Rome: the discernment of angels
Rome: the discernment of angels
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter looks at the development of Southwell's writing during his early years in the Jesuit novitiate, revealing that Southwell's writing matured during his stay in Rome, and following some of his activities there during the late 1570s. It was during this time when he tried – and failed – to enter the Jesuit novitiate. From here the discussion shifts to Southwell's early years in the novitiate, and studies his diary entries in order to determine the impact the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises had on him. This period also marked the beginning of Southwell's new poetic vision, and the chapter studies the effect flagellation (violence to the self) had on his poetry. It shows that most of Southwell's manuscript poetry in English features events from the Gospels, as well as elements of Catholic Mariology or sacramental belief, but also notes that some of his works appear to be bloodier and more visceral.
I, who in a looke, | Learnd more by rote, then all the scribes by booke.1
‘Sacra paradisi in sede locavit’: Southwell's Roman life2
Rome was the centre of Southwell's world. Here his writing matured and took on its colours and textures; but, whatever his immature expectations, he soon found that Rome was not Paradise. Beauties it may have owned, but angers and enmities abounded, too, in the city built among the ruins of an earthly empire whose language was its most lasting monument, and the lingua of Southwell's college years. Southwell's Latin poetry has had little airing to date, but it expresses the texture and tone of that whole experience. Latin, or the experience of Rome itself, formed Southwell's idiolect, his personal dialect, in these years, and his poetic expression is founded upon it.
A supervising member of the elite Sodality of the Virgin, and therefore honour-bound to engage in Marian apologetics,3 Southwell has poeticised a debate between heaven and hell on the vexed question of her Assumption, the bodily progress into heaven, that Catholics believed to be rejected by Protestants and that became symbolic of the post-Reformation battle in which Southwell was to engage in Rome. Death is given the Protestant's supposed part:
- Atra cohors, nostris semper fidissima sceptris,
- Olim quanta fuit Lethei gloria regni
- Qua Phoebus, qua luna suos agit aurea currus,
- Quas bello edidimus strages, quot funere reges
- Mersimus, et totum quoties consumpsimus orbem
- Non latet, et vestris cecidit pars maxima telis.
- Nunquid tanta ruet virtus ingloria, et uni
- (p.39) Noster cedet honos, sic formidabile numen
- Imperiumque ruet, sic nostris hostia templis
- Deficiet, tantique cadent fastigia regni?4
(Dark company, ever most faithful to our ruling power, how great was formerly the glory of the realm of Lethe, wherever Phoebus, wherever the golden moon, drive their chariots, what massacres we brought about by war, how many kings we submerged in violent death, and how many times we devoured the entire world: this is no secret, and the majority fell to your weapons. […] Surely such great virtue will not be cast down inglorious, nor our honour yield to a single individual? Is formidable authority and command so to topple? Is sacrifice to become absent from our temples? Are the pinnacles of so great an empire to collapse?)
After this affecting loquacity, and as if to embody the plainer rhetoric learned under Allen, Southwell's impassive Gabriel delivers his message without embellishment (God, the arbiter, is more succinct yet; the model that Milton was later to adopt in Paradise Lost). Points are made with lawyer-like lucidity: first, all agree upon the Virgin's immaculacy, second, God does not punish the innocent; ergo: Adam and Eve's punishment – death – cannot apply to her. Southwell's dramatic evocation of that debate, although directed against ‘heresy’, also reflects the contrasts exposed in Rome, the angelic appeals and Stygian antipathies that almost overwhelmed him while there, and which were the indirect cause of his death.
Angelic majesty and busyness must have been his first impression, however. The Norfolk youth, brought up amongst the effaced shrines and ruins of the ancient English church, was, on arrival in 1578, thrust into the middle of a visual explosion of new artworks, angel-sent inspirations and theories of perceiving and feeling, new processes of transmitting God's missionary messages, Gabriel-like, to human minds.5 But he also arrived in the middle of an intractable and deadly turmoil over ways of proceeding and mission agendas, and not all the paintings he saw appearing on his college walls were angelic: some showed tortured and twisted bodies, including those of men he had known; at some point in Rome he was to decide that his path lay that way. In Rome he learned to write into that dichotomy, to reconcile violence with beauty. The regular spiritual report required of every Jesuit novice was, in Southwell's case, a testament to his painful struggles towards maturity, while his early poetry seems to reflect both the horrors and the felicities of the visual splendour of Rome as if he is never really able to tear his eyes from them, even in England.6
On arrival, not at the Novitiate on its airy hill but at the Venerabile, the English College in the busy streets down on the Tiberine levels, he met with disappointments and disruptions. Sir Richard Shelley, a relative of Southwell's influential in the exile community, was involved in a bitter dispute with the Welsh Archdeacon of the English College, Owen Lewis. An invasion of Ireland was being pressed by Thomas Stucley and Shelley objected, only the intervention (p.40) of Robert Persons saving him from the Inquisition.7 The resulting turmoils simmered on, to erupt again with dreadful effect later in Southwell's time there.
It is hard to ascertain Southwell's movements at this time, but it seems clear that he was not immediately accepted into the novitiate, but set to further study, remaining at the English College, the Society still unsure, perhaps, of his maturity and motivation. He will none the less have been required to work in the kitchens and do other chores, as well as studying hard, among all the grand or sordid distractions Rome had to offer.8
He and his companions, let loose for an afternoon, looked up at ceilings beginning to pulse with the early baroque, glimpsing beings of light among the gilded mouldings of the twilit, scented churches. Angels were central to Jesuit theology. Jesuit methodology, with its emphasis on accurate discernment of personal motivations and feelings, had resulted in the development what we would now consider a theory of psychology, based on ‘angelic’ action on the inner landscape. This discernment of spirits and the theories of perception and depiction of divine action met in the person of the angel. Southwell's experience of these new perceptive and depictive theories can be explored both through the spiritual record he made during his novitiate and through the paintings he saw in Rome; and, more importantly, through his lively, innovative poetic response to them.
Although the cult of angels really took flight only after Southwell's time in Rome, guardian and assistant angels were becoming a Jesuit preoccupation. By 1600 the Gesù was thronged with angels, but even in 1584 some of the first of them were trying their wings in the ceiling decorations above the young priest's head.9 In Circignani's Heavenly Celebration of the Birth of Christ, a miracle of mirrored symmetry and restrained movement, angels in their orders and ranks are still peripheral to the central sunburst of light; none the less they are there, singing, playing lutes and viols in support and imitation of God's orderly and rhythmic creativity. They embody and enact a baroque quasi-reality transcending older, more literal, depictive limitations, appearing to occupy actual, not pictorial space, their divine gaze vaulting the limits of their painting as they look beyond its frame towards the Christ-Child above the Nativity Chapel altar.10
As Southwell's more mature writing was to insist, this was not art for plea-sure's sake, but art serving God. England was debating whether decoration and imagery had any place at all in God's house, but the spiritual atmosphere Southwell encountered in Rome was highly visually charged; painting was an integral part of a mystical journey towards God.11 As Gauvin Bailey puts it, ‘“the activation of the sacred was embodied in the process of the experience and interiorization of the sacred narrative”’. None of the new artistic initiatives celebrating this difference was as carefully co-ordinated and scripted as the (p.41) programme of the Jesuits in Rome.12 Southwell's later poetic mission can be seen in the light of this new thinking: the carrying into England of internalised shrines and relics, replacing sacred object and pilgrimage with internal mediation, the emphasis being on perception, rather than poetry. To that different emphasis was added the fact that where the novices of other orders spent much time training for choir and ceremonial, Jesuit novices trained solely for ministry in the wider world from the start. Other orders lived with beauty as sacrament, but the Jesuit youths lived with beauty as message.13 Southwell's vision of his future ministry was therefore entirely bound up with the depictions of that greater ministry of image and its apprehension surrounding him in Rome.
Novices and probationers were required to take moral instruction, listen to homilies and attend vespers on Sundays and feast days, the paintings among which they sat or moved enhancing the lesson. The altarpiece that dominated the Jesuit Novitiate chapel on the Quirinal Hill was not a painting of Christ but of one of his celebrated imitators, St Andrew, pictured alive in the process of crucifixion, surrounded by crowds. The message was graphically clear: the living example of self-sacrifice and mass-communication in the service of God, these, not death, were the desiderata. The martyrdom expected of the Jesuit was not necessarily to be literal.
This theme of self-martyrdom through ministry and missionary zeal was repeated throughout the novitiate in paintings, frescos and emblems, and meditation on the message was a central method of developing the novices for their own ministry.14 Ignatius stressed this view, insisting on an obedience of ‘execution, will, and understanding’. While other orders practised Christian self-denial in prodigious austerities or periods of prayer, a Jesuit's way of showing self-sacrifice was ‘through the abnegation implied in obedience to their superiors’.15 This was to cause Southwell considerable anguish as his stay in Rome drew to an end.
As Bailey observes, the very ahistoricity of the generic St Andrew landscape painted by Durante Alberti demonstrates this wider understanding of martyrdom, something seen in the rest of the collegiate chapels and the Jesuits’ great Gesù, and designed to guide the viewer, lay or otherwise, into the same path as that of the Ignatian Exercises, with their ‘composition of place’: the supplying by the viewer of the context and emotional impact of the action, thereby replacing being told with experiencing for oneself.16 In the facial expressions of Andrew's followers, Alberti supplies a range of emotional responses with which a viewer might be in sympathy, just as Southwell later was to paint word-pictures of grief, despair, or anger for his English readers, to help them to site themselves at an imaginary Calvary, and to contextualise their own losses.
The Jesuits taught through image. The chapel of the Collegio Romano was (p.42) one of the first in Italy to feature textualised mural images, using letters with a key below.17 Southwell was being trained to see imagery and word as an interactive, interdependent resource for passing on information that could not be contained in words alone. In England he developed this into a potent poetic that melded metaphoric picture and biblical shorthand to the same end.
