Baffling the Blatant Beast: Robert Persons' Anti-Appellant Rhetoric, 1601-1602

By Houliston, Victor | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Baffling the Blatant Beast: Robert Persons' Anti-Appellant Rhetoric, 1601-1602


Houliston, Victor, The Catholic Historical Review


In Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, BookVI (published in 1596), Sir Calidore, the patron knight of courtesy, is commissioned to baffle the Blatant Beast of slander and repair the damage he has caused. In an ecclesiastical context, it appears that Spenser primarily identifies the Blatant Beast with iconoclasm:

Through all estates he found that he had past,

In which he many massacres had left,

And to the Clergy now was come at last;

In which such spoile, such hauocke, and such theft

He wrought, that thence all goodnesse he bereft,

That endlesse were to tell. The Elfin Knight,

Who now no place besides vnsought had left,

At length into a Monastere did light,

Where he him found despoyling all with maine and might.1

There is an allusion here to the despoiling of the monasteries by Henry VIII, in which slander-a cynical exposé, as his critics maintained, of monkish corruption-played a central role. But Spenser, writing at much the same time as Richard Hooker's defense of tradition against the Puritans Walter Travers and Thomas Cartwright, is also concerned about a mean spirit of detraction, a ruthless determination to leave nothing standing of the old order.2 And behind this he detects something even more comprehensively threatening.

Book VI of The Faerie Queene takes Spenser's meditation on the nature and conditions of moral virtue into new territory. It is not enough, he seems to be arguing, for a person to be righteous, for temperance to go beyond mediating between extremes; it is not enough to harness natural energies and respond to the beauty deep down things, to unite with the like-minded and resist public and private evil. Such virtues are explored with great subtlety in the first five books of the poem. Book Six implies that they are limited in their power unless recognition is super-added. The beauty of holiness needs to be respected, treated with courtesy, or it will not be able to radiate out and transform the world. That is why envy, slander, detraction, the spirit of carping and faultfinding, are so destructive. Spenser is at pains to register the fragility of his vision of goodness. Not even Calidore, approaching the dance of the Graces, is sensitive enough to prevent them vanishing. Colin Clout, the figure of the poet himself, breaks his pipe in frustration.3

Robert Persons the Jesuit was not, one would think, a kindred spirit with the convinced Protestant Edmund Spenser, but he shared the horror of slander as a form of iconoclasm, the destruction of an image. Unlike Spenser, he was himself a prime target of a smear campaign, so his strictures on detraction were even less disinterested,4 but his selfvindication in the fierce appellant controversy of 1598-1602 makes for a fascinating case study of engaging with the Blatant Beast.

In March, 1598, the Cardinal Protector of England, Enrico Caetani, proposed that the persecuted Church of Rome in England should be placed under the authority of an archpriest. George Blackwell was appointed, and the Jesuit superior, Henry Garnet, reported that there "was general acceptance among the clergy. Perhaps. But a relatively small but determined group of secular priests-just how representative they were of a wider feeling it is hard to establish-protested against the imposition, as they saw it, of an unwanted and unfamiliar form of church government.5 Fundamentally, they were disaffected with the Jesuits, whom they believed to be behind the move and would stand to gain from it. That disaffection, in turn, stemmed from perceived Jesuit domination of the English seminaries, Jesuit promotion of Spanish political interest (incurring the wrath of the English authorities on all Catholics), and Jesuit involvement in the notorious Wisbech Stirs. Father William Weston, Garnet's predecessor as Jesuit superior, had entered the community of jailed Catholic clerics at Wisbech Castle in 1588; in December, 1594, he withdrew to his room in disgust over the lax behavior of some of his fellow inmates, and the community was split.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Baffling the Blatant Beast: Robert Persons' Anti-Appellant Rhetoric, 1601-1602
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.