Though Blessed Edmund Campion’s Decem Rationes has passed through forty-seven editions,[1] printed in all parts of Europe; though it has awakened the enthusiasm of thousands; though Mark Anthony Muret, one of the chief Catholic humanists of Campion’s age, pronounced it to be “written by the finger of God,” yet it is not an easy book for men of our generation to appreciate, and this precisely because it suited a bygone generation so exactly. Before it can be esteemed at its true value, some knowledge of the circumstances under which it was written, is indispensable.


The chief point to remember is that the Decem Rationes was the last and most deliberate free utterance of Campion’s ever-memorable mission. During the few months that mission lasted he succeeded in staying the full tide of victorious Protestantism, which had hitherto been irresistible. The ancient Church had gone down before the new religion, at Elizabeth’s accession twenty years before, with an apparently final fall, and since then the Elizabethan Settlement had triumphed in every church, in every school and court. The new generation had been moulded by it; the old order seemed to be utterly prostrate, defeated and moribund. Nor was it only at home that Protestantism talked of victory. In every neighbouring land she had gained or was gaining the upper hand. She had crossed the Border and subdued Scotland, she held Ireland in an iron grip, she had set up a new throne in Holland, she had deeply divided France, and had learned how to paralyze the power of Spain. What could stay her progress?

Then a new figure appeared, a fugitive flying before the law. He was hunted backwards and forwards across the country, every man’s hand seemed against him. It was impossible to hold out for long against such immense odds, and he was in fact soon captured, mocked, maligned, sentenced and executed with contumely. Yet Campion and his handful of followers had meanwhile succeeded in doing what the whole nation, when united, had failed to do. He had evoked a spirit of faith and fervour, against which the violence of Protestantism raged in vain. He had saved the beaten, shattered fragments of the ancient host, and animated them with invincible courage; and his work endured in spite of endless assaults and centuries of persecution. The Decem Rationes is Campion’s harangue to those whom he called upon to follow him in the heroic struggle.


Thus much for the inspiration and general significance of Campion’s work considered as a whole. It will also repay a much more minute study, and to appreciate it we must enter into further details.

As to the man himself, suffice it to say that he was a Londoner; his father a publisher; his first school Christ’s Hospital; that he was afterwards a Fellow of St. John’s, Oxford, and held at the same time an exhibition from the Grocer’s Company. At Oxford he accepted to some extent the Elizabethan Settlement of religion, but not sufficiently to satisfy the Company of Grocers, who eventually withdrew their exhibition. This was a sign for further inquisitorial proceedings, which made him leave the University, and retire to Dublin; but he was driven also thence by the zealots for Protestantism. Eventually he went over to the English College at Douay, whence he migrated to Rome, entered the Society of Jesus, and after eight years’ training had returned, a priest, to his native country, forty years old. His strong point was undoubtedly a singularly lovable character, and he possessed the gift of eloquence in no ordinary degree. For the rest, his natural qualities and acquired accomplishments were above the ordinary level, without reaching an extraordinary height. He was a man who never ceased working, and whose temper was always angelic, though he sometimes suffered from severe depression. He was adored by his pupils both at Oxford and in Bohemia. His memory was always bright, and his conversation always sparkled with fresh thoughts and poetical ideas. He composed with extraordinary facility in Latin prose and verse; but the extant fragments of these literary exercises do not strike us as being of unusual excellence, though genuinely admired in their day. He was certainly an ideal missioner: saintly, inspired, eloquent, untireable, patient, consumed with the desire for the success of his undertaking, and unfaltering in his faith that success would follow by the providential action of God, despite the obvious fact that all appearances were against him.