Schooling the eye of the heart: learning to read beauty
The influence of the new father general of the Society, Claudio Acquaviva, cannot be overstated; he was central to the artistic project in Rome, directing, fundraising for, and possibly even designing, many programmes of religious painting.18 Southwell's fight to be sent, against Acquaviva's wishes, to near-certain death on the English mission, was, paradoxically, tightly bound up with such visual stimulation. The preponderance of imagined visualisation in his poetry, though founded in the emotional arena of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, was stimulated further by his special proximity to this vast artistic project and its imagery of passion and crisis.19
The progressive series of paintings planned for the Jesuits’ Roman churches reflected the progression of thought and awareness of the Exercises. It opened the viewer gradually to ever-heightened responses to, and understandings of, God's action on the soul.20 It is clear, though, that not only were the Jesuits involved in the promotion of such high culture, but that their concept of the impact of religious art included its written expression, in the form of spiritual exercises, meditations, drama, and poetry. The novices were required to undergo the full Ignatian Spiritual Exercises during their two years; the process was central to their education and development.21 The iconography of the College and Novitiate was clearly designed to contribute to this experience, the visual and the spiritual effectively inseparable. Recent scholarship has shown how close this relationship was.22 Southwell's attitude to his own metaphoric programme and its pastoral purposes must be viewed in the light of this interdependence.
Such beauties were a double-edged sword though: Calvinist rejection of the relationship between sensual beauty and spirituality meant that the arts programmes of Rome were inevitably implicated in Catholic apologetics (as employed by Bellarmine, for instance). Beauty worked both to draw the soul Godwards and to drive heresy back. And living in Rome, as even their Catholic masters admitted, could have undesirable effects on English students, many from simple backgrounds, and accustomed to stripped altars. Southwell's spiritual record stresses the dangers of being distracted by physical beauty. His second preparation prior to making his Exercises includes a passage which is interesting in the way it conflates the physical altar at which the novice assists (p.43) and church depictions of crucifixion, trying to reveal the real altar under the gilding and flowered cloth, covered in the blood of the sacrifice:
Day by day He has come down from heaven to earth and like a suppliant lain before thee upon the altar. He continues to beg of thee the same boon, and to beseech thee by His own body and blood offered for thee upon the altar of the cross, that thou wouldst unite thyself perfectly to Him and never leave Him by thy sins. But thou like a deaf man hast not listened, thou hast barred the entry into thy heart, thou hast broken faith, and after promising love thou hast transferred it from the Creator to the creature. (13, p. 16)
Southwell was surrounded by ‘creature’ magnificence in Rome, and was commanded to regard it with indifference, except in that it spoke with the voice of God. Later he was to describe such a struggle for the benefit of others: ‘Mans civill warre’ (p. 49) is an extended commentary on the hindrances to perfection that Southwell's own director was trying to make him address: ‘Faine would my ship in vertues shore | Without remove at anchor lie’, he says; it would be so easy never to go out into the world and have to face its temptations; ‘But mounting thoughts are hailed downe | With heavie poise [or counterweight] of mortall load’ (lines 3–6):
- Fond fancie traines to pleasures lure,
- Though reason stiffely do repine.
- Though wisdome wooe me to the saint, 15
- Yet sense would win me to the shrine
This could almost be a Calvinist's concern over the uses of beauty; but the constant dichotomy of needing to be in the world – at the Catholic centre of it in Rome, indeed – and not be seduced by its physical beauties, was a source of tension for any Jesuit, and Southwell's diary explores these tensions and dislocations.23
Southwell was, in keeping this confessional diary, extending his understanding of the work words can do in managing feelings and situations; his poetic interior monologues are founded on the interrogative sensitivity it encouraged in analysing and expressing emotional states and motivations. The Devotions provide, according to de Buck, an ‘introspective analysis’ almost unsurpassed in the picture it gives of ‘the formation of a martyr's soul’, exposing ‘the real reasons, the motives deep in [Southwell’s] soul, which led him to take the step of going back to England’.24 Vocation aside, it also allows glimpses into Southwell's emotional and psychological life, the self-analyses, the hopes and fears implied by various entries, the bitterly self-excoriating, almost self-destructive, tone that seems to emerge, even in his resignation.25 Both the resulting self-awareness and the habit of self-analysis in itself contributed to the emotional realism of his poetry, and the impact it later had on other English authors. This does not make the poetry confessional in itself, of (p.44) course, but his experience of the Exercises and keeping the diaries gave him a new, deeply felt language of personal emotional response.
Southwell brought to the Society a level of inspired creativity, as suggested by one of the diary entries which notes certain ‘natural gifts and aptitudes’ of his, useful in the saving of souls: expressive skills, and a passionate nature to help him envision the way to salvation, which caused him to ‘burn with more ardent desires than others towards God and divine things’.26 This ardour, judging by diary entries, could sometimes run over into impulsiveness in the immature Southwell. John Deckers, too, characterised his friend's precipitate rush towards a Jesuit novitiate in Rome as ‘trampl[ing] underfoot all those values which cause worldly men to hesitate, oblivious of your homeland, your parents, your colleagues, not to mention your costly property’;27 Southwell seems prone to self-dramatise, seeing himself as ‘singled out from all my family and kindred’ in his vocation, succumbing to the ‘temptation to “singularity”’, ‘wanting to be special and knowing that his manner should be ordinary’, as Pilarz puts it.28
Nothing illustrates this sense of a special voice better perhaps than one of his entries, written as the words of the ultimate head of the Society, Christ – perhaps the first and most signal of Southwell's biblical ventriloquisations (27, p. 38). He never repeats this Christly ventriloquising in his short English poetry, apart from Nativity baby-noises and the words spoken by the enigmatic Burning Babe, although he does in his prose-poem or sermon, Marie Magdalens Funeral Teares, albeit preceded carefully by ‘[it is] as if thou haddest said …’.29
The effects of the intense self-searching carried out through the diary entries is clearly visible in later English work like Mary Magdalen. This reconstruction of a ‘real’ interiority was brought new to England by Southwell in the shape of his expansions of Gospel characters; complaint poetry had existed in English, but nothing like this extended and psychologically insightful dramatic personation. Every sort of English writing now considered ‘good’, all the soliloquies, dramatic monologues, the poetry and novels full of emotional immediacy and integrity, has developed in part out of Southwell's literary experiments in English, all those, in their turn, derived from the response of an imaginative mind to Jesuit diary and confessional practices learned in Rome.
Nothing in the whole diary so clearly demonstrates the effects of the Exercises on Southwell, the indivisibility of the products of the imagination from the experience of the divine, than this imaginary encounter with the living Lord. In this entry more than any other, perhaps, we are witnessing the force behind his formation as an adult, a writer, and a Jesuit priest. Later he would see no reason not to call up similar visions for others via his poetry in support of his mission to help souls. The Thomistic urge to find harmony wherever possible between ‘nature and grace’, a theme repeated in the Jesuit Constitutions, (p.45) combined with the Jesuits’ understanding, via Thomistic theology, that it was desirable to harness all ‘human means’ at their disposal, again a theme of the Constitutions,30 combined to produce Southwell's poetic ministry just as much as Suárez's or Nadal's tracts on the part played by the individual in the accessing of divine love.
But Rome was far more than private spaces. It was undergoing a public revolution, from below ground to the skies, revealing ancient Rome and the frescos of its first Christian martyrs under their feet and working architectural wonders high above their heads, as new buildings and churches rose among the ruins. The message of this sumptuous vision could not have been lost on Southwell, schooled in its uses by Acquaviva (as his younger colleagues were to be by Acquaviva's friend, the art theorist Louis Richeôme).31 It seems clear that Southwell's English poetry was full of its visual richness and clarity, ‘staind’, ‘inameld’ and ‘limbde with [its] glorious gleames’.32 It was, primarily, to be the visual impact of Southwell's Roman experience that was borrowed and translated into poetic metaphor for his English enterprise.
Painting by numbers: Southwell's new poetic vision
In the Collegio Romano, Southwell had arrived at what was ‘an international institution and the pre-eminent college’ of an already exemplary educational order, at a time of great expansion and change. He was no doubt delighted by his first experience of the Collegio Romano's eight-day spectaculars of erudition in rhetoric and emblematics that advertised the opening of each academic year to the ‘Roman intelligentsia’.33 His already sharpened interest in poetry would have been further excited by the importance placed upon poetry in the vernaculars as well as in Latin, where the students’ efforts were pinned up alongside emblems and their captions – a rich training ground in the uses of imagery and metaphor.34
Received at last into the novitiate at San Andrea al Quirinale, Southwell's life was now immersed in the issues of the Roman College and the Novitiate, very much global and headquarters concerns. He shared his space with lay students and men training for the diocesan priesthood, not just Jesuits; his daily preoccupations were with his studies and his Jesuit development and any possible future career; they were no longer those of England, as they had been at William Allen's school in Douai. As in Paris, he was part of the European network of Catholicism, with its wide concerns about European Protestantism and the missions to the Indies, Japan, and the Americas, and Latin its international language. Letters from these exotic outposts arrived during Southwell's novitiate, sometimes with news of deaths but always with intriguing details of newly encountered cultures.35
(p.46) As if in poetic response to these new artistic theories, Southwell's poetry in English seems to reproduce visual moments, rather than telling stories, as if he is quoting the painting itself. It is these new cycles of paintings, and the effects that they had on a viewer such as himself, that he reproduced in his English poetry, rather than narratives taken directly from the Bible, as if he is trying to recapture and import into England their glossy, almost photographic affectivity without freighting his poetry with the original text. In England they had Bible texts in profusion, but they did not have this astounding visual proliferation.
Southwell quotes the imagery, rather than the text, even in his Gospel poems. His Virgin Sequence poem ‘His circumcision’, for instance, refers to knives piercing the Madonna's heart: ‘No blow that hit the sonne the mother mist’ (p. 7, lines 15, 18). His model for this image may have been an iconic depiction of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, in which the circumcision of the eight-day-old Christ-Child figures. It is shown in Tempesta's S. Stefano Madonna of the early 1580s, which depicts each sorrow as a roundel in the pommel of a series of long thin blades centred upon the breast of the Virgin, fanned like an array of throwing-knives.36 The sword that pierces Mary's heart is mentioned in the Gospel only at the presentation of Christ in the temple, by old Simeon, who thus prefigures her heartbreak at the crucifixion (the Presentation also appears among Tempesta's stilettos).37 Southwell's poem therefore addresses the mystic iconography he has seen, not just the underlying texts.
