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The Protestant Reception of Catholic Devotional Literature in England to 1700

  • Sophia University (retired)


Discussion of the dispersal of Catholic literature in post-Reformation England tends to focus on the tenacity of recusants and ‘church papists’ in perpetuating allegiance to Rome. Relatively little attention has been paid to the extent to which Catholic texts, either in their original form or modified for a Protestant readership, formed a part of the mainstream culture of the reformed Church. This paper attempts to demonstrate the significance of Catholic literature in the Protestant context by showing the range of Protestant adaptations, the extent of Protestant readership and the influences of Catholic literature on Protestant writers.
The Protestant Reception of Catholic Devotional
Literature in England to 1700
John R. Yamamoto-Wilson
Discussion of the dispersal of Catholic literature in post-Reformation
England tends to focus on the tenacity of recusants and ‘church papists’ in
perpetuating allegiance to Rome. Relatively little attention has been paid to
the extent to which Catholic texts, either in their original form or modified
for a Protestant readership, formed a part of the mainstream culture of the
reformed Church. This paper attempts to demonstrate the significance of
Catholic literature in the Protestant context by showing the range of
Protestant adaptations, the extent of Protestant readership and the
influences of Catholic literature on Protestant writers.
A Brief Historiography of Catholic Literature in Protestant England
A couple of decades ago, a fundamental reappraisal of the role of Catholics
and Catholicism in post-Reformation England began to take shape.
Notably, Duffy demonstrated the vitality of pre-Reformation Catholic
culture and the degree of popular resistance to Protestant reforms,1
Walsham brought into the limelight the hitherto largely overlooked crypto-
Catholics of later Tudor and early Stuart times,2 and Allison and Rogers
established the concept of an ‘English Counter-Reformation’.3 The
development of the concept of the ‘long Reformation’4 and a slew of
entries of recusants in ODNB are just two indications of the impact this
radical revisionism has had on perceptions of the period, and recognition of
‘the porous boundary between recusancy and [outward] conformism’5 has
informed the work of a generation of scholars Martin Havran, Judith
Maltby, Anthony Milton, Michael Questier and Alison Shell, to name but a
Much attention, too, has been paid to fleshing out our understanding of
the distribution of Catholic literature. The draconian measures that were
undeniably a feature of the period6 are tempered by recognition of the fact
that, despite the restrictions, Catholic books were widely disseminated:
‘Merchants sold Catholic works in their shops, and Catholics could even
purchase books publicly in places such as St. Pauls churchyard in
Alongside this more nuanced understanding of the dispersal of Catholic
literature in early modern England there is increasing recognition that it did
not circulate only among Catholics. McClain notes that ‘Even staunch
Protestants were caught reading Catholic books’,8 though her use of the
word ‘caught’ reflects a perception that (with the exception, perhaps, of
controversialists who read such texts in order to expose their errors and
condemn them) there were no legitimate contexts for Protestants to engage
in any way with the literature of the adversary, an assumption that underlies
Von Habsburg’s comment (with relation to a Protestant edition of the
Imitatio Christi) that ‘it might seem curious that Protestants should
translate a text which was known to have enjoyed widespread appeal within
monastic communities’.9 Basically, Catholic sources in Protestant England
tend to be mentioned in the context of a Catholic readership, a Catholic
attempt to win souls back from the Protestant cause, and an ongoing
Catholic culture. Haigh’s discussion of ‘Robert Parsons’s Christian
Directory and translations of Luis de Granada’, for example, places them in
the context of works ‘printed for Catholics’,10 ignoring their Protestant
incarnations, and, while Walsham does discuss the Protestant versions, she
too is basically concerned with ‘Post-Reformation English Catholics’.11
Protestant interest in such sources is broadly assumed either to indicate a
receptiveness to Catholicism among nominal or wavering Protestants, or to
be a springboard for refutation or retaliatory action. As Bozeman puts it:
Recusant translators and editors intended their works to serve English
Catholics…but they also hoped to influence Protestants. By making
available a…rich literature steeped in Catholic religious ideals, they
aimed to contribute to the reconversion of the English people…
Yet the currency of such books in Elizabethan and early Stuart times,
together with the dismal failure of the Counter Reformation in England,
suggests that their primary effect was to strengthen Protestant resources.
With specific reference to works by Parsons, Granada, and Loarte, the
Puritan editors of Rogers’s Seven Treatises 12 and the author himself saw
the work as inspired in part by the dangers of Catholic spiritual
By this analysis, on the one side, the function of Catholic literature was
to sustain Catholics and entice lukewarm Protestants, and on the other it
served to provoke Protestant (particularly puritan) divines into producing
their own works of devotion. Insofar as Protestant readers read Catholic
works with sympathy, it was because they were, at heart, uncommitted,
open to persuasion, likely to turn again to Rome should the occasion
present itself. The true upholders of the reformist spirit would see in such
literature only inherent dangers, against which they would take measures
by producing their own brand of devotional literature. Hudson, too, notes
Persons’ challenge to the Protestants to identify any one treatise…of
devotion, pietie and contemplation’ actually written by one of their own
creed,14 and sees in ‘The obvious popularity of Catholic works for
Protestant readers, such as Thomas Rogers’ translation of the De imitatione
Christi, Bunny’s edition of Persons’ First Book of Christian Exercise,
and…the Protestantizing of Luis de Granada’s Of Prayer and Meditation
an ‘apparent lacuna in the offerings of Protestant booksellers’, whose main
significance is that it prompted ‘puritan clerics in particular to address
themselves to this problem’.15
Although the underlying assumption is that, by and large, Catholic
literature was received positively only by recusants and crypto-Catholics,
Bozeman does indicate that adaptations of Catholic works could also serve
the Protestant interest, noting that ‘Richard Baxter’s encounter with
Bunny’s revision of Parsons’s Christian Exercise was a landmark in his
spiritual development’, and even (though he does not develop the full
implications of this point) says that, ‘Giving strong evidence of renewed
English interest in Catholic spirituality, conservative Protestants too
contributed to the devotional revival with expurgated editions of Catholic
works’.16 It is on this ‘English interest in Catholic spirituality’, not as a sign
of Protestant backsliding, nor as something which goaded Protestant
writers to produce their own brand of spiritual writings, but as a facet of
mainstream Protestant culture, that the present paper focuses.
Protestant Editions of Catholic Works
The Catholic sources that played a role in early modern Protestantism
can be broadly divided into three types patristic, medieval and post-
Reformation. The Protestant reformers early on legitimized their use of
patristic writings by arguing that the Catholic Church had begun to stray
from the true faith about a thousand years prior to the Reformation; works
written prior to that time, though they might contain ‘errors’, were
considered, on the whole, to be part of the ancient tradition that the
reformers were aiming to re-establish.17 This perception is adequately
reflected in modern scholarship. The Reception of the Church Fathers in
the West, for example, contains several chapters, notably those by Manfred
Schulz, Irena Backus, Johnnes Van Oort and E.P. Meijering, demonstrating
the centrality of patristic sources to the Reformation in general, while
Quantin’s chapter on ‘The Fathers in Seventeenth Century Anglican
Theology’18 gives an account of the role they played in post-Reformation
Even in this context of recognition of the role played the Church Fathers,
Augustine of Hippo stands out as a special case, and ‘the importance of
Augustine for the Reformation’19 is so striking that some mention of him is
more or less obligatory in any discussion of the topic.20 As Cook observes,
‘It is hotly Controverted betweene us and the Papists at this day, Whether
the Ancient Fathers, and especially St. Austin, was of their Religion or
ours’.21 Given that Augustine is so ubiquitously present in Protestant
England during this period,22 I will, by and large, leave his works out of
account in assessing the catholicity of the Protestants discussed in the
following pages.
The use by Protestants of medieval writers was somewhat more difficult
to justify, though, as Narveson puts it, the idea that they were ‘godly men
who erred in some things because they lived before the Reformation’ was
‘a commonplace among those Protestants willing to translate patristic and
medieval works’.23 In the words of the Quaker Robert Barclay:
Who can deny that Bernard and Bonaventure and Tauler and Thomas à
Kempis, and a number of others have tasted the love of God, and felt the
power of the Divine Spirit in themselves working towards their
salvation? Yet ought we not, therefore, to deny, reject and forsake those
superstitions in which they were steeped?24
Coverage of the relevance of such sources to English Protestantism is
somewhat patchy. Strehle looks at a wide range of medieval sources for the
European Reformation, noting the influence of, for example, Thomas
Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux on Luther, 25 but, apart from some
mention of William Perkins in connection with Scholastic Calvinism, says
little about England.26 Bozeman notes Richard Greenham’s references to
Bernard of Clairvaux, saying, ‘it would be rash to conclude that
[Greenham]...knew little of the voluminous post-patristic Catholic
theological and spiritual literature available in Latin and, increasingly after
about 1580, in English original or translation’.27 Bozeman also notes that
Thomas Rogers’ ‘Protestantized edition’ of the Imitation of Christ ‘was
reprinted sixteen times between 1580 and 1640’,28 and there has been some
significant research into à Kempis’ role in post-Reformation England.29
Nevertheless, the overall impression is that such sources are relegated to
little more than a footnote to the main narrative of religious reform.