Campion landed at Dover late in June, 1580, and reached London at the end of the month. There was an immediate rush to hear him, and Lord Paget was persuaded to lend his great hall at Paget House in Smithfield to accommodate a congregation for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The sermon was delivered on the text from the Gospel of the day, Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi. The hall was filled, and the impression caused by the sermon was profound; but the number of hearers had been imprudently large. Though no arrests followed, the persecutors took the alarm, and increased their activity to such an extent that large gatherings had for ever to be abandoned; and after a couple of weeks both Campion and Persons left London to escape the notice of the pursuivants, whose raids and inquisitorial searches were making the lot of Catholics in town unbearable, whereas in the country the pursuit was far less active, and could be much more easily avoided. The two Fathers met for the last time at Hoxton, then a village outside London, to concert their plans for the next couple of months, and were on the point of starting, each for his own destination, when a Catholic of some note rode up from London. This was Thomas Pounde, of Belmont or Beaumont, near Bedhampton, a landed gentleman of means, an enthusiastic Catholic, and for the last five years or so a prisoner for religion. Mr. Pounde’s message in effect was this. “You are going into the proximate danger of capture, and if captured you must expect not justice, but every refinement of misrepresentation. You will be asked crooked questions, and your answers to them will be published in some debased form. Be sure that whatever then comes through to the outer world will come out poisoned and perverted. Let me therefore urge you to write now, and to leave in safe custody, what you would wish to have published then, in case infamous rumours should be put about during your incarceration, rumours which you will then not be able to answer or to repudiate.” Father Persons seems to have agreed at once. Campion at first raised objections, but soon, with his ever obliging temper, sat down at the end of the table and wrote off in half an hour an open letter To the Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, afterwards so well known as Campion’s Challenge.


Campion, after finishing his letter and taking copy for himself, had consigned the other copy to Pounde. Persons had done the same; but whereas the latter took the precaution to seal his letter, Campion had handed over his unfastened. Then the company broke up. Persons made a wide circle from Northampton round to Gloucester, while Campion made a smaller circle from Oxfordshire up to Northampton. When they got back to town in September, they found all the world discussing “the Challenge.” What had happened was that proceedings had been taken by the Ecclesiastical Commission against Pounde, and he had been committed to solitary confinement in the ruinous castle of Bishop’s Stortford. Before he left London he began to communicate the letter to others, lest it should be altogether lost, and as soon as it was thus published it attracted everyone’s attention, and his adversaries had ironically christened it the challenge. The word was indeed one which Campion had used, but he had employed it precisely in order to avoid any charge that might have arisen, of being combative and presumptuous.

Thus in the course of three months Campion, as it were in spite of himself, had filled England with his name and with the message he had come to announce, and he had reduced his adversaries to a very ridiculous position. They had been dared to meet him in disputation, and this they feared to do. In effect, they in their thousands were hiding their heads in the sand, while their constables and pursuivants were raiding the houses of Catholics on every side in hopes of catching the homeless wanderer, and of stopping his mouth by violence. The pulpits, of course, rang with outcries against the newcomer, and in his absence his doctrines were rent and scoffed at; but, as Campion said in a contemporary letter, “The people hereupon is ours, and the error of spreading that letter abroad hath done us much good.” This was the first popular success which the Catholics had scored for years; and after so many years of oppression some popular success was of immense importance to the cause. Father Persons, in a contemporary letter, says that the Government found that there were 50,000 more recusants that autumn than they had known of before. The number is, of course, a round one, and is possibly much exaggerated, but it gives the Catholic leader’s view of the advantage won at this time.

We may now turn to The Challenge itself, the only piece of
Campion’s English during this his golden period, which has survived.


Whereas I have come out of Germanie and Boemeland, being sent by my Superiors, and adventured myself into this noble Realm, my deare Countrie, for the glorie of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busie watchful and suspicious worlde, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course. Wherefore, providing for all events, and uncertaine what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this writing in a readiness, desiringe your good Lordships to give it ye reading, for to know my cause. This doing I trust I shall ease you of some labour. For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plaine confession. And to ye intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these ix points or articles, directly, truly and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.

i. I confesse that I am (albeit unworthie) a priest of ye Catholike Church, and through ye great mercie of God vowed now these viii years into the Religion of the Societie of Jhesus. Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.

ii. At the voice of our General Provost, which is to me a warrant from heaven, and Oracle of Christ, I tooke my voyage from Prage to Rome (where our said General Father is always resident) and from Rome to England, as I might and would have done joyously into any part of Christendome or Heathenesse, had I been thereto assigned.

iii. My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reforme sinners, to confute errors—in brief, to crie alarme spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many my dear Countrymen are abused.

iv. I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of State or Policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I do gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.