The presentation of Christ occurs also in Southwell's Virgin Sequence, but without mention of the sword of the Gospel narrative, as if he is thinking of a different account, pictorial, rather than biblical, preferring to separate it from the element most central to his ‘circumcision’ poem, the shedding of Christ's blood. Circignani's Presentation of Christ at the Temple was in the Nativity Chapel at the Jesuits’ great church, the Gesù, and this may have been in Southwell's memory as he conjured up his poetic images.
The rest of his Virgin Sequence echoes the light, unemphatic mysticism of the programme of paintings in the Madonna Chapel of the Gesù, which was a small, essentially round chapel approached by a decorated corridor from the apse, the whole containing seven paintings. Bailey describes its ‘gilded stuccoes and frescoes’ and ‘lavish coloured marbles’; ‘Few places in the early Gesù so closely resembled a jewel box’ he adds, ‘or an extravagantly decorated reliquary’: the chapel was in actuality a great reliquary.38 A Jesuit of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, as Southwell was, would have regarded the chapel and its imagery with special reverence. The sequence of paintings was: The Immaculate Conception, Birth of the Virgin, Presentation of the Virgin, Marriage of the Virgin, Annunciation, Visitation, and Assumption of the Virgin. Bailey comments on the fact that the Jesuits forwent the opportunity to use the seven panels to present the Seven Joys or Seven Sorrows: this programme was (p.47) probably incidental to the more general ‘Life of the Virgin’ theme celebrated in the chapel as a whole.39
Southwell's sequence is doubled to fourteen. He has the ‘Conception’; ‘Her Nativity’; ‘Her Spousals’; but misses out her presentation at the temple (replacing it with the presentation of Jesus); the Annunciation, which, in Southwell's version (called ‘The Virgins Salutation’, p. 3), seems to be informed by visual elements of the Gesù painting.40 Where the yielding, sweet-faced Virgin in the painting points to her breast, and is being bowed to or gazed up at adoringly by the cloud of cherub faces that support Gabriel, Southwell has ‘O virgin breast the heavens to thee incline, | In thee their joy and soveraigne they agnize,’ (lines 7–8). He has his ‘Visitation’ (p. 5), adding after it the ‘Nativitie of Christ’ (p. 6), ‘His circumcision’ (p. 7), ‘The Epiphanie’ (p. 8), ‘The Presentation’ (p. 9), ‘The flight into Egypt’ (p. 9), ‘Christs returne out of Egypt’ (p. 10), ‘Christs Childhoode’ (p. 11), and ‘The death of our Ladie’ (p. 11), before returning to match the cycle of the Gesù with his last, ‘The Assumption of our Lady’ (p. 12), that element so important to Catholics in the aftermath of the Reformation. Just as the artist of the Gesù Assumption has washed out all the customary background scenery of this event, including the Virgin's tomb and the apostolic mourners, so Southwell's ‘Assumption’ boasts ‘No tombe but throne’, because ‘Tombe prison is for sinners that decease,’ (lines 4, 3). As in the painting, Southwell describes his Virgin's eyes fixed, undazzled, on the brilliant sky above; ‘Our Princely Eagle’ (l. 12) is borne away by heavenly hosts. In the gauzy background of the painting, before which a queenly Virgin, in flowing silks, her arms outstretched as if to greet a lover, is borne up upon a cloud studded like a plum pudding with cherub heads, almost overwhelming its cherubic bearers like rising dough, can be dimly seen in the dazzle a great crowd of attendant figures, some playing musical instruments. There is the faintest suggestion of palatial colonnades. With this painted scene compare Southwell's metaphoric one:
- Gemm to her worth, spouse to her love ascendes,
- Prince to her throne, Queene to her heavenly kinge,
- Whose court with solemne pompe on her attends, 15
- And Quires of Saintes with greeting notes do singe.
- Earth rendreth upp her undeserved praye,
- Heaven claymes the right and beares the prize away.
He is not descanting upon the idea of the Assumption, as he does in his complex and fluid Latin ‘Poema de Assumptione’; he is reproducing this, or a similar painting, in English words. The new vision is entirely connected with the ‘astonishing results’ realized by the Society at the end of the sixteenth century, ‘results gained by the triumph of a reasoning so perfect and brilliant as to mark the superimposition of Utopia on reality’.41 No doubt the artist responsible for the main sequence of paintings in the Madonna Chapel, the (p.48) Jesuit Giuseppe Valeriano, was perfectly aware of the novelty of his vision; and the same combination of elements that he introduced was later to inform Southwell's English poetry: a restrained classicism, a new realism. Southwell, influenced by this new mood of universality and accessibility, had transcribed it into English poetry.
Southwell's new understanding of the intimate connections between music and the divine order expressed into human history through Mary and Christ would have resonated deeply with his experience of this chapel, and especially with the way in which it was tailored for the public, who had long visited relics of the Madonna della Strada on this site.42 Southwell, perhaps in response to this element of the chapel decorations, has presented a Life of the Virgin of his own, very much in the mystic but accessible spirit of this cycle (some of which he can have seen only just before he left Rome for England), perhaps intending it as a condensed virtual tour of this and the Nativity Chapels for his countrymen, now bereft of their own.43 The metaphorical carrying away of the images of the reliquary chapel was Southwell's way of bringing these forbidden things into England, safe in the special reality of his and his reader's imagination.
He drew the extra elements from other cycles, it would appear, as if trying to engage the Marian cycle with metaphors of mission and martyrdom, although he does not include a Calvary scene, as if trying to emphasise Mary’s, rather than Christ’s, place in the history of man's redemption, and her special relationship with the missioners and martyrs; Mary was the Queen of Martyrs, after all.44 His Virgin Sequence includes ‘The flight into Egypt’ (p. 9), in which he takes the opportunity to describe the Massacre of the Innocents, frescoes of which appeared in the German College's S. Stefano Rotondo in 1583, and in the Gesù in 1584.45
The Holy Innocents clearly had an important place in Jesuit iconography: the first painting of the celebrated S. Stefano sequence showed two of the Holy Innocents standing at the foot of a Crucifixion, amongst male and female martyrs, an almost unprecedented usage.46 The connection of the Innocents with the Martyrs and Christ crucified links them to the sacrament of Holy Communion, but Southwell seems to have absorbed more than the theological implications of the imagery. In his description of the Innocents in ‘The flight into Egypt’ (p. 9), they are static, framed by martyrs’ garlands and singing Christ's praises. It is as if he has in mind the christological triumphalism of the Tempesta painting rather than the dramatic, distressing scenes of the frescos actually dedicated to their slaughter, although elements of the massacre are there: ‘Who though untimely cropt faire garlands frame, | With open throats and silent mouths you sing | His praise’ (lines 14–16).
This penultimate phrase connects his poem even more closely to the church cycles, with their elucidatory inscriptions: The Massacre of the Innocents was in (p.49) the Nativity Chapel of the Gesù, but in the Martyr's Chapel, under a Martyrdom of St Lawrence, the inscription ubiquitous in Jesuit painting cycles includes part of a sermon attributed to St Ambrose: ‘and if the holy martyrs are silent in their voices they teach us by their virtue, and if their tongues are silent they persuade us by their suffering’ (p. 237). Southwell seems to have had a portfolio of this powerful imagery and text in his head, and to have accessed that, rather than his biblical, store, when composing his pious English lyrics. As so often in his devotional poetry, he finishes on a musical theme, adapting St Ambrose: ‘Your tunes are teares, your instruments are swords, | Your ditty death, and blood in liew of wordes’ (lines 17–18).
‘The virgin Mary to Christ on the Crosse’ (p. 71), from the collection printed after Saint Peters Complaint, the Moeoniae, has the same odd collocations; again, it appears as one of Mary's Seven Sorrows in the S. Stefano painting. In the poem, she views her son on the cross, heartbroken, and yet the theme of music appears in the background: she demands why the angels are not singing sorrowful symphonies, and ends by crying ‘Let sorrow string my heavy lute’ (l. 28), as if music is to be the inevitable finale to this scene.
It is equally important to note that the inscriptions that were so central to the didactic point of these pictures used the vernacular – Italian – as well as Latin, something that would not have been lost on Southwell as he observed their pedagogical and didactic impact on the less educated Roman commons – they were for the laity as much as anybody, the crowds that flocked to view them being ample justification of the method. His decision to reproduce these powerful images in poetry in the vernacular must be seen in the light of such all-inclusive pedagogic projects.
Southwell's training actively encouraged this cross-over. The underlying idea of the Exercises, the ‘composition of place’, which sought to recreate actual experiences in the imagination in order to lend immediacy to meditation, was a powerful conceptual driver for Jesuit uses of imagery. Nadal realised what was probably Ignatius's dream, a richly illustrated and captioned series of engravings based on the Gospels, in order to provide a portable pilgrimage of the mind.47 Francisco Borgia used visual images in his preaching, likening them to spices in food; Robert Bellarmine stressed the necessity of accurate observation including the knowledge of anatomy, perspective, and optics, to inform art with truths about God's creation. Antonio Possevino, by 1595, was able to argue that ‘painting was a mute form of poetry […] capable of moving the emotions more quickly than words’.48
Is it perhaps this natural, honest, non-allegorical focus upon imagery – foundational and psychologically suggestive poetic imagery – that attracted the demanding Jonson to the young priest's work?
