J.M. Stone.

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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Raleigh, by general report, hath had some reasoning against the deity
of God and His omnipotence; and hath heard the like of Mr. Carew
Raleigh, but not so directly. Also he saith he heard the like report of
one, Mr. Thinn, of Wiltshire, which he heard from a barber in
Warminster, dwelling in a by-lane there, who told this deponent he did
marvel that a gentleman of his condition should deliver words to so
mean a man as himself, tending to this sense, as though God's
Providence did not reach over all creatures, or to like effect.

"To the second, third, fourth, and fifth interrogatory he saith he hath
heard that Sir Walter Raleigh hath argued with one Mr. Ironside, at Sir
George Trenchard's, touching the being or immortality of the soul, or
such like; but the certainty thereof he cannot say further, saving
asking the same of Mr. Ironside upon the report aforesaid; he hath
answered that the matter was not as the voice of the country reported
thereof, or to the like effect."

The next witness, Nicholas Jefferies, declared that he did not know
personally any atheist in the county of Dorset, but testified to the
report of many "that Sir Walter Raleigh and his retinue are generally
suspected of atheism," and he quoted the above-mentioned Allen,
Lieutenant of Portland Castle, as "a great blasphemer and light
esteemer of religion, and thereabout cometh not to divine service or
sermons." He also mentioned the circumstance that "Herryott, attendant
on Sir Walter Raleigh, hath been convened before the Lords of the
Council for denying the resurrection of the body."

This witness also gave a circumstantial account of the conversation
between Sir Walter, his brother Carew, and Mr. Ironside at Sir George
Trenchard's table, but as Mr. Ironside was himself subsequently sworn
and examined, it is better to quote his own words. It is significant of
the credibility of these witnesses, that the evidence of Jefferies,
although he merely reported what Mr. Ironside had told him of the
conversation, and could not remember all that had been said, tallies
completely with the evidence of the other witnesses.

Ironside's examination comes last in the manuscript, but it is more
convenient to insert it here: -

"Ralph Ironside, minister of Winterbor, sworn and examined. To the
first interrogatory, he saith that for his own knowledge he will
answer, but for that he hath heard and knoweth no author to justify the
same, he is persuaded by counsel that he is in danger to be punished,
and therefore refuseth to say anything upon uncertain report, unless he
could bring in his author in particular.

"The relation of the disputation had at Sir George Trenchard's table,
between Sir Walter Raleigh, Mr. Carew Raleigh, and Mr. Ironside,
hereafter followeth, written by himself and delivered to the
commissioners upon his oath.

"Wednesday, sevennight before the Assizes, summer last, I came to Sir
George Trenchard's in the afternoon, accompanied with a fellow-minister
and friend of mine, Mr. Whittle, vicar of Forthington. There were then
with the knight Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Ralph Horsey, Mr. Carew
Raleigh, Mr. John Fitzjames, etc. Towards the end of supper, some loose
speeches of Mr. Carew Raleigh's being gently reproved by Sir Ralph
Horsey with the words Colloquia prava corrumpunt bonos mores, Mr.
Raleigh demanded of me what danger he might incur by such speeches,
whereunto I answered - 'The wages of sin is death' - and he, making light
of death as being common to all, sinner and righteous, I inferred
further that as that life which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ
is life eternal, so that death which is properly the wages of sin is
death eternal both of the body and of the soul also.

"'Soul,' quoth Mr. Carew Raleigh, 'what is that?' Better it were, said
I, that we would be careful how the soul might be saved, than to be
curious in finding out the essence.

"And so, keeping silence, Sir Walter requested me that for their
instruction, I would answer to the question that before by his brother
was proposed unto me. 'I have been,' saith he, 'a scholar sometime in
Oxford; I gave answer under a bachelor of arts, and had talk with
divers; yet hitherunto in this point (to wit, what the reasonable soul
of man is) have I not by any been resolved. They tell me it is primus
motor, the first mover in a man, etc.' Unto this, after I had replied
that howsoever the soul were fons et principium, the fountain,
beginning and cause of motion in us, yet the first mover was the brain
or heart, I was again urged to show my opinion, and hearing Sir Walter
Raleigh tell of his dispute and scholarship some time in Oxford, I
cited the general definition of Anima out of Aristotle (De Anima, cap.
2), and thence a subjecto proprio, deduced the special definition of
the soul reasonable, that it was Actus Primus corporis organici agentis
humanam vitam.

