Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harcourt, Thomas

HARCOURT, THOMAS (1618–1679), Jesuit, whose real name was Whitbread, was born in Essex in 1618. He was sent to the college of the Jesuits at St. Omer, and at the age of seventeen entered the novitiate of the English province at Watten on 7 Sept. 1635. He came upon the English mission about 1647, and in 1649 he was in the Suffolk district. On 8 Dec. 1652 he was solemnly professed of the four vows. He laboured in England for thirty-two years, was twice superior of the Suffolk district, and once of the Lincolnshire district. He was chosen provincial of his order on 14 Jan. 1677-8, and it was during his visitation of the Belgian colleges of the English province that Titus Oates, after having been expelled from two of the colleges of the society, applied to him to be admitted as a member of the order, and, on being refused, uttered the threat that he would be either a Jesuit or a Judas. Harcourt returned to England to attend the triennial meeting of the English province held at the Duke of York's residence, St. James's Palace, on 24 April 1678. He was seized within the purlieus of the residence of the Spanish ambassador, Count Egremont, Wyld House, Wyld Street, formerly called Weld Street, on 29 Sept., and committed to Newgate. He was tried at the Old Bailey on 13 June following, was convicted of complicity in the 'popish plot' on the perjured testimony of Oates, Bedloe, and Dugdale, and was executed at Tyburn on 20 June (O. S.) 1679. His remains, with those of his four companions, Fathers Waring, Fenwick, Turner, and Gavan, were buried in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

His two short poems, 'To Death' and 'To his Soul,' are preserved in the 'Remonstrance of Piety and Innocence,' London, 1683, 12mo, where is also his 'Devout elevation of the Mind to God.' He had prepared for the press an English version of Père Hayneuf's 'Meditations.'

There is a portrait of him, engraved by Martin Bouche of Antwerp, in Matthias Tanner's excessively rare work, entitled 'Brevis Relatio felicis Agonis quern pro Religione Catholica gloriose subierunt aliquot e Societate Jesu Sacerdotes,' Prague, 1683. In 1871 W. H. James Weale of Bruges had in his possession a small half-length portrait of him on canvas, found in a farmhouse at Courtrai, and said to have been formerly in the house of the Jesuits in that town (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. viii. 330).

[Challoner's Missionary Priests, 1803, ii. 200; De Backer's Bibl. des Ecrivains de la Compagnie de Jesus, 1872, ii. 31; Dodd's Church Hist, iii. 317; Floras Anglo-Bavaricus, pp. 151, 162; Foley's Records, v. 233, 1067, vii. 832; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. v. 93; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 111; Tanner's Brevis Relatio; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1263, iv. 117, 771.]

T. C.