Acknowledgement of Protestant use of contemporary Catholic literature
is even sparser. Anthony Milton cites Robert Abbot’s assertion that ‘we
forbeare not to turne & winde al Popish authors, either of former or latter
time, that what gold we can find in their dunghils, we may apply it to the
furnishing of the temple of the Lord’,30 and Bozeman acknowledges that
the Protestant movement by about 1580 possessed embarrassingly scant
resources...for spiritual edification and discipline. Nor had the
theologians of the presbyterian movement...made the recasting and
nurture of spirituality their priority. It is not therefore surprising that
those who did so drew both inspiration and material from Catholic
Maltby, too, concedes that ‘Christianity in its protestant forms’ is not ‘an
entirely different species from either medieval Christianity or the Roman
Catholicism shaped by the Counter Reformation’,32 and Bunny’s edition of
the Jesuit Robert Persons, while still generally dismissed as a piracy, 33 is
beginning to gain recognition as a ‘striking example’ of the ‘profound
continuities between Catholic and Protestant practices in the areas of
casuistry and personal piety’,34 a perception which has its roots in Louis
Martz’s seminal study.35 Ryrie, too, in his recent work on the daily life of
early modern Protestants, acknowledges the extent to which Catholic
sources played an important role in their lives.36
Overall, though, the idea that Catholic sources may have been of any
substantial significance to English Protestants continues to be overlooked,
or, at best, underplayed, by many modern scholars. Milton concedes that,
from late Tudor times on, ‘English Protestants were…making increasing
use of contemporary Roman devotional writers’, but limits his discussion
of Catholic sources to a few passing references to Bernard of Clairvaux,
Jeremias Drexel, Robert Persons, Francis de Sales and scarcely any others.
His discussion of ‘catholicity’37 focuses mainly on what Protestants thought
of Catholics, rather than on what they thought of themselves, with the
result that he does not really discuss the idea that ‘the religious protestants,
are in deed the right Catholiques’,38 that is, that Protestantism is the true
heir of the ‘ancient apostolic’ Catholicism of the early Church, in idea that
underpins the Protestant rationale for drawing on Catholic sources. He also
dismisses Joseph Hall’s The Olde Religion as ‘a conventional and
unremarkable piece of anti-papal writing’,39 brushing aside Hall’s basic
point that many Catholic doctrines were not intrinsic to the Catholic
Church in its original form but add-ons adopted at a later date
transubstantiation, half-communion, missal sacrifice, image-worship,
indulgences and purgatory, divine service in an unknown tongue,
sacramental confession, invocation of saints, seven sacraments, the doctrine
of traditions, the universal headship of the bishop of Rome, papal
infallibility, the pope’s superiority to councils, papal dispositions and
‘Popes domineering over Kings and Emperours’.40 For example, with
regard to the doctrine of transubstantiation, Hall observes that ‘the Laterane
Councell authorized it for a matter of faith, Anno 1215’, and half-
communion, finally ratified in the “Councell of Constance(1453), dated
back, as a custom, to ‘about the yeare of God 1260’.41
Hall’s arguments are admittedly of variable validity; for example, it was
indeed the Lateran Council which sanctioned the label of
‘transubstantiation’, but the doctrine itself goes back to Cyril and Ambrose
and other Fathers of the Church. Nevertheless, Hall’s work is the most
exhaustive treatment of an approach that is ultimately, perhaps, based on
Bullinger (‘the christen faith…hath endured sens the beginnyng of the
worlde’ and ‘al vertuous men haue pleased God, and wer saued through the
Christen fayth’)42 and forms the basis for such works as Josias Nicholls,
Abrahams Faith: that is, The Olde Religion (London, 1602), and Richard
Baxter, A Key for Catholicks (London, 1659).43 This line of argument was
an important justification for Protestant use of Catholic sources, leading
people like Edmund Bunny, Thomas Rogers and Frances Meres to find
nuggets of ‘true’ piety in Catholic literature, despite an avalanche of
reforms, each of which had systematically, from their point of view, turned
the medieval Church further away from its original form and intention.
In their own eyes, Protestant editors of Catholic texts were showing ‘an
honest Impartiality and Freedom of Temper, and a Love for Piety wherever
it is found’,44 but this is not, in general, how they are perceived through the
lens of modern scholarship. Despite Bunny’s edition of Persons being
probably the most popular work of religious devotion of its time, little
attempt has been made to evaluate its impact on Protestant readers of (a
point I return to later on), while the only in-depth study of the influence of
Luis de Granada in England was published in Germany some 80 years ago
and has never been translated into English.45 Bozeman, in attempting to
convey a sense of the dispersal of Catholic literature for a Protestant
readership, acknowledges (as mentioned above) the sixteen Protestant
editions of the Imitation of Christ, as well as ‘thirty-two editions [of
Persons’ Christian Exercise] between 1584 and 1639’, but spoils it by
noting of Luis de Granada only that ‘Frances Meres’s translation of…
Sinners Guyde went through two London editions’,46 overlooking the nine
editions of the Protestant adaptation of the Catholic Richard Hopkins’
translation of Of Prayer and Meditation (the first being published in
London in 1592) and several other Protestant editions of Luis de Granada’s
work The Sinners Guyde (London, 1598), Granados Devotion (London,
1598), Granada’s Spirituall and Heauenlie Exercises (London, 1598), and A
most Fragrant Flower or Deuout Exposition of the Lords Praier (London,
1598). Between them, these editions probably make the Dominican Luis de
Granada second in popularity only to the Jesuit Robert Persons among late
Tudor and early Stuart Protestant readers of devotional literature, who
might in addition have had on their shelves, not only works by the Church
Fathers, or à Kempis and other medieval divines, but also Protestant
editions of works by such contemporary Catholic writers as Miguel de
Comalada, Jeremias Drexel, Diego de Estella, Francis de Sales, Cristóbal
de Fonseca, Antonio de Guevara, Gaspar de Loarte and Andrés de Soto.
Taken in their entirety, these texts comprise a sizeable body of largely
neglected work. Modern scholarship has perhaps gone beyond the
‘gentleman’s agreement to stop short of disputed territory’ that
characterized commentators of an earlier generation,47 but the Protestant
use of Catholic literature, whether adapted for a Protestant readership or in
its original form, still tends to fall between ideological cracks. Scholars of
the Counter-Reformation are, on the whole, not concerned with what
Protestants were reading, while those of the Reformation tend to dismiss
Protestants who read Catholic literature as nominal or backsliding
Protestants, and Protestants who adapted Catholic literature for a Protestant
readership as plagiarists whose efforts are beneath serious consideration.
The first step towards rehabilitating these works and showing that, while
they may be marginalized, they are not entirely marginal, is to demonstrate
that, by and large, they were indeed published by Protestants for
Protestants, not as part of the continuing dispersal of literature designed to
win souls back to Catholicism. The second step is to see them in the
broader context of Catholic literature’s Protestant readership. And the third
is to demonstrate that Catholic literature as a whole made a significant and
traceable impact on the works of orthodox English writers.
Protestant Editors of Catholic Texts
What kind of people, then, translated or adapted Catholic literature for a
Protestant readership? Simply asking the question pulls into the limelight a
number of figures who would otherwise attract little attention. Behind the
‘unremarkable Elizabethan clerical career of Thomas Rogers, for example,
lies the tale of a man who, in addition to several original works, ‘Between
1577 and 1592…produced no fewer than twelve separate translations’ and,
‘Although a stout protestant, his tastes were catholic in the true sense of
that word’.48 His Protestant translations include the work of ‘a Protestant
divine named Sheltco à Geveren [who] adapted a Talmudic passage about
the six-thousand year duration of history’,49 along with the Lutherans Niels
Hemmingsen and Johann Habbermann, the humanist Joannes Rivius and
Philippus Caesar’s third century condemnation of usury, but he also
translated à Kempis’ Of the Imitation of Christ (London, 1580), the
Franciscan Diego de Estella’s A Methode vnto Mortification (London,
1586), and several suppositious works of Augustine.
