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The Seventeenth-Century ‘Lives’ of Edmund Gennings (1566–91) 1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2015

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My thanks to Bro. Ninian Arbuckle, OFM, Alice Dailey, Peter Davidson, Anne Dillon, Katherine Duncan-Jones, Anne Barbeau Gardiner, Arnold Hunt and Andrew Starkie for help with this paper. My spelling of Gennings’ name follows the ODNB; alternative spellings are ‘Genings’, ‘Geninges’ and ‘Jennings’.



2 Brownlow, Frank W., ‘A Jesuit Allusion to King Lear Recusant History, 28:3 (2007), pp. 416–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Other articles that discuss the Gennings brothers and John, Wilson include Allison, A. C., ‘John Heigham of S. Omer (c. 1568-c. 1632)’, Recusant History, 4:6 (1957–58), pp. 220–4,Google Scholar and David, Rogers, ‘A Note on the Life of St. Edmund Gennings’, Recusant History, 17:1 (1984), pp. 9295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 On this detail, see below, p. 215.

4 The third line of the Latin verse engraved under Edmund Gennings’ portrait in the 1614 Life is a chronostichon giving the date of 1591 in anagram form = MDLXXVVVVI.

5 See Alice Dailey, ‘Miracles, Martyrs and Margaret Clitherow’, ch. 4 in Lowell Gallagher (ed.), Redrawing the Map of Early Modern English Catholicism (Toronto: Toronto UP, forthcoming). I am grateful to Professor Dailey for letting me see this article in advance of publication.

6 See Father Thaddeus, OFM [Hermans, F.], The Franciscans in England, 1600–1850 (London/Leamington: Art and Book Company, 1898), pp. 21–37, 238–9.Google Scholar

7 For the 1614 edition, Allison, A. F. & Rogers, D. M., The Contemporary Printed Literature of the English Counter-Reformation Between 1558 and 1640, 2 vols. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1989–1994)Google Scholar (hereafter ARCR), vol. II (Works in English), no. 338. For the 1602 edition, see Luke, Wadding, Scriptores Ordinis Minorum (1650: Rome, Attilio Nardecchia, 1906), p. 142.Google Scholar The entry in the 1650 edition (f.Fff2a-b) is identical apart from the spelling. See also Allison, A. F., ‘Franciscan Books in English, 1559–1640’, Biographical Studies, 1534–1829, 3:1 (1955), pp. 1665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 Transcribed from Stonyhurst/Farm Street, Collectanea M, ff. 186–187 (216–17 in later sequence), copied by Christopher Grene. On the question of whether Grene was transcribing from a MS text of a previously printed book, a MS fair copy prepared for press or a printed text with MS annotations, see Rogers, ‘Note’, p. 93. Grene's archival work took place between 1666–74 and 1686–97: see John Hungerford Pollen, S.J. (ed.), Unpublished Documents Referring to the English Martyrs. Vol I. 1584–1603, Catholic Record Society, vol. 5 (London: J. Whitehead & Son for CRS, 1908), p. 6.Google Scholar The document is reprinted on pp. 205–7 of the same volume. The comments in round brackets are Grene's; the first can be translated as ‘close relative of the martyr’.

9 Transcribed from Collectanea, f. 187: see also Pollen (ed.), Unpublished Documents, p. 207. On the pamphlet's genesis within Sussex/Hampshire Catholic circles, see Questier, Michael C., Catholicism and Community in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006), pp. 267–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 ARCR, vol. II, appendix, p. 250.

11 Wilfrid, Kelly (ed.), Liber Ruber Venerabilis Collegii Anglorum De Urbe. I. Annates Collegii. Pars Prima. Nomina Alumnorum 1. A.D. 1579–1630, Catholic Record Society, vol. 37 (London: CRS, 1940), pp. 111–12.Google Scholar See also the sources given in Anstruther, vol. 1, pp. 128–9. The confusion seems to have arisen because another John Gennings, ordained priest in 1607, was cautiously identified as the martyr's brother by Peter, Keenan Guilday: The English Catholic Refugees on the Continent, vol. I (no vol. II) (London: Longman, 1914),Google Scholar citing The First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay (London: David Nutt, 1878), p. 26.Google Scholar The Douay Diaries make no mention of a subsequent career as a Franciscan. My thanks to Brother Ninian Arbuckle, OFM, for guidance on Gennings’ career.

12 As Allison, A. F. comments, the date of 1603 could also indicate a reissue: ‘Franciscan Books in English, 1559–1640’, Biographical Studies, 1534–1829, 3:1 (1955/6), pp. 1665, at p. 41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 Life (1614), p. 50.

