. 1
( 10)


This page intentionally left blank
Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary
Imagination, 1558±1660

The Catholic contribution to English literary culture has been
widely neglected and often misunderstood. Drawing on exten-
sive original research, this book sets out to rehabilitate a wide
range of Catholic imaginative writing, while exposing the role
of anti-Catholicism as an imaginative stimulus to mainstream
writers in Tudor and Stuart England. It discusses canonical
®gures such as Sidney, Spenser, Webster and Middleton, those
whose presence in the canon has been more ®tful, such as
Robert Southwell and Richard Crashaw, and many who have
escaped the attention of literary critics. Among the themes to
emerge are the anti-Catholic imagery of revenge-tragedy and
the de®nitive contribution made by Southwell and Crashaw to
the post-Reformation revival of religious verse in England.
Alison Shell offers a fascinating exploration of the rhetorical
stratagems by which Catholics sought to demonstrate simulta-
neous loyalties to the monarch and to their religion, and of the
stimulus given to the Catholic literary imagination by the
persecution and exile which so many of these writers suffered.

Alison Shell is Lecturer in the Department of English Studies at
the University of Durham. She has held a British Academy
Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at University College
London, a visiting fellowship at the Beinecke Library, Yale
University, and was formerly Rare Books Curator at the British
Architectural Library of the Royal Institute of British Archi-
tects. She is co-editor of The Book Trade and its Customers (1997),
and has published essays on Edmund Campion, Aphra Behn,
conversion in early modern England, anti-Catholicism and the
early modern English book trade.
IMAGINATION, 1558 ± 1660

°µ¬©¤   ° ®¤© ¦  µ®©© ¦ ©¤§
The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom

©¤§ µ®©© °
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK
40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211, USA
477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia
Ruiz de Alarcón 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa


© Alison Shell 2004

First published in printed format 1999

ISBN 0-511-03863-1 eBook (Adobe Reader)
ISBN 0-521-58090-0 hardback

Acknowledgements vi
List of abbreviations ix
Note on the text xi

Introduction 1

part i catholics and the canon
1 The livid ¯ash: decadence, anti-Catholic revenge tragedy
and the dehistoricised critic 23
2 Catholic poetics and the Protestant canon 56

part ii loyalism and exclusion
3 Catholic loyalism: I. Elizabethan writers 107
4 Catholic loyalism: II. Stuart writers 141
5 The subject of exile: I 169
6 The subject of exile: II 194
Conclusion 224
Notes 228
List of works frequently cited 300
Index 303


This book is all about how early modern Catholic literature and
history is an undervalued topic: true now, still truer in the days when
I was an Oxford D.Phil student. I was extraordinarily lucky in
having supervisors who didn't want just to supervise theses on
subjects they knew about already ± Nigel Smith, on whose shoulders
the main administrative burden fell, Edward Chaney and J. W. Binns
± and I count myself more fortunate still that they continue to care
about my scholarly and personal progress. Julia Briggs provided
valuable preliminary help. T. A. Birrell, Charles Burnett, Victor
Houliston, Doreen Innes, Sally Mapstone, D. F. McKenzie, Ruth
Pryor, Masahiro Takenaka, Gwen Watkins and Karina Williamson
were of enormous help to the ®rst incarnation of this book as a
doctoral thesis, and I should also like to thank Conrad Arnander,
Rachel Boulding, Andrew Cleevely (Bro. Philip), Christopher
Collins, The Rev. Kenneth Macnab, Joanne Mosley, The Rev. Dr.
Michael Piret, Tim Pitt-Payne, Richard Thomas and The Rev.
Robin Ward for reading portions of that thesis, and contributing
some wonderfully unexpected insights. Patricia Bruckmann was a
sharp-eyed reader at proof stage.
My husband, Arnold Hunt, is another early-modern specialist,
and if this book is any good, this is due in large part to his analytical
mind and his unparalleled gift for ®nding exactly the right reference.
Both I and the book have bene®ted enormously from the polyglot
learning and baroque hospitality of Peter Davidson and Jane
Stevenson. Michael Questier has been learned and consoling, as well
as reading the whole typescript. I would like, as well, to thank him
for being my co-organiser for the one-day conference `Papists
Misrepresented and Represented', held at University College
London in June 1997. Martin Butler valuably commented on chapter
4 of this book. I have bothered many experts in my attempt to pull a
Acknowledgements vii
wide-ranging argument together, and would particularly like to
thank John Bossy, Patrick Collinson, David Crankshaw, Eamon
Duffy, Katherine Duncan-Jones, Julia Grif®n, Nigel Grif®n, Brian
Harrison, Caroline Hibbard, Michael Hodgetts, Victoria James,
Peter Lake, Michelle Lastovickova, Giles Mandelbrote, Arthur
Marotti, Steven May, Martin Murphy, Graham Parry, J. T. Rhodes,
Ceri Sullivan, Joanne Taylor, Dora Thornton and Alexandra
Walsham as well as all those acknowledged in the notes, and those
who, to my embarrassment, I will have forgotten. Alan Cromartie,

Sean Hughes, Mary Morrissey and Jason Scott-Warren have
engaged in stimulating conversations on the topic. Dominic Berry,
J. W. Binns, Martin Brooke, Robert Carver, Doreen Innes,
Christopher Shell and Jane Stevenson have helped me in translating
the Latin. Robin Myers has informed this, and every piece of
scholarly work I have ever done, with an urge to get things right
bibliographically. Stella Fletcher kindly undertook a last-minute
check of manuscripts in the Venerable English College, Rome. John
Morrill was a judicious and warmly encouraging reader for
Cambridge University Press; Josie Dixon continues a most support-
ive editor, and I would also like to thank my copy-editor, Andrew
Taylor, and the production controller, Karl Howe.
Having once been a librarian, I know that the profession is often
forgotten in acknowledgements, and so I am pleased to thank those
whose faces I got to know well but whose names I often never learnt:
in the Bodleian; the University Library, Cambridge; the Senate
House and Warburg Institute, University of London; the libraries of
the University of Durham; and the North Library and Manuscripts
Department of the old British Library. The great Catholic libraries
in England and abroad were an indispensable resource, and I have
greatly bene®ted from the expertise of The Revd. F. J. Turner, S.J., at
Stonyhurst; The Revd. Geoffrey Holt, S.J., at Farm Street; The
Revd. Ian Dickie, at the Westminster Catholic Archives; Sister
Mary Gregory Kirkus I.B.V.M. of the Bar Convent, York; Fr
Leonard Boyle, O.P., at the Vatican archives; successive student
archivists at the Venerable English College, Rome; various corre-
spondents at the English College, Valladolid; Bro. George Every at
St Mary's College, Oscott; and Dom Daniel Rees, O.S.B., at Down-
side Abbey. No book can happen without practical help. Laura
Cordy kindly resurrected my ®les from software nobody had ever
heard of, and edited them into the bargain; the late Henry Harvey
viii Acknowledgements
chauffeured me on many research trips; my parents-in-law, Bryan
and Fiona Hunt, have been a prop in all sorts of ways.
St Hilda's College, Oxford, was a lovely place to spend both my
undergraduate and postgraduate years, and I am grateful to the
College for having elected me to a senior scholarship running from
1987 to 1990. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the kindness and
scholarly support of many of my ex-colleagues in the English
Department at University College London, where I held a British
Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship between 1994 and 1997: in
particular, John Sutherland, David Trotter and Karl Miller, and
Helen Hackett and Henry Woudhuysen, who made time in busy
schedules to read and make detailed comments on large portions of
the book. Kenneth Emond at the British Academy was sustainedly
kind; and since it has not only been in this connection that the
British Academy has helped me ®nancially over the years, I would
like to acknowledge my other debts to them here. Another travel
grant came from the Una Ellis-Fermor Travel Fund, administered
by Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London. I am
pleased, too, to thank those responsible for awarding me the James
M. Osborn Fellowship at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, in
September 1996; while I was there, I bene®ted from Stephen Parks's
generous hospitality and knowledge of the collections. Finally, I am
profoundly grateful to the English Department at Durham Uni-
versity, and especially its Head of Department, Michael O'Neill, for
appointing me to a lectureship in October 1997 ± at a time of real
despair about jobs ± and converting my temporary post into a
permanent one as the last part of this book was being written.
As I was correcting these proofs, news came of the sudden death
of Jeremy Maule. This book could not possibly go into the world
without a tribute to his scholarship, his wit, and his inimitable
kindness, especially as it was he who suggested, in the ®rst instance,
that Cambridge University Press publish it. There are scarcely any
pages of this book that do not show his benign in¯uence.
Finally, I dedicate this book to my parents: thanking them for
everything, but in particular for all the sacri®ces they made for me
over my childhood, and over the doctoral student's characteristic
prolonged adolescence.

