Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 18.


"As soon as I had taken a little refreshment and rest, I set out and went to a friend's house, where I kept still for a fortnight. Then, knowing that I had left my friends in great distress, I proceeded to London to aid and comfort them. I got a safe lodging with a person of rank." This was the unfortunate Anne Countess of Arundel, whose husband Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, was at this time in the tenth year of his imprisonment in the Tower. He died the

Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel

following year in the same prison, the noblest victim to the jealous and suspicious tyranny of Elizabeth, non sine veneni suspicione, as his coffin-plate still testifies. From the Life 1 of the Countess, edited by the late Duke of Norfolk, we learn that during the Earl's imprisonment " she hired a little house at Acton, Middlesex, six miles distant from London."

If the following mention of John Gerard in a spy's information 2 be intended for our John Gerard, it is misdated in the Calendar 1601. "That Church told me that John Garrat lay most commonly at the Countess of Arundel's house, and that Dr. Bagshawe would write to them. That Garrard lieth most commonly at Mrs. Soutler's house in the County of Suffolk, with whom John Bennet is greatly acquainted [in marg. and at Mr. Lounde in Clerkenwell]." He adds what is certainly inapplicable to our Father John Gerard, but which may be intended for either Miles Gerard the martyr or Alexander his brother, " that John Garrat the Jesuit is a very little man." Father Gerard seems to have lived but a very short time in the Countess of Arundel's house.

"A year ago," he says, "it had been Father Southwell's abode, before his seizure and imprisonment in the Tower of London, where he now was. 3 I wanted, however, to hire a house where I might be safe and unknown, and be free to treat with my friends; for I could not manage my business in a house that was not my own, especially in such a one as I then dwelt in. I had recourse to a servant of Father Garnet named Little John, 4 an excellent man and one well able to help me. He it was that used to make our hiding-places; in fact, he had made the one to which I owed my safety. Thanks to his endeavours, I found a house well suited for my purpose. The next thing was to agree with the landlord about the rent, a matter which was soon settled. Till the house was furnished, I hired a room in my landlord's own house. 5 There I resolved to pass two or three nights in arranging my affairs, getting letters from my friends in distress, and writing back letters of comfort in return. Thus it was that the traitor got sent to the place, which was only known to a small circle of friends. It was God's will that my hour should then come.

" One night, when Little John and I had to sleep in that room, the traitor had to bring a letter that needed an answer, and left with the answer about ten o'clock. I had only come in about nine, sorely against the will of the lady, my entertainer, who was uncommonly earnest that I should not leave her house that night. Away went the traitor then, and gave information to the priest-hunters both when and where he had left me. They got together a band, and came at midnight to the house, just as I had gone to sleep. Little John and I were both awakened by the noise outside. I guessed what it was, and told John to hide the letter received that night in the ashes where the fire had been. No sooner had he done so and got into bed again, than the noise which we had heard before seemed to travel up to our room. Then some men began knocking at the chamber-door, ready to break it in if it was not opened at once. There was no exit except by the door where our foes were; so I bade John get up and open the door. The room was at once filled with men, armed with swords and staves, and many more stood outside, who were not able to enter. Among the rest stood two pursuivants, one of whom knew me well, so there was no chance of my passing unknown.

" I got up and dressed, as I was bid. All my effects were searched, but without a single thing being found that could do harm to any man. My companion and I were then taken off to prison. By God's grace we did not feel distressed, nor did we show any token of fear. What I was most afraid of, was that they had seen me come out of that lady's house, and had tracked me to the room that I had hired ; and so that the noble family that had harboured me would suffer on my account. But this fear was unfounded; for I learnt afterwards that the traitor had simply told them where he had left me, and there it was that they found me."

Of Father Gerard's arrest, Father Garnet said, " Soon after [his escape at Golding-lane] he was apprehended, being betrayed we know not how." Father Garnet wrote this in September, about four months after Father Gerard's apprehension and very soon after his removal from the Counter, where "he hath been very close." It may be that Father Gerard had not yet learned the part that John Frank the servant had had in betraying him, or perhaps Father Garnet had reason to suspect that some other treacherous agency had been at work, and thus came to say that " we know not how " he was betrayed.

