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Robert Persons’s Resolution (1582) and the issue of textual piracy in Protestant editions of Catholic devotional literature

Authors:
  • Sophia University (retired)

Abstract

Despite current attention to continuing crypto-Catholics in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, less attention has been paid to the extent to which Catholic culture may have affected the Protestant mainstream. This study demonstrates the general neglect of this subject, and examines the role played, then and now, by the attack of Robert Persons SJ on Edmund Bunny, a Church of England minister, for publishing a Protestant adaptation of Persons's work. This study argues that Bunny had a more serious intent than the 'piracy' he is widely credited with, and that his editorial practices resembled those employed by Roman Catholics, including Persons himself. While more serious cases of textual piracy have been largely overlooked, conventional condemnation of Bunny's edition has done little more than contribute to a general misunderstanding of (and a paucity of interest in) the reception of Catholic literature in whatever format by Protestants.
Robert Persons’s Resolution and the Issue of Textual Piracy in
Protestant Editions of Catholic Devotional Literature
John R. Yamamoto-Wilson
Associate Professor, Sophia University, Tokyo
Keywords: Catholic literature, Protestant readership, Protestant adaptations, Protestant
editions
Abstract
Despite the considerable attention given in recent years to the continuing
presence of crypto-Catholics in England during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, comparatively little attention has been paid to the
extent to which Catholic culture may have affected the Protestant
mainstream. This paper demonstrates the general neglect of this subject,
and examines the role played, both in early modern times and today, by
Robert Persons’s attack on Edmund Bunny for publishing a Protestant
adaptation of Persons’s work, arguing that Bunny had a much more serious
intent than the ‘piracy’ he is widely credited with, and that his editorial
practices were not that dissimilar to those employed by Catholics, including
Persons himself. While far more serious cases of textual piracy have been
largely overlooked, condemnation of Bunny’s edition has done little more
than contribute to a general misunderstanding of – and lack of interest in
the reception of Catholic literature (either adapted or in its original form)
by Protestants.
Introduction: Jeremy Taylor, Simon Patrick and the Issue of Protestant
Use of Catholic sources
In 1684, one Robert Harris edited a work entitled Contemplations of
the State of Man (London: for John Kidgell, 1684) and presented it to the
public as a posthumous work by Jeremy Taylor. In 1848 Churton
demonstrated that this work was, in fact, a disguised and abridged version
of a Catholic translation by Vivian Molyneaux (or Mullineaux) of the Jesuit
Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, A Treatise of the Difference betwixt the
Temporal and Eternal (London: s.n., 1672).1 Taylor had been dead for a
number of years before Molynaux’s translation went to press (as had
Molyneaux himself), and the blame for the forgery thus appears to rest with
Harris. However, despite Churton’s efforts, subsequent scholarship has
1 E. Churton, A Letter to Joshua Watson, Esq., D.C.L. Giving an Account of a Singular Literary Fraud
Practised on the Memory of Bishop Jeremy Taylor (London: Francis and John Rivington, 1848).
continued to misidentify Contemplations as an original work by Taylor2
and, even though Gathorne-Hardy and Williams’s bibliography sets the
record straight,3 it is still generally catalogued either as an original work by
Jeremy Taylor or as a translation by him, with Molyneaux’s name rarely
being cited.
In 1717, Laurence Howell, a Jacobite nonjurant, prefaced his
translation of a work by the Catalan monk Miguel de Comalada with the
words:
it is not the first Time this Book has appear’d in English; tho’ very much
disguis’d. I am assur’d that Mr. Royston the Bookseller (some Years
dead) very well knew that Dr. Patrick took his Pilgrim4 from it, and that
several Authors, whom I could name, have form’d noble Designs from
hence.5
Comalada had indeed been translated previously into English,6 but the
charge against Patrick is false. Patrick’s text is based as he himself
declares7 – on a short work by the Benedictine Augustine Baker,8 as can be
seen from the centrality of the following passages to both texts:
I AM NOUGHT, I have nought, I desire nought, but only to be in safety
with Jesus at Jerusalem.9
I HAVE NOVGHT, I AM NOVGHT, I DESIRE NOVGHT BVT TO
BE AT IERUSALEM…10
Baker, in turn, makes it clear that he has taken the tale from Walter Hilton,
Scala Perfectionis.11 However, despite interest in Patrick’s text as a
precursor to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, its Catholic sources (real and
imagined) are generally ignored.12
2 See, e.g., C. A. Patrides, ‘Renaissance and Modern Views on Hell’, The Harvard Theological Review,
57. 3 (1964): 226, and ‘The Salvation of Satan’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 28.4 (1967): 473.
3 Robert Gathorne-Hardy and William Proctor Williams, A Bibliography of Jeremy Taylor (Illinois:
Northern Illinois University Press, 1971), 137–8.
4 Simon Patrick, The Parable of the Pilgrim (London: Robert White for Francis Tyson, 1665).
5 Laurence Howell, in Miguel de Comalada, Desiderius or, the Original Pilgrim, ‘A Divine Dialogue’
(London: William Redmayne for the author [i.e., Laurence Howell], 1717).
6 Miguel de Comalada, Desiderius, a most Godly Dialogue (Roane [vero England]: s.n., 1604), openly
reprinted as Desiderius. The Soules Desire, and the Hope of Heaven (London: W. Stansby for J. Wight,
1609).
7 Simon Patrick, The Parable of the Pilgrim (London: Robert White for Francis Tyson, 1665), sig. A3r.
8 Augustine Baker [David Baker], Sancta Sophia; or Directions for the Prayer of Contemplation &c,
edited by Serenus Cressy [Hugh Paulin Cressy], vol. 1 (Douai: John Patté and Thomas Fievet, 1657).
9 Patrick, The Parable, 26.
10 Baker, Sancta Sophia, 46.
11 Baker, Sancta Sophia, 45.
12 See, for example, C. N. Manlove, ‘The Image of the Journey in “Pilgrim’s Progress”: Narrative versus
Allegory’, The Journal of Narrative Technique, 10.1 (1980): 16–19, and Johannes van den Berg,
Religious Currents and Cross-Currents: Essays on Early Modern Protestantism and the Protestant
Enlightenment (Leiden: Koninklijke, Brill, 1999), 139–47. Jackson I. Cope, ‘The Progresses of Bunyan
There are some interesting parallels between the circumstances
surrounding these two texts. In both cases, textual piracy from a Catholic
source is attributed to a prominent Church of England divine and in both
cases the attribution is false, though both texts do, in fact, derive from
Catholic sources. In both cases, too, the authors were sufficiently indebted
to Catholic sources for the misattribution to be distinctly plausible. In
Taylor’s case, Henry Vaughan translated a short work by Nieremberg, and
it is possible that Taylor was acquainted with Vaughan’, and
Comparison of Contemplations with the Spanish original shows many
parallels to passages in Taylor’s authentic writings, and many more
parallels are to be found in the parts of the Spanish work which were not
used in Contemplations. There is a strong possibility that Taylor had
read Diferencia, and almost certainly in Spanish. The apparent influence
is most evident in Holy Dying and the Golden Grove sermons.13
In Patrick’s case, in addition to the fact that he did use a Catholic source for
his text (though not the one Howell accuses him of using), there are
indications that he is more generally familiar with Catholic writers.