v. I do ask, to the glory of God, with all humility, and under your correction, iii sortes of indifferent and quiet audiences: the first before your Honours, wherein I will discourse of religion, so far as it toucheth the common weale and your nobilities: the second, whereof I make more account, before the Doctors and Masters and chosen men of both Universities, wherein I undertake to avow the faith of our Catholike Church by proofs innumerable, Scriptures, Councils, Fathers, History, natural and moral reasons: the third before the lawyers, spiritual and temporal, wherein I will justify the said faith by the common wisdom of the laws standing yet in force and practice.

vi. I would be loth to speak anything that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man’s foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet have I such a courage in avouching the Majesty of Jhesus my King, and such affiance in his gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and my evidence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears)[2] can maintain their doctrine in disputation. I am to sue most humbly and instantly for the combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found: protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.

vii. And because it hath pleased God to enrich the Queen my Sovereign Ladye with notable gifts of nature, learning, and princely education, I do verily trust that—if her Highness would vouchsafe her royal person and good attention to such a conference as, in the ii part of my fifth article I have motioned, or to a few sermons, which in her or your hearing I am to utter,—such manifest and fair light by good method and plain dealing may be cast upon these controversies, that possibly her zeal of truth and love of her people shall incline her noble Grace to disfavour some proceedings hurtful to the Realm, and procure towards us oppressed more equitie.

viii. Moreover I doubt not but you her Highness’ Council being, of such wisdom and discreet in cases most important, when you shall have heard these questions of religion opened faithfully, which many times by our adversaries are huddled up and confounded, will see upon what substantial grounds our Catholike Faith is builded, how feeble that side is which by sway of the time prevaileth against us, and so at last for your own souls, and for many thousand souls that depend upon your government, will discountenance error when it is bewrayed, and hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Societie be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: so it must be restored.

ix. If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour, I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.

* * * * *

“Direct, true, and resolute,” Campion’s words certainly are, and they are calculated in a remarkable degree to reassure and animate his fellow Catholics and their friends, and it is for them in reality, rather than for the Lords of the Council, that the message is composed. If the composition has a fault it is its combativeness; and in effect, though this drawback was not felt at the time, it was later. Subsequent missionaries found it best to adopt a policy of far greater secrecy and silence. If, however, we remember that Campion intended his paper to be published under quite different circumstances, we can see that he at least hardly deserves the reproach of being contentious, or if he does, his failing was venial when we consider the tastes of the age. The immediate result of the publication was without question a great success.


Like a wise general, Father Persons at once bethought himself how best to follow up the good beginning already made. Accordingly, when he and Campion met at Uxbridge (for it was not safe for Campion to come to London), he suggested that the latter, seeing that his memory was still green at Oxford, should compose a short address on the crisis to the students of the two Universities. Campion met the suggestion as he had met the suggestion of Pounde, with a gentle disclaimer, “alleging divers difficulties,” but soon good-humouredly assented on the condition (not a usual one with literary men) that someone else should propose the subject. The company therefore made various suggestions, none of which met with general acceptance, until Campion proposed “Heresy in Despair.” “Whereat,” adds Persons, “all that were present could not choose but laugh, and wonder to see him fall upon that argument at such a time when heresy seemed most of all to triumph.” In truth, with England invincible at sea and on land, and the absolute sway of Elizabeth, Cecil, and Walsingham over both Church and State, what more hopeful position for Protestantism could have been imagined? Campion’s meaning, of course, was that Protestantism was in despair of holding the position of the ancient Church; of ruling in the hearts of a free people; of co-existing with Christian liberty. It was unworthy, therefore, of the acceptance of minds that aspired to mental freedom, as did the youth of the Universities. This subject for an address was welcomed with acclamation, and Campion promised to undertake it, suggesting on his side that Persons should arrange ways and means for printing the tract when finished, and any other which might seem needed.

This agreed to, all separated once more, and Campion rode northwards on a tour which he took in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, and which was not over for six months. Meantime Father Persons had set up his “magic press” near London, and issued from it five volumes of small size indeed, but of remarkable vigour and merit. As soon as any notable attack was made on the Catholics, an answer was brought out in a wonderfully short time, and these answers were pithy, vigorous, and pointed, in no ordinary degree. When one remembers how much co-operation is needed to bring out even the slightest volume, one is truly astonished at the feat of bringing out so many and such good ones, while the hourly fear of capture, torture, and death hung over the heads of all. When threatened with danger in one place the press was bodily transported to another.

