From the Archives: the D’Arcy Papers

POST BY MAllen

Fr Martin D'Arcy SJ (1888-1976)

One of the Archives’ most frequently asked about collections unsurprisingly belongs to one of the most high-profile English Jesuits of recent times, Fr Martin D’Arcy SJ. Due to the standard closure period of 40 years after the death of a Jesuit for their personal papers, Fr D’Arcy’s papers have finally been fully catalogued and made available to the public.

Martin Cyril D'Arcy was born in Bath on 15 June 1888, the fourth and youngest son of a barrister, Martin Valentine D'Arcy and Madoline Mary Keegan. He attended school at Stonyhurst and went from there to the noviceship in Roehampton on 7 September 1906. By 1945, he was Provincial of the English Province and attended the General Congregation of 1946. He celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood on 25 September 1971. He died in the hospital of SS John and Elizabeth in London, 20 November 1976.

One of the largest series in the collection, comprising seven out of the 24 boxes of archival material, is his correspondence. D’Arcy was clearly a keen letter-writer; in fact, H J A Sire in his biography notes that, as Provincial, D’Arcy wrote all his official letters by hand, ‘insisting that a letter was much too personal a thing to be delegated to a secretary.’ The collections contain letters from over 700 different correspondents and demonstrates D’Arcy’s connections to high-profile figures of the time. Notable correspondents include the Asquith family, Hilaire Belloc, John Betjeman, Anthony Burgess, Kenneth Clark, T S Eliot, the Kennedys, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Siegfried Sassoon, and J R R Tolkien. The letter pictured below was written to D’Arcy a month after John F Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the presidential election. There are also letters from Jackie Kennedy, including one written a year after Kennedy’s death, in which she thanks D’Arcy for his contributions towards the design of his grave.

D’Arcy’s popularity among the social elite of the day is again glimpsed at in a folder of material relating to a dinner arranged by Evelyn Waugh and Tom Burns, publisher and former editor of The Tablet, for D’Arcy, 24 July 1950 at the Hyde Park Hotel. Tickets cost 23 shillings each and the event was widely reported in the national newspapers. Speakers included Evelyn Waugh, T S Eliot and Douglas Woodruff, while Lord Pakenham presided over the occasion. A surviving invitation to the dinner exists, among a list of attendees, RSVPs and news cuttings, on the back of which D’Arcy has written notes for his own speech. The Evening Standard stated that the dinner was held simply ‘because they like him’.

But a far more substantial series, taking up half of the entire collection, is D’Arcy’s writing, which covered a variety of subjects, from art and history to moral philosophy, logic to ethics, notes on his travels to spiritual diaries, and a vast amount of essays, sermons, and articles. During his lifetime he wrote at least 24 books, of which The Mind and the Heart of Love was most influential. The collection contains reviews for several of his books, as well as typescript and manuscript versions of Humanism and Christianity and Facing God.

The items written about in this blog post merely scratch the surface of the collection. If you are interested in finding out more, the catalogue can be searched online via Catholic Heritage, or you can contact us to be sent a copy, find out more, or arrange an appointment to view this or any other material in our collections.

Group at the opening of Campion Hall including Sir Edwin Lutyens, D'Arcy, the Duke of Alba, A D Lindsay (Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University), Mgr Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh and Katherine Asquith