Rogers’ translation of à Kempis contains an ‘Epistle concerning the
translation and correction of this Booke’, in which he defends his work,
saying, ‘neither is my doing for noueltie strange; nor am I (as I trust) to be
reproued therefore’, which implies that not all his contemporaries would
approve of his endeavour. He also demonstrates his meticulousness in
weeding out anything that ‘might be offensiue to the godlie’.50 These
themes recur in the epistle dedicatory of A Methode vnto Mortification,
which contains a spirited defence of Rogers’ choice of a Catholic text and
of his expurgation of the ‘superstition’ therein (which he relegates to an
appendix at the back of the book), and in which he defends himself from
attack by both Catholics and Protestants:
I thinke it verie necessarie some-thing to saie in this place, that neither
the 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, subiect, and substance of the booke is
such, as…al the wisest of both sides doe agree in’, he says, ‘me thinkes
the circumstance of persons is not to be regarded’.51
He also justifies using a Catholic source by pointing out that Augustine
favoured taking from the Greek and Roman philosophers whatever did not
offend against Christian doctrine, and that Catholics also edited and
adapted texts – even, occasionally, Protestant ones.52
Rogers’ original writings are all very clearly Protestant works. Notable
among them is The English Creede (two parts, London, 1585 and 1587),
which was reprinted several times, and in which he asserts the
conformability of the Church of England ‘with the true, auncient,
catholique, and apostolique church’.53 An Historical Dialogue Touching
Antichrist and Poperie (London, 1589), written in the wake of the Spanish
Armada and in response to the appellant controversy, is virulently anti-
Catholic, with Rogers indulging in the standard ‘Whore of Babylon’
rhetoric of the day and dedicating himself to ‘the bringing of this…most
impudent harlot…into a common hatred’.54 In Miles Christianus (London,
1590), a response to what Rogers took to be a slight by Miles Mosse (in the
preface to Edward Dering’s A Short Catechisme for Housholders), he
discourses on the errors of the papists in their insistence on the visible
church (‘the faithfull people…are of the Catholike Church, yet are not the
faithfull people the Catholike Church’), and notes that no Christians prior
to the Reformation, whether ‘Schoolemen, Heretikes, or Fathers…were
frée altogether from errors, and ill opinions’.55
There is, of course, some possibility that, at certain points in his career,
Rogers was trimming in order to salvage his position, but it is also perfectly
possible to see his very disparate output as conformable with a single
coherent point of view: the visible church of Rome is a whore, leading its
followers into error, and yet, within, but not completely smothered by the
whore, the true Christian spirit – falteringly, and encumbered with errors –
nevertheless survives and, where found, should be recognized and
If Rogers were writing in any way in the Catholic interest, he would, of
course, not say so, so some examination of the context of his translations is
necessary in order to determine whether he really was, as Craig has it, ‘a
stout protestant’. A fairly wide variety of printers were involved in the
production of Rogers’ editions of Catholic works, but the main ones (Henry
Denham, John Windet and John Wolfe) are not known for any Catholic
sympathies or for printing works in the Catholic interest. It would appear,
too, that he was, in part, guided by the advice of his printers; in a prefatory
epistle to Of the Imitation of Christ he says, ‘whatsoeuer I haue done, was
taken in hand at the motion of the Printer hereof’ (that is, Henry Denham)
and praises Denham’s ‘zeale to set forth good bookes for the aduancement
of virtue, and care to publish them as they ought to be’.56 Equally, the
dedicatees of his Catholic editions (Thomas Bromley, Lord Chancellor, two
justices of the peace for the county of Suffolk and Thomas Wilson, doctor
of civil law) appear to be of impeccable Protestant orthodoxy. Wilson, in
particular, was involved in the examination of Catholics suspected as
traitors, and was hardly someone to whom a Catholic sympathizer would
have dedicated his work.
Rogers’ wider circle of associates throws into relief the shifting nature of
religious allegiances in the England of those days. In his early days he
apparently harboured radical Protestant sympathies, though these had
mellowed by the 1560s, a development that would appear to be compatible
with the fact that he was at some stage chaplain to Christopher Hatton and
Richard Bancroft. The career of the former was plagued by ‘recurrent
rumours of his Catholic sympathies’, but, ‘Whatever his private views, in
public life he denounced the pope’ and worked ‘within the framework of
the Elizabethan settlement’ and was a favourite of the queen, while the
latter, who was obliquely accused of ‘insufficiency in taking action against
the publication of popish books’, went on to become Archbishop of
Canterbury and proved himself in the years following the Gunpowder Plot
to be ‘implacable in his opposition to the papists’.57 Despite the doubt
surrounding Hatton’s private sympathies, it seems unlikely, based on what
little we know of his circle, that dalliance with Catholicism formed any
significant part of Rogers’ religious outlook.
Edmund Bunny, the puritan editor of Robert Persons’ The First Booke of
the Christian Exercise Appertayning to Resolution (Rouen: Robert Persons’
Press, 1582), falls under even less suspicion of harbouring Catholic
sympathies. Working as he was ‘in a region in which Catholicism
continued to have a strong hold’, Bunny ‘thought that a protestant version
might serve equally well in inducing…church papists to give up their
attachment to the Catholic mission’.58 Far from pandering to a readership
with Catholic sympathies, he explicitly sought to win them over to the
Protestant cause.
Bunny’s other works, which include a reply to Persons, are also
incontrovertibly Protestant; The Whole Summe of Christian Religion is
avowedly Calvinistic59 and most of the rest is biblical exegesis. The various
editions of Christian Exercise were handled by too many printers to
mention here, but there is nothing in the history of the printers of the first
edition (Ninian Newton and Arnold Hatfield) that would suggest they
might publish in the interest either of overt or covert Catholics, and still
less cause for suspicion in the life and career of the ‘robustly anti-
Catholic’60 Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, to whom Bunny dedicated
Christian Exercise.
Francis Meres, the other editor of Catholic texts for Protestants who has
been mentioned so far in these pages, translated the works of Luis de
Granada, probably from the Latin translation of Michael ab Isselt,61 and
published them as The Sinners Guyde (London: J. Roberts, 1598),
Granados Deuotion (London: E. Allde, 1598) and Granados Spirituall and
Heauenlie Exercises (London: J. Roberts, 1598). Unlike Rogers or Bunny,
both of whom show themselves to be acutely aware of the issues involved
in producing a Catholic edition of a Protestant work, Meres merely
addresses Captain John Sammes, to whom he dedicated the last of these
works, with the words, ‘I present these diuine and celestiall meditations
vnto your VVorship, which, vnder the title of your protection, may doe as
much good in England, as they haue done in Spayne, Portugall, Italy,
Fraunce, and Germanie’,62 breezily ignoring the fact that these editions
were for a Catholic readership. His only attempt to vouch for ‘the soundnes
of the doctrine’ in these works is in the epistle dedicatory to Thomas
Egerton in The Sinners Guyde, in which he says it is ‘warranted by the
authority of the holie Scriptures’.63
Granados Deuotion is Meres’ translation of Libro de la Oración, the first
part of which had already appeared both in Richard Hopkins’ Catholic
translation, Of Prayer and Meditation (Paris: T. Brumeau, 1582), and in the
anonymously-edited Protestant version of Hopkins’ work (London: for T.
Gosson and J. Perin, 1592), which carries a dedication to Ferdinando
Stanley, couched in equally insouciant terms concerning the matter of
publishing a Catholic text:
How nobly it hath been countenanced in the impressions of Latine,
Spanish, Italian and French, the editions in all those Languages remaine
to witness: now then at last in English it receiues no iote of
disaduantage, being stamped in the fore-head with your most noble
This 1592 edition omits the treatise on consideration, with which Hopkins’
translation opens (though this is included in editions from 1599 on), and is
basically a series of prayers, or meditations, for the morning and evening of
every day of the week. In addition to expunging all specifically Catholic
references, such as to making the sign of the cross, and giving scriptural
references to the Tyndale Bible, this edition gives out all the morning
meditations in the evening and vice versa, but otherwise is lifted wholesale
from Hopkins.
