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Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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George Scharich, who was sick, and had sent him costly waters. By his
kindness he had consoled the whole community. The same day he had
conducted the "queens," his sisters, solemnly to their retreat at Hall,
and on the next had left for Prague, upon which Father Hoffaus had
taken possession of the new college.

* Orig. G. Epist., 9, 133.


On the 31st January 1570, the same Father wrote from Innsbruck: -

"The college at Hall is going on quietly. The queen scarcely worries us
at all; she has not yet entered our house since we went there, and she
seldom sends for us. In short, she leaves us in peace, and if this
continues, no one can complain of her, except that she generally
detains her confessor for nearly two hours after Mass. But this can be
borne, as there is no danger, and as I have often called her attention
to it and have blamed her for it, she is now rather more considerate."

The following extracts from "Queen" Magdalen's statutebook for her
community show somewhat amusingly that the continual exhortations of
the superiors of the Society had made some impression: -

"Jesuits are to be chosen as confessors. Out of confession none must
speak with her confessor without the permission of her superioress, who
shall not give leave unless there be sufficient reason for it. For
although one may have a scruple or a temptation, this can be deferred
to the next confession. An exception must be made for the superioress
herself, for it is needful that she speak often with him, but not
always necessary for her to take him up to the house; sometimes she can
confer with him in the lodge or in the lower corridor. They must not
make acquaintance with any other of the Fathers, or invite them to the
house, neither must they send food to any sick Father, except in cases
of great need, and only for a short time, say for a week, but not
longer. Neither must they give them money daily to buy milk, butter,
and such like things, but now and again, if necessary, they may give
them the wherewithal to procure cheese and lard."

Notwithstanding these regulations, none must suppose that the
archduchess is devoid of confidence or regard for the Fathers or for
priests in general. All her life she has "loved them in God, and will
continue to do so to the end; but there are many things good in
themselves, and agreeable to God, which must nevertheless be avoided
for the sake of a better thing still." If her spiritual daughters are
careful to avoid exaggeration, and observe her precepts faithfully,
they will find the Society better disposed towards them, will help them
to save their souls, and will be less likely to change their confessors.

But in spite of her naivete, and of the excellent advice she gave to
others, there were, for several years, innumerable difficulties with
regard to the Archduchess Magdalen's confessor, Father Hezcovaus. He
was infirm in health, and needed much waiting upon, day and night.
Moreover, he observed the rule as little as possible, and his august
penitent unwisely took his part against his superior far more than was
desirable. It was at last decided that he should be dispensed
altogether from keeping the rule, that he need only obey the General,
and his confessor, and that he might receive from the Archduchess
Magdalen all that he needed for his support. But even this was not
enough, and sometimes it was debated whether Father Hezcovaus should
still be included in the list of those belonging to the college.

On the 12th October 1584, the provincial, Father Bader, ordered that
the servants of this Father should not come and go, and run in and out,
as he and they pleased. If he required anything in the night, the other
Fathers should be ready to assist him charitably and patiently.

But there were still other difficulties at Hall, in connection with the
quasi-religious community, such as St. Francis Borgia had predicted,
and these rose to such a pitch, that in 1596, Father Hoffaus expressed
his opinion to the General, that it would be better to give up their
college there, and so once for all get rid of the burden imposed on the
Society by "Queen Magdalen."

The whole trend of this correspondence shows the tremendous obstacles
which the Jesuits encountered, not merely at Innsbruck but throughout
Austria and Bavaria, in their efforts to abstain from all that was
alien to their vocation. It is curious in these days to note how much
the old Society suffered from a superabundance of favour on the part of
princes. And far from being stereotyped reproductions of one unvarying
pattern or spiritual automata turned out of one mould, the Jesuits, as
represented in their own private correspondence, which was never
intended for the public eye, reveal a considerable amount of
individuality. The interpretation of the rule was elastic enough to
give scope to much diversity of opinion, and if superiors were jealous
guardians of the Institute, they encountered sufficient idiosyncrasy
among their subjects to prevent any rigidity in applying it.

It seems more than likely that if Lacordaire had had his wish, and had
been able to dedicate ten years of his life to the study of the Jesuit
character, he would have found on the whole that he had, after all, set
himself the very ordinary task of watching a perpetual conflict between
a high ideal and that frailty which is inseparable from human nature.


