CAMPION, EDMUND (1540–1581), English Jesuit, was born in London, received his early education at Christ’s Hospital, and, as the best of the London scholars, was chosen in their name to make the complimentary speech when Queen Mary visited the city on the 3rd of August 1553. He went to Oxford and became fellow of St John’s College in 1557, taking the oath of supremacy on the occasion of his degree in 1564, in which year he was orator in the schools. He had already shown his talents as a speaker at the funeral of Amy Robsart in 1560; and when Sir Thomas White, the founder of the college, was buried in 1564, the Latin oration fell to the lot of Campion. Two years later he welcomed Queen Elizabeth to the university, and won a regard, which the queen preserved until the end. Religious difficulties now began to beset him; but at the persuasion of Edward Cheyney, bishop of Gloucester, although holding Catholic doctrines, he took deacon’s orders in the English Church. Inwardly “he took a remorse of conscience and detestation of mind.” Rumours of his opinions began to spread and, giving up the office of proctor, he left Oxford in 1569 and went to Ireland to take part in a proposed restoration of the Dublin University. The suspicion of papistry followed him; and orders were given for his arrest. For some three months he eluded pursuit, hiding among friends and occupying himself by writing a history of Ireland (first published in Holinshed’s Chronicles), a superficial work of no real value. At last he escaped to Douai, where he joined William Allen (q.v.) and was reconciled to the Roman Church. After being ordained sub-deacon, he went to Rome and became a Jesuit in 1573, spending some years at Brünn, Vienna and Prague. In 1580 the Jesuit mission to England was begun, and he accompanied Robert Parsons (q.v.) who, as superior, was intended to counterbalance Campion’s fervour and impetuous zeal. He entered England in the characteristic guise of a jewel merchant, arrived in London on the 24th of June 1580, and at once began to preach. His presence became known to the authorities and an indiscreet declaration, “Campion Brag,” made the position more difficult. The hue and cry was out against him; henceforth he led a hunted life, preaching and ministering to Catholics in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Lancashire. During this time he was writing his Decem Rationes, a rhetorical display of reasons against the Anglican Church. The book was printed in a private press at Stonor Park, Henley, and 400 copies were found on the benches of St Mary’s, Oxford, at the Commencement, on the 27th of June 1581. The sensation was immense, and the pursuit became keener. On his way to Norfolk he stopped at Lyford in Berkshire, where he preached on the 14th of July and the following day, yielding to the foolish importunity of some pious women. Here he was captured by a spy and taken to London, bearing on his hat a paper with the inscription, “Campion, the Seditious Jesuit.” Committed to the Tower, he was examined in the presence of Elizabeth, who asked him if he acknowledged her to be really queen of England, and on his replying straightly in the affirmative, she made him offers, not only of life but of wealth and dignities, on conditions which his conscience could not allow. He was kept a long time in prison, twice racked by order of the council, and every effort was made to shake his constancy. Despite the effect of a false rumour of retraction and a forged confession, his adversaries in despair summoned him to four public conferences (1st, 18th, 23rd and 27th of September), and although still suffering, and allowed neither time nor books for preparation, he bore himself so easily and readily that he won the admiration of most of the audience. Racked again on the 31st of October, he was indicted at Westminster that he with others had conspired at Rome and Reims to raise a sedition in the realm and dethrone the queen. On the 20th of November he was brought in guilty before Lord Chief Justice Wray; and in reply to him said: “If our religion do make traitors we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise are and have been true subjects as ever the queen had.” He received the sentence of the traitor’s death with the Te Deum laudamus, and, after spending his last days in pious exercises, was led with two companions to Tyburn (1st of December 1581) and suffered the barbarous penalty. Of all the Jesuit missionaries who suffered for their allegiance to the ancient religion, Campion stands the highest. His life and his aspirations were pure, his zeal true and his loyalty unquestionable. He was beatified by Leo XIII. in 1886.
An admirable biography is to be found in Richard Simpson’s Edmund Campion (1867); and a complete list of his works in De Backer’s Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus. (E. Tn.)