Edmund Campion

Life
1540-1581; son of London bookseller, ed. Christ’s Hospital; fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, 1557; speaker at Queen Elizabeth’s state visit, 1566; patronised by Leicester; Anglican deacon, c.1568; proctor, 1568-69; sought BD; withdrew to Dublin on failing to obtain it in 1569, expecting promotion in projected Romanist college there [ODNB sic]; completed commissioned ‘Historie of Ireland’ written for Ralph Holinshed during ten weeks of hiding in the home of Sir Christopher Barnewall, 1569, having first lodged with James Stanihurst, the Recorder of Dublin and father of his ex-pupil Richard Stanihurst at Oxford; revised in 1571, the history was published by Sir James Ware in 1633; suspected of Papism, removed to London, 1571; BD at Douai, moved to Rome, 1572; joined Jesuits, 1573; entered novitiate in Prague and Brunn; ord. priest, 1578; reached Dover with Robert Parsons, having been chosen ‘to coerce temporising Catholics’; his Decem Rationis distributed in Oxford, 1581; arrested at Lyford, Berkshire, 1581; sent to Tower and subjected to torture, 1581; sentenced to death, and executed Dec. 1, 1581; Matthew Carey vigorously contests Campion’s Irish history in Hibernia Vindiciae (1819), as do other Irish nationalist historians, notably Daniel O’Connell in his Memoir on Ireland Memoir of Ireland, Native and Saxon (?1844; rep. Duffy 1860). ODNB FDA

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Works
Two Bokes of the Histories of Ireland (1571); The first and second volumes of chronicles ... now newlie augmented and continued ... 1586, by John Hooker, alias Vowell Gent. and others, 3 vols. [at the expenses of John Harrington] [2nd edn.] (London 1587/88) Marsh’s Library, STC 13569].

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Criticism
Gerard Kilroy, ‘Eternal Glory: Edmund Campion’ [feature article], Times Literary Supplement (8 March 2001), p.13 [infra].

Commentary
Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP 1959), gives an account of the inapposite rendition of Irish origin myths in a form relating to one Ruanus, being Caoilte MacRonain in Keating, who lived ‘twice the age of Methusalam’ and died having told all to St. Patrick and been baptised by him; cited from Ware, Ancient Irish histories (1809); ‘These things I note for no other purpose but that the simple stumbling upon such blinde legends should be warned to esteeme them as they are, idle fantasies, wherewith some of their Poets, dallyed at the first, and after through error and rudeness it was taken up for a sad matter.’ (Vol. 1; Pt. 2, 33-44.)

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), Edmund Campion, recorded in 1571 after a visit to Ireland his surprise that the ‘meer Irish’ spoke Latin ‘like a vulgar tongue’ but ‘without any precepts or observations of congruity’. (Historie, Dublin 1633, p.18.); friend of Richard Stanihurst. ALSO, Stanford quotes from Historie his ‘contemptuous remark in 1571 that “in their schools of leach-craft” the Irish as children by ‘conning by roate the Aphorismes of Hypocrates’ and ‘few other parings’ of medical lore. (Historie of Ireland, 1633, I, 6, 18)

Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1986), notes that Edmund Campion fled from England and stayed with his erstwhile Oxford acquaintance Richard Stanyhurst, producing a History of Ireland in manuscript there in 1569[?], which he revised in an initial version of 1571; the MS was published by Sir James Ware in 1633, but by that date, Stanyhurst’s ‘Description of Ireland’, printed in Holinshed’s Chronicle of 1577, was already based upon it.

P.J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland (1994), quotes Campion's narrative: ‘I found a fragment of an epistle wherein a virtuous monk declareth that to him (travailing in Ulster) came to a grave gentleman about Easter [...] the priest demanded him whether he were faultless in the sin of homicide? he answered that he never wist the matter to be heinous before; but being instructed thereof he confessed the murther of five.’ (Kavanagh, op. cit, p.121). Kavanagh goes on to quote Standish Hayes O’Grady who wrote in Silva Gadelica that it were better for him to have ‘tarried with the wild men that never harmed him, or in some of the lands which he visited after them; when he returned, his own highly civilised countrymen rewarded his John-Bullism with a degree higher than any he had taken at Oxford: in fact, on 1st of December 1581, they hanged and quartered him.’