It is quite possible that there was another traitor at work in this matter of whose communications with the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal neither Father Garnet nor Father Gerard knew anything. His machinations we know better than they. Owing to the extreme caution of the man we cannot be quite certain who it was that he was striving to betray, but it seems probable that Father Gerard was his intended victim. From the Fleet prison Benjamin Beard alias Tichborne wrote thus to Lord Keeper Puckering on the 28th of February 159! to open communications. 6 "Albeit I was unwilling during my imprisonment to undertake any matter concerning these causes, lest missing (as being in prison haply I might) the performance thereof, your lordship might any way conceive hardly of me, having some inkling of two Jesuits lately arrived, and when and where they did frequent, and of their exercise, where if I had been at liberty as I then expected I myself should have been present, the parties being apparelled in silks, wearing shirts of hair underneath, by which only mark I judge them to be Jesuits. Wherefore I am to inform your lordship that if your lordship will stand my honoured friend for my liberty (the hindrance whereof this bearer shall impart unto your lordship), I do here under my hand undertake to perform such service unto her Majesty in the causes aforesaid as any heretofore hath not done better. And my liberty obtained, if I do not before the beginning of the next term deliver some of those persons unto your lordship, I will be content that your Honour shall commit me to perpetual imprisonment without any favour. Craving this further, that in executing hereof such course and plot as I shall set down unto your lordship, that I may not be discovered or suspected of them herein, and none to have knowledge thereof but your lordship and the bearer hereof; for otherwise it would be a great disgrace to me, for that my mother and all my own kindred are papists and recusants."

This man in another letter speaks of his grandmother Mrs. Tichborne, and elsewhere of his uncle Benjamin Tichborne and his cousin Mrs. Shelley. He was prisoner for debt in the Fleet, and in the hope of obtaining his release by showing the Lord Keeper that he would be a useful spy, he wrote him many letters of information against Catholics, of which no less than fourteen belonging to the year 1594 are preserved amongst the State Papers. One or two of them we proceed to give as apparently they refer to Father Gerard, and besides they are of interest as introducing the name of Tregian, the worthy confessor of the Faith, at a later date than the Narrative 7 of his imprisonment, the latest date mentioned in which was July 20, 1593.

The following letter 8 is addressed to the man who was his go-between with Sir John Puckering, but the letter is endorsed with the names of the persons mentioned in it in Sir John's handwriting, according to his usual fashion. " Mr. Jones,—This day about five of the clock towards night there came hither one Mrs. Stafford. She was Abington's wife, that was executed. In her company came one, without question of exceeding great weight, a Jesuit as by all circumstance I gathered. With him was one Mr. Leonard Farley of Filey bordering on the seaside in Yorkshire. They all being above at Mr. Tregian's, myself then also present, Mr. Wade and Justice Young came into the Fleet even at supper time, to examine the knight Sir Thomas Tresham. 9 Whereupon Mr. Tregian, having understanding thereof, and for that he thought they came about Mrs. Shelley, being much amazed all of them willed me to go down, lest upon some occasion I should be called for, because the Warden did malice me much about Mrs. Shelley, and had threatened to have me examined about some matter touching her. After which I went presently to my chamber and made a little note, thinking to send for you to dog them to their lodging, but could not by any means get anyone to carry it. Neither durst I make the Warden or any acquainted with it, for that at Michaelmas when Mrs. Shelley was first discharged of her close imprisonment, to draw her to live as his ward, 10 he persuaded her by all means possible that I was made an instrument to bring her further in question both of her life and living, and that her liberty was for no other purpose granted her. [He has] bidden Mrs. Tregian and other of the papists beware of me, for that they had letters of my own hand which I should write to Mr. Young while I was in the Counter, to prove that I was such a person. By reason whereof they were jealous of me till they found that the Warden's malice was only for the gain of Mrs. Shelley. And so by good discretion I gained my credit again among them, albeit by that abuse of the Warden many services of greatest moment were hindered, &c. It is not very uneasy [difficult] to learn out where Mrs. Stafford lieth, being a known papist about the town. Upon my life, where her lodging is, there you shall find the party. He was here apparelled in a coat of wrought velvet, and wrought velvet hose 11 and silk grogram cloth, physician wise, and of age about thirty-six, of brown hair and somewhat well set and of reasonable stature. To-morrow morning I shall hear further of him. Tregian's two men went out with them about seven of the clock this night. Because of my coming away upon Justice Young's coming into the house I know not whether they had mass or not, as likely being scared so they had not. [They came at five in the evening and went away at seven.] But [to] confession I am sure most of them went. Thus late at night I cease, praying you to come to me to-morrow and you shall hear more. Fleet, this 25th of March 1594 [the first day of the year, old style].