Notably, his imagery frequently ‘approaches the erotic language of baroque
Catholicism evoked by St. Teresa’,14 as when, for example, he uses the
Teresian motif of the soul set on fire with love,15 or speaks of ‘the sweet
Milk which he [i.e., God] sends us out of his breasts when we are as yet but
Babes, and in the infancy of Religion’,16 which echoes ‘their [sic] is no
soul, which is such a gyaunt in this [road], that needeth not many tymes to
become a child agayne, &…to suck [i.e., to suckle]’.17
However, from the point of view of the present paper, the most
significant parallel between the two texts is the apparent lack of interest in
setting the record straight. As an instance of misattribution and
miscataloguing, Contemplations is an isolated case, just as the false
attribution of a source competing with a stated and actual source is a
circumstance particular to The Parable, but the tendency to overlook the
Catholic sources of both texts is symptomatic of a more general neglect.
The first challenge that Patrick’s pilgrim faces is that of resolving ‘the
huge quarrels that men raised about the right way to Jerusalem’ and finding
and Symon Patrick’, English Literary History, 55.3 (1988): 599-614, notes parallels between Catholic
literature (especially Teresa de Avila) and Patrick, but he too does not mention Baker or Hilton.
13 Gathorne-Hardy and Williams, Bibliography of Jeremy Taylor, 137–138.
14 Cope, ‘Progresses of Bunyan and Patrick’, 601.
15 Patrick, The Parable, 78–80.
16 Patrick, The Parable, 304–5.
17 Teresa de Avila, The Lyf of the Mother Teresa of Iesus, translated by W.M. (Antwerp:H. Iaye, 1611), p.
90. ‘W.M.’ is perhaps William Malone (see E. Allison Peers, The Complete Works of Saint Teresa of
Jesus, vol. 1, London: Sheed and Ward, 1946, xlvi), or – more probably – Michael Walpole (A.F. Allison,
English translations to the year 1700 from the Spanish and Portuguese, London: Dawsons, 1974, 172).
the right path to his goal. ‘There were no less than twenty (and some say
many more) very different parties that contended sharply with each other’,
each claiming to know the one true way.18 Baker’s pilgrim, too, is
perplexed by the fact that ‘there were many waies that seemed and
promised to leade thither, but the dangers of them were too great’.19 The
language and symbolism of the Catholic work are mirrored by the
Protestant writer, and only if one knows the author’s religious allegiance
can one know which path is being advocated.
The extent to which this ‘Protestant reflection’20 of Catholic writing
could be carried may be inferred from yet another seventeenth-century
publication, The Profit of Believing, a translation of Augustine’s De
Utilitate Credendi ad Honoratum.21 According to the title page, this work is
‘Very usefull both for all those that are not yet resolved what religion they
ought to embrace: and for them that desire to know whither their religion
be true or no’. The text extols the virtues and authority of the Catholic
Church throughout, and Clancy has no hesitation in categorizing it as a
Catholic work.22 It seems likely that the text itself was indeed a Catholic
translation, but the preface, which cites Calvin, Fulkes and other Protestant
writers as valid authorities,23 gives a different impression. With such a
preface the word Catholic in the treatise itself could be construed as
‘ancient apostolic Catholic’, rather than ‘Roman Catholic’, and the work
could be (and apparently was) published for a Protestant readership.
The fact that Catholic texts of this kind were published (with or
without alterations) in the Protestant interest suggests that, as Mabbe puts
it, ‘there is not so great a distance betwixt Hierusalem and Samaria, as
some imagine’.24 In Baxter’s words, ‘if the Learned would read the
Devotional Pious Writings of Papists…They would find there…so much of
that which is in themselves’, and
If an esteemed Minister should Preach part of The Interior Christian.25
or such another book, and not tell his hearers whose it was, I doubt not
but many godly people, would cry it up for a most excellent Sermon:
When as if they before knew that it was a Papists they would run away.26
18 Patrick, The Parable, 8.
19 Patrick, The Parable, 46.
20 A. Jelsma, Frontiers of the Reformation (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), 156.
21 Augustine of Hippo, The Profit of Believing (London: Roger Daniel, 1651).
22 T.H. Clancy, English Catholic Books, 1641–1700: A Bibliography. Rev. edn. Vermont: Scolar Press;
Aldershot: Ashgate, 1996.
23 Augustine, The Profit, sig. a2r–v.
24 James Mabbe, Deuout Contemplations Expressed in Two and Fortie Sermons vpon all ye
Quadrigesimall Gospells (London: Adam Islip, 1629), introductory epistle, fol. 5r.
25 Bernières Louvigny, The Interiour Christian (Antwerp: s.n., 1684).
Baxter is merely drawing attention to a degree of congruence between
Catholic and Protestant thought here, but his conditionals carry the seeds of
an imputation. Perhaps the reason learned Protestants would find so much
of themselves in Catholic works is because it was from there that they had
(with or without acknowledgement) drawn so much of their inspiration;
and perhaps, on occasion, certain Protestant divines had actually read
Catholic sermons to their congregations without divulging their sources.
Protestants who advertised their use of Catholic sources risked alienating
their readership, as Baxter makes clear, but failure to acknowledge such
sources was likely to lead to charges of literary piracy.
Recent years have seen a fundamental reappraisal of the extent to
which Catholic culture continued to survive in England during and after the
Reformation, but the focus has been on the strategies adopted by recusants
and crypto-Catholics to survive in a hostile environment. The extent to
which Catholic devotional literature (mostly in the form of translations
from Latin or the Latin languages27) formed a part of the mainstream
cultural landscape is still largely uncharted. While understanding of the
crypto-Catholic has developed almost beyond recognition, the Protestant
who had recourse to Catholic literature remains almost as shadowy today as
generation ago, partly because of a perception – based largely on Edmund
Bunny’s edition28 of Robert Persons’s work29 that Protestant translations
and adaptations from Catholic sources can be dismissed en bloc as textual
piracy. The present paper argues that modern notions of textual piracy are
unhelpful to an impartial assessment of Bunny’s edition and sets it in the
context of contemporary norms. Contrasting Bunny’s edition with Henry
Smith’s unscrupulous plagiarism of Persons, I argue that Bunny was
working within the framework of a principled code of ethics broadly
accepted not only by Protestants but also by Catholics of the period, thus
paving the way towards a more nuanced understanding of the role of
Protestant translations and adaptations of Catholic works and their
Protestant readership.
26 Richard Baxter, Against the Revolt to a Foreign Jurisdiction (London: for Tho. Parkhurst, 1691), 538–
9.
27 From the 1640s onwards, works translated from Dutch and German played an increasingly important
role (Clancy, English Catholic Books, preface, x).
28 Robert Persons, A Booke of Christian Exercise, Appertaining to Resolution, edited by Edmund Bunny
(London: N. Newton and A. Hatfield for Iohn Wight, 1584). Henceforth Christian Exercise. This work is
accompanied by Edmund Bunny, A Treatise Tending to Pacification. Henceforth Pacification.
29 Robert Persons (sometimes Parsons), The First Booke of the Christian Exercise Appertayning to
Resolution (Rouen: Robert Persons’ Press, 1582). Henceforth Resolution.
