Henry Charles Lea.

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HENRY CHARLES LEA

1825-1909



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PRELIMINARY MEMOIR.



^ Henry Charles Lea was born in Philadelphia September

19, 1825. He was a descendant in the sixth generation from
John Lea, a member of the Society of Friends, who accompanied
William Penn on his second visit to America in 1699. John Lea
was a descendant in the seventh generation from John Lygh, of
Chippenham, County Wilts, England, who died there in 1503.
Mr. Lea's maternal grandfather, Mathew Carey, was prosecuted for
his boldness in advocating in his newspaper the cause of Ireland,
and came from Dublin id America in 1784, founding in 1785 the
publishing house now carried on by his descendants in the fourth
generation under the firm name of Lea & Febiger. His father,
Isaac Lea, was a distinguished naturalist. His uncle, Henry C.
Carey, political ' economist and publicist, was the well known
advocate of the principle of protection to home industry, which
has been a vital factor in promoting the unparalleled development of
American manufacturing. Mr. Lea was educated at home, under
teachers, never at school or college. He entered his father's publish-
ing house in January, 1843, became partner in 1851, carried on the
business alone from 1865 to 1880, and then retired.

Mr. Lea married, on May 27, 1850, Anna Caroline, daughter of
William Latta Jaudon, of Huguenot ancestry.

Literary Work. Superstition and Force: Essays on the
Wager of Law, the Wager of Battle, the Ordeal and Torture,
First edition, 1866; second edition, 1870; third edition, 1878;
' fourth edition, 1892. An Italian translation will shortly appear.

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Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy, First edition, 1867 ;
second edition, 1884; third edition, in two volumes, octavo, 1907
(London reprint).

Studies in Church History: The Rise of the Temporal
Power, Benefit of Clergy, Excommunication, The Early Church
and Slavery, First edition, 1869; second edition, 1883.

Translations and Other Rhymes. Privately printed, 1882.

A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Three volumes,
octavo, 1888. French translation by M. Salomon Reinach, Paris,
1900.^ A German translation, of which two volumes have appeared,
will shortly be completed by the eminent scholars Joseph Hansen, of
Cologne, and Herrmann Haupt, of Giessen. An Italian translation
is in course of publication.

Chapters from the Religious History of Spain Connected with
the Inquisition, 1890.

A Formulary of the Papal Penitentiary in the Thirteenth
Century, 1892.

A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences. Three
volumes, octavo, 1896.

The Moriscos of Spain, their Conversion and Expulsion, 1901.

A History of the Inquisition of Spain. Four volumes, octavo,
1906-1907. A German translation, abridged, is in preparation.

The Inquisition in the Spanish Dependencies. One volume,
octavo, 1908.

Besides these more extended works, Mr. Lea contributed many
shorter studies and separate articles to historical and other journals.

The salient characteristic of Mr. Lea's historical work is
the absence of bias. He respected every man's right to his own

* It is worthy of note that this translation was circulated in France by the Govern-
ment as an aid in the recent momentous struggle resulting in the separation of Church
and State in that country. The power of American scholarship has had no more
striking recognition than in this instance of its influence in the affairs of the
Old World.

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religious views, and particularly avoided anything in the nature of
proselyting.^ He held no brief for or against any creed, and no
reader of his pages can discover therefrom whether he was Catholic
or Protestant. The scales of fairness could not be tried by any
more conclusive test. He was solely concerned with? the truth, and
in its ascertainment he set aside any works of opinion, going directly
to the records of the time. From these original and incontrovertible
sources he drew comprehensive material, illuminated the facts with
profound learning, and both by setting them in effective juxtaposition
and by pointing out their reasonable interpretation he carried con-
viction to all candid minds. In weighing evidence he trained his
mind to the finest balance. His historical method was developed
with scientific exactitude. He possessed the genius of taking infinite
pains, no effort being too great for his industry in ascertaining all the
facts bearing on a subject or in setting them forth instructively. His
method of work required more than double writing in creating the
finished manuscript. The first step was an exhaustive reading of
everything relating to the subject in hand.^ His reflections were
set down, with copious notes and bibliographical references, all

* In conceding the right to translate his Inquisition of the Middle Ages into Italian,
Mr. Lea wrote to Professor Domenico Battaini: "I have never sought to influence
the religious beliefs of others, but I have always been inspired with the desire to
ascertain and set forth impartially the absolute facts of history and let them teach
their own lessons."

