Canfield, Benedict (DNB00)

For works with similar titles, see Benedict Canfield.

CANFIELD, BENEDICT (1563–1611) Capuchin friar, whose real name was William Fitch, was the second son of William Fitch, owner of the manor of Little Canfield in Essex, by his second wife, Anne, daughter of John Wiseman of Felstead, and was born at Little Canfield in 1563. He studied law in the Middle Temple, but on being converted to the catholic religion he went to Douay and afterwards to Paris, where he entered the convent of the Capuchins on 23 March 1586, taking the name of Benedict or Benet. In July 1589 he returned to England with Father John Chrysostom, a Scotchman. They set sail from Calais, and landed between Sandwich and Dover. As they were known to be priests, they were carried before the mayor, wno committed them to prison, whence they were removed to London and brought before Lord Cobham. They were then sent to Nonsuch, where the queen was residing, and examined by Sir Francis Walsingham, who committed them to the Tower. The Scotch friar was released at the request of the French king, but Father Benedict was conveyed to Wisbech Castle, where he appeared in his Franciscan habit. On his way thither he was led through the streets of Cambridge, and created an extraordinary sensation, such a garb not having been seen in that town since Queen Mary's days. After remaining at Wisbech for eighteen months he was removed to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. In both these prisons he held controversial conferences with various protestant divines. After three years' imprisonment he was released at the request of Henry IV of France. He was master of the novices for a long time both at Orleans and Rouen, and in the latter city he was also guardian of his convent. His death occurred in the convent of the Capuchins in the Rue St.- Honoré,in Paris, on 21 Nov. 1611. A curious biography of him, partly autobiographical, was published, with his portrait prefixed, under the title of 'The miraculous life, conuersion, and conuersation of the Reuerend Father Bennett of Cāfield,' Douay, 1623, 8vo, pp. 145, together with 'The Life of the Reverend Fa. Angel of Ioyevse, Capvcin Preacher,' and the life of 'Father Archangell, Scotchman, of the same Ordere.' These three biographies had previously appeared in French at Paris in 1621.

Father Benedict, who was a celebrated preacher both in English and French, wrote: 1. ‘The Christian Knight.’ 2. ‘Tubulæ quædam de bene orando.’ 3. ‘The Rule of Perfection, contayning a breif and perspicuovs abridgement of all the wholle spirituall life, reduced to this only point of the (will of God). Diuided into three Partes,’ Rouen, 1609, 8vo. A Latin translation appeared at Cologne, 1610, 12mo. A little treatise by Canfield was published at London in 1878 under the title of ‘The Holy Will of God: a short rule of perfection.’

[Addit MSS. 5825, f. 150 b, 5865, f. 111; Harl. MS. 7035, p. 187; Bibl. Grenvilliana; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 144, 393; Oliver's Catholic Religion in Cornwall, 547; Morant's Essex, ii. 463; Berry's Essex Genealogies, 146; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England (1824), ii. 81.]

T. C.