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Browne, Henry Martyn, 1853-1941, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/72
  • Person
  • 07 August 1853-14 March 1941

Born: 07 August 1853, Birkenhead, Liverpool, Cheshire, England
Entered: 31 October 1877, Milltown Park, Dublin
Ordained: 22 September 1889, St Beuno's, Wales
Final vows: 02 February 1897
Died: 14 March 1941, St Beuno’s, Wales

Part of the Heythrop, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England community at the time of death

by 1888 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) studying
by 1895 at Roehampton London (ANG) making Tertianship
by 1923 at Campion House, Osterley, London (ANG) teaching
by 1927 at Mount St London (ANG) writing
by 1938 at Roehampton, London (ANG) writing
by 1941 at Heythrop, Oxfordshire, England (ANG) writing

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Browne, Henry Martyn
by Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood

Browne, Henry Martyn (1853–1941), classicist and Jesuit priest, was born 7 August 1853 in Claughton, Woodchurch, Cheshire, England, the second of four sons and one daughter of John Wilson Browne, hardware merchant, born in Portugal (1824), and Jane Susan Browne (née McKnight), one of eight children of Robert McKnight, farmer, and Jane McKnight (née McLean) from Kelton, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire. Henry grew up in Birmingham, where his father set up in business. He lost his mother (d. 14 May 1859) when he was almost six; in 1862 his father married Agnes Bowstead and had another two children.

Brown was educated at King Edward's school, Birmingham, and in 1872 entered New College, Oxford, as a commoner. He took moderations in 1873, obtaining second-class honours in Greek and Latin literature, but left the university the following year, without taking his second public examination – he was granted a BA in 1891 (MA 1895) upon embarking on his academic career – having converted to the catholic faith and joined the Society of Jesus. He later gave an account of his conversion in The city of peace (1903). In 1877 he joined the Irish province and entered the novitiate at Milltown Park. He took his vows in 1879, remained for a year at Milltown Park as a junior, and taught at Tullabeg, Tullamore, Co. Offaly (1880–84). He was ordained in 1889 at St Beuno's, north Wales. Five years earlier he had begun a degree in theology at Milltown Park, which he completed in 1890. He was then appointed to teach classics at UCD, then run by the Jesuits, filling the post formerly held by Gerard Manley Hopkins (qv). During this period he published the Handbook of Greek composition (1885; 8th ed. 1921) and Handbook of Latin composition (1901; 2nd ed. 1907). At the founding of the NUI in 1908 he was appointed professor of Greek at UCD, a position he held until his retirement in 1922.

What characterised Browne's approach to classical scholarship was his interest in the ‘reality’ of the ancient world, which he tried to convey to students through visual and tactile materials (maps, lantern slides, photographs, artefacts, and replicas). He became an enthusiastic advocate of archaeology, and particularly of prehistoric archaeology. He gave public lectures on Minoan and Mycenaean archaeology and – a first for Ireland – he introduced these subjects into the university's syllabus. In his popular Handbook of Homeric study (1905; 2nd ed., 1908) he debated extensively the implications for Homeric studies of the recent archaeological discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean. His greatest legacy to UCD was the Museum of Ancient History (afterwards renamed the Classical Museum), inaugurated at Earlsfort Terrace in 1910. Browne built up his teaching collection of more than 5,000 Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities, replicas, and coins through his personal contacts with archaeologists and museums in England, through purchases on the antiquities market – an important purchase being that of Greek vases at the Christie's sale of the Thomas Hope collection in 1917 – and through loans from the National Museum of Ireland. He became a member of the committee of the British Association for Museums, and chairman of the archaeological aids committee of the Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching. In this capacity he visited the USA in 1916 to inquire into the educational role of American museums, and included his observations in Our renaissance: essays on the reform and revival of classical studies (1917). His practical approach to the classics led him to experiment with Greek choral rhythms; he gave demonstrations at American universities, and regularly chanted Greek choral odes to his students. He had many extra-curricular interests. For several years he was in charge of the University Sodality. He played a major role in the foundation of the Classical Association of Ireland (he was its chairman in 1913) and served on the Council of Hellenic Studies. He was involved with the St Joseph's Young Priests Society and supported the work of the Mungret Apostolic School.

