Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parsons, Robert (1546-1610)
PARSONS or PERSONS, ROBERT (1546–1610), Jesuit missionary and controversialist, was born at Nether Stowey, near Bridgwater, Somerset, on 24 June 1546. His father, Henry Parsons, said to have been a blacksmith, had by his wife Christiana eleven children, of whom Robert was the sixth. John Hayward, the incumbent of the parish, seeing the boy's talents, helped towards the expenses of his education. Robert was first sent to a school at Stogursey, and afterwards, for three years, to the free school at Taunton. In 1564 he entered St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, and two years later passed to Balliol College, where, after graduating B.A., he was elected fellow 21 Oct. 1568, and proceeded M.A. in December 1572. He distinguished himself as a tutor, and was for some time (1574) bursar and dean of his college. He twice took the oath of royal supremacy, but, says Dr. Oliver (Biogr. S. J. p. 158), he never received Anglican orders, although, having been elected sacerdos socius, or chaplain-fellow, he was required to do so (Paravicini, Ballioi, p. 325). He was popular with his pupils, but at bitter enmity with the fellows, especially with Christopher Bagshaw [q. v.], who afterwards joined the church of Rome, and with Dr. Squire, the master. As a result, Parsons left, or was dismissed from, the college in the spring of 1574. The accounts of this affair are conflicting. By some he was said to have incurred hostility by favouring Roman doctrine, by over-strictness in enforcing discipline, and by the exposure of misconduct on the part of Dr. Squire. Others declared that he studied calvinistic theology, introduced calvinistic books into the library, dealt dishonestly with the college funds, and wrote lampoons against the master. He was, moreover, believed to have been born out of wedlock, and therefore to have intruded himself into his fellowship contrary to the statutes, which required legitimacy of birth. Dr. Robert Abbot [q. v.] even declared, in a letter to Dr. Hussey, that documentary evidence of his illegitimacy was laid before a meeting of the fellows. In any case, Parsons was driven to sign an act of resignation of his fellowship on 13 Feb. 1574, and he then asked and obtained permission to make use of his rooms and to retain his pupils until the following Easter. But his persecutors, bent upon his public disgrace, had the bells of the parish church rung, as they said, to ring him out, and Parsons at once fled with his brother Richard to London. (For the narrative of Richard Parsons, see Foley's Records, vi. 679, with which must be compared Robert's own account in his Briefe Apoloie, ff. 193-8; More's Hist. Prov. Angl, S. J. pp. 39-40, and Dr. Bagshaw's Answer, published with Ely's Briefe Notes; also the recollections of Archbishop Abbott in Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 66.)
In London Parsons found a friend an protector in Lord Buckhurst [see Sackville, Thomas, first Earl of Dorset]. He now sold to James Clarke, a former schoolfellow, a piece of land in Somerset which had been given to him by Sir J. Baker, the father of one of his pupils. With the proceeds, he left England in May or June 1574 with the intention of studying medicine at Padua. To Clarke, from whom he had asked an introduction to Sir John Popham [q. v.], he declared that the rumour of his being a catholic was a calumny of his enemies, and he protested that 'he neither then was nor never meant to be any papist' (Petyt MSS. vol. xlvii. f. 44). By the persuasion, however, of his travelling companions on his road towards Italy he stopped at Louvain, and there made the spiritual exercises under Father William Good, who probably at the same time received him into the Roman church. This determined his vocation; for although he began his medical studies at Padua, where he arrived in September, he was restless and dissatisfied there, and after a few months set out on foot to Rome, where he offered himself to the Society of Jesus, and entered upon his noviciate on 24 July 1675.
