Series 3: Correspondence and Historical Materials, 1790-
Scope and Contents
This series consists mostly of correspondence from the Carmels of the Low Countries that had been reestablished in England as a result of the tumultuous revolutionary period that transformed Europe after the 1790s. It includes pamphlets and booklets sent from these Carmels concerning their respective histories. There is correspondence as well from those Carmels whose history was intertwined with the original Antwerp and Hoogstraet foundations.
The correspondence that emanated from English-Antwerp (later, Lanherne) is especially significant for several reasons. For one thing, this Carmel was significant in the establishment of Carmel in America; an American who intended to be part of the original party, Mother Mary Margaret Brent, was prioress here; her cousin, the priest who accompanied the founding sisters on their journey to America and became their chaplain there as well, Father Charles Neale, SJ, had been chaplain at English Antwerp; and two members, Sisters Clare Joseph Dickinson and Teresa Cowdrey, played very different but important roles in the initiation of the project. Secondly, the letters between Lanherne and the American foundation begin almost as soon as the exiled Sisters had taken up residence in England and they continue into the twentieth century. Thus, the Lanherne correspondence makes up one of the most extensive and complete sources of information sent by any of the continental Carmels.
This correspondence is also important because it contains letters from Sister Teresa of Jesus Cowdrey, the key Sister involved in initiating contact with the financial backer of the project, Balthassar De Villegas d'Estainbourg. Because of her intercession with De Villegas, in fact, Sister Teresa had at one point been the choice preferred by the community to replace Mother Mary Margaret Brent in making the new foundation. Although Sister Clare Joseph Dickinson was chosen instead, Sister Teresa remained central to the execution and support of the project. Moreover, her personal friendship with Sister Clare Joseph meant that the letters she would subsequently write to Port Tobacco would indirectly influence the foundation and also enable succeeding generations to have a sharper image of both women as well as both foundations. In fact, from Sister Teresa's correspondence, which lasted until her death in 1814, it is possible to reconstruct some valuable details concerning the personality of Mother Clare Joseph, about whom there is otherwise very little biographical data. Because Sister Teresa was also part of the group forced into exile, her views concerning that historic experience also make valuable reading.
Subsequently, the Lanherne Sisters continued to provide a glimpse of English society and Lanherne Carmel through their letter writing. Thus, their correspondence not only enlightens generally but it paints an intimate picture of Catholic revival history especially as it pertained to certain personalities, including Cardinal Newman and Father Francis Faber. Moreover, it supplies an interesting perspective on English Catholic views concerning miracles, wars, revolutions, and recurring bouts with anti-Catholic prejudice.
Other correspondence, principally from relocated Hoogstraet (These Sisters made three moves: Canfordhouse, Valognes, and Chichester), and Lierre (Darlington), gives similar details of English religious and secular history.
The remainder of the correspondence derives from some of the continental Carmels, such as Brussels, Lisbon, Paris, and Spanish Antwerp. Of this material, the most significant comes from Spanish Antwerp--that because of the relationship it reveals between the two Carmels. This group as well as the entire series is particularly useful for the kind of mirror image it supplies of the Maryland Carmel's collective spirituality, especially the painstaking measures exhibited by the American community to be true to the ancient tradition of Carmel. From the replies of the European Sisters, one can infer much about how the American Sisters went about the task of reproducing Carmel in America.
- Creation: 1600-1950
- Creation: Majority of material found in 1750-1950
From the Record Group: 1.5 linear feet