Cornelius, John (DNB00)

CORNELIUS, JOHN (1557–1594), jesuit, was a native of Bodmin, Cornwall. His parents were Irish, and, though living in the humblest station, are said to have sprung from the illustrious family of the O'Mahons or O'Magans. His patron, Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, sent him to Oxford, where he was elected a Cornish fellow of Exeter College on 30 June 1575. He was expelled for popery by the royal commission on 3 Aug. 1578 (Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornubiensis, iii. 1134; cf. Dodd, Church Hist. ii. 74). Thereupon he proceeded to the English college at Rheims, and after staying there for some time, he entered the English college at Rome for his higher studies and theology on 1 April 1580 (Foley, Records, vi. 141). Having been ordained priest he left the college for England in 1583. He returned to his kind patron, Sir John Arundell, after whose death he became chaplain to his widow, Anne, daughter of Edward, earl of Derby, and relict of Charles, seventh lord Stourton. For ten years he laboured in maintaining the catholic faith not only by his admirable discourses, but by the exercise of the powers he was reputed to possess as an exorcist. It is reported that before he attained his thirtieth year his prayer, fasting, and the austerities he underwent in the expulsion of evil spirits made his hair grey in a few months. So great was his supposed power in driving evil spirits out of the bodies of the possessed that his fame was spread abroad among all the catholics of England. The expelled spirits, it is said, often went forth uttering terrible curses, and vociferating that they could by no means withstand the charity of the father, whose very approach sometimes put them to flight (Foley, Records, iii. 446 et seq.; Gerard, Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, p. 17; Morus, Hist. Missionis Anglicanæ Soc. Jesu, pp. 165–6; Challoner, Missionary Priests, ed. 1741, i. 306). At length he was apprehended at Lady Arundell's country seat, Chideock Castle, Dorsetshire, on 14 April 1594, by the sheriff of the county. At the same time Thomas Bosgrave, a Cornish gentleman, who was a kinsman of Sir John Arundell, and two servants of the family were taken into custody for aiding and assisting the priest. Cornelius was ordered to be sent to London, where he was examined by the lord treasurer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other members of the privy council, who strove to extort from him, first by words, and afterwards by the rack, the names of such catholics as had relieved him, but he refused to the last to make any discovery which might prejudice his benefactors. He was remanded to Dorchester for trial, where he and his three companions were found guilty, Cornelius of high treason for being a priest and coming into this kingdom and remaining here; Bosgrave and the servants of felony, for aiding Cornelius, knowing him to be a priest. They were executed at Dorchester on 4 July 1594. Cornelius had been admitted into the Society of Jesus at London shortly before his apprehension (Tanner, Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitæ profusionem militans, p. 29).

The ‘Acts’ of this martyr, written by Sir John Arundell's daughter Dorothy, who became a nun at Brussels, are among the archives of the jesuits at Rome (Foley, Records, iii. 437, 474). His portrait is at the Gesù there. A photograph of a sketch by Mr. Charles Weld is in Foley's ‘Records.’

[Authorities cited above; also Hutchins's Dorset, ii. 340; Diaries of the English Coll. Douay; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 2nd ser.; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. i. 572; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, 74; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. 334; Foley's Records, vii. 170.]

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