After his ordination as a priest in 1578 Parsons was appointed English penitentiary at the Vatican (Foley, vii. 1386), and for some time had charge of the novices of the second year. Meanwhile dissensions were springing up in the newly founded English College at Rome. The students were complaining that their Jesuit superiors were making use of the college to attract promising young men to their own order, and to divert their energies from the English mission. Dr. Allen, who, at the invitation of Parsons, had come to Rome to reconcile the conflicting interests, urged upon the general of the society that he should send some of the Jesuits into England as auxiliaries of the secular clergy. On this proposal there was much debate, and fears were expressed on the part of the society that the English government would suspect the Jesuit missionaries of a political purpose. It was finally resolved that Parsons, with Edmund Campion [q. v.], who had joined the society in 1573, and who was then in Prague, should be at once sent into England. The pope granted them special faculties, and they carried strict injunctions from their general on no account to deal, either directly or indirectly, with affairs of state, or to even discuss political questions. Several secular priests accompanied the two Jesuits, who left Rome in April 1580 and entered England by different routes and in different disguises, Parsons landing at Dover on 12 June as a soldier, 'in a suit of buff laid with gold lace, with hat and feathers suited to the same.'
The enterprise was a perilous one. The government, naturally suspecting, as the Jesuits anticipated, a political design and a treasonable connection with the recent landing of Dr. Nicholas Sanders [q. v.] and papal troops in Ireland, was on the alert. The missionaries were, however, received in safety by the catholic association, headed by George Gilbert, a rich young man who had been converted by Parsons at Rome. Before leaving the neighbourhood of London for an extended circuit in the country the two Jesuits convened a synod in Southwark, where they met certain old priests and others to settle questions of church discipline. Here they solemnly exhibited their instructions, and made oath in all sincerity that they came with no knowledge of, or concern with, affairs of state. Parsons then visited Gloucester, Hereford, Worcester, and Derbyshire, making many converts among the gentry—notably, Lord Compton, Thomas Tresham, William Catesby, and Robert Dymoke, the champion of England. In October he returned to London, and again met Campion in conference at Uxbridge. They now wrote to the general for other assistants. Parsons despatched William Watts, a secular priest, into Scotland, and in response to a request from the Queen of Scots for a suitable person to convert the young king, suggested Father Holt. Meanwhile, a succession of proclamations had been issued against the harbourers of priests; and spies and pursuivants were especially alert in pursuit of the Jesuits. In November Parsons took refuge for a while in the house of Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, discussed with him the situation, and received that bias towards political intrigue which marked every step of his subsequent career. In December several priests were captured and put to the torture, and the prisons were filled with catholic recusants.
Parsons, with characteristic energy and ingenuity, now set up a secret printing-press in the very midst of his enemies, at a hired lodging in East Ham in Essex, and issued a series of tracts, which were found distributed, no one knew how, in shops and private houses and in the court itself. The first print was, apparently, some little book of piety or instruction. Meanwhile two clergymen, Charke and Meredith, published pamphlets in answer to the so-called 'Brag and Challenge' which had been circulated in manuscript by Campion. Parsons immediately replied in a 'Brief Censure upon Two Books,' with Douay upon the title-page. John Nichols, a seminarist, had published a recantation, and gave to the government information, much of which was false, regarding the disloyal sayings and doings of the scholars at Rheims and Rome. Within a few weeks there issued from Parsons's press a crushing exposure of, the man's character. In the early part of 1581 a session of parliament was convoked to find a remedy for the poison of the Jesuits.' In the debates which ensued Parsons waa described as 'a lurking wolf' and Campion as 'a wandering vagrant.' The act to retain her Majesty's subjects in due obedience' received the royal assent on 18 March, and made it treason to be reconciled to the Roman church or to be absolved by a priest, while it largely increased the fines for recusancy. Dr. Alban Langdale, a secular priest, thereupon circulated an anonymous tract arguing in favour of the lawfulness of going to church as an outward act of obedience on the part of catholics. Parsons at once published in reply a 'Brief Discourse,' giving 'reasons why catholics refuse to go to church;' and, under the assumed name of John Howlet, boldly prefaced it with 'an epistle dedicatorie to the most high and mighty Prince Elizabeth.' The last production of this press, which, with its seven printers, moved from place to place under Parsons's directions, was the famous 'Decem Rationes' of Campion. It 'was printed in a wood in Stonor Park, near Henley, and copies were hastily bound so as to be ready for commemoration at Oxford on 27 June, when they were discovered scattered over the benches in St. Mary's Church. Campion was at this time with Parsons superintending the publication. But a few weeks later the two friends, after renewal of their religious vows, mutual confession, and an aflectionate exchange of hats, parted never to meet again. Campion was betrayed and captured on 16 July; and Parsons, finding concealment no longer possible, retired into Sussex, and in the autumn slipped away across the Channel into Normandy.