ARCR Anthony Allison and D. M. Rogers, The Contemporary
Printed Literature of the English Counter-Reformation
Between 1558 and 1640, 2 vols (Aldershot: Scolar,
Beinecke Beinecke Library, Yale University
BL The British Library, London
Bod. Bodleian Library, Oxford
CRS Catholic Record Society
CSPD Calendar of State Papers, Domestic
DNB Dictionary of National Biography
EHR English Historical Review
ELH English Literary History
ELR English Literary Renaissance
Folger Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.
HJ Historical Journal
HLQ Huntington Library Quarterly
HMC His/Her Majesty's Commission for Historical
JEH Journal of Ecclesiastical History
JWCI Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Lewis & Short Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Diction-
ary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980 edn.)
LPL Lambeth Palace Library, London
MLQ Modern Language Quarterly
MLR Modern Language Review
MS manuscript
N&Q Notes & Queries
NAL National Art Library, London
NLW National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
OED Oxford English Dictionary
x Abbreviations
P&P Past and Present
PMLA Proceedings of the Modern Language Association
RH Recusant History
SPC Robert Southwell, Saint Peters Complaint
STC A. W. Pollard and G. F. Redgrave, comp., A Short-
Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and
Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475±1640, 3
vols, 2nd edn., rev. W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson and
Katharine F. Pantzer (London: Bibliographical
Society, 1976±91)
TLS The Times Literary Supplement
VEC The Venerable English College, Rome
Wing Donald Wing, et al., A Short-Title Catalogue of Books
Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland . . . and of English
Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641±1700, 3 vols, 2nd
edn. (New York: MLA, 1972±88)

Quotations from unpublished manuscripts are reproduced by kind
permission of the following: the Archives of the Archbishops of
Westminster, with the permission of His Eminence the Archbishop
of Westminster; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the British
Province of the Society of Jesus; Lambeth Palace Library; the
National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum; the National
Library of Wales; the Stonyhurst Library; the Board of Trinity
College, Dublin; the Beinecke Library, Yale; the Folger Shakespeare
Library; and the Venerable English College, Rome. The quotation
on p. 23, from Donna Tartt, The Secret History (this edition, London
1993), p. 646, copyright # Donna Tartt, 1992, is reproduced by kind
permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
Note on the text

In transcribing from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century documents,
i/j and u/v have been normalized; superscript and subscript have
been ignored, as have underlining and italicisation except where
essential for the sense (e.g. to denote a refrain in a ballad); contrac-
tions have been expanded; and punctuation has been omitted before
marks of omission except where it makes better sense to retain it.
Where a modern book has double imprints (e.g. London and New
York), only the ®rst has been given.
For the reader's convenience I have cited English translations of
Latin works in the main body of the text, keeping the Latin to
footnotes. Except where otherwise credited, I have translated all the
Latin myself (with much-valued assistance, as recorded in the


