Skip to main content Accessibility help

Richard Verstegan and Catholic Martyrologies of the Later Elizabethan Period

  • A.G. Petti


The early 1580’s saw a large increase in the publication of martyrologies concerning the sufferings and executions of Catholics in England; understandab1y so, in view of the mounting intensity of the persecution laws, in particular the statutes of 1581 and 1585, the numerous anti-Catholic proclamations, and the large scale executions, including those of Campion and his fellow missionaries in December 1581.



Hide All

1. Vid. L. Hicks, S.J., Letters and Memorials of Fr. Robert Persons, S.J., C.R.S., XXXIX, p.xliii.

2. Vid. Allison, A. F. and Rogers, D. M., A Catalogue of Catholic Books in English, Biographical Studies, 1956, no. 7.

3. Id., no.4.

4. Id., no. 13.

5. In the State Paper relating to the discovery of the secret press which printed the True Reporte (P.R.O., S.P. Dom. Eliz., vol. 153, no.78), there is a reference to “Rowlande the prynter in Smythenld “. A. C. Southern, in his Elizabethan Recusant Prose, 1952, p.56 etc., wag the first to associate this “Rowlande” with Verstegan, who used the surname Rowland or Rowlands while in England, though on the sole and rather unsatisfactory evidence which requires much expansion, of the occurrence of the unusual medial ‘v’s in the book “which are a mark of Verstegan's printing”. Additional evidence which can be supplied lies in the fact that Smithfield is in the same area as St. Katherine's, where Verstegan resided; and the taking of the press coincided with his flight from England. The ornament on the title-page of the book consists of a heart and IHS contained within an oval decorated with what appears to be an early form of Verstegan's characteristic “egg and ball” decorative pattern.

6. Vid. Petti, A. G., A Study of the Life and Writings of Richard Verstegan, c. 15501640, M. A. Thesis, London, 1957, pp. 23–4.

7. Op. cit., p.337. The State Paper reference is given in note 5.

8. See further Southern, op. cit.; my thesis pp.45-7.

9. For proof of authorship of these two poems vid. Simpson, R., Edmund Campion, 1896 ; Simpson, R., Edmund Campion, 1896 ; Pollen's, J. H. introduction to the reprint of Allen's A Briefe Historie; Guiney, L., Recusant Poets, 1938, p. 176.

10. Simpson, , in his Life of Campion, 1867, app.iv, p. 350, suggested that Thomas Pound the Jesuit wrote “The Complaynt”, and also attributed the “Caveat” to him (Edmund Campion, p.452); but as Southern points out, Pound had been in the Tower since August 1581, and was subject to the strictest surveillance, so that it is unlikely that he was in any way connected with the book.

11. Poems with this identical form in the Odes include the imitation of Psalm 50, “Our Blessed Ladie's Lullaby”, “Of the State of Solitary Life” and the translation of St. Bernard of Clairvaux's De Contemptu Mundi (not to be confused with the one by Bernard of Cluny).

12. B. M. Lansdowne MSS.35, no.26, f.87.

13. P.R.O., Dom Eliz., S.P., vol. 152, f.54 , endorsed “Mr. Topclyf's note of certain seminary priests’. The relevent passage runs as follows: “One Northwoode of Symons Ine, published of these bookes, knowethe the printer, and was the cause of his flyinge and escape”.

14. Martin's, A Treatise of Christian Peregrination, and Rainolds's A Refutation of sundry reprehensions. See further Southern, op. cit., pp. 348, 481–2, 458; my thesis, p. 58-16.

15. Vid. thesis, pp.61-2, 87-9, 454-8.

16. This information is provided in a letter from Henry III to the French ambassador in London, Mauvissiere, 25 January 1584 (N.S.), Bibl. nationale, Fonds frangais, 3305, f.45, in which he describes the raiding of the printing house at the instigation of Stafford, the English ambassador.

17. P.R.O., Foreign, S.P., July 1583—July 1584, no.260 (France X, 85).

18. P.R.O. Foreign S.P., July 1583—July 1584, no. 789a, between ff. 208 and 209 (France X, 85a).

19. Cal. S.P. Foreign 1583-4, p.270, Stafford to Walsingham, 15/25 December? 1583.

20. This second leaf is not bound in with State Papers Foreign as might be expected, but is to be found in S.P. Domestic, vol.clxv, f.27. It was apparently misplaced.

21. Walsingham to Stafford, i/n December 1583, Cal. Foreign 1583-4, p.253.

22. Stafford to Pinart, 13 January 1584, Cal.For. 1583-4, pp.305-6. Cf. Henry to Mauvissiere 25 January 1584 (reference in note 16).