The winter of 1581-2 was spent by Parsons at Rouen, where he purposed to complete some literary work which he had in his head. He published a treatise, 'De Persecutione Anglicana,' which was afterwards translated into French and English, continued his controversy with Charke and Hanmer, and wrote the best known and most often reprinted of his non-political writings—the first part of the 'Book of Resolution, or the Christian Directory,' a work more than once edited or adapted by protestant divines (Briefe Apologie, ff. 184, 186). During his stay in Normandy Parsons was in constant communication with the Duke of Guise, and with his aid was able to found a grammar school for English boys at Eu, near the sea-coast, where the duke frequently resided. English catholics and the friends of Mary Stuart were now turning hopefully towards Scotland, where the king was under the influence of the catholic Duke of Lennox. Father Creighton was meanwhile commissioned by the general of the Jesuits to go into Scotland, but with orders to receive instructions from Parsons on the way. Creighton accordingly arrived at Eu in January 1582, and held conference there with Parsons and the duke as to the best means of effecting the deliverance of the Queen of Scots, and in the following April he returned to Normandy with despatches from Lennox. Upon this, Guise, Parsons, and Creighton went to Paris to discuss with Dr. Allen, James Beaton, the archbishop of Glasgow, and Claude Mathieu, provincial of the society in France, certain military plans of Lennox. Their object was to obtain the co-operation of the pope and King Philip of Spain (Knox, Letters of Allen, pp. xxxv seq.) On 18 May Tassis, the Spanish agent, reporting the affair to Philip, said that Lennox had required for the invasion of England twenty thousand men, but that Parsons thought eight thousand sufficient; that the enterprise was to be carried out in the autumn; that all English catholics were most anxious that arms should be taken up in Scotland, and pledged themselves to join the invaders; and that when Parsons was asked for the proof of his assertions, he had answered that 'he knew all this from what many of them had declared when he had treated with them of their consciences.' At the same time the nuncio at Paris forwarded to the pope a memorandum drawn up by Parsons recommending the appointment of Allen, 'whose presence in England would have more effect than several thousand men,' as bishop of Durham, and urging that the greatest secrecy should be preserved, and that the catholic gentry should only be informed of the enterprise at the last moment, and by means of the priests. When the plans were matured Parsons was despatched with them to Philip at Lisbon, and Creighton to the pope at Rome. Parsons quickly gained the confidence of the Spanish king, and it was on this occasion that he obtained from him a subsidy of 24,000 crowns for the king of Scotland and an annual pension of 2,000 ducats for the seminary at Rheims. The raid of Ruthven and its consequences, however, put a stop for a moment to the plan of invasion.
A new enterprise was projected for the September of 1583, and this time, as Tassis wrote to Philip, the attack was to take place on the side of England, and by means proposed by Parsons. On 22 Aug. the Jesuit was sent by the Duke of Guise with written instructions to Rome, whence, after a short stay, he returned to Flanders, and there he remained for some time with the court of the Duke of Parma. When Throgmorton's capture and disclosures once more disconcerted the plans of the confederates, and when the Duke of Guise had become absorbed in the troubles of his own country, Philip took the affair into his own hands, committed its execution to the Duke of Parma, and gave orders that Parsons, Allen, and Hew Owen should deal in the matter with no other person. In September 1585, Sixtus V having succeeded Gregory XIII, Parsons and Allen took up their residence in Rome, where the Jesuit remained till after the sailing of the armada. All the efforts of the two priests were now directed towards overcoming the procrastination of Philip and the reluctance of the pope to risk his money on the enterprise. In 1587, and even before the execution of Mary Stuart, Parsons and Allen, at the suggestion of Olivarez, the Spanish ambassador at Rome, and assisted by a skilful genealogist, Robert Heighinton, were drawing up royal pedigrees and writing memorials on the succession, discussing the question whether Philip's acquisition of the English throne should be based mainly on the right of conquest or on a legitimate claim by inheritance (ib. pp. xcvi, 282). On 7 Aug. of that year Parsons obtained what he had long earnestly solicited, the promotion of his friend to the cardinalate. 'Under heaven,' wrote Allen, 'Father Parsons made me cardinal. Olivarez who found in Parsons 'great fertility of resource and very good discretion,' desired that he should accompany the cardinal to Flanders, to be there in readiness to cross over to England with Parma's forces; but this intention was not carried out.