* Any treatment of these subjects which was to be anything but superficial and
temporary involved years of labor in the great folio collections of law and theology, in
out-of-the-way tracts and pamphlets, and in the Ubraries and archives of every part of
Europe. From this life of patient toil Mr. Lea never shrank. This self-made scholar
set himself to attack some of the hardest problems of the world's history, whose
difficulties were to prove the measure of his success. From the outset he formed the
habit of going directly to the original sources. His most mature work was the History
of the Inquisition of Spain. The subject is intricate and thorny, the materials were
for the most part unprinted and uncalendared, and except for certain publications of
the author, scarcely anything had been done in the way of preliminary exploration or
monographic investigation. Under such conditions the historian was obliged to be
quarryman as well as architect, and the four solid volumes which he produced were
fashioned out of the solid rock of original documents. — Tribute to Henry Charles Lea^
Proceedings of th^ Massachusetts Historical Society^ December, 1909. See also foot-
note, page 10. •

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systematically arranged in provisional chapters, with subheadings,
and marginal indexes. Thus the scattered parts of each subject
were brought into rational connection, and the development of
events was traced from cause to effect, perhaps centuries apart. In
this organization of material from the evolutionary point of view,
which is one of the main distinctions between the modem science
of history and the narratives of early writers, Mr. Lea was an
acknowledged master. The preliminary manuscript when com-
pleted brought the whole of each topic before his mind, and it
was then entirely rewritten and greatly condensed. Mr. Lea
held that only the author could properly index a book, and he
bestowed no less care on this important instrument than upon the
text itself. His workmanship was complete, everything else being
subordinate to this. Time was never considered nor was it ever
wasted. Labor instead of being a curse was one of life's great
blessings. Asked if he really enjoyed what appeared to others to be
unremitting drudgery, he replied that there was no pleasure equal
to it. Intellectual absorption was happiness to him. He neglected
exercise until after his second breakdown, at fifty-five years of age,
and thereafter rebuilt his shattered health to greater stability than
before. He walked just enough to keep himself in working order.
His mornings sufficed for this and for attention to his affairs, which
were increased rather than decreased on his retirement from business
as a publisher. His afternoons and evenings until midnight were
free for study and writing, and were so employed with interruptions
only at meal times. Every day in the year was time, time was life
and life was opportunity not to be wasted. He characteristically
remarked that it would be wrong to do on any day of the week what
it would be wrong to do on Sunday.

Mr. Lea early formed the project of making the history of the
Inquisition the great object of his life's work, and his volumes
which preceded it were the outcome of preparatory studies thereto.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to call them collateral subjects



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which developed naturally out of his reading and lay at hand
readily in the form of preliminary manuscript described in the

vjjreceding paragraph. He appreciated brevity, and finding that
the vast subject of the Inquisition, even when disembarrassed of its
collaterals, could not be comprised in a few volumes, he divided it
according to natural lines of cleavage into the Inquisition of the
Middle Ages or the Pre-Reformation period, and the Inquisition of
Spain, beginning with the Reformation. Discovering that this
concluding portion had exceeded his ideas of space, and that his
finished manuscript, representing ten years of labor, would make
nearly three thousand printed pages, be withheld it from press, and
completely rewrote the six thousand pages of manuscript with his
own pen, condensing, adding new material, and finally getting it
into a form answering his requirements, satisfied that with this
vast labor he had improved it and reduced it by some four
hundred pages of print. When he determined to undertake this
immense task he was eighty years old, and ran great risk that he
might not live to see the chief object of a lifetime of study accom-
plished. Nothing deterred him from placing the quality of his
work above every other consideration.

( While Mr. Lea's labors were largely directed to subjects
which for centuries have been the object of acrimonious debate,
he endeavored to treat them with the impartiality and strict ad-
herence to fact of the scientific historian. That he succeeded
in this may be assumed from the verdict of Lord Acton, himself
an earnest Catholic, in a searching review of the Inquisition oj
the Middle Ages.^ In this Acton says: "His information is compre-
hensive, minute, exact and everywhere sufficient, if not everywhere
complete. In this astonishing press of digested facts there is barely
space to discuss the ideas which they exhibit and the law which
they obey;'' and the review concludes by saying: "But the vital
points are protected by a panoply of mail. From the Albigensian

