* The author wishes to thank, in particular, Robert Maryks for allowing him the opportunity to edit this special issue of jjs, plus for his ability to answer constant editorial questions without displaying even the merest hint of irritation. Thomas McCoog, S.J, has also been a willing and invaluable sounding board for different ideas, for which the editor is grateful. Thanks are also due to Paul Arblaster, Caroline Bowden, Anne Dillon, Susan Royal, Bill Sheils, and Maurice Whitehead for their advice at various points of the process.
In April 1580, two Jesuit priests and one Jesuit lay brother were amongst a party of secular clergy and laymen which left Rome for England. Though a minority in the group, it was the three members of the Society who created a stir in their native England and marked a new moment in the history of the still young Society of Jesus.1 Edmund Campion, Robert Persons, and Ralph Emerson constituted the opening salvo of the Jesuit mission to England, something that had been resisted by English churchmen during the reign of Mary I, and by the Jesuit superior general since Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne and the accompanying turn of England to a policy of official Protestantism.2
The English Jesuit mission had been a long time in gestation, even after the start of Elizabeth I’s reign. Historians have proffered different reasons for why Superior General Everard Mercurian’s reservations were suddenly eased in 1580. That it was tied to the proposed Anjou Match, involving Elizabeth in a dynastic alliance with France (through Francis, Duke of Anjou) is now taken as given. The historiographical sticking points are over whether the Jesuit mission was launched to support or damage these marriage negotiations, or at the behest of the Spanish or the French, or even all of these different angles at the same time.3 The mission would continue as it started, motives and actions being shrouded in controversy, the Elizabethan authorities viewing the presence of the Catholic clergy—and in particular the Jesuits—as a challenge to its legitimacy. In the opinion of Peter Lake and Michael Questier, Edmund Campion paid the ultimate price for his and Persons’s hard-line policy on recusancy, the demand that Catholics could not attend the services of the nominally Protestant state church, despite the law commanding that they do so. When the Jesuits attempted to drive a wedge between the spiritual and the temporal—or, as modern parlance would put it, insisting on freedom of conscience—the regime reacted with fury, believing its foundations undermined and its authority undercut.4 This highlights a recurring and fundamental theme in this issue of jjs: namely, the division between the temporal and the spiritual, the claims of the nation state and the rights of conscience. Despite the two Jesuits’ best efforts, the relationship between religion and politics was too entwined in the Elizabethan Settlement. As Thomas McCoog has recently observed, the distinction, “never as clear as the evangelical injunction ‘render to Caesar’ suggested, was particularly ambiguous in early modern Europe.”5
From that point on, persecution and martyrdom became part of the scene for English Catholics, the state engaging in periodic bursts of bloody and vicious persecution.6 It is from this period that the tales of English Jesuit heroism spring: John Gerard’s resistance to horrific torture in the Tower of London, from which he escaped by means of something akin to a zip line from the walls down to the River Thames; the execution of the poet priest, Robert Southwell; the spirited stand by the provincial Henry Garnet in defense of the seal of the confessional, which ultimately led to his death for refusing to reveal what he may have heard about the Gunpowder Plot.7 However, the Society’s involvement in England, from its bright, initial uniting burst, descended into internecine squabbling and battles that would dog the English Catholic community for several decades. In particular, the events of the archpriest controversy at the end of the sixteenth and start of the seventeenth centuries, as well as the approbation affair a couple of decades later, saw the Society’s representatives engaged in fierce polemical battles with the English secular clergy about the future of the mission and how English Catholics should behave towards the state.8 At one point in 1595, the Jesuits were even accused by a member of the secular clergy of behavior “not practised in any ordered place in the world; a disgrace to all degree and learning and fit for Anabaptists; a seditious mutiny and against the several orders of the Church; a contempt of reverend age.”9
After the travails of the English Civil War and the Interregnum period in the middle of the seventeenth century, the disputes, though still simmering, became less fierce and general accommodation, if not necessarily mutual respect, ensued. It is worth noting, though, that following the establishment of the vicars apostolic in England and Wales in 1688, no Jesuits were ever numbered amongst them, even though Benedictines did feature. Despite this lack of hierarchical representation, it could be argued that the Jesuits had a further reaching influence in the background, running several of the colleges in exile that trained secular clergy for the English mission.10 Equally, members of the Society played a significant role in the spiritual care of English women religious in exile.11 Quieter and less dynamic these activities might have been than the power and the glory of the English mission itself, particularly during the heat of persecution, but vitally important for the survival and maintenance of the English Catholic community they remained.
