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 IV.
According to Father More, the following were then the most celebrated prisons in London, 1 viz., three at the three gates of the City—at the gate called Newgate; at that called Lud, from one Luddi, to whom some refer the origin of the City itself; and at the gate called of the house, Gate-house, Westminster, formerly the Western gate of the Monastery. On the other side the Thames there were five—the Bench, or the seat, of the King, King's-bench; that of the chief Magistrate's, called the Marshalsea, or the seat of the Mareshall; the Hall of Winchester, commonly called the Clink; the White Lion, and the Counter (house of reckoning, Nomisterion or Computorium). There were three others scattered through the City—the Fleet, so called from a running stream or ditch of water; another Nomisterion or Counter (in the Poultry), and St. Bridget's Fountain, in which debtors and vagrants were confined; lastly, at the eastern extremity of the City, a projecting fortress, called the Tower of London, which was used for, the confinement of delinquents of the higher class, traitors, assassins, and the greater offences. Here Pounde was confined three times, and spent altogether three years in it. He found it more like a sepulchre than a prison• he was immured in underground cells, frozen, damp, and stinking, very small, and without a single breathing-hole to admit a ray of light. To Newgate, for the most part, were committed robbers, murderers, witches, and the common sink of all the rogues of London. Our confessor found no prison so odious as this was.
Of what happened to him in the various prisons in which he accomplished his continued martyrdom of thirty years, he is stated by Father Bartoii to have left behind him some precious recollections in a daily journal of fifty chapters, which has been most probably lost.
We now proceed to notice how God was pleased to strengthen His servant as a preparation for his long martyrdom, redoubling his courage and consoling him by bestowing upon him the greatest favour he could desire upon earth, which was to be admitted into the Society of Jesus, and as far as he could do so in his various prisons, and ultimately at Belmont, his own native place, to live as a Religious, like ours in the Novitiate and Colleges. In 1575, Thomas deputed to Rome his friend Stephens to lay before our Very Reverend Father General his long standing desire, and his humble petition to be admitted amongst his sons. He prayed his Paternity "not to refuse this favour because far away and unknown, seeing that whilst God had called him to the Society, though known to him only by report, he had at the same time given him reasons for choosing it; that the Society would not refuse him, though it was unknown to him otherwise than by the account Stephens had given him; that should it ever happen to him that he should become his, and get his foot out of prison and out of England, his Paternity should see him kneeling at his feet; as to the rest, the last of all, though in the love of a son, he was, in the obedience of a subject, indeed amongst the first; and that, should it please God so to honour him as to permit him to die for the confession of the Catholic faith, a thing so imminent, it would be but just that he should in death, as in life, be totally his." With this good embassage, Stephens arrived in Rome: his loyalty to his dear friend, and his fidelity to him as his servant, leave us no room to doubt but that he duly laid the case before the Father General, though, for whatever cause, without success as regards Pounde's petition. He (Stephens) was more fortunate in conducting his own cause, which was the same as that of his patron, for he pleaded it so efficaciously as to obtain permission to be clothed a novice at S. Andrea's on the 20th of October of the same year, 1575.
Three years later, upon renewed and more cogent entreaties on the part of Pounde, Stephens presented in writing to the same Very Reverend Father General, so admirable and well attested an account of the life, the virtues, and other remarkable qualities of Pounde which rendered him a worthy candidate for admission into the Society, that within a few days his petition was granted, and in so extraordinary a case he was able to be dispensed from the ordinary laws of the Society. The following is a translation of a copy of the original in the Archives de l'Etat (Public Record Office), Brussels, varia S.J. (in the valuable collection of Rev. Father Richard Cardwell, Collectio Cardwelli, vol. L, p. 16, et seq., Stonyhurst Collection). This interesting document deserves to be given in full, although some apology must be made for a few occasional short repetitions of facts recorded, which have been introduced by the historians from whom this Life has been partly compiled, and which cannot well be erased without interfering with the thread of the narrative.
"I.H.S. sit nobis I.H.S.
"The Petition of Mr. Thomas Pounde to the Very Reverend Father General of the Society of Jesus, with a testimonial of his life and conversation.