Edmund Bunny and Literary Piracy
In practice, most Protestant editors of Catholic works identified their
sources,30 but the accusation of piracy was and continues to be made
anyway. As an early twentieth-century Jesuit commentator has it:
Anglicanism in its early days was not prolific in devotional or ascetical
writers, and was nothing loth to nourish its devotion on fruits stolen from
popish gardens. To find copious examples one has only to turn to the
pages of the…Short-Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640, under
such names as a’Kempis, Guevara, Diego de Estella, Granada.31
‘The case of Fr. Robert Persons’s Book of Resolution’, Newdigate
continues, ‘is notorious’. Shortly after Edmund Bunny, the Calvinist rector
of Bolton, published a Protestant edition of his work, an outraged Persons
wrote a vituperative and condemnatory response.32 In later editions Persons
develops his attack on Bunny further, citing Rogers’s translation of à
Kempis, along with Protestant editions of Saint Augustine and Saint
Bernard, and condemning the editors for ‘making those blessed men to
speake like protestantes, against whom they were most opposite enemies’.33
Persons’s central point was that Bunny had stolen his work and
published a distorted travesty of it, an accusation that is almost universally
echoed in modern scholarship. Houliston, Keenan, McGrath, Milward,
Slights and Walsham all refer to Bunny’s edition as ‘piracy’ or ‘pirated’,34
30 Examples of works whose Catholic sources were not acknowledged include the omission of the
authors’ names from Andrés de Soto, The Redemption of Lost Time (London: N.O. for R. Sergier, 1608),
a Protestant translation by Daniel Powell, and Alonso Rodríguez, A Treatise of Humilitie (London: for
Thomas Johnson, 1654), an abbreviated adaptation of the Catholic translation of the same title (Rouen:
s.n., 1631). A. F. Allison, English Translations from the Spanish and Portuguese to the Year 1700
(London: Dawson and Sons, 1974), claims that Luis de Granada’s name is omitted from the first printing
of Of Prayer and Meditation (London: for T. Gosson and J. Perin, 1592), a Protestant adaptation of
Richard Hopkins’ Catholic translation of Guía de Peccadores, but it is present in all the copies I have
examined. However, Hopkins is not credited as the translator in the Protestant edition, which was
reprinted eight times.
31 C.A. Newdigate, The Earlier English Versions of Rodriguez (Roehampton: Manresa Press, 1928), 15.
32 In Robert Persons, A Christian Directorie Guiding Men to their Saluation ([Rouen: Robert Persons’
Press], 1585). Henceforth Directorie.
33 Robert Persons, A Christian Directorie (Louvain: Laurence Kellam, 1598), preface, fo. 9v. Henceforth
Directorie (1598).
34 Victor Houliston in Robert Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory (1582) (Brill: Studies
in the History of Christian Thought, 1998), 210; James F. Keenan, ‘Jesuit Casuistry or Jesuit Spirituality?
The Roots of Seventeenth-Century British Puritan Practical Divinity’, in John W. O’Malley et al., eds.,
The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999),
627-40; 630; Patrick McGrath, Papists and Puritans under Elizabeth I (London: Blandford Press, 1967),
188; Peter Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan age: a Survey of Printed Sources
(London: Scolar Press, 1977), 174; William W.E. Slights, Managing Readers: Printed Marginalia in
English Renaissance Books (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), 252; Alexandra Walsham,
Church Papists (Woodbridge: Boydell, revised edition, 1999), 252.
while Jeremy Gregory tells us that ‘Bunny literally plagiarised...Persons’,35
and Sullivan speaks of the ‘cannibalizing’ of Persons’s text.36 Walsham
also says that Persons was ‘kidnapped and subjected to heretical
castration’,37 and Houliston, denouncing Bunny’s ‘theft’ of Persons’s work,
calls it a ‘mutilation’ of the original.38
Entertaining as this spectacle of scholars vying with each other to
come up with colourful terms with which to condemn Bunny may be, at
some point one has to ask whether Bunny is really the blackguard he is
painted as. How valid is all this condemnation, and on what premises is it
based? The fullest answer so far is that given by Houliston, who is also
probably the best-informed of the present generation of commentators on
Bunny’s edition (it is at least clear that he has read both it and Persons’s
original text with some care). Houliston’s sympathies lie substantially with
Persons, but he also accepts that Bunny gave ‘due credit’ to the original
author and that his edition of Persons’s work was an act of ‘apparently
benign piracy’,39 conceding that ‘for the most part [Bunny] could claim
with some justification that he had merely reduced the original to a
scrupulous neutrality’.40 In this he largely concurs with McNulty, who
observed over half a century ago that Bunny’s edition ‘is “pirated” only in
the sense that Persons did not give permission for a Protestant edition’, and
points out that Bunny makes ‘no attempt to steal Persons’ glory or even the
prayers of his readers’,41 and with White, who, a few years before McNulty,
had pointed out that
Bunny was quite frank as to his editorial techniques of omission of
certain, from his point of view, unassimilable ideas, substitution of
harmless, or what he considered doctrinally correct, expressions for
35 Jeremy Gregory, ‘The Making of a Protestant Nation: “Success” and “Failure” in England’s Long
Reformation’, in N. Tyacke, ed., England’s Long Reformation: 1500–1800 (London; Pennsylvania:
University College London, 1998), 322. Gregory, at least, is wrong; as Ricks points out, the OED
definition of plagiarism includes the ‘appropriation as one’s own, of the ideas, or the expression of the
ideas…of another’ (Christopher Ricks, ‘Plagiarism’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 97 (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1998), 149-68; 150, my italics). Bunny clearly acknowledges the Catholic
author of the work.
36 Ceri Sullivan, ‘Cannibalizing Persons’s Christian Directorie, 1582’, Notes and Queries, 41(4), 1994:
445-6.
37 Alexandra Walsham ‘“Domme Preachers”? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Culture of
Print’, Past & Present, 168 (2000), 105.
38 Victor Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons would not be Pacified: Edmund Bunny’s Theft of The Book of
Resolution’, in T.M. McCoog, ed., The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English
Jesuits (revised edition, Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2007), 209–32 ; 224.
39 Victor Houliston in Robert Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory (1582) (Brill: Studies
in the History of Christian Thought, 1998), 210.
40 Houliston, in Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory (1582), introduction, xxv.
41 McNulty, ‘The Protestant Version’, R. McNulty, ‘The Protestant Version of Robert Persons’ The First
Booke of the Christian Exercise.Huntingdon Library Quarterly, 22 (1959): 271-300; 274–5.
objectionable terms in the original, correction of certain, again from his
point of view, glaring errors, and so on.42
Bunny places his efforts explicitly in the tradition of such Protestant
editors as Thomas Rogers, who translated and published an edition of ‘that
little booke of Kempicius, that is called The Imitation of Christ, leaving out
the corruption of it, and taking onlie that which was sound’.43 Rogers
repeated this practice in his translations of suppositious works by
Augustine and in an edition of a work by the Spanish Franciscan Diego de
Estella, based on the Catholic translation of George Cotton. In his edition
of the latter, he acknowledges the book’s Catholic source, edits out obvious
Catholic references (relegating them to an appendix) and defends himself
in very similar terms to Bunny:
I thinke it verie necessarie some-thing to saie in this place, that neither
the good Christians may shun this as a Serpent, because of the auctor a
Papist; nor the papistes condemne it, as heretical, in respect of my selfe,
a Protestant. For seeing the ground, subject, and substance of the booke
is such, as both of us, yea al the wisest of both sides doe agree in,
namelie that the worlde and the vanities thereof are to bee contemned,
me thinkes the circumstance of persons is not to be regarded…44
Whether or not one accepts the principles on which they are premised,
works like these – which give credit to their Catholic sources and expurgate
only what their editors considered necessary in order to be authorized for
publication in England at that time are the context in which Christian
Exercise needs to be seen. This category includes other Protestant editions
of patristic and pre-Reformation writers, particularly Augustine45 and à
Kempis, and such works as the anonymous Protestant adaptation of the
second part of Persons’s work, The Seconde Parte of the Christian Exercise
(London: John Charlwoode for Simon Waterson, 1590), the anonymously-
translated Antonio de Guevara, The Mount of Calvarie (London: Adam
Islip for Edward White, 1594),46 and eventhough the disparities between
the original texts and the Protestant versions are perhaps broader than they
strictly needed to be Gaspar Loarte, The Exercise of a Christian Life,
42 Helen White, Tudor Books of Private Devotion (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1951), 171.
43 Bunny, in Persons, Christian Exercise, epistle dedicatory, sig. *3v. The reference is to Thomas à
Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, trans. by Thomas Rogers (London: Henrie Denham, 1580).