* English Historical Review ^ 1888.
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Crusade to the Fall of the Templars and to that Franciscan move-
ment wherein the key to Dante lies, the design and organization,
the activity and decline of the Inquisition constitute a sound and
solid structure that will survive the censure of all critics." Another
eminent scholar, the late Frederic W. Maitland, Professor of Law
in the University of Cambridge, and the greatest writer on the
history of law that the English-speaking world has produced, con-
cluded a review of the same work with a similar appreciation: " It
is Dr. Lea's glory that he is one of the very few English-speaking
men who have had the courage to grapple with the law and legal
documents of Continental Europe. He has looked at them with
the naked eye instead of seeing them — a mudi easier task — through
German spectacles. We trust him thoroughly because he keeps his
gaze fixed on the middle ages, and never looks around for opinions
to be refuted or quarrels to be picked. This is not the policy that
we could recommend to any but a strong man. Dr. Lea, however,
is strong, and sober and wary." ^ In the Life and Letters of Bishop
Creightofty a great English historian, there are frequent references to
Mr. Lea. The biographer, Mrs. Creighton, writes: " He had much
correspondence with Mr. H. C. Lea, who helped him in establishing
and editing the English Historical Review, both with contributions
and suggestions. At Philadelphia he had the pleasure of making his
personal acquaintance." In a letter to Mr. Lea, Bishop Creighton
wrote: "I have been reading your book with increasing admiration
for its thoroughness. It is the only one in English which is an
indispensable introduction to the study of the Inquisition." To
another correspondent the Bishop wrote: "We shall shortly know
all that can be known about indulgences. Mr. Lea is bringing out
a book on the subject. He knows most of any living man about
the institutes of the mediaeval Church." Like Mr. Lea, Bishop
Creighton wrote history with a view to the establishment of the
truth on controverted facts, and not to sustain preconceived con-
clusions or opinions. No man was better qualified than Bishop



* English Historical Review, viii, 755.
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Creighton to gauge the real value of Mr. Lea's works, and to
express an opinion of their interest and importance. Such a tribute
from one historian to another working in the same field may
well be looked on as the highest praise a sound scholar can have
as his reward. That his works have also won the approbation
of scholars on the Continent of Europe may be gathered from
the opening remarks in an extended notice of his last book in the
Jewish Quarterly Review for April, 1908: "It is the fashion in
American universities to give their professors a Sabbatical year —
one year of rest in every seven. A Harvard Don spent his year in
travelling through Europe. Wherever he went he was deluged with
inquiries as to Lea, the historian of the Inquisition, and when he
came to Spain he was assured that the one American whom the
Spaniards wished to welcome was Dr. Lea."
I Yet Mr. Lea's earliest efforts lay in an entirely different direc-

tion. The example of his father's successful labors in natural his-
tory turned his youthful attention to science. Two seasons in the
chemical laboratory of Booth and Boy^ led to investigations which
produced his first venture in print — a paper on the salts of man-
ganese, written about the age of thirteen and published in Silli-
man's Journal. This was followed after some interval by several
papers on descriptive conchology, illustrated with plates from his
own drawings from nature, which appeared in the same Journal,
in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society and the
Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences. ^The nervous
exhaustion superinduced in 1847 by the endeavor to combine study
with active attention to business brought ten years of enforced
intellectual leisure, during which he amused himself with the multi-
tudinous array of French memoir writers from the age of Louis XIV
back to the chroniclers — Froissart, the R^ligieux de S. Denis and
Villehardouin. His interest being thus aroused in mediaeval history,
when he found himself gradually able to resume serious work, in
the fragmentary intervals allowed by business pressure, he speedily
recognized that the only safe basis for historical study was to disregard

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' all secondary authorities and rely solely on the original sources.
At that time there were no collections here on which the student
could rely for serious study, nor were there any scholars to whom he
could look for guidance in the paths which he desired to follow.
As a solitary student he was obliged to collect around him the
necessary material/ and the mere acquisition of the knowledge of
the bibliography of the subjects to be investigated was a task of no
little labor — often fruitless. The habit thus induced of solitary
independent labor became chronic, and he never even employed
a secretary or an amanuensis, or acquired the faculty of dictation,
but wrote every word with his own pen.

