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.
GEORGE GILBERT, S.J. PART VIII.
To return again to Father Parsons and George Gilbert. After Father Campion's departure for the North they retired to London, where they found the persecution redoubled in vigour. A fourth proclamation came out against the Jesuits in November. Father Parsons was obliged to change his lodgings. Sometimes he lodged in Bridewell, sometimes in the suburbs, and sometimes even in one of the Queen's palaces. And from this time Catholics found their most secure asylums in the houses of pursuivants, or other civil or ecclesiastical officers whom they had in their pay. At this time Father Parsons procured the assistance of Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador, who took him under his special protection, and would walk with him as one of his own men, whilst the Queen's officers were watching his house. 1
Several of Father Parson's friends had been captured —Ralph Sherwin, James Bosgrave, Hart, and others —and committed to prison. The danger was imminent, and, to add to it, Adam Squier, the son-in-law of Bishop Aylmer, whom we have already mentioned, and whose protection George Gilbert had purchased for Father Parsons, declared himself unable to carry out his agreement, because of the quarrels in which it involved him with the bishop, and the danger it exposed him to from the Council.
At this time Father Parsons was very busy in establishing a printing press by the aid of a young friend, Mr. Stephen Brinckley, one of the Gilbert Catholic Association, at a house called Greenstreet, East Ham, Essex, about five miles from London. But the danger increasing, Father Parsons with George Gilbert, fled away. The first book that issued from this press was probably (Mr. Simpson says) some book of devotions or encouragement to Catholics. After it was printed, the press was taken away. Afterwards, Father Parsons, at the house of another friend, Mr. Francis Browne, set to work to write his censure of Charke and Hanmer, in three parts. Here he incurred great trouble and risk in publishing the book, in consequence of the trap laid for Gilbert, whose bailiff had been ordered by the Council to come up to London to pay him his rents.
Father Parsons would not allow George Gilbert to go in person to receive them, but sent Browne and Charles Basset (both of the Catholic Association) to Mr. Barnes' house in Tuttlefield, or rather to the house of one Higgins, an attorney. Whilst they were there, one George Cary came and seized both the money and the men. 2 Nevertheless, Father Parsons' "censure" appeared, and the quickness of its repartee made the Council doubly angry; and Father Parsons thinks that the proclamation of the 10th of January, 1581, ordering all young men to return from the foreign Seminaries, and denouncing all receivers and favourers of Priests and Jesuits, was a kind of reply to his " censure." 3
Having thus traced the personal connection of George Gilbert with Father Parsons and Father Campion, as far as the means at hand will allow, we must now resume the thread of the narrative of his life.
He eluded indeed the ambuscades of the spies and pursuivants by a constant change of character and dress, as we have already seen. In all these dangers he never allowed himself to omit anything which he considered appertained to the greater glory and service of God, nor would he allow them to distract his mind in his prayers and meditations, and yet the dangers were never greater, and the searchers were tracking him in every direction, so that at last Father Parsons despaired of being able any longer to conceal him. The Privy Council, enraged at their unsuccessful attempts to catch him, had confiscated the greater part of his estates to the Treasury. Father Parsons, therefore, determined to send him to the Continent. Whilst waiting an opportunity for a vessel, he lay hid for some days by the seaside, in solitary and deserted caves, and the abodes of beasts, no slight hardship to a youth accustomed to every convenience and comfort of life. He spent this time in prayer with God, and his joy was so exuberant, that he seemed to taste somewhat of the delights of Paradise; and he afterwards related that he never felt more happy in his life than at that time.' In fact, at this time no Catholic gentleman dared to offer to conceal him in his house, because, had he been found there, it would have cost them their own lives, so notorious had his virtues and merits rendered him.
In the month of May, 1581, he succeeded in crossing over to France, leaving Father Parsons seven horses for the necessary excursions of himself and other Priests in their constant searching after and serving the Catholics, especially amongst the higher class and nobles, who, for the greater part of the year, lived free in the country, and to confirm whom, under their severe trials, was so important an object. He also left him as much money as was in his power, not already confiscated to the Queen's Treasury, for publishing his many works de Fide, and for the promotion of piety and the consolation of Catholics.
1 Simpson's Campion, p.183.
2 This George Cary was the Queen's cousin, and once the intended husband of Mary Stuart. The holy martyr, Ralph Sherwin, having been seized and committed to the Marshalsea, like Father Campion (and we may add Thomas Pounde also), gave a general challenge to heretics to dispute with him. The gauntlet was taken up by Cary, who ordered certain questions to be put to him, but he afterwards shrunk from argument, and sent Sherwin to the Tower, with Father Thomas Cottam and others, 4th December, 1580 (Simpson's Campion, p. 183). This was a very conclusive argumentum ad hominem, and the usual one resorted to in those dark times.
3 Simpson's Campion, pp. 185, 186.