Meres’ translation is of the second part of Libro de la Oración, dealing in
depth with the concept of devotion, of the things which encourage and
promote devotion, those which impede and hinder it, divine consolation,
despair, and so on. Meres is known for his euphuistic style, at its height in
Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury (London: P. Short for C. Burbie, 1598), and
his epistles dedicatory to Granada’s works are laced with classical
allusions, praising the author for ‘the honnyed sweetnes of his celestiall
ayre’ and the ‘supernaturall and heauenly treasures in him’.65
The lack of reference to doctrinal issues may indicate nothing more than
a desire, on Meres’ part, to emphasize personal piety and bypass religious
controversies. However, the dedication of The Sinners Guyde to Thomas
Egerton pulls Meres into a curious network of relationships. In his youth,
Egerton was ‘caught up in a notorious Catholic circle’, but ‘as a law officer
of the crown in the 1580s he necessarily laid aside any youthful sympathies
for the Catholic cause’ and ‘became heavily involved in the prosecution of
recusants and Jesuits’. Meanwhile, Ferdinando Stanley (to whom the
anonymously-edited Protestant version of Of Prayer and Meditation was
dedicated), a suspected crypto-Catholic, was regarded as a possible heir to
the throne, and when he was made Earl of Derby in 1593 Catholic plotters
sent Richard Hesketh to try to persuade him to seize the throne. Stanley,
however, betrayed Hesketh and, though he hoped to be rewarded for his
loyalty by being offered the post of Lord Chamberlain of Chester, this was
offered instead to Egerton. The embittered Stanley sickened and died some
months later, giving rise to rumours that he had been poisoned by Jesuits,
and Egerton married his widow. 66
The unworldly and devotional Libro de la Oración sits in curious
juxtaposition to the interwoven careers of its patrons, which, on the face of
it, were driven by expediency and ‘career-Protestantism’. Despite their
dalliances, however, neither Stanley nor Egerton could be accused of
promoting the Catholic cause. On the contrary, they betrayed any Catholic
allegiances they may have had, and the fact that Meres and the anonymous
Protestant editor of Hopkins’ translation were associated with them
reinforces the impression gained from the lives and careers of Rogers and
Bunny. Finally, Gosson and Perrin, the printers of the 1592 Protestant
edition of Of Prayer and Meditation, were defendants in a case brought by
Richard Day for infringement of patent of devotional works,67 while
Richard Smith, who printed the second edition together with Gosson, was
involved in the unauthorized and anonymous publication of sermons by
Lancelot Andrewes.68 Pirating a Catholic work can be seen as an act of
opportunism; it can scarcely be seen as in the Catholic interest.
Further enquiry into the Protestants who translated, edited and published
editions of Catholic texts will add more details to the picture, but will not
change it fundamentally. A few, like James Mabbe and Henry Vaughan,
may have harboured Catholic or Anglo-Catholic sympathies.69 Overall,
though, their efforts belong firmly to the culture and spirit of Protestant
England, and it is in that context that they need to be evaluated.
Catholic Texts and Protestant Readers
Richard Baxter recommends to Protestant readers a wide range of
medieval and contemporary Catholic literature Bernaud, Gerson,
Gerhardus Zutphaniensis, Sales, Kempis, Thauleros, Benedictus de
Benedictis Regula Vitae; Barbanson, Ferus, the Oratorians, and in English,
The Interior Christian, Parsons of Resolution, Baker, the Life of Nerius,
and of Mr. de Renti, and other such’. By stressing that he does not
encourage ‘any raw ungrounded Protestants to cast themselves on the
Temptation of Popish Company or Books’70 he indicates that he considers
this material suitable for Protestants who are strong in their faith, and,
indeed, library lists of the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods
demonstrate that Catholic texts, in one form or another, were quite
frequently read by committed Protestants. I begin here with some
comments on the readership of Protestant adaptations, contrasting it with
that of the original Catholic texts where possible, before moving on to the
issue of Protestant readers of unexpurgated Catholic texts.
Lists of the period are often vague in their identification of specific
editions, but it appears that Christian Exercise, Bunny’s edition of Persons,
was owned by Edward Higgins, of Brasenose College, Oxford (d. 1588),71
William Mitchell, of Queens College, Oxford (d. 1599),72 and Richard
Stonely, an official at Elizabeth’s court (d. 1600),73 all three of whom also
owned substantial numbers of Protestant works, along with a small number
of Catholic or pre-Reformation titles. It also seems almost certain that the
politician and baronet Roger Townshend (d. 1637) owned copies of ‘both
the Roman and the Protestant’74 versions of Resolution. Certainly, he
owned the latter, in addition to several other works by Persons.75
Townshend, a favourite of King James,76 had a lively interest in such
subjects as the need for Catholics to take the Oath of Allegiance, and
owned a substantial number of works by both Catholic and Protestant
writers. The likelihood is that readers such as these accepted Bunny’s
edition as a suitable work for Protestants.
In general, whereas the recorded owners of Bunny’s Protestant edition
appear themselves to be Protestants, the owners of Persons’ original text
were recusant Catholics. The recusant schoolmaster John Slade owned a
copy,77 as did the Catholic loyalist Thomas Tresham,78 the conspirator
Anthony Babington,79 and Elizabeth and Bridget Brome.80 Tresham also
owned two copies of the Catholic edition of Of Prayer, and Meditation,81 a
copy of which was also owned by the Bromes.82 Once again, the pattern of
ownership suggests that Catholics read Catholic editions, and Protestants
read Protestant adaptations; Townshend owned Meres’ translation,
Granados Devotion,83 and probably also A Paradise of Praiers,84 a
Protestant selection from Granada’s writings, while Jean Loiseau de
Tourval, a French Huguenot living in England, also probably owned a
Protestant edition of Of Prayer and Meditation.85 The two PLRE entries for
the Protestant edition of Diego de Estella, A Methode unto Mortification,
also indicate Protestant owners (Edward Higgins86 and the disgraced teller
of the exchequer, Richard Stonely87), and the pattern of Protestant
ownership of Protestant adaptations can be seen in the libraries of the
ejected puritan minister Thomas Lye, the politician John Salusbury, and
Benjamin Furly, a Quaker merchant in Rotterdam, all of whom owned
copies of Giles Randall’s A Bright Starre (a translation of the third part of
Benet Canfield’s The Rule of Perfection, which in turn is based largely on
Walter Hilton’s The Cloud of Unknowing).88
Although the broad pattern of ownership suggests that Protestant
editions of Catholic works were almost invariably owned and read by
Protestants, there are examples of Protestant ownership of Catholic editions
even though a Protestant adaptation did actually exist. Notably, the
antiquarian and religious controversialist Sir Edward Dering owned a copy
of Francis of Sales’ An Introduction to a Devoute Life, translated by the
Catholic John Yakesley (London: N. and J. Oakes, 1637). Oakes had
brought out an expurgated edition in 1616 (London: N. Oakes for W.
Burre), but this time it seems he published ‘without regard to the censor’s
cuts’, and the work was ordered to be recalled and burned.89 Although
Dering was noted for his anti-Catholicism90 he owned a number of recusant
works, including several copies of works by Persons91 (though it seems he
did not have either Resolution or Bunny’s adaptation of it), and Nicholas
Caussin,92 which he presumably read, not for spiritual edification, but in
order to understand his enemy.
Mitchell’s library suggests that he, too, perhaps approached Catholic
texts from a militantly Protestant point of view; his English titles include
more controversialist works, such as John Whitgift and Thomas Cartwright,
The Defense of the Aunswere, John Rainolds and John Hart, The Summe
of the Conference (an account of the exchanges between the reformist
Rainolds and the Jesuit Hart), and Andrew Willet, Synopsis Papismi, that
is, a Generall Viewe of Papistry,93 along with a number of Protestant
commentaries on the Bible.94Among his Latin books are numerous
reformist works and a sprinkling of Catholic ones, notably the Rheims New
Testament, Robert Bellarmine’s Disputationes de controversiis christianae
fidei, Francisco Melchor Cano’s De locis theologicis, and some Latin
commentaries on Aquinas.95 The fact that he probably owned a copy of
William Perkins’ A Reformed Catholike 96 suggests that he may have had an
interest in the extent to which Roman and Reformed Catholics were both
similar and different.
To some extent, any Protestant reader of Catholic works would have
been on the lookout for things with which to disagree. However, Higgins,
whose shelves were filled mainly with reformist literature, but also
contained a fair number of works on a wide variety of subjects, appears less
interested in controversialist literature, and perhaps read principally for
edification. His library, too, was mostly in Latin, but, in addition to the
Protestant editions of Persons and Estella already noted, his vernacular
books include a number of solidly reformist works, such as the Lutheran
Juan Perez de Pineda’s An Excelent Comfort to all Christians, the puritan
John Prime’s The Fruitefull and Briefe Discourse, and the 1586 edition of
An Harmony of the Confessions of the Faith of the Christian and Reformed
Churches.97 Among his Latin books there are a few Catholic works, such as
Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and the Rheims New Testament,98
but nothing that stands out as particularly contentious.