/ He early recognized that the laws and institutions of a nation

or a period were the surest guide to a proper comprehension of
its history, and he sought to surround himself with all accessible
mediaeval codes and customaries. He was thus led to take an
interest in institutions, rather than in what is known as drum and
trumpet history. Finding, moreover, that wherever his researches led
him the Church rose up as an essential factor, his attention became
largely directed to it in its relations not so much to theology as to

\ the internal life and exterior policies of the nations. It is thus

* Dr. Lea's studies covered the whole series of Christian centuries. Over their
whole stretch he gathered a great library dealing with the institutions and practices on
which he wrote histories which will be read as long as men desire information, know-
ledge and an authoritative, impartial judgment on the history of the Inquisition,
ecclesiastical courts, and their jurisdiction, celibacy and absolution. These subjects
root in their origins in the very beginnings of organized Christianity. Seeking no other
library, gathering all under his own roof, Dr. Lea acquired original documents on a
scale incredible to those who do not know how the whirlwinds of revolution have
scattered clerical archives. He had for years his agents copying records over Europe.
For nearly half a century he was buying every printed paper, document and book that
appeared on his topics. No such collection exists the world over. No great European
library gives so complete a view of this great topic. Over a stretch of centuries this
library holds the archives of organized Christianity in the mediaeval period, and in
Spain and adjacent lands to the present time. This vast treasure will be the mine in
which grateful students and investigators will work for. years to come, remembering
daily a man wise enough to gather this great store and generous enough to leave it for
others, a perpetual aid and incentive to research. The library which he has left to
the University of Pennsylvania is a monument to his memory scarcely less lasting and
imposing than his histories. — Philadelphia Press.



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that while his first volume, Superstition and Force, is confined to the
legal methods adopted to discover the truth in disputed questions,
his later ones were more and more directed to those institutions
in which ecclesiastical influence has moulded the civilization of
^Christendom. Unable through pressing engagements to enjoy a
prolonged absence in Europe, he employed copyists in the principal
libraries to reproduce unpublished documents, and in this way he
accumulated an immense mass of manuscript material bearing on
his special subjects of interest. His sources were further enriched
by the privilege granted him by the University of Oxford, in full
convocation, to have dispatched to him in Philadelphia any manu-
scripts he might desire from the Bodleian Library.

His major works and his frequent smaller contributions on
collateral subjects brought him into correspondence with the leading
historical scholars of America and Europe. Lord Acton invited him
to write the chapter on the Eve of the Reformation in the Cambridge
Modern History. At the request of Mr. James Bryce, Mr. Lea
contributed the chapter on the Philadelphia Gas Trust in The
American Commonwealth, and a long personal correspondence and
friendship existed between them, both before and after Mr. Bryce
became the British Ambassador at Washington. Mr. Lea's many
exchanges of letters with Mr. W. E. H. Lecky, the historian, are
mentioned in the Memoir of Mr. Lecky by his wife. Mr. George
Neilson, of Glasgow, whose book on Trial by Combat brought him
into contact with Mr. Lea, was another valued correspondent, and
likewise Mr. A. H. Mathew, of London, who issued the reprint of
Sacerdotal Celibacy, with the author's revisions. On the Continent
of Europe translations of several of Mr. Lea's works into various
languages brought him into relations with the leading mediaevalists.
The influence of M. Salomon Reinach's translation of The Inquisition
of the Middle Ages upon momentous political issues in France has
been already mentioned. Outside of Paris, Professor Paul Sabatier,



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of Chantegrillet, and Professor Charles Molinier, of Toulouse, were
among the French scholars who appreciated his works. In Germany
the translation of The Inquisition of the Middle Ages by Professor
Joseph Hansen, of Cologne, and Professor Herrmann Haupt, of
Giessen, led to many exchanges of letters, and likewise with Dr. P.
Miillendorff, of Cologne, who has in hand translations of several
others of Mr. Lea's works. A warm friendship existed with Dr.
DoUinger, the noted founder of the "Old Catholic" movement.
Professor E. Schafer, of Leipzig, was another German correspondent,
and in Belgium Professor Paul Fredericq, of Ghent, and Professor
Eugfene Hubert, of Lifege. In Switzerland Dr. Domenico Battaini, of
Mendrisio, is contributing to the cause of intellectual independence by
authorized translations of The Inquisition of the Middle AgeSy and of
certain of Mr. Lea's other works, into Italian. Professor G. Montet,
of the University of Geneva, was a long-time correspondent and friend.
The eminent Italian historians. Count Ugo Balzani, of Rome, and
Professor Pasquale Villari, of Florence, showed in their letters a deep


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Online LibraryHenry Charles LeaMemoir → online text (page 1 of 3)