44 Diego de Estella, A Methode unto Mortification, ed. by Thomas Rogers (London: J. Windet, 1586),
epistle dedicatory, sig. A4r.
45 Notable among these is Saint Augustines Confessions, trans. and ed. by William Watts (London: J.
Norton for J. Partridge, 1631). In the epistle to the reader Watts roundly condemns a previous Catholic
translation, despite his own work being largely paraphrased from it (sig. A5r). See John R. Yamamoto-
Wilson, ‘An Annotated Catalogue of Protestant Editions in English of Works by and Relating to Saint
Augustine of Hippo, 1529–1700’, Reformation and Renaissance Review, 13.1 (2011): 93–132; 99.
46 This work is shorn only of a bare minimum of references which could be regarded, from a Protestant
view, as heretical. Unfortunately, nothing is known of the translator/editor of this work.
translated by Stephen Brinkley ([London]: for W. Leake, 1594), an
adaptation of the very work which supposedly inspired Persons to write
Resolution, and Luis de Granada, Of Prayer and Meditation (London: [J.
Charlewood?], for T. Gosson and J. Perin, 1592), the work which as we
shall see – actually did inspire him.
Robert Persons and the Editing of Catholic Texts
As White observes, Persons’s attack on Bunny is an ‘arraignment not
only of Bunny’s editorial methods but…of the “correcting methods” of a
good many seventeenth century authors’.47 What she does not make
explicitly clear is that the ‘correcting methods’ employed by Protestants do
not differ substantially from those used by Catholics, and even, on
occasion, by Persons himself. Purging works of references deemed to be
heretical was not a Protestant monopoly; the prohibition of the works of
Luis de Granada, Juan de Ávila, Bartolomé Carranza de Miranda and
Francisco de Borja by Fernando de Valdés is an obvious example of the
complete banning of works under Catholic censorship, and there were also
many passages struck out from otherwise acceptable texts .48 There are even
cases (admittedly scarce) of expurgated Catholic editions of Protestant
works. Rogers cites (among others) the example of ‘the tables of
Spangenberge not reformed, but deformed in manie thinges by
Villamecintius a Frier’,49 a reference to Lorenzo de Villavicencio’s edition
of the reformist Johann Spangenberg, Tabulæ Compendiosæ (Lovanii:
Petrum Zangrium Toletanum, 1563).50 Villavicencio, a Spanish
Augustinian, was also accused (and acquitted) of heresy for his expurgated
translation of the work of Andreas Hyperius, a Dutch Protestant.
While there is no record of similar Catholic borrowings from
Protestant sources in the English context, Catholic works were frequently
‘improved’ on by editors, for either substantial or cosmetic reasons. For
example, the 1584 Catholic edition of Brinkley’s translation of Loarte, The
47 White, Tudor Books of Private Devotion, 147.
48 For example,The Inquisitors at Madrid…order’d in their Index Expurgatorius Sandoval. in St.
Augustine, those Words to be ras’d, Christ hath given the Sign of his Body’ (Henry Newcombe,
Transubstantiation Discuss’d, London: for John Wyat, 1705, part 2, 44). See, e.g., Giorgio Caravale,
Forbidden Prayer: Church Censorship and Devotional Literature in Renaissance Italy (Farnham, Surrey:
Ashgate, 2011), and John Edwards, Torquemada and the Inquisitors (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus,
2005), for further details of early modern Catholic censorship and expurgation of texts.
49 Rogers, in Estella, A Methode unto Mortification, epistle dedicatory, sig. A5r.
50 Spangenberg’s work, which was itself alleged to have been plagiarized both directly from medieval
sources and indirectly from Anton Corvin, who had borrowed from similar sources, was also adapted for
a Catholic readership by Johannes Craedonch (John M. Frymire, The Primacy of the Postils: Catholics,
Protestants, and the Dissemination of Ideas in Early Modern Germany, Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 2010,
276-8).
Exercise of a Christian Life, was ‘perused and corrected’, with ‘prayers and
exercises added’.51 Most of the changes, such as the replacement of ‘the
body thral and captiunte vnto sinne’52 by ‘the body defiled with sinne’,53 are
of relatively minor importance, although the original Italian in this case is
‘nel corpo sottoposto à peccato’,54 (‘the body subject to sin’), so the
‘corrected’ reading, rather than conveying Loarte’s image of the body in
thrall to sin, is made to conform strictly to the church’s teaching that the
body is corrupted by sin.
None of this is of any particular significance, except for the fact that
the 1584 edition was edited and published by Persons, who oversaw, and
perhaps made, these changes to the text. The idea that, even though the
author was a Catholic, his work might not be in complete conformity with
Catholic doctrine was something Persons, like other Catholic editors,
evidently took for granted. Although he objects to Bunny’s expurgation of
his work according to Protestant criteria, he accepts the general principle of
expurgating both contemporary and ancient texts for doctrinal reasons, and
even took it upon himself to edit and alter the works of others.
Persons’s Resolution intersects with Loarte at another, even more
profound, level. Houliston cites a letter by Persons, dated 1581, in which he
‘refers to his supervision of translations from Loarte, Granada and others’,55
and comments on Persons’s claim that it was Loarte’s work which inspired
him to write Resolution (a claim reiterated in the prefatory epistle of the
1594 Protestant edition of Loarte’s work, 56 to which, it may be noted,
Persons did not voice any objections), confirming that, rather than Loartes,
to whom his work is only very loosely and tangentially related, Persons in
fact owes a profound (and unacknowledged) debt, both at the level of
overall structure and in actual language, imagery and phrasing, to Luis de
Granada, Libro Llamado Guia de Peccadores ([Lisbon]: Joannes Blavio de
Colonia, 1556). Houliston refutes Driscoll57 and concurs with Hagedorn58
on this point, saying of her analysis of part 2, chapter 5 of Resolution that
‘the sequence and number of identical ideas and references…rules sheer
51 Gaspare Loarte, The Exercise of a Christian Life, [translated by Stephen Brinkley], second edition
([Rouen: Robert Persons’ Press], 1584), title page.
52 Gaspare Loarte, The Exercise of a Christian Life ([London: W. Carter, 1579]), 2.
53 Loarte, Exercise (1584), 2.
54 Gaspare Loarte, Essercitio della Vita Christiana (Venice: Francvesco Lorenzini, 1562; edition used,
Venice: Altobello Salicato, 1573), sig. A3r.
55 Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons would not be Pacified’, 218.
56 Loarte, The Exercise of a Christian Life (London: Leake, 1594), ‘To the Reader’ (page unnumbered).
57 J.P. Driscoll, ‘The Supposed Source of Persons’s “Christian Directory”’, Recusant History, 5 (1959-
60): 236-45.