VI. GIORDANO BRUNO IN ENGLAND

The revolt from Scholasticism in the sixteenth century, led by Erasmus
of Rotterdam, John Colet, and other apostles of the new learning,
reached farther, and was productive of other results than these had
intended or anticipated.

Erasmus was called an infidel by the friars, but he always stoutly
protested his adherence to the Church of which the Pope was the head;
and Colet has been considered by many as a herald of the Reformation,
although he died a Catholic. Erasmus, by his own showing, was no
infidel, and there are sufficient indications that Colet, even had his
life been prolonged, would never have gone over to the enemy; but both
had given cause for apprehension by opening doors to a profound
dissatisfaction, to novel theories and extravagant systems, which many
friends of Erasmus carried on to a denial of all revealed religion.

In throwing discredit on the schoolmen, Erasmus had prepared the way
for a contempt of Aristotle himself, and when the ex-friar Giordano
Bruno of Nola appeared as a leader of revolt, distinct from Luther and
Calvin, he found in Italy and France a small band of intellectual
revolutionists clamouring for a philosophy that should emancipate them
from the thraldrom of Christianity, and yet save them from the
dishonourable name of atheists.

They wished to be called deists; not because they favoured any
particular form or system of religion, but as a sign that they
acknowledged, in some vague and undefined sense, a Supreme Being, and
were content to follow the light and law of nature, rejecting
revelation, and placing themselves in opposition to Christianity.

Bruno gave them a philosophical system that was neither platonic nor
peripatetic, nor was it mystic, but a confused jumble of all three
systems, and, according to Bayle, "the most monstrous that could be
devised, and directly opposed to all the most evident ideas of our
intelligence." He goes on to say that Bruno, in his war against
Aristotle, invented doctrines a thousand times more obscure than the
most incomprehensible things written by the disciples of Aquinas or
Scotus.*

* Bayle, Dictionnaire, Historique et Critique, article "Bruno," vol. i.
Doc. XII.


The new philosopher was accused among other heresies of teaching that
there is no such thing as punishment for sin; that the soul of man is a
product of nature differing in no sense from the soul of a brute, and
that God is not its author. In his deposition at his trial, Bruno
begged the question of the immortality of the soul in these words: "I
have held and do hold that souls are immortal, and that they are
subsisting substances (that is the intellectual souls), and that
speaking in a Catholic manner, they do not pass from one body to
another, but they go either to Paradise, to Purgatory, or to Hell.
Nevertheless, in philosophy I have reasoned that the soul subsisting
without the body, and non-existent in the body, may in the same way
that it is in one body be in another; the which, if it be not true, at
least appears to be the opinion of Pythagoras."*

* Bayle, Dictionnaire, Historique et Critique, article "Bruno," vol. i.
Doc. XII.


His disciples aver that, although Bruno did not enforce the doctrine of
metempsychosis, he held it to be very well worthy of consideration.
There is perhaps a distinction without a difference between the terms
"immortality of the soul," and the "indestructibility of the monad," an
expression dear to Bruno's followers, and frequently to be met with in
his writings; but we are accustomed to associate the latter term with
the worship of nature according to the pantheistic gospel which
recognises a soul in every leaf that stirs; and (this brings us to the
very essence of Bruno's philosophy, in so far as it is possible to
arrive at any definite conclusion, amid the obscure maze of words with
which he surrounded his ideas.

None of his disciples repudiate for him the title of pantheist, but
Mrs. Besant,* an ardent defender of the Nolan philosopher, went a step
further, and declared pantheism itself to be "veiled atheism."
Moreover, she says, "So thoroughly does pantheism strike at the root of
all idea of God, as taught by theists, that we can scarce think that
Bruno was unfairly judged when called atheist by his contemporaries;
the conception of the pantheist cannot be called a God in the commonly
accepted sense of that term."

* In her Giordano Bruno, p. 5. London, 1877.


Having arrived thus far, the panegyrist breaks out into eulogy of "the
grandest hero of free-thought," and claims for Bruno the proud
distinction of materialist.

