In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS723 sturdy scholarship. Libraries which have coUections Ui PoUsh or church history should purchase this and the other volumes Ui this monumental series. John Patrick Donnelly, SJ. Marquette University Robert Persons:The Biography ofan ElizabethanJesuit, 1546-1610. By Francis Edwards, SJ. (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources. 1995. Pp. xvU, 411. $42.95.) For many years now there have been caUs for someone to complete a scholarly edition of the letters of Robert Persons (or Parsons). The first volume of his correspondence down to 1588 edited by Leo Hicks, SJ.,for the CathoUc Record Society (Volume 39) appeared in 1942. Now more tiian fifty years later we have this fuU-length biography based on his letters. One has the impression that it was written some time ago. Only a thtfd of the "more often used printed sources" were pubUshed since World War II. But then since the rettfement of Father Hicks Ui 1964 there has not been that much written on Persons. In his preface the author acknowledges the help received from his predecessors at the Jesuit archives in Farm Street, London:J. H. PoUen, Leo Hicks, BasU Fitzgibbon as weU as PhUip Caraman, Alfred Loomie, both Jesuits, and Penelope Renold. It seems that Miss Renold gathered and transcribed a good deal of Persons' later correspondence. There are four general aspects ofPersons' Ufe. First, under the authority ofthe Jesuit general he directed the Jesuit effort to evangeUze England from 1580, when he first went under cover to England with his Jesuit companions, Edmund Campion and Brother Ralph Emerson, until his death thirty years later. In the second place, he advised the Jesuit general and a succession of Popes and curial officials on CathoUc poUcy in England. Third, he worked to raise money and supply manpower for the EngUsh seminaries in exUe in Douay-Rhetfns, Rome, and Spain. Fourth, he wrote books of popular theological controversy plus one spiritual classic, The Christian Directory, which was kept Ui print down to the last century. Edwards foUows the story chronologicaUy, and for the first eighty pages it flows smoothly. But then as he treats the poUtical impUcations of the first three aspects of Persons' work, the story gets bumpy and at times confusing. To his credit the author frankly admits that poUtics and reUgion were inextricably intertwined in most of European history in the sixteenth century. There is simply no way to deny that Jesuit activity in the first century of their existence had strong political overtones. They were, after aU, bound by a special vow to serve the Pope, and the Popes were important poUtical players in the world at that time. However, there are simply too many names and incidents for aU but the most erudite reader to sort out the strands of the plots and counter-plots that 724book reviews were a feature of the EngUsh history of those days. Persons the man and the priest gets lost in the clutter. His important work Ui manning and helping finance the seminaries comes out clearly, but his work as a writer—and he was one of the best EngUsh stylists of his day—is slighted. One would have preferred to see a clearer picture of Persons' character and personaUty. There do exist some published efforts along this line, especiaUy those focusing in on the last dozen years of his life, which he spent mostly as rector of the EngUsh CoUege, Rome. The reader rarely gets a hint 'why Persons inspires so much devotion on the one hand and so much enmity on the other. He enjoyed the complete confidence of Claudio Aquaviva, one of the greatest Jesuit generals. PhUip II of Spain trusted and revered him. He was a close collaborator of WiUiam Cardinal Allen and was highly regarded by his Jesuit brethren on the English mission. Nevertheless, there is every indication that almost aU Protestants and a good number of EngUsh Catholics opposed his policies and revUed his person. Nevertheless, this biography is a good first step. Edwards has addressed the most difficult and puzzling side ofhis subject. It wUl be easier for future biographers to fiU Ui the blanks, especiaUy if they have access to a good...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 723-724
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.