Philippe Falle biography
This biography of the Rev Philippe Falle is taken from a later edition of his own History of Jersey, first published in 1694
The curiosity of the reader is generally excited to know something about any author, who may have contributed either to his amusement, or to his instruction. It is like an agreeable fellow traveller, who has relieved the irksomeness of a long journey, and whose references we are desirous to possess before we part.
Historian of Jersey
This is precisely the feeling, which anyone will experience, on rising from the perusal of the Rev Philip Falle, the Historian of Jersey. There is something in his honesty and patriotism, which cannot fail to arrest the attention of the most ordinary reader and the high respect and deference in which his memory has ever been held by his countrymen, are further calculated to increase that curiosity.
A few biographical particulars, however scanty they may be, which tend to make us better acquainted with the character of such a man, cannot be unwelcome to the public.
Philip Falle was descended from an ancient agricultural family, who, according to his own account, belonged to that happy class of substantial freeholders, who are not sufficiently elevated to excite envy, but who enjoy enough of the necessaries, and even comforts of life, to be independent, and to preserve their integrity unsullied by the temptations of avarice or ambition.
His ancestors, may, therefore, be said to have for ages rivalled in that respect the happiness of Claudian's Old Man of Verona.
The date of his birth is not exactly known, but as he is described, when he presented his library to the Island in 1735, to have been then nearly 80 years of age, he must have been born during Cromwell's protectorate.
The Register of his native parish, St Saviour, had been much neglected during that agitated period, and there were very few entries made in it from 1645 to 1660.
There is nothing known about the early part of his life, where he was educated, or what induced him to turn his views to the Church. It appears from his history, that he was related by the mother's side to the ancient insular family of the Dumaresqs, that he was left an orphan, and that one of the Bandinels, was his guardian, which may account for his suppression of certain facts relating to Dean Bandinel.
After passing over those scattered notices, and other traditionary particulars, the first mention we find of him is in the Oxford Graduate, where his name occurs as having taken his degree of Master of Arts, from Alban Hall, 8 June 1676.
Rector of Trinity
He had not been long in Orders before he was presented to the living of Trinity parish. This happened in the latter part of the Reign of Charles II, and he afterwards exchanged it for that of St Savionr, in 1690, which latter benefice he retained till 1709, when he resigned it, and settled in England, where he remained to the end of his life.
There is a tradition that while he resided at Trinity, he paid his addresses to one of the danghters of Clement Le Conteur, the then Dean of the Island, and a sister in law of Charles De Carteret, Esq., of Trinity Manor. The matchwas broken off by the interference of her friends, and as to Mr Falle, he never was married.
This disappointment was probably severely felt, and might have occasioned Mr Falle's subseqnent opposition to the claims of Mr De Carteret, as Seignenr of Trinity Manor, to nominate the Master of St Manelier's School.
The Patent, which had granted that nomination to the Dean and beneficed Clergy, had been mislaid, and Mr De Carteret, relying on some very ancient, bnt unofficial Documents, claimed the right to appoint the master, and when the matter was bronght before the Royal Court, he succeeded in his pretensions.
Mr Falle was not, however, to be so easily disconraged. He and Mr Dnmaresq, the Rector of St Clement, appealed to his Majesty in Conncil, where on producing an anthentic Copy of the Patent from the Rolls, they obtained a jndgment in their favour, and a reversal of the decision of the Royal Conrt. The writer of this Sketch was favoured, not many years ago, with the perusal of the printed Case in that affair, which had probably been drawn up from Mr Falle's own instructions, in which the Dean, Mr Le Couteur, was treated with great acrimony, and the mediocrity of his capacity was ridicnled with the most unsparing contempt.
And yet Clement Le Couteur, so far from being either a mean or a worthless individual, was a man of a saintly character, whose unaffected piety and unbonnded benevolence, were not only an honour to his profession, bnt to human natnre. He was Rector of St John and Dean of Jersey, from 1670 till his death in 1714, at the good old age of 84.
In 1637 Mr. Falle published a Sermon on the Eucharist, and another on the Duties of a Military Life, in 1692. The former of those Sermons was in French, and the latter having been preached before the Garrison, was in the English Language. Those disconrses are now seldom to be met with, and this short notice of them is taken from a blank page of the first Edition of his History of Jersey, in which they are advertised.
Active States Member
While Mr Falle was resident on his benefices in Jersey, his name frequently occnrs in the proceedings of the insular States, of which a man of his extensive knowledge and integrity could not fail to have been a distinguished member. This is evident from his having been, on several occasions, named to act in the Committees of that Assembly.
We are now come to the most important part of Mr Falle's life. During the early part of the reign of William III, the French had obtained a certain ascendancy at sea, which caused serious inconveniences to an island like Jersey, whose trade was not only nearly annihilated, but itself kept in continnal alarm, and as it were, in a state of blockade.
The States, in that emergency, resolved to send over Deputies, with an Address, to lay their precarious situation before their Sovereign, and to implore his assistance. Accordingly they named a Deputation for that pnrpose on 6 September 1692, and Mr. Falle was one of the members entrusted with that important mission.
