Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drury, Robert (1587-1623)

DRURY, ROBERT (1587–1623), jesuit, born in Middlesex in 1587, was son of William Drury [q. v.], D.C.L., judge of the prerogative court (who was converted to the catholic faith in articulo mortis), and his wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Southwell of Woodrising, Norfolk, a relative of Father Robert Southwell the poet. He was educated in London, and at the age of fourteen was sent to the English College at Douay, where he began his course of humanities, which he completed at St. Omer. On 9 Oct. 1605 he entered the English College, Rome, for his higher course. After receiving minor orders he joined the Society of Jesus in October 1608, and subsequently he repaired to Posna to finish his theology, arriving there 28 Feb. 1611–12. In 1620 he was rector of the college at St. Omer, and afterwards was sent on the mission to his native country, where he became a distinguished preacher. He was professed of the four vows 8 Sept. 1622. Occasionally he went under the names of Bedford and Stanley.

He lost his life on Sunday, 5 Nov. (N.S.) 1623, at the ‘Fatal Vespers’ in Blackfriars. On the afternoon of that day about three hundred persons assembled in an upper room at the French ambassador's residence, Hunsdon House, Blackfriars, for the purpose of participating in a religious service by Drury and William Whittingham, another jesuit. While Drury was preaching the great weight of the crowd in the old room suddenly snapped the main summer-beam of the floor, which instantly crashed in and fell into the room below. The main beams there also snapped and broke through to the ambassador's drawing-room over the gate-house, a distance of twenty-two feet. Part of the floor, being less crowded, stood firm, and the people on it cut a way through a plaster wall into a neighbouring room. The two jesuits were killed on the spot. About ninety-five persons lost their lives, while many others sustained serious injuries. The bigotry of the times led some people to regard this calamity as a judgment on the catholics, ‘so much was God offended with their detestable idolatrie’ (Lysons, Environs, iv. 410). Father John Floyd met the reproach by publishing ‘A Word of Comfort to the English Catholics,’ St. Omer, 1623, 4to. A quaint and apparently accurate account of the accident is given in ‘The Doleful Even-Song’ (1623), written by the Rev. Samuel Clarke, a puritan; and another description will be found in ‘The Fatall Vesper’ (1623), ascribed to William Crashaw, father of the poet (Cat. of the Huth Library, i. 365).

There is a eulogium of Drury in the preface to a book called ‘F. Robert Drury's Reliquary’ (1624), containing his prayers and devotions. Stow says that he was reputed by his fellow-churchmen to be a man of great learning, and generally admitted to be of good moral life (Survey of London, ed. 1633, p. 380).

[Cunningham's Handbook for London (1849), i. 94; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 410; Diaries of the English College, Douay, pp. 218, 232, 234; Foley's Records, i. 77–97, v. 1007, vi. 235, 247, vii. 211; Fuller's Church Hist. (Brewer), v. 539; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), i. 211; More's Hist. Missionis Anglic. Soc. Jesu, p. 451; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 447; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 83; Pennant's Account of London (1793), p. 238; Thornbury's Old and New London, i. 199–204.]

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