58 M. Hagedorn, Reformation und Spanische Andachtsliteratur: Luis de Granada in England (Leipzig: B.
Tauchnitz, 1934), 110–120.
coincidence out of the question’, and adding, ‘Persons adopted the broad
outline of Book 1 of The Sinners Guide’, with many of the topics
presented in the same sequence as in Granada’s work.59
Houliston, in pointing this out, is not accusing Persons of any form of
piracy; his view is that ‘Persons’ achievement is not diminished by
admitting the debt’,60 but he does not offer any explanation of why Persons
himself not only did not admit it but even appears to attempt to throw the
reader off the scent by presenting Loarte as his principal source. As
Houliston notes elsewhere,61 an anti-Jesuit Catholic of the period made
capital out of this, saying, ‘this booke of Resolution was a good work, and
woon [Persons] all the credit which was due to Granada, that laid the
platforme to Father Parsons hand, and gave him the principall grounds and
matter thereof’.62 In other words (though Houliston does not slant his
commentary in this way), Persons was himself accused by a Catholic
contemporary – with some justification – of plagiarizing the selfsame work
that he attacks Bunny so vehemently for adapting.
The fact that Persons himself not only ‘perused and corrected’ works
of devotion to bring them into line with his own sense of doctrinal
correctness, but actually owes a significant and unacknowledged debt to
another writer, muddies the waters considerably. It may be misleading to
portray Bunny as ‘the honest Englishman stepping innocently into the den
of a howling wolf’, as Houliston satirically has it,63 but neither is it
appropriate to vilify Bunny and hold up Persons as the picture of wounded
innocence. His objections to Bunny are clearly based on his ideological
agenda, and cannot be understood in terms of modern ideas of plagiarism,
literary piracy or censorship; as Love puts it, ‘what most of us would call
plagiarism has not always been seen as wrongful’,64 and the same applies to
other forms of textual piracy – such as publishing without authorization and
editing the work of another writer – in the early modern period.
Although Bunny did indeed publish Christian Exercise without
authorization, this was not, in itself, the reason for Persons’s indignation;
Persons forgives an unauthorized Catholic edition of Directorie (Rouen: G.
59 Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons would not be Pacified’, 218.
60 Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons would not be Pacified’, 218.
61 Houliston in Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory, introduction, xxxv.
62 [John Mush]. A Dialogue betvvixt a Secular Priest, and a Lay Gentleman. (Rheims [i.e., London: Adam
Islip], 1601), 107.
63 Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons would not be Pacified’, 223. The remark is prompted by the portrayal
of Bunny in A.L. Rowse, Eminent Elizabethans (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), 41-74.
64 Harold Love, ‘Originality and the Puritan Sermon’, in Paulina Kewes, ed., Plagiarism in Early Modern
England (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 149-65; 149. Love is attacking here the
position adopted in Christopher Ricks, ‘Plagiarism’.
L’Oyselet, 1584), saying it is a matter only of indiscretion without
malice’,65 and makes no objection (in print, at least) to a Protestant edition
of the work which he claims misleadingly, as we have seen as the
inspiration of his own work. Nor was his wrath prompted by any wish to
prevent Protestants from reading his work; on the contrary, many copies of
the Catholic edition were distributed to Protestants,66 and the book’s
continual recourse to biblical sources seems almost calculated to appeal to
Protestant readers. Given that his work was already being distributed
clandestinely to Protestants, Persons might have thanked Bunny (who, after
all, made only the minimum of alterations to ensure that the work would be
accepted for publication by the English authorities) for making his work
freely available to Protestant readers. The fact that he did not has nothing to
do per se with the fact that the text was edited and published without
authority, or even that it was intended for a Protestant readership. It results
from the irreconcilability of the Catholic point of view (that a text from
which references to Catholic doctrine have been expurgated is
unacceptable) and the Protestant point of view (that a text that is not
conformable with scripture is unacceptable).
Persons had a very specific agenda; he was a crusader in this world – a
world to be won (as he saw it) to Catholicism – and he wanted nothing less
than the establishment of ‘a re-Catholicised England as a missionary base
for the reconversion of northern Europe’.67 While he presumably would not
have perceived or acknowledged the distinction, it seems that, ultimately, it
was winning souls to Catholicism, rather than winning souls to God, which
drove him. It makes sense, perhaps, that those modern commentators who
condemn Bunny’s work as piracy who are themselves Jesuits, or at least
Catholics, sympathize with and even endorse Persons’s agenda, but if
condemnation of Bunny is nothing more than a corollary of a militant
Catholic agenda then that needs to be made clear.
Bunny’s real mistake seems to lie in his failure to realize the polemical
intent underlying an apparently devotional text, in his readiness to take
Parsons too much at his word when he writes that controversies ‘helpe…
little oftentymes to good lyfe, but rather do fill the heades of men with a
spirite of contradiction and contention’, 68 adding:
65 Persons, Directorie, fol. 5r.
66 ‘A spy reported in 1584 that Catholics were distributing it to Protestants, and that it (and the Rheims
New Testament) “are as much sought for, of the protestanttes as papistes”’ (Michael C. Questier,
Conversion, Politics and Religion in England, 1580-1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996), 38. The source Questier cites is Public Record Office document SP 12/168/31, sig. T5r.
67 Brad Gregory, ‘The “True and Zealouse Seruice of God’, 242-3.
68 Persons, Resolution, epistle ‘To the Christian Reader’, 2.
Wherfore (gentle reader) if thow be of an other religiō than I am, I
beseche the most hartelye, that layenge a side all hatred, malice and
wrathfull contention, let us joyne together in amendmēt of our lyves, and
prayeng one for an other.69
Comments such as these, addressed ‘To the Christian Reader’, imply that
Persons was offering the book to the world in a spirit of ecumenical
benevolence, and Bunny was, not unnaturally, ‘Surprised at the tone of
Persons’s attack’ on his edition.70
It was for this mistake, for inferring some kind of ecumenical
benevolence from Persons’s declaration that ‘devotion is nothing els, but a
quiet and peaceble state of the sowle’,71 that, in Persons’s eyes, Bunny
merited the severest condemnation. It was, nevertheless, an easy mistake to
make. The principle at stake – that Catholic literature belongs to Catholics,
and may only be presented to Protestants in the Catholic interest – was not
clearly expressed by Parsons, nor did he apply any such principle
reciprocally when it came to adapting non-Catholic ideas to the Catholic
cause. Admittedly, he did not (as far as I am aware) adapt Protestant
literature or Protestant ideas, but at the same time as publishing, in the
preface to the revised edition of 1585, his angry retort to Bunny, Persons
expands his text to include many references to Greek, Roman and Judaic
sources, indicating that Christian ideas are not only not limited to
Catholicism, but may be discerned in contexts which are not ostensibly
Christian at all.
Edmund Bunny and the Adaptation and Translation of Texts
Once Bunny’s edition of Persons’s work is set in the context of the
norms – among Catholics as well as Protestants – of religious publications
of the day, it seems rather arbitrary that it should be almost routinely
selected as the definitive example of early modern textual piracy. Had
Persons not written his tirade against it, it would hardly have stood out. A
better candidate from the same period would have been the Protestant
adaptation of Granada, Of Prayer and Meditation, which suffered far
worse, with no acknowledgement of the Catholic translator and extensive
bowdlerizing of the contents,72 or Cosin’s Collection of Private Devotion,73
69 Persons, Resolution, epistle ‘To the Christian Reader’, 4.
70 William Joseph Sheils, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (henceforth ODNB, online
resource, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3943).
71 Persons, Resolution, ‘To the Christian Reader’, 2.
72 Notably, the evening meditations are given out for the morning, and vice versa, in what appears to be a
gratuitous violation of the integrity of the text.