14 The episode is not mentioned in the report of 9 February 1595 by James Young/Younger to Robert Persons: Stonyhurst, Anglia vi.117, transcribed in John Hungerford Pollen, intro. John, Morris, Acts of English Martyrs Hitherto Unpublished (London: Burns & Oates, 1891).Google Scholar On the question of martyr-narratives and their possible fictional embellishment, see Foxe's Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives, ed. King, John N. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009), pp. xxvi-vii, 292.Google Scholar

15 On Wilson, see Geoffrey Anstruther, OP, The Seminary Priests, 4 vols. (Ware: St. Edmund's College/Ushaw: Ushaw College, [1968]—1977),Google Scholar vol. 2, under name; Hubert Chadwick, S.J., St. Omers to Stonyhurst: A History of Two Centuries (London: Burns & Oates, 1962), pp. 95, 100–1, 116, 141–5;Google Scholar C. A. Newdigate, S.J., ‘Notes on the Seventeenth Century Printing Press of the English College at Saint Omers’, The Library, 3rd ser., 10 (1919), pp. 179–90 and 223–42;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and, on his namesakes and possible aliases, Harris, P. R., ‘The Reports of William Udall, Informer, 1605–1612. Part I’, Recusant History, 8:4 (1966), pp. 192–249,CrossRefGoogle Scholar and ‘…Part 2’, Recusant History, 8:5 (1966), pp. 252–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar (esp. pp. 219–20, 237, 244, 256).

16 Further research on when the engraver, Martin Basse (see endnote 36), was working in Douai might help to date the illustrations.

17 On the attribution of the dedicatory epistle, see ARCR, vol. II, no. 338. Alternatively, the circulated MS might have been prepared as if intended for print, but never actually printed.

18 For Udall's reports, see British Library, MS Lansdowne 153, pp. 6–42. They are edited and discussed by Harris, ‘Reports’ (see p. 220 of this article, and Anstruther, op. cit., for the dates of Wilson's movements).

19 This sentence can be read both as referring to the portrait of Edmund Gennings overleaf, and to the total biographical representation of the martyr.

20 See Rhodes, J. T., ‘English Books of Martyrs and Saints of the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries’, Recusant History, 22:1 (1994), pp. 725;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Christopher, Highley, Catholics Writing the Nation in Early Modern Britain and Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008), pp. 80–2.Google Scholar

21 Puny = ‘a junior or recently admitted pupil or student in a school or university’, ‘novice’, ‘beginner’ (OED). Sheldon reports that the book was drawn to his attention by the then Bishop of Bath and Wells (p. 323). Some library catalogues cross-refer to Wilson to this day.

22 The prefatory material is studiedly ambiguous about authorship: see Rogers, ‘Note’. In this context, Rogers considers the phrase ‘by reason I have bene so much linked unto him in friendshippe and favour’ (p. 9) an ‘oddly cool phrase for a blood brother to use’ (p. 94). However, if it refers to friendly aid from the subject to the author (OED) —perhaps the sanctified Edmund Gennings’ conversion of his brother—its use by one blood relation of another becomes less improbable.

23 Brownlow, ‘A Jesuit Allusion’. For further discussion of this allusion, see ch. 2 of my Shakespeare and Religion, Arden Critical Companions (forthcoming: London: A. & C. Black, 2010). Though Shakespeare's Edmund and Edmund Gennings have little in common, Brownlow, op. cit., makes a case for other aspects of the martyr-narrative resonating with images from Shakespeare's play.

24 The reference is much likelier to refer to Shakespeare's play than the other possible candidate, The True Chronicle History of King Leir, and his Three Daughters, given the differences of subject-matter and genre between the two dramas: see Brownlow, ‘Jesuit Reference’, and Shell, Shakespeare and Religion, op. cit. The True Chronicle History was entered in the Stationers’ Company Register as early as 1594, but was only published in 1605, so, like Shakespeare's Lear, would not have been a ‘book’ in 1602/3: see A Critical Edition of the True Chronicle History of King Leir and his Three Daughters, ed. Michie, Donald M. (New York: Garland, 1991),Google Scholar introduction, and King Lear, ed. Foakes, R. A. (London: Thomson, 1997), p. 90;Google Scholar and Brownlow, op. cit. The mention of ‘goodman Jennings’ in Michie's edition of the play is a mistranscription of ‘Genitings’ on f.12a of the True Chronicle History (i.e. ‘Jennetings’, a variety of apple (OED), after which a character is named).