(p.50) Learning to do violence to the self
At first Southwell was no doubt hoping, like many of his peers, for one of the missions to the courts of Europe or the New World. Such diplomatic postings called for men innocent of guile and appetite, yet skilful in the policy and refinement of courts. In pursuit of such subtle skills, Southwell's Roman training was becoming increasingly complex: he was learning controversialism alongside his confessional skills, developing that curious alchemy of compromise which only practical experience can teach. One of Southwell's earliest diary entries emphasises the requirement to the young novice that he must work to attract, not repel, souls, using the Jesuit desideratum of the ‘devout conversation’, the facility to engage likely minds in pleasant speech, encouraging them towards a higher spiritual engagement. Southwell's poems can be seen in the light of such ‘conversations’, each tailored, perhaps, to one or two special minds in Rome or in his literary circle in London, in the mould of his pre-Continental recusant companionship. The ‘conversations’ were considered a special application of the ministry of preaching God's Word, the more effective for being delivered into the individual heart; poetry written by a Jesuit can therefore be seen as sacred, even when it is profane, providing it brings minds towards God and the Society.49
As importantly for a developing poet, Southwell's wordcraft was becoming sophisticated and lissom: the Jesuits worked words hard, driving them like soldiers into the post-Reformation battle or casting them lightly like salmon flies: the sparkling attractions of the ‘devout conversation’ were set into a steely carapace of controversialism and confessional rigour. These are the twin skills which meet and coalesce in Southwell's poetry, the necessary condition for its existence. Diary entries describing the parlous condition of European Christianity illustrate the complexities he was expected to absorb and to reflect in his ministry, and the burden that his new skills were to bear. Poetry for poetry's sake would have seemed a trivial distraction in these circumstances; Southwell's training should warn his critics to look for more in it than art, even in the little ‘burning Babe’.50
‘The burning Babe’, after all, is a pain-filled piece; violence is being done; the babe is not sermonising but sobbing. Violence was also part of the Jesuit ‘way’, and Southwell's life in Rome bears witness to its effects. In ‘Some Hindrances to Perfection’ (SE&D, p. 28), his meditation has thrown up an exacting self-analysis, identifying avoidance of frequent talk with his superior and failure to ask his advice; a habit of trusting himself and his own opinions; failure to root out wrong passions at the beginning, so that they build up. The whole is summed up as refraining from doing violence to oneself in order to offer resistance to the passions. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bear it away’, the entry adds: heaven permits violence to be done (p.51) to the animal self in order to bring its passions under control; one must hurt one's personal inclinations as hard as one can, to get to heaven. Here is the dichotomous nature of the Jesuit approach to the battle in a nutshell: violence to achieve serenity and heaven's bliss.
This was to have difficult resonances in his mission life: intended to be an interior violence done by the self to the self, for Southwell and his companions on the English mission, the same text could so easily attach itself to the actual violence inherent in the recusant experience and impending Spanish invasions, and that worthy dichotomy would become externalised and uncontrollable. Southwell would have to fit his own authorial activities into strategies for invasion developing in some corners of the exile community; issues of violence were to become a serious distraction. ‘Refer to meditation book’, the entry ends, sharply. There was a remedial formula for his inner conflicts; the wider battle was to have no such clear way through for Southwell.
The matter of judgement in moderating the behaviour of oneself and others was a foundation of the Jesuit ministry – a good Jesuit needed to be ‘a person of sound judgement’ above all, trained as they were to go far from ‘brethren and superiors, in strange and difficult situations’.51 The application of good judgement and prudence necessitated the vital Jesuit characteristic of flexibility. It was not a new notion as a general principle but, as O’Malley says, a young Jesuit learned it explicitly and emphatically from its constant reiteration in the Exercises; ‘in practice, of course,’ O’Malley adds with some delicacy, ‘it might be separated by only a hair's breadth, or less, from opportunism’.52
A Jesuit confessor was generally exhorted to be kind, gentle and infinitely approachable, and in the diary we see Southwell learning that kindness at the unflinching hands of an expert seeker-out of his personal failings: his spiritual director, and, ultimately, himself. Pierre Favre had asked his brothers of the early Society to be, as confessors, ‘vicars of the mild Christ’, but for all that they were sharp psychologists in pursuit of character flaws, insisting not only on the traditional ritual of sins listed and repented but on something much harder, especially for the young – a conscious effort to locate ‘their most characteristic sin that gives rise to the others’, that actual character flaw in themselves which caused the repetition of a particular sin, with a view to self-knowledge and self-reform, as in Southwell's diary.53 He was, as a Tridentine priest, to prove to the world in his own person the essentially elevating, beautifying and perfecting nature of Catholicism.
That curious, almost paradoxical, poetic image of the mild but incandescent Babe calling up the conscience of the viewer to join him in the midst of fires blown hot by justice and mercy now begins to coalesce: the caller-up of conscience, in the Jesuit model, must be attractive and of childlike purity, while at the same time having at his command a world of pain and self-exami-nation for himself and those that approach him, for the good of their souls. (p.52) The burning Babe is as much about the peculiarly Jesuit vision of the Father become the Son, of the painful, purifying sacrament of Penance and its effects, as Christmas Day.
Along with the messages about angelic apprehension of the divine, Southwell was learning a subtler skill that in turn informed his poetry. Casuistry, the management of perceptions and conscience, was a core Jesuit preoccupation; Southwell was being trained to manage the perceptions of others, and the diary reflects this training. Exchanges between the enthusiastic writer of polemic and the reprover of an overzealous manner expose a complex set of requirements in the response to sin. Resulting in part from their need to be sensitive to those who came to them for guidance, casuistry – ‘cases of conscience’ – was an investigation into the modifications of criminality due to individual circumstances that greatly refined Jesuit ministries of confession and penance. Injustice is a bad teacher: the only proper end of penance was, to a Jesuit, a genuine change of heart and life – not merely a show of tears, but a promise of change and a concrete plan for it, which could come only from detailed and starkly realistic self-interrogation.54
Southwell seems to have absorbed the lesson; his English poetry touches upon tearful repentance, of course, but does not often dwell on it, minimising tears in favour of analyses of how that sin arose, or a particularised promise of change and improvement. The question of why a sin had been committed by that person at that moment, the anatomy of sin, to paraphrase Southwell himself,55 became so central to Jesuit thinking that students were encouraged to attend regular discussion groups dedicated to its study, even suggesting their own ‘cases’ for dissection: was a killing murder or self-defence? Premeditated or a crime of passion?56 O’Malley's insight that casuistry, in its change of focus away from ‘abstraction’ and ‘moral absolutes’ to a ‘more lowly human reality of “times, places, and circumstances”’, owes as much to the classical discipline of rhetoric as to medieval scholasticism, is of particular relevance.57
A connection between the function of rhetoric and pastoral practice fixes Southwell's English poetic agenda clearly and completely to his Jesuit ministry. In learning the hard lesson about the importance of a flexible and sensitive response to others’ failings, he was learning compromise: first how to apply the rules of rhetoric to his small ministry as a prefect of studies with preternatural delicacy, then, matching his poetic utterance to times, places, and persons in England, translating that rhetorical consideration into his relationship with his various addressees the better to attract their attention to the mending of their lives.
His efforts to find the apt and appropriate way forward for himself can be seen as a parallel to his authorial responsibility to offer the exactly appropriate remedies in his poetry. ‘Davids Peccavi’ (p. 35), for instance, makes the link between conscience and rhetoric explicit, arguing the toss as if in a college (p.53) ‘cases’ debate about the nature and depth of a particular man's sin, in the guise of a quasi-biblical apostrophe. The princely ‘David’, having chosen the life of earthly luxury over that of godliness, wrestles with the exact nature of his crime, wriggling on the fine barbs of casuistic definitions:
- If wiles of wit had over-wrought my will,
- Or subtle traines misled my steppes awrie, 20
- My foile had found excuse in want of skill,
- Ill deede I might, though not ill doome denie:
- But wit and will must now confesse with shame,
- Both deede and doome, to have deserved blame.
‘David’ finds himself wanting, despite his wish to show that he might have had an excuse through ‘want of skill’ or experience, because he had known better and still elected the way of sin; the punishment must therefore acknowledge that he committed his sin intentionally with no mitigating circumstances: it was not merely bad luck, but a conscious decision. Whatever Southwell's particular intention in writing this piece, which did not appear in print until Cawood's augmented edition of 1602, the impact of his training and pastoral preoccupations clearly informs it. Southwell here offers to the English poetic scene a new mood of tautly-realised confession, a grand, tragic self- consciousness.
If the final promise of a change of heart and life seems a little pat, it is very much in keeping with the Jesuit agenda for the sacrament of Penance: ‘But now sith fansie did with folly end, | Wit bought with losse, will taught by wit, will mend’ (lines 29–30).
English College: cross-purposes
His own will now under at least rudimentary control, Southwell was ready to move on in his work. ‘Moved, as I hope, by no inordinate passion’, he writes in his record of his final vows, ‘but burning with a desire to save my soul and to fulfil God's purpose in myself’, I now commit myself to the Society (69, p. 83). His commitment is to be total: if the whole world and the angels were to be damned and annihilated unless he left the Society, he still would not leave. Even if everybody else left, he would not leave (p. 84). The very angels must bow to the authority of his Society now. The discernment of angelic inspirations he had learned as a novice is either less liberating than it might seem, or so empowering that he now requires considerable control.
This potentialising new training technique was designed to work in specific circumstances; Southwell's position as an English Jesuit actually presented him with rather different ones. The vow to obey the superior in the face even of God's messengers assumes that there is a single superior with a single set of objectives, and up on the Quirinal Hill, in the world of masters and scholars, (p.54) that was no doubt the case. Southwell, however, was becoming an English Jesuit at a time of crisis in the Catholic enterprise of England. Sent down the hill to teach in the English College, he arrived just before the celebrated English mission of Robert Persons and Edmund Campion collapsed, as new cracks were appearing in the increasingly frail English Catholic ship.
The energetic and strategically minded Persons had clashed with a Jesuit co-missioner, Jasper Heywood, an Oxford intellectual of good standing at Court; Heywood now refused to engage with Persons at all, threatening the safety of what was left of the mission, and inviting division amongst English Jesuits and other parties when they most needed unity.58 Too complex to enter into here, the problem boils down to one of agendas: the notion of quietly negotiating with the Queen and her Council for missions to comfort English Catholics was typical of the approach of Heywood and many English Catholics. In pursuit of this, Heywood maintained a magnanimous profile among his courtly peers, travelling in a coach with full pomp when visiting Oxford to raise support amongst his old colleagues, for instance, while Persons's agenda, touching powers less friendly to the Court, required some level of secrecy.59 By 1582, after Campion was dead and Persons virtually in hiding in France amongst the powerful men who were later to form the Catholic League, Heywood in England was busy amongst the very aristocratic Catholics who, in having, in Persons's view, allowed their faith to be cut down, ran counter to his vision of the way forward in England.60 The mission was seriously affected as a result, causing great consternation in the Venerabile. Southwell, sent to teach there, ran full-tilt down the hill and into the wreckage.
