SIR OLIVER MANNERS.
" ABOUT the same time I received into the Church a lady, the wife of a certain knight; who is at the present day a very good and useful friend of our Fathers. Her husband was at this time a heretic, bat his brother had been brought by me, through the Spiritual Exercises, to despise the world and follow the counsels of Christ: he introduced me to his sister, and after one or two interviews she embraced the Catholic faith, although she was well assured that she would incur great losses as soon as it should become known to her husband, as in truth it came to pass. For he first tried caresses, then threats, and left no means unemployed to shake her resolution, insomuch that for a long time she had nothing to expect or hope but to be separated from her husband, and stripped of all the goods of this world, that so in patience she might possess her soul. When her husband was on her account deprived of the public employment which he held, she bore it with great fortitude, and remained ever constant and even in mind : at length by her virtue and her patience she rendered her husband a friend to Catholics, and afterwards himself a Catholic. He was reconciled by the ministry of Father Walpole, to whom I had recommended her on my leaving England.
" There were many other conversions, which I cannot mention separately, for I have already carried to too great length the narrative of these events, which are truly very insignificant if they are compared with the actions of others. But one case I cannot pass over, which gave me especial pleasure for the sake of the person concerned ; for I do not know that any one was ever more dear to me.
|Sir Everard Digby|
"At last Sir Everard met his friend, while we were both together in London ; and he took an opportunity of asking him to come at a certain time to his chamber, to play at cards, for these are the books gentlemen in London study both night and day. He promised to come, and on his arrival he did not find a party at play, but only us two sitting and conversing very seriously; so Sir Everard asked him to sit down a little, until the rest should arrive. Then in an interval of silence Sir Everard said, ' We two were engaged in a very serious conversation, in fact concerning religion. You know,' he said, addressing the visitor, 'that I am friendly to Catholics, and to the Catholic faith; I was nevertheless disputing with this gentleman, who is a friend of mine, against the Catholic faith, in order to see what defence he could make; for he is an earnest Catholic, as I do not hesitate to tell you.' Then turning to me he begged me not to be vexed that he betrayed me to a stranger. 'And I must say,' he continued, ' he so well defended the Catholic faith that I could not answer him, and I am glad that you have come to . help me.'
" The visitor was young and confident, and trusting in his own great abilities, expected to carry everything before him, so good was his cause, and so lightly did he esteem me, as he afterwards confessed. So he began to allege many objections to the arguments before used. I waited with patience until he ceased speaking, and then answered in few words. He urged his points, and so we argued one against the other for a short hours space. Afterwards I began to explain my view more fully, and to confirm it with texts of Holy Scripture and passages from the Fathers, and with such reasons as came to my mind. And I felt, as I often did, God supplying me words as I spoke on His behalf in great might, not for the sake of me that spoke, nor for any desert of mine, but just as He gives milk to a mother when she has an infant who needs to be fed with milk. My young friend was of a docile nature, and could no way bear to speak against the truth when he saw it, so that he listened in silence, and God was meantime speaking to his heart with a voice far more powerful and efficacious. God, too, gave him ears to hear, so that the word fell not upon stony ground, nor among thorns, but into good soil, yea, very good, that yielded by God's grace a hundredfold in its season. So before he left he was fully resolved to become a Catholic, and took with him a book to assist him in preparing for a good confession, which he made before a week had passed. And from that time it was not enough for him to walk in the ordinary path of God's commandments, but God prepared him for higher things; and whatever counsels I gave him he received with eagerness, and retained not only in a faithful memory, but in a most ready will. He began to use the daily examination of conscience, and even learned the method of meditation, and made a meditation every day. He was forced to rise very early to do this before he went to the King, which in summer was at break of day, for the King went hunting every day, and he, by duty of his office, was necessarily present at the royal breakfast. He would moreover so with his whole soul devour pious books, that he always had one in his pocket; and in the King's Court and in the Presence Chamber, while courtiers and ladies were standing around, you might see him turn himself to a window, and there read a chapter of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ, a book with which he was most intimate ; and after he had read it, you might see him turn in body but not in mind towards the others, for there he would stand rapt in thought, while the rest perhaps were supposing that he was admiring the beauty of some lady, or thinking over the means to climb to great honours. In truth, he had no need to take particular pains about this, for in the first place he was son and brother to an Earl, and moreover the place and office which he filled were very honourable, giving him the ear of the King every day. His wit could not fail to distinguish favourable opportunities for gaining his requests, and in fact the King had given him an office which he afterwards sold, but which, had he kept it, would have brought him in more than ten thousand florins a year [1,000/.]. In short, such was his position that he would undoubtedly have soon risen to great honours ; for he made himself acceptable to all, and was not a little beloved, insomuch that after he had left the Court and given up all hope of worldly honour, I heard it said by some persons of the greatest eminence and experience in the ways of the Court, that they had never in forty years' space known any one so highly valued and beloved in every quarter.
