Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Life of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A hunted Priest) part 4

"Thereupon the Council sent me with a letter to the pseudo-bishop of London, 1 who, having read it, asked whether I would allow him to confer with me on religious matters. I replied, that- as I doubted of nothing, I had rather decline. 'You must in that case' answered the superintendent, ' remain here in custody.' I replied that in this I was obliged to acquiesce, through force and the command of the Government. He treated me with kindness, with a view perhaps of thus drawing me over. But he ordered his chaplain's bed to be brought into my chamber. At first I repeatedly declared my determination not to enter into any dispute with this man on matters of faith, as to which my mind was settled, nor to receive religious instruction from him; but as he ceased not pouring out abuse and blasphemy against the saints in Heaven, and against our Holy Mother the Church, I was forced to defend the truth, and then almost the whole night was spent in disputing. I soon discovered that in him at least God's truth had no very formidable adversary. After two days, as they saw my case was hopeless, they sent me back to the Council with letters of recommendation forsooth, for the so-called bishop told me that he had greatly striven in my favour, and that he had great hopes of my being set at large. It was, however, a Uriah's letter that I carried, for no sooner had the Council read it, than they ordered me to be imprisoned until I had learnt to be a loyal subject. For they hold him a bad subject who will not subject himself to their heresies and their sacrilegious worship.2

"Being committed to the Marshalsea prison, I found there numbers of Catholics and many priests awaiting judgment of death with the greatest joy." There were forty-seven Catholics in the prison, of whom seventeen were priests, and amongst them were William Hartley, Stephen Rowsham, and John Adams, future martyrs on the scaffold, Thomas Crowther, who died in prison, and William Bishop, the first Vicar Apostolic. " In this school of Christ," Father Gerard says, "I was detained from the beginning -of one Lent to the end of the following, not without abundant consolation of mind and good opportunity for study. We were twice during this interval dragged before the courts, not to be tried for our lives, but to be fined according to the law against recusants. I was condemned to pay 2,000 florins [200/.]. 3

"Once on my return from the Court which was in the country, some six miles out of London, I got leave to go and visit some friends, having pledged my word to return to the Marshalsea that night. I went then to visit a prisoner detained in that horrible dungeon called Bridewell, as I had heard that he was sick. His story deserves notice. He had formerly lived in Father Campion's service, and on account of some words he had let fall in praise of Father Campion, he was arrested and detained a long time in the Marshalsea. On my arrival there I saw him laden with heavy fetters on his legs, besides which he wore a very rough hair-shirt. He was most lowly and meek, and full of charity. I happened one day to see a turnkey strike him repeatedly without the servant of God uttering a single word. He was at length taken with three others to the filthy Bridewell-One of their number died of starvation a few days after their transfer. When I visited this poor man he was lying ill, being worn out with want of food, and labour on the tread-wheel. It was a shocking sight. He was reduced to skin and bone, and covered with lice that swarmed upon him like ants on a mole-hill; so that I never remember to have seen the like.

"At times our cells were visited, and a strict search made for church stuff, Agnus Dei, and relics. Once we were betrayed by a false brother, who had feigned to be a Catholic, and disclosed our hidden stores to the authorities. On this occasion were seized quantities of Catholic books and sacred objects, enough to fill a cart. In my cell were found nearly all the requisites for saying mass; for my next door neighbour was a good priest, and we discovered a secret way of opening the door between us, so that we had mass very early every morning. We afterwards repaired our losses, nor could the malice of the devil again deprive us of so great a consolation in our bonds."

Not long before John Gerard's imprisonment the following report 4 by the Keeper was made to Lord Burghley, of masses said in the prison of the Marshalsea.

"Found at mass the 24th of August [1582], in the Marshalsea, as followeth. In Mr. Shelley's chamber, Thomas Hartley, priest, said mass, Richard Shelley, William Carew, gent, William Tooker, John Taylor, Mr. Shelley's man, Joan Watts, a stranger (of Oxfordshire), Mrs. Loe. In Mr. Perpoint's chamber, himself, Richard Norris in saying of mass, John Jacob. In Denton's chamber, himself priest, John Harris, his clerk. Their superstitious stuff, their abominable relics, and vile books, I have taken away ready to be showed. My humble request is to have the priests removed from me, and the rest to be examined and punished, as shall best seem good to your honours."

A little later the Bishop of. London wrote a letter 5 to Lord Burghley to the same purport, and in it the name of Hartley the martyr recurs.

" Right honourable and my singular good Lord,—Your lordship shall understand that I have not been unmindful of that search which your lordship required to be made in our Registry and in the prisons about London for the space of the first eight or nine years of her Majesty's reign. For the truth is I have done in both what I can, and can find nothing to the purpose ; for in the Registry, Johnes, who had the whole doing therein, being dead, nothing certain can be heard, and the gaolers being oft changed, have nothing for those years certain. But this I find among them, and specially in the Marshalsea, that those wretched priests, which by her Majesty's lenity live there, as it were in a college of caitiffs, do commonly say mass within the prison, and entice the youth of London unto them to my great grief, and as far as I can learn do daily reconcile them. I have been so bold [as] to shut up one Hartley, and to lay irons upon him, till I hear from your lordship what course herein we shall take hereafter. But the Commission being renewed, I doubt not but my Lord of Canterbury will look to those dangerous persons on that side. And so I take my leave of your good lordship, praying God to defend you with the shield of His providence in these malicious and dangerous days. At Fulham, this 5th of December, 1583. Your good lordship's most assuredly in Christ,

"John Lond."