And there were others, like the soldier and politician Henry Sibthorp
who, though clearly Protestant in their allegiances, took an interest in
Catholic literature.99 Townshend, in addition to the works already
mentioned, owned Robert Bellarmine, De ascensione mentis in Deum,
Luis de Granada, Vita Christi and Pierre Charron, Of Wisdom.100 Like
Mitchell, he also owned a copy of Perkins, A Reformed Catholike.101
Ultimately, though, while library lists allow us to see what people
read, most of the time we can only speculate on why they read Catholic
works or what they made of them. Readers who mainly owned Protestant
books, did not overly concern themselves with controversialist issues,
owned a sprinkling of Catholic works and are not otherwise known to have
had either Catholic or anti-Catholic sympathies, may have been
sympathetic, or at least tolerant, readers of Catholic texts, but hard
evidence remains elusive. At the very least, though, we can say that there
were was a fair number of readers who, while they were, to all
appearances, staunch Protestants, took a keen interest in Catholic literature,
whether in Protestant editions or in unexpurgated Catholic ones.
The Influence of Catholic Literature on English Protestant Writers
As Houliston observes, Persons’ work, mostly in its Protestant guise, was
highly influential over a broad cross-section of English society. In addition
to being the obvious choice’ for Middleton to use as an example of a
devotional work that his audience would recognize, it comforted Robert
Greene on his deathbed, garnered praise from Thomas Nashe, provoked
John Harington to justify his translation of Orlando Furioso, brought about
the conversion of the young Richard Baxter, was praised for its style by
Protestants as far apart in time and character as Gabriel Harvey and
Jonathan Swift, and exercised a powerful influence on John Donne.102
Shakespeare, too, makes a punning reference to Persons, though it is not
clear whether he used the Protestant version or the Catholic, and several
scholars have noted passages in which Shakespeare owes an apparent debt
to Persons.103
Exercise stands out as ‘the most popular devotional work to appear in
English before 1560’,104 but it is by no means an isolated case. Its closest
rival was the Protestant version of Granada’s Of Prayer and Meditation,
and between them they dominated the market in devotional literature
during the late Tudor and early Stuart periods. Hagedorn devotes a dozen
pages to Granada’s influence on Francis Meres, John Donne, Henry
Vaughan, Thomas Browne and the Elizabethan drama.105 However, the
most sustained reference to Granada is by Francis Trigge, an anti-Catholic
controversialist and a Church of England clergyman with pronounced
puritan leanings. Trigge acknowledges that ‘…as Saint Paul also had some
friends in Caesars house…now hath the Gospell some friends among the
Popes traine, and that in no smal matters’. At the same time he bemoans the
fact that they are working for the other side: ‘There is no one thing…doth
so dazell the eyes of a great nũber, that…keeps th stil in the obedience of
the Church of Rome: as the reading of Granatensis, Stella, Ferus,
Philippus de diez, & such like’, he says, maintaining that ‘in the principall
points of religion they ioyne hands with vs’.106 He draws on Catholic
sources with fervent approval, particularly Diego de Estella and Luis de
Granada, both of whom he cites dozens of times, saying of the latter’s
writings, ‘I would to God these Meditations could sinke into our hearts’.107
The number of references Trigge makes to such sources is
exceptional, but Protestant use of Catholic sources in itself was not
unusual. Estella is cited with approval by, among others, Thomas Morton
(1609), John Donne (1610), Miles Mosse (1614), Robert Mandevill (1619),
Thomas Bedford (1621), William Harrison (1625), Thomas James (1625),
Robert Bayfield (1629), Francis Meres (1634), Simon Birkbeck (1635),
William Prynne (1655), William Guild (1656), Edward Leigh (1656) and
Thomas Pierce (1663), while those citing Luis de Granada include Robert
Wilmot (1601), Henoch Clapham (1609), John Boys (1610), Miles Mosse
(1614), Alexander Roberts (1614), Robert Burton (1621), James
Wadsworth (1624), Robert Baron (1633), William Sclater (1639 and 1653),
William Bridge (1642), John Cotton (1656), Stephen Jerome (1631),
Samuel Otes (1633), Edward Leigh (1656), William Towers (1654),
Richard Ward (1655), Thomas Hall (1658), Jeremy Taylor (1667), John
Wilson (1678) and Gilbert Burnet (1692). Similar (or, in some cases,
longer) lists could be compiled for Bernard of Clairvaux, Jeremias Drexel,
Francis de Sales, Jean de Charlier de Gerson, Thomas à Kempis, John
Thauler, Johann Wild (Ferus) and other Catholics.
While some Catholic writers, such as Persons and Robert Bellarmine,
were as frequently cited in order to contradict them as in support of them,
and not infrequently one Catholic writer is cited in confutation of another,
there are very few negative references to writers such as those mentioned in
the previous paragraph. To take Luis de Granada as an example, Stephen
Egerton recommends Rogers’ Seven Treatises (an early puritan competitor
for the market in devotional literature) with the words, ‘Reade it…and thou
shalt finde…more true light and direction to a true deuout and holy life,
then in all the Resolutions of the Iesuiticall Father Parsons…meditations of
Frier Granatensis, or any Popish Directories whatsoeuer’.108 Rogers
himself makes a similar derogatory comment elsewhere,109 as does the
Protestant convert Richard Sheldon.110 But these are the exceptions; nearly
all the references are positive, and most of them occur in a devotional,
rather than a controversialist, context.
The significance of Catholic sources to Protestant divines is well
illustrated by Thomas Barlow’s posthumously-published catalogue of
recommended reading for Anglican divines. He lists a significant number
of Catholic texts, both before and after the Reformation, and observes
…of the Schoolmen, (and of Popish Casuists and Commentators too,
especially those before Luther) that when they speak of Moral Duties,
and those things which are within the compass of Natural Reason, to
know and judge of, we shall find many things well, and some very
acutely said.
Alongside the praise there is also criticism, and he goes on to speak of the
Catholics’ ‘Ignorance of Tongues and Antiquity, and consequently of the
meaning of Scripture…besides their being inslav’d to maintain all the
Errors and Superstitions of Rome’. 111 Nevertheless, he finds much of value
in Catholic writings. It is perhaps not surprising that he calls the Catholic
reformist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (Jacob Faber Stapulensis) ‘an Honest
and Sober Papist’, but he also acknowledges Johann Wild as ‘a Pious
Papist’, Siméon Marotte de Muis as ‘the best Popish Writer on the Psalms’,
Willem Hessels van Est (Estius) as ‘one of the best Popish Writers’ on the
Epistles, and says of Peter Lombard, ‘in many things Honest Peter is no
Papist’.112 He recommends the works of such writers as Cajetán (Gaetano
dei Conti di Tiene), Francisco Suárez, Thomas Aquinas and Gabriel
Vasquez .