Gerard Kilroy, ‘Eternal Glory: Edmund Campion’, Times Literary Supplement (8 March 2001): his Two Bokes of the Histories of Ireland, written in ten weeks, much of which was cut and pasted into Holinshed’. Discusses Sir John Harington’s ‘commission’ to a one-eyed servant to carry Campion’s book over the Irish sea; his son wrote this account his father’s literary affection for an elegy to Campion written by Henry Walpole: ‘But of Campion, though be had the death of a Traytor, yet there was an Epitaph written fit for a Martyr, and in my father’s Judgement, who as I presume to say could both write well and Judge well, It was the best English verse , and I think the last English verse that ever he redd.’ Sir John Harington [of Stepney] was also responsible for the transcription of a long heroic poem by Campion ‘on the birth of the church’ (Sancta salutiferi nascentia semina verbi) which is critical of secular power and affirms the importance of the see of Rome. Kilroy recounts the seizure of Campion books and papers among which his histories of Ireland. He quotes a letter to Gregory Martin written by Campion from Prague in 1577 [as infra] (TLS, p.13.)

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Quotations
On the Irish: ‘Shamrotes [shamrocks], water cresses and other herbs they feed upon: oatmele and buter they cramme together’; in Alannah Hopkins, Living Legend of St. Patrick, 1989, p.112.)

Ubi sunt?: ‘Make the most of Rome. Do you see the dead corpse of that Imperial City? What in this life can be glorious, if such wealth, such beauty, has come to nothing? But what men have stood firm in these miserable changes, what things? The relics of the Saints and the chair of the Fisherman. O prudence! Why is heaven neglected for worldly glory, when we see with our own eyes that even in this world the kinds of this world could not preserve these monuments of their vanity, these trophies of their folly! What will this smoke seem in the ether of heaven when it so soon blows away in the atmosphere of earth?’ Campion was a fellow and a lecturer in Rhetoric at St. John’s College, Oxford. The long poem discussed here is held as British Library Add. MS 36529. (Quoted in Gerard Kilroy, ‘Eternal Glory: Edmund Campion’ [feature article], Times Literary Supplement, 8 March 2001, , p.13.)

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Notes
Raphael Holinshed (?-?1580), author of Chronicles, based on work of Reginald Wolfe, the London printer (d.1573); issued Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577) in two fol. vols., incidentally providing Shakespeare’s with the source of the plot of Macbeth; togeher with Richard Stanyhurst’s ‘Description of Ireland’, it contains a section on Ireland written by Edmund Campion, sent to Dublin in 1568-70, where he stayed with James Stanyhurst [Stanihurst], recorder of Dublin, and father of Richard Stanyhurst; Campion was forced to flee from Stanyhurst’s house on suspicion of being a priest, and wrote the entire section at the house of Sir Christopher Barnewall, living in an upstairs room for ten weeks.

Edmund Campion, in his History of Ireland, is reported as describing Mac Tháil as giving welcome advice to ‘a whole synode of Bishoppes assembled in Dublin ...’ (p.62; see George A. Little, Dublin Before the Vikings, 1957).

Father of the bard: Edmund Campion may have met John Shakespeare, father of the dramatist, while travelling through the English midlands towards Lancashire, while William may have ridden north to Ho[u]ghton Tower to meet Campion as a sub-seminarian; see letter from Peter Milward (Times Literary Supplement, Jan. 1998), making reference to his own work Shakespeare’s religious Background (1973), and also to Richard Wilson’s article on the subjectof Shakespeare’s Catholic education among the Jesuits (TLS, 19 Dec. 1997, p.19).

Errata: [?]Harrison for Harington in Marsh’s Catalogue.

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