However, our business at present is not with Persons, but with Campion. His book was finished and sent up to Persons in March, 1581, with a title altered to suit the controversy which had already begun. It was now Decem Rationes: quibus fretus, certamen adversariis obtulit in causa Fidei, Edmundus Campianus& c. “Ten Reasons, for the confidence with which Edmund Campion offered his adversaries to dispute on behalf of the Faith, set before the famous men of our Universities.” Persons was charmed, as he had expected to be, with its literary grace. It was in Latin, as had been agreed, and Campion’s Latin prose, (though critics of our time find it somewhat silvery and Livian), suited the tastes of that day to perfection. The only thing which made Persons at all thoughtful was the number of references. Campion declared that he was sure he had verified them, as he entered them in his notebook, but Persons, with greater caution, declared that they must be verified anew.

The difficulty of this for men living under the ban, and cut off from access to large libraries, was of course great, but through the help of others, especially through Mr. Thomas Fitzherbert of Swynnerton, the task was happily accomplished. Campion came up from the north to Stonor, on the Oxfordshire border where the secret press then was; and there, amid a thousand fears, alarms and dangers, the book was printed.


Of the actual preparations for printing the Ten Reasons, Persons gives this account in his memoirs[3]: Persons was of opinion that Campion should come up to London immediately after Easter [March 26th] to examine the passages quoted, and to assist the print. Meanwhile Persons began to prepare new means of printing, making use of friends and in particular of a certain priest called William Morris, a learned and resourceful man, who afterwards died in Rome.[4] This was necessary, as the first press near London, where the first two books had been printed, had been taken down. Eventually and with very great difficulty he found, after much trying, a house belonging to a widow, by name Lady Stonor, in which she was not living at that time. It was situated in the middle of a wood, twenty miles from London.

To this house were taken all things necessary, that is, type, press, paper, &c., though not without many risks. Mr. Stephen Brinkley, a gentleman of high attainments both in literature and in virtue, superintended the printing. Father Campion then coming to London, with his book already revised, went at once to the house in the wood, where the book was printed and eventually published. Persons too went down to stay with him for some days to take counsel on their affairs.

* * * * *

Stonor Park, to which Campion and Persons had betaken themselves,[5] is still in the possession of the old Catholic family of that name, of which Lord Camoys is the representative. Father Morris says that “the printing, according to the traditions of the place, was carried on in the attics of the old house.”[6] Being near Henley it was possible to go there by road or by water, and one might come and go on the Oxford high-road without attracting attention.

Still there was grave risk of discovery from the noise made by the press, and from the number of extra men about the house, as to the fidelity of each of whom it was impossible to be absolutely sure. Day by day the dangers thickened round them. One evening, soon after their arrival, William Hartley, a priest and afterwards a martyr, who was helping in the work, and had then just come back from a visit to Oxford, mentioned casually that Roland Jenks, the Catholic stationer and book-binder there, was again in trouble, having been accused by his own servant. Jenks was doubtless known to all Oxford men, indeed but three years before his name had been noised all over Europe. He had been sentenced to have his ears cut off for some religious offence, when the Judge was taken ill in the court itself, and, the infection travelling with marvellous rapidity, the greater part both of the bench and of the jury were stricken down with gaol fever, and two judges, twelve justices, and other high officials, almost the whole jury, and many others, died within the space of two days.[7]

In mentioning Jenks’s new troubles Hartley probably did not realize the extent of the danger to the whole party which they portended. Persons had in fact employed the very servant who had now turned traitor, to bind a number of books for him at his house near Bridewell Church, London, which with all its contents was thus in a perilous condition. Early next morning an express messenger was sent in to town with orders to hide or destroy Persons’ papers and other effects. It was already too late: that very night the house had been searched, and Persons’ letters, books, vestments, rosaries, pictures, and other pious objects, had all fallen into the hands of the pursuivants. Worse still, Father Alexander Briant, afterwards a martyr, and one of the brightest and most lovable of the missionaries, was seized next door, and hurried off first to the Counter, then to the Tower, where he was repeatedly and most cruelly racked to make him say where Persons might be found.

Information about his torture was brought to the Jesuits at Stonor, and one can easily see how grave and disturbing such bad news must have been. “For almost the whole of one night,” says Persons, “Campion and I sat up talking of what we had better do, if we should fall into their hands. A fate which befell him soon after.”

