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23/08/2016

who was there tells us how

Physical anguish could be little worse than the ineffable boredom of these two never-quiet questions. He was then asked by the Governor, the Rackmaster, and others present, by whose command and counsel he had returned to England; by whom in England he had been received and befriended; in whose houses he had said Mass, heard Confessions, and reconciled persons to his Church; where his recent book was printed, and to whom copies were[142] given; lastly, what was his opinion of the Bull of Pius V against Queen Elizabeth? A letter written at the time to Lord Shrewsbury by Lord Burghley, and still extant, shows that nothing of moment could be got out of Campion. During the next fortnight, however, there was poured into the ear of the Government information regarding the second and third items in the above category. Houses were searched; persons of mark were apprehended, tried in the Star Chamber, and sentenced. Almost every manse or town house where Campion had been harboured became known, and even the names of those Oxford Masters of Arts who had followed him to Lyford


The Government gave out that he had confessed upon the rack, and implicated his too trusting friends. The alleged facts naturally became a general scandal, and bred grief and horror among the Catholics who, no less than Protestants, were thus driven to believe them. The secrets were probably given up, under panic, by three serving-men, and by poor Gervase Pierrepoint. It was a common trick of the time,[143] though not peculiar to it, to show a prisoner a lying list of names purporting to have been extracted from colleagues, so that he himself might be trapped into endorsing the suspicions held in regard to those names. But it is clear that Campion was brought to mention only a few who, as he was aware, were formerly known to his examiners as Catholic Recusants; and only after a solemn oath from the Commissioners that no harm could accrue to them in consequence of such supplementary mention. Even this he had every cause to regret. The gentlemen and gentlewomen on Lord Burghley’s lists were carefully informed, when arrested, that it was Campion who had betrayed them: a cruel slander which he could refute only at the foot of the scaffold. Thanks to the reports, first of his backsliding, then of his treachery, his great reputation, for the time being, was clean gone. Having thus been given forth to the public as a knave, he was now to be set before them as a fool, and shown to be one who possessed neither sort of superiority, moral or mental

Many courtiers, having a purely artistic interest in Edmund Campion, had begged that he might obtain the chance he had often asked for, of being heard in a disputation. This request was now suddenly granted. The conference was public, and came off in the Norman Chapel of the Tower, which was crowded. Two Deans, Nowell of St. Paul’s, and Day of Windsor, were appointed to attack Campion; he was to answer all objections as he could, but was forbidden to raise any of his own. Charke, the bitter Puritan preacher of Gray’s Inn, and Whitaker, the Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge, were the notaries. The lion to be baited did not even know that there was to be a conference, until he was brought to it under a strong guard. Time for preparation had been denied him; he was allowed the use of only such authorities as his memory could furnish; pale and weary and rack-worn as he was, he was given only a low stool to sit upon. The well-fed theological worthies were ranged before him, their chairs standing on raised platforms, and their tables[145] spread with books of reference, pens and paper whitening .

One who was there tells us how easy and ready were his answers; how modest his mien; how that high-spirited nature so bore the scorn, the abuse, and the jests heaped upon him, as to win great admiration from the majority of those who heard him for the first time. He began by asking very pertinently whether this was a just answer to his challenge, first to rack him, then to deprive him of books, notes and pen, lastly, to call upon him to debate? and he added (wishing to be fully understood by the audience), that what he had asked for was quite another sort of hearing: a hearing under equal conditions before the Universities. During the course of this first conference he was twice most unfairly tripped up: once over a quotation, in which he was right, though he could not then and there prove it; and again over a page of the Greek Testament, in such small type that he could not read it, and had to put it by when it was handed to him: thereby drawing down upon himself the ridiculous taunt that[146] he knew no Greek. This he took silently, and with a smile. At the end of the six hours he had more than stood his ground. The Deans complained afterwards that a number of gentlemen present, “neither unlearned nor ill-affected,” considered that Master Campion had the best of it. Some common people who thought so too, and said so in the streets, paid dearly for their boldness. One of these gentlemen favourably impressed was Philip, Earl of Arundel, then in the flush of worldly pride and pleasure. He was the real victory of the Jesuit apostle, for he received at that time and in that place the first ray of divine grace, strong enough to change gradually in him the whole motive and course of that intensity of life which never failed the Howards. As he stood leaning forward in the foreground of the da?s, in that solemn interior, tall and young, with his great ruff and embroidered doublet, and his brilliant dark eyes held by the pathetic figure of Master Campion, how little could he have foreseen his own weary term of suffering in that gloomy fortress, and his[147] sainted death there, at the end of the years!