Thomas Anthony Birrell (1924–2011) was a man of many parts. For most of his working life he was Professor of English and American Literature in the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, where he was famous for his lively, humoristic and thought-provoking lectures. He was the author of some very popular surveys of English Literature in Dutch, but – first and foremost – he was a bibliographer and a historian.
His scholarly oeuvre is extensive and includes such highlights as English Monarchs and their Books (London 1986), a study of the Old Royal Library. However, many of his publications are hidden in occasional publications, periodicals and introductions to books no longer in print. That is why a – posthumous – selection of his bibliographical essays appeared in 2013, entitled Aspects of Book Culture (Ashgate 2013), and that is why it was decided to bring out a companion volume containing a selection of his essays in the field of recusant history.
The present edition contains fourteen of Birrell’s articles published between 1950 and 2006. They all demonstrate his bibliographical expertise, his in-depth knowledge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English Catholic history and his absolute determination to examine every scrap of archival material that might shed light on the episodes he was investigating. But, perhaps most important of all, he combined his scholarship with an intense interest in the individual lives that shape and are shaped by history, so the lasting impression that these articles will make is the sense of getting close to a whole series of personalities caught up in the turmoil of their time.
Aspects of Recusant History was edited by Jos Blom, Frans Korsten and Frans Blom, all three former students of Tom Birrell and, both individually and collectively, authors and editors of a whole range of important book historical publications.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1 Catholic Allegiance and the Popish Plot: a study of some Catholic writers of the Restoration period; 2 Non-Catholic writers and Catholic Emancipation: an aspect of Sidney Smith, Shelley, Coleridge and Cobbett; 3 Latter-day recusants; 4 English Catholics without a Bishop 1655–1672; 5 Robert Pugh, Blacklo’s Cabal (1680); 6 Joseph Berington, The Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani (1793); 7 James Maurus Corker and Dryden’s conversion; 8 English Catholic mystics in non-Catholic circles: the taste for Middle English mystical literature and its derivatives from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries; 9 Recusant historiography: an historian looks at the achievements of 25 years’ study of recusancy; 10 William Leslie, Henry Howard and Lord Arlington 1666–67; 11 John Brown, Scottish Minim (1569–1643): a tale of three title pages; 12 English Counter-Reformation book culture; 13 Review of Paul Arblaster, Antwerp & the World: Richard Verstegan and the International Culture of Catholic Reformation (Leuven University Press 2004); 14 William Carter (c. 1549–84): recusant printer, publisher, binder, stationer, scribe – and martyr
T.A. Birrell (25 July 1924–22 May 2011) was Professor of English and American Literature at the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and Editor of the international periodical English Studies. In 1985 he retired from university in order to return to England and devote himself entirely to bibliographical and historical research. He became known as the historian ‘who charted the miraculous survival of the Old Royal Library’ (The Independent, 10 August 2011) and was a prominent member of the Catholic Record Society. He published extensively on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century book culture and recusant history.
Jos Blom, Frans Korsten and Frans Blom studied English at the Radboud University, Nijmegen and were subsequently appointed to teaching and research posts at the same university. Both together and separately they published extensively on English literature, history and book culture. Their collective editions (with Dom Geoffrey Scott of Douai Abbey as the fourth member of the team) include English Catholic Books 1701-1800 (1996), The Correspondence of James Peter Coghlan (2007) and Catalogus Librorum Bibliothecae Benedictinorum Anglorum Sti Edmundi Parisiis MDCCII (2017).