The nationalist ill-feeling already mentioned led to violent demonstrations.61 Jesuits had been put in charge of the College, to bring some measure of perspective and control to the situation, and Alfonsus Agazzari became the new rector.62 This was the mistrustful and cross-purposed atmosphere where Southwell began teaching, aged twenty, in 1581.
Just as the unhealthy summer miasmas that rose from the Tiber caused bodily sickness, the ferment of the state of exile itself provoked feverish, unbalanced views. In 1582 even Allen condemned ‘this exile’ as a breeding ground of ‘murmurings, complaining, contradictions and discontent’.63 The exile community in general was free to engage more hotly and overtly with the English problem than would be possible for any Catholic who had remained in England, or any Jesuit who returned on mission.64 This was an issue that was to concern the English Jesuits greatly once they were back in England, living and working among Catholics who were under great pressure to offer public assurances of loyalty, and whose private consciences were increasingly under scrutiny.
Southwell's writing talents were put to work at English College in support of the battle against Protestantism. He seems to have become a secretary (p.55) to Agazzari, preparing the Annual Letters and news reports, and no doubt contributing other writings to the life of the College. Here he was once again encouraged to write occasionally in English. Surviving papers of his time at English College include a translation of a medieval meditation on Mary Magdalene and part of Luigi Tansillo's ‘Lagrime di San Pietro’.65 These and his newsletters describing English Protestant outrages are his first essays in the English language for some time, possibly since his Querimonia in 1577. The troubled, penitent characterisations of Peter and Magdalen are therefore connected to Southwell's concept of a ministry of words in English, the idea of the sinner who betrays or loses Christ being fixed by these translations on to his idea of the English and their general fall from piety, not to mention the intransigency he witnessed in some of the exiles about the English College. He had been surrounded by the imagery of ancient Christian piety in the Novitiate, and the triumphs and common purpose of his Order; now he was surrounded by evidence of schisms even within the English Catholic community, and was, almost certainly, translating these works in order to offer them as lessons in remorse and true love to that community. Peter and Magdalen beat their own breasts: they are not anti-heretical personations as Southwell presents them.
At the Roman College, the Chair in controversial theology was Robert Bellarmine, powerful in his defences of Catholic teaching but notably less aggressive in his polemic than was usual at the time.66 In the English College, however, Southwell was surrounded by a newly focused antipathy. The older images of early Christian martyrs in their antique, unruffled piety were joined, in the English and German College artistic programmes, by harsher, darker imagery, emphasising (as did the reports he wrote) the oppressive cruelty of their heretical enemies. His Jesuit vow of obedience to the Pope now had to live alongside the words of Pope Gregory XIII's ‘Bull of Foundation of the Venerable English College in the City: 1 May 1579’ (which was drawn up in favour of the Jesuits in response to the troubles of that year).67 As well as aiming to counter the spread of heresy by giving Catholic youth a firm educational foundation, the Bull turned directly to the subject of England, naming Gregory I, the first pope to send missionaries to pagan England, in order to emphasise the historical links between the English and the papal authority of Rome (and to link Gregory XIII's innovative projects to those of his illustrious predecessor), deploring England's fall into heresy and praising her martyrs, including those of the previous generation, the most celebrated being Sir Thomas More and John Fisher:
We turned Our loving attention to the Kingdom of England: this once flourished with great wealth and concern for the Catholic Faith, but it is now devastated by the dreadful taint of heresy which has seized almost the whole Kingdom. We took pity on this calamity, as We have often in other cases, and We remembered (p.56) that the English people have always excelled in faithfulness, reverence and obedience towards the Roman Pontiffs and the Holy Apostolic See ever since they were brought to the Faith of Christ by Blessed Pope Gregory. Even in the darkness of Our times she has shone in the lives of distinguished and renowned men who have not hesitated to pour out their life's blood for the authority of this See and the truth of the orthodox Faith.68
Having covered the history of the connections between England and the papacy from the beginning up to Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth, Gregory then returns to present-day scholars and concerns, and formalises the educational and missionary purposes of the College. Here we see papal ratification of the extra missionary oath, the promise to return to England that Robert Persons had designed and had been pressing the Venerabile to adopt:
Moreover there appear frequently before Our eyes young men who have fled hither from that wretched Kingdom, and have been led by the Holy Spirit to abandon their country, their families and their possessions, and have sorrowfully offered themselves to Us to be instructed in the Catholic religion in which they were born, with the aim primarily of assuring their own salvation, but also so that once instructed in the knowledge of theology they might return to England to enlighten others who had fallen away from the way of truth.69
Southwell had made no such commitment to return, of course; but perhaps this highly gratifying attention from God's vice-gerent on Earth caused him to question his remaining in Rome.
The wording and drift of Gregory's Bull was to be echoed in the gruesome painting cycle put up in the College chapel in the next couple of years, the only difference being the addition of Campion and the rest, as if to stress Gregory's support of the English enterprise and its brand-new martyrs.
Southwell was now part of this irregularly constructed, more autonomous, Anglocentric system, back, in a sense, to the intense programmes and preoccupations of Douai. He listened to and disseminated the dreadful reports from England, and participated in hard, probably somewhat rancorous, debates that set out the Protestant arguments; he perhaps even took the Protestant side for argument's sake in order to be strong in refutation, an English College habit echoed in the debate in his ‘Poema de Assumptione B.V.M.’.70
He was also surrounded by that newly agonistic interpretation of mission that seemed peculiarly Personian. Up in the Novitiate there was the semi-classical ideal of the early Christian martyrs, painted in serene detachment with their coveted palms, victims of a Christian/pagan battle line that was distant in time. Down at the English College it was personal – family, even. The mission of Southwell's countrymen Edmund Campion, Robert Persons, English College man Ralph Sherwin and others coincided with the front line of the battle against heresy. Where the martyrs and saints of old were remembered (p.57) in the litanies, their living colleagues had become the subject of daily prayers and anxious enquiries as to their progress.
Southwell may now have desired to go himself: Michael Williams quotes Persons's account describing the charismatic Campion's fifteen days in Rome preparing for the mission, during which time he ‘put great desire in some many priests of the College’ to follow his example; Southwell's diary shows that he was, at some point, one of those ‘some many’, and the self-will of his desire causes him much soul-searching.71
Working, writing, or in devout conversation with English visitors to Rome, Southwell was now actively engaged in the Allen/Persons enterprise of England. His own letters to the European network concerning the cruel treatment of Catholics in England had done much to engage the College youths with the tradition of the early Christian martyrs, so much so that Burghley complained that he was the writer most responsible for England's bad name abroad.72 Whatever his later feelings once in England, here amongst exiled Catholics and the missioners of the English College, Southwell at this time identified with their endeavour ‘with a youthful eagerness that had sometimes to be subdued by his superiors’.73 Even Persons was moved to tell Southwell to stop writing such things and get on with his studies.74
Painful subjects: the new English martyrs
Much of Southwell's manuscript poetry in English depicts moments from the Gospels, elements of Catholic Mariology or sacramental belief, but some of it seems bloodier and more visceral, and his spiritual diary contains a passage in which the subject of torture is painfully explicit. What had engendered such images?
The martyr images in the Novitiate were, as I have said, a celebration of the triumph of steadfast faith, and were accompanied by pictures that emphasised the ‘identity, esprit de corps, and missionary work’ of the Society, highlighting devotion, as much as death, in ministry.75 The Novitiate programme, part of the Palaeochristian revival, favoured the established saints of the early church. Only in the private spaces of the Society, such as the recreation rooms of the Novitiate, could Jesuit heroes, men not yet saints, have been lauded and revered without scandal.76 The new martyr cycle at the English College was to change all that, and Southwell was at the centre of that change.
The placid martyrs with their palms and guardian angels which Southwell saw appearing in the recreation rooms of the Novitiate were ‘quite different in spirit’ to the even newer images of the German and English College cycles with their focus on anti-heresy.77 Southwell and his companions must have been excited by the whole project, the gruesome fascination of each new depiction of cruelty no doubt a main subject of conversation.78
(p.58) Southwell's spiritual diary records an alteration in the attitude to martyrdom, from references to a general imitation of Christ in the earlier sections to an impassioned self-identification with the more intimate aspects of martyrdom and its relationship with himself and with salvation in later passages: ‘Happy ye who are now safe from all danger of sin! Happy ye whose love of God is unfailing, who love and are loved. It is noble indeed, glorious and praiseworthy to suffer for the love of God toil, pain, torture and agony’, he writes, as if in a sort of blurted threnody to men he knew personally (63, p. 72). He questions his own worth and his ability to survive in a life so full of hate and endless opportunities for sin, yet fears his desire for death as a desire to ‘shirk toil’ or avoid ‘torment and agony’; then he begs for death again, and pleads with God to tell him if he is loved or hated, because he can no longer tell for himself (p. 73).
Whatever his intention in writing this remarkable piece of self-exposure, there is no doubt of the altered connections it makes with martyrdom. Those images of ancient killings seem suddenly to spring to life for him here, and in the new context of a highly charged, impassioned, but apocalyptic love. He adopts an extreme chivalric position towards God as Ideal Lover: ‘True love can never suffer the loved one to be grieved, either in small things or in great. A love which could endure it would not be true love, but a deceit.’ But this love asks for much, indeed, all. Southwell's distress about his ability to resist sinful occasions are written into the context of the martyrologies, as he places himself into the centre of the pictures he had seen, taking the place of the saint or martyr:
An ardent desire for a timely and speedy death is most fitting in one who knows that he cannot remain in life without offending the God he loves. But yet if God who knows man's misery, still wishes to lengthen my life (although He knows that it cannot be without at least venial sin), and to exercise me still further in this valley of tears, then let toil come, let come chains, imprisonment, torture, the cross of Peter and Andrew, the gridiron of Lawrence, the flayer of Bartholomew, the lions of Ignatius, all things in a word which can possibly come. Indeed, I pray from my heart that they may come. (63, p. 73)
‘For Thy sake allow me to be tortured, mutilated, scourged, slain and butchered’, he goes on, as if desperate to share in the cleansing bloodshed (p. 74). Although the general positions set out in this entry are not unusual, his sometimes barely articulate delivery is near-unique in the diary, an outpouring whose repetitions are almost anti-rhetoric, so little do they resemble the progress of any rational argument: ‘I wish to be torn by penance in this life and if not, let me die soon – so that by dying soon I cease to sin or living I offer thee a holocaust in my own blood’, he cries; ‘may I then die soon, O good Jesus’ (63, p. 72).