25 Shell, Shakespeare and Religion, ch. 2.

26 In the context of the Lear reference, two lines in ‘The Author to his Booke’ stand out: ‘A Tygers hart such sorrowes will deplore, /His teares I wish that never wept before’ (f.A2a). It is possible that these recall Robert Greene's Green's Groats-Worth of Wit (1592) and its famous allusion to Shakespeare's Henry VI:3, 1:4, 138, ‘O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide!’: ‘there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey…’ (f.Flb). However, though Greene's book shares the theme of repentance with the 1614 Life, the phrase ‘tiger's heart'—to judge by a search on Early English Books Online —is not uncommon in texts of the period. Hence, it is likelier to be used here as a general condemnation of emotional obduracy.

27 For books printed by the St. Omer press in 1608, see Newdigate, ‘Notes’, part 2, pp. 230–1, and ARCR, vol. II, nos. 19 (‘John Brereley’, The Protestants Apologie for the Roman Church: see also nos. 18, 20), 628 (Robert Persons, The Judgement of a Catholick English-Man), 663 (Orazio Torsellino, The History of Our B. Lady of Loreto, trans. Thomas Price), 780 (Michael Walpole, A Treatise of the Subjection of Princes) and 806 (John Wilson, The English Martyrotoge). See also Chadwick, St. Omers to Stonyhurst, p. 142.

28 Freeman, Thomas S. has remarked that ‘English Catholics did not develop a sustained martyrological tradition in print until the closing decades of the sixteenth century’: Martyrs and Martyrdom in England c. 1400–1700, ed. Freeman, Thomas S. & Mayer, Thomas F. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), introduction, p. 23.Google Scholar

29 For a recent account of the Jesuit/Appellant controversy, see Victor, Houliston, Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’ Jesuit Polemic, 1580–1610 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).Google Scholar

30 See Anne, Dillon, The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, 1535–1603 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), pp. 325–6.Google Scholar

31 Even so, Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon, was to complain to Rome in 1626 that martyrology and calendar had been published without Roman authorisation: Archives of the Archdiocese of Westminster, A19, no.103 (see ARCR, vol. II, no. 806). The 1640 edition of the English Martyrologe may be responding to this or similar criticism: the recent saints are left out, and an approbation from George Keynes, priest, dated from St. Omer on 23 June 1608, appears for the first time.

32 Alternatively, this might have been because Boscard's firm was better able to cope with the engravings. On Charles Boscard, see Duthilloeul, H. R., Bibliographie douaisienne (Douai: Adam D'Aubers, 1842), p. 407.Google Scholar Some typographical material from the college press does, however, appear to have been used for the Life: see Allison, ‘Franciscan Books’. Harris, ‘Reports’, p. 237, comments on the strangeness of Wilson, a non-Jesuit, having charge of the St. Omer college press, and concludes that his previous role as secretary for Robert Persons must have helped defray suspicion.

33 On Rome and unofficial cults, see Peter, Burke, ‘How to be a Counter-Reformation Saint’, repr. in Andrew, Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies (London: Routledge, 2004), vol. 4, item 64.Google Scholar

34 If there was a belief at St. Omer that Shakespeare was the dedicatee of Southwell's verse, it may be significant that Southwell's preface is dedicated to ‘W.S’. in the edition of Southwell printed at St. Omer in 1616, just two years after the augmented Life of Gennings—but if so, one would need to explain why nothing is made of the initials. I have discussed this question in more detail in Shakespeare and Religion, op. cit., and ‘Why Didn't Shakespeare Write Religious Verse'? in Takashi, Kozuka & Mulryne, J. R. (eds), Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 85112.Google Scholar

35 Contemporary sources vary, some giving a date of 1610 instead. See the ODNB entries for the brothers, and the online Catholic Encyclopaedia, under ‘Edmund and John Gennings’.

36 On Martin Bas/Baes/Basse, the engraver, see Wolfgang Lottes, ‘Henry Hawkins and Partheneia Sacra\ Review of English Studies, n.s., 26, no. 102 (1975), pp. 144–53, and Karl, Josef Holtgen, ‘Henry Hawkins: A Jesuit Writer and Emblematist’, in John W. O'Malley, S.J., et al. (eds), The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773 (Toronto: Toronto UP, 1999), ch. 28, at p. 620.Google Scholar

37 It is possible that Wilson—clearly a man of means—funded the illustrations himself. On his benefactions to the college, see Chadwick, St. Omers to Stonyhurst, pp. 100–1, 116, 141–5; Henry, Foley, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, vol. 5 (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), p. 426;Google Scholar and the inscription at the front of the St. Omer roll of honour (BL Add. MS 9354).