Understandably, the historiography of the Jesuits in England has been dominated by two of the more eye-catching figures: Robert Persons and Edmund Campion. Without disparaging Campion’s prominence and, on many levels, intellectual brilliance, Gerard Kilroy moves him off center stage in his article for this special issue of jjs. Historiography has frequently painted Campion as the “big deal” for the English authorities, Questier and Lake, as mentioned, arguing that his (and Persons’s) insistence on recusancy rather than outward conformity as a means of Catholic survival divided temporal and spiritual loyalty, something which proved an anathema to the Elizabethan state that had fully entwined the two. Without taking too much away from this argument, Kilroy instead suggests that Campion was a victim of the wider context; specifically, Nicholas Sander’s attempts at rebellion in Ireland. In Kilroy’s telling of events, this made it impossible for Campion to argue that the Jesuit mission to England was simply spiritual. In short, he was undercut by the plotting of the father of the English mission, Cardinal William Allen,12 along with Nicholas Sander. Kilroy alleges that it was not only Campion who was left in the dark over these military interventions: so was the Jesuit superior general, Everard Mercurian, when he finally sanctioned the mission to England over which he had so long hesitated. In Kilroy’s provocative but compelling analysis, Campion was an unwilling participant in the mission and only obeyed—even after he found out the truth of Allen’s double-dealing—because of the vow of obedience he had taken as a Jesuit. The sheer panic engendered amongst the English authorities by Sander’s actions in Ireland was what did for the “flower of Oxford.” His arrival and policies may have caused some tumult but, following Kilroy’s line, Campion was a dead-man walking from the moment he stepped foot in England.
Once in England, seeking advice from continental superiors was a fraught enterprise for the missionary Jesuit. Victor Houliston outlines just how precarious contact between England and the continent could be. It is something of a miracle that so much of Robert Persons’s correspondence survives, what with the added dangers of interception and the vicissitudes of early modern letter networks, though, as Houliston notes, there are significant gaps. Equally, there were also issues in understanding, words developing varying meanings at different times in the evolution of languages. Considering the dangers faced by the Jesuit missionaries in England, it seems remarkable that Persons could sometimes have to wait for two months before receiving a reply from Rome to an urgent message. By then, of course, the situation could have developed rapidly. This necessitated decision making by those on the ground, a factor that in some ways separated Jesuits engaged on the English mission from the international Society to which they belonged. True, some of Persons’s letters were meant for wider consumption, particularly by the Society at large, but Houliston continues the current trajectory of work on Persons,13 highlighting the oft-neglected spiritual side of the Jesuit’s character. As Houliston observes, Persons was caught between “occupations”: the Counter-Reformation missionary strategist in tension with his own vocation and spiritual needs. With all the scholarship on the survival, maintaining or even developing of English Catholicism in the face of official state persecution, it is easy to neglect its underlying spiritual dimension.