After his retirement from UCD Browne left Ireland, where he had resided at the Jesuit residence, 35 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin, and was transferred to London, first to Osterley, then Farm Street in Mayfair, and in 1939 to Manresa House, Roehampton. During this period of his life he channelled his energy to the study of the English martyrs, and to catechism and conversion. He wrote The catholic evidence movement (1924) and Darkness or light? An essay in the theory of divine contemplation (1925), and tried to improve the fate of the under-privileged youth of Hoxton by organising and running a boys’ club there. He returned to Dublin a few times, and he wrote with Father Lambert McKenna (qv) a history of UCD, A page of Irish history (1930). His last publication was A tragedy of Queen Elizabeth (1937).

Browne died 14 March 1941 at Heythrop College, near Oxford, where he was evacuated because of the air raids on London. His brothers, all heirless, continued the merchant tradition of the family. His sister, Lucy Jane, died in a Birmingham asylum in 1917. His half-brother Arthur Edward Wilson died in South Africa in 1941 where he lived with his wife and five children. Browne's correspondence relating to the UCD museum is in the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Winchester College, and the NMI. Some papers are in the archives of the British Province, Mount Street, London. The whereabouts of a known portrait are uncertain; it was reproduced in his obituary in the magazine of the British Province with the caption ‘from a Dublin portrait’.

Browne family wills, inc. John Wilson Browne (1886) and Charles Knightly Browne (1926); census returns, United Kingdom, 1851 (Woodchurch, Birkkenhead), 1881 and 1891 (Solihull, Birmingham); ‘Browne, Henry Martyn’, New College, Oxford, Register for 1872; Oxford University Calendar, 1873, 1892, 1893; ‘The Cretan discoveries’, Freeman's Journal, 11 Feb., 17 Feb. 1905; National Museum of Ireland: letter books, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1921; University College Dublin: Calendar for . . . 1911–1912, 457–8; H. Browne, Museum of Ancient History: report, 1913 (1913); H. Browne, Museum of Ancient History: Report, 1914 (1915); H. Browne, Introduction to numismatics (1915); University College Dublin: Report of the President, 1922–1923, 3–4; Fathers of the Society of Jesus, A page of Irish history: story of University College Dublin, 1883–1909 (1930); ‘Obituary’, University College Dublin: Report of the President, 1940–1941, 16–17; ‘Obituary’, Irish Province News, iv (1941), 566–9; WWW; M. Tierney, Struggle with fortune: a miscellany for the centenary of the Catholic University of Ireland, 1854–1954 (1954), 37–8, 90; W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the classical tradition (1976), 65–6, 68–9, 168–9, 240; C. Haywood, The making of the classical museum: antiquarians, collectors and archaeologists. An exhibition of the Classical museum, 2003 [exhibition catalogue]

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 3rd Year No 1 1927
Jubilee : Fr Henry Browne
Fr Henry Browne was fêted at Leeson Street on November 1st. He had his share of College work in Tullabeg. But as far back as 1891 he was sent to University College, Dublin, where he played a full man's part in making that Jesuit establishment the first College in Ireland of the old “Royal”. Even “Queen’s” Belfast notwithstanding its enormous advantages, had eventually to acknowledge the superiority of the Dublin College, and the men who worked it.
Fr. Browne's Oxford training was a valuable asset in bringing University College so well to the front. He remained Professor in the Royal, and then in the National University to the year 1922, and is now engaged, amongst other things, in doing a work dear to the heart of men like Francis Regis, looking after the poor, especially children, in the worst slums of London.