The Registers of the Privy Council inform us that their Lordships gave orders to have Jenks sent up to London on the 28th of April. This settles approximately the date of the beginning of the printing at Stonor, and the book was not finished till nearly the end of June. So the work lasted about nine weeks, a fairly long period when we consider the smallness of the Latin book, here reproduced. It will, however, be shown from intrinsic evidence, that the stock of type was very small. The printers had to set up a few pages at a time, to correct them at once, and to print off, before they could go any further. Then they distributed the type and began again. When all was finished they rapidly stabbed and bound their sheets. Considering the fewness of the workmen[8] and the unforeseen delays which so often occur during printing, the time taken over the production does not seem extraordinary.

For many years no example of the original edition of the Decem Rationes was known to exist: none of our great public libraries in London or at the Universities possesses a copy. But it was the singular good fortune of the late Marquess of Bute to pick up two copies of this extremely rare volume, and he munificently presented one of them to Stonyhurst College. Canon Gunning of Winchester is the happy owner of a third copy. By the courtesy of the Rector of Stonyhurst, I am able to offer a minute description of the precious little book.

The volume is, considering the printing of that time, distinctly well got up. There is nothing at first sight to suggest that its publication had been a matter of so much difficulty and danger; but when one scrutinizes every page with care, one finds that it bears about it some traces of the unusual circumstances under which it was produced.

If we look first for the water-mark in the paper we shall find that it is the pot—the ordinary English sign; a proof, if one were needed, that the book was really printed in this country. The sheets run from A to K (with prefixed [double-dagger]), in fours, 16mo; the folios are 44, of which 39 are numbered (but by accident the pagination is omitted from 1 to 4 and 40 is blank as well as the fly-leaves).

Let us think of what this means. Eleven signatures for 44 folios, 16mo, means that only eight pages 16mo went into each printing frame, or, in other words, that the frame was so small that it would have been covered by half a folio sheet, 9 by 13 inches. They probably printed off each little sheet by itself, for if they had had a larger frame so as to print an entire folio sheet—then we should have found in the finished book that the water-mark would recur once in each sixteen pages. In point of fact, however, it only recurs irregularly in the first, fifth, and tenth gathering. This could not have occurred unless the sheets used were of half folio size.

A Greek fount was evidently wanting. Campion was fond, after the fashion of scholars of that day, of throwing into his Latin letters a word or two of Greek, which in his autograph are written, as Mr. Simpson has remarked, with the facility of one familiar with the language. Here on fol. 24 a we find adynata, where [Greek: adunata] would have been in Campion’s epistolary manner. Again, on fol. 4 b he quotes, “Hic calix novum testamentum in sanguine meo, qui (calix) pro vobis fundetur,” and in the margin Poterion Ekchynomenon, in Italics, where Greek script, if obtainable, would obviously have been preferred. A further indication of the difficulties under which type had been procured is seen in the use of a query sign of a black-letter fount (i.e. [different question mark]) instead of the Roman fount (i.e.,?). This will be the more readily comprehended when we remember that Father Persons’ books, which Brinkley had printed before, were in English, and that English prose was then still generally printed in Gothic character[9].

So Persons also made use of it in order that there might be nothing in his books to strike the eye as unusual in books of that class. Campion’s volume on the other hand being in Latin, it was necessary to procure a new set of “Roman” type. The use of the black-letter query-signs would not at once attract attention, so they were kept, though all else was changed.

A further trace of the difficulty in finding type is found in the signs for a, e, diphthong. This combination recurred very frequently in Latin, and the printers had very few of them. Very soon after starting we find them substituting for Roman an Italic diphthong, [ae ligature] also o, e ([oe ligature]), and even e, an ordinary mediaeval form of the sign. It will be noticed that these substitutions become increasingly frequent, as we approach fol. 12 (end of signature C), fol. 32 (end of signature H), and 36 (end of signature I), whereas as soon as the next signature begins the fount of [ae ligature] is ready to hand again. The conclusion to be deduced is that leaves C, H, and I were each printed off, and the type distributed, before the setting up of D, I, and K could be proceeded with. This illustrates what has been said before of the very small stock of type in the printing establishment.

