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Significant Scots
James Robert Hope-Scott


Since a memoir of Mr. Hope-Scott was undertaken, the question has often been asked, why it should be written, or what good was expected from its publication. And perhaps his friends have no right to be surprised at the question, considering how little, during his lifetime, was known to the world at large of what made his personal character far more interesting than his professional success. He filled, indeed, a conspicuous place in the society of his day. Of noble birth himself, he added to hereditary distinction, first, his marriage with the granddaughter of Sir Walter Scott, which connects his name with that of the Shakespeare of modern times; and by a second marriage, an alliance with the most illustrious house in England; but these were merely external, almost accidental associations, however they might set off a position already adorned by his own merits. The latter not only ranked him among the first advocates of his day, but revealed powers of combination and influence which might easily, under other conditions, have given him a place among its first statesmen also. If a true account of such a career can be given, it must surely deserve attention, although there may have been many similar ones which have passed away without any permanent record.

Apart, however, from claims to remembrance of this kind, a more special and peculiar interest attached to Mr. Hope-Scott from his surroundings. The principal part of his life was passed in the most intimate communication with some of the master-spirits of the age, and chiefly those connected with the great and still unexhausted religious movement which has left such a mark on the Anglican Church in this half-century. He was the bosom-friend of Cardinal Newman, in his unreserved confidence through the stormy days of Traetarianism, as also in many a time of difficulty afterwards. For a long series of years he was not less intimate with Mr. Gladstone, was associated with him in an important religious and educational undertaking of his earlier years, and was one upon whose active co-operation the great statesman reckoned when his wonderful career was still a vision of the future. Their friendship, it is true, was at last brought to a standstill by the cause which has parted so many — the conversion of the one friend to Catholicity; but it has left many memories which, in justice to those who shall come after them, his friends could hardly suffer to perish. Again, that conversion was coincident in time and in motives, and had been arrived at in common with that of a third friend, whose name will also be written in the history of the Church—Cardinal Manning. Nor was Mr. Hope-Scott less dear to men of similar mark on the Continent—to the Austrian statesmen Counts Frederick and Leo Thun; and lie was cherished and admired by many persons of eminence abroad with whom his intimacy was not so great—Pere Boothaan, Father-General S.J. Count Senflt, Manzoni, Montalembert. But there is one less celebrated name, which, after so many great ones, cannot justly be omitted. To the friendship of Mr. Badeley for Mr. Hope-Scott let not the place in memory be denied, which true and self-forgetting devotion so nobly earned—a place which might well illustrate any dialogue de amicitid which the eloquence of the future may bring forth.

To have attracted such friendships makes it evident that there must have been about Mr. Hope-Scott some very unusual fascinations; but his life deserves to be studied for its own sake, and not merely as forming part of more than one memorable group. His conversion to Catholicism has an interest beyond that of many of his contemporaries, first, in its extremely deliberate character, as the result of years of reflection, closed by the very outcry of Protestantism against the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England. The significance of the moment and the manner of this great event in his life is increased by the fact that he was not only a layman, as he continued to be, but a layman engaged in one of the most secular of laical pursuits. A large part of the conversions of that period were drawn (as was necessarily the case) from the clerical sections of so ciety, and tended to pass into the ranks of the priesthood As contrasted, therefore, with them, his change appears to stand out among a very limited number. These considerations will, I hope, justify the space which it occupies in this memoir — a space which seemed also demanded by its connection with an event of such great significance in the religious history of the time as the institution of the Anglo-Prussian Bishopric of Jerusalem.

But there is, further, a deep religious interest about his character from this circumstance, that, with an outer fife of the most intense secular activity, he united in a wonderful degree an inner and secret fife of religion ; and thus showed that, in a soul living under obedience to Divine grace, but finding its duties and its trials in a field where the treasure it most loves might be thought unlikely to be hidden, these two things, in appearance so strangely incompatible, may yet coexist. In political life, indeed, the biographies of saints afford many examples of such a combination; but it has perhaps been more rarely exhibited in a professional career remote from politics, and yet as active as Mr. Hope-Scott’s. The influence, too, which he exercised throughout his life, though living in such great retirement (except as regarded his profession), is another point which ought not to be forgotten, as showing the possibility of true and practical service being done by Catholics of position, apart both from Parliament and the platform.

That he had sufferings to go through, very sharp and frequent ones, is only saying he was a humble and faithful Christian; but those sufferings are all the more impressive as they form the background of a life, to the world's eye, full of the brilliance given out by great worldly success, by wealth and an elevated place in society.

