Page 17, 17th August 1935

17th August 1935
Page 17
Page 17, 17th August 1935 — Blessed Edmund Campion

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Blessed Edmund Campion

Below we give the eighth extract from the book " Edmund Campion," By Evelyn Waugh, which Messrs Longmans, Green and Co. are publishing

in September.

By Evelyn Waugh

As soon as the news of the discovery reached him, the high sheriff, Eli: Foster, rode over from Aldermaston to take charge of the house. He sae to it that Campion and the other prisoners were decently used, and despatched a messenger to the court for further instruc tions. Eliot, however, had anticipated him, arrived first with the news and was given. as was very clearly his right, full

credit for the capture. -raw .r

he was back at Lyford with authority to bring Campion and the men taken with him to London as his own prisoners. l'he sheriff was instructed to provide a guard. In Eliot's absence there had been alio:her arrest, of a fourth priest named Wifliam Filby, who, unwittingly, came to call at Lyford and found the magistrates in possession.

The party set out on the 20th, passed through Abingdon, and rested the first night at Henley. At every stage of the journey large numbers turned out to see them, some with open sympathy. Persons ware still in hiding at Stonor; he sent his servant to see how Campion was looking, and the man brought back word that his gentleness and charm had already put him on easy terms with his captors. The party dined together at the same table. Camplan chatted easily with them and with several members of the University who were allowed to approach him.

Eliot was ignored; neither magistrate. nor soldiers troubled to hide their dislike of the mail; once or twice on the road there had been hostile movements in the crowd as the informer passed, and crie,. of " Judas "; his first elation was ex• hausted; the praise which he had received at court sounded faint and distorted; it was almost as though this were Campion's triumph, and he the malefactor. At last he could bear Campion's neglect no longer, and so broke out: " Mr. Campion, you look cheerfully upon everyone but me. I know you are angry with me WI this work."

Then, perhaps for the first time since Sunday morning, when Eliot had knelt alter Mass to receive the holy bread from his hands, Campion turned his eyes on him, " God forgive thee, Eliot," he said, " for so judging of me; 1 forgive thee and

in token thereof, I drink to thee." He raised his cup, and then added mor gravely. " Yea, and if thou repent and come to confession, I will absolve thee; but large penance must thou have."

According to Eliot, Campion warned him that no good would result from the service he had done; which prediction Eliot, as was his nature, took as a threat of Catholic vengeance; from that day he imagined he was being followed and Sewitched, and, though no attempt was eve. made at reprisal, went in fear of his life, so that the reporl gaited credence that he had lost his wits.

At Henley, that night, after they had all retired to bed, there was a sudden wilia shoutmg; the guards took alarm that aa attempt was being made to rescue the prisoners; torches were brought and it wan found that Father Filhy was suffering from oightmale; he had dreamed that someone was ripping down his body an1 taking out his bowels.

I hey spent the succeeding night at Celebrook, and them, on special instructione from the Council. the character of the procession was altered. The prisoners were pinioned on their horses; their elbows being tied behind them and their wrists in tront; their ankles were strapped together under the horses' bellies. Campion was driven on in front with a paper stuck in his hat reading CANIPION THE SEDITIOUS JESUIT. In this way they were paraded through the London street., crowded for the Saturday market. At Cheapside, the statues at the foot of the old cross were all defaced by the Protestants,. but the cross Itself still stood beyond their reach. As he passed it, Campion made a low reaerence. Finally they reached the Tower, where the governor, Sir Owen Hopton, took them into his custody. Before he parted with the Berkshire guard, who had had no responsibility for his humiliation, Campion thanked them and blessed them. Then the gates of the Tower shut behind him.

The conditions of imprisonment in the Tower were very different from the sociable, haphazard life at the Marshalsea. The regulations for solitary confinement are on record; the windows were blocked up; light and ventilation came through a "slope tunnel," barred at top. and bottom, so that nothing could be con suspect of having wide, subterranean connections, and Hopton treated him with more than customary harshness. He was placed in the Little Ease, the cell, still an object of interest in the Tower dungeons, in which it was impossible for a full-grown man to stand erect or lie at full length. Here, crouching in the half-dark, he remained for four days. Then the cage wae opened and he was summoned to emerge; under a strong guard he was Ica up to the level of the ground, out into the air and sunshine, across the yard to the water gate, where a boat awaited them; they rowed up-stream among the ferrymen and barges and busy river traffic. Presently they reached Leicester House.

