Steven W. May and Alan Bryson (eds), Verse Libel in Renaissance England and Scotland

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Commentary, Poem 34

'Com forthe fond Fox' survives in a unique copy in the State Papers Domestic. It occupies leaves 8–10 of a fourteen-folio gathering consisting of a prefatory letter, a pg 211prose martyrology, the libel, and a second poem, 'Yow blessed men (who suffer for belieffe)'.400 The letter's recipient was 'the righte worshipfull my loving brother Master F', wishing him 'health & welthe in our Savyour'.401 The author prepared this packet of texts for his co-religionist after reading the 'Copy of a letter' between two Jesuits, a Latin treatise published at Cologne in 1582 that was itself translated from Spanish.402 The libel and its accompanying prose and verse can thus be dated to 1582 or thereafter. They were perhaps composed in response to publication of the fourth edition of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments in 1583. In addition to Foxe, a number of other Protestants are libelled in the poem, including Luther, Calvin, and several of the Marian martyrs burned at the stake.

The printed 'Copy of a letter' on which the English translation is based offers an eye-witness account of the 'gloryowse martyrdom' suffered in Morocco in 1580 by Peter Elcius, a Spaniard by birth. Elcius had converted to Islam, then decided to revert to his Catholic faith. He attempted to flee Morocco but was apprehended by the Sultan's officers and sent to Marrakesh on 16 January 1580. There, he was offered his freedom if he would renounce Christianity and return 'to their moorishe religion'. Elcius refused and was condemned to death, whereupon, according to the treatise, a number of miracles occurred. After having his hands nailed to a gate, his tongue was cut out to stop him from exhorting the crowd to convert to the true faith, yet he continued to speak, saying 'O my good God be mindefull of me, for these tormentyng nayles seme unto me, not to be nayles, but floweres, not thornes, but roses.' His feet were then nailed to the gate, and a nail driven into his head, but he 'seemed to shyne with a muche more fayre and cheerfull countenaunce . . . This was the end of this moste blessed Champione.'403 Elcius' martyrdom thus offered Catholic apologists a telling contrast with the accounts of Protestant martyrdom narrated by Foxe. Clearly, God had intervened to inspire and comfort Elcius at his death in a way that Foxe could not claim for any victims of Catholic persecution in England. The miracle in Morocco was a timely and pointed refutation of Foxe's claim (and the claim of the English Church generally), that theirs was the true Christian religion.

According to Wayne Pounds, the verse libel attacking Foxe with its associated documents was first attributed to the Jesuit lay brother and prisoner Thomas Pounde (1539–1615) by Richard Simpson, who transcribed a series of recusant pg 212tracts in verse and prose during the 1850s.404 Scholars have since accepted this attribution uncritically, although Pounds recognized that the case had not been effectively argued.405 The letter itself is unsigned and none of the documents in this gathering contains any indication of authorship. Pounde has been connected with them primarily because he is otherwise known to have written poetry and by 1582 had for the past six years been imprisoned for recusancy.

None of this evidence connects any of these writings with Thomas Pounde. The State Papers copy of the letter, addressed to 'my loving brother Master F', treats the libel as another's work, 'written, as it seemeth, in way of challenge to Fox the Martyrmaker . . . by one of your dearest friends'. Even if this serves as an oblique ascription of the poem to the letter-writer himself (as Pounds contends), no connection with Thomas Pounde as author of the poem, the letter, or any other document in the packet would follow. The letter-writer was not necessarily a prisoner; he blames 'the unhappiness of this hard time' for his failure to 'visit you oftener'. This could refer to visitations in writing or in person. Master F is clearly not a fellow prisoner but someone whose 'blessed bedfellow' (usually but not always with reference to a wife) is commended in the letter's subscription. Nor was Pounde the only recusant who wrote English verse.406

It is important to remember that the unique texts of these works in the State Papers are copies, not the original documents. The letter is unsigned, its addressee unidentified beyond the laconic 'Master F', and it lacks an address. The quire might have been copied by its recipient, or a co-religionist who wished to preserve its pro-Catholic contents, or it may be an official copy of intercepted, subversive papers of the Principal Secretary (which were themselves recatalogued in the nineteenth century as part of the State Papers). It was not copied by Pounde. The quire is written in a single, accomplished secretary hand. Its broad-nibbed, regular spacing vaguely resembles Pounde's autograph letter of 3 June 1609;407 however, Pounde's hand lacks, among other characteristic graphs in the quire, the double-looped minuscule h, minuscule g with a descender hooked sharply left, then back-looped underneath, and capital C formed from two semi-circles with the smaller forming the top of the letter. We consider these traits broadly diagnostic and highly consistent. We doubt that they would be found should samples of Pounde's handwriting dated closer to that of the libel's transcription come to light.

