chapter 10 Persons’ Displeasure: Collaboration and Design in Leicester’s Commonwealth
The biography of the book known as Leicester’s Commonwealth stimulates much thought about the subversive book trade between France and England in the years following the English Mission of 1580/1: tensions between opportuni- ty and ideal, personal feeling and group identity, propaganda and literary form, informers and information, diplomacy, war and polemic.1 It was written in the early summer of 1584 and probably printed on a press in Rouen directed by Fr Robert Persons (1546–1610).2 Hundreds of copies were couriered to England, probably by lay brother Ralph Emerson (1553–1604), who returned to France in August after delivering 810 books.3 On his next journey, in September, he was arrested on his arrival in London from Norwich, with a consignment of “sclaun- derus books,” “touchinge some of the honorable Counsell,” and imprisoned in the Counter in the Poultry.4 John Bossy claims that the book was smuggled into England via the French embassy, conveniently situated near the river in the vi- cinity of the Temple.5 There is no good reason why both routes might not have been used; at all events, Walsingham saw a copy on 28 September; Leicester’s
1 The copie of a leter, wryten by a Master of Arte of Cambrige to his friend in London, concern- ing some talke past of late betwen two worshipful and graue men, about the present state, and some procedinges of the Erle of Leycester and his friendes in England (Rouen: Fr Persons’ Press, 1584). All quotations are taken from D.C. Peck’s edition (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985), with page references given in text. On the authorship, see Peter Holmes, ‘The authorship of “Leicester’s Commonwealth,”’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 33 (1982), pp. 424–430, L. Hicks, ‘The growth of a myth: Father Robert Persons, sj, and Leicester’s Commonwealth,’ Studies: An Irish Quarterly, 46 (1957), pp. 91–105. See also Katy Gibbons, English Catholic exiles in late sixteenth-century Paris (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2011), pp. 95–102. 2 D.C. Peck (introd.), Leicester’s Commonwealth, pp. 5–13. 3 Persons to Agazzari, 20 August 1584, Letters and memorials of Robert Persons, sj, ed. L. Hicks, crs 39 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1942), p. 227, hereafter Letters and memorials. Ref- erences to Persons’ letters use this edition, corrected where necessary from the new edition of his Correspondence, in progress. 4 crs Miscellanea ii, ed. J.H. Pollen, crs 2 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1906), pp. 249, 251, and Miscellanea iv, ed. J.H. Pollen, crs 4 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1907), pp. 156–159. 5 John Bossy, Giordano Bruno and the embassy affair (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 19, 157 n. 55, and 197–200 (Text no. 4).
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6 Gerard Kilroy, ‘Advertising the reader: Sir John Harington’s “Directions in the margent” [with illustrations],’ elr, 41 (2011), pp. 64–110. 7 Peck (introd.), Leicester’s Commonwealth, pp. 13–25; see also J.H. Pollen, ‘Howard tradi- tions in “Leicester’s Commonwealth,” 1584,’ in The Ven. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, crs 21 (London: Catholic Record Society, 1919), pp. 57–66. 8 Alan H. Nelson, Monstrous adversary: The life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Liver- pool: Liverpool University Press, 2003), pp. 259, 273. 9 Nelson, Monstrous adversary, pp. 201–203, 249–258. 10 Peck (introd.), Leicester’s Commonwealth, pp. 19–21; see also Mitchell Leimon and Geof- frey Parker, ‘Treason and plot in Elizabethan diplomacy: The “fame of Sir Edward Stafford” reconsidered,’ English Historical Review, 111 (November 1996), pp. 1134–1158 (1142–1143). 11 Nelson, Monstrous adversary, pp. 296–297.