Frederick Hervey [Bishop-Earl] (1730-1803)


Life
[Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry; 4th Earl of Bristol] b. 1 Aug., son of Lord John Hervey; ed. Westminster and Corpus Christi, Cambridge; holy orders; toured continent; consec. bishop of Cloyne, 1767; translated to see of Derry, 1768, incurring criticism; an enthusiastic edifier, he built a princely house at Downhill, Co. [London]derry, with the architect Charles Shanahan - possibly to plans by Wyatt or Cameron; built a mausoleum to his brother by Van Nost in the grounds and the celebrated Mussenden Temple, set on the cliff-edge and also designed by Shanahan, being modelled on the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli - which Hervey at first wanted to transport to Britain, but was prevented from so doing by the Pope; John Soane, whom he met in Rome, was engaged to build dog-house and rotunda and an oval dining-room for Downhill; noted for mercurial temper, he once arranged a curates’ race on Downhill Strand for a vacant living;
 
visited Trieste and examined famous caves in Slovenia and Dalmatia, accompanied by the naturalist Alberto Fortis, April-May 1771; he also climbed Vesuvius when in Naples; proposed a Test Oath in the Irish Parliament, effective from 1 June 1774; he was painted by Pompeo Batoni in Rome, 1777 or 1778; succeeded to the earldom of Bristol as 4th Earl with an income of 20,000 p.a. on death of elder brother, 1779; advocated Catholic relief and participated in Irish Volunteers; narrowly escaped prosecution for sedition when he spoke publicly of rebellion; he was made a freeman of Dublin and Derry; parted with Volunteers when they rejected his petition for Catholic membership at Dungannon, 1782; settled at Ickworth - the family seat since the 15th century, 1781-82; elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1782; separated from his wife, who remained at Ickworth while he travelled; he had a scandalous affair with Countess Lichtenau;
 
raised another neo-classical mansion at Ballyscullion, Co. Derry, 1787, with Shanahan as architect once again; incl. a large rotunda, but remained unfinished, to be demolished in 1813; the portico removed to a Belfast church; returned to Ickworth in 1792, and began planning improvements; building began in 1795, employing Francis Sandys and later Mario Asprucci; imprisoned in Rome for 9 months when the French occupied the city; [var: imprisoned for 18 months in Milan, on suspicion of spying;] lost his treasures, valued at £20,000; disliked by George III and called ‘that wicked prelate’ by him; d. 8 July, at Albano, in the outhouse of an Italian peasant who was unable to entertain a Protestant prelate; bur. at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk; a monument at Ickworth was subscribed by the people of Derry, Protestant and Catholic alike; Bishop Hervey summer school was in augurated at Bellarena in 2012 (dir. Willa Murphy); Hervey’s portrait with the young Miss Mussenden is the subject of a light poem in Paul Durcan’s Irish National Gallery collection (Crazy About Women, 1991). ODNB DIB DUB


“Frederick Hervey with his grand-daughter Lady Caroline Crichton
in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese”
by Hugh Douglas Hamilton

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Criticism
  • R. Dunlop, ‘Frederic Hervey’ [article], in the Dictionary of National Biography (1891) ;
  • George Ashton Chamberlain, ‘Frederic Hervey: The Earl-Bishop of Derry’, in The Irish Church Quarterly, 6, 24 (Oct. 1913), pp.271-86 [see extract].
  • William S. Childe-Pemberton, The Earl Bishop: The Life of Frederic Hervey, Bishop of Derry, Earl of Bristol, 2 vols. (London: Hurst & Blackett 1924) [epigraph from Goethe’s memoir of his encounter with the Eearl, whom he described as a man of a single idea];
  • John Richard Walsh, Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry, Le ‘bienfaiteur des catholiques’ (Maynooth 1972) 59pp.;
  • Brian Fothergill, The Mitred Earl: An eighteenth-century Eccentric, The Life of Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry (London: Faber 1974), 254pp., ill.;
  • Stephen Price, The Earl Bishop (Great Sea Ltd. 2011), 120pp., col. ills.;
  • Willa Murphy, ‘The “oral-bishop”: The Epicurean Theology of Bishop Frederick Hervey, 17301803’, in History Ireland, 20, 3 (July/Aug. 2012), q.pp.
 
Fiction
  • Magdalen King-Hall, The Edifying Bishop: The story of Frederick Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (London: Peter Davies 1951), 232pp. [a novel.]

