During his lifetime, the Jesuit priest Robert Persons (1546-1610) was arguably the leading figure fighting for the re-establishment of Catholicism in England. Whilst his colleague Edmund Campion may now be better known it was Persons's tireless efforts that kept the Jesuit mission alive during the difficult days of Elizabeth's reign. In this new study, Person's life and phenomenal literary output are analysed and put into the broader context of recent Catholic scholarship. The book bridges the gap between historical studies, on the one hand, and literary studies on the other, by concentrating on Persons's contribution as a writer to the polemical culture of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. As well as discussing his wider achievements as leader of the English Jesuits - founding three seminaries for English priests, corresponding regularly with Catholic activists in England, writing over thirty books, holding the post of rector of the English College in Rome, and being a trusted consultant to the papacy on English affairs - this study looks in detail at what is arguably his greatest legacy, The First Booke of the Christian Exercise (more commonly known as the Book of Resolution). That book, first published in 1582, was to prove the cornerstone of Persons's missionary effort, and a popular work of Catholic devotion, running to several editions over the coming years. Although Persons was ultimately unsuccessful in his ambition to return England to the Catholic fold, the story of his life and works reveals much about the ecclesiastical struggle that gripped early modern Europe. By providing a thorough and up-to-date reassessment of Persons this study not only makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the polemical context of post-Reformation Catholicism, but also of the Jesuit notion of the 'apostolate of writing'. This book is published in conjunction with the Jesuit Historical Institute series 'Bibliotheca Instituti Historici
Table of Contents
Publishers’ Note; Series Editor’s Preface; Preface; Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations; Chapter One The Legend of Father Parsons; Chapter Two The English Mission: Writing The Christian Directory; Chapter Three The Spanish Connection: Satirizing Burghley; Chapter Four The Myth of England’s Catholic Destiny: Persons’s Political Vision; Chapter Five Reclaiming the Past: Combating Foxe and Coke; Chapter Six A Jesuit Apologia: Appellant Abuse; Chapter Seven Making England Safe for Catholicism: Liberty of Conscience under James; Chapter Eight Mastering the Polemical Scene;
Victor Houliston is Associate Professor in the Department of English, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
’... a wholly convincing and reasoned reconsideration of Persons...’ The Tablet ’Victor Houliston’s critical history of the career of Robert Persons makes a timely contribution to scholarship on early modern English Catholicism.’ Review of English Studies ’So easily does Houliston take the reader into the arguments that one might be in the debating chamber with Persons and his Protestant antagonists. Indeed, Houliston appears to have immersed himself in Persons’s work for so long that history has become a mere slip of time and Robert Persons has become as familiar to him as his own family might be.’ Recusant History ’... Houliston’s work makes a strong contribution to Catholic Reformation thought and historical literary studies.’ Religious Studies Review