Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzsimon, Henry

FITZSIMON, HENRY (1566–1643), jesuit, born at Dublin on 31 May 1566, was son of Nicholas Fitzsimon, an alderman or ‘senator’ of that city, by his wife Anne, sister of Christopher Sidgreaves of Inglewight, Lancashire. At the age of ten he was ‘inveigled into heresy,’ and afterwards he studied grammar, humanities, and rhetoric for four years at Manchester. He matriculated at Oxford, as a member of Hart Hall, on 26 April 1583. ‘In December following,’ says Wood, ‘I find one Henry Fitz-Simons, to be elected student of Christ Church, but whether he be the same with the former, I dare not say.’ It does not appear how long he continued at Oxford, nor whether he took a degree. In 1587 he became a student in the university of Paris. At this period he imagined that he was ‘ able to convert to Protestancie any encounterer whatsoever;’ but at length he was overcome in argument by Father Thomas Darbyshire [q. v.], nephew of Bishop Bonner, and was reconciled to the catholic church. After his conversion he appears to have visited Rome. He went to the university of Pont-à-Mousson before the close of 1587, and studied rhetoric for one year, philosophy for three years, from 1588 to 1591, and took the degree of M.A., after which he read theology for three months at Pont-à-Mousson, and for seven weeks at Douay, privately studying casuistry at the same time. He took minor orders, was admitted into the Society of Jesus by Father Manæreus, the provincial of Flanders, and began his noviceship at Tournay on 15 or 26 April 1592. On 2 June 1593 he was sent to pursue his theological studies at Louvain under Father Leonard Lessius, and while there he also formed an intimate acquaintance with Father Rosweyde and Dr. Peter Lombard. He so distinguished himself that he was appointed to the chair of philosophy in the university of Douay.

Being sent, at his own earnest petition, to the Irish mission, he reached Dublin late in 1597. Wood states that ‘he endeavoured to reconcile as many persons as he could to his religion, either by private conference or public disputes with protestant ministers. In which work he persisted for two years without disturbance, being esteem'd the chief disputant among those of his party, and so ready and quick that few or none would undertake to deal with him.’ The hall of a nobleman's house in Dublin having been placed at his disposal, he caused it to be lined with tapestry and covered with carpets, and had an altar made and magnificently decorated. Here high mass was celebrated with a full orchestra, composed of harps, lutes, and all kinds of instruments except the organ. The catholics used to go armed to mass in order to protect the priests and themselves. Father Field, superior of the Irish jesuit mission, reported in September 1599 that Fitzsimon was working hard, that crowds flocked to hear him and were converted, that he led rather an open, demonstrative life, never dining without six or eight guests, and that when he went through the country, he rode with three or four gentlemen, who served as companions. His zeal led to his arrest in 1599, and he was committed to Dublin Castle, where he remained in confinement for about five years. While in prison he held disputations with Dr. Challenor, Meredith Hanmer, Dean Rider, and James Ussher, afterwards primate of Ireland. On 12 March 1603–4 James I ordered Fitzsimon's release, but he was not actually liberated until three months later. About 1 June 1604 he was taken from Dublin Castle and placed on board a ship which landed him at Bilboa in Spain.

After some time he left Spain for Flanders, and in 1608 he was summoned on the business of the Irish mission to Rome, where he made his solemn profession of the four vows, and where he appears to have remained till after April 1611, when he returned to Flanders. On 1 July 1620 he reached the imperial camp in Bohemia, and, in the capacity of army chaplain, went through the campaign, of which he wrote a history. He was again in Belgium in 1626. At length, after an exile of twenty-six years, he returned in 1630 to his native country. Having been condemned to be hanged for complicity in the rebellion he was forced to leave the Dublin residence of the jesuits and to fly by night to distant mountains, in company with many catholics who were expelled from the city in the winter of 1641. He died, probably at Kilkenny, on 29 Nov. 1643, though other accounts give 1 Feb. 1643–4 and 29 Nov. 1645 as the date of his decease.

Wood remarks that ‘by his death the Roman Catholics lost a pillar of their church, [he] being esteem'd in the better part of his life a great ornament among them, and the greatest defender of their religion in his time’ (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 96).