Parsons, who for a short time in 1588 held the rectorship of the English College, left Rome 6 Nov. of that year on his way to Spain and Portugal, where he remained for nearly nine years. The immediate occasion of this journey was concerned with the internal affairs of his order. Philip was contemplating some inquisitorial visitation of the Jesuit houses in a manner distasteful to the society, and the general had selected Parsons, who stood high in the king's favour, and was conspicuous for diplomatic tact, as the most suitable agent for the adjustment of the difficulty (More, p. 156). Parsons accomplished his mission with satisfaction to all concerned, and meanwhile found plenty of congenial work of another kind at the court of Spain. He had before leaving Rome suggested to Allen that the danger of the times made it prudent to erect other English missionary houses elsewhere than in France. The assassination of the Duke of Guise led to the abandonment of Parsons's school at Eu, and he at once set about the establishment of a similar school on a more solid footing at St. Omer, with an annual pension from Philip (1592). Dr. Barret, superior of the college at Rheims, meanwhile, acting on Parsons's advice, had sent some pupils from Rheims into Spain (May 1589). Parsons obtained for them money, a house at Valladolid, and a pension from the crown, under a Jesuit superior. This foundation, named St. Albans, was confirmed by the pope in 1592. In this same year, 25 Nov., the Jesuit, with the aid of Don Francis Caravajal, the bishop of Jaen, and the Duke of Sesa, founded another seminary, St. Gregory's at Seville. Father Peralta was appointed its rector, and the college was confirmed by Clement VIII in May 1594. At San Lucar, in the neighbourhood of Seville, a chaplaincy and confraternity of English merchants was, by Parsons's intervention, converted into a residency of English secular priests in 1591, and provided with a code of rules obliging them to receive and forward missionaries from the seminaries into England. A similar community of priests was also founded by him at Madrid in 1592 (Dodd, ed. Tierney, iii. 176–8).
Parsons meanwhile was inciting Philip to renew his attack upon England; but, although he believed firmly, with Sir Francis Englefield, that the nation could only be brought back to the pope by force of arms, he as strenuously urged upon the king that no invasion could be successful that was not supported by a large body of sympathisers at home. He had been disgusted at seeing how the Spanish ministers and officers had slighted and alienated English catholics even at the time of the armada. 'To think' (he wrote indignantly to Don Juan d'Idiaquez in April 1591) 'to get the upper hand in England without having a party within the realm is a great illusion, and to think to have this party without forming it and keeping it together ia a great illusion' (Knox, Allen, p. cxiii). Elizabeth denounced these Spanish preparations in her proclamation of 29 Nov. 1691, making particular mention of 'a schoolman named Parsons, arrogating to himself the name of the catholic king's confessor.' Parsons replied, under the name 'Philopater,' with a fierce invective against the queen's chief councillors in his 'Responsio ad Edictum Elizabethæ,' of which a number of impressions appeared at various places in the following year. In this treatise he declares the doctrine of the pope's deposing power to be an article of faith. In 1594 appeared his famous 'Conference about the next Succession,' published under the name of Doleman. The book had been shown to Cardinal Allen and to Sir Francis Englefield, and had obtained their approval (Dodd, ed. Tierney, iii. 31-5). The first part is an historical and legal argument to prove the right of the people to alter the direct line of succession for just causes, especially for religion; and the second, a genealogical argument, balances the various claims, and points to the infanta of Spain, a descendant of John of Gaunt, as the fittest successor to Elizabeth. Parsons introduced the book into his Spanish seminary, and wished to have it publicly read at the English College at Rome. Parliament made it high treason for any one to have a copy in his house. It was received by a large party of catholics with dismay and indignation. Dr. Gifford, afterwards archbishop of Rheims, denounced the book as 'the most pestilent ever made … never anything was written which hath made such a broil' (ib. vol. iii. p. xcv). The nuncio in Flanders declared that Parsons 'could not have done anything more disgusting to the pope' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. cclii. 66). It was perhaps on this account that Parsons did not venture to print the 'Memorial for the Reformation of England,' in which he proposed various measures—including the setting up of the inquisition—to be adopted by parliament on the restoration of catholicism. The treatise was written in 1596, and a copy was presented by Parsons to the infanta of Spain in June 1601 (Knox, Letters of Allen, p. 395). It was subsequently made public by Dr. Gee from the copy given to James II.