73 John Cosin, A Collection of Private Devotions (London: R. Young, 1627).
with its unacknowledged borrowings from Aquinas,74 Ignatius Loyola75 and
the post-Tridentine primer.76 Somehow, though, all the opprobrium seems
to be reserved for Bunny. Despite the fact that Bunny accompanied his
edition of Persons with an extensive discussion of translation issues and
their relevance to Protestant and Catholic discourse, there is little
acknowledgement that Bunny had any serious agenda or editorial intent,
much less any attempt to examine and understand the nature of that intent.
The act of adapting a text intended for one discourse community for a
readership belonging to another discourse community is inherently akin to
translation, but in the case of Christian Exercise the links are particularly
strong. Persons’s main sources77 were of Latin, Spanish and Italian origin,
nearly all the other sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant editions
of Catholic works were translations, and the principles underlying the
adaptation of the text are closely bound up with translation issues. This last
is something that Bunny clearly recognizes, and a large part of Pacification
is devoted to arguing that translation is not a neutral act and that Catholics
have skewed their translations ‘so favourably as they could on their
behalfe’.78 When it comes to Protestant translation from patristic or other
Catholic sources, Bunny argues that if a work is substantially conformable
with the scriptures but disagrees in one or two points, such as purgatory79 or
the worshipping of images,80 it is, in his view, legitimate to expurgate those
points, which although he is merely translating Catholic discourse to
Protestant discourse, and not from one language to another is effectively
what he is doing with Persons’s text.
For Bunny, Catholics and Protestants are ‘very much divided, in many
matters of lesse importance; but in the substance of Christian religion,
which we term the catholik faith, agreeing togither’,81 and these ‘matters of
lesse importance’ are mainly connected, not with substantial issues, but
with the language used to talk about substantial issues. While only
Protestants were engaged in translating the scriptures there was, perhaps, a
difference in kind between Protestants and Catholics, but now that
74 Ivan D. Aquilina, The Eucharistic Understanding of John Cosin (unpublished thesis, University of
Leeds, 2002), 13-15.
75 Anthony Milton, in ODNB (online resource, http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/6/101006372).
76 Blom, J.M. ‘A German Jesuit and his Anglican Readers. The Case of Jeremias Drexelius (1581-1632).’
In G.A.M. Janssens and F.G.A.M. Aarts, editors, Studies in Seventeenth Century Literature, History and
Bibliography, 41-51 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984), 42.
77 I.e., Loarte and Granada, who have already been mentioned, and Ignatius Loyola, Exercitia Spiritualia
(Rome: s.n., 1548).
78 Bunny, Pacification, 72.
79 Bunny, Pacification, 83.
80 Bunny, Pacification, 84.
81 Bunny, Pacification, 107.
Catholics have started making their own translations of the Bible ‘there is
little else against us, but quarrel of words’.82
This ‘quarrel of words’ results to a large extent from the fact that the
Catholics based their translations of the Bible on the Latin of the Vulgate,
which they accepted as the authoritative word of God, whereas the
Protestant reformers sought to go back to the Greek and Hebrew sources on
which the Vulgate was based. In consequence, Persons, like other
Catholics, would say ‘Our Lord, when it is more agreeable to the text to
say, The Lord: iustice, for righteousnes: poenance, for repentance: merit,
for good works, or the service of God: and a few others’.83 Bunny has not
attempted to amend all of these in his view mistranslations of the
scriptures, but deals with them flexibly, ‘somtimes letting them stand as
they are; and somtimes altering them, when they were abused’.84
Bunny’s guiding principle was loyalty to ‘the truer sense of the text’85
of the Bible. This was crucial – ‘how much soever we praetend to have the
word of God to direct us in al our doings, yet, by the means of wrong
translations, we have it nothing at al indeed’86 and where Persons had, in
his view, got it wrong, Bunny saw it as his Christian duty to put it right:
it is the dutie of everie one, to take so good heed as they can that they
give no offence; neither to the Iew, nor to the Gentile, nor especially to
the church of God: and, if it be the duty of al, then is it the duty of
translators also; especially those, that have to translate the word of
God.87
Beyond that, Bunny keeps his alterations to the text to a minimum, with
sentence after sentence reproduced verbatim. For example, the first
paragraph of his edition omits a reference to Persons’s preface, since the
preface itself is not given, and alters ‘of this resolution dependethe all our
good in the life to come’88 to ‘of this resolution dependeth all our whole
service of GOD’.89 The alteration is necessary from the point of view of
Protestant orthodoxy, since the original implies justification by works.
Otherwise, apart from adopting rather more modernized spelling
conventions, Bunny’s opening paragraph is identical to Persons’s, as is the
bulk of the rest of the text.
82 Bunny, Pacification, 72.
83 Bunny, in Persons, Christian Exercise, preface, sig. *6r.
84 Bunny, in Persons, Christian Exercise, preface, sig. *7r
85 Bunny, Pacification, 64.
86 Bunny, Pacification, 63.
87 Bunny, Pacification, 74-5.
88 Persons, Resolution, 11.
89 Persons, Christian Exercise, sig. B1r.
Doctrinally, perhaps the biggest gulf between Persons and Bunny, the
Catholic and the puritan, is the gulf between justification by faith and
justification by works. Yet, as has already been pointed out, the extent to
which the two belief systems mirror each other can often render the
differences invisible. When Persons wrote that ‘albeit trew faithe be the
grownde of Christianitie...yet that one principall meane to come to this trew
faithe...were for eche man to betake him selfe to a good & vertuous life’,90
by ‘trew faithe’ he of course meant the Catholic faith, the indispensable
sign of which was the enactment of good works. While the catholicity of
his text would have been obvious to him, his words would have a very
different resonance for readers on the other side of the ideological divide,
who could conceive of ‘a good & vertuous life’ as the natural expression of
a soul already justified by (Protestant) faith. To this extent, Bunny’s
alterations to the text did subvert Persons’s intentions, but they are not the
unprincipled actions of a pirate. In addition to altering expressions which
he feels misrepresent the scriptures, he omits ‘references to merit, feast
days, Catholic devotions and practices, and the operation of fortune or
chance in human affairs’,91 along with ‘a five-page discussion on the nature
of purgatorial fire’, for obvious doctrinal reasons, and adds a few insertions
of his own invention, reflecting ‘a Reformed emphasis on reading
Scripture, persevering in one’s vocation, and ministering through the word
of God’, but he ‘did not take hundreds of other opportunities to add phrases
like these throughout the Exercise, phrases that would have given the work
a more obviously Protestant tone’.92
Robert Persons, Henry Smith and Literary Piracy
Singling out Bunny’s edition as piracy is not only unhelpful for an
understanding of what he was trying to do, but also obscures the fact that
there were far more insidious and damaging forms of Protestant piracy.
George Stanhope, in his preface to his 1699 Protestant adaptation of
Persons’s work, draws a clear line between what he considers fair use and
what he sees as piracy:
It had been an easy, but I think, not so fair a way of proceeding, to have
formed a general System of Faith and Manners, out of this Directory;
and have offered it under another name. Nay there want not several
Treatises of this nature composed by Protestants…But I was desirous,
90 Persons, Resolution, preface, 3.
91 Victor Houliston, Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Person’s Jesuit Polemic, 1580-
1610 (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007), 41.
