- Edmund Campion: Memory and Transcription
In Edmund Campion: Memory and Transcription, Gerard Kilroy explores the systems developed by English Catholics from 1581 through 1606 to communicate with each other, preserve their history, and continue to advocate for their religion. Kilroy's main points of focus include the private manuscript culture, systems of verbal coding, and various methods of material concealment that Catholics developed for pursuing and protecting their religious commitments. While Kilroy organizes the book around Edmund Campion, Campion's writings, and the impact of his execution, Kilroy also gives discreet attention to other topics and writers, in the latter category especially to Sir John Harington and Sir Thomas Tresham, to what they wrote and how they preserved it and other works for posterity. He also reprints in part or whole texts and documents that are little known and relatively inaccessible, thereby advancing the work of archival recovery.
Harington and Tresham figure largely in Kilroy's book because of their connections to Campion. Avoiding a repetition of the entire Campion story, Kilroy focuses on Campion's years at St. John's College, Oxford, with its deep connections to scholastic theology and to those who wanted to preserve the "old religion" in England. Between 1566, the date of his oration before Queen Elizabeth, and his leaving Oxford in 1570, Campion wrote Sancta salutiferi nascentia semna verbi, a poem that contrasts the "permanence of the ecclesia Romana with the transcience of the imperium Romanum" (49). Campion gives this comparison epic stature by evoking Virgil's Aeneid: the decline of Troy and the fall of Rome contrast with the permanence of the Church of Rome. While the poem is significant in itself, knowledge of its two extant copies provide suggestions as to the structure of the Catholic community. Kilroy speculates that both copies derive from scribes in the Harington family (152-53).
In the chapter on Harington, Kilroy presents Harington as an advocate for toleration of Catholics and for a church that is not controlled by the state. [End Page 1292] Developing this thesis, Kilroy focuses first on Harington's A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, where his scrutiny falls on the marginalia in the copy owned by Lord Lumley, now in the Folger Shakespeare Library. In the margin at the end of the first part, Harington has added the names of those present when the device was invented, namely the Earl of Southampton, Sir Matthew Arundell, Thomas Arundell, and Lady Mary Arundell. Later Harington names the jury that will judge the value of his book, including the Earl of Northumberland, the Viscount Montacute, the Earl of Worcester, the Lord Lumley. As Kilroy documents, these lists feature the "leaders of the Catholic community in England" (91). Next Harington names the gentry on the jury, again all Catholics, with special attention to his Catholic relatives Ralph Sheldon and Thomas Markham, both of whom had been "victims of institutional slander" (92). In Kilroy's reading, this context clarifies that Harington's seemingly innocuous poem carries a sharp invective against the financial corruption, spying, and torture that characterized Elizabethan strategies for controlling the Catholic community.
Turning next to Harington's epigrams, Kilroy isolates for attention the edition Harington prepared as a gift to Prince Henry on 19 June 1605, now held in the Folger Shakespeare Library. Understanding the gift as an attempt to elicit Prince Henry's support for an increasingly unsettled and fearful Catholic community, Kilroy places Harington's gift in "this time of crisis" (99), an interpretation that gives special significance to the engraving representing the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary and that places Haringon alongside other Catholics who assumed that persecution had ended with Elizabeth's death but then had those hopes dashed during the early years of King James's reign.
Kilroy's interest in Sir Thomas Tresham focuses on two aspects. The first is the recovery in 1828 of a large cache of books and papers wrapped securely and...