed in 1793 to monitor revolutionary refugees) revealed that more than half the remaining ten thousand émigrés were clergy. Most had been parish priests who had refused the oaths associated with the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Numbers were further increased by the repatriation of many British Roman Catholic clergy who had been expelled from the sizeable network of Catholic schools and colleges at Douai, St Omer and elsewhere. Many émigré clergy settled in the London area and developed their own institutions, including chapels and social centres, making them effectively self-contained. A notable example was at Winchester, where several hundred were accommodated between 1792 and 1796 in the King’s House, an unfinished royal residence. The émigré clergy were financially supported first from voluntary contributions and later by state subsidy. Public sympathy and charitable support from the Church of England were conditional on their desisting from proselytism, and they kept largely out of public debate. A few influential writers, however, emerged, notably Augustin Barruel, a leading conspiracy theorist who was read not only by counter-revolutionaries like Edmund Burke but also radical authors such as Percy and Mary Shelley, who drew on Barruel’s Memoirs, Illustrating the History of Jacobinism in Frankenstein. Other Romantic writers who wrote, mostly sympathetically, about the emigrant clergy include William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Fanny Burney and Hannah More. Above all, the émigré clergy were seen as sufferers for conscience’s state and both as beneficiaries of a benign British nation and as a living warning of the consequences of revolution.