38 For an analogous use of ‘gazing’, see (e.g.) Thomas, Taylor, The Progresse of Saints (1630), pp. 282–3.Google Scholar

39 See Peter, Milward, Religious Controversies of the Jacobean Age: A Survey of Printed Sources (London: Scolar, 1978), pp. 163–5.Google Scholar Milward also examines the relationship between the 1614 Life and Wilson's English Martyrologe. Richard, Sheldon, A Survey of the Miracles of the Church of Rome (1616),Google Scholar appendix. Susannah, Brietz Monta, Martyrdom and Literature in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005),Google Scholar discusses the author's sensitivity to current controversies over miracles.

40 On Sheldon, see Questier, Michael C., Conversion, Politics and Religion in England, 1580–1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), esp. pp. 34–5, 48, 82–4, 96, 161.Google Scholar Like the Gennings brothers and Wilson, Sheldon was a native of Staffordshire: see his entry in ODNB.

41 On the myth of a popish plot, see John, Kenyon, The Popish Plot (1972: rev. ed. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), ch. 1;Google Scholar John, Miller, Popery and Politics in England, 1660–1688 (1973: this ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008),Google Scholar ch. 4; Caroline, Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1983),Google Scholar esp. ch. 1; and Allan, Marshall, The Strange Death of Edmund Godfrey: Plots and Politics in Restoration London (Stroud: Sutton, 1999).Google Scholar

42 On pope-burnings, see David, Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Berkeley: California UP, 1989).Google Scholar

43 On the more general issue of how Catholic publications were protestantised, see Blom, F., Blom, J., Korsten, F. & Scott, G., English Catholic Books, 1701–1800: A Bibliography (Aldershot: Scolar, 1996), p. xxiv,Google Scholar and Victor, Houliston, ‘Why Robert Persons Would Not Be Pacified’, in The Reckoned Expense: Edmund Campion and the Early English Jesuits, ed. McCoog, Thomas M. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1996), ch. 9.Google Scholar

44 One example from the Popish Plot years is John, Huddleston (attr.), A New Plot of the Papists to Transform Traitors into Martyrs (1679):Google Scholar see Thomas H. Clancy, S.J., English Catholic Books, 1641–1700: A Bibliography (1974: revised edition Aldershot: Scolar, 1996), item 511.Google Scholar See also John, Baptist Vincent Canes's The Reclaimed Papist (1655)Google Scholar and John, Gother, A Papist Misrepresented and Represented (1st ed. 1685).Google Scholar

45 The Weekly Racquet of Advice from Rome was written by Henry Care and published by Langley Curtis. For the complex bibliographical history of this item, see the English Short-Title Catalogue under title.

46 E.g. Gertrude, More, The Holy Practices of a Divine Lover, or the Saintly Ideots Devotions (1657).Google Scholar

47 See Michael, Treadwell, ‘The Stationers and the Printing Acts at the End of the Seventeenth Century’, ch. 38 in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Vol. IV (1557–1695) ed. John, Barnard & McKenzie, D. F. with Maureen, Bell (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).Google Scholar

48 I am grateful to Andrew Starkie for this point.

49 See my ‘Catholic Texts and Anti-Catholic Prejudice in the Seventeenth-Century Book Trade’, in Robin, Myers and Michael, Harris (eds), Censorship and the Control of Print in England and France, 1600–1900 (Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1992), pp. 3357.Google Scholar

50 This strategy could backfire; one early 18th-century guide to St. Winifred's Well at Holywell, specifically targeted at Catholic visitors in the hopes of converting them, became popular on account of the Catholic matter it contained, and much to the chagrin of its author, William Fleetwood, acted as a means of publicising the well. See my ‘St. Winifred's Well and its Meaning in Post-Reformation British Catholic Literary Culture’, in Peter, Davidson & Jill, Bepler (eds), The Triumphs of the Defeated: Early Modern Festivals and Messages of Legitimacy (Wolfenbüttel: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007), pp. 271–80.Google Scholar

51 Richard, Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests (1741/2), part 1, pp. 262–77.Google Scholar Challoner's account of Gennings also received augmentation from Alban Butler's transcripts from the Douai papers: see Richard, Luckett, ‘Bishop Challoner: The Devotional Writer’, chs 1 & 4 in Eamon, Duffy (ed.), Challoner and his Church: A Catholic Bishop in Georgian England (London: DLT, 1981), esp. p. 81.Google Scholar On Memoirs of Missionary Priests, see Eamon, Duffy, ‘Richard Challoner, 1691–1781: A Memoir’, ch. 1 in the same volume, and Dillon, Construction, pp. 373–74.Google Scholar

52 Memoirs, I, f.A2b. On these questions, see Adam, Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500–1700 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), esp. ch. 3.Google Scholar

53 Dillon, Construction, p. 373.

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