[Hasted's Kent, ii. 168, 269, 779; Blomefield's Norfolk, x. 275, &c.; Wriothesley's Chron. i. 133, ii. 27; Chron. of Queen Mary and Queen Jane, pp. 100, 131–2; Machyn's Diary, pp. 90, 174, &c.; Troubles connected with the Prayer Book of 1549, pp. 85, &c.; Trevelyan Papers, i. 213; Narr. of the Reformation, pp. 8, &c. (Camd. Soc.); Lit. Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club); Acts of the Privy Council; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Metcalfe's Knights, pp. 68, 74; Hamilton Papers, esp. i. 376; Rye's Norfolk Records, vol. ii.; Rye's Index to Norfolk Pedigrees; Bapst's Deux Gentilshommes poètes á la cour de Henri VIII (a full account of Richard Southwell's treachery); Nott's Works of Surrey, Introd. passim; State Papers, i. 792, &c., v. 234, &c., viii. 601; Arch. Cantiana, iv. 235, v. 28; Hist. MSS. Reports, App. to 3rd Rep. p. 239, App. i. to 8th Rep. pp. 93, 94, ii. 20; Dep.-Keeper Public Records, 10th Rep.; Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1547–53, pp. 12, 253.]
SOUTHWELL, ROBERT (1561?–1595), jesuit and poet, born about 1561, was third son of Richard Southwell of Horsham St. Faith's, Norfolk, by his first wife, Bridget, daughter of Sir Roger Copley of Roughway, Sussex. The poet's maternal grandmother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Shelley [q. v.], from a younger branch of whose family descended Percy Bysshe Shelley [q. v.] Sir Richard Southwell [q. v.] was the poet's paternal grandfather, but his father was born out of wedlock. As an infant Robert is said to have been stolen from his cradle by gipsies, but was soon recovered. At a very early age he was sent to school at Douay, where the jesuit Leonard Lessius was his master in philosophy, and in his fifteenth year he passed to Paris, where he was under the care of the jesuit Thomas Darbyshire [q. v.] The order of the jesuits excited in him as a boy enthusiastic admiration, and he at once applied for admission. Consideration of his request was postponed on the score of his youth, and his disappointment found vent in a passionate lament in English prose, which is remarkable for its emotional piety. At length his wishes were realised, and on 17 Oct. 1578, the vigil of St. Luke and the day of St. Faith, he was enrolled at Rome ‘amongst the children’ destined to become jesuits. His two years' novitiate was mainly passed at Tournay. On 21 May 1580 he wrote a glowing poem on Whitsuntide in Latin hexameters (Works, ed. Grosart, pp. 214–15). On 18 Oct. 1580, on the feast of St. Luke, he was admitted to the first or simple religious vows of a scholastic of the society. Returning to Rome, he took holy orders, became prefect of studies in the English College there, and wrote much English verse and prose, which evinced at once poetic gifts and an ecstatic zeal for his vocation. He was ordained priest in the summer of 1584, and, in accordance with his earnest wish, was soon nominated to the English mission. The rigorous administration of the penal laws against catholics exposed priests in England to the utmost peril. Under the act of 1584 (27 Eliz. c. 2), any native-born subject of the queen who had been ordained a Roman catholic priest since the first year of her accession, and resided in this country more than forty days, was guilty of treason, and incurred the penalty of death. But shortly before leaving Rome Southwell wrote to Aquaviva, general of the jesuits, of his desire for martyrdom.
Southwell set out on 8 May 1586 in company with Father Henry Garnett [q. v.] A spy reported to Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen's secretary, their landing on the east coast in July, but they arrived without molestation at the house at Hackney of William, third lord Vaux of Harrowden. The latter, like other catholic nobles, extended to Southwell a warm welcome. Only one jesuit, William Weston, had previously made his way to England, but he was arrested and sent to Wisbeach Castle in 1587. In 1588 Southwell and Garnett were joined by John Gerard (1564–1637) [q. v.] and Edward Oldcorne [q. v.]
Southwell was from the outset closely watched, and experienced many stirring adventures in his efforts to escape arrest. At first all went well. He mixed furtively in protestant society under the assumed name of Cotton, and, with a view to concealing his vocation the more effectively, he studied the terms of sport, and often interpolated his conversation with them. His writings abound in metaphors drawn from falconry (cf. Morris, Condition of our Catholic Forefathers, 2nd ser. p. xxiii). Although residing for the most part in London, he contrived to make occasional excursions to Sussex and the north, and he forwarded to friends in Rome detailed information of the position of his co-religionists in England. He thus won the reputation of being ‘the chief dealer in the affairs of England for the papists.’ In the performance of his sacerdotal functions Southwell likewise inspired general confidence. He much excelled, according to Gerard, in the art ‘of helping and gaining souls, being at once prudent, pious, meek, and exceedingly winning.’ With much assiduity he applied himself to the conversion of his father and brother, and he was apparently rewarded by success (Foley, i. 339–47). A fervent exhortation to his father, of which