Butler, Alban

, author of the “Lives of the Saints,” the second son of Simon Butler, esq. of Appletree, in the county of Northampton, was born in 1710, and educated for a short time at a school in Lancashire, whence in his eighth year he was sent to the English college at Douay, where he applied himself with uncommon diligence to the studies prescribed in that Roman catholic seminary, and was admired for his early piety. After completing his course, he was admitted an alumnus, and appointed professor of philosophy, in lecturing on which he followed the Newtonian system, then gaining ground in the foreign universities, in preference to the systems of Wolfe and Leibnitz, in which he discovered some things irreconcileable with the opinions of the church. He was next appointed professor of divinity, and while at this college published his first work, “Letters on the History of the Popes, published by Mr. Archibald Bower,” which were written with ease and good humour, and shew various and extensive learning. In 1745 he accompanied the late earl of Shrewsbury, and the hon. James and Thomas Talbot, on their travels through France and Italy. On his 1 return from these travels, he was sent on the English mission, and wished to be settled in London; where he might have access to literary society and the public libraries, with a view to complete his “Lives of the Saints,” on which he had long been engaged; but the vicar apostolic of the middle district claimed him, as belonging to that district, and appointed him, much against his will, to a mission in Staffordshire. Here, however, he did not remain long, being appointed chaplain to Edward duke of Norfolk, and to superintend the education of Mr. Edward Howard, his nephew and presumptive heir, whom he accompanied abroad, but who died soon. During his being at Paris, on this occasion, he completed and sent to press his “Lives | of the Saints, which is said to have cost him the labour of thirty years. At the finishing of it he gave, what hisbiographer very truly calls, a very edifying instance of humility. The manuscript of the first volume having been, submitted to Mr. Cnalloner, the vicar-apostolic of the London district, he recommended the omission of all the notes, that the work might be less expensive and more useful. It is easy to suppose what it must have cost our author to consign to oblivion the fruit of so much labour. He obeyed, however, and to this circumstance it is owing, that in the first edition the notes.are omitted. Some years after, he published the” Life of Mary of the Cross,“a nun in the English convent of the poor Clatvs at Rouen, not, strictly speaking, apiece of biography, but a vehicle for instructions on religious life on Roman catholic principles. Sometime after our author’s return to England from his travels with Mr. Edward Howard, he was chosen president of the English college at St. Omer’s, in which station he continued until his death. He had projected many works besides those already mentioned, and among them, his treatise on the” Moveable Feasts,“which was published, after his death, under the inspection of Mr. Challoner. He proposed writing the lives of bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, and had made copious collections for both, some of which are in the hands of his biographer. He had begun a treatise on” Natural and revealed religion,“being dissatisfied with what Bergier had published on those subjects. Three volumes of his” Discourses“have been published since his decease. As a preacher, however, we are told, that he almost wholly failed. His sermons were sometimes interesting and pathetic; but they were always desultory, and almost always immeasurably long. His” Short life of Sir Toby Matthews,“has lately been published by his biographer. His literary correspondence was very extensive, and among other correspondents of distinction, may be mentioned the learned Lambertini, afterwards pope Benedict XIV. and the late Dn Lowth, bishop of London; and the assistance he afforded to English men of literature has been liberally acknowledged by Dr. Kennicot, and others. After a life spent in devotion to his profession, and in various studies, he died May 15, 1773, in the sixtythird year of his age; and was interred in the chapel of the English college at St. Omers, where a monument of white marble was erected to his memory, with an elegant | Latin inscription. His” Lives of the Saints," although run free from the peculiarities of his predecessors in that branch of biography, is a work of great value and research. It was first published in 1745, 5 vols. 4to; and in 1779, or 1780, an edition was published at Dublin, in 12 vols. 8vo; and in 1799 1800, at Edinburgh, in the same form, to which his nephew, Charles Butler, esq. barrister at law, prefixed a life, from which the preceding sketch is taken. 1


Life as above, 8vo. 1800. As the Lives of the Saints is become a very Scarce and expensive book, it may not be unuseful to add, that a very good “Selection and Abridgement” was published at Newcastle in 1799, vols. 8vo.