Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Bibliographic Discovery, Unfortunately Apophatic

In connection with an upcoming paper and presentation on Charles Chapman Grafton (1830-1912) and his introduction of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to the United States, I have been working in some detail with a small volume called Meditations of a Bishop. Its title page has no identifying information for an author or publisher, and just the date 1916. It is similar in font and general style to contemporary publications of the Young Churchman Company, based in Milwaukee, and associated in the Episcopal Church with decades of Anglo-Catholic literature. Bookseller catalogues identify it as an anonymous publication of Bishop Grafton, given the similarity of the chalice and host design on the cover and spine to a similar decoration on the covers of one edition of the collected works of Grafton.

Meditations of a Bishop is present in just three North American libraries: the former Seabury-Western Library, now at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; the University of Virginia Library; and the Cardinal Stafford Library at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. Grafton’s contemporary James Otis Sargent Huntington (1854-1923) reviewed the book favorably just after its publication, but did not himself at that time identify the anonymous author as Grafton. Nevertheless, I have been keen to work with the plausible assumption that Grafton was this work’s author, and that the anonymous nature of the publication may have had to do with his advancement of what were still at the time of his death considered “extreme” and “advanced” eucharistic positions for North American Anglicans.

I’ve discovered this week to my dismay that Meditations of a Bishop is definitely not by Bishop Grafton, but rather the work of a Roman Catholic coadjutor bishop of Bordeaux named François-Alexandre Roullet de la Bouillerie (1810-1882). It is in fact identical in all but a few respects to a much earlier publication by a priest of the Church of England, which was itself a translation of this Roman Catholic devotional work:

Meditations on the Eucharist (Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co.; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; J. Masters & Co., 1870)

This work went through at least four editions in its Mowbrays version, and it had also been printed previously in English under Roman Catholic auspices as

Hours before the Altar; or, Meditations on the Holy Eucharist (London: Richardson and Son, 1858).

The only differences between the 1916 anonymous publication and the nineteenth-century English editions are the omission of textual citations from the Vulgate, and the absence of any prefatory material.

Meditations on the Eucharist was translated into English by a Church of England priest who signed himself “R.H.N.B.” His very slight adaptation of the text to Anglican doctrine was the omission of a final chapter on Mary and the Eucharist. R.H.N.B. is Robert Henry Nisbett Browne, author of at least one published sermon and a succession of typological commentaries on the Old Testament:

Confession and Absolution: A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. Edward, Romford, on the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, September 26, 1858 (London: J. Masters, 1858).

Christ in Genesis; or, Types and Shadows of the Cross (London: J. Masters, 1870).

Christ in Exodus; or, Foreshadowings of the Gospel (London: J. Masters, 1871).

Christ in Leviticus: The One Sacrifice for Sin.  (London: J. Masters, 1871).

Christ in Numbers; or, The Church in the Wilderness (London: J. Masters, 1872).

Christ in the Prophets (London: J. Masters, 1873).

Following his translation of Roullet de la Boullerie’s Meditations, he also published a translation of the same author’s Holy Teachings in Nature (Oxford and London: A.R. Mowbray, 1885). I have been unable to learn much about Browne’s biography, but he was a sometime curate at St. Edward the Confessor, Romford, in the Diocese of Chelmsford. He was a signatory of the large 1871 protest by Ritualist-sympathizing clergy against the Purchas judgment; a correspondent on liturgical matters in the columns of Notes and Queries in 1859 and 1861; an elected member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain from 1875; and a member of the Natal Guild of the Church of England. His addresses in periodical correspondence point to a likely connection with the Church of St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, which was a strong center of Ritualism in north London in a building designed by William Butterfield.

Academic take-away: it’s as important to identify what was not written by one’s subject as it is important to identify what was written by one’s subject. By assuming the association of Grafton with Meditations of a Bishop (1916), I would have written a very different paper on Charles Chapman Grafton and the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament than I should or would have otherwise.


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