A Literary History of the English Jesuits: A Century of Books, 1615-1714

By McCoog, Thomas M | The Catholic Historical Review, April 1997 | Go to article overview

A Literary History of the English Jesuits: A Century of Books, 1615-1714


McCoog, Thomas M, The Catholic Historical Review


A Literary History of the English Jesuits: A Century of Books, 1615-1714. By Thomas H. Clancy. (Bethesda, Maryland: Catholic Scholars Press.1996. Pp. x, 283. $69.95.)

This study builds on the solid foundations laid by Clancy in his English Catholic Books, 1641-1 700:A Bibliography (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1974; revised edition published in 1996 by Scolar Press in Aldershot, England). Similar to Peter Milward's two volumes Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age and Religious Controversies of the Jacobean Age (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977 and 1978), Clancy traces predominant characteristics and themes through primary printed material. Readers may wish that certain works received greater attention. Clancy's decision to begin his examination in 1615 was not arbitrary: by that date not only had most prominent Elizabethan Jesuit authors passed from the scene-Robert Southwell, Henry Garnet, Robert Parsons-but the issues had changed.The next generation of Jesuit theologians, arguably the most competent in the history of the mission, has not received proper recognition. This reviewer hopes that Clancy's presentation will encourage future scholars to explore the theological works of Jesuit theologians such as John Floyd and Matthew Wilson.

Between 1615 and 1640, Jesuit writings were almost equally divided between spiritual and controversial works. Nearly 80% of the spiritual and devotional works, however, were translations or editions, whereas 85% of the controversial works were written by English Jesuits. Controversial theology was their strength-and a periodic source of trouble. In 1610 and 1614, French outrage during the battle over tyrannicide forced the Jesuit General Claudio Acquaviva to forbid any treatment of the nature and origin of political authority without prior Roman approval. Later Pope Urban VIII issued the brief Britannia (1631) to quell the storm surrounding the appointment of Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon, by forbidding under pain of excommunication any more books on church order and the nature of ecclesiastical government. …

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