Norris, Sylvester (DNB00)


NORRIS, SYLVESTER, D.D. (1572–1630), catholic controversialist, born in Somerset in 1572, was educated in the English College at Rheims, where he arrived on 24 March 1584–5. He received minor orders there in 1590, entered the English College at Rome for his higher course of studies on 23 Oct. 1592, was ordained priest, and left for the English mission in May 1596. Being apprehended after the discovery of the gunpowder plot, he was committed prisoner to Bridewell, whence, on 1 Dec. 1605, he addressed a letter to the Earl of Salisbury, in consequence of which he was released, and sent into banishment with forty-six other priests. Arriving at Douay on 24 July 1606, he proceeded direct to Rome, where he was admitted into the Society of Jesus. Previously to this he had been created D.D. After being professor of theology and sacred scripture in several jesuit colleges on the continent he returned to England, and was professed of the four vows on 6 Dec. 1618. While engaged on the mission he frequently passed under the name of Smith. In 1621 he was superior of the Hampshire district, and he died in it on 16 March 1629–30. He was a very learned man and a noted preacher.

His works are: 1. ‘An Antidote or Soveraigne Remedie against the Pestiferous Writings of all English Sectaries. And in particuler against D. Whitaker, D. Fvlke, D. Bilson, D. Reynolds, D. Sparkes, and D. Field, the chiefe vpholders, some of Protestancy, some of Puritanisme. … By S. N. Doctour of Diuinity,’ 3 parts [St. Omer], 1615, 4to, pp. 322. The second part, pp. 247, appeared in 1619; and the third part, entitled ‘The Guide of Faith,’ pp. 229, in 1621, with an appendix, pp. 107, ‘conteyning a Catalogue of the visible and perpetuall Succession of the Catholique Professours of the Roman Church … togeather with a Counter-Catalogue discouering the interruption of Hereticall Sectes.’ The first two parts were reprinted (probably at St. Omer) in 1622, 4to, pp. 307, under the title of ‘An Antidote, or Treatise of Thirty Controversies.’ 2. ‘The Pseudo Scripturist,’ 2 pts. 1623, 4to. Dodd asserts that Norris was the author of ‘A Treatise proving the Scriptures not to be the sole judge of Controversies,’ 1623, 4to; but this is probably the same work as the ‘Pseudo Scripturist.’ 3. ‘A trve report of the Priuate Colloquy betweene M. Smith, aliâs Norrice, and M. Walker. Held in the presence of two Worthy Knights, and of a few other Gentlemen, some Protestants. With a briefe Confutation of the false and adulterated summe, which M. Walker, Pastour of S. Iohn Euangelist in Watling-streete, hath diuulged of the same,’ s.l. 1624, 4to, pp. 63. This was published by way of reply to ‘The Sum of a Disputation between Mr. [George] Walker, Rector of St. John Evangelist, &c. and a Popish Priest calling himself Mr. Smith, but indeed Norris,’ 1623 (Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 375).

[De Backer's Bibl. des Écrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 402; Douay Diaries, p. 434; Foley's Records, iii. 301, vi. 184, vii. 552; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1702; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. x. 247, 279; Oliver's Cornwall, p. 367; Oliver's Collectanea S.J. p. 151; Southwell's Bibl. Scriptorum Soc. Jesu, p. 741.]

T. C.