Just as Cranmer upholds that which was ‘euer the olde fayth of the
catholike churche, vntyll the Papistes inuented a newe fayth’,113 and Abbot
avers that there is nothing farther f Catholicisme th Popery is’,114 so
Barlow draws a distinction between Catholicism and ‘popery’, describing
himself elsewhere as ‘a Real Catholick of the Church of England’.115 His
selection of Catholic reading matter is sharply divided between works
which are Catholic but not ‘popish’ (and may therefore be recommended)
and those which are to be condemned, but should nevertheless be read,
simply because it is a divine’s responsibility to know what are those
erroneous Opinions which our Enemies and the Church’s hold’.116
Theologically, the argument was that ‘real’ Catholicism could and did
survive, even in the Church of Rome; ‘God hathe in all times, yea euen in
the middest of moste wicked Papistrie, had his electe. So euen then, as
likewise nowe’.117 As Baxter puts it:
our Religion was at first with the Apostles…and for divers hundred years
after, it was with the universal Christian Church: And since Romes
usurpation, it was even with the Romanists though abused, and with the
greater part of the Catholick Church that renounced Popery then, and so
do now.118
This served early modern Protestants both as a reassurance that ‘many of
our forefathers, & ancestors in the midst of popery obtained eternall life’119
and as a justification for drawing on Catholic sources:
notwithstanding the great and deserved aversion which this Nation has to
Popery, yet the Books of Their Divines upon Devotional and Practical
subjects have met with as favourable reception among us, as if the
Authors had been of a better Religion.120
Nicholls’ comment cannot be taken completely at face value; in 1637
a Protestant edition of the same work to which he prefaces his comment
(François de Sales’ An Introduction to a Devout Life) was ordered to be
burned by the English authorities,121 and there were always those, like the
converted Catholic Robert Sheldon, who would denounce ‘such as dare
secretly muster and mussitate; Rome and the Reformed Churches agree in
the substance of Religion, that there is no fundamentall difference between
them and us’.122 At the same time, many other Protestant editions of
Catholic works were not burned, and the ‘mussitating’ Sheldon speaks of
was not secret but printed openly throughout this period, at least when it
came to asserting the substantial areas of faith in which ‘the wisest of both
sides doe agree’.123 It is Sheldon, not those he is commenting on, who is the
extremist here.124
Finally, mention needs to be made of the covert dispersal of Catholic
literature through textual piracy. Baxter observes that, ‘If an esteemed
Minister should Preach part of The Interior Christian.125 or such another
book, and not tell his hearers whose it was…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’.126 While he is speaking putatively, others
demonstrate the substantial truth of what he says. Henry Smith, for
example, systematically plagiarized Robert Persons, The Christian
Directorie: Guiding Men to their Salvation (Rouen: Father Persons’ Press,
1585), a revised and expanded edition of The First Booke of the Christian
Exercise Appertayning to Resolution (Rouen: Robert Persons’ Press,
1582),127 while the following extracts give clear evidence of textual
indebtedness to Bunny’s edition of Persons’ work in a seventeenth-century
Protestant sermon:
And first of al, it is to be noted, that there be two judgements appointed
after death; wherof the one is called particular; wherby ech man
presently upon his departure from this world, receaveth particular
sentence, either of punishment, or of glorie, according to his deeds in
this life (as Christs own words are) wherof we have examples in
Lazarus, and the rich glutton, who were presently caried the one to pain,
the other to rest…The other judgment is called general, for that it shal be
of al men togither in the end of the world, where shal a final sentence be
pronounced (either of reward or punishment) upon al men that ever
lived, according to the works which they have done, good or bad, in this
life: and afterward never more question be made of altering their estate:
that is, of easing the pain of the one, or ending the glorie of the other.128
(Christian Exercise, 41-2)
You must know that after death there are two judgements;
There is a particular, and there is a general Judgement.
The particular Judgement is immediately, as soon as ever the breath is
gone out of the body…we have example for the proof of it in Scripture,
of Dives and Lazarus, the one whereof being dead, was presently carried
to joy, the other presently to torment.
The other is a general judgement; so called, because it shall be of all
men in general that ever lived…all must give an account of all their
words, thoughts and actions: all must receive the sentence either of,
Come ye blessed, or, go ye cursed. After which sentence once
pronounced, there shall never question be made of the end of the joy of
the one, or the ease of the torments of the other.129
There have been a few scholarly articles in which plagiarism of this kind is
brought to light (Milton notes papers by Birrell, Blom and Allison130) but
there is clearly much more to be done before it can be ascertained whether
such borrowings are merely curiosities at the margins of Protestant
literature or indications of a more profound and systematic debt.
In order to evaluate claims that Catholic sources permeated significantly
into Protestant England it is necessary to substantiate these claims
systematically and quantify the extent to which to which they are true.
From the foregoing, it is clear that, by and large, Protestant editions of
Catholic works were published by committed Protestants in the Protestant
interest, not as a way of tempting wavering Protestants back to Rome; that
the readers of such editions were mainly committed Protestants; that a fair
number of committed Protestants also read unexpurgated Catholic works,
sometimes in order to disagree, but also, quite often, for edification; and
that a significant number of Protestant divines drew substantially on the
broader Catholic tradition in their own writings. There remains much more
to be said on this subject, and if the present paper helps to convey a sense
of the size and complexity of the terrain and encourage others to explore it
further it will not have failed in its purpose.
Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain T.D. Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary
Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to
1638 (Williamsburg, VA: UNC Press Books, 2004).
Christian Exercise Robert Persons (or Parsons), A Booke of Christian
Exercise Apertaining to Resolution, by R.P. Perused,
& Accompanied with a Treatise Tending to
Pacification, by E[dmund] Bunny (Oxford: John
Barnes, 1585).
Milton, Catholic and Reformed Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed: The
Roman and Protestant Churches in English
Protestant Thought, 1600-1640 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995).
ODNB Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,
PLRE R.J. Fehrenbach, J.L. Black, and E.S. Leedham-
Green, Private Libraries in Renais sance England,
Walsham, Church Papists Alexandra Walsham, Church Papists: Catholicism,
Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early
Modern England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1993;
revised edition, 1999).
Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992).
2 Walsham, Church Papists.
3 A.F. Allison and D.M. Rogers, The Contemporary Printed Literature of the English Counter-Reformation between
1558 and 1640 (2 vols., Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989 and 1994).
4 Nicholas Tyecke, ed., England’s Long Reformation: 1500-1800 (London: UCL Press, 1998).
5 Walsham, Church Papists, p, 16.
6 See for example Alison Shell’s graphic account of the prohibition, burning and expurgation of Catholic texts in ‘Anti-
Catholic Prejudice in the 17th-Century Book Trade’, in Robin Myers and Michael Harris, eds., Censorship and the
Control of Print in England and France, 1600-1910 (Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, 1992, 33-58), p. 35.
7 Lisa McClain, Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant
England, 1559-1642 (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), p. 53. McClain goes on to say thatSome individuals
sold such works privately from their homes or bequeathed them in their wills... Priests also delivered books... Catholics
frequently lent their own books to others, and copied printed books by hand... Books were sent into prisons and across
the country to friends and relatives... And often, when...searchers found Catholic books...they would fine the Catholic
for possessing the books but then sell the books back to the Catholic and pocket the profit’ (ibid.).
8 Ibid., p. 53.
9 Maximilian Von Habsburg, Catholic and Protestant Translations of the Imitatio Christi, 1425-1650: From Late
Medieval Classic to Early Modern Bestseller (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011), p. 10.
10 Christopher Haigh, ‘The Continuity of Catholicism in the English Reformation’, Past & Present, 93 (1981), p. 66.
11 Walsham, ‘“Domme Preachers”?’ See also Walsham, Church Papists.
12 Richard Rogers, Seuen Treatises (London: Felix Kyngston, for Thomas Man and Robert Dexter, 1603).
13 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, pp. 66-7. See the final section of this paper for evidence that Rogers and his
editors were very much in a minority in seeing Catholic writers such as these as a ‘danger’.
14 Robert Persons, The First Booke of the Christian Exercise Appertayning to Resolution (Rouen: Robert Persons’
Press, 1582), fo. 9r. While I refer to him (following ODNB) as Persons throughout, he is also known as Parsons, and
where I cite from sources that refer to him as such I have retained the original spelling.
15 E.K. Hudson, ‘The Catholic Challenge to Puritan Piety, 1580-1620’, The Catholic Historical Review, 77.1 (1991):
pp. 8-9.
16 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, pp. 67 and 76.
17 For English Protestants, John Jewel’s ‘Challenge Sermon’ (November, 1559) was obviously crucial in this respect.
18 Jean-Louis Quantin, in Irena Backus and Antoinina Bevan, eds., The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West:
From the Carolingians to the Maurists (2 vols., Leiden: Brill, 1996), pp. 987-1007.
19 Mary Arshagouni Papazian, ‘How a “Second S. Augustine”?’, in Mary Arshagouni Papazian, ed., John Donne and
the Protestant Reformation: New Perspectives (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2003), pp. 66-89; p. 73.
20 See, e.g., Madeleine Gray, The Protestant Reformation: Belief, Practice, and Tradition (Brighton, Sussex: Sussex
Academic Press, 2003), p. 31, Arnoud S. Q. Visser, Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of
Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500-1620 (0xford and New York: OUP, 2011), p. 76, Jesse Couenhoven, ‘Augustine,
Saint’, The Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley Online Library, 2013), and Kate Narveson, ‘Publishing the Sole-talk of the
Soule: Genre in Early Stuart Piety’, in Daniel W. Doerksen and Christopher Hodgkins, eds., Centered on the Word:
Literature, Scripture, and the Tudor-Stuart Middle Way (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004), pp. 110-125; p.
21 Alexander Cooke, Saint Austins Religion. Wherein is Manifestly Proued...that he Dissented from Poperie and
Agreed with the Religion of the Protestants, in all the Maine Poynts of Faith and Doctrine. By Alexander Cooke
(London: A. Mathewes, 1624), p. 1.
22 For a bibliographical list of some 200 Protestant works that could be described as basically Augustinian, 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), pp. 93-132.
23 Kate Narveson, ‘Publishing the Sole-talk of the Soule: Genre in Early Stuart Piety’, in Daniel W. Doerksen and
Christopher Hodgkins, eds., Centered on the Word: Literature, Scripture, and the Tudor-Stuart Middle Way (Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 2004), pp. 110-125; p. 112.