Others of his admirers, and notably his English biographer, Frith,
declare that the aim of the Nolan philosophy is to overcome the fear of
death, and to fill the soul with noble aspirations, while they maintain
that its author forestalled Darwin and Herbert Spencer in their theory
of evolution. "Nobody is to-day the same as yesterday. All things, even
the smallest, have their share in the universal intelligence, or
universal thinking power. For without a certain degree of sense or
cognition, the drop of water could not assume the spherical shape which
is essential to the preservation of its forces. All things participate
in the universal intelligence, and hence come attraction and repulsion,
love and hate. Nature shows forth each species before it enters into
life. Thus each species is the starting-point for the next." These are
some of the ideas, the conception of which is supposed to shadow forth
Bruno's anticipation of modern thought.

Landseck, his principal German biographer, makes him the link between
antiquity and the celebrated thinkers of the nineteenth century. He
considers the doctrine of the indestructibility of the monad to be that
belief in the immortality of the soul which was professed by the
Druids, the Egyptians, the Brahmins, and the Buddhists, the belief of
Pythagoras and Plato, of Plotinus, of Lessing, and of Goethe, in unison
with the evolution of Darwin and Haeckel.*

* Landseck, Bruno der Martyrer der neuen Weltanschauung, p. 37.


It is not our purpose to consider here all Bruno's articles of faith or
unfaith, but rather to show the general tendency of his teaching, in
order to trace its effect upon his contemporaries in England. His
philosophy, itself a travesty of various systems, was in its turn
caricatured and vulgarised in a manner which would, perhaps, had he
lived to see it, have gone far to persuade him of the risk to popular
order and morality which he incurred, in taking from people their
belief in a personal God, and fear of the consequences of sin.

Some years ago a statue was raised to his honour on the Campo dei Fiori
in Rome, on the alleged spot of his execution, as a vindication of
those principles for which he chose to die. In his own day they were
held to be dangerous to the State, and subversive of public morality,
and he was forced to fly before the opposition they aroused from almost
every place in which he attempted to propagate them. The enmity of the
Calvinists drove him from Geneva; at Toulouse the Huguenots made his
life unbearable; the Oxford of Elizabeth, as intolerant as Rome, proved
no agreeable sojourn, but he left traces of his passage through
England, which Elizabeth, however much she favoured him at the time of
his visit, was afterwards at great pains to efface.

The period of his stay in this country extended over two years, from
1583 to 1585, and although in general he met with little encouragement
from the learned, he succeeded in making some proselytes. In London, he
lodged at the house of the French ambassador, and went frequently to
court, where he maintained his footing by pretending to be smitten by
the mature charms of the queen. Among his English friends were Sir
Philip Sidney, Sir Fulke Greville, Dyer, Spenser, and Temple, and it
has even been asserted that his system to a certain degree influenced
Bacon, and may be traced in the Novum Organon.* This is, however, an
erroneous view, for Bacon's term "form" means no more than law, for the
form of a substance is its very essence, whereas with Bruno, form and
matter are expressions which stand for forces.** According to St.
Thomas Aquinas, who followed Aristotle, form is the DETERMINING
PRINCIPLE in the constitution of bodies.

* Book ii., Aphors. 1, 4, 13, 15, 17.

** Frith, Life of Giordano Bruno, p. 107. London, 1887.


Sidney's biographer,* while jealous lest any taint of error should be
supposed to infect his hero, nevertheless admits unwillingly that
Giordano Bruno, Sir Fulke Greville, and Sir Philip Sidney, were wont to
discuss philosophical and metaphysical subjects "of a nice and delicate
nature with closed doors."

* Zouch, Memoirs of Sir Philip Sidney, p, 337, note.


Dr. Joseph Warton, editor of Pope's works, says that, among many things
related of the life of Sir Philip Sidney, it does not seem to be much
known that he was the intimate friend and patron of the famous atheist,
Giordano Bruno, who was in a secret club with him and Sir Fulke
Greville in 1587. The date is incorrect, but the intimacy is confirmed
by Bruno's dedication to the English poet of two of his works, the one
being entitled Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfaute, a book which is
admittedly blasphemous and obscene, where it is not so obscure as to be
unintelligible, the other the no less notorious Heroici Furori.

