Last October, the RCB Library received a very welcome communication from Rosemary Kempshall in the UK, who wrote to say that she had in her possession a large volume of sermons written by the Revd George Sealy, a parochial cleric based in the diocese of Cork, from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The vast majority of the sermons are highly detailed works focused exclusively on detailed theological concerns, taking a small part of a biblical verse and expanding on this theme for the benefit of the rector’s parishioners.
Among the 1,134 manuscript collections that the RCB Library currently holds, there are numerous collections of sermons. These are primarily sermons written and preached by either contemporary or 20th-century clergy, so the Library was particularly pleased to receive such a unique collection from Cork from this time, which is relatively rare; the collection has now been accessioned as Ms 1132.
Although the vast majority of the 108 items that make up Ms 1132 are of a theological nature, there are some examples where the rector touches upon matters of local and international interest. Sermon No. 95 in this collection begins with ‘[t]he services of the illustrious statesman’ and seems to be a eulogy written on the death of a participant in the final days of the Peninsular War, as the text is dated 17th April 1814 – the date given of the formal announcement of Emperor Napoleon’s abdication. Sermon No. 67 includes a brief eulogy to an unnamed individual, described simply as ‘a very amiable female’ whose remains were committed ‘this very morning’ (although no date is specified). It is a brief eulogy to a woman described as a ‘joyful mother of children’ but, unfortunately, her name is not included.
The date of the last sermon is 26th July 1829 in a sermon on the text of Luke 1:78-79 (‘… the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness …’). This matches with the Preachers’ Book held in the RCB Library (RCB Library P.349.08.1) which records Mr Sealy as preaching to his parish on this date. Ms 1132 is a very important addition to the manuscript collections held in the RCB Library. It allows researchers and theologians a valuable glimpse at the concerns and theology that occupied the mind of a Church of Ireland clergyman far away from the administrative heart of the Established Church and it tells us what type of sermons were being preached to the faithful during this period.
Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist, says: “We are grateful to Rosemary for donating this unique and important collection to the RCB Library, as well as to Catherine FitzMaurice of Bandon Genealogy who suggested that the Library might be the best place to preserve and store this collection, ensuring that these sermons will continue to be of benefit to historians and researchers wishing to study the religious history of Cork in the future. The collection has been expertly and quickly catalogued by the Library’s Assistant Librarian, Bryan Whelan, who has brought to life its rich and rare content.”
The presentation and list of the sermons may be viewed at www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive