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The Catholic Historical Review 87.2 (2001) 325-326
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A Tudor Journal:
The Diary of a Priest in the Tower, 1580-1585
A Tudor Journal: The Diary of a Priest in the Tower, 1580-1585. By Brian A. Harrison. (London: St. Pauls Publishing. 2000. Pp. 240. £29.99.)
John Hart kept a unique Latin diary, while a prisoner in the Tower of London, which Brian Harrison, a yeoman warder for over twenty years, has edited with an expert translation, informative annotations, and thirteen useful appendices. [End Page 325] Born in Oxfordshire, Hart left in 1569 to study at Douai and after ordination returned and was arrested at Dover in June, 1580. At first he was sent to Oxford for polemical lectures by a Puritan-inclined theologian, John Rainolds, but since Hart was unmoved he was remanded to the Tower. After a trial, he was sentenced to be executed at Tyburn along with St. Edmund Campion on December 1, 1581, but, intimidated by this gruesome fate, he announced his conformity to the established church and confirmed it in a letter to Secretary Walsingham. Later he recanted again and was sent to the Tower where this diary was continued. It is a series of ninety-three dated entries of a few lines each, where he noted what he heard about the treatment of other Catholic prisoners. For example, he identified nineteen priests and laity executed at Tyburn, or he also named twenty-four others who were coerced into conformity and were released. He recorded that Rainolds arranged three more theological confrontations in the Tower. As before, Hart was unconvinced by these harangues, and so his vindictive goalers put him for many days in the "pit," a foul dark wellshaft, or had heavy irons fastened to his legs.
It would have helped if Harrison had given samples of Rainolds's book, "The Summe of the Conference . . . ," published in 1584, which described his doctrine and attracted enough readers to be printed four times in English and twice in Latin. In January, 1585, Hart, with twenty-one others, was released and sent in a boat to France, "all of us condemned to death if we ever returned." As he desired to enter the Jesuit order, he was sent to a novitiate in Rome, where he gave his manuscript to Robert Persons, his superior. Since Persons was revising a Latin history of the "English Schism" by two deceased secular priests, Nicholas Sander and Edward Rishton, he added Hart's complete diary in an appendix when the book was printed in Rome in early 1586. This was crucial for the survival of Hart's text, for he died in July of that same year. Later in 1586 an unidentified editor printed in Ingolstadt, Germany, a more modest version of Sander's book, including only a fifth of the entries in Hart's diary, which was reprinted there in 1587 and 1588 and years later translated into English. For this reason Harrison has finally after four centuries made Hart's full text available in English. It is not a long document, but a unique personal history of four grim years written in a laconic style. There is one flaw: for the various editions of Sander's important book, the authoritative bibliographical catalogue by A. Allison and D. Rogers, Volume I (1989), should have been consulted first for the correct details which are not provided here.
Albert J. Loomie, S.J.