Soon after Bruno's departure from England, the result of his teaching
began to appear in many places throughout the country. Elizabeth's
Council became alarmed. State indifferentism to religion was as yet
unknown, and the new sectarianism appealing strongly to the ignorant
and the profane, politicians were not slow to take cognisance that
questions of the highest moment were being introduced into tavern
brawls and gutter oratory. Others besides Catholics began to absent
themselves from the new English Church service and sermons; and
fragments of conversation that savoured of "atheism" were frequently
reported to the local magistrates. An investigation into the causes and
authors of the disturbances was set on foot, and it was felt that a
scapegoat was needed to create a wholesome fear of the long arm of the
law in the minds of would-be atheists among the people.*

* Bruno's latest biographer, Mr. L. McIntyre (Giordano Bruno, London,
1903), entirely ignores the effect of his hero's teaching in England.


Sir Philip Sidney was too much the world's darling, too elegant a
figure in the Elizabethan pageant, too ethereal a poet, to be burdened
with the brunt of so serious an accusation, and he was passed by for
one who, with all his brilliant gifts and attainments, had ever been
the child of misfortune.

Perhaps no one ever excited more jealousy and ill-will among his
contemporaries than Sir Walter Raleigh. His life at court alternated
between magnificent success and the most crushing defeat. He was
successively the friend, the rival, the enemy of Essex, and when that
favourite's star was in the ascendant, his waned, until a change in the
queen's fickle fancy made him again, for a short period, an object of
admiration and envy. A soldier of fortune, a planter of colonies, an
admiral, a courtier, a statesman, a wit, a scholar, a chemist, an
agriculturist, he was eminent as each of these, and his exploits in
Guiana read like some fantastic tale of fictitious adventure. His
History of the World, although but a fragment of what he intended it to
be, is nevertheless a monument of prodigious learning, sobriety, and
patience.

Edwards, in his Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, says that in his graver
hours he had strong theological convictions which agreed in many points
with those of the leading Puritans. Such was probably in all sincerity
his frame of mind towards the end of his strange career; but up to the
time of his trial in 1603, he seems to have been active in
disseminating the doctrines which had become popular since the baneful
sojourn of Bruno in this country. Raleigh's biographer admits that his
attempt on his own life in the Tower, subsequent to his trial, is in
favour of the unhappy prisoner's atheism at that time.*

* "Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have declared that his design to kill
himself arose from no feeling of fear, but was formed in order that his
fate might not serve as a triumph to his enemies whose power to put him
to death, despite his innocency, he well knows" (The Count of Beaumont
to Henry IV., 13th August 1603, Copy in Hardwick MS., p. 18).


The first apparently to accuse Raleigh of atheism in a formal manner
was the Jesuit provincial, Robert Parsons, who, in a book published in
1592 and now very rare, mentions "Sir Walter Raleigh's school of
atheism . . . and of the diligence used to get young gentlemen to this
school, wherein both Moses and our Saviour, the Old and New Testament,
are jested at, and the scholars taught among other things to spell God
backwards.* Cayley treats this accusation as a calumny,** and Birch
describes its author as the "virulent but learned and ingenious Father
Parsons";*** but Osborn, in the preface to his Miscellany of Sundry
Essays, Paradoxes, etc., in speaking of Raleigh, says that Queen
Elizabeth "chid him who was ever after branded with the title of an
atheist, though a known asserter of God and Providence."

* An advertisement concerning the Responsio ad Elizabethae edictum,
1592.

** Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, i. 140.

*** Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, i. 140.


The year after the appearance of Father Parsons' little book, steps
were taken for proving the truth of the reports which had now become
common, and it is remarkable that none of Sir Walter Raleigh's
biographers seem to have been aware of an elaborate interrogatory that
was drawn up and administered for the purpose of eliciting from sworn
witnesses evidence concerning his religious opinions, and those of his
family, dependents, and friends. The original seems to have
disappeared, but a contemporary copy of this document is to be found
among the Harleian papers in the British Museum, together with the
evidence obtained by means of the interrogatory. As it is extremely
pertinent to the subject in question, and has hitherto escaped notice,
the nine questions administered with a selection of the most
interesting depositions of the witnesses are here given in detail. For
a complete account of the examinations the reader is referred to the
manuscript.*

* Harl. 6849, f. 183.