" But, what is far more important, he was beloved in the Court of the King of Kings, and inspired to desire and seek after greater and more abiding blessings. So he conceived the wish of trying the Spiritual Exercises, in the course of which he determined to desert the Court, and devote himself to those pursuits which would render him most pleasing to God and most profitable to his neighbour : so with as little delay as possible he made such a disposition of his goods as would enable him freely to make his escape from England. He then, to the surprise of all, asked and obtained the King s leave to go to Italy, where he still resides, and he is so well known to our Fathers that there is no need to write anything more concerning him; but this I can say, that wherever I have known him to have been, he has left men filled with great esteem for him, and expectation of yet greater things.
" Besides Sir Everard Digby, he had another friend, a man of much influence, and heir to a large estate, and of great talents, but wholly devoted to the world. He brought this friend to me, and by my agency caused him to become a Catholic. I knew also two young ladies of rank, who were so deeply attached to him that I doubt not they would have preferred him to the greatest lord in England. One was attached to the Court, and had an honourable post about the Queen's person; the other, who dwelt in the country, was of a noble Catholic family. He himself introduced the first to me, and by my ministry rendered her a Catholic. He then begged her to set her love on a higher object, on God, to Whom the chief love of all was due, and he added, that he had resolved never to love any woman in this world except with the love of charity, and that he would never enter into wedlock. The second he persuaded to become a nun : she is still in religion, and making good progress. I feel confident that he has been chosen and reserved to be the instrument of bringing many souls to follow the counsels of Christ by word and example, and to help ours in many respects."
In some few of the narratives of conversions given by Father Gerard at this portion of his missionary life, it is tantalizing to find that the personal details mentioned by him are insufficient to enable us always to determine who the personages were of whom he speaks. But in many cases we have sufficient data; and here we can identify Sir Everard Digby's friend as Sir Oliver Manners, 1 fourth son of John fourth Earl of Rutland. His three elder brothers Roger, Francis, and George, were successively Earls, and all died childless; the title would therefore have devolved on the fourth son if he had survived.
Sir Oliver Manners was knighted at Belvoir Castle on the 22nd of April 1603, by King James I. on his coming from Scotland. He was Clerk of the Council ; 2 to which office, entailing as Father Gerard says " daily attendance about the King's person," he was appointed by warrant dated December 30, 1603. His intimacy with Sir Everard Digby is mentioned by William Ellis and Michael Rapier, Sir Everard's servants, in their examinations 3 after the Gunpowder Plot, November 21 and 22, 1605. It must have been in the spring of that year that he "asked and obtained the King's leave to go to Italy," for we have a " license for Sir Oliver Manners to remain beyond seas for three years after the expiration of his former licence," 4 dated May 13 and 16, 1608. At the expiration of this term, Edward Lord Vaux of Harrowden wrote 5 to the Earl of Salisbury from Milan, October 26, 1611, that Sir Oliver Manners, who was ill of a fever, entreated favour for prolonging his absence beyond his licence, being unable to return from illness, and because his brother the Earl of Rutland had not sent him any money. There are two letters 6 from Sir Oliver himself to Salisbury, one dated Milan, July 8, 1609, in which he regrets that his illness prevents his return home, but the physicians forbid his using any exertion, even that of writing: the other, dated Florence, May 17, 1610, complaining that his brother the Earl detains his estates, in spite of an Order of the Council to the contrary, although he remains abroad by licence, in company with Lord Vaux and others who are licensed.
Sir Oliver Manners wrote the following letter 7 in Italian to Father Aquaviva, General of the Society, from Turin, April 17, 1611, shortly before his eldest brothers death. " I cannot tell you what comfort I received from the letters of your Paternity. The troubles I then had will tell it better than I can, for when I was seriously ill, my brother the Earl sent to say that I was to expect no more help from England, as the King had entrusted my houses and estates to him, and would not permit him to send me a penny. Precisely at that moment the letters of your Paternity reached me, and seemed to me sent by our Lord to make me touch with my hand how His Divine Majesty never abandons those who hope in Him and suffer for His love; and as at that time I had a great desire of suffering more and more, if so it should please our Lord, so my strength returned to me far more quickly than I could have expected, and thus I assured myself that it was the Divine will that I should reach my intended goal, there to do something for His service, sive per vitam y sive per mortem. And so I undertook my journey, and have already reached Turin. Tomorrow I start for Lyons. In England I cannot expect anything better than that which has befallen the Baron my companion [Lord Vaux], who is in prison by the King's express orders, and expects to lose all he has; for his mother is already condemned to the punishment called prӕmunire, that is, the loss of all temporalities and perpetual imprisonment, for refusing the oath of allegiance as they call it. The grace I ask from God is so to bear myself that I may always show myself grateful for the many favours of your Paternity, as becomes a disciple of the Society, and for this intention with all humility to ask to be armed with your blessing, and I beg to be a partaker of the holy sacrifices and prayers of you Paternity and of all the Society. In conclusion with all reverence I kiss your hand."
