Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.
THOMAS POUNDE, OF BELMONT, S.J. Part III.
Departing for London in order to arrange affairs and remove all hindrances to their embarking, out of compassion to his host, who was also a friend of his, he delayed some time there in order to convert him from heresy, and spent some nights in argument with him; but by this man's obstinacy everything was overturned. Pounde at length determined at daybreak the next morning to embark on the Thames for his proposed voyage. But man proposes, God disposes; and so in this instance it was not to be as our confessor had determined, but it pleased God to make an entirely opposite disposal, and to ordain that this very friend and host should be the means of reserving him for a dreadful imprisonment of thirty years!
On that very same evening Pounde was summoned by an officer of the pseudo-Bishop of London, Sandys, to render an account of the manner in which he observed the Queen's laws: no crime was charged against him, no accusation made, nor proof given of any violation of the law. Pounde followed his conductor to prison, with a countenance as calm, and a courage as great, as though embarking for Italy.
In reference to this wonderful equanimity in our glorious confessor, Father Bartoli observes upon the fact of his being thus completely cut off, within one night of its accomplishment, from the hope of offering himself as a member of the Society, for which he had waited four years. How fervent that desire was, Pounde himself, on a subsequent occasion, when he had already pined for two years in prison and had been tortured beyond ordinary custom, whereby his body was reduced to a wretched condition, sent to protest to our Very Reverend Father General that all his sufferings were as nothing in comparison with his interior grief to see himself deprived of the grace of being one of his sons, for which he had sighed for six years.
Pounde, nevertheless, foresaw that he would incur death should they seize upon his writings against the heretics and the Queen's authority in matters ecclesiastical, which he carried with him in his bag. The real cause of his imprisonment would seem to have been the exhortations he made to Catholics resolutely to refuse heretical communion, especially in the episcopal city of Winchester, whither he frequently made excursions, and with great zeal confirmed the recusants in their resolutions—to which cause may be added a suspicion of his intention to leave England for Catholic countries, in detecting whjch the episcopal treasury was greatly interested, as it would lead to the confiscation of Pounde's estate, to the enrichment of the said treasury.
His before-mentioned friend and host was so moved by the incredible constancy of soul of our prisoner, that, although no previous force of argument by Pounde could conquer him, yet now one special address alone, together with the clear exhibition of Catholic generosity presented by his friend, caused him, with his wife and whole family, to be reconciled to the Church. We may imagine how great was the consolation thus afforded to the sufferer !
In addition to the slight suspicions at first entertained against our confessor, new accusations and strong proofs were now produced In prison he sustained a long assault from the bland and courteous speeches of the pseudo-bishop, who offered to release him if he would, for the satisfaction of the public, really show himself once at church, and be present at a Protestant sermon. He with great prudence returned him word for word as a gentleman, candidly saying, "If I cannot recover my liberty otherwise than by offending God, I am firmly resolved that my soul shall be first torn from my body, than that my body shall go forth from prison on such terms."
The fruit of this noble reply was, that he remained in prison for six months. He was then liberated on bail, through the intervention of his relative the Earl of Southampton, who became his surety that he should not leave the country, nor interfere with affairs of religion, but confining himself to his house at Belmont, should peremptorily appear if, and when cited, within twenty days. 1 The condition of the recognizance was faithfully kept, except in one regard, which of all others the adversary could not brook, viz., to enlighten with the truths of faith those who were blinded by the errors of heresy, and to confirm the wavering Catholics, all of which he never ceased to do. He associated to himself as companions in his labours and merits, George Cotton, Henry Sudall, and some other gentlemen residing near Belmont Father More also mentions at this period, a case of exorcism of a certain merchant who lived in the hamlet of St Mark, who was possessed by an evil spirit, and had desired privately to be freed by the prayers of the Church, to whom Pounde hastened, fortified with relics of the Saints, and with whom he piously discoursed upon the power of the Church against evil spirits, and of the necessity of firmly retaining the right faith. This fact having got wind, and being reported to London, hastened on Pounde's final apprehension.
After he had been for sixteen months at liberty engaged in these pious works, Horne, the pseudo-Bishop of Winchester, under whose jurisdiction our confessor was, ordered him to be seized and sent to prison, together with the other Catholic gentlemen, his companions, who, no few in number, were men of known respectability and probity of life. He summoned them to appear before him, first sending with pretended and fraudulent piety to persuade them that by a too free speaking during their examination, they would do great injury to the common cause of the Roman religion, and in particular to themselves personally. Being deceived by this stratagem, they remained silent during his civilly-composed address of admonitions, instructions, insults, blasphemies, and boastings, and whatever else came to his tongue. Having thus glutted himself with speaking, he remanded them back to prison, bragging to all that he had, by force of his authority, and his sage reasonings, rendered them mute and ashamed of themselves, so that they had not the courage to breathe a word before him. The assembled court insolently and contumaciously called them "dumb Catholic dogs," attributing their silence to the weakness of their cause and their own ignorance. But the prisoners being already informed by the Catholics of the bishop's treachery, were eager to recover what had been done by the same game the next day. Being again brought up, the bishop had scarcely begun to speak, when Pounde, taking the word from his mouth, contradicted by the testimony of Vincent of Lerins, the false and maliciously delivered exposition alleged by Home, to the prejudice of the Roman Catholic faith, upholding Vincent as the champion of the Catholic cause and the great adversary of the heretics. There were present a multitude of spectators of all degrees, both Catholic and Protestant, as many as the large court could hold, drawn thither by the report of this solemn act, and curious to see so many personages of rank in the condition of criminals, thus exposed to disgrace by a man of lower than ordinary stamp, as the greater part of these pseudo-bishops were at that period.
1 The following is copied from the State Papers, Dom. Eliz., Vol cc, No. 59, P. R. O.—"7 December, 1585. Thomas Pownde and Ellen his mother, bounde in a 100 markes that the said Thomas Pounde shall remain at his mother's house in Kennyton in the countie of Surry." Father Henry More gives Thomas Pounde's mother's name as Anne. There may be some misnomer in the case, or Ellen may have been a second name. The above notice of bail can hardly be mistaken as applying to the subject of our history, although it does not appear on what occasion that privilege of bail was granted. One can scarcely gather from the general history that Mr. Pounde was ever out of prison after he so severely handled and gravelled my Lord Home of Winchester. However the case may be, the extract is given.