Ronald Corthell picks up on this point concluding, though, that it was very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone, let alone Robert Persons, to split the spiritual from the political so cleanly. He explores the tension between the two major roles of Robert Persons, the man of political action versus the author of a major English-language spiritual work of the time. For Corthell, Persons is a major literary figure. Indeed, he senses an authorial pride behind some of Persons’s reaction to the appropriation of his Book of Christian Exercise. Perhaps more fundamentally though, Persons’s work of spiritual guidance—a far more effective driver of conversion than works of polemic—had been appropriated for Protestant use. This once more brings us back to the point of understanding: just as Houliston highlights the perils to comprehension when translating English to Latin and back again, Corthell ventures that even readers in the same language interpreted certain words and phrases differently. In Corthell’s opinion, this must have been even more frustrating for Persons as his spiritual and devotional writing was a means of overcoming his geographical exile from the mission; this was pastoral missionary work in absentia. Taken together, these elements only add a further layer to the notion of devotion as polemic: whether Persons’s wanted to or not—and indeed, he and Campion had argued they were only interested in matters of conscience—even his purely pastoral efforts could not help but be political due to the climate of early modern England.
The translation of text from one language to another also looms large in Clarinda Calma’s article. However, in this instance, it is the deliberate changes in understanding that are of interest, Gaspar Wilkowski taking Edmund Campion’s book, Rationes decem, and adapting it for his target audience in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Wilkowski, formerly a member of the Arian Polish Brethren, had converted to Catholicism under the influence of local Jesuits. He had experience of turning personal conversion testimony into polemic in his own “spiritual biography.” This background was brought to his translation of Campion’s already polemical work, Calma suggesting that Wilkowski used the method of explicitation to help convey particular messages for his “new” audience. Wilkowski’s extrapolations and changes in translation were a deliberate and conscious attempt at making Campion’s hard-hitting work of direct relevance to a different situation in Counter-Reformation Europe. Such efforts on the part of Wilkowski show the transnational impact of a figure like Edmund Campion in the Counter-Reformation. That Wilkowski’s work drew responses several years later underlines that this impact was not just confined to Catholics but was truly cross-confessional, Campion’s polemical broadside producing rumblings across continental Europe. Just as the study of early modern English Catholicism is moving towards firmly placing it in the context of a wider, European Counter-Reformation,14 Calma shows that Jesuit studies also have much to offer in this area.
Though Michael Questier has suggested that spiritual works, such as those of Persons, had more effect in attracting converts than polemical efforts, the message did not seem to reach the Jesuits involved in the British mission.15 Piecing together the seventeenth-century Jesuit library once held at the Cwm on the English-Welsh border, Hannah Thomas finds polemic makes up the highest number of works in what is the largest known post-Reformation Jesuit library to survive in Britain. Of course, as she points out, it was impossible for the Jesuits to remove themselves completely from the political climate of the English and Welsh mission. Owing to the Elizabethan settlement that wrapped up temporal and spiritual loyalty, religion was politics and vice-versa. Nevertheless, Jesuits in England and Wales maintained contact with Counter-Reformation developments on the continent. With the scholarly tendency to focus on country-specific missions, it is easy to forget that individual Jesuits belonged to a world-wide order. Thomas also underlines the importance of lay patronage for those working on the mission and, in this instance, it led to something perhaps unique: a functioning regional Jesuit library, possibly formed before even the province and the attending colleges were officially founded. In Thomas’s recreation of this Jesuit library, she shows the importance of the Welsh mission in the fabled successes of the English mission into which it is so frequently subsumed, whilst also raising the tantalizing possibility that lay Catholics were “borrowers” from the library in a conscious program of Catholic lay education.