Dorset.

Interrogatory to be ministered unto such as are to be examined in her
Majesty's name, by virtue of her Highness's commission for causes
ecclesiastical.

1. Imprimis. Whom do you know or have heard to be suspected of atheism
or apostasy? And in what manner do you know or have heard the same? And
what other notice can you give thereof?

2. Whom do you know or have heard that have argued or spoken against,
or as doubting the Being of any God, or what or where God is, or to
swear by God, adding if there be a God or such like; and when and where
was the same? And what other notice can you give of any such offender?

3. Whom do you know or have heard that hath spoken against God, His
Providence over the world? or of the world's beginning or ending? or of
predestination, or of Heaven or of Hell, or of the Resurrection, in
doubtful or contentious manner? When and where was the same? and what
other notice can you give of any such offender?

4. Whom do you know or have heard that hath spoken against the truth of
God His holy Word, revealed to us in the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testament, or of some places thereof? or have said those Scriptures are
not to be believed and defended by her Majesty for doctrine, and faith,
and salvation, but only of policy or civil government, and when and
where was the same? And what other notice can you give of any such
offender?

5. Whom do you know or have heard hath blasphemously cursed God; as in
saying one time (as it rained when he was ahawking), "if there be a
God, a pox on that God which sendeth such weather to mar our sport," or
such like? or do you know or have heard of any that hath broken forth
into any other words of blasphemy, and where was the same?

6. Whom do you know or have heard to have said that when he was dead,
his soul should be hanged on the top of a pole and "run God, run Devil,
and fetch it that would have it," or to like effect, or that hath
otherwise spoken against the being or immortality of the soul of men,
or that a man's soul should die and become like the soul of a beast, or
such like, and when and where was the same?

7. Whom do you know or have heard hath counselled, procured, aided,
comforted, or conferred with any such offender? When, where, and in
what manner was the same?

8. Do you know or have heard of any of those offenders to affirm all
such that were not of their opinions touching the premises, to be
schismatics and in error. And whom do you know hath so affirmed? And
when and where was it spoken?

9. What can you say more of any of the premises, or whom have you known
or heard can give any notice of the same? And speak all your knowledge
therein.

Hereupon follows the report of the Royal Commissioners on the
depositions of witnesses examined by them with the above formulary: -

"Examinations taken at Cearne, co. Dorset, 21 March, 36 Eliz., before
us, Tho. Lord Howard, Viscount Howard of Bindon, Sir Ralph Horsey,
knt., Francis James, Chancellor, John Williams, and Francis Hawley,
esquires, by virtue of a commission to us and others, directed from
some of her Majesty's High Commissioners in causes ecclesiastical."*

* On the last page is written: "These examinations are the trew copies
taken at Cearne, 21 March 1593."


From the two first witnesses examined, John Hancock, parson of South
Parrot, and Richard Bagage, churchwarden of Lo, no information was
obtained. The third witness, John Jesopp, minister, of Gillingham,
"said nothing of his own knowledge, but had heard that one Herryott, of
Sir Walter Rawleigh his house, had brought the Godhead in question, and
the whole course of the Scriptures, but of whom he so heard it he did
not remember. (Thomas Harriot was an acknowledged deist, and Raleigh
had taken him into his house to study mathematics with him.] He heard
his brother, Dr. Jesopp, say that Mr. Carew Rawleigh, reasoning with
Mr. Parry and Mr. Archdeacon about the Godhead [as he conjectureth],
his said brother, thinking that Mr. Archdeacon and Mr. Parry would take
offence at that argument, desired the Lord Bishop of Worcester [then
being there] that he might argue with the said Mr. Rawleigh, for, said
he, your Lordship shall hear him argue as like a pagan as ever you
heard any. But the matter was so shut up, as this examinate heard his
brother say, and proceeded not to argument, and further he saith that
he hath heard one Allen, now of Portland Castle, suspected of atheism,
but of whom he heard it he remembereth not."

William Hussey, churchwarden of Gillingham, corroborated the report of
Sir Walter Raleigh's suspected atheism.

John Davis, curate of Motcomb, "to the first interrogatory saith that
he knoweth of no such person directly, but he hath heard Sir Walter


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Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 13 of 28)