Maggs Bros Ltd

[Le testament de Jésus-Christ]

B., D. ([1690])

£1500.00 

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12mo. [Text: 150 x 80mm. [2 (dedication)], [96] leaves, signed A-P6, Q4 (last leaf (Q4) blank), without any title-leaf (see note), ff. A1-Q3 printed on rectos only. Contemporary French mottled calf, gilt spine (covers scarred by mottling fluid).

[?Paris: circa 1690]

The only edition of this extremely rare little book, only two other copies of which have been catalogued - British Library 1018.c.34(2) and Göttingen University 8 TH MOR 16/73(1) – and which also lack any title-leaf. The work opens with a 3-page dedication signed “votre tres-humble & tres obéïssant serviteur D.B.”, who is perhaps a spiritual adviser, addressed “a tres- haute tres -illustre et tres-pieuse Princesse Madame Ignace Fitsjames Religieuse de l’Abbaye des Benedictines Angloise [sic] de Pontoise”. This is Arabella FitzJames (d. 7 November 1702 or 1704, some sources say 1762) who was the illegitimate daughter of King James II and Arabella Churchill (1648-1730). Arabella Churchill was the daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, and a sister of the first Duke of Marlborough. By James II she had four children, including two sons who became the 1st Duke of Berwick, and the 1st Duke of Albemarle. Her other daughter Henrietta (1667-1730) married the first Lord Waldegrave. The English Benedictine Abbey at Pointoise was not far from the exiled Stuart court at Saint-Germain-en-
Laye. Her cousin, Lady Barbara FitzRoy (1672-1737), illegitimate daughter of Charles II and Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland, was also a nun at Pontoise with the name in religion Benedite or Benedicta having been professed there on 2 April 1691 following the birth of an illegitimate son.

Arabella FitzJames was professed on 30 April 1690, when she took the name in religion of Ignace, hence the suggested date of this book. Her profession was commemorated by the Catholic poet and novelist Jane Barker (1652-1732) who spent some 15 years at the exiled Stuart court in some verses “To Madam Fitz James, on the day of her profession, at Pontoise she taking the name of St. Ignace”: “When madam you were at the altar lay’d / And your whole self to heav’n an ofring made /Methought the wanton Cupids all did run, / Weeping away, crying undone, undone / Fitz James the fair Fitz James, is made a nun.”

The work consists of 94 one-page “Articles”, all meditations put into the mouth of Christ and addressed to the “soul”. Each is headed “Article du testament de Iésus-Christ par lequel il nous recommande...” followed by the statement of the subject, and the text of each prayer which opens with Christ speaking: “Chere amee monte à mon père: et pour gage de votre amour je vous demande. que vous ayez confiance en mes playes sacrées (for example)...”

On the blank versos of the first 6 articles are written in manuscript a series of prayers. It is clear that the versos were left blank for this purpose.   That on A1verso (facing article II) reads as follows: 'donne moy o mon jesus la douceur que vous me demande [sic] dans les souffrances car si pour estre heureuse en cette vie & dans l'autre il faut ester [sici] meprise du monde est [isici] meprise le monde quan le monde nous persecutera et nous fera souffrir toutes sortes [added supra lineam]  daffronts en hain[sic] de vostre nom je suis content [sic] si tell [sic] est vostre volontes tant que j'ayme ceux qui me font souffrir com[m][e instrument de v[ot]re prouidance'. It is clear from this and the remaining prayers, all written in the same hand, that the writer is a woman. 

Provenance:  ce liure est du monastere de la vistation Ste Marie de dieppe [scored out] Rouen. The Monastère de Sainte Marie is an Augustinian house of nuns, and still exists near Dieppe.   

See Jane Barker, The Galesia trilogy and seledted manuscript poems ed. C.S. Wilson, NY and oxford: OUP, 1997, ., 297-98.

Registers of the English Benedictine Nuns of Pontoise Now at Teignmouth', in Miscellanea X, Publications of the Catholic Record Society, 17 (London, 1915), 248-326 (p. 311).

 

 

Stock Code: 215903