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Butler, Alban


English hagiographer; b. Appletree, Northamptonshire, Oct. 10, 1710; d. Saint-Omer, France, May 15, 1773. His parents died when he was a child, and he was sent first to Ladywell School near Preston and then to douai in France, where after distinguished study he was ordained in 1735. He remained at Douai as professor of philosophy and theology. In 1745 he accompanied the Earl of Shrewsbury and his brothers, the future bishops James and Thomas Talbot, on a tour of France and Italy, and then returned to Douai to continue teaching. In 1749 he returned to England to do missionary work in the Midlands and Warkworth. Bishop challoner appointed him chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk and tutor to the duke's nephew, Edward Howard. He accompanied his pupil to Paris, where Howard died of a sudden illness.

After 30 years' labor, Butler completed in Paris his Lives of the Saints, published anonymously (4 v. London 175659). The work contains the lives of about 1,600 saints and has influenced English Catholics and non-Catholics. It was thoroughly revised by H. thurston (192638) and by D. Attwater (1956). In 1766 Butler was chosen president of the English College at Saint-Omer, France, from which the French Jesuits had been expelled. The bishops of Amiens and Boulogne assured him that he could with good conscience accept the office, which he held until his death. He was buried at Saint-Omer. His other works include Life of Mary of the Cross (1767), Moveable Feasts and Fasts (1774), and Meditations and Discourses on Sublime Truths (179193). He collected much material on the lives of SS. John Fisher and Thomas More. His nephew Charles Butler wrote his biography in 1799.

Bibliography: d. attwater, "Lives of the Saints," Commonweal 66 (1957) 349351. t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography From the Earliest Times to 1900, 3:495496. p. j. corish, "New edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints, '' Irish Ecclesiastical Record 89 (1958) 195198. h. thurston, "Alban Butler," Month 172 (1938) 5263. a. des mazis, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 10:143940.

[r. j. bartman]

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