See also two letters written by Hervey to John Strange in 1771 recounting his travels to caves and springs in Istia and Dalmatia, in Trevor R. Shaw, ‘Bishop Hervey at Trieste and in Slovenia, 1771’, Acta Carsologica (Ljubljana 2001), pp.279-91 [available online as pdf.]

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Commentary
C. L. Falkiner, in Studies in Irish History and Biography (1901), on Hervey, ‘the most singular representative of the class of bishops who had been chosen to preside over the spiritual destinies of the Irish people’ [English in Ireland, Cabinet ed. ii.413]. Quotes Pope on Hervey, as Sporus: ‘Sporus! That white curd of asses’ milk, / His wit all seesay between that and this, / And he himself one vile antithesis. / Amphibious thing! that acting either part, / The trifling head or the corrupted heart. / Fop at the toilet, flatterer at the board, / Now trips a lady, and now struts a lord.’ [Epistle to Arbuthnot?] Falkiner comments: ‘But the jibes at Lord Hervey’s understanding were altogether inapplicable to one of the most capable politicians, shrewdest observers, and most caustic writers of his time; and the author of the Secret Memoirs of the Court of George II has had intellectually an abundant, though posthumous, revenge for the oblique slanders of the Epistle to Arbuthnot, the Imitations of Horace, and the direct insults of Letter to a Noble Lord. [61] Hervey is cited in the Beggar’s Opera, ‘Now, Hervey, fair of face, full well / With thee, youth’s youngest daughter, sweet Lepel.’ [62].

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George Ashton Chamberlain, ‘Frederic Hervey: The Earl-Bishop of Derry’, in The Irish Church Quarterly, 6, 24 (Oct. 1913), pp.271-86: No prelate of the Irish Establishment has so vividaly stamped the impress of his personality upon the see over which, in the providence of the English Government, he was called upon to preside, and few bishops in Western Christendom have cut such a figure in the public life of their day, as Frederic Hervey, Earl of Bishop and Bishop of Derry. His episcopate (1767-1803) belongs to the most brilliant period of Irish history: his name is printed large on the same page as those of Flood, Grattan, and Fitzgibbon; but to the serious and moving drama of those days he added no lustre save the meretricious tinsel of melodrama. The character and motives of this extraordinary and eccetric man still form a puzzle to the student of his time, and even the msot acute and patient historian of the eighteenth century has to leave the riddle unsolved. A mass of contradictions, in his own person he illustrated that line of the spiteful satire in which Pope vented his spleen upon his father, “And he himself one vile antithesis.” Desiring to play the lofty role of the Lucullus of his day, he only just fell short of becoming its Borgia. With a reckless prodigality which constantly demanded an overdraft upon the enormous revenues of his opulent see, he combined a skill in finance which raised those emoluments from £7,000 to £20,000 a year. With a looseness of morals which shocked even the profligacy of Naples, he compbined a chaste and delicate taste for painting and sculpute which made him the darling of the Roman schools. If there be any truth in the remark of Gibbon, that every great man is something of a builder, the magnificent mansions at Downhill and Ballyscullion testify that Lord Bristol had at least one of the elements of greatness. [...]. (p.271; available at JSTOR online.)

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Estyn Evans: In Irish Folk Ways (1957), Evans accredits the Bishop of Derry with the remark that Ireland possessed ‘nothing curious [enough] to engage admiration and nothing horrid enough to stare at.’ (p.5.)

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Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (Columbia UP 1959) - of Irish legislative independence in 1782: ‘[...] Grattan was caught upon a dilemma. He was intent not merely on reform but on the preservation of the constitution and the forms of ordered government, yet the only hope for reform lay with the more {21} swashbuckling elements in the Volunteers. These gentlemen, in confirmation of his apprehensions, descended upon Dublin in armed bodies. Nominally they were under the command of the wan and romantic Lord Charlemont. Their most congenial spirit, however, was the Bishop of Derry, a buoyant and unbalanced personality who had traveled to town ostentatiously protected by the cavalry troop of his nephew George Fitzgerald, later to be hanged after a long and alarming career as a ruffian.’ (p.21; cites Mary McCarhty, Fighting Fitzgerald and Other Papers, p.81-181 [sic].)

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Hubert Butler, in Escape from the Anthill (1985), remarks on use of Lucretius’s lines for temple of Mussenden, Suave mari magno ... [&], translated as, ‘It is sweet when on the great sea the winds are convulsing the waters to watch another’s struggles from dry land. Not because it delights one that another should be in travail, but because it is sweet to observe what evils you have not endured.’