My doctoral thesis on Catholicism in Tudor and Stuart drama,
written between 1987 and 1991, was supervised jointly by a literary
critic, a historian and a neo-Latinist ± a state of affairs which, as I
came to see, epitomised a deep uncertainty in early modern studies
over the status of English Catholic writing. This book grew out of
that early research; and as I write the introduction in the spring of
1998, Cambridge University Press is discussing how best to market
the book to an audience divided between historians and literary
critics. Not much has changed.
This is not a survey of Tudor and Stuart Catholic literature; such
a book is badly needed, but for many aspects of the topic, far too
little work has been done to make an adequate overview possible.
My subject is a more speci®c one, the imaginative writing composed
between the death of Mary I and the Restoration, which takes as its
subject, or reacts to, the controversies between Catholics and
Protestants or the penalties which successive Protestant governments
imposed upon Catholics. This book comprises four essays, two
subdivided, on aspects of this topic, with a bias towards poetry,
drama, allegory, emblem and romance ± though sermons and
devotional and controversial religious prose have also been referred
to on occasion.
It concentrates on imaginative writing, and also on writing where
the internal logic of an argument is suborned to formal considera-
tions, or considerations of genre: not necessarily decreasing its
effectiveness, but enabling it to be effective in ways which have less
to do with controversial rhetoric than with the expectations aroused
by genre, or the mnemonic ef®ciency of a rigidly structured literary
form. The idea of imaginative literature de®nes this book's main
area of interest; but it is more of a convenience than a category, since
many of the qualities one associates with imaginative writing ± and,
2 Introduction
indeed, the lack of them ± can operate quite independently of genre.
Sermons can be full of extraordinary metaphor, didactic verse can
be prosy. More generally, this book takes as its subject the literary
response to an agenda set by theologians on both sides of the
Catholic-Protestant divide. Sometimes the theologian and the agent
of response are one and the same, sometimes they are far apart; but
the poets, dramatists, emblematists and allegorists below were all
dependent on polemical theology for their inspiration. A poem may
transcribe doctrine, re¯ect doctrine or re¯ect upon doctrine; in odd
cases, like that of Thomas Aquinas, a poem may crystallise a writer's
theological formulations; but de®nitive theological argument is
always in prose. Imaginative responses to theological agendas could
be undertaken for mnemonic purposes, or to popularise, or to
sweeten, or to complain ± or simply because religious controversy so
often results in the protracted demonisation of the other side, and
demonisation is an imaginative process.
Imaginative writing has tended to be the province of the literary
critic rather than the historian; and where historians do look at it,
their use tends to be illustrative rather than analytical. To some
extent the subject-matter of this book has been de®ned by former
omissions: material that has not been felt to be the province of the
church-historian, and about which, except in a very few cases,
literary critics have been less than loquacious. This is hardly
surprising, because Catholic imaginative writing, even in the case of
important individuals like Southwell, Crashaw and Verstegan, is
currently only available to the persevering, through facsimilisation
and the second-hand academic bookseller. L. I. Guiney's Recusant
Poets (1938), of which only volume i was completed,1 remains the
only substantial anthology for the topic. Literary-critical concern
with Catholicism, as I comment in chapter two, has not been entirely
absent; but it has centred around two areas, and tended to ignore
the wider prospect.2 The ®rst of these areas is meditative verse: a
phrase given wide currency in Louis Martz's The Poetry of Meditation
(1954) but stalemated when critics recognised ± quite correctly ± that
it was very dif®cult to identify a number of meditative techniques as
being exclusively Catholic or exclusively Protestant. Secondly, the
perceived necessity to say something new about canonical favourites
has resulted in literary claims, of varying merit, being made about
the permanent, temporary or possible Catholicism of Ford, Jonson,
Shirley, Donne, and currently ± again ± about Shakespeare. But to
Introduction 3
identify Catholic elements in a writer's biography is one thing, and
to use them to formulate a Catholic aesthetic, quite another; some-
times it has been well done, sometimes not. This book has largely
bypassed those arguments ± though they come from an attic which
could do with spring-cleaning.3
History has covered a much broader range of Catholic material
than literary criticism, and if this introduction says more about
recent Catholic history than about Catholicism in English studies, it
is partly because there is more to say. Perhaps church-historians are,
by training, better equipped than literary critics to deal with the
main preoccupation of this book, which can be de®ned ± in distant
homage to Max Weber ± as the unintended imaginative consequences
of religious controversy; certainly, literary critics discussing this
material need to borrow from the nuanced appreciation of early
modern polemical theology which history departments have formu-
lated in recent years. But interdisciplinarity is a wholesome fashion,
and it can work two ways. It can, as I argue in my ®rst chapter,
involve the forcible rehistoricising of canonical texts which have
proved rather too successfully that they are for all time: texts where
one needs to saw through the nacre of commentary to ®nd the
original stimulus, the grit of anti-Catholic prejudice. As the rest of
the book goes on to contend, interdisciplinarity can also aid the
thorough recovery of texts that have been neglected by the architects
of the canon. In an age of spectacular confessional fragmentation it
is sometimes easy to forget how much of what we take for granted in
late twentieth-century England is built on an Anglican infra-
structure. And within the academy, one needs to ask whether the
criteria that cause some religious groups to be privileged in research
terms, and others neglected, are protestantised in origin.
Though Tudor and Stuart Catholic history is only ®tfully visible in
university curricula, Catholics themselves have been interested in
their ancestors for a very long time. From the beginnings of Catholic
oppression in Britain, a genre existed which Hugh Aveling has called
`holy history' or `salvation history'.4 Based on collections of anec-
dotes including eye-witness accounts, exemplary tales and memoirs,
and letters of confessors and martyrs, they were written to show the
hand of God in the sufferings and martyrdom of their subjects, and
in the deaths of the persecutors. There was also a concern to save
biographical data for its potential usefulness in pressing the causes
for canonisation of various English martyrs, a phenomenon which
4 Introduction
existed side by side with of®cial and quasi-of®cial veneration of
them. This aim dominated the Collectanea of Christopher Grene,
now preserved at Stonyhurst and Oscott, and, in the eighteenth
century, the Church History of Charles Dodd (1737±42) and Bishop
Challoner's biographical dictionary of missionary priests (1741±42).
With the nineteenth century, the era of Catholic emancipation
and then of triumphalism, Catholic historians were given more
public licence to plead their cause; and as so often, celebration was
accompanied by stridency. Titles such as John Morris's The Troubles
of Our Catholic Forefathers (1872±7) and Bede Camm's In the Brave Days
of Old (1899) ± with its shades of Horatius keeping the bridge ± have
unfairly invited some historians to conclude that the contents of
many of these books are without objective value. Multi-volume
biographical dictionaries, building on their forebears, characterised
late-Victorian Catholic scholarship: Henry Foley's Dictionary of the
Members of the Society of Jesus (1877±83), Joseph Gillow's A Bibliogra-
phical Dictionary of the English Catholics (1885±1902). The Catholic
Record Society, founded in 1904, started publishing its invaluable
editions of primary sources in 1905, and its periodical Recusant History
has been counterparted by the Innes Review in Scotland. Catholic
history has been unusually well-served by regional societies, illus-
trating the truth that academic historians ignore local ones at their
peril.5 Bio-bibliographical studies such as A. C. Southern's English
Recusant Prose6 (1950), Thomas Clancy's Papist Pamphleteers (1964) and
Peter Milward's two-part Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan
( Jacobean) Age (1968±78) have helped to clarify the complex, often
dialogic nature of religious writing at this date. T. A. Birrell's
inspirational presence at the University of Nijmegen lies behind
much of the most fruitful post-war work on Catholic studies.7
The majority of twentieth-century English historians of post-
Reformation English Catholicism have been Catholics themselves,
or at least received Catholic education. Some have already been
mentioned; but the list is long, encompassing Jesuits like Philip
Caraman, Francis Edwards and Thomas McCoog, scholar-school-
masters like J. C. H. Aveling and Michael Hodgetts, and the
university academics J. J. Scarisbrick, Eamon Duffy, Brendan Brad-
shaw and Richard Rex. Within the last ®fteen years Scarisbrick and
Duffy, in particular, have mounted a high-pro®le revisionist critique
of Reformation history in The Reformation and the English People (1984)
and The Stripping of the Altars (1993), suggesting that the abuses that
Introduction 5
prompted the Continental Reformation were not characteristic of
Britain, that Protestantism was not a popular movement but one
imposed from above by Henry VIII and his ministers upon an
unwilling populace, and that indigenous religious traditions were far
more impoverished after the Reformation than before it.8 Here the
Catholicism of the historian has acted as a stimulus to fresh analysis
in much the same way that gender studies or post-colonialism have
done to others: an academic exploration of why one has the right to
be aggrieved.9
But even though there are many ways that Catholics have an
advantage in writing about Catholic history, non-Catholics are
privileged in other respects: for one thing, they are not perceived as
hagiographers. While there is nothing wrong with hagiography
which is clearly signalled as such, most Catholic historians would be
the last to deny that hagiography has sometimes resulted in an
unnecessarily narrow and ®ctionalised scholarship. But there is a
lingering feeling, among non-Catholics, that Catholic history by
Catholic writers is bound to be hagiographical to some degree: a
suspicion not helped by the way in which imprints on Catholic
books, to this day, serve to reinforce an impression of marginality.
Perhaps the proud imprimaturs on Victorian works of Catholic
scholarship, and even a good number of twentieth-century ones,
may still have power to kindle a residual anti-popery. But scanning
the footnotes of this particular book will con®rm that some things
have still not changed about Catholic books and the English;
Catholic scholarship, now as then, has a stronger association with
Catholic presses in England and publishers on the Continent than
with publishers like Cambridge University Press.
Christopher Haigh makes two necessary points in the preface to
English Reformations (1993): that the link between Catholic research
and Catholic conviction is not invariable, but that it is strong enough
for other academics to assume that only Catholics are interested in
Catholics. One historian, hearing that Haigh was not a Catholic,
exploded `Then why does he write such things?' 10 Like Haigh, I am
not a Catholic myself. Throughout my research life, people have
usually assumed otherwise; and whilst I have found it ¯attering to be
linked ± however spuriously ± with a grand past and present
tradition of Catholic scholars, the assumption has not always been
voiced neutrally. One can understand why the dust-jacket of Mary
Heimann's ®ne study Catholic Devotion in Victorian England (1995)
6 Introduction
carries the message that the author is `neither English nor a
Catholic'. Yet it is true that she and I are slightly unusual, as non-
Catholics who ®nd Catholic matter signi®cant and engaging enough
to read up on. The idea that research on Catholics is inseparable
from Catholic conviction may seem a minor social confusion, but it
matters a great deal. Because of another fallacy still, that only paid-
up members of religious or political bodies have an axe to grind, it is
where prejudice can begin. Most academic books on literary history
assume the reader is agnostic even where the subject is religious,
since this is presumed to be the least offensive stance ± or the most
convertible academic currency, at least. This study tries to recognise
that its likely audience is pluralist, more ideologically heterogenous
than the Reformation by far: Catholics, Protestants, ecumenists,
members of other world religions, the atheist, the agnostic, the
adiaphorist and the uninterested.
Catholics, especially Elizabethan and twentieth-century ones, are
often called religious conservatives; and sometimes this is true. It is
no reason to ignore them; in a plea for the acknowledgement of
contrast and opposition within literary history, Virgil Nemoianu has
written that `A ``politically correct'' attitude, honestly thought
through to its true ends and complete implications, will result in a
careful and loving study of the reactionary, not as an enemy but as
an indispensable co-actor.'11 And a further caution is necessary. This
book does not use the case-history of Catholicism to ®gure reactio-
nariness in general, which would misrepresent a good many Catho-
lics, then and now; it suggests instead, less judgementally, that the
experience of early modern English Catholics, and consequently
their main modes of discourse, are comparable to the experience
and writing of other types of dissident. It attempts to discuss
Catholics on their own terms, but its de®nition of a Catholic is broad
± one who frequented secret or illegal Catholic worship or practised
speci®cally Catholic private devotion, with or without attendance at
the worship of other denominations ± and will be too broad for
some.12 Yet it is crucial to the distinction that I wish to draw