The book on the succession appeared at a critical moment in Parsons's career. Cardinal Allen died on 16 Oct. 1594, and the competition of the several candidates for his cardinalate intensified the jealousies and divisions, clerical and political, which had risen up among catholics since the execution of Queen Mary. Parsons was accused, probably with injustice, of intriguing for the cardinalate. Leaders of the secular clergy in England, forgetting his past services, were denouncing his Spanish policy as the mischievous cause of all their afflictions; and suspicion of Jesuit schemes led to scandalous quarrels among the prisoners at Wisbech. The Scottish faction in Flanders, headed by Charles Paget—who had been at enmity with Parsons for the past ten years (Dodd, ed. Tierney, iii. p. lix)—joined in a passionate attack upon him, while the scholars of the English College at Rome were breaking out once more into open revolt against their Jesuit superiors. Parsons, nothing daunted, hastened to Rome in the spring of 1597, and after having, by his personal influence, restored harmony to the English College, be was appointed rector, a post which he retained till his death.
From this point of vantage he mode his hand felt upon the whole missionary body. Hitherto he had advocated the appointment of bishops in England for the better government of the clergy. But now, in view of the present difficulties, and with a definite political object, he obtained the appointment of George Blackwell as archpriest, with unprecedented jurisdiction and powers, and with instructions to consult, in all matters of gravity, the Jesuit superior, who was then Henry Garnet [q. v.] Blackwell was known to be friendly or subservient to the Jesuits. The discontented clergy, who doubted the genuineness and suspected the motives of the novel appointment, sent William Bishop and Robert Charnock as delegates to Rome, to make sure of the pope's intentions. Parsons contrived that they should be made close prisoners at the English College, where they were treated with considerable harshness, put upon their trial, and punished by banishment (Law, Jesuits and Seculars, pp. lxx-lxxxiv). The quarrel soon broke out again. Thirty-three priests, 17 Nov. 1600, signed an appeal to the pope, which was mainly directed against the alleged tyranny of Blackwell, the domination of the Jesuits, and their continued interference in politics; and they afterwards, with the connivance of the queen, sent four of their number to prosecute their cause at Rome. Parsons, almost single-handed, bore the brunt of the attack. Meanwhile he was assailed in a number of books, secretly printed in England, by the leading appellants, by Dr. Bishop, Dr. Champney, Colleton, Mush, Bennet, his old adversary Dr. Bagshaw, and by other less respectable opponents, like Antony Copley and William Watson. He replied first in his 'Briefe Apologie' (an interesting narrative, which must be read with the answer of Dr. Ely in his 'Certayne Briefe Notes'), and afterwards in the violent and least creditable of his works, 'The Manifestation of the Folly of certain calling themselves secalar priests.' The result of the protracted dispute at Rome, carried on during the greater part of 1602, was that the archpriest was forbidden to take counsel of jesuits in the affairs of the secular clergy. Parsons, however, did not desist from political intrigue. He had come to Rome with the view of interesting Clement VIII in his scheme for the marriage of the infanta with the Cardinal Farnese; and when that became impossible, he proposed Arabella Stuart as the bride of Farnese and the successor to Elizabeth, and within three months of the queen's death was negotiating with Cardinal d'Ossat, in the hope of gaining the sanction of France to the arrangement (Dodd, ed. Tierney, iii. 30; Lingard, History, ed. 1855, vi. 311). But on James's accession he peaceably accepted the accomplished fact; and on the eve of the 'Gunpowder Plot,' of which he apparently knew nothing, he was urging upon Garnet the pope's command to restrain all attempts at insurrection.