"It was misliked of Sir Walter as obscure and intricate. And I withal,
that though it could not unto him, as being learned, yet it might seem
obscure to the most present, and therefore had rather say with divines
plainly, that the reasonable soul is a spiritual and immortal
substance, breathed into man by God, whereby he lives and moves and
understandeth, and so is distinguished from other creatures. 'Yea, but
what is that spiritual and immortal substance breathed into man?' saith
Sir Walter. The soul, quoth I. 'Nay then,' said he, 'you answer not
like a scholar.' Hereupon I endeavoured to prove that it was
scholarlike, nay, in such disputes as this, usual and necessary to run
in circulum, partly because definitio rei was primum et immediatum
principium, and seeing primo non est Prius, a man must of necessity
come backward, and partly because definitio and definitum be naturae
reciprocae, the one convertible, answering unto the question made upon
the other. As for example, if one asked: 'What is a man?' you will say:
'He is a creature reasonable and mortal'; but if you ask again: 'What
is a creature reasonable and mortal?' you must of force come backward
and answer: 'It is a man,' et sic de caeteris. 'But we have principles
in our mathematics,' saith Sir Walter, 'as totum est majus qua libet
sua parte; and ask me of it, and I can show it in the table, in the
window, in a man, the whole being bigger than the parts of it.'

"I replied first that he showed quod est, not quid est, that it was,
but not what it was; secondly, that such demonstration was against the
nature of a man's soul, being a spirit; for as a thing, being sensible,
was subject to the sense, so man's soul, being insensible, was to be
discerned by the spirit. Nothing more certain in the world than that
there is a God, yet being a spirit, to subject him to the sense
otherwise than perfectum. It is impossible.

"'Marry!' quoth Sir Walter, 'these two be like, for neither could I
learn hitherto what God is.'

"Mr. Fitzjames answering that Aristotle should say he was Ens Entium, I
answered, that whether Aristotle, dying in a fever, should cry: Ens
Entium, miserere mei; or drowning himself in Euripum, should say: Quia
ego to non capio, to me capies, it was uncertain, but that God was Ens
Entium, a thing of things, having being of Himself, and giving being to
all creatures, it was most certain, and confirmed by God Himself unto

"'Yea, but what is this Ens Entium?' saith Sir Walter.

"I answered it is God, and being disliked as before, Sir Walter wished
that grace might be said, 'for that,' quoth he, is better than his
disputation.' Thus supper ended and grace said, I departed to
Dorchester with my fellowminister, and this is to my remembrance the
substance of that speech with Sir Walter Raleigh I had at Wolverton."

"Ralph Ironside."

Turning to the remaining depositions, we find that Francis Scarlett,
minister of Sherborne, sworn and examined, relates how that "a little
before Christmas, one Robert Hyde, of Sherborne, shoemaker, seeing this
deponent passing by his door, called him, and desired to have some
conversation with him, and after some speeches, he entered into these
speeches. "Mr. Scarlett, you have preached unto us that there is a God,
a Heaven, a Hell, and a resurrection after this life, and that we shall
give an account of our works, and that the soul is immortal; but now,
saith he, here is a company about this town that say that Hell is no
other but poverty and penury in this world, and Heaven is no other but
to be rich and enjoy pleasures; and that we die like beasts, and when
we are gone there is no more remembrance of us, and such like.

But this examinate did neither then demand who they were, neither did
he deliver any particulars unto him, and further saith that it is
generally reported in Sherborne, that the said Allen and his men are
atheists. And also he saith there is one Lodge, a shoemaker in
Sherborne, accounted an atheist."

John Deuch, churchwarden of Weeke Regis: "To the sixth interrogatory
this deponent saith that he hath heard one Allen, Lieutenant of
Portland Castle, when he was like to die, being persuaded to make
himself ready to God for his soul, to answer that he would carry his
soul to the top of an hill, and run God, run devil, fetch it that will
have it, or to that effect. But, who told this deponent of it, he
remembereth not. To the rest of the interrogatory he can say nothing."

What punishment followed on these examinations does not appear. A fine
was probably imposed on all those convicted of speaking and propagating
atheism; but in spite of the investigations and the discredit thrown on
the sect, it did not by any means die out.