The use which he made of these advantages, and still more of those gifts which, by a metaphor so familiar that it tends to lose its original significance, we call talents, is abundantly evidenced by the many instances of his lavish yet thoughtful generosity in almsgiving, but especially of self-denying outlay of time and trouble in giving counsel to those who needed it. ‘Counsel,’ a wise Greek proverb tells us, ‘is a sacred thing;’ and with Mr. Hope-Scott it was such in the most emphatic sense. His personal and most pious devotion to the sick, of which the affectionate remembrance of his family has enabled me to preserve so many examples, will probably be new to many who were less familiarly acquainted with him, and, we may be sure, will bear the greater fruit for the years of silence that have passed over them.

The history of his foundation of churches in or near his estates on the Border and in the Highlands forms a most instructive part of his Catholic life; as showing how he applied his sound, practical judgment in a manner that gave to these works, great and liberal as they were, a special importance. Such examples point to what it is possible for a Catholic proprietor of consequence to effect, and how it ought to be effected; to the charitable use of wealth, whether acquired or hereditary. It will be seen how much was done by the means he afforded religious orders, or laborious secular priests, to gather together the scattered fragments of Catholic populations—often, as is the way with fragments, so much more numerous than had been expected. His name, therefore, is not one which can be passed over in the annals of the restoration of Catholicism in Scotland, whether in the Highlands or Lowlands; and, however imperfect the collection of materials here brought together, it may still assist those who may hereafter study them, more capable than the writer of placing their significance in its true light.

A word of explanation may be added as to some personal details which may possibly appear trifling or irrelevant to the main subject of the book—and others, too, which may be thought more or less inconsistent with its principal motive, which, from the very character of that subject, ought to be prevailingly religious. As to the first point, I would remark that the book has a domestic as well as, or even more than, a public purpose. It was designed to preserve any particulars that might give Mr. Hope-Scott’s children, especially his son, who cannot remember his father, a distinct idea of his daily life, of his familiar friends, of the scenes that surrounded him at home and abroad; in short, to make it something of a family record, as well as a memoir in the ordinary sense of the word. And as to the second point, let it be remembered that, though not of the world, he was yet called upon to live in the world; and that his life will probably be read by many, and his example, it is hoped, may influence many, who would hardly open a religious biography of the usual type. I may add that, so far as these volumes have any pretensions to be a work of art, the idea upon which I have endeavoured to write them is, that a memoir ought to be a portrait, and that a portrait cannot be lifelike if it altogether exclude details of the kind referred to. In themselves they mar be unimportant, but not when viewed as making up the expression of the whole.

In conclusion, I beg to offer my most grateful thanks to the many persons who have favoured me either by the use of correspondence or oral information. The list of letters transcribed or quoted will be taken in acknowledgment of the former; it contains many names I should be glad to have enumerated here, yet I cannot omit an especial mention of letters which have been most largely or most prominently placed under contribution, and which certainly impart its chief value to the work, such as those of his Eminence Cardinal Newman; of his Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of ’Westminster; of the Eight Hon. W. E. Gladstone, Lord Blachford, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, Mrs. Bellasis, Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, G. S. Venables, Esq., Q.C., H. L. Cameron, Esq., and the late Rev. E. Coleridge. I wish particularly to thank the Rev. W. T. Amherst, S.J., as well for the early communication of many useful hints as for the thoughtful and striking Address delivered by him at Mr. Hope-Scott’s funeral, which by his kindness I am allowed to publish with this Memoir. Oral recollections (where my kind informants would permit it) have been assigned to their respective sources But above all, my respectful gratitude is due to the friend whom Mr. Hope-Scott himself most loved and reverenced, to his Eminence Cardinal Newman, not only for the above-mentioned use of the precious materials contained in his correspondence, but also for kindly reading over the IMS., and for affording me the advantage of his admirable judgment on various points, particularly on an important question as to the arrangement.

Since the above lines were written, both Cardinal Newman and Mr. Gladstone have further shown their deep interest in the subject of these volumes by reading them over in proof, and have favoured me with many kind suggestions as the work was passing through the press. For the permission to add to this biography the eloquent papers in which they have respectively given to the English language an imperishable record of the friendship which their names will render historic, due acknowledgment is elsewhere made.

E. 0.
Verona, Kingstown
Dec. 21,, 1883

Memoirs of James Robert Hope-Scott of Abbotsford, D.C.L., Q.C.
By Robert Ornsby, M.A. in two volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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