between the heroic Catholic ± the recusant, the confessor, the exile,
the martyr, even, perhaps, the conspirator ± and the Catholic
pragmatists, the occasional conformists and the crypto-Catholics.
Neither is more real or more typical than the other, and both are
discernible as part of the implied audience in Catholic and anti-
Catholic discourse. But with imaginative literature, the gap narrows;
Introduction 7
English Catholic imaginative literature in this period is extra-
ordinarily interactive, and powerfully concerned with the didactic
and autodidactic processes of creating heroes out of its readers.
Like many other, more fashionable modes of academic discourse
in the past twenty years, Catholic analysis of English history borrows
from apologia; but unlike them, it has acquired no substantial band
of university camp-followers aiming to right historical wrongs. To
point to the fact that Catholicism is an unfashionable minority study
is not necessarily to praise it in a young-fogeyish manner, nor to
denigrate the legitimacy of those minority studies that are currently
fashionable, but it needs a little explanation. The twentieth-century
historian sees a crucial difference between the unchosen cultural
handicaps of race or gender, and those brought upon the individual
by religious or political af®liation. With regard to the latter, sym-
pathy is likely to vary widely according to whether the body in
question is perceived as having been oppressive in other contexts;
and between Marxist and neo-Marxist hostility, humanist embarrass-
ment and feminist complaint, all churches have suffered. This is not
the place to analyse the justice of the dismissal, but two points are
worth considering: ®rstly, whether it is appropriate to the period and
the country, and secondly, whether the effect it has had of driving the
present-day Catholic hermeneutic underground has been conducive
to academic fairness.
Equally irreducible, equally awkward, is the fact that some
academics still refuse to acknowledge that the late twentieth century
is supposed, in the West, to be post-Christian. Old-style, `objective'
academic discourse ± in fact, a twentieth-century development that
was never subscribed to by every academic ± was less a declaration
of open-mindedness or agnosticism than a gentleman's agreement to
stop short of disputed territory. Now we can see that it was not
invulnerable to the in®ltration of received ideas: hence deconstruc-
tion, a radical shifting of the sites of controversy, and the jubilee
spirit of revisionism. But any historian who acknowledges in print
that membership of an exclusivist religious body has suggested his or
her lines of research breaks a taboo, agitating the smooth waters of
academic agnosticism. Duffy and Scarisbrick are well-known com-
mentators on Catholic affairs, and one can infer from their writing
in general that Catholic indignation goaded them to formulate their
revisions of the English Reformation; but in their historical works,
their Catholicism is not explicitly stated. Where a historian is a
8 Introduction
practising Christian of any denomination, there can arise a two-tier
system of interpretation, where colleagues or students are familiar
with the writer's convictions but the wider reading public need not
be. Such historians often write with a powerful chained anger,
utilising the insights of historical oppression but unable to admit to
doing so. Coding and censorship are still with us, and necessitate an
academic discourse which conceals religious belief as well as Catholi-
Catholicism, besides, is perhaps unique in the strength of the
identi®cation it demands between the Reformation and now. The
Church of England has only ever made partial claims to universality,
and was so clearly a state construct that historians indifferent or
hostile to its claims can dismiss it easily, or discuss it simply as an
instrument of authority. Conversely, to call someone a puritan now is
a judgement, not a plain description. The capacity of Protestant
Christianity for spontaneous re-invention has resulted in different
names for similar movements: one reason why the idea of a Puritan
has been so open to reductive rede®nition by Christopher Hill and
others.14 Besides, there is something about the notion of Protes-
tantism ± certainly not always the same as Protestantism itself ±
which makes it especially acceptable to the academic mind: the
sceptical, the enquiring, as against the authoritarian, the dogmatic
and the superstitious.15 But Catholicism, despite the differences
between its manifestations in the sixteenth century and the twenti-
eth, places such emphasis on tradition that it cannot be read as
anything other than itself; and so, responses to current Catholicism
have seemed to determine whether one welcomes or shuns it as a
subject for historical enquiry. If one thinks of it as inordinately
powerful and unconscionably conservative under John Paul II, one's
sympathy for its persecuted representatives in early modern Britain
is likely to be diminished; and thence there arises a secularised anti-
Part of the reason Puritans have been more studied than Catholics
by university historians is that, while there are several twentieth-
century Christian denominations which have Puritan characteristics,
none call themselves Puritan; there are certainly Nonconformist
historians of Puritanism, but none are denominational historians in
the Catholic, or Methodist, or Quaker sense. There is still a
dangerous myth abroad that denominational historians are an
unscholarly breed, prone to hagiography, and quick to take offence
Introduction 9
at anyone coming from outside the fold. Puritanism, on the other
hand, is a vacated name bright with suggestions of revolution:
excellent material for scholarly empathy. And something of the same
phenomenon is observable with the study of seventeenth-century
radical religionists, the Ranters and their kindred. Both have demon-
strated a remarkable ability to metamorphose with the times ±
Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down (1978) tells one a
good deal both about the 1640s and the 1960s. But when non-
Catholics consider early modern Catholicism, their attitude is
inevitably coloured by their views on Catholicism now. They may
have an explicit or residual Protestant distaste for what they perceive
as Catholic superstition or the commercialisation of miracles. They
may have a twentieth-century anger at the Catholic position on
women priests, or divorce, or contraception and the Third World.
They may feel about all organised religion as Milton did about
Catholicism: that it is the only kind of unacceptable creed, because it
tries to impair the freedom of others. More mildly, as commented
above, they may associate it with conservatism.
Historians' Athenian anxiety to identify newness has also led to
the under-representation of Catholics. Study of the mutations of
conservatism tends to characterise the second, corrective stage in
any given historical debate. But even revisionism, like any corrective
historiography, has had its terms de®ned by what came previously.
There is no necessary connection at all points between Catholics
and the conservative spirit ± historians have always admitted that
the English Jesuits attracted opprobrium for their newness ± but
because Catholicism prevailed in medieval England, the two have
tended to be handcuffed together in discussions of Catholicism
under the Tudors and Stuarts. And, undoubtedly, there is plenty of
literary evidence indicating that some Catholics eschewed Protes-
tantism for its novelty. But Protestants became Protestants not
because the doctrinal changes were new, but because they were
convinced of their ef®cacy; similarly, one should not assume that
Catholics remained or became Catholics only out of conservative
prejudice, not because they identi®ed truth. The argument from
visibility, how the Church had always been identi®able as such, was
necessarily a conservative one; but it was only a part of the
Catholics' polemical armoury, and not automatically convincing.16
As historians have recently reminded us, the brevity of Mary I's
reign, and the timing of her death, show how much the Protestant
10 Introduction
consensus in England was dependent on chance: but it was a chance
that muted the articulacy of English Catholics for the next century.17
There is literary evidence that the reign of Edward VI was regarded
as an aberration, not only by those hoping for royal patronage, but
among publishers of popular verse whose trade depended on
identifying common sentiments.18 Panegyrists exploited the coinci-
dence of Mary's name with the Virgin's, sent to re-evangelise
England: Myles Hogarde, the best-known of them, related how
`Mary hath brought home Christ againe' to a realm ®lled with
`frantike in®delitie'.19 In his poem presented to Mary I, William
Forrest looked back with what now reads as a combination of
prescience and unconscious bitter irony.
So was ytt, It ys not yeat owte of remembraunce,
moste odyous schysmys / this Royalme dyd late perturbe:
Almoste, the moste parte / geavynge attendaunce:
(aswell of Nobles / as the rustycall Scrubbe:
withe Thowsandys in Cyteeis / and eke in Suburbe)
to that all true Christian faythe dyd abhore:
Receavynge plagys not yeat extyncte thearfore . . .20
But laments had characterised the Catholic voice during the
reformers' depredations, during speci®c events like the Pilgrimage of
Grace, and as a more general expression of dissension and despair;
and lament was again, all too soon, to become a dominant Catholic
genre. The period of this study covers the century which elapsed
between Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity and the Restoration: not
because it is the only period in which interesting Catholic writing
can be found, but because ± taken as a whole ± it was the period
which most obviously encouraged the formulation of a various and
distinct Catholic consciousness. Chapters three and four, chrono-
logical in arrangement, have more to say about this; yet, while they
try to emphasize Catholic mental distinctiveness, they concentrate
upon Catholic loyalism. Distinctiveness can be both oppositional
and eirenical, and loyalism problematises any simple idea of Catholi-
cism as an opposition culture.
The ®nal success of the Protestant Reformation obviously had a
lot to do with the fact that Elizabeth lived where Mary had died, but
it was Elizabeth's positive actions which re-imposed it with an early
decisiveness. The 1559 Act of Uniformity reinstated the 1552 Prayer
Book, and the episcopal visitations of the same year saw to it that the
royal supremacy and recent Crown injunctions were established
Introduction 11
across the country. Religious conservatism was so ®rmly set at the
parochial level that it took a long time to die, and the picture is
complicated by the fact that certain features of it soon began to be
exploited as an anti-Puritan statement.21 Catholic writers, of course,
necessarily continued to refer to the past. But forty-®ve years is a
long time, and during it, the sustained application of a Protestant
order made it possible to distinguish conservative from Catholic.
Survivalism, the retention of pre-Reformation religious practices
beyond the date of the Elizabethan Settlement, has become a
constant element in historians' discussion of the period.22 But it is
not intended here to go into much detail about the varying
de®nitions of Catholic survivalism; clearly it existed, clearly it does
not explain all elements of post-Reformation English Catholicism.
Though individuals may disagree on when Catholic revivalist
in¯uences reached England, or the kind of effects they had, it is
universally acknowledged that the picture of post-Reformation
English Catholicism is not complete without them. The English
Counter-Reformation is a phrase with some meaning ± distinct
though it is from Catholic revivals in Italy or Spain.23 In addition,
the history of Catholic texts, particularly those associated with oral
tradition, is a way to trace not only survival and revival but re-
af®rmation of the Catholic heritage, de®nable by a process which it
is easier to postulate than to identify in speci®c instances. During
England's period of transition from a near-uniformly Catholic to a
largely Protestant society, the popery or the catholicity of a pre-
viously existing Catholic text depended not on its contents, but on
the individual recipient's degree of ideological awareness. At some
irrecoverable point, a medieval celebration of Corpus Christi or a
folk carol about the Virgin would have become a Catholic text to a
singer or copyist, not simply a religious one. Where such texts
survive long past the Reformation, one can often assume that this
has happened.
The shift in attitudes towards pre-Reformation texts and practices
was particularly important over the length of Elizabeth's reign.
Where a status quo becomes outlawed, there is always the danger ±
especially in remote parts of the country ± of confusing deliberate
de®ance with custom; and because Elizabeth's reign was so long and
policies towards Catholics grew stricter towards the middle and end
of it, one recognises the presence of pre-Reformation texts and ideas
throughout it, but sees emerging a change in attitude. Notwithstand-
12 Introduction
ing this, a greater awareness of the Catholic contribution to English
culture would result in some important modi®cations to received
ideas of when medievalism ended in the British Isles. Medieval
patterns of life, religious and social, were sustained on the Continent
by English Catholic religious orders ± in some cases to this day ± and
continued, as far as was practicable, within many Catholic house-
holds. These are shaken traditions, because of secrecy and geo-
graphical dispersal; nevertheless, it is remarkable how long they
Texts, like customs, can acquire de®ance; and Catholic manu-
script culture tells a tale of continuance modulating into a deliberate
stylistic and confessional choice. A manuscript in the National
Library of Wales, covered with a leaf from an English breviary,
copies out a number of medieval saints' lives in a style designed to
recall pre-Reformation precedent; Thomas Jollet's theological
manuscript in the Bodleian is full of decorative initials cut out from
medieval manuscripts and re-used; a manuscript of Catholic devo-
tional material in the Folger Library is partly copied out in a quasi-
medieval script.24 This kind of self-conscious medievalism is further
set in context by the provenance-history of many pre-Reformation
manuscripts; the decisive resurgence of an enthusiasm for the