This may have been written in response not only to his first close encounter with the living horrors of martyrdom in the shape of the collapsed Campion (p.59) mission but also to his first view of one of the earliest and the most dreadful of all the martyr cycles, the new series at S. Stefano Rotondo, the two events separated by only a few months. The awful potency of the martyr spectacle is demonstrated by the responses to those who saw the cycle of the German-Hungarian College chapel, S. Stefano, a series of martyr paintings on a scale that stunned Rome.
The S. Apollinaire and S. Stefano cycles of Niccolò Circignani marked the crossover from older attempts to recreate that stilted primitive Christian imagery of the Catacombs to more modern, vital and extensive depictions, contextualised by contemporary elements such as recognisably Roman buildings, contemporary fashions, or even known faces.79 Martyrdom as an artistic, dramatic act now dominated Roman church decoration. Southwell will have joined multitudes making their way to the circular martyrium of S. Stefano for one of the great unveilings in the early 1580s, to absorb its captioned depictions of early Christian fidelity; it was the site, as Bailey says, ‘of some of the most horrifying and moving pictures of the age’.80 It was completed between March (a matter of weeks after news of Campion's death arrived) and August 1582. And it was the direct antecedent for the martyrdom cycles in S. Tommaso di Canterbury, the English College chapel.81
These new depictions were a gruelling spectacle in the round, the dreadful vista being absorbed in one relentless gyration, the gasps and sobs elicited by the images no doubt part of the drama. It has had a profound effect over the years. Bailey offers Charles Dickens's description of:
grey-bearded men being boiled, fried, grilled, crimped, singed, eaten by wild beasts, worried by dogs, buried alive, torn asunder by horses, […] women having their breasts torn with iron pincers, their tongues cut out, their ears screwed off, their jaws broken, their bodies stretched upon the rack, or skinned upon the stake, or crackled up and melted in the fire.82
These, says Dickens, are the mildest of the scenes; if, as Bailey notes, even the Marquis de Sade was frightened by the spectacle, what were the young men of the Jesuit colleges to make of it?
Southwell's own response to the imagery of these ancient martyrs was galvanised horribly, late in 1581, when Campion, Ralph Sherwin, and Alexander Briant were butchered at Tyburn.83 The first great English College project of Allen and Persons had collapsed, and controversial theology had been crushed by violence.
The graphic depiction of cruelty was nothing new in early modern society, and not only in church, but to a young man still absorbing the shock of torture, mutilation, and butchery inflicted on men known to, and admired by, him, to stand at the centre of such a display will have had a more profound effect, and one can read traces of such an effect in his diary. One image depicted St Peter on his cross, with St Paul in the distance, in a very Roman cityscape (p.60) (fig. 40); this composite connected themes of martyrdom, the papacy, and the missionary Apostle, linked in Jesuit minds with their own contemporary missionaries (p. 142). The connection of the cross of St Andrew with that of the papal referent, St Peter, seen in Southwell's diary entry therefore includes the patron saint of the Novitiate chapel in the landscape of the celebrated martyrs, as if celebrating the Jesuit martyrs and would-be martyrs of his novitiate. The diary entry can be seen in the light of an attempt to reconcile the dreadful imagery of S. Stefano (or of Christian martyrdom in general) with his personal experience of the martyrdom of Jesuits. His response seems to flee rationality, one minute pleading to be allowed to follow them, the next trying to explain why he cannot live in any case, as a repeat sinner; a death wish battling with a plea for martyrdom, all beaten back again by the remembrance of his promise to serve Christ however and wherever he is asked, and all somewhat against the grain of teachings against singularity and his vows of total obedience, as subsequent entries show.
He had recently been pleading to follow his spiritual director Persons and the others, as some of the diary entries suggest. But he is told over and over again to stop having ambitions for himself, or trying to carry out wishes or projects of his own, and to accept that doing as he is told by superiors is the only martyrdom proper to a Jesuit.
Southwell's new and fervent engagement with martyrdom as a way to Christ cannot be divorced from the new imagery surrounding him or from the new circumstances of the collapsed mission. He was not permitted to see these things as distant or of only incidentally pious relevance. Contemporaries were clearly recognizable in at least one of the frescos. Did Southwell think of the body parts of his friends and colleagues, lying in a heap as in a shambles, boiling in vats, or spiked on Tower Bridge? ‘To Die Soon would be a Safe Thing and to Live Long in Pain for Christ a Holy Thing’ is the text: he had clearly decided on the immediacy of the ‘Safe’ rather than the ‘Holy’ long view; but who had given him this text to meditate upon, and why?
His apparent desire for England may have been provoked by anxiety for his family in the wake of the collapse of the Campion mission. Campion had fled into Norfolk at one point, and Southwell may have been half-hoping, half-fearing to hear that they had given him aid, because it seemed that Campion, under his interrogation, had given names of some of those who had protected him. But if his family had not been involved, then why not? If they had fallen away from the faith then he would be in fear for their souls. Unable to maintain holy indifference, he found another sort of employment for symbolic imagery than the immediately edifying, using the jewel-merchant code typical of letters exchanged during the Campion mission: ‘one request I particularly make’, he begged Persons; ‘it is that you would contrive by all possible means to dispose of some of [your goods] to the relatives of your friend Robert S., (p.61) for I remember that at one time they were very keen about that particular quality of goods, and kept a factor who was occupied solely in searching for such gems’.84 The goods included Catholic texts and devotional aids, banned in England, Persons being responsible for their import and dissemination;85 ‘factor’ meant ‘business agent’, or estate manager, among other things, but it was also used in coded messages between Catholics in England and Catholics on the Continent to describe more precise roles; metaphor is not exclusively an artistic effect in Southwell's writing.86 Southwell begs Persons to persuade his people ‘not to lose heart because of any small loss that may happen’. ‘A strong suspicion for fearing that they may have withdrawn from this line of business’, the young man continues, ‘is occasioned by my never hearing of their having the same success as others have had’. ‘Success’ here must be read alongside the outcome of the Campion mission.
The death of Campion brought an agonistic immediacy to an already martyr-minded Rome, stimulating fervid excitement amongst the scholastics. But the new martyr cycle of S. Stefano included no Jesuits. Heroes of a relatively new order as yet unblessed with saints, the dead Jesuits would not normally have been considered suitable candidates for the walls of churches.87 But they had martyrdoms of their own now, and could enter into the spirit of the martyr cycles with pride. Martyr imagery acted as a measure of religious quality, the bodily locus for the rightness of a religious position. ‘Bloody’ Mary Tudor had already given Protestantism a respectable body count, celebrated in Foxe's Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perilous Days (London, 1563; reprinted 1583). Persons and Allen, disturbed by the popular success of Foxe's book with its accusations of Catholic barbarity, had both responded in kind on behalf of their Church.88 The programme of frescos of English and Welsh martyrdoms begun in the church of the English College in 1583 was founded upon, and in support of, that response.89
The sending of men was a blow in the face of the Protestant ascendancy, designed to undermine their implied claim to represent an enlightened, willing populace in a State that embodied the proper rule of law, but it was not a demand for self-annihilation. The mere presence of such men in England compromised the State's claims, as well as preparing the way amongst the populace for the hoped-for reconciliation with Rome. It was the numbers of those who went that represented the triumph, not the numbers of those who died, although the imagery of courageous deaths reinforced the message of the rightness of their cause. Southwell's writing skills were therefore being employed by the Society to promulgate the message of that rightness amongst the English exile community in Europe, not to cry for more blood. Much has been written about ‘martyr fever’ in Rome, but it must be remembered that the sacrifice was inherent in the going, rather than the dying.
Southwell had just arrived in Rome in 1579 when the first English College (p.62) alumni were sent back to England. By Southwell's last year in Rome forty-two of the English College boys had ‘made the perilous trip’, but Ralph Sherwin was the first of them to die, alongside Campion. The deaths caused a deep unease in some hearts, and there was a growing division of opinion between some of the English exiles and the new father general, Acquaviva, which seems to be echoed in the martyr paintings and those writings of Southwell connected with them.90 Acquaviva continued to insist that seminary men were not to be wasted in heroic last stands, but to be spiritual doctors and consolers, to keep a communion of the English with Rome for as long as possible, for the good of their souls.
Acquaviva's was a courageous stance, given the English College preoccupations. This less literal attitude to martyrdom is supported by Acquaviva's new painting cycles in the Novitiate: created from 1582, at about the same time as those of the English College, they showed Jesuit martyrdoms, but only in the private rooms; such martyrdoms were celebrations of Jesuit heroism and a reminder to the novices of their daily duty to do violence to their wilful inclinations and passions, not to end their lives in direct imitation. Acquaviva's later partner in the artistic enterprise, Richeôme, made the point clear in 1611: ‘You are in the premier academy of this Society, where one learns how to handle arms, to stab and subdue the body, to give the death blow to vice, and vanquish the passions’.91
But down at the English College, attitudes were somewhat altered. The new Venerabile cycle was not quite the same as that of S. Stefano. For the first time, the paintings in their St Thomas Chapel celebrated the engagement in Christian history of contemporary men, alongside the ancient British martyrs. The English College men in Rome now had an almost mystic significance as they prepared themselves for their missions. The chapel of St Thomas became a pilgrimage site ‘devoted to present-day and future martyrs’, where ‘students were revered as walking relics with the greeting “Salvete Flores Martyrum”’, the living martyrs drawing a crush of Romans into the church; reflecting this new mood, the paintings of S. Tommaso were, unlike the S. Stefano murals, decidedly anti-heresy in conception.92 Instead of offering a model for the killing of self-will, martyrdom itself was shown in the English College programme to be central to the battle against heresy – blood was now their argument. The deaths of Campion and his followers, dealt with in detail in the martyr books of Persons and Allen and on the walls of the chapel, were presented both as palms for the Catholic faith and a deep stain on the character of the Protestant English State, and the memorialising of them brought the iniquities of the English anti-Catholics to a wide and receptive audience in Rome, linking the ancient imagery of martyrs to the contemporary political emergency, and to the activities of a particular establishment, and even particular personalities.93
The College already contained relics of former saints and martyrs, but now (p.63) it could revivify their force with the relics of brand-new martyrs, honouring them in the company of their living brothers. As if to consecrate the link between the present and the past, Gregory XIII ‘made a number of concessions’ between 1580 and 1585, which permitted the use of these new non-saints’ relics in the consecration of altars, the singing of Te Deums on each new death, and the commemoration of the as yet non-sainted martyrs upon the walls of the church.94 In elevating these still unsainted heroes to places normally reserved for the established saints and martyrs of church history, Gregory was crossing a Rubicon, virtually pre-empting the formal church processes as regarded the making of saints, and, by celebrating the executed ones, elevating bloody sacrifice in the process of canonisation.