Parsons had now secured, as prefect of the jesuit mission, direct control of all the foreign ecclesiastical seminaries which were under jesuit government (Flanigan, ii. 262). He was also virtually master of Douay College, where Dr. Worthington, who had succeeded Barret as rector in 1599, was under a secret vow of obedience to him (Douay Diaries, pp. xciv, 368). He continued to successfully oppose the desire of the secular clergy for episcopal government; he took an active part in support of the papal prohibition of King James's oath of allegiance; and for the last seven years of his life was more than ever busy with theological writings, carrying on controversy with Sir Francis Hastings, Sir Edward Coke, Morton, afterwards bishop of Durham, Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, and others. For a short time he appears to have been under a cloud at the papal court; and, at the suggestion of the general, he anticipated a dismissal from Rome by a voluntary retirement to Naples (More, p. 386; Dodd, ed. Tierney, vol. iv. p. cv; Hunter, p. 28). But after the death of Clement VIII he returned to Rome, and in the following year (1606) his office of prefect of the mission was confirmed to him, and regulated by a decree of the general (More, p. 241). he died, after a short illness, at Rome, on 15 April 1610, and was buried, at his own request, by the side of Cardinal Allen in the church of the English College.
The single aim of Parsons's public life was the restoration of England, by persuasion or force, to the Roman church; and he doubtless believed that this could be best effected under jesuit dictatorship. For nearly twenty years he was one of the most zealous promoters of the Spanish invasion of England. His powers of work were extraordinary. Before the period of his greatest activity Cardinal Allen could speak of his friend's 'industry, prudence, and zeal, his dexterity in writing and acting' as 'surpassing all belief.' As a controversialist he was unequalled, and he was one of the best writers of his day. His English is commended by Swift (Tatler, No. 230) as a model of simplicity and clearness. He could write also with remarkable vigour. His statements of fact, however, when concerned with personal attacks upon his enemies, protestant and catholic, or with a defence of his own actions when there was anything to conceal, must be received with great caution (Allen, Memorials, pp. 390, 392; Dodd, ed. Tierney, vol. iii. pp. xcv, xcvi n.) The theory of equivocation which he elaborately defended in his treatise against Morton he carried in practice to extremities, and laid himself open to charges of duplicity and falsehood. He was impetuous and self-willed,and moreover—as Manareus, the Flemish provincial of the society, who knew him well, testifies—he was subject to 'inveterate prejudices,' and therefore could be 'easily deceived' (Flanigan, Church History, ii. 268). In other respects his private life was irreproachable. Dodd (ii. 40), describing his personal appearance, says 'he was of middle size, his complexion rather swarthy, which, with strong features, made his countenance somewhat forbidding. But his address and the agreeableness of his conversation quickly worked off the aversion.'
There is a fine portrait of Parsons engraved by Jac. Neeffs, in the 'Kerkelijcke Historie' of Cornelius Hazart, S. J., Antwerp, 1669, iii. 378, and a smaller one by Wierix (see Freherus, Theatrum viror, erudit. Antwerp, 1685, p. 274). In the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (1794, pt. i. p. 409) was engraved a third portrait, from an original in the possession of Michael Maittaire [q. v.]