Another slight peculiarity ought perhaps to be noticed: it is the accentuation of the Latin. Adverbs, for instance, are generally accented on the last syllable, e.g., doctiu’s, facile’, qua’m, eo’, quo’: the rule, however, is by no means regularly kept. But this has evidently nothing to do with the peculiar conditions under which Campion’s book was produced, and is to be accounted for by the use of accents in other publications of the same class. Nothing was then definitely settled about the accentuation of either French, Italian, or Latin, and Campion’s volume does but reproduce the uncertainty on the matter which was everywhere prevalent.

Whilst the printers were contending with the difficulties arising from the smallness of their stock of type, difficulties which no doubt caused vexatious and dangerous delays, Campion and Persons resumed their missionary labours with vigour. In his Memoirs Persons writes:

* * * * *

Whilst the preparations were being made Campion preached unweariedly, sometimes in London, sometimes making excursions. There was one place [that of the Bellamy’s] whither we often went, about five miles from London, called Harohill. In going thither we had to pass through Tyburn. But Campion would always pass bareheaded, and making a deep bow both because of the sign of the Cross, and in honour of some martyrs who had suffered there, and also because he used to say that he would have his combat there.[10]

* * * * *

Father Bombino[11] managed to find out some further details. Mrs. Bellamy’s house, he tells us, had a good library, and as to Campion’s conduct at Tyburn, he explains that the shape of the gallows was a triangle, supported at its three angles by three baulks of timber; the tie-beams, however, suggested to Campion the Cross of Christ.

From the State Papers we hear of other families and places said
to have been visited by Campion at this period: the Prices, of
Huntingdon; Mr. William Griffith, of Uxbridge; Mr. Edwin East, of
Bledlow, Bucks; Lady Babington, at Twyford, Bucks; Mr. Dormer, at
Wynge, and Mrs. Pollard.[12]

In spite of alarms, dangers, and interruptions, the work of printing was concluded without mishap. The method of publication was singular. Hartley took the bulk of the copies to Oxford, where the chief academical display of the year, the Act, as it was called, was taking place in St. Mary’s, on several successive days. Hartley, coming in at the end of the first day, waited for every one to go out, then slipped his little books under the papers left on the seats, and was gone. Next morning he entered with the rest, and soon saw that his plan had been perfectly successful. The public disputation began, but the attention of the audience was elsewhere. There was whispering and comparing notes, and passing about of little books, and as soon as the seance was over, open discussion of Campion’s “Reasons.” Hartley did not wait for more, but rode back to Stonor with the news that the book had surely hit its mark.

At Oxford, as Father Persons says, many remembered and loved the man, or at least knew of his gentle character, and of the career he had abandoned to become a Catholic missionary. The book recalled all this; and to those who were able to enter into its spirit it preached with a strange penetrating force. By all the lovers of classical Latin, and there were many such at that day, it was read greedily. The Catholics and lovers of the old Faith received it with enthusiasm, but a still more valid testimony to its power was given by the Protestant Government, which gave orders to its placemen that they should elaborate replies. These replies drew forth answers from the Catholics, and the controversy lasted for several years. Mr. Simpson has included an outline of this controversy in his Life of Campion, and to it I may refer my readers, having nothing substantial to add to his account.


It would not be necessary for me to say more about its success, except that to us nowadays, the Rationes will not seem at all so remarkable as it did to our ancestors. Religious controversy, in itself, does not much interest us moderns; and those who will read Latin merely to enjoy the style are very few. But in the sixteenth century, as Sir Arthur Helps truly says, men found in the thrill of controversy the interest they now take in novels. At that time, too, of all literary charms, that of good Latin prose was by far the most popular, and the language was still the “lingua franca” of the learned all the world over. Once we get so far as to appreciate that both subject and style were in its favour, the popularity of the volume will seem natural enough, for it is bright, pointed, strong, full of matter, bold, eloquent, convincing.

Without attempting anything like a complete account of the reception of the book by the public, I may mention as the most obvious proof of its popularity, that more strenuous endeavours were made (so far as I can discover) to answer it than were made in the case of any other assault upon the Elizabethan religious settlement. Lord Burghley himself, the chief minister of the Crown, called upon the Bishop of London, perhaps the most forward man then on the episcopal bench, to use all endeavours to ensure the publication of a sufficient answer. Finally they appointed the Regius Professors of Divinity both at Oxford and at Cambridge to provide for the occasion, and it took both of these a long series of months to propound their answers to Campion’s tract, which is only as long as a magazine article. Speaking broadly, we may say that this was the most that Elizabeth’s Establishment could do officially; and besides this, there were sermons innumerable, and pamphlets not a few by lesser men, as well as disputations in the Tower, of which more must be said later.