"Rev. Father in Christ,—Your Paternity knows by name Mr. Thomas Pounde, an Englishman, distinguished by his relationship to the Earl of Southampton; who, when twelve years ago, being summoned by the Queen to Court, enjoyed great influence and favour with Her Majesty, and was detained there in promoting Court plays, games, and dances, and other such like worldly vanities.
"After a few years the divine mercy efficaciously operated in him, and, led by a singular spirit of penitence, withdrew from the Court and all its concerns, and, in the house of a certain relation of his, far away, where, at first indeed, in concealment for two years, he atoned for his past life in pious reading, in watchings, and prayers. But shortly after, without remitting anything of his penitential practices, but mixing somewhat more familiarly in society, in this manner of life showed such examples and proofs of the orthodox truth that he gained many souls, and sought by every means that mode of life, by following which he could the better and more efficaciously employ himself in the divine service and the good of his neighbour.
"In consequence of having read letters of ours from the Indies, and hearing the good fame of the Society, he resolved, after consulting with Father Henry Alvarez, an English Priest of the Society, and a former pupil of Rev. Father Tolet [afterwards Cardinal] who had then just arrived from Rome, to proceed there and enter the Society. He therefore converted into cash, for pious uses, all the property he was able, his mother being yet alive, intending to follow that course concerning his inheritance which the Superiors of the Society should ordain. And when he was, as it were, just upon the point of accomplishing his design, he was recognized by the heretics, upon a certain occasion, which we shall speak of in its proper place, apprehended and cast into prison, and thus deprived of all hope of liberty and of going to Rome.
" He begs of your Paternity that (since he has for so many years had it in heart and desire to enter the Society, and seeing that he cannot get out of prison) you will be satisfied with such* his desire and endeavour, and although absent and unknown, having regard to the longing after and zeal for souls that is in him, you will be pleased to admit him to the Society.
"I also, Thomas Stephens, your Paternity's unworthy son, humbly beg this favour for my said master, conjointly with whom for two years, more or less, in the world, I entertained this same intention, of both of us going to Rome and giving ourselves up to the Society. Being well acquainted with his life and conversation, I remark the following facts—When I first turned my thoughts to the Society, Divine Providence so ordained it that I should become acquainted with the said Mr. Thomas; and although out of doors I assumed the character of his servant (both because this better suited my means, as well, and chiefly, by way of a blind to the inquisitive Protestants), yet indoors I lived as his guest in common; excepting, however, the austerities which his more fervent desire of living to God, led him to exercise upon himself.
"In primis —as to what relates to his person and estate. He is the only son and heir of his father, a Catholic, but his mother being still alive, as yet enjoys the paternal mansion and estates which fell to him at his death. He is thirty-eight years of age, of a tall and handsome figure, a flowing beard, and a pleasing countenance. In the prison he dresses most handsomely, thinking thus to inspire Catholics with greater courage, and possibly conciliate authority. He has not yet made his philosophy, but is well up in his humanities, and wonderfully addicted to the study of the holy Fathers. He is eloquent in his native tongue, and equally fluent in speaking and writing, and exceedingly efficacious in the art of exhorting and persuasion. When living together, he requested me in frequent conversations to promote this his affair, to the best of my power, when, and as the occasion should offer; and he afterwards repeated the same in letters, which I hear he sent to my brother and others. For the greater part of the time I lived with him (I speak only to what I have myself witnessed) he used to impose severe austerities upon himself: the ground was his miserable bed; he spent in prayer, with great spiritual gust, one hour at midnight, followed by spiritual reading at daybreak. He would then resume his meditation for two, three, and four hours, spending the rest of the day in reading the holy Fathers, besides two or three hours in prayer in the evening; so that the heretics reported him mad, or a fool, or superstitious; his domestics, and some of his friends also, reported the same of him, calling it imprudent severity against himself, &c, all of which he constantly disregarded with a courageous heart, persevering in his mode of life, giving them example, and causing them to change their reproaches into admiration.
1 More, Hist. Prov. Angl., 1. ii., n. xix., p. 48.