So where does that leave the state of scholarship regarding the Jesuits in England? In many ways, spurred on by the pioneering archival efforts of Thomas McCoog, S.J., the history of the Society’s English mission is currently experiencing the revisionism that has been brought to the study of post-Reformation English Catholicism since the ground-breaking work of John Bossy.16 This jjs issue has its origins in a conference held at Durham University to celebrate the work of one of these revisionist historians, Eamon Duffy. The articles by no means represent all the papers that touched on matters relating to the Society, though it is clear that work on Robert Persons is enjoying something of a renaissance. In addition, there are major research projects being conducted, the contributors to this issue playing significant roles in several of them. For example, there is Victor Houliston’s “Persons Correspondence Project,” which is attempting to piece together all the correspondence of that indefatigable letter writer; Hannah Thomas’s involvement in the “Cwm Library Project,” recreating a Jesuit mission library in Wales; not to mention Clarinda Calma’s “Subversive Publishing in Modern England and Poland: A Comparative Study Project,” which is unearthing the impact of English Jesuits like Campion further afield in the Counter-Reformation. Equally, 2015 will see the release of Gerard Kilroy’s painstaking re-presentation of the life of Edmund Campion, which has uncovered many documents long neglected due to the familiarity of the tale. Other recent publications show that the revision of the Society’s English involvement is not isolated and is even starting to encompass wider themes than just the political entanglements.17
Nevertheless, the field is by no means saturated and there are plenty of avenues available for future research. The first gaping hole is obvious just from this collection. Almost inevitably, the revision has started with arguably the two most famous English Jesuits of the early modern period. Edmund Campion and Robert Persons are formidable figures worthy of this focus but it has resulted in the post-Elizabethan English Jesuit mission being somewhat neglected. This becomes even more of an issue for the eighteenth century, where, barring the recent work of Maurice Whitehead, explicit research is curiously sparse.18 Moreover, the Campion/Persons dominance means that other major figures are awaiting similar reappraisals, such as Henry Garnet and Robert Southwell. That is only to mention two of the more familiar names; others deserve equal merit and attention. More work could also usefully be done on anti-Jesuit feeling and propaganda not just in England as a whole, but also amongst the native Catholic community and how it fed wider anti-Jesuit stereotypes. A temptation to isolate the Society’s English members and activities must also be avoided, as the archipelagic Jesuit experience needs to be brought in line, comparatively, with work on their European confreres. In short, the field of the early modern English Jesuit mission is an active one, but one with plenty of scope and material to remain so into the future and alter perceptions not just about early modern Jesuits and early modern Catholicism, but the history of early modern England and Europe as well.
1 Alexandra Walsham, “‘This new army of Satan’: the Jesuit Mission and the Formation of Public Opinion in Elizabethan England,” in Moral Panics, the Media and the Law in Early Modern England, eds. David Lemmings and Claire Walker (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2009), 41–62.
2 Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “Ignatius Loyola and Reginald Pole: a Reconsideration,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 17 (1996): 257–273; Thomas Mayer, “A Test of Wills: Pole, Loyola and the Jesuits in England,” in The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early Jesuits, ed. Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. (Boydell: Woodbridge, 1996), 21–28. As Eamon Duffy points out, Reginald Pole was not the only Counter-Reformation prelate reluctant to make use of the Society: Eamon Duffy, “Cardinal Pole Preaching: St. Andrew’s Day 1557,” in The Church of Mary Tudor, eds. Eamon Duffy and David Loades (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2006), 176–177. For Mercurian’s deliberations, see Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “The English Jesuit Mission and the French Match, 1579–1581,” Catholic Historical Review 87 (2001): 185–213; Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “‘Striking Fear in Heretical Hearts’: Everard Mercurian’s Relations with British Religious Exiles,” in The Mercurian Project: Forming Jesuit Culture 1573–1580, ed. Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. (Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu: Rome, 2004), 645–673. Amended versions of these two articles appear in “And Touching Our Society”: Fashioning Jesuit Identity in Elizabethan England, ed. Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies: Toronto, 2013), 29–54, 55–88.
3 John Bossy, “English Catholics and the French Marriage,” Recusant History 5 (1960): 2–16; McCoog, “The English Jesuit Mission and the French Match,” 185–213; James E. Kelly, “Review of ‘And Touching Our Society’: Fashioning Jesuit Identity in Elizabethan England,” Recusant History 32 (2014): 115–117.
4 Peter Lake and Michael Questier, “Puritans, Papists, and the ‘Public Sphere’ in Early Modern England: The Edmund Campion Affair in Context,” The Journal of Modern History 72 (2000): 587–627. Gerard Kilroy provocatively suggests more fundamental reasons for this in his article in this issue.