92 Brad Gregory, ‘The “True and Zealouse Seruice of God”’, 241–3.
that an Adversary should not be defrauded of the Reputation due to
him…93
Recognition that Bunny is on the right side of the line is crucial to an
understanding of the norms of early modern religious writing, upon which
a balanced appraisal of Protestant adaptations and translations of Catholic
literature depends, while failure to observe the distinction distracts
attention from actual piracy and even deprives us of the language to
discuss it; for if we use words like ‘cannibalizing’, ‘castration’, ‘theft’ and
‘mutilation’ to describe Bunny’s edition, what words have we left for a
work such as Henry Smith, Gods Arrowe against Atheists (London: F[elix]
K[ingston] for Thomas Pavier, 1609)?94
Smith conceals both the authorship and the catholicity of Persons’s
original text,95 inflicts far more distortions on its language than Bunny
does, and undermines its intent, not only by applying Persons’s arguments
to draw conclusions that Persons does not seek to draw, but by using them
as a preamble to a full-scale attack on Catholicism. A sample passage from
both texts will demonstrate his technique:
From the Cause effici t, the Philosopher disputeth thus. It is euident by
all reason, in respect of the corruptions, alterations, and perpetual motiõs
of all creatures, that this world had a beginning; and all excell t
philosophers that euer were, haue agreed theruppon, except Aristotle for
a tyme, who held a fantasie, that the world had no beginning, but was
from all eternitie, albeit at last in his old age, he confessed the contrarie,
in his booke to king Alexander.96
Moreouer, as God is to bee felt sensible in euerie mans conscience, so is
he to be séene visibly (if I may so speake) in the creation of the world,
and of all thinges therein contained: for that this world had a beginning
as all the excellent Philosophers that euer were haue agréeed, except
Aristotle for a time, who helde a fancie, that this world had no
beginning, but was from all eternity: but at last in his old age, he
confessed and held, the contrary in his booke de mundo, which hee
wrote to King Alexander, (which booke Iustin Martyr estéemed greatly,
and called it the Epitome of all Aristotles true Philosophy.)97
Smith’s sandwiching of Persons’s material between his own wordiness and
indifferent scholarship shows pretty clearly what he is about, and the
effrontery of that presumptuous ‘if I may so speake’, with which he
93 George Stanhope in Robert Persons, Persons his Christian Directory (London: Richard Sare, 1699),
preface, sig. A4r.
94 Smith’s piracy seems to have passed unnoticed, either by Persons or anyone else, with the exception of
Peter Milward, to whom I am grateful for pointing it out in private conversation.
95 Smith plagiarizes Directorie, Persons’ revised and expanded edition of 1585.
96 Parsons, Directorie, 38.
97 Smith, Gods Arrowe, sig. B2r.
attempts to mask the fact that it is not really he who speaks at all, sets the
seal on it. Again and again he simply parrots Persons, as when he writes, ‘It
was foretold of the Messias that he should be born of a Virgin…That the
place of his byrth should be Bethlem…That at his byrth all the Infantes
rounde about Bethlem should be slaine for his sake’,98 which is lifted
wholesale from Persons, ‘the Scripture…foretelleth…That he should be
born of a Virgin…That the place of his birth should be the Town of
Bethleem…That at his birth all the Infants round about Bethleem should be
slain for his sake’.99
At other points Smith switches around paragraphs and even entire
chapters from Persons’s work, omitting whole sections, glossing and
paraphrasing, sometimes interspersing some material of his own, but
always coming back to Persons’s exposition, as he moves through proofs
that Christ was foretold by the Jews, that the ancient philosophers
themselves acknowledged one God and that the many gods worshipped by
pagans and infidels are in fact devils, until he comes to demonstrate that
Islam is ‘a false and wicked Religion’,100 at which point he finally breaks
away from Persons’s text, which has a brief mention of the ‘Turkish
Alcoran’,101 but does not go into this subject in detail.
Smith is not done yet, though. Not content to have perverted Persons’s
text which continually seeks support for Christian beliefs in the precepts
of classical moral theology and Judaism102 – into an attack on non-Christian
beliefs, he then moves on to his final chapter, ‘Wherein is shewed that the
Church of Rome is not the true Church of God, nor observeth the right
Religion’ (sig. K3r). Having thought fit to plagiarize a Jesuit in his
arguments against ‘pagans’ and ‘infidels’, he now confounds the very faith
on which the Jesuit’s arguments rest.
Persons’s exaggerated claim, in his preface to the 1607 edition, that
Bunny’s edition is ‘so much altered, and mangled, both in wordes, phrase,
sense, sentence and substance, as scarcely could I know it to be mine’,103
would have been entirely appropriate if he had said it of Smith’s theft of his
work. Equally, the charges of piracy, plagiarism, cannibalization and so on
that modern commentators level at Bunny might more properly be laid
98 Smith, Gods Arrowe, sig. C1r.
99 Persons, Directorie, 167-8.
100 Smith, Gods Arrowe, sig. I1r.
101 Persons, Directorie, 220.
102 I am referring specifically here to the revised edition of 1585, from which Smith plundered, which
contains a substantial number of references to classical philosophy and Judaic sources not given in the
first edition.
103 Robert Persons, The Christian Directory: Guiding Men to Eternall Salvation (St. Omer: F. Bellet,
1607), sig. *1v.
against Smith. As Milton says, ‘the greater proportion of printed religious
literature of the period 1600-1640 remains almost wholly unstudied’,104 and
doubtless there are other instances of genuine plagiarism waiting to be
discovered. So far, though, apart from Allison’s exposure of Manchester al
Mondo,105 there has been little work done in this field. Allison examines
passages lifted from the works of Catholic mystics and incorporated into
the third, much enlarged, edition of Montagu’s work, and argues that he ‘is
not seeking words to express a personal, experimentally perceived
knowledge of God’, concluding that these are examples of ‘literary
quarryings’, a mere ‘device’.106 It is impossible to say how many more
examples of such practices are likely to come to light, but in the present
context the basic point to be made is that they are quite different, in kind
and intent, both from Bunny’s edition of Persons’s work and from the
mainstream of Protestant adaptations of Catholic texts.
Christian Directorie and Protestant Readers of Catholic Literature
Christian Directorie ‘went through forty-seven editions between 1584
and 1640’, and ‘had about twice the sales of either of the two great Puritan
classics, Arthur Dent’s The Plaine Man’s Pathway to Heaven and William
Perkins’s The Foundation of the Christian Religion’,107 making it the most
popular work of religious devotion of its day. As Houliston (drawing
together the scholarship of McNulty,108 Brad Gregory109 and Hudson110)
points out, it was not only widely read by Protestants in Elizabethan and
Stuart England, but was also hugely influential, and is known to have made
an impression on Richard Baxter, John Donne, Robert Greene, John
Harington, Gabriel Harvey, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Nashe and
Jonathan Swift.111 Even if one insists on labelling it as a pirated text, it
104 Milton, Catholic and Reformed, 6.
105 Henry Montagu, Manchester al Mondo: Contemplatio Mortis, & Immortalitatis (London: F.
Constable, 1635).
106 A.F. Allison, ‘The “Mysticism” of Manchester al Mondo. Some Catholic Borrowings in a
Seventeenth-Century Anglican Work of Devotion’, in Studies in Seventeenth-Century English Literature,
History and Bibliography, ed. G.A.M. Janssens and F.G.A.M. Aarts (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984): 9 and
11.
107 Keenan, ‘Jesuit Casuistry or Jesuit Spirituality?’, 630.
108 McNulty, ‘The Protestant Version of Robert Persons’.
109 Brad S. Gregory, ‘The “True and Zealouse Service of God”: Robert Parsons, Edmund Bunny, and The
First Booke of the Christian Exercise.Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 45.2 (1994): 238-268.
110 Elizabeth K. Hudson, ‘The Catholic Challenge to Puritan Piety, 1580-1620’, The Catholic Historical
Review, 77.1 (1991): 1-20.
