Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 30.


" We went some considerable distance in the boat before landing. After we had landed I sent the gentleman, my companion, with John Lilly, to my house, of which I have before spoken, which was managed by that saintly widow, Mistress Line. I myself, however, with Richard Fulwood went to a house which Father Garnet had in the suburbs ; 1 and there Little John and I, a little before daylight, mounted our horses, which he had ready there for the purpose, and rode straight off to Father Garnet, who was then living a short distance in the country. We got there by dinner-time, and great rejoicing there was on my arrival, and much thanksgiving to God at my having thus escaped from the hands of my enemies in the name of the Lord.

" In the meanwhile I had sent Richard Fulwood with a couple of horses to a certain spot, that he might be ready to ride off with my gaoler, if he wished to consult his immediate safety. For I had a letter written, of which I made previous mention, which was to be taken to him early in the morning at the place where he was accustomed to meet John Lilly. Lilly, however, did not carry the letter, for I had bidden him remain quiet within doors, until such time as the storm which was to be expected had blown over. So another person took the letter, and gave it to the gaoler at the usual meeting place. He was indeed surprised at another's coming, but took the letter without remark, and was about to depart with the intention of delivering it to me as usual; but the other stopped him, saying:

" ' The letter is for you, and not for any one else.'

"' For me ?' said the gaoler : ' from whom, then, does it come ?'

"' From a friend of yours,' replied the other, ' but who he is I don't know.'

" The gaoler was still more astonished at this, and said, ' I cannot myself read : if, then, it is a matter which requires immediate attention, pray read it for me.'

" So the man that brought the letter read it for him. It was to the effect that I had made my escape from prison ; and here I added a few words on the reasons of my conduct, for the purpose of calming his mind. Then I told him that though I was no wise bound to protect him from the consequences, as I had but used my just right, yet as I had found him faithful in the things which I had entrusted him with, I was loth to leave him in the lurch : if, therefore, he was inclined to provide for his own safety immediately, there was a horse waiting for him with a guide who would bring him to a place of safety, sufficiently distant from London, where I would maintain him for life, allowing him two hundred florins [20/.] yearly, which would support him comfortably. I added that if he thought of accepting this offer, he had better settle his affairs as quickly as possible, and betake himself to the place which the bearer of the letter would show him.

"The poor man was, as may well be supposed, in a great fright, and accepted the offer; but as he was about to return to the Tower to settle matters and get his wife away, a mate of his met him, and said, ' Be off with you, as quick as you can, for your prisoners have escaped, and Master Lieutenant is looking for you everywhere. Woe to you if he finds you !' So returning all in a tremble to the bearer of the letter, he besought him for the love of God to take him at once to where the horse was waiting for him. He took him, therefore, and handed him over to Richard Fulwood, who was to be his guide. Fulwood took him to the house of a friend of mine residing at the distance of a hundred miles from London, to whom I had written, asking him, if such a person should come, to take him in and provide for him : I warned him, however, not to put confidence in him, nor to acknowledge any acquaintance with me. I told him that Richard Fulwood would reimburse him for all the expenses, but that he must never listen to the man if at any time he began to talk about me or about himself.

" Everything was done as I had arranged ; my friend received no damage, and the gaoler remained there out of danger. After a year he went into another county, and becoming a Catholic, lived there comfortably for some five years with his family on the annuity which I sent him regularly according to promise. He died at the end of those five years, having been through that trouble rescued by God from the occasions of sin, and, as I hope brought to Heaven. I had frequently in the prison sounded him in matters of religion ; and though his reason was perfectly convinced, I was never able to move his will My temporal escape, then, I trust, was by the sweet disposition of God's merciful Providence the occasion of his eternal salvation.

"The Lieutenant of the Tower, when he could not find either his prisoners or their gaoler, hastened to the Lords of the Council with the letters which he had found. They wondered greatly that I should have been able to escape in such a way; but one of the chief members of the Council, as I afterwards heard, said to a gentleman who was in attendance, that he was exceedingly glad I had got off. And when the Lieutenant demanded authority and assistance to search all London for me, and any suspected places in the neighbourhood, they all told him it would be of no use. ' You cannot hope to find him, said they; 'for if he had such determined friends as to accomplish what they have, depend upon it they will have made further arrangements, and provided horses and hiding-places to keep him quite out of your reach.' They made search, however, in one or two places, but no one of any mark was taken that I could ever hear of.