24 ‘Quis denegabit, & Bernardum, & Bonaventuram, & Thaulerum, & Thomam à Kempis, ceterosque complures de
divino amore gustâste, & divini Spiritus virtutem in seipsis ad salutem suam operantem sensisse? Debemus ne igitur
istas superstitiones non abnegare, repudiare & derelinquere, quibus ii utebantur?’ Robert Barclay, Roberti Barclaii
Theologiae verè Christianae apologia (Amsterdam, 1676), p. 225.
25 Stephen Strehle, The Catholic Roots of the Protestant Gospel: Encounter between the Middle Ages and the
Reformation (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill, 1995).
26 Strehle, The Catholic Roots of the Protestant Gospel, 41-45. Even then, Strehle relates Perkins to pre-Reformation
writings only indirectly, via the influence of such European Protestants as Beza and Zanchi.
27 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, p. 78.
28 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, p. 76.
29 Notably Elizabeth K. Hudson, ‘English Protestants and the Imitatio Christi 1580-1620’, The Sixteenth Century
Journal, 19.4, 1988, pp. 541-58, and, more recently, Nandra Perry, ‘The Imitation of Christ in English Reformation
Writing’, Literature Compass, 8.4, (2011), pp. 195-205, and ‘The Place of the Imitatio Christi in the Protestant World’,
chapter 8 of Von Habsburg, Catholic and Protestant Translations of the Imitatio Christi, pp. 145-77.
30 Robert Abbot, The second part of the Defence of the Reformed Catholicke (London, 1607), 982, cited in Milton,
Catholic and Reformed, p. 235.
31 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, p. 75.
32 Judith Maltby, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1998), p. 12.
33 See, e.g., Patrick McGrath, Papists and Puritans under Elizabeth I (London: Blandford Press, 1967), p. 188, Ceri
Sullivan, ‘Cannibalizing Persons’s Christian Directorie, 1582’, Notes and Queries, 41.4 (1994), pp. 445-6, 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: University College, 1998), pp. 209-32; p. 224, Alexandra
Walsham, Church Papists, p. 252, William W.E. Slights, Managing Readers: Printed Marginalia in English Renaissance
Books (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), p. 252, and 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).
34Carl Trueman, ‘The Impact of the Reformation and Emerging Modernism’, in Paul Ballard and Stephen R. Holmes,
eds., The Bible in Pastoral Practice: Readings in the Place and Function of Scripture in the Church (London: Darton,
Longman and Todd, 2005), pp. 78-95; p. 89.
35 Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation (Newhaven: Yale University Press, 1954).
36 Alec Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 284-92.
37 Milton, Catholic and Reformed, pp. 150-57.
38 Robert Crowley, A Deliberat Answere Made to a Rash Offer, which a Popish Antichristian Catholique, Made to a
Learned Protestant (London, 1588), title page.
39 Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 142.
40 Joseph Hall, The Olde Religion (London: W. Stansby, 1628), chapter headings. For Hall, as for a number of
Protestant writers, the ‘old religion’ was the faith of the early Church, before it had been corrupted by ‘popery’.
41 Joseph Hall, The Olde Religion (London: W. Stansby, 1628), p. 62, p. 71 and p. 73.
42 Heinrich Bullinger, The Olde Fayth, translated from the Latin by Miles Coverdale (London, 1541), title page.
43 Baxter is of particular significance in this context, since it was Bunny’s edition of Robert Persons work which first
touched his heart ‘with a livelier feeling of things Spiritual’ (Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, London, 1696, p.
44 William Nicholls, ‘A Discourse of the Rise and Progress of the Spiritual Books in the Romish Church’, in Francis
de Sales, An Introduction to a Devout Life (London, 1701), sig. A 4r-a4v; sig. A8r.
45 Maria Hagedorn, Reformation and Spanische Andachtsliteratur: Luis de Granada in England (Leipzig: Kölner
anglistische Arbeiten, 1934).
46 Bozeman, The Precisianist Strain, p. 76.
47 Alison Shell, Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999), p. 7.
48 John Craig, in Patrick Collinson, John Craig and Brett Usher, eds, Conferences and Combination Lectures in the
Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St Edmunds, 1582-1590 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2003),
Introduction, pp. cv-cvi. Craig’s account is reproduced, almost verbatim, in ODNB. Anthony à Wood, Athenæ
Oxonienses, vol. 1 (London 1691) , pp. 341-2, also gives details of Rogers’ life and career.
49 John Joseph Collins, Bernard McGinn and Stephen J. Stein, The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and
Christianity, vol. 3 (New York: Continuum Publishing, 2000), Introduction, p. ix.
50 Rogers, in à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ (London: by Henrie Denham, 1580), sig. A9r-v.
51 Thomas Rogers, in Diego de Estella, A Methode vnto Mortification (London: J. Windet, 1586), epistle dedicatory,
sig. A5r.
52Ibid., sig. A6r-7v.
53 Thomas Rogers, The English Creede, Consenting with the True, Auncient, Catholique, and Apostolique Church in al
the Points, and Articles of Religion (London: J. Windet, 1585), part one, title page.
54 Rogers, An Historical Dialogue, preface, sig. Aiiir.
55 Rogers, Miles Christianus, p. 34 and p. 4.
56 Rogers, in à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ (London: Henrie Denham, 1580), sig. A8v- 9r.
57 ODNB.
58 ODNB.
59 Edmund Bunny, The Whole Summe of Christian Religion (London: T. Purfoote for L. Harrison and G. Bishop,
1576), sig. *3v.
60 ODNB.
61 Hagedorn, Reformation and Spanische Andachtsliteratur: Luis de Granada in England (Leipzig: Kölner anglistische
Arbeiten, 1934), p. 52, pp. 72-3 and p. 80.
62 Friancis Meres, in Luis de Granada, Granados Spirituall and Heauenlie Exercises (London: J. Roberts, 1598),
epistle dedicatory, sig. A4r-v.
63 Francis Meres, in Luis de Granada, The Sinners Guyde (London: J. Roberts, 1598), epistle dedicatory, sig. A3v.
Roman for italics.
64 In Luis de Granada, Of Prayer and Meditation (Paris: T. Brumeau, 1582), epistle dedicatory, sig ¶4r-v. Roman for
65 Francis Meres, in Luis de Granada, The Sinners Guyde (London: J. Roberts, 1598), epistle dedicatory, sig. A iiv.
66 ODNB.
67 E. Arber, A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640, 5 vols. (London:
privately printed, 1875-94), vol. 1, pp. 791-2.
68 Ibid., p. 561.
69 Gary Taylor, ‘The Cultural Politics of Maybe’, in Richard Dutton, Alison Findlay, and Richard Wilson, eds., Theatre
and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), pp. 242-58; p. 250, has
uncovered evidence indicating that Mabbe was actually imprisoned on suspicion of being a Catholic spy, and Geraldine
E. Hodgson, English Mystics (London: Maubray, 1922), p. 226, famously remarks of Vaughan that, ‘if ever an Anglo-
Catholic mystic existed after the Reformation, Henry Vaughan was one’.
70 Richard Baxter, Against the Revolt to a Foreign Jurisdiction (London: for Thomas Parkhurst, 1691), 538.
71 PLRE 149.199.
72 PLRE154.96. This is catalogued as ‘Resolut. pars ultraque’, and the ODNB entry comments, ‘It is assumed that by
pars utraque the compiler means both Persons’ original and Edmund Bunny’s Protestant adaptation’.
73 PLRE Ad4.278.
74 PLRE 3.129, volume entry (
75 PLRE 3.129, 3.131, 3.147, and 3.201.
76 J.C. Townsend et al., Townsend-Townshend, 1066-1909, revised by Margaret Townsend (New York: s.n., 1909), p.
77 PLRE 225.2. Inventoried on Slade’s imprisonment in 1583.
78 PLRE 251.5. Inventoried on seizure in 1584.
79 PLRE 242.15. Inventoried on seizure in 1586.
80 PLRE 244.5. Inventoried on seizure in 1586.
81 PLRE 251.3, 251.6.
82 PLRE 244.8.
83 PLRE 3.148.
84 PLRE 3.179.
85 PLRE 259.41. Inventoried in 1626.
86 PLRE 149.248.
87 PLRE Ad4.290.
88 Birrell, ‘English Catholic Mystics in Non-Catholic Circles’, The Downside Review, 94 (1976), pp. 60-81, 99-117
and 213-28; p. 65.