111 Houliston in Robert Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory, xi–xiv. There is also
evidence that Persons had a significant influence on Shakespeare, though it is not clear whether he used
the Protestant version or the Catholic (see John R. Yamamoto-Wilson, ‘Shakespeare and Catholicism’,
Renaissance and Reformation Review, 7.2-3, 2005, 347-361; 353-4).
clearly merits attention; and if, as all too often happens, the label of piracy
serves merely to legitimate its dismissal from serious consideration, then
that dismissal leaves trailing in its wake the neglect of other Protestant
editions of Catholic works, making it all too easy to see what is left – that
is, unexpurgated Catholic editions – as being of relevance only to nominal
Protestants, who read them as part of their secret sympathy with Rome, and
controversialists, who read them only to disagree.
While modern scholarship does not lend its weight wholeheartedly to
this view, it remains, nevertheless, the prevailing paradigm, qualified by
occasional scattered exceptions and counterexamples. However, once one
starts to focus on these exceptions they coalesce into something substantial
enough to be difficult to ignore or sideline. During the same period in
which Christian Exercise enjoyed its considerable popularity (1585-1640)
there were dozens of Protestant editions of the works (suppositious and
authentic) of St. Augustine, together with a similar number of works
heavily influenced by him,112 as well as at least a dozen Protestant editions
each of the works of Thomas à Kempis, the Franciscan Luis de Granada,
the Catholic poet Robert Southwell, and of an anonymously-edited ‘second
part’ of Persons’s work.113 When Persons challenges Bunny to name any
Protestant writer ‘of devotion, pietie and contemplation’, he lists among
Catholic writers
in times past S. Bernard, S. Bonaventure, S. Anselme, Iohn Gerson,
Thomas de Kempis, Dionisius Carthusianus, and others, whom no man
will deny to have been of our religion. For this time present, the most
excellent writinges of Ludovicus de Granada, Diego Stella, Polancus,
Augerius, & this present booke with infinite others…114
Despite their indisputable catholicity, most of the writers on Persons’s list –
Bernard, Bonaventure, Gerson and à Kempis (to both of whom the Imitatio
Christi was attributed at that time), Luis de Granada and Diego de Estella
had been published in Protestant editions at the time that Persons was
writing, and others such as Miguel de Comalada, Hieremias Drexelius,
Francis de Sales, Cristóbal de Fonseca, Antonio de Guevara, Gaspare
Loarte, Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, Robert Southwell and Andrés de Soto –
were either already published or were published subsequently in Protestant
editions.
Even this does not convey a sense of the complete picture of the
Protestant readership of Catholic literature; those works on Persons’s list
112 Yamamoto-Wilson, ‘An Annotated Catalogue of Works by Saint Augustine’, 93.
113 The Second Part of the Booke of Christian Exercise (London: J. Charlwoode for S. Waterson, 1590),
drawn for the most part from the material Persons added to the 1585 edition.
114 Persons, Directorie (1598), preface, fo. 9r.
which did not appear in Protestant editions were nearly all circulating
among Protestant readers in unexpurgated form. The works of Saint
Anselm (in Latin) were among the books belonging to John Haynes, of St.
Mary’s Hall, Oxford, inventoried in 1585; those of Gerson were owned by
John Conner, of Magdalen, Oxford (1569), Roger Charnock, of Corpus
Christi, Oxford (1577) and Giles Dewhurst, of Christ Church, Oxford
(1577); and records survive of copies of Dionysius Carthusianus in at least
a dozen libraries during the 1570s and 80s.115 Only one of these works
(George Brome’s copy of Dionysius, inventoried on seizure in 1586)
belonged to a known recusant and, while some of the other apparently
Protestant readers of Catholic literature may have harboured Catholic
sympathies, there are enough with solid Protestant credentials to suggest
that it may not have been unusual for Protestant readers to ‘edit’ Catholic
works in their own minds as they read them, ignoring or discounting
passages which offended their sensibilities.116
Such internalized ‘editing’ lies outside the scope of this paper, though
it is perhaps worth drawing attention to the fact that some Catholic
publications did actually carry warnings to the Protestant reader against
interpreting the text in certain ways, and even a gloss to aid comprehension
of practices and traditions that might be unfamiliar to Protestant readers.
Toby Matthew, for example, frequently addresses Protestant readers in the
prefaces to his translations,117 and glosses the text for the benefit of readers
unfamiliar with Catholic practices.118 It is also worth noting that Matthew
claims to be acting in the interests of ‘the Christian world, at large’119 and,
unlike Persons, did not object when his translation of Augustine was
adapted by a Protestant editor, despite the provocative comments in the
preface to the Protestant edition, denouncing the Catholic translator as
‘Arrantly, Partially Popish’ and ‘spitefull to the Holy Scriptures’, and
challenging him with the words, ‘If finding himselfe aggrieued, hee shall in
Print discouer himselfe against me’.120 The subsequent reprint of the
115 (R.J. Fehrenbach, J.L. Black and E.S. Leedham-Green, Private Libraries in Renaissance England,
http://plre.folger.edu. Henceforth PLRE).
116 The ‘staunch reformist’ Roger Townshend (d. 1636; PLRE #3) and Edward Dering, MP (1598-1644;
PLRE #4), an active participant in the ongoing reforms of the church in Stuart times, are examples of
Protestant readers whose libraries indicate an active interest in Catholic literature.
117 E.g., in Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of the Incomparable Doctour S. Augustine ([Saint-Omer:
English College Press, 1620), preface, sig. A1r, Vicenzo Puccini, Life of the Holy and Venerable Mother
Suor Maria Maddalena de Patsi (Saint Omer: English College Press, 1619), sig. ****6v, and Teresa of
Avila, The Flaming Hart; or, the Life of the Glorious S. Teresa (Antwerp: Johannes Meursius, 1642), sig.
***2r).
118 E.g., in Teresa, The Flaming Hart, 45, marginal note).
119 Matthew, in Teresa, The Flaming Hart, preface, fo. ****1r.
120 William Watts, in Augustine of Hippo, Saint Augustines Confessions (London: J. Norton, 1631), sig.
A5v. Watts claims to have made his own translation, using the Catholic translation merely as a reference,
Catholic version, which was edited anonymously (with Matthew’s
permission), avoids a confrontation and mentions the Protestant edition
only obliquely, saying, ‘I haue not in any language mett will [sic] a more
iuditious and weighty translation [than Matthew’s]’.121 If the extent to
which Protestants turned to Catholic texts is neglected in modern
scholarship, the extent to which Catholic editors took their Protestant
readership into account is almost entirely ignored.
Conclusion
Despite the prominence given to Persons’s attack on Bunny, it was not
typical of the response of Catholic authors, translators and editors to
Protestant adaptations of their work. On the contrary, it is an isolated attack
on a work which does comparatively little damage to the integrity of its
source, and, so far from being an unprincipled theft, was specifically edited
in accordance with a sophisticated approach towards translation/adaptation
and in a way in which Bunny believed would ‘give no offence’. It is too
much, perhaps, to claim that a reappraisal of Christian Exercise will, in
itself, transform the current paradigm of Catholic literature as being only of
marginal significance to English Protestants, but if it leads to more serious
recognition of all the other translations and adaptations of Catholic works
for Protestant consumption, along with a more nuanced understanding of
the intertextuality of Catholic and Protestant literature and the ways in
which Protestant readers may have approached Catholic texts, this can
surely only enhance our understanding of the development of Protestant
thought and the interplay of Catholic and Protestant culture during this
period.
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Book
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