" For my part, I remained quietly with Father Garnet for a few days, both to recruit myself and to allow the talk about my escape to subside. Then my former hosts [the Wisemans], who had proved themselves such devoted friends, urged my return to them, first to their London house close to the Clink Prison, where they were as yet residing. So I went to them, and remained there in secrecy, admitting but very few visitors; nor did I ever leave the house except at night, a practice I always observed when in London, though at this time I did even this very sparingly, and visited only a few of my chief friends.

" At this time I also visited my house, which was then under the care of Mistress Line, afterwards martyred. Another future martyr was then residing there of whom I have previously spoken, namely, Mr. Robert Drury, priest. In this house about this time I received one who had been chaplain to the Earl of Essex in his expedition against the Spanish King, when he took Cadiz. He was an eloquent man and learned in languages, and when converted to the Catholic faith he had abandoned divers great preferments, nay, had likewise endured imprisonment for his religion. Hearing that he had an opportunity of making his escape, I offered that he should come to my house. There I maintained him for two or three months, during which time I gave him the Spiritual Exercises. In the course of his retreat he came to the determination of offering himself to the Society : upon which I asked him to tell me candidly how he, who had been bred up in Calvin's bosom, as it were, had been accustomed to military life, and had learnt in heresy and had long been accustomed to prefer his own will to other people's, could bring himself to enter the Society, where he knew, or certainly should know, that the very opposite principles prevailed. To this he replied, ' There are three things in fact which have especially induced me to take this step. First, because I see that heretics and evil livers hold the Society in far greater detestation than they do any other religious order; from which I judge that it has the Spirit of God in an especial degree, which the spirit of the devil cannot endure, and that it has been ordained by God to destroy heresy, and wage war against sin in general. Secondly, because all ecclesiastical dignities are excluded by its Constitutions, whence it follows that there is in it a greater certainty of a pure intention ; and as its more eminent members are not taken from it for the Episcopate, it is more likely to retain its first fervour and its high estimation for virtue and learning. Thirdly, because in it obedience is cultivated with particular care, a virtue for which I have the greatest veneration, not only on account of the excellent effects produced thereby in the soul, but also because all things must needs go on well in a body where the wills of the members are bound together, and all are directed by God.'

" These were his reasons ; so I sent him into Belgium, that he might be forwarded to Rome by Father Holt, giving him three hundred florins [30/.] for his expenses.''

This chaplain to the Earl of Essex was evidently the well known William Alabaster, who apostatized after this was written. The Earl's chaplains on this expedition were Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Alabaster, and Mr. Whalley. 2 In the examination of William Alabaster before Sir John Peyton and Attorney General Coke, he says, " After Gerard the priest escaped out of the Tower, I had conference with him, and received 30/. in Brussels by credit." 3

" I gave the Spiritual Exercises also to some others in that house before I gave it up, among whom was a good and pious priest, named Woodward, who also found a vocation to the Society, and afterwards passed into Belgium with the intention of entering it; but as there was a great want of English priests in the army at the time, he was appointed to that work, and died in it, greatly loved and reverenced by all.

" I did not, however, keep that house long after the recovery of my liberty, because it was now known to a large number of persons, and was frequented during my imprisonment by many more than I should have permitted if I had been free. My principal reason, however, for giving it up was because it was known to the person who had been the cause of my being sent to the Tower. He had indeed expressed his sorrow for his act, and had written to me to beg my pardon, which I freely gave him; yet as he was released from prison soon after my escape, and I found that those among whom he had lived had no very good opinion of his character, I did not think it well that a thing involving the safety of many should remain within his knowledge. Mistress Line, also, a woman of singular prudence and virtue, was of the same mind. So I determined to make other arrangements as soon as possible.

" Now a little before this, had begun the movement of opposition against the Archpriest. Hence it happened that some priests who were in the habit of resorting to my house and residing there for a time, began to swerve somewhat from the more perfect course, and yet always expected to be received to board and lodging in a house where they knew Mistress Line resided. The consequence was that this asylum of mine, which should have been reserved for the use of myself and my chief friends, was the resort of a great number of persons, many of whom were no great friends of mine, nor too much to be trusted. These circumstances, no less than those I mentioned above, confirmed me in my resolution of making a total change in my arrangements.

