An Appreciation from Fr. G. A. Tomlinson
It is now almost five years since I first met Francis Blundell, a time long enough to learn by successive revelation the inherent goodness and nobility of his character, but too short to enjoy a friendship which that goodness rendered most ,precious.
It had been in his mind to decorate with frescoes a chapel in honour of the English Martyrs in his parish church of St. Mary, Little Crosby, as a memorial to his father and mother. Five years ago he called upon me to submit designs. for this project. Since that time it has been my privilege to spend a considerable part of every year at Crosby, and to be in constant contact with its Squire. He was known as " The Squire" by all his tenants, and the term regained in their mouths all its original significance of affectionate respect.
Each age, I suppose, has its own ideal man, celebrating him in its art and literature as the fine flower of its civilisation towards which all individual ideals converge. The Greek citizen, the " veray geniil parfit knight" of the Middle Ages, Sir Roger de Coverley of the eighteenth century, were each the embodiments of the virtues men most appreciated in a man of that time. The present age has not yet so far forgotten the European tradition as not to be able to admire the Christian Gentleman—and a Christian Gentleman Francis Blundell was. When that has been said of him no more remains, except to add that only Catholics can recognise and understand the source from which his honesty of purpose, singleness of vision and aim, kindness and exquisite courtesy flowed.
His Courtesy and Perception We did not always agree upon artistic problems, and I confess with shame that it was more often than not this last virtue of courtesy in him that brought agreement to a discussion. Painters are a desultory race and the gentle method of reproof in delays which so became him was often merited, "one should not bother an artist, I know, and the roof of the Sistine Chapel took Michaelangelo five years, but all the same . . ."
He took a particular delight in the figure of a young martyr-priest in the frescoes.
had translated many of my own personal ideals and aspirations into the painting of this figure and Francis Blundell was quick to realise and appreciate this fact—a perception which, I think, came rather from his human sympathy than from his knowledge of art, wide and penetrating though that was.
His gift to me, in memory of the work done at Crosby, was characteristic, consisting of two copies of Bishop Challoner's Lives of the English Martyrs, one a modern annotated edition " for the desk," the other an early nineteenth century calfbound volume " for the library shelf." Books which speak the ideas behind the gift better than words can do.
When, in 1932, 1, a recent convert, shy, and like a greater before me, "having heard little of Catholics, and disliking what I had heard," it was Francis Blundell who drew me first from that isolation and banished those misgivings which even the most pro-Roman of Anglicans entertain on the subject of the Catholic character. It did not take long to realise that it was the Catholic religion that ennobled him; a fact that was enough to dispel any doubt still lingering that the Catholic character was un-English.
To other pens than mine falls the task of recording his public life and domestic virtues. What I have written of him is motived by a deep sense of gratitude and the knowledge that I have lost—only for a time—a friend. God rest him. I shall not meet his like again.