Irish Province News 9th Year No 1 1934

Leeson St :
Monday, November 20th, was a red-letter day in the history of Leeson street, for it witnessed the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the House's foundation. In November, 1833. the Community came into being at 86 St Stephen's Green, where it remained until 1909, when the building was handed over to the newly constituted National University. The Community, however, survived intact and migrated to a nearby house in Lesson Street, where it renewed its youth in intimate relationship with the Dublin College of the University.
Its history falls this into two almost equal periods, different, indeed, in many ways, yet essentially one, since the energies of the Community during each period have been devoted to the same purpose, the furtherance of Catholic University Education in Ireland.
A precious link between the two eras is Father Tom Finlay, who was a member of the Community in 1883, and ever since has maintained his connection with it. His presence on Monday evening, restored to his old health after a severe illness was a source of particular pleasure to the whole gathering. It was also gratifying to see among the visitors Father Henry Browne, who had crossed from England at much personal inconvenience to take part in the celebration. Not only was Father Browne a valued member of the Community for over thirty years, but he acquired additional merit by putting on record, in collaboration with Father McKenna, in that bulky volume with the modest title " A Page of Irish History," the work achieved by the House during the first heroic age of its existence. It was a pleasure, too, to see hale and well among those present Father Joseph Darlington, guide, philosopher and friend to so many students during the two periods. Father George O'Neill, who for many years was a distinguished member of the Community, could not, alas. be expected to make the long journey from his newer field of fruitful labor in Werribee, Australia.
Father Superior, in an exceptionally happy speech, described the part played by the Community, especially in its earlier days of struggle, in the intellectual life of the country. The venerable Fathers who toiled so unselfishly in the old house in St. Stephens Green had exalted the prestige of the Society throughout Ireland. Father Finlay, in reply, recalled the names of the giants of those early days, Father Delany, Father Gerald Hopkins, Mr. Curtis and others. Father Darlington stressed the abiding influence of Newman, felt not merely in the schools of art and science, but in the famous Cecilia Street Medial School. Father Henry Browne spoke movingly of the faith, courage and vision displayed by the leaders of the Province in 1883, when they took on their shoulders such a heavy burden. It was a far cry from that day in 1883, when the Province had next to no resources, to our own day, when some sixty of our juniors are to be found, as a matter of course preparing for degrees in a National University. The progress of the Province during these fifty years excited feelings of
admiration and of profound gratitude , and much of that progress was perhaps due to the decision, valiantly taken in 1883 1883, which had raised the work of the Province to a higher plane.

Irish Province News 16th Year No 4 1941

Obituary :

Father Henry Browne

Father Henry Browne died at Heythrop College on March 14 1941. He had been in failing health for the past two or three years, and had recently been evacuated from Roehampton to Heythrop owing to the air-raids over London. To quote the words of an English Father who knew him well in these last years “here he occupied himself mostly in prayer, and on March 14th brought to a serene close eighty-eight years of arduous, enthusiastic, joyful, supernatural work for the Master”.

Father Henry Browne was born at Birkenhead on August 7, 1853 but his father, Mr. J. Wilson Browne, was a Birmingham man, his mother was Joan McKnight. Who's Who contains a notice of his grandfather, Captain J. Murray Browne, who “fought at Albuera and throughout the Peninsular War, and joined the Portuguese army where he became Assistant Quartennaster-General under Marshal Beresford.” Father Browne was educated at King Edward's High School, Birmingham, and went to New College, Oxford. He was received into the Church in 1874, when his undergraduate course was not yet completed, and was advised by Cardinal Manning to interrupt his studies. Je joined the Irish Province in 1877, and entered the novitiate at Milltown Park on October 31st. After his first vows he spent a year as a Junior at Milltown Park. In 1880 he went to Tullabeg, where he spent four years as master under two Rectors, Fr Sturzo and Fr. George Kelly. The Intermediate System was then in its early stages, and Mr. Browne taught Rhetoric and Mathematics (1880-81),
Humanities (1881-2) , 1 Grammar (1882-3), Syntax, Classics and English (1883-4).
From 1884-6 Father Browne studied Philosophy at Milltown Park, where he had Fathers Peter Finlay and William Hayden as his Professors. In 1886 he went to St. Beuno's, where he was ordained in the summer of 1889. He returned to Milltown for his fourth year of theology. and was then sent to University College to teach Latin and Greek, replacing Father Richard Clarke of the English Province.
From 1890 to 1909 (with the exception of one year, 1894-95, which he spent as a Tertian Father at Roehampton), Father Browne was kept busy in Dublin as Professor of Classics and Fellow of the Royal University of Ireland. His energy was simply amazing. Two early Handbooks of Latin and Greek Composition went through various editions, though they have since lost their vogue. His Handbook of Homeric Study was for many years counted the best popular introduction in English to the famous controversy, on which Father Browne
was never weary of lecturing his own students at U.C.D. He took a leading part in the foundation of the Classical Association of Ireland and was elected President of this body in 1913. He was also a member of the Council of the Society for Hellenic Studies, Chairman (for a time) of the Archaeologica Aids Committee of the Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching, and member of the Committee of the British Association for Museums. In this connection he visited the U.S.A. in 1916 as a member of a special Committee to report on the American museum system, and his volume of essays (Our Renaissance : Essays on the Reform and Revival of Classical Studies), published in 1917 reflects his interests in these strenuous years. Father Browne's old students will not need to be reminded of his immense zest for all forms of archaeological research. He counted several of the leading English
archaeologists as among his personal friends. There had been an earlier stage when Greek music had attracted his attention - though it must be confessed that Father Browne's aptitude for musical theory was disputed by some of his colleagues. But who could resist so great a vital force? Father Browne would strum a piano for hours on end, convincing himself (and some others) that Greek music was most closely connected (through Gregorian music) with ancient Irish music as represented in Moore's Melodies. Who's Who contains the following condensed statement of this phase of Father Browne's activities “He has experimented in the melodic rendering of Greek choral rhythms giving demonstrations before the British Association at the Dublin meeting (1908) and at Columbia and Chicago Universities.
It seems a far cry from these external activities to the inner motive which explains the dual character of Father Henry Browne's life. But those who lived with him knew that he had other interests. For many years he was' exceptionally successful as Director of the Students Sodality in the old University College, giving monthly talks to large numbers. As early as 1896 he had been drawn into the work of Saint Joseph's Young Priests' Society by his lifelong friend and fellow-convert, Father Joseph Darlington. Father Darlington had to leave Ireland for a year to make his tertianship, and he succeeded (with some difficulty) in persuading Father Browne to take his place for one year. Those first hesitations were soon forgotten, and Father Browne continued to edit Saint Joseph’s Sheaf, and to be the life and soul of the Society for the next twenty-five years. He was particularly keen on the work of the Mungret Apostolic School, and deserves to be reckoned as one of the chief benefactors of that important work for the missionary priesthood. He was also a pioneer propagandist for the Chinese Mission here in Ireland. In 1915 he helped to re-organise Saint Joseph's Young Priests' Society as a national work, approved and commended by the Irish Hierarchy.
The last twenty years of Father Browne's life were spent outside of Ireland. Although he came back to Dublin more than once, and was always eager to keep in touch with the Leeson Street community.
A brief record of his activities during these years will help to complete the picture of this strenuous worker for Christ’s Kingdom. For the first two years Father Browne was stationed at Osterley, where he helped Father Lester up his work for late vocations (Our Lady's Young Priests), and taught Latin to some of the students. In a recent issue of Stella Maris Father Clement Tigar, who has succeeded Father Lester at Osterley, pays warm tribute to Father Browne's work for this good cause. He also wrote a pamphlet on the K.B.S. movement, and a very pleasant book on the recent work of the Catholic Evidence Guild (1924). This latter work made a special appeal to Father Browne - zeal for the conversion of Protestant England - and he soon threw himself heart and soul into the work of open-air lecturing and catechising. His older friends in Dublin, who knew him for the most part as the very type of an academic Professor of Greek were first startled, then amused to hear that Father Browne was exceptionally successful in this new role. He had a knack of answering casual hecklers in their own style - his answer was often so completely unexpected (and occasionally so irrelevant) that the heckler was left speechless with surprise, and unable to cause any further trouble. From Osterley, Father Browne was soon transferred to Farm Street, where he added a new field to his labours. This was a Newsboys' Club which he himself organised and directed at Horton one of the most difficult of London's slum areas. It was open to boys of every religious denomination. The mere labour of going down to Horton from Farm Street on several nights a week would have been sufficient to flaunt a younger and more vigorous man. But Father Browne now well on in his seventies, was indomitable.
In 1927 Father Browne came back for a visit to Dublin, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee with the Fathers of the Lesson Street community. In 1930 and 1931 he was here again, and was busily engaged on compiling a short history of the old University College, with the collaboration of Father Lambert McKenna. The book appeared in 1930 under the title “A Page of Irish History”. In the next year Father Browne took part in the Congress of the Irish Province which was held in University Hall, Hatch Street. for the purpose of studying the Exercises. He chose for his share in the discussion the subject of Ignatian Prayer - always a favourite topic with him in private conversation - and his comments will be found in “Our Colloquium”, pp. 129-131. He had already published a book on the theory of mystical contemplation under the title “Darkness or Light? : An Essay in the Theory of Divine Contemplation” (Herder, 1925). Many years earlier (1903) he had edited a volume entitled “The City of Peace”, in which he gathered together various autobiographical accounts of recent conversions to the Catholic Church. His own account of his conversion to the true Faith at Oxford is well worth reading for the light it throws on his own strong direct and outspoken character.
Hoxton Club and these many other activities filled Father Browne's life until 1984, when he was in his eighty-second year. He had already made plans for the transference of the Club to other hands, and it was finally passed over to the management of a joint committee of past students of Stonyhurst and the Sacred Heart Convent Roehampton. He himself felt that the end was near, but his energy was not yet spent. For the next few years he threw himself with all his old fire and enthusiasm into one last campaign for the conversion of England
through the intercession of Teresa. Higginson, in whom he had implicit faith. An adverse decision came from Rome some three years ago and Father Browne found this set-bask one of the severest trials in his long life. But he never hesitated in his obedience and submission to authority, and his faith in the ultimate conversion of his fellow countrymen never wavered for an instant. The present writer visited him frequently in the last years of his life, and it was impossible to resist the impression of a life that was more and more absorbed in the work of prayer for his fellow-Christians. Old memories of Dublin days would come back to him, but the conversion of England was his main preoccupation. He had asked to be moved from Farm Street to Roehampton, so that he might prepare himself for death in the company of the novices. But it was not to be. The air-raids on Roehampton made evacuation a duty, and Father Browne was transferred some months before his death to Heythrop near Oxford. Old memories of Oxford days. and of his own conversion, must have come back to him with double force. Those who knew him say that his last months were spent mainly in prayer. He was in his eighty-eighth year, but still unwearied in his zeal, when the end came at last, and he has been laid to rest at Heythrop College, which is now one of the most active centres of that campaign for the conversion of England which lay nearer to his heart than any other human cause. May he rest in peace. (A.G.)