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Notes to Poem 34

17 In his Two Treatises Written Against the Papistes (1577, STC 11458), William Fulke asks his Catholic opponent, William Allen, 'Shew me, M. Allen if thou canst for thy gutts . . .' (p. 241, sig. Q1). Here, 'fenserly' seems to mean 'fencer-like', or pugnacious.

19 Pounds explains (p. 18) the transformation of Tooley's name into Tonnelie through the Latinized Tonlaeus in Nicholas Harpsfield's Dialogi Sex Contra Summi Pontificatus (p. 747).408 Foxe records how John Tooley, sentenced to death for robbing King Philip's Spanish retainers during Mary's reign, exhorted the crowd at his execution to reject the Pope and Catholic doctrine.409 The marginal note perhaps compares Tooley to Adam in the Garden of Eden who 'stole' the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.

20–24 Foxe says that Sir Roger Acton was executed for rebellion against Henry V in January, 1414. Hall's Chronicle identifies him as Sir Robert Acton.410 Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester (d. 1452), dabbled in astrology with, among others, Roger Bolingbroke, Principal of St Andrew's Hall, Oxford. She was imprisoned for life in 1441 on a charge of 'treasonable necromancy'.411

Jan Žižka, a follower of Jan Hus, led a series of anti-Catholic military campaigns in Bohemia from about 1420 until his death in 1424. Lady Joan Young [née Boughton] was said to have been executed for heresy some time between 1494, when her mother Joan Boughton met that fate, and 1511.412 John Randall, student of Christ's College, Cambridge, was found hanged in his lodgings about 1531, whether murdered or from despair of salvation is unspecified (Foxe, ed. 1563, p. 546; ed. 1583, p. 966).

John of Wesel (John Rucherat or Ruchrat) wrote against the corruption of the Church and was persecuted from 1479 until his death in 1481 (Foxe, ed. 1583, pp. 748–50, 754). Peter the German was burned in 1539 for denying the Mass (Foxe, ed. 1563, p. 627). In 1532 three men were hanged for burning down the rood screen at Dovercourt in Essex: Robert King and Nicholas Marsh of Dedham in Essex and Robert Debenham of East Bergholt in Suffolk (Foxe, ed. 1583, pp. 1054–5).

25 Cowbridge: Foxe records that one Cowbridge was arrested for heresy at Oxford, then starved into a state of delirium in which he denied the Incarnation. He was burned at the stake for this heresy in 1539 (Foxe, ed. 1563, pp. 626–7).

32 leaven: that which sours and ferments dough; lewd: ignorant, vulgar

34 Babylonian: pagan

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37 Translating Non facit martyrem poena, sed causa from St Augustine's Sermon 327.1 (PL 38:1451).

42 marginal note: Denham may be Nicholas Denham, who translated Niels Hemmingsen's The Way of lyfe . . . comprehending principal poincts of Christian Religion (1578, STC 13067–68). This work, however, explicitly recognizes Christ as the son of the Virgin Mary. Marshe, a curate, is probably George Marsh, an ordained minister who refused to recant his Protestant beliefs and was burned at Chester in 1555.413

45–6 The Montanists and Donatists were early Christian schismatics. The former originated in the Roman provinces of Phrygia in the second century ad, the latter in Roman North Africa in the early fourth century. The marginal notes draw our attention to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, Bk 5, cap. 18, which attacks the Montanists. Similarly, the note for l. 46 cites 'Aug. Ep. 68' as against the Donatists. This is, in fact, St Augustine's Epistle 76.

50 St Simeon of Jerusalem (see Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).

56 St Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from 328–73, who led opposition to the Arian heresy.

56–7 Saturnyne: St Saturninus, Bishop of Toulouse, martyred in 257.

61 Foxe's treatment of his 'Saintes' King '&c.' and the reformer John Hooper, is compared with derision to that of the real St John the Evangelist and St Matthew. King was one of three men burned in Southwark, Surrey in 1557 (Foxe, ed. 1583, p. 2000).

67 The reformers Robert Barnes, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and John Frith.

68–69 The Swiss and French reformers Huldrych Zwingli and Jean Calvin.

72 Johannes Agricola was an early follower of Martin Luther who wrote against both Zwingli and the German reformer Johannes Oecolampadius. All four participated in the Colloquy of Marburg in October 1529, where they tried to resolve their disagreements, particularly over the Real Presence. We have not traced his translation of 'Suaanian's' books.

75 Zwingli wrote several works against Luther, among them Amici Exegesis, id est, Expositio Eucharistœ Negocii, ad Martinum Lutherum (Zurich, 1527). Oecolampadius repudiated Luther in his Billiche antwort auff M. Luthers bericht des sacramentts halb (Nuremburg, 1526).

79 The 1555 Peace of Augsburg saw both Catholic and Protestant confessions agree that the religious faith of princes should determine that of their subjects: cuius regio, eius religio.