" Your poor friend, Benjamin Beard."

" To his assured friend Mr. Morgan Jones at Gray's Inn give these."

Three days later Beard writes l to Sir John Puckering " It behoveth me to carry myself even among them lest I mar my harvest before my corn be ripe. This Easter I am most assured, if the house in Chancery-lane called Doctor Good's house, and Payne's house in Fetter-lane be well seen unto, that divers of the seditious parties will be there found, and [I] would (if I had liberty) lose my own life if I roused not two or three of them ; for in both those places on Easter day I am assured they will be, or the parties there remaining will repair very early in the morning to such other place as the rest remain in. . . . This day (if a man had but any notes [descriptions] of them) a hundred to one some of the parties might be had at the tavern called 'the Bell' in New Fish-street, for there were they wont to meet and make their Maundy."

By the 29th of April the person Beard had written about was taken, as we learn from his letter of that day. This was about the time of Father Gerard's arrest, the exact date of which we do not know. It may therefore very possibly have been he who visited the Fleet prison on the 25th of March, which day that year was Monday in Holy Week. We know that he was at Blackfriars in Lent on a visit to Lady Mary Percy and Lady Jane Seymour " a little before Easter," and he would have had full time to go to Braddocks for the three last days of Holy Week. If the " green man " mentioned in the two following letters 13 as taken is " the fellow that followed him as his man," it will have been Nicholas Owen or Little John, who wore a green cloak. Frank in his examination " saith that Nicholas Owen, who was taken in bed with Mr. Gerard the Jesuit, was at Mr. Wiseman's house at Christmas was twelvemonths, and called by the name of Little John and Little Michael, and the cloak that he wore was Mr. Wiseman's cloak a year past, and was of sad green cloth with sleeves, caped with tawny velvet and little gold strips turning on the cape."

" Mr. Jones,—I am still of the opinion that the party you know of is one of them we look for, and as at his first coming hither I judged him so by the reverence done unto him by those here, so am I still by all likelihood and circumstances more and more therein confirmed ; for were he not for certain a man of weight there would be good laughing among them at the manner of his taking, as at one whom they affirmed to be taken lately about Westminster for a Seminary, and of another lately committed to the Clink for hearing of a mass at Dieppe. If he be wisely handled, he may without great difficulty be quickly discovered [that is, torture will soon extort from him an avowal of who he is]. But howsoever, in any case handle the matter so as it come not to his own knowledge that other than Justice Young's commendam is upon him, nor any notice to Justice Young that either by my means or yours the party is taken, nor any question moved to him of his being at the Fleet : for though there may happen to be some notable villainy among them, yet may not these here be suddenly baulked ; though if any matter of importance come to light thereby, they may with good discretion be called to account well enough, saving any their suspicion, whereof we may advise when we see certainly what the party is.

"I did yesternight sup at Tregian's, where in the midst of our supper Phillips, Tregian's man, came in sweating; whom suddenly Tregian asked 'What news?' who answered 'Very bad'; whereat Tregian looked wonderful pale and went from the table, and called Phillips with him into his study. It was sure[ly] about the party for the fellow that followed him as his man was here and went out not two hours before with the same Phillips. If that party were one day wisely dogged, the true harbour of the other might be found out, though in this space they have shifted all matter of moment from thence.