medieval at the beginning of the nineteenth century proved how
many important manuscripts had survived in the libraries of Catho-
lic families.25 As discussed in chapter ®ve, Catholicism or pro-
Catholic sympathy was often a stimulus towards antiquarian inter-
ests; which is hardly surprising, since Catholics had a religious stake
in preserving the antique.26
But identifying the Catholic text is not a simple process. Preserv-
ing a pre-Reformation manuscript through the Tudor and Stuart
period did not necessarily indicate endorsement of the contents; and
even when a manuscript is clearly post-Reformation, it is still no
easy matter to establish whether it is Catholic or not. Throughout
this study, the methodological problems of determining the Catholic
text have been in the forefront of my mind, and the problems posed
by individual texts have ± where appropriate ± been explained.27 A
manuscript can be identi®ed as belonging to a Catholic family; yet
families were often not religiously uniform. Verses on Catholic
doctrinal topics, or about Catholic martyrs, or by known Catholic
authors, or extracts from Catholic devotional books, may charac-
terise a Catholic manuscript; yet they could also be copied by non-
Introduction 13
Catholics.28 Catholics may even have used, or at least not objected
to, the word `papist' to dissociate themselves from other Catholics
with whom they disagreed.29
Here, an account of a recent methodology used to de®ne the
Catholic text may be instructive: that applied by Anthony Allison
and D. M. Rogers in their awesome two-part bibliography The
Contemporary Printed Literature of the English Counter-Reformation
(1989±94). It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of a
book which has de®ned so many areas demanding future study, as
well as tidying up the confusions that have proliferated around a
body of literature produced by groups obliged to publish abroad or
from secret presses in England, and who relied on elaborate multiple
anonymities.30 Many books are included in Allison and Rogers that
do not ®gure in the Short-Title Catalogue (STC), the most comprehen-
sive record of English books to 1640: most commonly books written
by Catholic Englishmen in some language other than English ±
usually Latin ± and published overseas. Bibliographies are the least
judgemental of catalogues, yet the exclusions of the STC are a
chastening reminder of how even the most generous boundaries of
comprehensiveness can exclude, perhaps unwittingly, an important
part of the output of certain dissident or minority groups: in this
case, Catholics writing for the general market of the European
intelligentsia, or in the language of the country playing host to them.
To their actual deracination has been added bibliographical.31
Though Protestants liked to think that they had a special relation-
ship with the printing-press, and books like Elizabeth Eisenstein's
highly in¯uential The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (2 vols, 1979)
have taken their word for it, Allison and Rogers have proved
unanswerably that English Protestant printing initiatives stimulated
a formidable degree of Catholic retaliation. This sometimes took the
form of consolidating the continued strength of Catholicism in
outlying areas of the British Isles, where the language dif®culty was
greater, resulting in some bibliographical ®rsts: the ®rst legitimate
printed Irish letter, and Y Drych Cristianogawl, the ®rst book printed in
Wales, as well as the ®rst to be printed in Welsh.32 But Catholic
printing in Britain was hindered because presses were clandestine,
while printing abroad was made more dif®cult by the fact that the
compositors often did not know English well. The Reply of the . . .
Cardinall of Perron, to the . . . King of Great Britaine, published from Douai
in 1630, is pre®xed by a weary apology that can be paralleled
14 Introduction
elsewhere. `The printers being Wallons, and our English strange
unto them it was incredible to see how may [sic] faults they
committed in setting; so that in overlooking the proofes for the print,
the margins had not roome enough to hold our corrections: and do
what we could . . . a great many of them remayned uncorrected by
the fastidious fantasy of our workman' (e1b).33
Yet Allison and Rogers applied some severe criteria of orthodoxy
to arrive at their ®nal list of books and writers. Editions of Catholic
writers from mainstream presses are explicitly excluded; and, unless
read in careful conjunction with the STC, this can result in a
minimising of the importance of writers like Robert Southwell. Nor
± unlike, for instance, the Backer-Sommervogel bibliography of the
Jesuit order ± do they list books by Catholics that are not clearly on
religious topics; and this has the effect of excluding some imaginative
works where response to the Catholic condition is only implicit. The
vast literature spawned by apostates from Catholicism is largely
absent, and where apostates are included ± William Alabaster being
an example ± it is only by virtue of the books they wrote as Catholics.
In effect, then, Catholic orthodoxy is demanded both of writer and
of publisher, if a work is to be included: criteria which are also
evoked by the title ± if not necessarily by the editorial choices ± of
the Catholic Record Society's journal, Recusant History.34
Recusant history, as commented earlier in this introduction, has
had a long, famous and instructive past; for the Catholic, it is
uniquely important to know who one's saints are. The term has the
merit of chronological precision, as a means of de®ning English
Catholic history from the Reformation to the Emancipation, and
highlights how the idea of exemplarity is crucial for the understand-
ing of English Catholics at this date; but, all the same, thinking of
Catholics too narrowly in terms of recusants has had the effect of
encouraging the continued underestimation of Catholic population,
in¯uence and importance. As research continues, use of a term
which presupposes that non-recusant Catholics were hardly Catho-
lics at all is growing increasingly problematic. A good case can
certainly be made for employing `recusant' to designate the Catholic
who refused to come to church ± despite the fact that defaulting
puritans were also called recusants ± and for seeing recusants as the
nucleus of what is commonly meant by the post-Reformation
English Catholic community; but future estimations of English
allegiance to Catholicism can only be made more plausible by
Introduction 15
employing, together with the idea of recusancy, a broader designa-
tion which acknowledges that not all Catholics were exemplary, or
conspicuously dissident and heroic.35
John Bossy, in his landmark study The English Catholic Community
(1975), emphasised the importance of non-recusants and recusants
who avoided the statutory penalties, and one can single out two
more recent books as having further changed the academic land-
scape. Alexandra Walsham's Church Papists (1993) is the ®rst full-
length study of the Catholics who chose also to attend church,
reluctantly or otherwise, in order to evade recusancy ®nes and other
forms of persecution. Michael Questier's Conversion, Politics and
Religion in England (1996), which discusses apostates to and from
Catholicism, has highlighted the importance of the category of
convert, as illustrating the ¯uidity and dynamism of denominational
membership. Not all conversions were instantaneous, unrepeatable
road-to-Damascus experiences. The serial convert who might alter-
nate between Catholicism and Protestantism twice, three times and
more during a lifetime, and the near-convert who might hesitate
between denominations for decades, both need to be allowed for in
any estimate of Catholic or pro-Catholic sympathy at this time: a
point which is discussed in chapter two with reference to one of the
most famous literary converts of the seventeenth century, Richard
This book discusses the writing of many types of Catholic: male
and female, clerical, religious and lay, identi®able and anonymous,
resident in Britain and exiled on the Continent. But though so many
of them were widely scattered, across the Continent and barely-
accessible parts of England, the whole notion of an English Catholic
community, which takes its bearings from John Bossy's formulation, is
a helpful one which needs to be borne in mind when looking at
literary texts. The swift, reliable, controllable operation of infor-
mation networks was essential to the effective functioning of this
community: both because masses and other illicit gatherings were
selectively publicised in this way, and because they could serve for
the more general gathering and dissemination of news. De®nitions
of a news item's relevance to Catholics could be wide, and Richard
Verstegan, the English Counter-Reformation's most tireless publicist,
is also an unignorable ®gure in the prehistory of the English
newspaper.37 But English Catholics needed emotional information
about the state of Catholicism, as well as factual; and literary texts,
16 Introduction
best-suited to deliver that information, could be communally per-
formed as well as read in private. Ballads, protest-songs and the
imaginative liturgies of John Austin are only a few examples of the
way that verse could de®ne a community, contribute towards its
sense of solidarity or unite the literate with the unlettered. 38
On an interpersonal level early modern Catholicism was a
catacomb culture, de®ned by secret or discreet worship; but Catho-
lics did not spend all their lives underground, and their visibility had
complex effects. While pointing to communities of Catholic Eng-
lishmen, in England and outside, one needs also to acknowledge two
further points which affected the relationship of Catholics with other
Englishmen. Firstly, there was considerable personal and literary
interaction between individuals of opposing religious views. Catho-
lics and Protestants often lived side by side, sometimes spoke to each
other without quarrelling, and read each other's books.39 Textual
evidence can ®gure what happened to people; devotional writing, in
particular, demonstrates how very little real difference there was
between Catholic and Protestant spirituality, since it is often hard to
tell the denominational allegiances of the authors of devotional
tracts where they are not demonstrable from outside evidence. This,
indeed, was one of the factors that contributed towards a long-
standing debate over whether it was possible for Catholic devotional
texts to be appropriated by Protestants. William Crashaw thought it
`no small point of wisdome, to seeke out gold out of mire and clay',
but Luke Fawne, retorting to a similar argument, pointed out how
necessary it would be to `throw away a whole gile of beer that hath a
gallon of strong poyson in it'.40
Secondly, debates like these demonstrate how interaction between
Catholic and Protestant could never occur without, at the very least,
some awareness of anti-Catholicism. With its call to arms against
Catholic Babylon on the European stage, anti-popery was a shaping
factor to domestic and foreign policy throughout this period,
stimulating precautions which at least one historian has argued were
out of all proportion to any real threat that Catholics could have
posed;41 and, to a degree that is still not fully recognised, it was a
stimulus to imaginative writers. These two manifestations of preju-
dice are inseparably and symbiotically linked. Because of its quest to
make differences clear and suppress similarities, religious polemic
thrives on distortion;42 its generic links with satire are a common-
place, but more generally, it is perhaps nearer to imaginative writing
Introduction 17
than any other theological mode. It creates, but also acknowledges,
an other.43
Both anti-Catholicism and the interaction of Catholic and Prot-
estant can be seen in the large category of Catholic texts which were
read by both sides and altered by Protestants. This could be achieved
by expurgation,44 or even the innocent signs of punctuation could be
used to reform a text. Lines 9±10 of Henry Constable's poem
`Sweete hand the sweete, but cruell bowe thou art' reads in the
original, `Now (as Saint Fraunces) if a Saint am I, / the bowe that
shot these shafts a relique is . . .'; but in one manuscript copy the
brackets have been placed instead round `(if a Saint)', injecting
Protestant scepticism while leaving the comparison intact. 45 More
puzzling is the occasional phenomenon of texts attributable to
outlawed Catholic Englishmen or containing unmistakably Catholic
sentiments, issued by mainstream presses without comment.
Chapter two will discuss this phenomenon of Catholic seepage, in
relation to Robert Southwell. Sometimes, as with poems which copy
Southwell's Saint Peters Complaint, this appropriation could take the
form of imitation: but it was an imitation that did its best to
downplay the importance of the text that inspired it.
In this as in so many other respects, an historical wrong has been
done to Catholics; but English departments are good at being
offended. The unmasking of prejudice, and the dissection of its
imaginative complexities, have been central to post-war study within
the humanities; and many of the best scholars have also tried to go
outside the literary canon, respecting and recovering cultural tradi-
tions, texts and histories which earlier generations, in¯uenced by
prejudiced hierarchies of taste and importance, have buried, for-
gotten or despised. Historians, by the nature of their trade, are
readier to confound what E. P. Thompson famously called `the
enormous condescension of history' by recovering primary sources.
Literary criticism, on the other hand, is particularly well-®tted to
analyse the imaginative techniques of despite: through recognising
and utilising the hermeneutics of suspicion, and through setting out
the phenomenology of the other. There is no area of academic study
where deconstruction, so often criticised as being of wanton effect,
has been deployed more seasonably in the cause of social justice; yet
as often, and perhaps as effectively, the inspiration has been an
untheorised anger.
There would be a good case for including the Elizabethan or
18 Introduction
Stuart Catholic alongside women, racial minorities, Jews, homosex-
uals and the common sort in lists of the historically downtrodden.
The provisos are obvious: these lists vary from era to era and from
country to country; some individuals who fall into these categories
were also the recipients of enormous privilege; and no-one in the
late 1990s would be naive enough to assert that the grievances of all