Parsons's published works were: 1. 'A brief discovrs contayning certayne reasons why Catholiques refuse to goe to Church . . . dedicated by I. H. to the queenes most excellent Maiestie. Doway, John Lyon '[London], 1580. 2. 'A Discouerie of I. Nicols, minister, misreported a Jesuite, latelye recanted in the Tower of London. Doway' [London], 1580. 3. 'A briefe censure upon two bookes written in answer to M. Edmund Campians offer of disputation. Doway, John Lyon' [but really at Mr. Brooke's house near London], 1581. 4. 'De persecvtione Anglicana commentariolus a collegio Anglicano Romano hoc anno 1582 in vrbe editus et iam denuo Ingolstadii excusus . . . anno eodem.' Also, 'De persecutione Angl. libellus, Romæ, ex typogr. G. Ferrarii, 1582.' 5. 'A Defence of the censvre gyven vpon two bookes of William Charke and Meredith Hanmer, mynysters,' 1582. 6. 'The first booke of the Christian exercise, appertayning to Resolution [Rouen],' 1582. Preface signed R. P. Afterwards much enlarged, under the title of 'A Christian Directorie, guiding men to their saluation, devided into three books, anno 1585,' and often reprinted. 7. 'Relacion de algunos martyres ... en Inglaterra, traduzida en Castellano,' 1590. 8. 'Elizabethæ Angliæ reginæ hæresim Calvinianam propvgnantis sævissimvm in Catholicos sui regni Edictvm . . . promulgatum Londini 29 Nouembris 1591. Cum responsione ad singula capita . . . per D. Andream Philopatrum, presb. ac theol. Romanum, Lvgduni,' 1592. 9. 'A Conference abovt the next svccession to the crowne of Ingland, divided into two partes. . . . Where vnto is added a new & perfect arbor or genealogie.... Published by R. Doleman. Imprinted at N. [St.Omer] with license,' 1594. Proofs of Parsons's sole authorship are given in Tierney's edition of Dodd (iii. 31). 10. 'A Memoriall for the Reformation of England conteyning certayne notes and advertisements which seeme might be proposed in the first parliament and nationall councell of our country after God of his mercie shall restore it to the catholique faith . . .; gathered and set downe by R. P.,' 1596. Manuscript copy in archives of see of Westminster attested in Parsons's handwriting: 'This I had to suggest to the honor of Almightie God and the good of our countrye, Rob. Persons.' First published in 1690 by Edward Gee, with the title 'Jesuits Memorial for the intended Reformation of England.' 11. 'A Temperate Ward-word to the turbulent and seditious Wach-word of Sir Francis Hastinges, knight, who indevoreth to slander the whole Catholique cause.... By N. D.' 1599. 12. 'An Apologicall Epistle: directed to the right honorable lords and others of her majesties privie counsell. Serving as well for a preface to a Booke entituled A Resolution of Religion ...' [signed R. B.], Antwerp, 1601. 13. 'The Copie of a letter written by F. Rob. Parsons, the jesuite, 9 Oct. 1599, to M. D. Bis[op] and M. Cha[rnock], two banished and consigned priests... for presuming to goe to Rome in the affaires of the Catholicke church' [printed in 'Copies of certain Discourses, Roane, 1601,' pp. 49-67]. 14. 'A Briefe Apologie or Defence of the Catholike ecclesiastical hierarchie & subordination in England, erected these later yeares by our holy Father ... and impugned by certayne libels printed ... by some vnquiet persons under the name of priests of the seminaries. Written ... by priests vnited in due subordination to the right rev. Archpriest' [early in 1602]. 15. 'An Appendix to the Apologie lately set forth for the defence of the hierarchie . . .' . A Latin translation of the 'Appendix' was also published in the same year. 16. 'A Manifestation of the great folly and bad spirit of certayne in England calling themselves secular priestes, who set forth dayly most infamous and contumelious libels against worthy men of their own religion. By priests liuing in obedience,' 1602. 17.'The Warn-word to Sir F. Hastings Wastword: conteyning the issue of three former treatises, the Watchword, the Ward-word, and the Wastword . . . Whereunto is adjoyned a brief rejection of an insolent . . . minister masked with the letters O. E. [Matthew Sutcliffe]. By N. D.' 1602. 