89 See W.W. Greg, A Companion to Arber (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), pp. 347-8.
90 ODNB.
91 PLRE 4.173, 4.178, 4.226, 4.239, 4.260.
92 PLRE 4.34, 4.354.
93 PLRE 154.20, 154.63, 154.59.
94 PLRE 154.49-54, 154.91-2, 154.117.
95 PLRE 154.15, 154.5, 154.116, and 154.13, 154.14, 154.90.
96 PLRE 154.192.
97 PLRE 149.184, 149.194, 149.205.
98 PLRE 149.54, 149.6.
99 In addition to Robert Southwell, Saint Peters Complaint (PLRE Ad3.97), Sibthorp probably owned a Catholic
edition of Augustine’s Confessions (PLRE Ad3.76) and perhaps John Cosin, A Collection of Private Devotions (PLRE
Ad3.99), an adaptation for Protestant consumption of the post-Tridentine Primer.
100 PLRE 3.11, 3.161, 3.172.
101 PLRE 3.119.
102 Houliston in Robert Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. xi-xiv.
Harington’s name is perhaps inappropriate here; Gerard Kilroy, Edmund Campion: Memory and Transcription
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), makes a strong case for him being a crypto-Catholic.
103 See Christopher Devlin, Hamlet’s Divinity and Other Essays (London: Hart-Davis, 1963), 36-41, Peter Milward,
Shakespeare’s Religious Background (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), 44-52, Donna Hamilton,
‘Shakespeare and Religion’, in The Shakespearean International Yearbook, I (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 187-202, and
John R. Yamamoto-Wilson, ‘Shakespeare and Catholicism’, Renaissance and Reformation Review 7.2-3 (2005): pp.
347-361; p. 354.
104 Houliston in Robert Persons, Robert Persons S.J.: The Christian Directory (Leiden: Brill, 1998), p. xi.
105 Maria Hagedorn, Reformation and Spanische Andachtsliteratur: Luis de Granada in England (Leipzig: Kölner
anglistische Arbeiten, 1934), pp. 136-47.
106 Francis Trigge, The True Catholique Formed According to the Truth of the Scriptures (London: Peter Short, 1602),
epistle to the reader, sig. ¶4r-v.
107 Ibid., p. 16.
108 Stephen Egerton, in Richard Rogers, Seuen Treatises (London: Felix Kyngston, 1603), ‘To the Christian Reader’,
sig. A3r.
109 Richard Rogers, A Commentary vpon the VVhole Booke of Iudges (London: Felix Kyngston, 1615), 199.
110 Richard Sheldon, The Motiues of Richard Sheldon (London: William Hall and William Stansby for Nathaniel
Butter, 1612), 11 and 155.
111 Thomas Barlow, Autoschediasmata, de studio theologiae (Oxford: Leonard Lichfield, 1699), pp. 40-41.
112 Ibid., pp. 10-14.
113 Thomas Cranmer, A Defence of the True and Catholike Doctrine of the Sacrament (Reginald Wolfe, 1550), fo. 48r.
114 George Abbot, The Reasons vvhich Doctour Hill hath Brought, for the Vpholding of Papistry (Oxfore: Joseph
Barners, 1604), p. 84.
115 Thomas Barlow, A Few Plain Reasons why a Protestant of the Church of England, should not Turn Roman
Catholick (London: for R. Clavel, 1688), title page.
116 Ibid., p. 48.
117 Heinrich Bullinger, Questions of Religion (London: Henrie Bynneman, 1572), fo. 23v.
118 Richard Baxter, A Key for Catholicks (London: R.W., 1659), p. 124.
119 William Perkins, A Golden Chaine (Cambridge: John Legat, 1600), p. 104.
120 William Nicholls, ‘A Discourse of the Rise and Progress of the Spiritual Books in the Romish Church’, in Francis
de Sales, An Introduction to a Devout Life (London, 1701), sig. A4r-a4tv.
121 Charles Ripley Gillett, Burned Books; Neglected Chapters in British History and Literature (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1932), p. 133.
122 Richard Sheldon, A Sermon Preached at Pauls Cross. Upon the 14 of Revelations (London: W. Jones, 1625), p. 30,
vero p. 31.
123 Thomas Rogers, in Diego de Estella, A Methode vnto Mortification (London: J. Windet, 1586), epistle dedicatory,
p. iii.
124 Sheldon would have his readers believe that Catholicism forces all its adherents to receive the mark of the Beast,
in the form, not of ‘corporall signes’, but of ‘flagitious mysticall ceremonies’, and that no one who does not bear these
marks is allowed to enter into any form of buying or selling (A Sermon Preached at Pauls Cross. Upon the 14 of
Revelations, London: W. Jones, 1625, pp. 32-3). Walsham notes that by airing such views Sheldon spelled his
‘professional suicide’ (Church Papists, p. 117).
125 Bernières Louvigny, The Interiour Christian (Antwerp: s.n., 1684).
126 Richard Baxter, Against the Revolt to a Foreign Jurisdiction (London: for Thomas Parkhurst, 1691), pp. 538-9.
127 Henry Smith, Gods Arrowe against Atheists (London: Felix Kingston for Thomas Pavier, 1609). I am indebted to
Peter Milward for pointing this out to me.
128 Christian Exercise, pp. 41-2.
129 Daniel Featley, in Thråenoikos the House of Mourning…Delivered in LIII Sermons (London: G. Dawson, 1660).
This work is an anthology of sermons by Featley, Martin Day, John Preston, Richard Holdsworth, Richard Sibbs,
Thomas Taylor, Thomas Fuller and others (title page).
130 T.A. Birrell, ‘English Catholic Mystics in Non-Catholic Circles’, The Downside Review, 94 (1976), pp. 99-117,
J.M. Blom, ‘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
(Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984), pp. 41-51, and A.F. Allison, ‘The “Mysticism” of Manchester Al Mondo. Some Catholic
Borrowing in a Seventeenth-Century Anglican Work of Devotion’, in G.A.M. Janssens and F.G.A.M. Aarts, editors,
Studies in Seventeenth Century Literature, History and Bibliography (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984), pp. 1-11. Cited in
Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 234.
Full-text available
Exile, Diplomacy and Texts offers an interdisciplinary narrative of religious, political, and diplomatic exchanges between early modern Iberia and the British Isles during a period uniquely marked by inconstant alliances and corresponding antagonisms. Such conditions notwithstanding, the essays in this volume challenge conventionally monolithic views of confrontation, providing – through fresh examination of exchanges of news, movements and interactions of people, transactions of books and texts – new evidence of trans-national and trans-cultural conversations between British and Irish communities in the Iberian Peninsula, and of Spanish and Portuguese ‘others’ travelling to Britain and Ireland.
This essay explores the forms of sacrament centred piety that developed in the late Elizabethan and early Stuart church. It does so by utilising Christopher Sutton’s “Godly Meditations”, first published in 1601. The text’s movement from Catholic mass book to Protestant communion guide, and Sutton’s amendments to later editions, are used to examine the ways texts were altered to fit different theological and pastoral requirements. Attention is paid to the ambiguous and flexible rhetoric of the “Meditations” and of avant-garde conformists more generally. It is shown that this ambiguity allowed such texts to be appropriated by Laudians who cast them as precedents for their innovations. In doing so, Laudians recast avant-garde conformity as something much narrower than it had been. Ultimately, it is suggested that a more nuanced approach to avant-garde conformity is required; one which recognises that anti-Calvinism was not an inherent part, or necessary consequence, of sacramental piety.
St Francis de Sales’ devotional manual, An Introduction to a Devout Life (1609), had a complex but fascinating reception history in seventeenth-century England and Scotland. Collectively, the English-language editions in this century include two translations and, perhaps most interestingly, several reformed editions. It is curious that a post-Reformation, Tridentine Catholic work, written by a French bishop dedicated to converting Protestant ‘Heretiques,’ would appeal to both Catholics and Protestants alike. Most of the seventeenth-century English editions were published abroad in Douai, Paris, St Omer, and Rouen, places that were home to many English and Scottish exiled communities, both lay and religious. Two of the three reformed editions were published in England, evidence of the Introduction ’s widespread readership and its importance to seventeenth-century English devotion. Finally, during James II’s reign two Catholic editions were openly published, one in England and the other in Scotland.
The Imitatio Christi is considered one of the classic texts of Western spirituality. In this pioneering study, the reasons for the remarkable longevity of the Imitatio across geographical, chronological, linguistic and confessional boundaries is explored. Concentrating on English, French, German and Latin editions of the Imitatio, it offers a comprehensive survey of the process of translation and its impact and contribution to religious culture. It provides a fresh analysis of spirituality and devotion within their proper medieval and early modern context, and demonstrates that spirituality was not a peripheral dimension of the Reformation religion, but continues to remain at the heart of both Catholic and Protestant self-perception and identity.