non-elite or victimised groups are the same, or even particularly
similar. But one is also entitled to ask, at this point, how different
Catholics are from the others. To differentiate between those whose
disadvantage is innate, and those who bring their troubles upon
themselves by opting for an outlawed faith, makes a very dubious
assumption: which is that, at all dates, one can help one's religion.
Even non-believers in predestination should be willing to accept that
psychological, social and familial reasons to adhere to one's faith, or
to change it, could be compelling in Tudor and Stuart England ± or
at any other date. Recovering the voices of the silenced has been an
extraordinarily fashionable academic pursuit for the last few
decades, but also a conscientiously engaged and successful one. Not
everyone has been pleased, even among the plaintiffs; feminist
criticism, notoriously, has been split into many sects almost from the
beginning, and given the resilience of the literary canon, the
demands of the more radical of these may never be widely met. Yet
there has been solid victory, irreversible change, and prominence
newly accorded to women's writing, homosexual writing, popular
culture, anglophone literatures and the writing of ethnic minorities.
The high quality of so much Catholic writing ought to make similar
reparations pleasurable and easy to accomplish.
This book is divided into four chapters. Chapter one addresses the
anti-Catholic revenge tragedies of Webster and Middleton, the
manner in which their imagery took its bearings from anti-Catholic
polemic, and how since the plays came back into mainstream
fashion in the late nineteenth century, this inspiration has not been
recognised. Without wishing to denigrate either writer, it argues that
their plays have taken on a fortuitous enigmatism because the tropes
of anti-Catholic polemic are no longer part of most people's frame of
reference; yet that, because those controversial tropes have contri-
buted to a stereotype, this very enigmatism can, in turn, encourage
an unconscious re-association of Catholicism with evil. Against the
background of an anti-Catholic norm within the mainstream
imaginative discourse of Tudor and Stuart England, the remaining
Introduction 19
chapters discuss Catholic writing, and ± to some degree ± the
surprisingly large quantity of it to be found within the mainstream.
Chapter two addresses, with particular reference to Southwell and
Crashaw, the issue of why Catholic religious poetry has been so
marginal a presence within the canon. Chapters three and four look
at the imaginative preoccupations of Catholic loyalists, those who
had allegiances both towards the monarch and towards the Catholic
hierarchy. Chapters ®ve and six examine the imaginative trans-
mutations that Catholics ± some actually exiled, some not ± gave to
the topic of physical and spiritual exile from one's native land, while
admitting that for those who wanted to write and perform plays
about English heresy and schism, there were practical advantages to
geographical removedness from England. The preoccupation with
conversion, marginality, deracination and hatred which runs
throughout the book is perhaps summed up in the common equation
between Catholicism and foreignness. As within the embassy
chapels, and Henrietta Maria's francophile circle in the Caroline
court, this sometimes meant that Catholicism was tolerated to an
unusually high degree; but more often it added xenophobic epithets
to the bulging linguistic arsenal of anti-Catholic prejudice. Southwell
was not unique in losing ¯uency in his mother-tongue while abroad;
Crashaw wrote in the baroque idiom, so often thought of as un-
English; but, as chapter two argues, they should not for that reason
be dropped from the English canon.
A monograph has more freedom with its emphases than a survey,
and this one has been planned to counteract the controversial
distortions of the past: if ± for instance ± Catholic loyalists ®gure
more largely than angry Catholics, it is because they have attracted
less interest hitherto. For reasons of length many topics had to be left
out or abbreviated, and others, for reasons of practicality, were never
included within the design. The decision had to be taken not to
write copiously on devotional poetry, apart from Southwell's Saint
Peters Complaint; but it is an area which badly needs reassessment in
the light of recent scholarship on early modern manuscript culture.
As commented above, there is no detailed consideration of major
canonical ®gures who are known to be Catholic, or whose name has
been linked with Catholicism. Martyrologies, Jesuit drama, emble-
matics and Catholic historiography, topics which have all been
alluded to brie¯y, could each do with book-length treatment.46 I
hope to address some of them in future work, and a follow-up study
20 Introduction
to this will deal with Catholics and orality, but my chief aim is to
urge others to join in the task of reclamation. Historians usually end
their introductions with the hope that their work will be superseded,
and so shall I; for, as early modern Catholics knew so well, pious
formulae can also be sincere. If this book is read, responded to and
even disagreed with, and if it helps to put Catholic writing back on
the mainstream agenda while alerting scholars to the complexities of
anti-Catholic prejudice in Protestant imaginative writing, it will not
have been useless meanwhile.
part i
Catholics and the canon
chapter 1

