Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/9

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gates Hall, now Pembroke College. Led away by sin, he gave up all practices of religion; 'yet there remained in him,' observes his biqgrapher, 'a natural modesty, whereby he was restrained from a scandalous impudence in sin.' At the end of two years, before he had had time to graduate, his father summoned him home, with a view of settling him in some profession. Whilst at Abergavenny he began the study of the law under the guidance of his elder brother Richard, a barrister, and after the lapse of four years he was sent to London, where he became a member first of Lincoln's Inn, and afterwards, in November 1596, of the Inner Temple—not of the Middle Temple, as Wood erroneously states (Cooke. Students admitted to the Inner Temple, 146).

His father made him recorder of Abergavenny. An escape whilst riding through a dangerous ford on one of his business journeys was ascribed by him to providential interference, and led to his taking a serious interest in religion and ultimately becoming a catholic.

Having been formally reconciled to the catholic church by the Rev. Richard Floyd the elder, he came to London, where he formed an acquaintance with some Italian Benedictine monks of the congregation of Monte Cassino. At their instance he proceeded in 1605 to the Benedictine monastery of St. Justina in Padua, and commenced his novitiate on 27 May, when he assumed the name of Augustine. Ill-health made it necessary for him to return home, but after the death of his father, whom he converted to catholicism, he went back to his convent.

At this period there still survived in England one representative of the old Benedictine congregation in the person of Dom Robert (Sigebert) Buckley, who had endured an imprisonment of forty-four years for refusing the oath of supremacy. On 21 Nov. 1607 two priests, named Sadler and Maihew, were brought to his prison at the Gatehouse in London. He assisted in 'clothing' them with his own hands, and on their profession they were admitted, as monks of Westminster, to all the rights and privileges of that abbey, and of the old English Benedictine congregation. Father Cressy is evidently wrong, however, in his statement, which has been generally accepted, that Baker was the chief instrument in effecting this restoration, whereby, in the language of Dodd (Church History, iii. 116), 'the link of succession was pieced up, and the Benedictines put in the way of claiming the rights formerly belonging to that order in England.' The truth is that Baker had been professed by the Italian fathers in England as a member of the Monte Cassino congregation. Subsequently he was aggregated by Father Sigebert Buckley, and became a member of the English congregation, being the first who was admitted after Fathers Sadler and Maihew. Three separate congregations existed for a time, namely, the Spanish, the Italian, and the renewed English congregation. A union amongst them was felt to be most desirable, and after many difficulties and obstacles was secured by the brief 'Ex incumbenti' of Pope Paul V in 1619. After the foundation of the first houses, when each member was ordered to select one as his convent, Baker chose St. Laurence's at Dieulewart in Lorraine, though it does not appear that he ever resided within its walls.

After his return to England Baker had been for a time companion to a young nobleman—probably Lord Burghersh, the Earl of Westmorland's son—who had lately been converted, and who expressed a great desire to dedicate himself to a retired spiritual life. Baker afterwards resided in the house of Sir Nicholas Fortescue, where he led a life of almost total seclusion. Next he went to Rheims, and was ordained priest. In 1620 he was engaged as chaplain in the house of Mr. Philip Fursden of Fursden in the parish of Cadbury, Devonshire. Subsequently he removed to London.

In July 1624 he took up his residence with English Benedictine nuns at Cambrai as their spiritual director. During his nine years' residence there he drew up many of his ascetical treatises. In a letter, hitherto unpublished, addressed to Sir Robert Cotton from Cambrai, 3 June 1629, Father Baker gives the following interesting account of the convent to which he was attached: 'Ever since my being with you I have lived in a cittie in thes forein partes, called Cambraie, assisting a convent of certein religious English women of the order of St. Benet newlie erected. They are in number as yet but 29. They are inclosed and never seen by us nor by anni other unlesse it be rarelie uppon an extraordinarie occasion, but uppon no occasion maie they go furth, nor maie anie man or woman gette in unto them. Yet I have my diet from them and uppon occasions conferre with them, but see not one another; an live in a house adioning to them. Their lives being contemplative the comon bookes of the worlde are not for their purpose, and litle or nothing is in thes daies printed in English that is proper for them. There were manie good English bookes in olde time whereof thoughe they have some, yet they want manie, and thereuppon I am in their