" It seemed best, therefore, in order to remove all idea of so general a place of resort, that Mistress Line should lodge for a space by herself in a hired room of a private house; while I, who did not wish to be without a place in London where I could safely admit some of my principal friends, and perhaps house a priest from time to time, joined with a prudent and pious gentleman, who had a wife of similar character, in renting a large and spacious house between us. Half the house was to be for their use, and the other half for mine, in which I had a fair chapel well provided and ornamented. Hither I resorted when I came to London, and here also I sent from time to time those I would, paying a certain sum for their board. In this way I expended scarce half the amount I did formerly under the other arrangement, when I was obliged to maintain a household whether there were any guests in the house or not; though indeed it was seldom that the house was empty of guests.

" I made this new provision for my own and my friends' accommodation just in good time; for most certainly had I remained in my former house I should have been taken again. The thing happened in this wise. The priest who, as I have related, got me promoted from a more obscure prison to a nobler one, began to importune me with continual letters that I would grant him an interview. Partly by delaying to answer him, partly by excusing myself on the score of occupation, I put him off for about half a year. At length he urged his request very pressingly, and complained to me by letter that I showed contempt of him. I sent him no answer, but on a convenient occasion, knowing where he lodged, I despatched a friend to him to tell him that if he wished to see me, he must come at once with the messenger. I warned the messenger, however, not to permit any delay, nor to allow him to write anything nor address any one on the way if he wished to have an interview with me. I arranged, moreover, that he should be brought not to any house, but to a certain field near one of the Inns of Court, which was a common promenade, and that the messenger should walk there alone with him till I came. It was at night, and there was a bright moon. I came there with a couple of friends, in case any attempt should be made against me, and making a half circuit outside, entered the field near the house of a Catholic which adjoined it; and our good friend catching first sight of me near this house, thought perhaps that I came out of it, and in fact the Archpriest was lodging in it at the time. However that may be, I found him there walking and waiting for me, and when I had heard all he had to say, I saw there was nothing which he had not already said in his letters, and to which he had not had my answer. My suspicion was therefore increased, and certainly not without reason. For within a day or two that corner house near which he saw me enter the field, and my old house which I had lately left (though he knew not I had left it), were both of them surrounded and strictly searched on the same night and at the same hour. The Archpriest was all but caught in the one; he had just time to get into a hiding-place, and so escaped. The search lasted two whole days in the other house, which the priest knew me to have occupied at one time. The Lieutenant of the Tower and the Knight-Marshal conducted the searches in person, a task they never undertake unless one of their prisoners has escaped. From these circumstances it is sufficiently clear, both whom they were in search of, and from whom they got their information."

The Lieutenant of the Tower was no doubt in search of Father Gerard, but the Knight-Marshal was anxious to find the Archpriest. In a letter from John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, dated January 17, 1598/9, which date will give us a clue to the time when these searches took place, the writer says, "The Queen is very angry with Sir Thomas Gerard for the escape of one Blackwell, an archpriest, out of the Marshalsea." Queen Elizabeth's Knight-Marshal 6 was Sir Thomas Gerard, who has been already mentioned as created by King James Lord Gerard of Gerard's Bromley.

The following description of Blackwell the Archpriest was given about this time. "The Archpriest is of comely stature, not very low, grey-haired, and about the age of 58 or 60. His beard grey, and on his upper lip a red spot of hair differing in colour from grey. He is lean-faced, a little hollow-eyed, fair, and well-spoken."

Perhaps the very search for him mentioned by Father Gerard is that which is thus related in the Life 8 of Anne Countess of Arundel. " How willing and desirous she was to have helped any of the Clergy on just occasions is manifest by what she did for the delivery of Mr. Black-well the first archpriest. For he being forced for his own and the gentlewoman's security he lived with, to hide himself in a secret place of the house when search was made after [him] by the heretics, and being in great danger of being taken or famished by reason that all the Catholics of the house were carried away to prison, and heretic watchmen put into the house to keep it and hinder any from helping him, she, having notice of his distress, dealt so with the officer who had the principal charge of that business, that after three days he was content two of her servants should come to that house at the time when the guard was changed, take Mr. Blackwell out of the hiding-place and convey him away, as they speedily did, bringing him betwixt them, he not being able to go alone, to their lady's house, where after some days for refreshing he had stayed, she sent him safe to the place he desired to go. She was so well pleased with the officer who permitted his escape, that besides a good sum of money given at that time, she sent him every year as long as he lived a venison pasty to make merry with his friends at Christmas."