Essex was accounted at that time the only nobleman who cared for
religion. His manner was to censure all men as "cold professors,
neuters, or atheists." In the declaration of W. Masham before the Lord
Treasurer Buckhurst, he said that Essex told the people when he incited
them to rise, that he acted "for the good of the Queen, city, and crown
which certain atheists, meaning Raleigh, had betrayed to the Infante of
Spain." At his execution he thanked God that he was never atheist nor

* Dom. Eliz., February 1601, Vol. 278; R.O.

On the accession of James I. the Catholics presented a petition to
parliament, begging to be allowed to practise their religion, at least
in secret, and they went on to say that there were "four classes of
religionists in England Protestant who domineered all the late reign:
Puritans who have crept up amongst them, atheists, who live on brawls;
and Catholics."*

* Dom. James I., vol. i., 1603; R.O.

The stigma of atheist clung to Raleigh long after he had ceased to
deserve it. In his trial for high treason in 1603, it considerably
damaged his cause, and gave another handle to his many enemies. The
king's attorney, in addressing him, exclaimed: "O damnable atheist!"
and the Lord Chief Justice Coke, in his address to the prisoner after
his condemnation, harangued him in these words: -

"Your case being thus, let it not grieve you if I speak a little out of
zeal and love to your good. You have been taxed by the world with the
defence of the most heathenish and blasphemous opinions, which I list
not to repeat, because Christian ears cannot endure to hear them, nor
the authors and maintainers of them be suffered to live in any
Christian commonwealth. You know what men said of Harpool.* You shall
do well before you go out of the world to give satisfaction therein,
and not to die with these imputations upon you. Let not any devil
persuade you (the Harleian version adds, 'Hariot or any such doctor')
to think there is no eternity in Heaven; for if you think thus, you
shall find eternity in hell-fire."**

* A mistake probably for Harriot. The name is variously spelt. Edwards,
in his Life of Raleigh, corrects it and says, "Either he applied to the
illustrious mathematician Thomas Harriot, the epithet 'devil,' or he
said that Harriot's opinions were devilish" (p. 436). The judge's words
are variously reported, but their purport is always the same. Stebbing,
in his monograph Sir Walter Raleigh, says that Harriot was accused by
zealots of atheism, because his cosmogony was not orthodox, and that
his ill-repute for free-thinking was reflected on Raleigh, who hired
him to teach mathematics (probably in what Father Parsons termed his
school of atheism) and engaged him in his colonising projects. Harriot
was the friend whose society he chiefly craved when he was in the
Tower, and is doubtless the "Herryott" of the examinations.

** Dom. James I., vol. 4, f. 83.

Between Raleigh's sentence and its execution fifteen years were allowed
to elapse, during which time the prisoner in the Tower occupied himself
with the compilation of his famous History of the World, and with
chemical experiments. And as if all should be exceptional in the life
of this remarkable man, he was allowed an interval during this period
in which to flash once more upon the world in another expedition to
Guiana, in search of the gold mine which he had declared to be there.
After the ill-fated voyage he returned into durance vile, and when at
last the time came for the axe which had so long hung over him, to
fall, his words showed that at least in adversity he had learned, like
the great Arian chieftain Clovis, to burn what he had adored, and to
adore what he had burned. His device, Ubi dolor ibi amor is significant
of the change that suffering had wrought in him. His last words on the
scaffold were these: "I have many sins for which to beseech God's
pardon. Of a long time my course was a course of vanity. I have been a
seafearing man, a soldier, and a courtier, and in the temptations of
the least of these there is enough to overthrow a good mind and a good
man." Presently he added, "I die in the faith professed by the Church
of England. I hope to be saved and to have my sins washed away by the
Precious Blood and merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ."

Then, says his biographer,* he asked to be shown the axe, and kissing
the blade, he said: "This gives me no fear. It is a sharp and fair
medicine to cure me of all my disease."

* Edwards, Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, i. 704.

After Raleigh's death, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writing to Sir
Thomas Roe, ambassador of Great Britain with the Great Mogul, 10th
February 1618, said: "Sir Walter Raleigh amongst us did question God's
being and omnipotence, which that just judge made good upon himself in
overtumbling his estate, but last of all in bringing him to an
execution by law, where he died a religious and Christian
death, God testifying his power in this, that he raised up of a stone a
child unto Abraham."