5 Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “Jesuit Nuncios to Tudor Ireland,” in “And Touching Our Society”, 420.
6 For English Catholic martyrdom, see Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass., 1999), 272–314; Anne Dillon, The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, 1535–1603 (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2002); Susannah B. Monta, Martyrdom and Literature in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005).
7 John Gerard, John Gerard: the Autobiography of an Elizabethan, ed. Philip Caraman, S.J. (Longmans, Green & Co: London, 1951); Philip Caraman, S.J., Henry Garnet (1555–1606) and the Gunpowder Plot (Longmans: London, 1964); The Poems of Robert Southwell, eds. James H. McDonald and Nancy Pollard Brown (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1967).
8 For the archpriest controversy, see John Bossy, “Henri IV: The Appellants and the Jesuits,” Recusant History 8 (1965): 80–122; Newsletters from the Archpresbyterate of George Birkhead, ed. Michael C. Questier, Camden Society, Fifth Series 12 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1998). For the approbation affair, see Antony F. Allison, “A Question of Jurisdiction: Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon, and the Catholic Laity, 1625–31,” Recusant History 16 (1982): 111–145; Newsletters from the Caroline Court, 1631–1638: Catholicism and the Politics of the Personal Rule, ed. Michael C. Questier, Camden Society, Fifth Series 26 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005). These disagreements and arguments resonated beyond the clergy and amongst the English laity, affecting lay patronage of the mission: James E. Kelly, “Kinship and Religious Politics among Catholic Families in England, 1570–1640,” History 94 (2009): 328–343.
9 “Letter to a Norfolk Gentleman (William Wiseman),” in The Wisbech Stirs, 1595–98, ed. P. Renold, Catholic Record Society, 51 (Catholic Record Society: London, 1958), 14–17.
10 For Jesuit influence in the English colleges in exile, see Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1541–1588: “Our Way of Proceeding?” (Brill: Leiden, 1996); Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1589–1597: Building the Faith of Saint Peter upon the King of Spain’s Monarchy (Ashgate: Farnham, 2012); Thomas M. McCoog, S.J., “‘Replant the uprooted trunk of the tree of faith’: the Society of Jesus and the continental colleges for religious exiles,” in Insular Christianity: Alternative Models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1570–c.1700, eds. Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2013), 28–48. This could, though, prove another source of contention, the Society regularly accused by its secular clergy opponents of skimming off the best students for itself.
11 See, for example, Elizabeth Patton, “From Community to Convent: The Collective Spiritual Life of Post-Reformation Englishwomen in Dorothy Arundell’s Biography of John Cornelius,” in The English Convents in Exile, 1600–1800: Communities, Culture and Identity, eds. Caroline Bowden and James E. Kelly (Ashgate: Farnham, 2013), 19–31. For the importance placed by some women religious on access to Jesuit spiritual advice, see the arguments at the Brussels Benedictine convent: Claire Walker, “Securing Souls or Telling Tales? The Politics of Cloistered Life in an English Convent,” in Female Monasticism in Early Modern Europe: An Interdisciplinary View, ed. Cordula van Wyhe (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2008), 227–244.
12 Historiography has tended to exonerate Allen of all charges of perceived wrongdoing in relation to the 1580 Jesuit mission, leaving intact his reputation as the “hero” of persecuted Catholicism at the expense of the further blackening of Robert Persons’s name. For an example of a similar early modern massaging of reputations, see Thomas F. Mayer, “A Sticking-Plaster Saint? Autobiography and Hagiography in the Making of Reginald Pole,” in The Rhetorics of Life-Writing in Early Modern Europe: Forms of Biography from Cassandra Fedele to Louis XIV, eds. Thomas F. Mayer and D. R. Woolf (The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1995), 205–222. My thanks to Thomas McCoog for this reference.
13 For example, his own Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’s Jesuit Polemic, 1580–1610 (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2007).
14 For example, see Stefania Tutino, “The Political Thought of Robert Persons’s Conference in Continental Context,” The Historical Journal 52 (2009): 43–62; and Alexandra Walsham, Catholic Reformation in Protestant Britain (Ashgate: Farnham, 2014).