The livid ¯ash: decadence, anti-Catholic revenge
tragedy and the dehistoricised critic

Nauseated with murder and steeped in unspoken guilt, the protagon-
ist at the end of Donna Tartt's Secret History ®nds that only one
®ctional genre speaks to his condition.

I spent all my time in the library, reading the Jacobean dramatists. Webster
and Middleton, Tourneur and Ford. It was an obscure specialisation, but
the candlelit and treacherous universe in which they moved ± of sin
unpunished, of innocence destroyed ± was one I found appealing. Even the
titles of their plays were strangely seductive, trapdoors to something
beautiful and wicked that trickled beneath the surface of mortality: The
Malcontent, The White Devil, The Broken Heart . . . I felt they cut right to the
heart of the matter, to the essential rottenness of the world.1

Like many previous literary critics, he enshrines these thoughts in
a dissertation on The Revenger's Tragedy. It might have read something
like an academic book, also published in the early 1990s, which sees
Webster's tragedies as `lit only by the ¯ickering and insubstantial
pageants of worldly pomp, and the brief pale ®re of diamonds cut,
like sinners, with their own dust'.2
This chapter is designed to expose the history of a critical
imperception. All critics are agreed that the strobe-like imagery of
Italianate revenge-tragedy lights up the corrupt world inhabited by
the speaker and the other characters; none has demonstrated an
awareness that both the corruption of that world, and the means of
its illumination, are conceived in speci®cally anti-Catholic terms. In
fact, there are innumerable parallels between the imagery of
Webster and Middleton and the apocalyptic image-clusters of
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century anti-Catholic polemic, and the
former is designed to evoke the latter. But critics of these plays have
tended to impute a false universality to the playwrights' conception
of evil, and, as a result, criticism has suffered over several genera-
24 Catholics and the canon
tions from a lack of historical locatedness, and from an unconscious
entrenched anti-Catholic bias.
This is particularly remarkable because, in some ways, the role of
anti-Catholicism in determining the imaginative milieu of Italianate
revenge tragedy is very obvious, and has long been recognised. But
this chapter tries to avoid re-rehearsing what the genre owes to
parodies of Catholic liturgy, or to anti-Italian xenophobia and
debased Machiavellianism.3 The difference between the two kinds of
anti-Catholicism is that between the obvious and the omnipresent,
and the critic ± on a limited scale ± has to try and reproduce the
kind of leap which feminist literary critics made when they moved
from speci®c instances of ®ctional sexism to thoroughgoing critiques
of patriarchal epistemology.
The focus is on canonical plays ± The Revenger's Tragedy, and
Webster's The White Devil ± partly because these have inspired most
criticism. I have devoted more space to a collage of unfamiliar texts
than to a close reading of familiar ones; nevertheless, my aim is not
to collapse the difference between text and context, but to emphasise
it. One test that has been used to de®ne a canonical work is its
relevance to readers of many different eras: in other words, its
potential to be dehistoricised. And a critic has an obligation to
accept this canonicity: sometimes, indeed, to be alarmed by it.

apocalyptic disclosures
At a philological or conceptual level, an apocalypse is an uncovering
or a disclosure. Davis J. Alpaugh has said, `In a world charged with
meaning by the Creator, the elect are distinguished by their accurate
sense of vision, and this in turn involves not only seeing but
interpreting correctly.' Ronald Paulson, commenting upon this, adds
that `The Puritan's was a world of seeing, which meant to see not only
literally but to sense the unseen reality within natural objects as
well.'4 There was thought to be a particular obligation to discern
eschatological signs, and it was not just Puritans who were urged to
scrutinise the world for these, but Protestants in general. Just as the
temple veil was rent in twain at the Cruci®xion (Mark 15.38) so the
mysteries of creation, redemption and judgement were thought to
have been allegorically foretold in the Apocalypse, or the Book of
Revelation.5 Individual acts of ontological disclosure were seen as
meritorious, proving the common man's ability to unravel scriptural
The livid ¯ash 25
mysteries; yet the disclosures of the Book of Revelation were
conventionally predetermined for the non-elite who nevertheless
had access to sermons, commentaries and controversial literature.
Only an elite group could make convincing and widely disseminable
attempts to unravel allegory, and they were governed by the topical
demands of orthodoxy. Allegory, thus, was potentially more open than
any other literary convention to topical or polemical interpretation.
Richard Bernard's A Key of Knowledge for the Opening of the Secret
Mysteries of St. Johns Mysticall Revelation (1617) explained that `as it is
composed of such similitudes, so the words are ®gurative, the whole
prophecie full of Metaphors, and almost altogether Allegoricall; so
as we must take heede, that we looke further then into the letter and
naked relation of things, as they are set downe' (p. 130).6 This was
partly to be done by observing similitudes between everyday inci-
dents and apocalyptic signs. Bernard in his prefatory epistle stresses
the importance of familiarising oneself with history and contempo-
rary politics, and knowing the direct relation of the Apocalypse to
the law of the land. Among much else, Webster and Middleton's
public were well used to ®nding Rome behind ®gurations of
southern European decadence. It is a commonplace that certain
features of the Book of Revelation lent themselves to anti-popery.7
The Pope was identi®ed with Antichrist, since his kingdom of Rome
was on seven hills and his doctrines and hierarchies perverted true
religion while maximising worldly power.8 Numerological exegeses
also identi®ed various popes with the Beast, whose number was 666.
From after England's break with Rome to well into the nineteenth
century, it was commonplace for the orthodox English Protestant to
identify the Pope as the Whore of Babylon: at times an article of
faith, and at all times tenacious at the popular level.9 In popular
engravings and woodcuts throughout Protestant Europe, it is very
common indeed for the Pope to be depicted astride the seven-
headed beast, and for the Whore of Babylon to have the head of a
pope or to be wearing a papal tiara.10 Nevertheless, it is usually
more helpful to see the Whore of Babylon as the personi®cation of
the false church of which the pope is the representative.
Allegory is traditionally conceptualised as veiling and clothing,
and so the allegorical conception of the Apocalypse created a veil
that it was the duty of true believers to penetrate by the act of
interpretation.11 In Bernard, the book and the acts of reading and
understanding it are referred to as an unsealing, alluding to the
26 Catholics and the canon
Seven Seals and a `discovering and making manifest of secret . . .
things' (p. 85) which the reader, in a con¯ation of the intellectual
and the visual, is asked to `look upon and behold' (p. 108). There is
nothing god-given about this velar conceptualisation of discovery,
but ± given the extent to which the metaphors of the Bible dictated
hermeneutical technique in the seventeenth century ± there might as
well have been.
Disclosure implies concealment, and metaphors of concealment
have a long history in anti-Catholic polemic. The role of visual
beauty in the Catholic church ± pictures, images, vestments and
liturgy ± was held to have a concealing function; it was super®cially
enticing but rotten beneath. Radford Mavericke's Saint Peters Chaine
(1596) is typical in visualising idolaters as wearing the `cloak of
hipocrisie' (p. 65). They take their cue from proverbial visualisations
of hypocrisy, many of which depend on the idea of an alluring, a
pure or a glorious outside concealing an inside that is corrupt: the
most famous Biblical example being the whited sepulchre, `beautiful
outward, but . . . within full of dead men's bones, and of all
Other manifestations of the topos, relying on a prejudice against
ornament rather than a deceptive appearance of purity, include
ornamental paint on any surface, cosmetics on an old or diseased
face or a death's head and ®ne clothes or draperies concealing a
sick or dead body, wood or stone.13 They are schematically
identical, exploiting the prejudice against the `intervening
medium'.14 Morally speaking, they all convey the same message:
the outside is what attracts the eye, yet it is nothing more than a
skin or a veil concealing what is not ®t to be looked on. The object
is not what it is, and the tighter the skin or veil that clings to it, the
more culpable is its hypocrisy. The veil gives the appearance of
health, beauty and life, the object is death itself. Its two states
juxtapose in space, outraging time and defying dualism; and the
Protestant who ¯ays hypocrisy of its pretensions is obliged to adopt
a dualistic habit of thought.
One cannot overemphasise the closeness of negative and positive
images. Catholicism could be seen as the intaglio of the true church,
with the true church de®ning itself in the process of establishing an
other. Dualism is crucial to any understanding of anti-popery,
whether image-oriented or political. Popery was regarded as the
debasement and perversion of Christ's teaching, with Antichrist, the
The livid ¯ash 27
Pope, being the negative image of Christ.15 Peter Lake has spoken of
a `process of binary opposition, inversion or argument from contra-
ries' as characteristic of both learned and popular culture in early
modern Europe, and especially conspicuous in anti-Catholicism:
popery was an `anti-religion, a perfectly symmetrical negative image
of true Christianity', with much anti-Catholic writing pervaded by
`an inverted, hall-of-mirrors quality'.16 While there are many genres
of theological writing for which this judgement could be modi®ed, it
exactly describes the world of polemic.
The concept lent itself well to visual realisation, and superimposi-
tion upon other commonplaces. Fruit, to take one extended
example, was an especially powerful emblem of how beauty could
be juxtaposed with disease, emptiness or ashes. The origin of the
topos is twofold: the verses in the Gospels where good and evil men
are identi®ed by the spiritual fruits they bring forth, and the legend
of the Apples of Sodom by the Dead Sea which are alluring
without, but dust and ashes within (Matthew 7.16±20). Richard
Carpenter's sermon Rome in Her Fruits (1663) punningly refers to
Catholicism's `salt-peter fruits' (p. 9) enclosing gunpowder. In Mid-
dleton's anti-Catholic allegory A Game at Chess (1624) it could be
simpli®ed into rotten fruit: the White King asks the White Knight's
pawn, who has just been revealed to be black underneath, whether
he falls `from the top bough by the rottenness / Of thy alone
corruption, like a fruit / That's over-ripened' (iii i, ll. 269±71).17 In
Re¯ections Upon the Murder of Sir Edmund-Bury Godfrey (1682) the
interlocutor says to his ®ctional pro-Catholic audience: `Since you
have been picking and eating the Strawberries of your Religion,
what think you of the poysonous Mandrake-Aples that follow?'
(p. 31).18 A variant on this, which the above quotation also alludes
to, emphasises the sweets of sin. Here a temporal skin replaces the
spatial, with a quanti®able moment between tasting sweetness and
apprehending bitterness.
The conceptualisation of a deceptive covering had especial force
when that covering already had implications of sin. Fine clothes,
given their high relative cost in relation to other consumer goods,
were an emotive subject to the Elizabethan and Jacobean pamphle-
teer.19 Charles Bansley's A Treatyse Shewing and Declaring the Pryde and
Abuse of Women (ca. 1550) contains lines on light raiment, which ± like
a veil ± conceals and reveals at the same time; and this is unequi-
vocally related back to Catholicism:
28 Catholics and the canon
From Rome, from Rome, thys carkered pryde,
from Rome it came doubtles:
Away for shame wyth soch ®lthy baggage,
as smels of papery and develyshnes! (p. 8)20

