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Henry Foley SJ 1811-1891

Henry Foley was born at Astley in Worcestershire, where his father was an Anglican curate.  Foley was articled to a firm of solicitors in Worcester, where by 1842 he was in partnership with another solicitor, Mr Cameron, and the next year set up for himself.  He married Anne Elizabeth Vizard in 1851.  The couple had no children.  Both were influenced by the Oxford movement and both then became Catholics.  Henry Foley was received into the Roman Catholic church on 3 January 1846 by Fr Beeston SJ.  Anne died in 1851 and in the same year Foley entered the Novitiate.  The following year he was made lay-brother Socius of the Provincial, a post he occupied for over 30 years until his health declined, with the exception of one year he spent in Rome in 1854.  He remained a brother and was never ordained.  His experience as a solicitor was of great use to the Provincial and the Province, but it is his work in the archives for which he is lauded.

Foley's Records of the English Province was published in eight volumes between 1875 and 1883.  It is not so much narrative a history of the province, but a publication of its records, along with a biographical register of its members, particularly for the pre-suppression era.  It includes transcripts of many of his sources, including some no longer extant, and is arranged both thematically and by geographical district, with the final three volumes focussing on individual biographies.  It is a monumental work and the result of decades of labour in the archives.   While he was doing it he reorganised the archives and had many of the loose archival items bound into volumes, often annotating the volumes as he did so. His handwriting is identifiable throughout the archives.  The rare books also got his attention, with traces of his care in the form of annotations seen in some of them.  Unlike Charles Newdigate of a generation later who wrote directly into the books, he tended to write on slips of paper and paste them in.  Many may not have survived.

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