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R. E. Ward & C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (Cath. Univ. of America Press 1988), pp.306-09, reports that the Bishop of Derry was the recipient of a long letter from Charles O’Conor [5 March 1774], relative to the Catholic oath of allegiance to the Hanoverians, which Hervey had suggested they present, along with an abjuration of the temporal authority of the Pope. Note that in the succeeding letter to Daniel McNamara, O’Conor expresses the hope that ‘our formulary was the one brought in’ when the Oath was proposed in the Irish House of Commons (p.310), and soon after notes that the ‘Herveyan test is passed into law but the framers have never been suspected of ability, and had they any and were serious, they would not tack a controverted and controvertible proposition on the back of a true one.’ (p.312).

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard O’Brien (1989): At the same juncture, Frederick Augustus Hervey, Lord Bristol, then in Rome, was bombarding politicians with warnings of a general exodus of Catholics. He claimed to have knowledge of a planned invasion, with Irish Brigade officers; and later claimed that his information transmitted to Lord North and Lord Hillsborough determined the British government’s policy on Catholic relief. [127]. Note also his hand in advancing the Catholic Relief measure of 1778 [see Viscount Taaffe, q.v.]. Further: The Bishop of Derry was furious [that the penal statues against the Catholic ecclesiastics remained unaltered by the Relief Act of 1788] because he considered that ‘the people of that persuasion ... hold everything cheap in comparison with their religion’ and that the masses and clergy would consider the catholic ‘gentlemen sacrificed liberty of religion to the security of property.’ [133]

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Conor Cruise O’Brien, The Great Melody (1992), Hervey, Lord Bristol, sought to have the Catholics of property enfranchised; Rogers (op. cit., p.120) shows that this measure was of limited importance as only 300 to 500 Catholics would thus be enfranchised. (p.247; ref. Rev. Francis Rogers, The Irish Volunteers and Catholic Emancipation, London 1934.)

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References
Library of Herbert Bell
, Belfast holds Frederick Hervey, The Earl-Bishop of Derry (n.a. / n.d.) [pamphlet]; Magdalen King-Hall, The Edifying Bishop, Frederick Hervey [n.d.]; William S. Childe-Pemberton, The Earl Bishop (2 vols. London 1924).

PRONI contains the Hervey-Bruce Papers comprising circa 1,250 original and copied documents (mainly the former), c.1750-c.1950, relating mainly to Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry from 1768 to his death, and to his cousins and successors in his Co. Londonderry estate, the Bruce family, baronets of Downhill, Castlerock, Co. Londonderry.

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Notes
Portraits: Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, pastel, seated, on Janiculum Hill; also a bust by Christopher Hewetson [see Ann Cruikshank and the Knight of Glin, Irish Portraits 1600-1860 [Catalogue] (1969), p.52, 85]; also port. included in engraving of House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green) [as figure No. 165 in key, entitled ‘Earl of Bristol and celebrated bishop of Derry’].

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Downhill: Downhill was bequeathed after his death to his cousin, the Rev. Henry [Hervey Aston] Bruce, rector of Tamlaghtfinlagan, Ballykelly, and the Bishop's steward at Downhill, and who learnt that was due to inherit in 1791. The house inhabited by the Bruce family until 1950, when it was gutted after an accidental fire occasioned by old wiring. The Mussenden Temple is now in the care of the National Trust. It was built in honour of Frideswide Bruce, sister of the Rev. Henry Bruce, and wife of Daniel Mussenden, and became a memorial to her since she died before it was completed. It is now open to the public and available as a wedding portrait venue. (See PRONI Hervey/Bruce Papers, “Introduction” - online.)

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Kith & Kin: Lord Charles Arthur Hervey (1808-1894), Bishop of Bath, fourth son of Frederic William Hervey, 1st Mraquess of Bristol and Elizabeth Upton, dg. of Clotworthy Upton, 1st Baron Templeton, and who is associated with the introduction of university extension courses in connection with education institutes in Bury St. Edmunds. Her married Patience, dg. of John Singleton (born Fowke) of Hacely, Hampshire, and Mell, County Louth, in 1839, with whom twelve children.

Other relatives and collateral descendents incl.:
  • Hon. Augustus Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol, Chief Secretary for Ireland (1766-67) - naval career, and port. by Joshua Reynolds; MP for Bury St. Edmunds ... &c.; latterly lived in Norwood House with his mistress, Mary Nesbitt [see Wikipedia page];
  • Lord Charles Arthur Hervey (1808-1894), Bishop of Bath [see supra].
  • Lord Francis Hervey, Member of Parliament for Bury St. Edmunds, 1874-80.

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