Perhaps the "false brother" Father Gerard speaks of was Thomas Dodwell, and he may not have known who it was. At all events a spy of this name gave information, 6 which he called " Of the secrets in the Marshalsea." " One Tedder, a seminary priest, sent a letter 7 to Rome within four or five days past There is there four seminary priests in one chamber and close prisoners, viz., Fenn, Fowler, Conyers, and Hartley; and yet notwithstanding the often searching, they have such privy places to hide their massing trumpery that hardly it can be found, that they have to themselves often mass, and now because Sir George Carey [or Carew, Knight Marshal] and his servants have often taken from them their silver chalices, they have provided chalices of tin. . . . They hide their books in such secret places that when any search is [made] they can find nothing. They help many to go over beyond the sea. Mr. More, now prisoner in the Marshalsea, hath four sons in Rheims, whereof one he sent within this eight weeks. . . . There is in the Marshalsea certain persons whom they call Dividents, because they divide that equally amongst the priests which is sent. They know from whom this exhibition cometh, and who are the chiefest relievers of priests. The names of such are Perpoint, now prisoner in the Tower, Webster and Grave." Another hand has added, " Instead of Perpoint is Beckett."

" In the course of the following year," Father Gerard continues, and he is speaking of 1585, "my liberty was obtained by the importunities of my friends, who however were bound as sureties, to the extent of a heavy sum of money, for my remaining in the kingdom. I was, moreover, to present myself at the prison at the three months' end." We are not without record of these bonds. The sum was 200/., a very considerable sum, be it remembered, in those days. The entry 8 runs thus: "31 Octob. 1585- John Gerrard of Brinne, in the county of Lincoln [sic], gentleman, bound in 200/. to return to the Marshalsea, prisoner, within three months." " And these sureties," he adds, " had to be renewed three or four times before I was able to resume my project. At length the long wished for opportunity presented itself. A very dear friend of mine offered himself as bail to meet whatever demand might be made, if I was discovered to be missing after the appointed time. After my departure he forfeited, not indeed his money, but his life ; for he was one of the most conspicuous of those fourteen gentlemen 9 who suffered in connection with the captive Queen of Scots, and whose execution, as events soon showed, was but a prelude to taking off the Queen herself." Babington, to whose plot Father Gerard here alludes, was executed with his associates on the 20th and 21st of September, 1586, and Mary Queen of Scots on the 8th of February following. John Gerard had been in Rome about six weeks when his surety was put to death.

"Being at length free, I went to Paris," is all that he says of his departure from England ; but the man who "conveyed" him over gave information of it afterwards to Elizabeth's ministers, and thus we know the names of those who crossed the Channel with him. The man was Thomas Dodwell, who has already described to us the interior of the Marshalsea ; and he now says : 10 " Raindall, searcher of Gravesend, receiveth money of passengers, suffering them to pass without searching. I myself escaped twice in this manner, having the first time in my company Bagshawe, who is now a seminary priest, Morrice, 11 sometime of her Majesty's Chapel but now of the Pope's, Owen who is now in Rome; the second time, Hunt, who is now in the Marshalsea, Sir Thomas Gerrat's second son, Knight, Broughton, Afeild, Pansefoot, son and heir of Mr. Pansefoot of Gloucestershire, and the aforesaid Afeild 12 hath conveyed him over within this month. ,,

1 John Elmer was Bishop of London from 1577 to 1594.

2 Habebant enim pro non subdito, qui nolebat subdi erroribus. MS.

3 In a letter dated October 3, 1614 (Stonyhurst MSS., Angl. A. vol. iv. n. 24), Father Gerard says that "7 florins of Liege make but 6 of Brabant, 12s. English." So we may turn his florins into pounds by taking off the last cypher.

4 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. civ. n. 27.

5 British Museum, Lansdowne MSS. 38, n. 87.

6 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. clxviii. n. 35.

7 In all probability this very letter is still in existence, for in the Archives of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, as the Reverend Father Knox of the Oratory has been so good as to inform us, there is a letter from William Tedder in prison in London to Father Agazzari, Rector of the English College at Rome, dated April 20, 1583. This Tedder read his recantation at St. Paul's Cross, December 1, 1588, a week before Anthony Tyrrell. He is called Cedder in Bishop Challoner's catalogue of priests banished in 1585. Missionary Priests. Derby Edit. vol. i. p. 190.

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cc. n. 59; vol. ccv. n. 13. Another entry dated December 7, 1585, is in Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cxx. n. 59.

9 The fourteen gentlemen were Anthony Babington, John Ballard, priest, J Savage R. Barnwell, Chidiock Tichborne, Charles Tylney, and E. Abington, hanged September 20; and T. Salisbury, Henry Dunne, Edward Jones, J. Traverse, J. Charnock, R. Gage, and Jerome Bellamy, hanged on the following day.

10 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. clxviii. n. 35

11 "Anthony Harrison sworn the of October in Mr. Morrice' room, who fled beyond the seas anno 25 0 [1583] from Windsor." The Old Cheque-book, or Book of Remembrance of the Chapel Royal from 1561 to 1744. Edited for the Camden Society by Edward F. Rimbault, LL.D. 1872, p. 4.

12 If Dodwell is here speaking of Gerard's crossing in 1586, the Afeild here mentioned cannot be Thomas Alfield, the martyr, as he was executed at Tyburn for selling Catholic books on the 6th of July, 1585.