This hostile evidence is so striking and so ample that it might seem unnecessary to allege more, but I attach a great deal more importance to the praise of theologians of Campion’s own faith: for, in the first place this is much harder to obtain than the attention of the persons attacked. Secondly, those who are acquainted with Catholic theological criticism are at first surprised to find what very severe critics Catholic theologians are one of another. In this case, where the writer had from the nature of his task to make so much use of rhetorical arguments, allusions, irony, and unusual forms of expression, there was more than usual chance of fault being found, especially as every possible thorny subject is introduced somehow, and that in terms meant to please not Roman theologians, but Oxford students. Evidently there was danger here that critics should or might be severe, or at least insist on certain changes and emendations. In fact the work was received with joy, and reprinted frequently and with honour. I have lately found a letter in its commendation from the Cardinal Secretary of State of that day, and Muret, as we have heard, perhaps the greatest humanist then living in the Catholic ranks, described it as “Libellum aureum, vere digito Dei scriptum.”


The publication of the Decem Rationes was the last act of Campion’s life of freedom. He was seized the very next week, and after five months of suffering was martyred on 1 December, 1581. During that prolonged and unequal struggle against every variety of craft and violence the Ten Reasons continued to have their influence, and on the whole they were extremely helpful, for they enabled the martyr to recover some ground which he had lost while under torture. During those awful agonies he confessed to having found shelter in the houses of certain gentlemen. It is certain that these names were all known to the Government before, and that he was not betraying any secret. Nevertheless the gentlemen in question were at once seized, imprisoned and fined, on the alleged evidence of Campion’s confessions only. This of course caused much scandal among Catholics, and so long as he lay lost in the Tower dungeons, unpleasant rumours about his constancy could not be effectively contradicted. Thus far Elizabeth’s ministers had gained an advantage, which Pounde had foretold they were likely to win. But the remedy he had suggested also proved effective.

Though under ordinary circumstances Elizabeth’s ministers “meant nothing less” than having the disputation requested, nevertheless now that Campion was so terribly shaken and reduced, they hoped that they might arrange some sort of a meeting, which might in show correspond with what had been demanded in the Decem Rationes, and yet leave them with a certain victory. They were emboldened too, by finding that their prisoner was not after all, such a particularly learned man. He had never been a professor of theology, or written or made special studies, beyond the ordinary course which in those days was not a long one. It was, therefore, settled that four disputations should be held in the Tower of London. Theology was still taught at Oxford and Cambridge in something of the old mediaeval method and in syllogistic form. The men who were pitted against Campion had lately been, or were still, examiners at the Universities. Nor is it to be denied for a moment that they did their work well. The attack never faltered. Their own side quite believed they had won. The method they adopted was this. They assumed the role of examiners, and starting with the Decem Rationes before them, they plied Campion with crabbed texts, and obscure quotations from the Fathers. Then they cut short his answers, and as soon as one had examined for one quarter of an hour, another took his place, for they were anxious above all things to avoid defeat. The number of topics broached and left unsettled surpasses belief, indeed the scene was one of utter confusion, taunts, scoldings, sneers—a very, very different test from the academic argumentation, which Campion had requested.

The martyr did not show any remarkable erudition, indeed all opportunity to do so was carefully shut off. No University, I fancy, would have given him a chair of theology on the strength of his replies on that occasion. There was more than one premature assertion of victory on the Protestant side. But when the Catholic and Protestant accounts are compared, one sees that the advantages won against Campion were slight. They evidently hoped that by vigorous and repeated attacks they would at last puzzle or bear him down. But they were never near this. He was always fresh and gay, never in difficulties, or at the end of his tether. He stands out quite the noblest, the most sympathetic and important figure in those motley assemblies. The Catholics were delighted. They succeeded in getting their own report of the disputations, which is still extant, and they would have printed it, if they had been able. Philip, Earl of Arundel, by far the most important convert of that generation, was won over by what he heard in those debates.