We cannot know what hopes may have stirred in Campion's heart as he recognised the home or his old friend and patron; as the guard led him through the familiar, frequented anterooms to the earl's apartment. The doors were thrown open; the soldiers at his side stiffened; they were in

the presence of the Queen. Beside her chair stood Leicester, Bedford and two secretaries of state. The guards stood back and Campion advanced to make his salutations.

It was a singular meeting.

The grime of the dungeon was still on Carnpion; his limbs as he knelt were stiff from his imprisonment.

The vast red wig nodded acknowledgment; :ale jewels and braid and gold lace glittered and the sunken painted face smiled in recognition. They received him courteously, almost affectionately. " There is none that knoweth me familiarly." Campion had written to Leicester ten years earlier, "but he knoweili withal how many ways I have been beholden to your lordship. How often at Oxford, how often at the court. how at Rycot, how at Windsor. how by letters, how by reports, you have not ceased to further with advice and to countenance with authority the hope and expectation of tne, a single student." Campion had followed other advice, recognised another authority, in those ten years; he had lived in a different hope and expectation; he stood before them now as an outcast, momentarily interrupted in his passage from the dungeon

to the scaffold. But, for the occasion politeness was maintained.

They questioned him about his purpose in coming to England, about Persons, about his instructions from Rome. He answered easily and quietly; he had come for the salvation of souls. The harsh, peremptory tones of Elizabeth broke in; did he acknowledge her as his Queen or no': Campion replied that he did indeed recognise her as his lawful Queen and governess, and was bound to her in obedience in all temporal matters. She pressed him with the question of her deposition. He answered, with perfect candour. that it was a subject upon which theologians were still divided, and began to explain the distinction between the potestas ordinata and potestas itturdinala of the papacy, and quoted the text, " Render under to Cmsar the things that are Caesar's."

But the politicians were not in the mood for a debate upon Canon Law. They were satisfied that he had no treasonable designs and told him that they had no fault to find with him except that he was a papist.

"Which is my greatest glory," Campion replied.

They :hen made the proposal for which he had been summoned. The past ten years shook: be forgotten; the road of preferment was still open; if he would publicly abjure his Faith and enter the Protestant ministry there was still no limit to the heights he might reach. The offer was kind in its intention. They had no desire to kill the virtuous and gifted man who had once been their friend, a man moreover who could still be of good service. to them. From earliest youth, among those nearest them, they had been used to the spectacle of men who would risk their lives for power, but to die deliberately, with,: a hope of release, for an idea, was something beyond their comprehension. They knew that it happened; they had seen it I the preceding reign, but not among people of their own acquaintance; humble, eccentric men had gone to the stake; argumentative men had gone into exile in Germany and Geneva, hut Elizabeth and Cecil and Dudley had quietly conformed to the prevailing fashion; they had told their beads and eaten fish on Fridays, confessed and taken communion. Faith—as something concrete and indes tructible, of such transcendent value that. once it was held, all other possessions became a mere encumbrance—was unknown to them; in rare, pensive moments shadows loomed and flickered across their minds, sentiment, conscience, fear of the unknown: some years Leicester patronised the Catholics, at others " the Family of Love "; Elizabeth looked now on the crucifix, now on a talisman; Bible and demonology lay together beside her bed. What correspondence. even in their charity, could they have with Campion?

He returned to the Tower, and. five days later, Leicester and Burghley signed the warrant to put him to the torture.

From now until December I, when he hints and fragments of information. The little that we know was hidden from his contemporaries, and rumour was busy with his name.

First it was said that he had turned Protestant, had accepted a bishopric, and was about to make a public avowal of his apostasy and burn the Ten Reasons at St. Paul's Cross. Hopton himself seems to have been responsible for this report, and so authoritatively that it was made an official announcement at many of the pulpits of London. Then it was said that he had taken his own life; then that he had purchaeed his safety by accusing his former friends of treason. No one was allowed to see him. All over the country gentlemen were being arrested and charged with Catholicism on Campion's authority. His friends were thrown into despair and shame. The Protestants taunted them with their champion's treachery. Then he reappeared, at the conferences, at his trial, at Tyburn. In those brief glimpses they recognised the man whom they had known and trusted, the old gentleness, the old inflexible constancy. Opinion veered again; the confessions were challenged and could not be produced. They were denounced as forgeries. Only in recent years, when the archives are open and the bitter passions still, can we begin to pierce the subterranean gloom and guess at the atrocious secrets of the torture chamber.

Two things seem certain, that Campion told something and that he told very little. The purpose of his captors was to make him convict himself and his friends of treason, and in this they failed absolutely. Hardened criminals, at the mere sight of the rack, would break down and testify to whatever their gaolers demanded.

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