Cosmetics ± and, by transference, all other paint ± had similar
implications of wanton luxury. Painting the face was a hypocritical
act, while the representative function of paint deceived the beholder
into believing falsity. The metaphor is complicated by the fact that
Renaissance pigments were frequently obtained by crushing precious
stones.21 Pulverisation of precious substances for alchemical,
medical or painterly purposes fascinated the early Jacobeans ± the
dramatic locus classicus of this fascination is The Alchemist ± and it
could easily be employed to anti-Catholic ends: either Rome's
Cleopatrean dissolution of pearls in wine or the Protestant act of
iconoclasm performed on worldly glory and pernicious beauty,
proleptic of the dust to which these things would come. In Barnabe
Barnes's anti-Catholic play The Divils Charter (1607) Lucretia Borgia is
poisoned by a corrosive in her cosmetic (iv iii).22
Apocalypse declared an end to hypocrisy, rending the veil,
cracking the rind and stripping away pigment; and the act of
interpreting allegory, a penetration to the inner meaning, required a
similarly aggressive disclosure. A recent discussion of inwardness in
the Renaissance has compared the errors inherent in the inductive
process of reading personality ± possible discoveries of rottenness
under beauty ± with the unveiling or dehusking process of biblical
interpretation. Drama subjects personality to exegesis;23 and when
the veil of obscurity is penetrated, the hinderers of the true light are
disclosed in all their specious glory, and become a target for
iconoclastic acts. One must remember that the process of disclosure
was intended to be entertaining. Popular commentators on the
Apocalypse stressed its appeal to the imagination; Bernard argued
that `here are manifold visions and similitudes; the Lord by certain
formes, shapes, and ®gures, as it were Images and pictures, did lively
represent the whole Comicall tragedie, or tragicall Comedie, that
was from the time of the revealing of the Revelation, to be acted
upon the stage of this world' (p. 130). It was an obvious way of
making allegory attractive rather than dif®cult, sweetening the
necessity of continuous study.24
An element of intense light, or of dazzle, is important in the
moment of revelation. It can be taken as a disclosure of bright
The livid ¯ash 29
intellectual truth, or as the rays thrown off by the attributes of the
object, designed to attract the unwary beholder by their glitter:
either a dazzling revelation of corruption or a revelation of dazzling
corruption.25 The subtitle to John Mayo's The Popes Parliament (1591)
promises that in the book there are `throughly delivered and brightly
blazed out, the paltry trash and trumperies of [the Pope] and his
pelting Prelats'. The idea of an ignis fatuus, promising guidance and
revelation while leading the traveller into swamps, ®gures the notion
of theological error. Jewels ®gure as part of the dazzle of corruption,
as tokens of wealth and power, as aids to beauty and sexuality, and as
lucent objects that blind the unwary. As with paint, the evocation of
colour can often be pejorative: Stephen Batman's A Christall Glasse of
Christian Reformation (1569) contrasts in its title the clear jewel of
reformed Christianity with the `coloured abuses' of the Roman
Finally, the essence of a veil is that it is impermanent; as an
illusion, it has only a limited life. Mortality is a veil, with disclosure
bringing immortality or death; John Owen in The Chamber of Imagery
in the Church of Rome Laid Open (1682) says that Catholics have placed
their image `behind the Curtain of Mortality, that the cheat of it
might not be discovered' (p. 69).26 It is the duty of the believer to
hasten the disappearance of the veil, since this brings about the
kingdom of heaven; but, since the whole merit of Rome consists in
its outside, it offers its ¯ock no salvation when that outside passes

the thing disclosed
There is a double layer to apocalypse: the ®rst, when the veil of
clouded perception is torn down, and the second, when the cosmetic
layer of an idol is damaged to reveal its hideous inside. Rhetorically
speaking, the two acts can be described in much the same language,
and often both are simultaneously implicit in one action; but morally
speaking, they can be distinguished as the apprehension of truth and
the destruction of falsity. In the last scene of The Divils Charter, Pope
Alexander VI draws back the curtains of his library to expose the
devil sitting there in papal ponti®cals; and on the engraved title-page
of Thomas Robinson's The Anatomie of the English Nunnery at Lisbon
(1623) the author is shown in the act of drawing a curtain to disclose
a lewd embrace between monk and nun.27 The staging of The Divils
30 Catholics and the canon
Charter and the conceptualisation of Robinson's title-page both arrest
the process of apocalypse, enlisting the viewer to help bring about
exposure. Behind each curtain an epitome of corruption is disclosed,
an abstract concept commonly given human iconographical form.
On Robinson's title-page, truth is apprehended and falsity destroyed
by the single act of drawing the curtain, and the revelation is simply
obscene; but Barnes's devil in vestments presents again the apoca-
lyptic necessity to strip.
It also ful®ls an iconographical commonplace, since in medieval
iconography images were considered memorable insofar as they
were either beautiful or monstrous. The two were juxtaposed long
before the Reformation.28 In a memento mori the combination of the
two states was iconographically appropriate; diptyches on the theme
might have maidens juxtaposed with hags, attractive and repugnant
subjects on facing panels. With images of Vanitas, often a beautiful
and richly dressed woman gazing into a mirror, the beholder was
invited to read moral depravity into a super®cially attractive
subject.29 The iconographical associations were overpoweringly
female, with a misogyny too obvious to need labouring. The related
topos of cosmetics concealing a ravaged face or a death's head is
ubiquitous throughout the period, and has many variations. Medi-
eval Catholic churchmen, following Tertullian, had perceived the
use of cosmetics as implicitly idolatrous.30 The common seven-
teenth-century genre of poems purporting to advise a painter lent
themselves especially well to this combination of anti-Catholicism
and misogyny; their presumption is that the painter shows Catholi-
cism in its true colours, employing in the cause of exposure the same
methods of pigmentation that popery uses to deceive.31 Finally,
cosmetics in a polemical religious context are equated with the paint
that beauti®es an idol of wood or stone, or the drapery that conceals
The contradictions inherent in imposing beauty and monstrous-

. 1
( 10)