His doom had been from the first a foregone conclusion. James having
been fatally prejudiced against him before that royal pedant ever set
foot in England, to which fact the secret correspondence of Sir Robert
Cecil with James VI. of Scotland amply testifies.

But curiously enough Sir Walter's brother Carew, although more deeply
dyed in atheism, never ceased to be a Persona grata with the
government. He was knighted in 1601, on the occasion of the visit to
England of the French Marshal de Biron.* He held several honourable and
lucrative public offices under James I., and was Lieutenant of the Isle
of Portland in 1608. During his brother's long imprisonment in the
Tower, Sir Carew Raleigh was living in prosperity at Dounton.**

* Stebbing, Sir Walter Raleigh, p. 157.

* Ibid, p. 248.

Atheists did not as a sect entirely disappear from England after the
execution of their scapegoat, but they do not seem to have been further
molested for their opinions. The persecution of the Catholics was at
its height, and at no time did professed atheism provoke the fierce
hatred that Catholicism inspired. For obvious reasons many Catholics at
this period were but indifferently instructed in their religion. Some
to escape attendance at the English Church service unlawfully feigned
infidelity. One man having written a seditious book, called Balaam's
Ass, against the king, for which he was condemned to death, was accused
at his execution of having professed atheism. He denied being an
infidel, expressed contrition for his "saucy meddling in the king's
matter," and declared himself a Catholic.*

* Dom. James I., vol. 109, May 1619; R.0.

The Bishop of Exeter reported that "John Lugge, organist, retains none
of his popish tendencies, though his religion is as the market goes,"
and he added that there were very few papists in his diocese, but an
infinity of sectaries and atheists.

Many of these latter may have been secret Catholics, either extremely
ignorant, or too timid to suffer for their faith. A book published in
1602, entitled The Unmasking of the Politique Atheist is a violent
attack upon Catholicism. Another, called A Perfect Cure for Atheists,
Papists, Arminians, etc., published in 1649, is of a like nature. It is
a far cry from Aristotle to atheism, but no sooner did the votaries of
the new learning discard a system of philosophy which, however
exaggerated by pedants, was still a guarantee of exact reasoning, than
their disciples and followers fell a prey to the vagaries of their own
bewildered intellects.

It was the reductio ad absurdum of the reformed religion, when
weak-kneed Catholics sheltered themselves from its pains and penalties
under the fairly secure roof-tree of atheism.


"A fine rare show arrives from Rome, and it is all a present for the
Queen, and the news of it reaches London, and the King is impatient to
see it; and the Queen is lying in, and Mr. Panzani brings all the fine
things to the Queen's bedchamber; and all the ladies of quality crowd
in to see them; and the King with all his nobles hastens to the Queen's
palace; and the boxes are opened, and the pieces are viewed one by one;
and Mr. Conn comes in (though still without a red hat) to satisfy the
Queen's curiosity, and Mr. Conn brings more fine pictures . . . and
sees the King, and the Queen of France; and Mr. Panzani takes leave of
the Queen of England (for how could he omit it?) and the Queen begs a
red hat for Mr. Conn, and Mr. Conn must first do some signal service to
the Church; and the King talks about Mr. Conn's red hat; and the Queen
gives Mr. Panzani a fine diamond ring; and Mr. Panzani takes leave of
all the ministers; and he pays his respects to all the ladies of the
court; and the ladies send their compliments to the Pope, and they all
beg Mr. Panzani's blessing. It was the end of the year 1636."

This Sevigne-like description was written in 179-, by the Rev. Charles
Plowden, in his "Remarks on a Book entitled Memoirs of Gregorio
Panzani." Panzani, a priest of the Roman Oratory, had been about two
years in England, with a secret mission to report to Cardinal
Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII., on the condition of the
Catholics, the condition of the court, and on the prospects regarding
an ultimate reunion of the Anglican Church with Rome. He was to pave
the way for an openly accredited envoy to the queen, was to conciliate
the ministers, disarm the Puritans, and to do what he could for the
Catholics, who were still smarting severely under the penal laws.
Executions, it is true, had become less frequent, but the royal coffers
were still replenished with the fines imposed on Catholics for their
pertinacity in assembling to hear Mass by stealth. If a priest were
caught, he was thrown into prison, tried, and punished with death. In
dealing with the Catholic laity, Charles I. was never in favour of
enforcing the extreme rigour of the law, but he was so often in want of
money that he found it useful to be very severe in the matter of fines.