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Henry Browne SJ 1853-1941
Fr Henry Browne was born of Anglican parents at Birkenhead, England, on August 7th 1853. He was educated at King Edward’s High School, Birmingham and New College Oxford, and entered the Catholic Church in 1874. Three years later he joined the Irish Province of the Society at Milltown Park. He pursued his higher studies at Milltown Park and at St Beuno’s, North Wales, and was ordained priest in 1889.

In the following year he began his long association with University College Dublin as Professor of Ancient Classics and Fellow of the Royal University of Ireland. During these fruitful years, 1890-1922, Fr Browne’s talent as lecturer, writer, organiser found its full scope. In addition to a very useful volume dealing with Greek and Latin composition, he was the author of “A Handbook of Homeric Studies”, which held its own as the best secular introduction to a famous controversy. He took a leading part in the foundation of the Classical Association of Ireland, and was a member of the Council of the Society for Hellenic Studies and of the Committee of the Irish Association of Museums.

Another side of Fr Browne’s activities in Dublin during these years was the zeal he displayed in promoting vocations to te missionary priesthood. As early as 1896 he had been drawn into the work of St Joseph’s Young Priests Society, which he served for a quarter of a century.

The last twenty years of Fr Browne's life were spent outside Ireland, and marked what we might call its Second Spring. He helped Fr lester in his work for late vocations at Osterley, London, and in open-air lecturing and catechising. In these years date his very pleasant book on the work of the Catholic Evidence Guild. On his transfer to Farm Street, he added a new field to his labours, a newsboys club in Hoxton in the East End of London.

He remained in touch with the Irish province during this period of his life, and wrote an account of the old University College in “A Page of Irish History”. The story about his own conversion to the faith is told in “The City of Peace” (1903), and also in a chapter of a book “Roads to Rome” by Rev John O’Brien. Deserving also of special mention is Fr Browne’s work on the theory of mystical contemplation entitled “Darkness or Light” (1925).

Fr Browne closed his strenuous apostolic life on March 14th 1941 at St Beuno’s, North Wales, where he had been evacuated during the air-raids of World War II, interested to the end in the work for the conversion of Protestant England.