Southwell, as a College tutor, prefect and secretary to Agazzari, was at the very heart of these developments. Stonyhurst College owns a corporal used by some of the imprisoned missioners at their last Mass before their executions in 1582, which was subsequently embroidered with their names (Kirby, Jonson, Briant, Shirt, and Cottam) by a fellow priest and prisoner who escaped execution. He sent the relic to English College, Rome, maintaining the College tradition of commemorating martyrs for the edification of the students. Shirt, Cottam, and Kirby were English College men (Cottam being the brother of Shakespeare's schoolmaster). The accompanying Latin inscription in ink explaining this relic for the benefit of viewers is in the hand of Southwell, writing to remind the scholars of these new English Christian martyrs.95 The galvanising effects of these fresh martyrdoms cannot be overestimated. They were taken up with avidity and fitted into the revivalist mood, upping the ante yet further in the streets down by the Tiber.96
At around this point, despite rigorous opposition, reflected in repeated stern reminders in his diary to obey the wishes of his superiors,97 Southwell appears to have decided to go home. This may have been in response to intolerable strains; his diary suggests that new responsibilities had brought new pressures, exposed new frailties. Some factions at the English College were attacking the Prefect of Studies personally, yet the expectations of superiors continued.98 Rivalries and conflicted agendas abounded. One diary entry hints at the hindrances peculiar to Southwell that might cause trouble in his interactions with colleagues and ‘those who live in the world’ (‘Rules for Intercourse with Others’, p. 54). He has, it seems, been over-familiar, giving someone the idea, by word or gesture (possibly with the intention of being amusing), that the young Prefect considered himself his better (p. 49).
But the arrival of his nephew Anthony Copley in September 1584 probably offered Southwell a rare glimpse of the lighter side of English recalcitrancy, and a welcome reminder of freer days on the South Downs. If even the Queen's dread torturer Topcliffe described Anthony Copley as ‘the most desperayt yowthe that lyvethe’ (he had allegedly thrown a dagger at the (p.64) Horsham parish clerk, amongst other outrages), what could have been his impact on the austere Roman Jesuits?99 Southwell, mindful of his aunt's feelings, helped to extricate Copley from multiple scrapes at college.100 He seems to have been well-liked if disruptive, and attractively quick-witted, picking up on and making merry with the motifs and emblems beloved of the Jesuits, perhaps carrying his youthful uncle along with the hilarity.101 Copley shared Southwell's interest in English poetry; his A Fig for Fortune has the semi-auto-biographical hero return from ‘Sion’ (Rome) to ‘Elizium’ with his lap full of roses, suggestive of the response of an English youth to the rich affective principle blooming on the Continent.102
Southwell was an iron in the harsh, hot fire of a demanding, intensive training that tempered him and yet caused him to be twisted by intolerable tensions in his attempts to carry out his vocation, as we shall see. Many hands wished to draw him from the fire to their own purposes. He had desired to go back to England – but was it still ‘home’? and what did he carry in his lap back to Elizium?
(1) Robert Southwell, ‘Saint Peters Complaint’, lines 389–90; in James H. McDonald and Nancy Pollard Brown (eds), The Poems of Robert Southwell, S.J. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967); hereafter M&B; further references to Southwell's poetry are from this edition, given as page/line numbers in the text.
(2) ‘Hos orbis statuit dominos, atque omnibus ornans | Delitiis, sacra paradisi in sede locavit’ (He appointed them as rulers of the world and, adorning them with all delights, placed them in the sacred abode of Paradise), from Robert Southwell, ‘Poema de Assumptione B.V.M.’, lines 7–8; from Stonyhurst MS A.v.4, at Stonyhurst College, Clitheroe, Lancashire. Translation from Peter Davidson and Anne Sweeney (ed. and intro.), The Collected Poems of S. Robert Southwell, S.J. (Manchester: Carcanet, forthcoming).
(3) The Sodality set up by the Society in Rome, based on older models designed to foster spirituality, illustrates the mixed nature of Southwell's Roman experience, inspiring his fine Marian sequence of poems yet attracting accusations of spying and preferment from English College students; see a careful discussion in Scott Pilarz, S.J., Robert Southwell and the Mission of Literature 1561–1595: Writing Reconciliation (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004). pp. 219–21.
(4) ‘Poema de Assumptione B.V.M.’, lines 91–103. Translation from Davidson and Sweeney.
(5) For a comprehensive discussion of the contribution of the Society to this artistic explosion, see Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Between Renaissance and Baroque: Jesuit Art in Rome, 1565–1610 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003); hereafter referred to by page or figure numbers in the text.
(6) For the diary, see Robert Southwell, Spiritual Exercises and Devotions, ed. J. M. de Buck and trans. P. E. Hallett (London: Sheed and Ward, 1931); hereafter SE&D. For a discussion of the relationship between the SE&D and Southwell's later writing, see Pierre Janelle, Robert Southwell the Writer: A Study in Religious Inspiration (London: Sheed and (p.65) Ward, 1935), especially ch. 4; hereafter cited in the text.
(7) The turmoils at the English College are described meticulously in Michael E. Williams, The Venerable English College Rome: A History 1579–1979 (London: Associated Catholic Publications (on behalf of the College), 1979); hereafter cited in the text. See also Christopher Devlin, The Life of Robert Southwell Poet and Martyr (London: Longmans, Green, 1956), especially ch. 4; hereafter cited in the text. See Pilarz, p. 138.
(9) See Bailey for a detailed discussion of artworks appearing at this time.
(10) Bailey, p. 231, fig. 89.
(11) See Randi Klebanoff, ‘The Vita and the Morte: Making the Sacred in Renaissance Bologna’; paper delivered at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, Toronto, 24 October 1998 (n. 5, p. 283), in Bailey, p. 40. Reformation arguments over the value of the concrete imagery of the Church were readily translatable into debates over the value of metaphorical imagery in poetry. Du Bellay said that without ornamentation poetry was naked (‘[sans] ornemens […] toute oraison et poëme sont nuds, manques et debiles’; Défence (I, v)). In 1631 John Weever said the same about the Church, stripped of ‘hangings, and all other ornaments whereupon the story, or pourtraiture, of Christe himselfe, or of any Saint or Martyr, was delineated, wrought, or embroidered; leaving Religion naked, bare, and unclad’; quoted in Clifford Davidson, ‘Robert Southwell: Lyric Poetry, the Restoration of Images, and Martyrdom’, Ben Jonson Journal, 7 (2000), 157–86 (p. 165).
(12) Bailey, p. 195.
(13) See John W. O’Malley, The First Jesuits (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 80; hereafter cited in the text.
(14) See Bailey, p. 53.
(15) O’Malley, pp. 351–2.
(16) Bailey, p. 53.
(17) Bailey, p. 108. For a discussion on uses of visual symbol, see Michael Bath, Speaking Pictures: English Emblem Books and Renaissance Culture (London: Longman, 1994).
(18) Bailey, p. 12.
(19) In fact, the two may be connected even more directly: it was Acquaviva's version of the Spiritual Exercises, ‘a work that draws heavily on Ignatius's “composition of place”’, that Southwell will have used in Rome, as it was designed for ‘the express use of novices’; Bailey, p. 12.
(20) Bailey discusses this connection in great detail in relation to the works in the Gesù church, p. 195.
(21) Bailey, p. 110.
(22) See Bailey's detailed discussion of the relationship between the Passion Chapel and the Third Week of the Ignatian Exercises, which shows a direct relationship, one which was no doubt recognizable and stimulating to those who knew their Exercises. Perhaps it also led others to wish to make the retreat that lay behind the imagery. Certainly it will have allowed lay persons to feel some level of emotional engagement with the central moment of their faith, its intensity depending upon their own capacity for feeling. But the main point of the Exercises was that the exercisant should supply the imagery from within himself, thereby ‘owning’ it. Jeffrey Chipps Smith gives an even more detailed account (p.66) of the experience of such a programme, stressing the individual's own responsibility in the manner and pace of it; Jeffrey Chipps Smith, ‘The Art of Salvation in Bavaria’, in John W. O’Malley, S.J., and Gauvin Alexander Bailey, et al., The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts 1540–1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), pp. 568–99 (p. 581); hereafter Cultures. See also Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Sensuous Worship: Jesuits and the Art of the Early Catholic Reformation in Germany (Princeton, NJ, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002).
(23) See Devlin, especially ch. 4.
(24) De Buck, pp. v–vi; Brown notes that the entries are only datable circumstantially, if at all, M&B, p. xvii. Pilarz explores them in greater detail, finding evidence in some entries of Southwell's maturing ability to reconcile tensions, pp. 144–9.
(25) Apart from its importance as a pointer to his ‘psychology and his literary method’, it acts as ‘a commentary on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius’, p. vi.
(26) 56, p. 63; de Buck has assigned various entries to particular episodes in the life of the novice Southwell, especially to the vow-taking and to the crises that have been so well documented elsewhere, as in Williams's English College, pp. 12–16.
(27) John Deckers to Southwell, 29 September 1580, Stonyhurst MS A.vii.1, now in the Jesuit Archives at Mount St, London; see Devlin, p. 34.
(28) Pilarz, p. 145.
(29) From the edition of 1591, printed by John Wolfe for Gabriel Cawood, London, full text version found in www.eebo.chadwyck.home, doc. 69, p. 61r; hereafter Teares. It is numbered 29950 in A. F. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave (eds), A Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1926); hereafter STC.
(30) O’Malley, pp. 242, 249–50.