Father Gerard resumes, " But when they found me not (nor indeed did they find the priest who was then in the house living with a Catholic to whom I had let it), they sent pursuivants on the next day to the house of my host, who had by this time returned to his country seat [at Braddocks], but by God's mercy they did not find him there either. It was well, therefore, that I acted cautiously with the above-mentioned priest, and also that I had so opportunely changed my residence in London."

About this time Father General thought of sending Father Gerard out of England, evidently from fear lest, owing to his zeal, he should be recaptured and be still more hardly dealt with, for on March 31, 1598, Father Garnet wrote 9 to Rome, probably to Father Persons: " Father Gerard is much dismayed this day when I wrote to him to prepare himself to go. He came to me of purpose. Indeed he is very profitable to me, and his going would be wondered at. I hope he will walk warily enough. . . . You know my mind ; if you think it good, I desire his stay. All the rest are well."

"I saw also," says Father Gerard himself, "that it would soon be necessary for me to give up my present residence in the country, and betake myself elsewhere ; otherwise those good and faithful friends of mine [the Wisemans] would always be suffering some annoyance for my sake. I proposed the matter, therefore, to them, but they refused to listen to me in this point, though in all other things most compliant. But I thought more of their peace than of their wishes, however pious these wishes were; and therefore I laid the matter before my Superior, who approved my views. So I obtained from Father Garnet another of ours, a pious and learned man whom I had known at Rome, and who at present was companion to Father Oldcorne of blessed memory : this was Father Richard Banks, now professed of four vows. I took him to live with me for a time, that I might by degrees introduce him into the family in my place; and in the meantime I made more frequent excursions than usual."

And thus we have, in the list of Jesuits 10 with which some well informed spy furnished the Earl of Salisbury in 1601 or 1602, "Mr. Bankes, with Mr. Wiseman, of Brodocke, in Essex." The mention of Father Gerard in the same list is, " John Gerard with Mrs. Vaux and young Mr. Hastings."

Father Tesimond in the Narrative of his coming on the English Mission, says that when he came to England in this very year 1597, Father Garnet was living at a house called Morecroftes in Uxbridge, twelve or thirteen miles from London. The house in the suburbs was in Spitalfields. Troubles, First Series, pp. 177, 179.

2 Birch's Elizabeth, vol. ii. p. 17.

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cclxxv. n. 32. See Records, vol. i. pp. 66, 622.

4 Of Atkinson our latest notices are in letters of Father Richard Blount to Father Persons. One is dated May 5, 1602. "Atkinson the apostate was this day twice taken by the constables for a rogue to be sent into Flanders with other soldiers, which are now pressing in all haste, but was still discharged by the Chief Justice; and now the third time is apprehended by warrant from the same Chief Justice and lieth loaded with irons in the dungeon at Newgate." In another letter dated December 7, 1606, Father Blount says, "These naughty priests afflict us much, for besides Skydmore, the Bishop of Canterbury's man, Rowse, Atkinson, Graverer and other relapsed, which openly profess to betray their brethren, others are no less dangerous which persuade a lawfulness of going to sermons and to service." This Atkinson was the cause of the death of at least one martyr. Sir Robert Cecil endorsed the letter quoted in a former note " Atkinson's letter, the priest that discovered Tychburn and was brought me by Mr. Fowler." Thomas Tichbourne suffered for his priesthood at Tyburn, April 20, 1602. Bishop Challoner says 1601, but the error has been obligingly pointed out to us by Canon Toole of Manchester.

5 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cclxx. n. 16.

6 The Knight-Marshal had jurisdiction within the precincts of the Court, that is within twelve miles from the lodging of the Sovereign, even on a progress. The Marshalsea was the prison originally attached to the King's house, and at first was intended only for the committal of persons accused of offences within the jurisdiction of the Knight-Marshal. It stood in High-street, Southwark, on the south side, between King-street and Mermaid-court, over against Union-street. Cunningham's Handbook of London, p. 316.

7 P.R.O., Domestic f Elizabeth, vol. cclxi. n. 97.

8 The Lives of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, and of Anne Dacres, his wife, p. 216.

9 Stonyhurst MSS., Father Grene's Collectan. P., vol. ii. p. 551.

10 Troubles, First Series, p. 191.