His works are: 1. ‘Brief Collections from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and principal Protestants, in proof of six Catholic Articles,’ which John Rider, dean of St. Patrick's, and afterwards bishop of Killaloe, had challenged him to prove. Manuscript sent on 2 Jan. 1600–1 to Rider, who published an answer entitled ‘A Caveat to Irish Catholics’ on 28 Sept. 1602. 2. Manuscript reply to the ‘Caveat,’ sent to Rider on 4 Feb. 1602–3. Rider's ‘ Rescript’ was published on 30 March 1604. 3. ‘A Catholick Confutation of Mr. John Rider's Claim to Antiquitie, and a calming Comfort against his Caveat. In which is demonstrated … that all Antiquitie … is repugnant to Protestancie … And a Reply to Mr. Rider's Rescript, and a Discoverie of Puritan Partialitie in his behalfe,’ Rouen, 1608, 4to. 4. ‘An Answer to sundrie Complaintive Letters of Afflicted Catholics, declaring the Severitie of divers late Proclamations,’ 1608. Printed at the end of the preceding work. It was reprinted by the Rev. Edward Hogan, S.J., under the title of ‘Words of Comfort to Persecuted Catholics,’ Dublin, 1881, 8vo. 5. ‘Narratio Rerum Ibernicarum,’ or an ‘Ecclesiastical History of our Country.’ He was engaged on this work in 1611. It was never printed. The Bollandists often quote Fitzsimon's manuscript collections. 6. ‘The Justification and Exposition of the Divine Sacrifice of the Masse, and of al Rites and Ceremonies thereto belonging’ [Douay], 1611, 4to. 7. ‘Catalogus præcipuorum Sanctorum Hiberniæ.’ Manuscript finished 9 April 1611. The Bollandists cite the editions of 1611 and 1619; there were also those of Douay, 1615 and 1619; Liège, 1619; Lisbon, 1620; Antwerp, 1627. The catalogue was also appended to ‘Hiberniæ sive Antiquæ Scotiæ Vindiciæ adversus Thomam Dempsterum. Auctore G. F.,’ Antwerp, 1621, 8vo, and it was printed at Rome in Porter's ‘Annales.’ 8. ‘Britannomachia Ministrorum in plerisque fidei fundamentis et articulis dissidentium,’ Douay, 1614, 4to. A reply to this was published by Francis Mason, B.D., archdeacon of Norfolk, in his ‘Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,’ 2nd edit. London, 1638, fol. 9. ‘Pugna Pragensis. A Candido Eblanio,’ Brünn, 1620. It went through three editions at least. 10. ‘Buquoy Quadrimestre Iter, Progressusque, quo, favente numine, ac auspice Ferdinando II Rom. Imp., Austria est conservata, Bohemia subjugata, Moravia acquisita, eademque opera Silesia solicitata, Hungariaque terrefacta. Accedit Appendix Progressus ejusdem Generalis, in initio Anni 1621. Authore Constantio Peregrino,’ Vienna, 1621, 4to. It was printed twice at Brünn and twice at Vienna, and translated into Italian in 1625 by Aureli of Perugia. The work was attacked by Berchtold von Rauchenstein in ‘Constantius Peregrinus Castigatus,’ Bruges, 1621, 4to. Portions of Fitzsimon's work are printed by Hogan, together with the ‘Words of Comfort,’ under the title of ‘Diary of the Bohemian War of 1620.’ It is erroneously stated in the British Museum Catalogue that ‘Constantius Peregrinus’ was Boudewyn de Jonge. 11. Treatise to prove that Ireland was originally called Scotia. Manuscript quoted in Fleming's ‘Life of St. Columba.’ 12. Many of his letters, some written from his cell in Dublin Castle, are printed by Hogan with the ‘Words of Comfort to Persecuted Catholics.’

[Life by the Rev. Edmund Hogan, 1881; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 112; Ware's Writers of Ireland (Harris), p. 118; Foley's Records, vii. 260; Hogan's Cat. of the Irish Province, S. J., p. 8; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 245; Catholic Miscellany (1828), ix. 33; Bernard's Life of Ussher (1656), p. 32; Duthillœul's Bibliographie Douaisienne (1842), p. 99; De Backer's Bibl. de la Compagnie de Jésus (1869), i. 1875; Shirley's Library at Lough Fea, p. 113; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 805; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Dwyer's Diocese of Killaloe, p. 86; Hogan's Ibernia Ignatiana, i. 33, 43, 51, 52, 72–6, 81, 102, 104, 111, 124, 131, 222; Southwell's Bibl. Scriptorum Soc. Jesu, p. 224; Irish Ecclesiastical Record, viii. 214, 268, 313, 347, 504, 553, ix. 15, 78, 187, 272, 430; Patrignani's Menologio (1730), vol. i. pt. ii. p. 8.]

T. C.