"Having also some speech of the dangerousness of the time, and how narrowly Catholics were sifted, 'Yet for all that,' saith Tregian's wife and Mrs. Warnford who supped there also, ' that infinites run daily into the Church and were reconciled to the Catholic faith.' As also how those good men, making no account of losing their lives, did hazard themselves to save men's souls, affirming that they thought in their conscience that (as dangerous as the time was) yet within the Court there was now daily as many masses said as commonly in any country abroad, and many lately called to forsake the world that have' heretofore seemed to be wonderful stiff on the contrary part. '

" And asking how it were possible they could be long secure about the Court, it was answered that if I were at liberty and did follow some nobleman, it were an easy matter for me to shroud a priest a long time before he should be taken; and for example [they] named young Roper who serveth Sir Thomas Heneage; with which Roper I saw the party that was here with Mrs. Stafford on Our Lady day in Lent, go through the Palace at Westminster, when I was at the Hall about my own business.

" But among all these speech was now and many more before to the like effect, not any one word passed of the green man, which is the greater presumption that he is the same man we look for, and that for that he was taken after his being here, they are afeard to speak of him or his taking. Therefore be sure that he be well looked into. Justice Young, no doubt, hath skill enough to find him what he is : albeit if Justice Young know that he is taken by my means,' he doth malice me so much about my cousin Shelley, he will not stick under his hand [in an underhand way] to tell the papists of it."

This news, which in another letter 14 assumes the more precise shape " that there are three Seminaries that daily frequent the Court where they use their ungodly exercise, maintained and harboured there of gentlemen that are retainers to some noblemen," was duly reported by Jones to the Lord Keeper, who endorsed his letter in the following legal polyglot, Jones circa prestes pres le court. The consequence was that Beard was called upon to repeat his story of the supper and the conversation with Mrs. Tregian over and over again. One more of these letters we venture to insert, though it involves some little repetition and adds nothing to our knowledge of Father Gerard, for the sake of the vivid picture it gives of life in prison and of priests riding about in a nobleman's " livery and cognizance, with chains of gold about their necks."

" Right honourable, my most humble duty remembered. I have received this morning early a letter from Mr. Jones whereby I am advertised that your lordship requireth a recital from me of sundry matters as well by me formerly written to your lordship as else by word of mouth spoken to Mr. Jones. First therefore touching the words spoken by Tregian's wife and others touching matters about the Court, &c. The manner of these speeches were as followed. About the second night after the green man was taken, bending my wits all I could to have notice of that party, I sent for Rhenish wine into the town in a choice bottle, feigning it to be sent me for excellent good from a special friend, and bestowed it on her, who desired me to stay supper; where was one Mrs. Warnford and her daughter, here prisoners also at that instant. Even as supper was almost ended, Phillips, Tregian's man, came in hastily and sweating; whereupon Tregian and Roscarrock rose and went with Phillips into the study, his wife, myself and the rest sitting still. After this divers speeches passed, as how there was one Marcomba (as I remember they called him so) imprisoned in the Clink for hearing of a mass at Dieppe; whereunto another of them replied that that was somewhat like the taking of a gentleman a little before Easter for a Seminary at Westminster.

"Upon these speeches saith Tregian's wife that notwithstanding the great searches, and hold and keep for good men, and the rigour used to Catholics, yet did the number of the Church rather increase than decrease by it. To which I said that, by her leave, many of late since the Statute [27' Eliz. 1584] did go to Church and were fallen. Whereunto she answered that where one was fallen from the Church, there was ten reconciled unto it; as likewise how dangerously, without all care of their lives, good men did venture to save souls. And that she thought in her conscience that there was more masses said about the Court than was about London.

"And asking how that can be, 'Think you,'saith she to me, 'that if I myself did belong to any nobleman about the Court, that it were not an easy matter for me to conceal a priest a long time?' saying that there were many noblemen about the Court that full little knew how many such persons were about them. But in particular of any that did harbour these persons there was not anything precisely uttered, though Roper and Inglefield being here the afternoon before, for that Roper was in his chain, I asked whom he served; who said ' Sir Thomas Heneage,—a man' saith she, ' that is as earnest against Catholics as any other: yet/ saith she, ' he hath some good men about him, as well as others' Infinite other speeches to this effect which were too long to write. "Touching Mr. Cornwallis, at his house at Fisher's Folly on Easter Monday there met Knight of Chancery-lane and his wife, and cousin Yates' wife, Tregian's wife and her two elder daughters here and divers at Clerken-well, as I did formerly advertise your lordship, where one Jones alias Norton, and one Butler, priests, said mass. But [I] cannot tell whether Mr. Cornwallis were privy to it or not. Their business done, Tregian's wife came home hither to dinner, and bring [brought] a casing bottle of holy water with her. Her daughter Yates dined at Clerkenwell and came hither after dinner, of whom I understood the whole.