In the Secret Archives 8 of the Vatican there is a note in Italian written about this time which says, " The Earl of Rutland, brother of Sir Oliver Manners, who was over there [probably at Rome] with the Baron [Vaux], has fallen into apoplexy, and being without hope of life, has declared his brother Sir Francis heir to his estates, making no mention of Sir Oliver, of whose arrival at Paris there has been notice, and he is expected in England to be made the Baron's companion " in prison.
Father Gerard was at this time at Louvain, and wrote from that place a letter 9 to Father General Aquaviva, dated August 17, 1611. "Now at length our friend Oliver has passed over from Paris to England, for the Treasurer is gone, his and all good men's enemy: [Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, died May 24, 1612] and others are about to succeed him, who, as we hope, entertain for Oliver an ancient and particular affection. Besides, his eldest brother is dead [Roger, fifth Earl of Rutland, died June 26, 1612], and the second brother [Francis, sixth Earl] left inheritor of all the honours and wealth, so that a manifold occasion is offered to our friend of helping himself in temporal affairs, and others to some extent in spiritual and greater goods. Summoned by his family he has left in haste, humbly asking your Paternity's benediction; in the efficacy of which he disregards all that heretical fury or perverse malice can invent against him. The King is going this summer to his brother the new Earl's castle, to remain there awhile for hunting. Perhaps Oliver will take that occasion of presenting himself to the King, who liked him when he was in his service before he entered the service of God, and whom he has never offended in anything, except in choosing to be an abject in the house of God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of men."
Father Gerard's expression in this letter, that Sir Oliver could help others "to some extent in spiritual and greater goods" refers to a fact that has never been published, that Sir Oliver Manners was ordained priest by Cardinal Bellarmine 10 in Rome on the 5th of April, 1611. He was therefore not ordained when Father Gerard wrote his Narrative; but clearly this was what was in his mind when he wrote that men were filled not only with great esteem for him, but with " expectations of yet greater things." It thus becomes extremely probable that in the letter Father Gerard wrote to Father Persons from Brussels on the 15th of July, 1606, under the title of "his brother" Father Gerard meant Sir Oliver Manners. "A journeyman " in the mouths of Catholics meant a Jesuit, and " a workman " was a priest, and Father Gerard ingeniously expresses his wish that Sir Oliver had passed through the noviciate, and his estimate of his fitness for a priest's work in the words " unless my brother had served his apprenticeship and were made a journeyman, for of his skill and workmanship in framing the best wedding garment there is great and general hope conceived;" and in this passage Father Gerard expresses his preference for Sir Oliver if he w r ere a priest over all others, including even Father Roger Lee. However Sir Oliver did not " serve his apprenticeship " or become a Jesuit, though he was ordained priest after Father Gerard's letter.
The death of Sir Oliver Manners is mentioned by Chamberlain in a letter 11 written to Carleton, dated September 9, 1613. But it would appear that this was a false report of his death, for at the end of 1618 Cardinal Bellarmine wrote 12 to Father Gerard about him as if he had just been informed of his death. " The memory of that excellent Mr. Oliver, whose acquaintance I made very late, has brought me no little sadness, or rather grief, not on his account, who is translated from this world to the joys of Paradise, but for the sake of many whom without doubt he would have converted to a good life if Divine Providence had permitted him to live any longer. But the good pleasure of God must ever be fulfilled, and the self same, in order that it may be fulfilled, must ever be pleasing to us under all circumstances. "
1 Sir Oliver was first cousin once removed of Grace Manners, wife of Sir Francis Fortescue of Salden.
2 P.R.O., Ind. Warrant Book, p. 15.
3 Ibid., Gunpowder Plot Book, nn. 108, in.
4 Ibid., Docqnet.
5 Ibid., Domestic, James I, vol. Ixvi. n. 96.
6 Ibid., vol. xlvii. n. 20; vol. liv. n. 51.
7 Stonyhurst MSS., Angl. A. vol. vi.
8 Nunciatura Angliӕ, inter Miscell., kindly communicated by the Rev. Father Stevenson, S.J.
9 Stonyhurst MSS., Angl. A., vol. iii. n. III.
10 The testimonials signed by the Cardinal, dated April 12, 1611, are in the Archives of the English College at Rome. They state that the Cardinal conferred the tonsure, minor orders and sacred orders on five successive days from the 2nd to the 5th of April "Domino Oliverio Manoreo Anglo." Similar testimonials in the same Archives show that the Cardinal ordained George Mallett in 1612, and Toby Mathews and George Gage in 1614.
11 P.R.O., Domestic, James I. , vol. lxxiv. n. 56.
12 Stonyhurst MSS., AngL A. t vol. viii. n. 107.
11 P.R.O., Domestic, James I. , vol. lxxiv. n. 56.
12 Stonyhurst MSS., AngL A. t vol. viii. n. 107.