Saturday, October 16, 2010


I have mentioned before that semi-fascinating character Cornelius Clifford, sometime S.J., the "American Tyrrell". See first here, then here. A friend recently alerted me to a reference to Clifford by Fr. Martin D'Arcy, published in the book, Laughter and the Love of Friends. Reminiscences of the Distinguished English Priest and Philosopher Martin Cyril D'Arcy, S.J., pp.73-75. Fr. D'Arcy actually mentions Clifford in connection with Tyrrell.

Clifford, as D'Arcy recollects, was a young American and brilliant. The Jesuits sent him off to Belgium for studies, and then he was sent to the English Province where there were at the time men like Tyrrell, Thurston and Hungerford-Pollen. Clifford was delighted to be among men of such intelligence, of his own mettle. He took especially to Tyrrell, who, seeing his ability, "made a disciple of him and used him as a kind of stalking horse to put out his own views". Ultimately this led to trouble for Clifford, who was dismissed from the Jesuits and, when he returned to the U.S., the bishops hardly wanted to deal with him. Eventually he was given a small parish in New Jersey. Through the intervention of some laymen, who recognized his intellectual capabilities, Clifford was given a sort of professorship in medieval theology at Columbia.

D'Arcy met Clifford in 1935 on his own first visit to the U.S. Clifford by then was "this beautiful, rubicund old man with white hair". Clifford, upon meeting D'Arcy, "threw his arms about [him] because [he] was from the English Province" and this brought out all sorts of warm memories. D'Arcy says that in response to Clifford's warmth he (sometime later, I suppose) had caused the commissioning of a painting of Clifford, which was put up at Campion Hall, and yearly there was held a "Cornelius Clifford dinner" as a way of remembering him.

Clifford did visit England again once before he died. Sent over by some friends, he had a marvelous time. D'Arcy comments that Clifford "never wrote anything that [he knows] of, though he was a brilliant man".

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