On the whole then we must say that, if Campion did not come off gloriously, he at least acquitted himself well and honourably, and distinctly gained by the conflict. Offers of disputation were not the ideal way of forwarding a mission such as his. Nevertheless, in his case, despite circumstances the most adverse, the result had proved advantageous. It had greatly strengthened and encouraged his own followers, and that was in reality the best that could then be expected. Incidentally too the adverse rumours, which had gained ground during his seclusion, were dissipated. It was clear that, though he might have been deceived, his constancy was unconquerable.

Thus Campion’s Challenge and his Ten Reasons not only contain the message of his mission enunciated with characteristic eloquence, but the delivery of each message is an history-making event, big with dramatic consequences. The controversy about his book did not die with him, but continued for some years, until it was merged into the standing controversy between the two religions. We cannot describe it here.

Suffice it to say that Mr. Simpson, in the Appendix to his Edmund Campion enumerates not less than twenty works, which appeared in those controversies between 1581 and 1585. The chief defender of Father Campion’s writings was Father Robert Drury, S.J., but all his biographers also have something to say on the subject. The chief opponents are William Charke, Meredith Hanmer, William Fulke, Laurence Humphrey, William Whitaker, R. Stoke, John Field, Alexander Nowell, and William Day. Some further information on the whole subject may be found in articles by the late Father Morris and myself in The Month for July 1889, January 1905, and January 1910. [J.H.P.]

[Footnote 1: Of these four are in English translations, dated 1606 (by Richard Stock), 1632, 1687, and 1827. The present translation is thus the fifth into Campion’s mother tongue. Though each of the quaint old versions has its merits, and some do not lack charm, not one would adequately represent Campion to the modern reader. A new translation was a necessity—may I not say, a most happy one—seeing that Father Joseph Rickaby was at hand to satisfy it. [J.H.P.]]

[Footnote 2: The meaning is—”The ministers tyrannize over us, as if we were a kingdom of unlearned schoolboys, listening to a teacher of grammar.”]

[Footnote 3: Catholic Record Society IV., 14-17.]

[Footnote 4: Father Bombino calls him Richard Morris, and says he went into exile and lived with Allen first at Rheims, and afterwards at Rome, where he died in the English College. (Vita Campiani, p. 139)]

[Footnote 5: Father Morris identified the lady who let or lent
Stonor Park, with Dame Cecilia Stonor, daughter of Leonard
Chamberlain. Father Persons describes her as a widow, and if so,
the Sir Francis, then alive, was not her husband, but her son.
Both father and son had the same Christian name.]

[Footnote 6: On the other hand, Mr. Thomas Edward Stonor, in a correspondence to be mentioned immediately, says that there were no definite traditions as to the actual locality of the press.]

[Footnote 7: Challoner, Missionary Priests, Introd. p. 12.]

[Footnote 8: As five printers were subsequently arrested, we know their names, and they deserve to be recorded here, viz., Stephen Brinkley, John Harris, John Hervey, John Tuker, John Compton. Allen speaks of seven workmen. Diary of the Tower and Douay Diary.]

[Footnote 9: The custom however was already changing, and “Roman” type soon afterwards came into general use.]

[Footnote 1: Memoirs, i. cap. 24; Collectanea P. fol. 155.]

[Footnote 11: Bombino, Vita Campiani 1620, p.136. Some of Bombino’s additions are not, perhaps, arranged in their true chronological order. He tells us, for instance, a propos of Brinkley’s difficulties in getting printers, that he had to dress them, and give them horses to ride, like gentlemen. But he does not make it clear whether these were the men who printed the Ten Reasons, or Persons’ previous works. Bombino says that Brinkley paid for the type, &c., but Allen, in a contemporary letter, says that George Gilbert had left a fund for these purposes. Bombino says the printing of the Decem Rationes was commenced at Brinkley’s own house at Green Street, and had to be removed because one of the servants was arrested in London, and tortured to make him confess, which he heroically refused. Campion and Persons knowing of the torture, not of the man’s constancy, at once removed the press. But Persons’ Memoirs ascribes this incident to an earlier period. (Domestical Difficulties, p. 119; Autobiography for 1581).]

[Footnote 12: Simpson, p. 217, following Lansdowne MSS. xxx. 78]