As to the Address which was then voted, he has preserved it at page 89 of his History, and it is probable that it came from his pen; but it is not registered in the Book of the States. Its object was not merely congratulation, thongh it contains enongh of it; but to place the island in a respectable state of defence.
On the arrival of the Deputies in London, John Durell, his Majesty's Solicitor for Jersey, and Mr Falle, were introduced to a private audience of William III, by Lord Jermyn, who was then Governor of Jersey. The Deputies had then the honour to present their Address, and to kiss his Majesty's hand. They were most graciously received, and were commanded by the Sovereign himself, to assure their countrymen of his care and protection. It is from that date that we may reckon Mr Falle's subseqnent advancement ; and as laymen are often knighted on being presented to the King, so he had 'the honour of being appointed Chaplain in Ordinary to his Sovereign.
On his retunrn to Jersey from that successfnl mission, Mr Falle and his colleague John Durell, were favourably received by the States. But as they did not receive a vote of thanks till some time after, it is probable that Mr Falle revisited England on private or public bnsiness a second time.
As to Mr Durell, according to Mr Le Geyt, he became Secretary to an embassy, and residing in London was at different times .employed as Deputy for the affairs of the Island.
The island's importance
It was dnring that Deputation to England that Mr Falle first entertained the design of writing the history of his native country. His reasons are stated at full length in the Preface to his Second Edition, the chief of which were to make the Channel Islands better known to the English public, and to shew their general importance to the Empire at large.
Impressed with that truly patriotic object, he hastily prepared his first Edition on his return home. It was published in London in 1694, and dedicated to King William III. This work, though bnt a skeleton of the Second Edition, was well received, and some years after, Mr Le Geyt referred to it as an authority, in his Mannscript on the Jurisdiction of the Royal Conrt.
While Mr Falle resided in Jersey, his name often occurred as a suitor in the proceedings of the Royal Conrt; but it is uncertain, whether it arose from a litigions disposition, or whether he was freqnently placed in that unpleasant sitnation, when a man is obliged to defend his just rights by compulsory measures.
It is curious that he has given his own views about people, who are obliged to go to law, and has vindicated their conduct.
His patrimonial estate consisted of about 50 vergées of land, which, with the income he derived from his benefice, and in a small country like Jersey, placed him in perfectly independent circumstances. His talents and his integrity could not fail to render him moreover a person of considerable influence.
It is not known what motives induced him, when thus placed in an enviable situation of peace and competence, to extend his views beyond his beloved country, or what patronage enabled him to gratify his ambition.
It seems to be most probable, that it was his successful Deputation to England in 1692, which gave him an opportunity of making himself known, and which opened to him the path to English preferment.
Be it as it may, his success in life was eventually to the advantage of his native Island, as it afforded him the means, and the opportunities of forming his valuable Library, which he could have never accomplished, had not his merit enabled him to emerge from the humble rectory of St Savionr.
It is more than probable that he had the protection of Lord Jermyn, the Governor of Jersey, to one of whose daughters he had dedicated one of his Sermons. As to any other connections, which he might have formed in England, we know absolutely nothing ; and it is better to be thus far candid, than to hazard conjectures, which might not only be unfounded, but tend to throw discredit on those parts of this Sketch, which can be supported by competent authorities.
The title page to his first Edition in 1694, represents him as having been then Chaplain in Ordinary to the King; bnt it is unknown how long he remained in Jersey after that period. It is nevertheless certain, that he did not residein Jersey for many years, before he resigned the living of St Saviour.
When he was sued with his Churchwardens, before the Royal Conrt, in 1699, the business was put off, on the ground that he was then absent in attendance on His Majesty in Holland, as one of his Chaplains. The parish Register also mentions some of his Curates at St Saviour, previous to his resignation of that benefice.
The date of his obtaining a stall at Durham, and the living of Shenley, near St Alban's, must be left in obscurity, as well as the time when he fixed his residence at the latter place. The Rectory of Shenley is a valuable one, thongh it cannot now be ascertained, what it was actually worth in Mr Falle's time.
The removal of Mr Falle to England did not abate his attachment for the land, which had given him birth. In 1734, he published the Second Edition of his history, the best memorial of his abilities and of that patriotism, which will endear his name to the latest posterity of his countrymen.
Soon after he made a present of his valuable collection of books to the Island, the intention to do which he had already intimated in his History. The States of the Island in consequence erected a suitable building for their reception, where, with the additions subsequently made by the late Dr Daniel Dumaresq, they constitute a most important literary treasure, and offer immense facilities to the classical and theoligical student. The pictures of that worthy Founder and of Dr Dumaresq are preserved in the Library.
Mr Falle lived a few years longer, and closed his protracted and honourable life at Shenley, when he was nearly 90 years old. It was his particular good fortune, that his very long life was not chequered by any of those severe and unexpected vicissitudes, which have so often, and so cruelly embittered the lives of other distinguished men.
But he was principally indebted for that happy result, to his implicit conformity with the opinions and the prejudices of his age; for what has been a religious or a political merit at one time, has at other periods been a grievous offence, and the source of much unhappiness. This has been the fruitful origin of unspeakable misery to many wise and eminent men, who have been the victims of their own imprudence, for either speaking or acting prematurely, when in opposition to the spirit and the prejudices of their times.