The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits. Essays in Celebration of the First Century of Campion Hall, Oxford (1896-1996)

By Edwards, Francis | The Catholic Historical Review, July 1997 | Go to article overview

The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits. Essays in Celebration of the First Century of Campion Hall, Oxford (1896-1996)


Edwards, Francis, The Catholic Historical Review


The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits. Essays in Celebration of the First Century of Campion Hall, Oxford (1896-1996). Edited by Thomas McCoog, SJ. (Rochester, New York: The Boydell Press. 1996. Pp. xxvi, 337. $71.00.)

Handsomely produced with a good index and bibliography, this book contains fifteen essays by well-known writers including the editor. The notes indicate the latest as well as older standard works. Part I deals with the "context" in which, after a brief life of Campion, David Loades studies the spirituality of the "restored Catholic Church" from 1553 to 1558, underlining the tensions between the Marian restoration and new currents from abroad.The tension theme is taken up in Thomas E Mayer's "A Test of Wills: Cardinal Pole, Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits in England." Pole shunned Jesuit help for England, his own sympathies lying with Paul IV and his Theatines (p. 31). J. M. McConica pursues the tension theme at Oxford University, where the Chancellor, Robert Dudley, forced the issue against the papists to the limit.

Colm Lennon begins Part II, "Campion and His Contemporaries," with an essay on Campion's Histories of Ireland. Tension existed in individuals as well as systems. Campion strongly supported the viceroy, Sir Henry Sidney, including his defeat of Shane O'Neill, paramount chief of Ulster. He believed in Anglicization and education, although an Irish university had to wait (p. 78). Katherine Duncan-Jones pursues Campion's influence on Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Henry's son, especially during his stay in Prague. Alison Shell considers Campion as a dramatist. Thomas McCoog's essay on "The Role of Disputation in the Jesuit Mission" makes it clear why Jesuits were so much hated by adversaries.They trained students in the seminaries to argue with needle sharpness (p.122).

Unsatisfactory, alas, is John Bossy's assessment of The Heart of Robert Persons." After a sneer at Campion's "angelism" and his way of turning a mission into a melodrama" (p.141), Bossy gets down to Persons. He claims a "discovery that, during his major period of political activity, Persons advocated, or. . did rather more than condone the assassination of Queen Elizabeth as a preliminary to the enterprise of England." For evidence Bossy offers an obscure Latin passage from a reply of General Claudio Aquaviva of June 5,1583, to a letter from Persons no longer extant (pp.148-149, and n. 26). Bossy admits one cannot define exactly something hinted at obscurely in the Latin but presumably connected with the invasion of England. He takes a cardinal unnamed to be the Cardinal of Como, who accepted, like Gregory XIII, the idea of assassination."If Gallio was the cardinal in question, we can surmise what Persons' dubious proposal was" (p.149)-Elizabeth's murder. He follows this up,"I am sorry to say I think there can be no reasonable doubt that . . . what Persons was putting to Aquaviva, and Aquaviva stiffly turn[ed] down was [George] Gifford's offer to assassinate Elizabeth" (p. 150). There were several possibilities, but Bossy unashamedly refers later to "the discovery that during the major period of political activity, Persons advocated or, shall we say, did rather more than condone the assassination of Queen Elizabeth" (p.155). He sees Persons possessed by the spirit of revenge. By the end, a possibility has become "the distasteful fact" (p. 158). Bossy admits, "These may be untoward suggestions; but suggestions seem to be needed" (p.157). Untoward suggestions are never needed.The assassination issue was controverted on all sides. Persons spoke authentically for himself in A Temperate Ward-word to . . . Sir Francis Hastinges . He was never consenting, witting, inducing, yielding, nor privy to any such personal attempt against her Majesty in his life." He knew also that "English Catholics themselves desired not to be delivered from their miseries by any such attempt" (Scolar reprint,1970, pp. 66-72). …

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