23. Stafford to Pinart, 13 January 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4, p.306.

24. Stafford to Walsingham, 8/18 January 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4., pp.299-300. Thwing, Verstegan's assistant, a member of a Catholic family from Yorkshire, had formerly been a servant of Charles Basset. When the printing house was raided he fled to Rheims (vid. Ragazzoni's letter to the Papal Secretary of State, 23 January 1584, a copy of which is in P.R.O. Roman Transcripts, General Series). Although the nuncio stated that it was reported that Thwing had been responsible for engraving the copperplates in the pamphlet, they are undoubtedly Verstegan's. Thwing later went to the Low Countries.

25. See, however, G. Barclay, Contra Monarchomachos, lib. vi, 1588, p.438.

26. I know of only one copy of the work, contained in the collection of broadsheets collected by P. Lesoile, in the Bibliothique nationale, Res. Gr. fol. La256. This reference was very kindly provided for me by Mr. J. Bossy. The broadsheet is undated, and although I have assumed that it was published shortly before Verstegan's arrest, it is just possible that the publication took place early in 1584, unbeknown to Stafford, or even a year or two later, though the reference in the “Advertissement au lecteur” to Persons's De Persecutione Anglicana Eftistola having been, translated into French “ce jours passees” argues for an early date, since the translation appeared in 1582. On the other hand, it is to be noted that the pages which Stafford was able to procure while the work was in press are entirely in Latin, whereas in the Briefve description only the verses are. It is possible, however, that a Latin and French edition were prepared contemporaneously.

27. The interview was reported by Stafford in his letter to Walsingham, 18/28 January 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4, pp.315-7.

28. Vatican Archives, Gallicae Nunciaturae, vol.17, p.293. dated 23 January 1584 (reference to P.R.O. transcript is given in note 24).

29. Stafford to Walsingham 18/28 January 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4, pp.316-7.

30. Id., p.317.

31. Stafford to Walsingham, 21/31 January 1584, op. cit., p.319.

32. Giovanni Moro, Venetian ambassador to France, in a letter to the Loge and Senate of Venice, 3 February 1584, Cal. Venetian 1581-91, p.81.

33. Vatican Archives, Gallicae Nunciaturae, vol.17, p.323, letter from Razzoni dated 6 February 1584 (transcript in P.R.O.).

34. Stafford to the Queen Mother, 1 February 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4, pp.321-3.

35. Stafford to Walsingham 30 January (N.S. 9 February) 1584, Cal. For. 15S3-4, pp.330-2.

36. Queen Elizabeth to Stafford, 7/17 February 1584, Cal. For. 1583-4, p.344.

37. Stafford to Walsingham 18/28 March 1584, op. cit., p.416.

38. Id., pp.416-8.

39. The work is so rare that only one perfect copy is known to exist, that in the Stonyhurst College library. The first page of the Descriptions, containing the foreword and warning to the reader is to be found in the copies of the Ecclesiae Anglicanae Trophaea housed in the British Museum and in the Ogden Collection, University College, London.

40. Literally “beggars”, the term was applied to the Dutch insurgents, particularly those of Friesland.

41. B.M. Harleian MSS. no.290, f.215.

42. Copies are to be found in the Ashmolean Museum and in the Cabinet des Estampes, Brussels (without the verses). “G. Cr.” in probably the same as “G.C.”, who provided Latin verses for the engraved portrait of Mary which fVerstegan executed in Paris (vid. my thesis, pp.64-5, etc.).

43. See further my thesis, pp.99-102, etc.

44. Vid. Hauser, H., Les Sources de I'Histoire de France, III, pp.51–2.

45. Buitendijk, W., Het Calvinisme in de Spiegel van de Zuidnederlandse Literatuur der Contra-Reformatie, 1942, p.159.

46. Cf. Vermasern, B. A., De Katholieke Nederlandsche Gesckiedschrijving, 1941, pp.168 , 197, 276 and 280.

47. Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Groetboek 1582-89 and Groetboek 1590-99.

48. The French version of this work is very rare (copies in British Museum and in Biblioth&que royale, Brussels), and the Dutch version appears to be even rarer. The only copy I know of is in Ghent University Library.

49. Richard Verstegen, een Polemist der Contra-Reformatie, 1935, p.418. Rombauts was unaware of the existence of the Dutch version.

50. Many of these details are to be found in the Briefve description and in some of Verstegan's letters, e.g. Stonyhurst Arch., Coll. B.57.

51. Pibush's martyrdom took place in February 1601, and not in 1600.

52. Verstegan's letters and despatches are to be published very shortly by the Catholic Record Society as Volume 52 (1959).

53. For fuller references and for the text of the letters mentioned in this article, the reader is referred to the forthcoming publication mentioned in the previous note.

Richard Verstegan and Catholic Martyrologies of the Later Elizabethan Period

  • A.G. Petti


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed