Nelis, Corneille Francois De

Nelis, Corneille Francois De a learned Belgian prelate, was born in Mechlin June 5, 1736. He was educated at the University of Louvain, and took the degree of licentiate May 6, 1760. Almost immediately he became principal of the College of Mechlin, and, in addition, the management of the library of the Academy was intrusted to him. He made himself advantageously known to the literary world by several Dissertations upon various points of history and philosophy. He was nominated canon of Tournay in 1765, and in 1767 vicargeneral of that city; he also held for a time the vicariate-general over the province of Tournaisis. Upon the exclusion of the Society of Jesus from the country in 1773, he was designated as a member of the royal commission for the studies instituted at Brussels. The archduke Maximilian, afterwards elector of Cologne; having appreciated his merit in a visit that Nelis made to the Belgian provinces; signalized him to the emperor Joseph II, who nominated Nelis to the bishopric of Antwerp, October 25, 1784. Although he owed his elevation to the house of Austria, his conscience was greatly alarmed by the religious innovations that the emperor Joseph II wished to introduce; and as early as May 22, 1786, he addressed remonstrances to the government concerning the order of publishing from the pulpit the proclamations of the police and others, and several days after representations upon the suppression of societies, processions, and upon impediments that invalidate marriage. The same year he opposed the imperial edict which instituted a new form of concourse for conferring benefices; later he wrote against the suppression of episcopal seminaries. The death of Joseph II wrought some changes, and on July 19, 1793, Nelis, who had shown himself one of the most ardent enemies of France, wrote to the emperor Francis II to justify and excuse his conduct during the Brabanbonne revolution. The 21st of April following he went to Brussels, where the states were convened, and was cordially welcomed by the emperor. But the revolution advanced rapidly, and at the approach of the French army Nelis, who had everything to fear, fled in haste from Antwerp, June 28, 1794. He sought first an asylum at Breda, but could not long remain in that town, and made his way to Rotterdam, and in 1795 went over into Germany. After having sojourned several months at Gottingen and at Osnabrtick, then in Switzerland at Zurich, near Lavater, of whom he was an intimate friend, he passed to Bavaria, and shortly after to Italy, where he dwelt successively at Florence, Parma, Bologna, Rome, and Naples. He found at last a welcome hospitality in a convent of Camaldules near Florence, where he died, August 21, 1798. We have among the works of this prelate, Eloge funebre de l'empereur Francois I (Louvain, 1765, 4to, in Latin; Brussels, 1766, 4to, in Latin and French): — Eloge funebre de Marie-Therese (Brussels, 1780, 4to and 8vo). This eulogy, written in French, is considered much superior to the one composed by the abbe de Boismont: — Belgicarum rerum Prodromus, sive de historia Belgica ejusque scriptoribus praecipuis commentatio (Parma, 1795, 8vo). M. de Reiffenberg paid it the greatest eulogy in his edition of the Chronique rimee de Philippe Mouskes: L'Aveugle de la Montagne, ou entretiens philosophiques (1789, 1793, 2 volumes, 8vo; enlarged edition, Parma, 1795, 8vo; Rome, 1797, 4to). In the collections of the Academy of Brussels, 1777, and following year, are found the following, by Nelis: Memoire sur l'ancien Brabant; sur la vigogne et l'amelioration de nos laines; sur la pierre Brunehaut dans le Tournaisis; sur la constitution municipale et sur les privileges accordes aux villes des Pays-Bas; sur les ecoles et sur les etudes d'humanites. We also have from Nelis numerous Mandements and Lettres pastorales, either in Flemish or in French. Among the manuscripts that he has left, two especially are of interest, Questionum Camaldulensium libri quatuor, and Europae fata, mores, disciplinae, ab ineunte saeculo X V usque ad finem saeculi XVII. These two works were on the point of being published when death removed their author, who bequeathed them to the convent of the Camaldules, where he had found an asylum. See Synopsis actorum ecclesiae Antwerpiensis, etc., by De Ram; Memoires de l'Acadmie des Sciences de Bruxelles, passim; Documents particuliers. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v.

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