Panzani's mission to England falls about midway between the domestic
storms which had troubled the early days of the royal marriage, and the
Revolution which finally cost the most shifty of monarchs his throne
and his life. Henrietta Maria had ceased to resent the expulsion of her
French favourites, had consented at last to learn English and to
tolerate the English people. She had thrown herself heart and soul into
her husband's interests, and since the death of Buckingham was in
possession of his entire confidence. If, later on, any cloud arose over
their mutual relationship, it was the king's half expressed suspicion
that she thought little of his powers of governing, and that however
much she loved her husband, she did not admire his policy or trust his
royal word as implicitly as he could wish. This is evident from one or
two affectionate but querulous letters which he wrote to her when he
was in the hands of the Parliamentarians.

Of the court, as well as of the private life of the king and queen,
Panzani could report but favourably. The Catholics were to-be helped by
the queen's influence, and as to reunion with Rome, he thought he had
some reason to be sanguine. A letter from Panzani to Cardinal
Barberini, of which the following is a translation, is to be found
among the Stevenson and Bliss transcripts of Vatican documents in the
Record Office. It is dated June 10/25, 1635:

"According to your Eminence's instructions, I have had a long talk with
Father Philip (an English Capuchin and the Queen's confessor),
regarding the reconciliation of this kingdom with Rome, and the means
of bringing it about. He told me that there were unmistakeable signs of
a desire for such a reconciliation, not only in the King, but among the
clergy and laity as well, and the question is mooted almost daily. It
is well, however, to be slow in drawing inferences, because those who
are most in favour of a reunion do not venture to manifest their
desire, but rather dissemble it under the appearance of a contrary way
of thinking, on account of the severity of the law against Catholics.
This same fear possesses the King also, he being of a timid nature;
hence the great misfortune of not being able to count on his prudence
and judgment, seeing how changeable and uncertain he and his advisers
are. Moreover, if by ill-luck the present rumours of war oblige the
King to arm himself, we may expect some persecution of the Catholics,
for money being required, before he can go to war, it will be necessary
to assemble Parliament, and the Lower House, composed mainly of
Puritans, will grant no supplies unless the King makes some show of
cruelty towards Catholics. For the same reason all the bishops and
ministers of moderate views, and favourable to a reunion, begin to be
harsh and intolerant when the time approaches for the meeting of
Parliament, and do nothing but inveigh against the Pope in their
sermons, solely from fear of losing their lives or their places. Father
Philip says that there is no need to be alarmed at the difficulties we
may encounter; but that we should be determined to overcome them, and
that after God, the envoys may greatly facilitate the business, if they
study with all their might how to make themselves agreeable to the King
and the State.

"He who comes here should be all things to all men, in order to win
all, and should take everything he can in good part, and find excuses
for the King and his officers, if sometimes they do not grant the
Catholics all the favours they ask. He should throw the blame on the
poursuivants and the informers, and should adroitly petition for
redress. He should keep Windebank (Secretary of State), considered by
the Puritans to be 'Popishly affected,' and others, well informed of
all that passes in Rome, and should manage to keep up communication
with the papal legates, in order to have news, and at the same time to
make himself agreeable to them, for they like above all things to
receive marks of confidence. He must be careful, however, in
publishing, the facts he thus learns, to give no offence to any of the
crowned heads, nor bring our religion into bad odour.

"The envoy should distribute some gifts, and in fine, use every means
to make himself beloved. He ought to be about thirty-five years old,
and to have attained a certain solidity rarely met with before that
age. He should also be noble and rich, and of a good presence,
furnished with all qualities proper to a gentleman; and, above all, his
life should be exemplary, without affectation or hypocrisy . . . . On
the arrival of such an agent in London, speaking French well, which
language is understood by the whole court, he should first of all
contrive to please the Queen, who, being young, delights in perfumes
and fine clothes, and likes people to be lively and merry. His next
object should be to ingratiate himself with the court ladies and

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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 14 of 28)