Maturin, Basil William (1847–1915), catholic priest and writer, was born on 15 February 1847 at All Saints’ vicarage, Grangegorman, Dublin, third of the ten children of the Rev. William Maturin (qv) and his wife, Jane Cooke (née Beatty). The Maturins, a prominent Anglo-Irish family of huguenot ancestry, had produced many influential Church of Ireland clergymen over the generations, the most notable being the writer Charles Robert Maturin (qv), grandfather to Basil. His own father, whose tractarian convictions were considered too high-church for many in Dublin, was a somewhat controversial figure in the church. Religion was to play a huge part in the Maturin children's lives. Two of Basil's brothers entered the church and two sisters became nuns; as a young man Basil assisted in training the choir and playing the organ at his father's church. Educated at home and at a Dublin day school, he went on to attend TCD, from where he graduated BA in 1870.
Though he initially intended to make a career in the army as an engineer, a severe attack of scarlet fever about 1868, and the death of his brother Arthur, changed his outlook on life, and he decided to become a clergyman. He was ordained a deacon in 1870 and later that year went as a curate to Peterstow, Herefordshire, where his father's friend Dr John Jebb was rector. He subsequently joined the Society of St John the Evangelist, entering the novitiate at Cowley, Oxford, in February 1873. As a Cowley father he was sent in 1876 to establish a mission in Philadelphia, where he worked as an assistant priest and, from 1881, as rector of St Clement's church. Though he proved to be an effective clergyman and popular preacher, his growing religious doubts and increasing interest in catholicism resulted in his returning to Oxford in 1888. Then followed a six-month visit in 1889–90 to a society house in Cape Town. He returned to Britain, where he preached and conducted retreats around the country and occasionally on the continent. In 1896 he produced the first in a series of religious publications, Some principles and practices of spiritual life.
Maturin's continuing religious anxieties eventually led to his conversion to catholicism on 5 March 1897, at the Jesuit Beaumont College outside London. He then studied theology at the Canadian College, Rome, and was ordained there in 1898. Following his return to England he lived initially at Archbishop's House, Westminster, and undertook missionary work. He then served at St Mary's, Cadogan Street, in 1901. He became parish priest of Pimlico and, in 1905, having joined the newly established Society of Westminster Diocesan Missionaries, organised the opening of St Margaret's chapel on St Leonard's Street, where huge crowds came to hear his sermons. As a catholic priest he returned to Ireland on several occasions, and frequently preached at the Carmelite church, Clarendon Street, Dublin. His attempt, at the age of sixty-three, to enter into monastic life at the Benedictine monastery at Downside, in 1910, proved unsuccessful. He returned to London and began working in St James's, Spanish Place, while maintaining his preaching commitments. He continued to write, publishing Self-knowledge and self-discipline (1905), Laws of spiritual life (1907) and his autobiographical The price of unity (1912), in which he traced his gradual move towards catholicism. His sermons, like his approach when hearing confessions, were said to have much appeal for their integrity. Despite his influence as a preacher, he seems to have often felt that his life and vocation lacked real purpose and at times he suffered from depression.
After a brief visit to the USA in 1913, Maturin accepted the post of catholic chaplain to Oxford University (1914). He travelled to New York in 1915 and, after preaching there throughout the spring, boarded the Lusitania in May to return to England. It was torpedoed on 7 May 1915 and sank. His body was washed ashore; it had no lifebelt and, as he had assisted his fellow passengers in the last minutes, it is presumed that he had refused one, as they were in short supply. A service was held for him at Westminster cathedral. His friend Wilfrid Philip Ward edited a collection of his spiritual writings, Sermons and sermon notes, in 1916.