(31) Richeôme's understanding of how the artworks related to the purposes of the place and to the viewer provide us with insights about how Southwell and the other novices were expected to view and use them. Bailey discusses the contribution to theories of art and appreciation made by this Jesuit teacher at length in chapter 2, p. 51 especially.
(32) ‘Seeke flowers of heaven’, p. 52, lines 9–12.
(33) Bailey, pp. 111, 110.
(34) See Louise Rice, ‘Jesuit Thesis Prints and the Festive Academic Defence at the Collegio Romano’, in O’Malley, et al., Cultures, pp. 148–69.
(35) See Bailey for a description of the sumptuous painting celebrating the meeting between Francis Xavier and the Daimyo of Bungo in Japan in 1549, p. 64.
(36) Bailey, fig. 59.
(37) Luke 2.35.
(38) Bailey, pp. 247–8.
(40) See Bailey, fig. 108. The feast of the Presentation of the Virgin was reintroduced into the Roman calendar only in 1585; it may have occurred too late for inclusion, or seemed a step too far in Southwell's project of reminding the English of their traditional habit of worship; see M&B, n. 1, p. lxxxiii.
(42) Bailey, p. 251.
(44) Pilarz, p. 222. The painting celebrating this in the Gesù did not appear until after Southwell's time, it would seem; Bailey, p. 237.
(45) Bailey, figs 60, 88.
(48) Bailey, pp. 9–12.
(49) One diary entry reminds him that the days of being the recipient of such sweet attentions are past; he is a member of the Society now, the attracter, not the attractee: ‘As thou wert strengthened in thy vocation by the example of the religious conversation of other brothers of the Society, so now in the same way those who are drawn by the desire that then moved thee may be helped by thy modesty, thy kindness, thy love, thy charity’ (9, ‘Incentive’, p. 8).
(50) See O’Malley, First Jesuits, p. 303.
(55) ‘Saint Peters Complaint’, p. 76, l. 665.
(56) O’Malley, pp. 147, 144.
(57) O’Malley cites in support a recent study which has observed that ‘“Rhetoric and casuistry were mutual allies. It is not surprising to find the Jesuits, who were dedicated to teaching classical rhetoric in their colleges, become the leading exponents of casuistry”’; see Albert R. Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin, The Abuses of Casuistry: A History of Moral Theology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. 88; O’Malley, n. 40, p. 406.
(58) See Dennis Flynn ‘“Out of Step”: Six Supplementary Notes on Jasper Heywood’, in Thomas M. McCoog, S.J. (ed.), The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1996), pp. 179–92.
(59) Flynn, pp. 184, 180.
(61) An English student writes of a meal in the refectory where, without provocation (he insists), knives were drawn on the English by Welsh students, at the instigation of the Welsh rector; ‘judge you, what time we had to look unto ourselves’, he writes indignantly; but ‘if it had not been for the common cause and for God's especially, we had been sure to have payed [them] for it’, he adds, with a most un-Christian regret. See Bailey, p. 154, and n. 7, p. 321.
(62) Williams, p. 6; Bailey, p. 154.
(63) Williams, p. 17.
(65) See Nancy Pollard Brown, ‘Robert Southwell: The Mission of the Written Word’, in McCoog (ed.), Reckoned Expense, pp. 193–214 (p. 197); hereafter ‘Mission’.
(66) Elizabeth was, during Southwell's mission, to devote much thought to countering Bellarmine's Controversies (1588); Southwell may, as Pilarz argues, have learned a less hateful expression of anti-‘heresy’ from Bellarmine, but it was no less strongly held for all that; Pilarz, pp. 165–6.
(67) See Williams, p. 210.
(70) Bailey, p. 154.
(71) Michael E. Williams, ‘Campion and the English Continental Seminaries’, in McCoog (ed.), Reckoned Expense, pp. 285–98 (pp. 289, 290); hereafter cited in the text.
(72) See Devlin, p. 51; the Annual Letters of the English College, 1581–84, contain most of his accounts of this nature.
(73) M&B, p. xvi.
(74) Devlin, pp. 52, 44–5.
(75) Bailey, p. 62. Some scholars date the cycle of Jesuit martyrs to the 1570s; Bailey dismisses this, noting that one depicts a martyr of 1583; but there were almost certainly murals of an edifying nature there in Southwell's time, as Jesuits such as Nadal had been very keen on such exemplary works; see Bailey, n. 134, p. 292, for scholars against whom he argues.
(76) Bailey, p. 66.
(81) An Annual Letter of 1582 ‘is typical of Jesuit enthusiasm’ in response to the S. Stefano cycle, and the importance the Jesuits attached to its effects upon the viewers; the Pope was very satisfied with the work; Bailey, pp. 128–9.
(83) McCoog (ed.), Reckoned Expense, pp. xxi–xxii.
(84) Southwell to Persons, early 1582, in John Hungerford Pollen, S.J. (ed.), Unpublished Documents Relating to the English Martyrs, Publications of the Catholic Record Society Series, 5 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1908), pp. 301–3; hereafter CRS; quoted in Janelle, p. 31.
(85) See J. B. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth 1558–1603 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 183.
(86) This use of ‘factor’ still obtained in the 1590s: Patrick H. Martin and John Finnis quote a selection of correspondence between one of the chief Catholic exiles, Thomas Fitzherbert, and William Sterrell, another Oxford man and a vital component in London of the (p.69) Catholic intelligence network later run by Persons, Allen, and Verstegan from across the Channel, according to Martin and Finnis. Fitzherbert describes Sterrell frankly as a ‘general factor’ in their enterprise; Verstegan, more cautious perhaps, disguises his report on the setting-up of the intelligence network by using the language of commerce when he writes to Sterrell that ‘we have signified to the merchants here what commodities you have to sell’. The ‘merchants’ (Persons and Allen, mainly) wish to know ‘for what merchants in particular [Sterrell] is the factor’ (or, what party was he with? He was secretary to the loyalist Catholic Edward Somerset, fourth Earl of Worcester; his relationship with Southwell requires further study); Patrick H. Martin and John Finnis, ‘Thomas Thorpe, “W.S.,” and the Catholic Intelligencers’, English Literary Renaissance, 33 (2003), 3–43 (pp. 17, 25, 4).
(87) Older saints stood for them in the Jesuits’ public buildings, as in S. Stefano, where Francis of Assisi was a diplomatic nod to Francis Xavier, Ignatius of Antioch to Loyola, as Bailey shows (p. 66). The recognisable Roman buildings around Ignatius of Antioch may have been suggestive, but the Jesuits kept depictions of Jesuit figureheads for their private rooms, as in the Novitiate.
(88) Bailey, p. 155. The college decorations can, he argues, be seen as a rhetorical refutation of Foxe, with illustrations to give weight to the argument, part of the wider effort that included Persons's Epistle of the Persecution of Catholics in England (Douai, 1582), and Allen's A Briefe Historie of the Glorious Martyrdom of Twelve Reverend Priests (1583), translated into Italian and published under the patronage of the Venerable English College as Historia del glorioso martirio di sedici sacerdoti (Macerata, 1583).
(89) Williams calls these ‘gruesome’ (p. 293), which they are, but I agree with Bailey when he resists Williams's account of a fixation upon agony and death, suggesting that the main point of such decorations was to urge a selfless engagement with the assault upon heresy, rather than a crude exhortation to fall upon heretic swords, p. 155.
(90) John Bossy's account of the period demonstrates a fundamental (though not vast) division in the attitudes to the mission of Acquaviva and Persons, identifying a far more subtle ‘inwardness’ in Acquaviva's belief that martyrdom was arguably something approaching a self-willed end, in certain circumstances; he insisted ‘that their task was not to edify the Church in general but to bring help and comfort to souls in England’. Acquaviva's was a gentle criticism of Campion's careless courage. Of course ‘martyrdom’, Acquaviva told Allen, ‘was more meritorious than a life of toil, and Campion would have his reward’; Bossy offers us his interpretation of Acquaviva's between-the-lines view: ‘that the salvation of the missioner's soul was not the purpose of his mission’ (p. 147). Bailey notes that Acquaviva's own nephew Rodolfo had been among the Jesuit Mughal missioners killed in May 1583 (p. 65); it is possible that the tendency demonstrated by some of the English exiles of regarding martyrdom as a weapon of war rather than a pattern to live by seemed especially wasteful of Society resources in the light of this sort of death. Certainly Acquaviva became increasingly clipped in his dealings with Persons over the ‘enterprise of England’ at this time, as Bossy shows (pp. 149–50).
(91) Bailey, p. 68.
(93) The probable model for the English College cycle with its frank anti-heresy message was the series of six engravings, each with Latin inscription, probably cut for Persons's Persecution, and recycled for Allen's Twelve Reverend Priests. The engravings used by Persons and Allen were very similar to the paintings of the College chapel of S. Tommaso di Canterbury, Bailey notes, pp. 155–6.
(95) At the time of writing, the relic had returned briefly to the Tower of London as part of an exhibition, but its home is in Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, via Robert Persons and St Omer College; my thanks are due to Jan Graffius, Stonyhurst's archivist, for the information about Southwell's handwriting.
(96) See Devlin, p. 51.
(97) 53, p. 57, names England for the first time as a place of mission, but reminds Southwell that ‘mission’ and ‘martyrdom’ are obedience to God, not to one's own wishes, however strongly held.
(98) F. W. Brownlow, Robert Southwell, Twayne's English Author Series, 516 (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1996), p. 6.
(99) Devlin, p. 257; Janelle, p. 55; Pilarz discusses the diary and Southwell's interpersonal problems (pp. 142, 144–9); he also describes Southwell's chequered relationship with ‘my Anthony’ Copley (pp. 16–25); see Brownlow, pp. 81–3.
(100) See Devlin, p. 257.
(101) See a discussion of such associations in Anne Dillon, ‘Praying by Number: The Confraternity of the Rosary and the English Catholic Community, c.1580–1700’, History, 88 (July 2003), 451–71.
(102) Devlin, p. 257; Brownlow, pp. 81–2; Alison Shell argues that Copley became ‘fervently anti-Jesuit’, p. 135; she and Brownlow argue for this poem being a Catholic riposte to the first book of Spenser's (Protestant) Faerie Queene.