"This Butler was sometime chamberfellow with one Harrington 15 that serveth the Lady Southampton, which maketh me guess that, since I [am] here and he is come over, that he is also still harboured by him. They lay there about eight years since in Southampton House, next chamber to Robert Gage that was executed; and then [he] fled, being nominated to be of Babington's conspiracy.

" I know also one Selby, a northern man, towards [in the service of] my Lord Chamberlain, and little John Shelley that did serve the Lord Montague, who, if they attend on them now, as if they be in town I am sure they do, are likest men to be harbourers of such persons. In the life of my old Lord Montague, that Shelley did carry Fennell and Richards, both priests, up and down with him in my Lord his livery and cognizance, with chains of gold about their necks. This will I justify with my blood, though I would endure any misery rather than to scandalize myself wilfully in any occasion, unless some great profit might redound thereby to the State. Neither doubt I but, if your lordship please to make trial of me, but in short space to effect those services as shall be to the State great benefit, and to your lordship so acceptable as your lordship shall have no cause to repent the honour and charitable favour you have done me. And thus in all humility I cease, praying God evermore to preserve and bless your lordship. From the Fleet, this eighth day of May, 1594.

"Your lordship's everlastingly bounden,

"Benjamin Beard."

To this story and to his offer to betray some of the priests whom he had led Sir John Puckering to believe were concealed about the Court, Beard owed his liberty, and on the 28th of May he dated his letter 16 from Greenwich, where he must have felt that he had no easy task before him. "As for Roper I could not see of him all day, though I walked the park and town, and will do again this day, which I am enforced to stay here by reason that, meeting with one Byrd, brother to Byrd of the Chapel, 17 I understand that Mrs. Tregian, Mrs. Char-nock and Mrs. Sybil Tregian will be here at the Court at this day, by whose coming peradventure some good may be done." Evidently Mrs. Tregian, who was Lord Stourton's sister, and her daughters were about to appeal to Elizabeth's mercy in behalf of that faithful confessor Francis Tregian, 18 who had now been a prisoner seventeen years. It is needless to say that their appeal was made in vain. When Tregian was banished after eleven other years of imprisonment, Elizabeth was dead. We here leave Benjamin Beard, waiting for the poor ladies who were coming on their hopeless errand, and we pity them all the more for the treachery that lent its aid to the cruelty with which they were persecuted for their faith.

1 P. 308.

2 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, Addenda, vol. xxxiv. n. 38.

3 Father Southwell was martyred 21 February 1595.

4 This holy martyr's true name was Nicholas Owen. Father Gerard speaks at some length about him further on, and more fully still in his Narrative of the Powder Plot, p. 182.

5 We learn from Frank that it was called Middleton's.

6 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlvii. n. 104.

7 Troubles, First Series, p. 61.

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. n. 43.

The interrogatories and answers are nn. 44, 45 of this vol. ccxlviii.

10 Endorsed "Mr. Beard about Mrs. Shelley, and the Warden's seeking to make gain of her."

11 In his examination John Frank saith that the satin doublet and velvet hose which were found in Middleton's house at the apprehension of Mr. Gerard, were Mr. Wiseman's, and the ruffs were Mrs. Wiseman's; and if they had not been taken, the apparel should have been carried by this examinate the next day to Mr. Wiseman in the Counter.

12 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. n. 47.

13 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. nn. 83, 99.

14 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. n. 94.

15 This is not William Harrington the priest and martyr, for he was executed on the 18th of February in this year. Troubles^ 2nd series, p. 105.

16 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxlviii. n. 118.

17 Troubles, 2nd series, p. 143.

18 Troubles, 1st series, p. 136.