81 Of, belonging to, or fit for Bedlam or a madhouse; mad, foolish. Bedlam was a London hospital for the mentally ill, granted its foundation charter in 1547.

93 Simeon and his brother Levi tricked the Shechemites into circumcising themselves in order to attack and destroy them (in their weakened condition) in revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34:1–26).

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95 Pallas was the daughter of Triton and foster-sister of Athena, Greek goddess of justice and knowledge, who accidentally killed her in mock combat. Athena created a statue of Pallas, the palladium, to her memory.

117 John Marbeck was condemned for heresy in 1543 but then reprieved (Foxe, ed. 1583, pp. 1237–45). In his 1563 edition Foxe had said Marbeck perished along with three others (pp. 681–2).

118 Foxe wrote in his 1563 edition that 'Sir Roger Onley knyght' was hanged for Lollardy in 1441 (p. 423). This is corrected in the second edition, where Onley is correctly described as a priest (pp. 851–3).

126 In Greek mythology Argus Panoptes is a hundred-eyed giant who guards the nymph Io; hence his epithet. Foxe made extensive revisions to his 1570 and 1576 editions in response to criticisms of his accuracy.

181 margin, Osory: In 1563 the Master of Requests, Walter Haddon, published a reply to a French and Latin epistle written by the Portuguese priest Jerome Osorio da Fonseca, which had exhorted the Queen to return to the Catholic faith. In 1567 Osorio responded in print, but Haddon died before his rebuttal to this tract was complete. Foxe finished and published it for him: Walter Haddon, Contra Hieronymum Osorium, ed. John Foxe (STC2 12593, 1577); Gerald Bray, 'Haddon, Walter', ODNB.

217–8 The coast of Morocco. Elcius was arrested near Azemmour, a port on the Portuguese sea-routes to Asia (PRO SP 12/157, f. 101v).

229–34 Dagon was a Philistine god whose statue was broken by divine retribution when the Ark of the Covenant was set up next to it in his temple (1 Samuel 5:2–7). Belial was one of the fallen angels. The marginal note draws attention to the passage in 1 Kings 5:2, where Solomon declares that, now that the land is at peace, he will build the temple to God.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
400 Alison Shell, Oral Culture and Catholicism in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007) describes this non-libellous poem as an example of a Catholic martyrology circulated among prisoners (120–22). In Pounde's Challenge: a Recusant Poem of 1582 (Tokyo, 2009), Wayne Pounds establishes the author's source for his account of Peter Elcius' martyrdom and provides a transcription of the first, libellous poem minus its marginal annotations.
Editor’s Note
401 PRO SP 12/157, ff. 105–107v; SP 12/157, ff. 98–111v.
Editor’s Note
402 Francesco de Castro, 'Exemplum Epistolae P[atri] Francisci de Castro Sacerdotis Societatis Iesu', in Luis Frois, Brevis Iapaniae Insvlae Descriptio, Ac Rervm Qvarvndam In Ea Mirabilium, à Patribus Societatis Iesv nuper gestarum, VD16 B 8242 (Cologne, 1582), ff. 44v–46v.
Editor’s Note
403 PRO SP 12/157, ff. 101–104v.
Editor’s Note
404 Pounde's Challenge, 1–2; See R. Simpson, 'Biographical Sketch of Thomas Poundes', The Rambler, new ser. 8 (1857), 24–38, 94–106; H. Foley, ed., Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, 7 vols. in 8 (London, 1875–83), 3.46–7, 546–7, 581, 596–7, 657.
Editor’s Note
405 Louise I. Guiney, Recusant Poets (London, 1938), 185; Pounds, Pounde's Challenge, 2–4.
Editor’s Note
406 Richard Verstegan, alias Rowlands, Jasper Heywood, Anthony Copley, and Robert Southwell were prominent Catholic poets contemporary with the authorship of this attack on Foxe.
Editor’s Note
407 MS preserved at the Archivum Britannicum Societatis Iesu, London, Anglia III, n. 95, ff. 182–183.
Editor’s Note
408 The British Library records editions of this work published at Antwerp in 1566 and 1573.
Editor’s Note
409 John Foxe's The Acts and Monuments On Line, edition of 1583, pp. 1607–09. References to Foxe in the notes that follow cite this online edition.
Editor’s Note
410 Foxe, ed. 1583, pp. 592–611; Edward Hall, The Union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre & Yorke (1550), sig. A3.
Editor’s Note
411 G. L. Harriss, 'Eleanor (née Eleanor Cobham) duchess of Gloucester', ODNB.
Editor’s Note
412 Foxe, ed. 1583, pp. 726–7, 755, 827; Henry Summerson, 'Boughton, Joan', ODNB.
Editor’s Note
413 Thomas S. Freeman, 'Marsh, George', ODNB.
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