Noris, Henry

, one of the most celebrated scholars of the seventeenth century, was born at Verona, Aug. 29, 1631. His baptismal name was Jerom, which he changed tO’Henry, when he entered the order of the Augustines. His family is said to have been originally of England, whence a branch passed into Ireland, and even to Cyprus. When this island was taken by the Turks, a James Noris, who had defended it as general of artillery, settled afterwards at Verona, and it is from this person that the subject of the present article descended. His father’s name was Alexander, and, according to Niceron, published several works, and among them a History of Germany. Maffei, however, attributes this work only to him, which is not a history of Germany, but of the German war from 1618 to the peace of Lubec, translated from the Italian by Alexander Noris. His son discovered, from his infancy, an excellent understanding, great vivacity, and a quick apprehension. His father, having instructed him in the rudiments of grammar, procured an able professor of Verona to be his preceptor. At fifteen, he was admitted a pensioner in the Jesuits’ college at Rimini, where he studied philosophy; after which, he applied himself to the writings of the fathers of the church, particularly those of St. Augustine; and, taking the habit in the convent of Augustine monks of Rimini, he so distinguished himself among that fraternity, that, as soon as he was out of his noviciate, the general of the order sent for him to Rome, in order to give him an opportunity of improving himself in the more solid branches of learning. Here he indulged his favourite propensity for study to the utmost, and spent whole days, | and even nights, in the library of his order at Rome. His daily course of reading was fourteen hours, and this practice he continued till he became a cardinal. It, is easy to conceive that a student of such diligence, and whose memory and comprehension were equally great, must have accumulated a vast stock of knowledge. But for some time his reading was interrupted by the duties of a regent master being imposed on him, according to the usual practice; and we find that for some time he taught at Pesaro, and afterwards at Perugia, where he took his degree of doctor of divinity. Proceeding then to Padua, he applied himself to finish his “History of Pelagianism,” which he had begun at Rome, when he was no more than twentysix: and, having now completed his design, it was printed at Florence in 1673. The great duke of Tuscany invited him, the following year, to that city, made him his chaplain, and professor of ecclesiastical history in the university of Pisa, which the duke had founded with that view.

His “History of Pelagianism,” however, although approved by many learned men, and in fact, the origin of his future advancement, created him many enemies. In it he had defended the condemnation pronounced, in the eighth general council, against Origen and Mopsuesta, the first authors of the Pelagian errors: he also added “An Account of the Schism of Aquileia, and a Vindication of the Books written by St. Augustine against the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.A controversy now arose, which was carried on between him and various antagonists, with much violence on their part, and with much firmness and reputation on his, and his book was at last submitted to the sovereign tribunal of the inquisition; but, although it was examined with the utmost rigour, the author was dismissed without the least censure. It was reprinted twice afterwards, and Noris honoured, by Pope Clement X. with the title of Qualificator of the Holy Office. Notwithstanding this, the charge was renewed against the “Pelagian History,” and it was brought again before the inquisition, in 1676; and was again acquitted of any errors that affected the church. He now was left for sixteen years to the quiet enjoyment of his studies, and taught ecclesiastical history at Pisa, till he was called to Rome by Innocent XII. who made him under-librarian of the Vatican, in 1692. These distinctions reviving the animosity of his opponents, they threw out such insinuations, as obliged the pope to | appoint some learned divines, who had the character of impartiality, to re-examine father Noris’s books, and make their report of them; and their testimony was so much to the advantage of the author, that his holiness made him counsellor of the inquisition. Yet neither did this hinder father Hardouin, one of his adversaries, and the most formidable on account of his erudition, from attacking him warmly, under the assumed title of a “Scrupulous Doctor of the Sorbonne.” Noris tried to remove these scruples, in a work which appeared in 1695, under the title of “An Historical Dissertation concerning the Trinity that suffered in the Flesh;” in which having justified the monks of Scythia, who made use of that expression, he vindicated himself also from the imputation of having attacked the pope’s infallibility, of having censured Vincentius Lirinensis, and other bishops of Gaul, as favourers of Semi-Pelagianism, and of having himself adopted the errors of the bishop of Ypres.

His answers to all these accusations were so much to the satisfaction of the pope, that at length his holiness honoured him with the purple in 1695. After this he was in all the congregations, and employed in the most important affairs, much to the hindrance of his studies, which he used deeply to regret to his friends. Upon the death of cardinal Casanati, he was made chief librarian of the Vatican, in 1700; and, two years afterwards, nominated, among others, to reform the calendar: but he died at Rome, Feb. 23, 1704, of a dropsy. He had the reputation of one of the most learned men in the sixteenth century, which seems justified by his many able and profound writings on subjects of ecclesiastical history and antiquities. Of the latter the most celebrated are, 1. “Annus et Epochse Syro-Macedonum in vetustis urbium Syriae nummis prsesertim Mediceis expositae,Florence, 1691, fol. and 2. “Cenotaphia Pisana Caii et Lucii Caesarum dissertationibus illustrata,Venice, 1681, fol. The whole of his works are comprized in 4 vols. fol. 1729 1732. Some authors mention a fifth volume, but Fabroni gives the contents of only four. They indicate much study of theology, the belles-lettres, sacred and profane history, antiquities and chronology. His History of Pelagianism, as it procured him the most reputation, occasioned also the only uneasiness with which his literary life was disturbed. He had written it with a good deal of caution, and confined himself mostly to historical | detail, mixing very little discussion. The Jesuits, however, took occasion to reproach him with Jansenism, and it must be allowed that while he rejected some particular notions of Jansenius, he leaned not a little to the doctrine of St. Augustine. 1


Fabroni, vol. VI.—Niceron, vols. III and X.—Chaufepie.—Le Clerc’s Bibl. Choisie, vol. IV.—Maffei Verona Illustrata.