15 Michael C. Questier, Conversion, Politics and Religion, 1580–1625 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996), 37.
16 John Bossy, The English Catholic Community, 1570–1850 (Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 1975).
17 For example, recent works include Robert E. Scully, S.J., Into the Lion’s Den: The Jesuit Mission in Elizabethan England and Wales, 1580–1603 (Institute of Jesuit Sources: St. Louis, 2011); and Maurice Whitehead and Peter Leech, “‘In Paradise and among Angels’: Music and Musicians at St Omers English Jesuit College, 1593–1721,” Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 61 (2011): 57–82.
18 Maurice Whitehead, English Jesuit Education: Expulsion, Suppression, Survival and Restoration, 1762–1803 (Ashgate: Farnham, 2013). Thomas McCoog also considers the Jesuit experience in the eighteenth century in the forthcoming “An Identity Crisis? The Vicars Apostolic and the Suppressed/Restored English Province of the Society of Jesus,” in Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity, Memory and Counter-Reformation, eds. James E. Kelly and Susan Royal (Ashgate: Farnham, forthcoming 2015).
Alexandra Walsham“‘This new army of Satan’: the Jesuit Mission and the Formation of Public Opinion in Elizabethan England,” in Moral Panics the Media and the Law in Early Modern Englandeds. David Lemmings and Claire Walker (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke2009) 41–62.
Thomas M. McCoog S.J.“Ignatius Loyola and Reginald Pole: a Reconsideration,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 17 (1996): 257–273; Thomas Mayer “A Test of Wills: Pole Loyola and the Jesuits in England” in The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early Jesuits ed. Thomas M. McCoog S.J. (Boydell: Woodbridge 1996) 21–28. As Eamon Duffy points out Reginald Pole was not the only Counter-Reformation prelate reluctant to make use of the Society: Eamon Duffy “Cardinal Pole Preaching: St. Andrew’s Day 1557” in The Church of Mary Tudor eds. Eamon Duffy and David Loades (Ashgate: Aldershot 2006) 176–177. For Mercurian’s deliberations see Thomas M. McCoog S.J. “The English Jesuit Mission and the French Match 1579–1581” Catholic Historical Review 87 (2001): 185–213; Thomas M. McCoog S.J. “‘Striking Fear in Heretical Hearts’: Everard Mercurian’s Relations with British Religious Exiles” in The Mercurian Project: Forming Jesuit Culture 1573–1580 ed. Thomas M. McCoog S.J. (Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu: Rome 2004) 645–673. Amended versions of these two articles appear in “And Touching Our Society”: Fashioning Jesuit Identity in Elizabethan England ed. Thomas M. McCoog S.J. (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies: Toronto 2013) 29–54 55–88.
John Bossy“English Catholics and the French Marriage,” Recusant History 5 (1960): 2–16; McCoog “The English Jesuit Mission and the French Match” 185–213; James E. Kelly “Review of ‘And Touching Our Society’: Fashioning Jesuit Identity in Elizabethan England” Recusant History 32 (2014): 115–117.
Peter Lake and Michael Questier“Puritans, Papists, and the ‘Public Sphere’ in Early Modern England: The Edmund Campion Affair in Context,” The Journal of Modern History 72 (2000): 587–627. Gerard Kilroy provocatively suggests more fundamental reasons for this in his article in this issue.
Maurice WhiteheadEnglish Jesuit Education: Expulsion Suppression Survival and Restoration 1762–1803 (Ashgate: Farnham2013). Thomas McCoog also considers the Jesuit experience in the eighteenth century in the forthcoming “An Identity Crisis? The Vicars Apostolic and the Suppressed/Restored English Province of the Society of Jesus” in Early Modern English Catholicism: Identity Memory and Counter-Reformation eds. James E. Kelly and Susan Royal (Ashgate: Farnham forthcoming 2015).