chapter 10 Persons’ Displeasure: Collaboration and Design in ’s Commonwealth

Victor Houliston

The biography of the book known as Leicester’s Commonwealth stimulates much thought about the subversive book trade between France and 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 from , 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 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: Press, 1991), pp. 19, 157 n. 55, and 197–200 (Text no. 4).

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156 HOULISTON nephew Sir Philip Sidney sprang to the defence, and a Royal Proclamation of 12 October cried treason. Early in 1585 a French translation was published, fol- lowed a few months later by a short Addicion, in a rather different style. That Addicion was in turn translated into English by Sir John Harington and others, but never published.6 The debate about the authorship has been inconclusive. The case for the emigré nobleman Sir Charles Arundel rests on the defamatory or libellous character of the work, and its close association with the interest of the Howard clan and French : the failed Anjou match and the Huguenot threat.7 During Anjou’s courtship of Queen Elizabeth Arundel, along with Henry How- ard (1540–1614), the future Earl of , had been intimate with the Earl of Oxford, and all three flirted with Catholicism. Late in 1580, possibly as a result of alarm over the arrival of Persons and Campion, Oxford renounced his incipient Catholic faith and informed on his friends. As a result, Arundel was imprisoned and then held in more informal custody for several months.8 In his extensive depositions against Oxford, whom he now called his “monstrous adversary,” he recalled their common hostility to Leicester. Oxford had been detained in 1579 as a result of his libels against Leicester,9 but now Leicester was the very man who, to use Peck’s term, “weaned” Oxford from his Catho- lic associates.10 By publicising the libels, Arundel may have hoped to drive a wedge between Oxford and Leicester; by 1585 Oxford was distancing himself from Leicester, abandoning his command of a company of horse at Flushing as soon as Leicester arrived to take charge of the English forces in support of the Dutch revolt.11 Arundel’s depositions against Oxford, dating from January 1581, include a memorandum of “Articles wherof Oxford wold have accusid Lester.” The con- tent of these accusations is certainly germane: especially the report that Oxford tried to get hold of poison from Leicester that was “of Ceasare,” probably an

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: 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.