Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell

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Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1781-1848) was a clergyman and historian. The son of Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell and ELizabeth Le Breton, he was educated at Exeter and Pembroke College, Oxford, having obtained a grant from the Don Baudains.

He was a curate in Gloucestershire and, for a short time, Classical Master at Norwich Grammar School under fellow Jerseyman Edouard Valpy. He also taught at his own school in Cornwall before his appointment as Rector of St Saviour in Jersey in 1819. His assumption of this office was delayed by an inquiry after a complaint to the Bishop of Winchester,

Political role

Once established in his new role he took an active role in politics through his membership of the States, and became a leading member of the Rose Party, assuming the editorship of the Gazette de Jersey. This infuriated many of his parishioners, who supported the rival Laurel Party, and it was claimed that allegations made against him of sodomy were politically motivated. He instituted and then abandoned a case against one of his accusers, alleging slander, and refused to appear before the Ecclesiastical Court, for which he was suspended by the Dean. He was suspended from all involvement in the States, but stubbornly continued to preach in an empty church.

Advocate Pierre Le Sueur took up his case and the Royal Court accepted his argument that Durell's alleged offences were outside the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Court but decided not to pursue the charges against the Rector, the penalty for which was death.

Protracted legal disputes with the parish were eventually dropped but after a new Dean lodged an appeal with the Privy Council, matters were put back before the Ecclesiastical Court. Although Durell denied the main charge against him, he did admit to scandalous behaviour and was suspended for five years in 1841, retiring from public life.

From Payne's Armorial of Jersey

Prominent among the talented Jerseymen of the present century, stands the Rev Edward Durell, MA, sometime Rector of St Saviour.

He was born 29 December 1781, and educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. Upon his taking duty in his native island, he consulted at once his scholarly industry and his antiquarian tastes, by devoting himself to collect materials to illustrate its history. In this he was very fortunate, and among other discoveries of ancient manuscripts that he made, was the valuable one of Chevalier's Record of the Insular affairs during part of the reigns of Charles I and Charles II.

It is much to be regretted that the design did not occur to him of entirely rewriting a history of Jersey, instead of merely commentating upon Falle's feeble and meagre work; for with his talents and the opportunities he possessed for the task, there is no room left for doubt but that such a work from his pen would have been a most valuable contribution to the literature of his native island. Rare as is the combination, Mr Durell followed the example of his talented countryman, Wace, and was at once a poet and an historian; and was as favourably known in the former as in the latter capacity. Although many of his poems were published at various times, yet by far the most important still exist in manuscript in the possession of his son-in-law,the Rev William Duheaume, Rector of Trinity.

These poems are entitled the " Heroic Legends of Jersey," and by the brilliancy and aptness of their imagery, their fluency of description, their simple pathos and pure idiom, remind the reader of Scott's happiest style.

It is to be hoped that ere long their publication will give the reading world the opportunity of perusing this version of those romantic historiettes with which the island teems. Mr Durell died in 1848, from causes induced by domestic affliction, leaving behind him a reputation for scholarship and talent, rarely, if ever equalled among his countrymen, and undoubtedly never surpassed.

History of Jersey and guidebook

He is best remembered, however, not for this controversial series of legal actions, but for publishing a new edition of Philippe Falle's Account of the Island of Jersey, one of, if not the only, major historical works of this age devoted to Jersey.

Many later historians, in addition to Payne, have regretted that the enormous time and effort Durell put into the new edition of Falle's book, with substantial notes, did not manifest itself in a new work of his own. Falle's work, in turn, was later seen to have relied heavily on the earlier history of Jersey by Jean Poingdestre, which was not published until much later.

However, Durell's A Picturesque and Historical Guide to the Island of Jersey, 1847, which is reproduced in full in Jerripedia, should be seen as exactly the new history he was accused of not writing.

Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell married Mary Anthoine, daughter of Thomas, and they had five sons and a daughter. Durell died of paralysis in his house in Windsor Road in 1848.

Further biography

  • Edouard Durell, entry in A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey Added 2016
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