18. 'A Treatise of Three Conversions of England ... divided into three parts. The former two whereof are handled in this book. . . . By N. D., author of the Ward-word,' 1603. 19. 'The Third part of a treatise intituled of the Three Conversions of England. Conteyning an examen of the Calendar or Catalogue of Protestant saints . . . devised by Fox. By N. D.' (preface dated November 1603). 20. 'A Review of ten pvblike dispvtations or conferences held within the compasse of foure yeares vnder K. Edward and Qu. Mary. By N. D.' 1604 (separately paged but issued with third part of ' Three Conversions'). 21. 'A Relation of the triall made before the king of France upon the yeare 1600 betweene the bishop of Evreux and the L. Plessis Mornay. Newly reviewed . . . with a defence thereof against the impugnations both of the L. Plessis in France and 0. E. in England. By N. D.,' 1604. 22. 'An Ansvvere to the fifth part of Reportes lately set forth by Syr Edward Cooke knight, the King's attorney generall, concerning the ancient and moderne municipall lawes of England, which do appertayne to spiritual power and jurisdiction. By a Catholick Deuyne [St. Omer],' 1606. 23. 'The fore-runner of Bels dovvnefal, wherein is briefly answered his braggnig [sic] offer of disputation and insolent late challenge . . . with a breife answer to his crakinge and calumnious confutinge of Papistes by Papistes themselues,' 1605 (another edition, Douay, 1606). 24. 'Quæstiones duæ: quarum 1a est, an liceat Catholicis Anglicanis . . . Protestantium ecclesias vel preces adire: 2da utrum non si precibus ut concionibus saltem hæreticis . . . licite possint interesse easque audire' [St. Omer], 1607. 25. 'The dolefull knell of Thomas Bell. That is a full and sounde ansvver to his pamphlet intituled: The Popes fvneral. Which he published against a treatise of myne called The fore-runner of Bels dovvnefal. . . . By B. C. student in diuinitie. Printed at Roan, 1607.' 26. 'A treatise tending to mitigation tovvards Catholicke-subiectes in England. . . . Against the seditious wrytings of Thomas Morton, minister. By P. R.,' 1607 (the first part treats of Rebellion, the second concerns the doctrine of Equivocation). 27. 'Bells triall examined, that is, a refutation of the treatise intituled The Triall of the newe religion. By B. C. Likewise a short review of one T. Rogers. Printed at Roan, 1608.' 28. 'The Judgment of a Catholicke Englishman liuing in banishment for his religion . . . concerning a late booke [by K. James] entituled: Triplici nodo triplex cuneus, or an apologie for the oath of allegiance. . . . wherin the said oath is shewn to be vnlawful. . . .' 1608. 29. 'Dutifull and respective considerations upon foure severall heads . . . proposed by the high and mighty Prince James . . . in his late book of Premonition to all Christian princes. . . . By a late minister and preacher in England,' St. Omer, 1609 (written by Parsons for Humphrey Leach, under whose name it passes). 30. 'A quiet and sober reckoning with M. Thomas Morton, somewhat set in choler by his advesary P. R. . . . There is also adioyned a peece of reckoning with Syr Edward Cooke, now LL. Chief Justice,' 1609. 31. 'A Discussion of the answer of M. William Barlow, Doctor of Diuinity, to the book intituled, The Judgment of a Catholic Englishman, St. Omers,' 1612 (published after Parsons's death, with a supplement by T. Fitzherbert). 32. 'Epitome controversiarum hujus temporis.' Manuscript preserved in Balliol College (Coxe's MSS. Oxon., Balliol, No. 314).
'Leicester's Commonwealth,' 1584, called by contemporaries 'Father Parsons's greencoat.' was not written by him; and 'A Declaration of the true causes of the great troubles presupposed to be intended against the realme of England,' 1592, is very doubtfully attributed to him.
[There exists no adequate biography of Parsons. The Jesuit authorities for the leading facts of his life, excepting those of his political career, are Henry More's Historia Provinciæ Anglicanæ Soc. Jesu (St. Omer, 1660), and Bartoli's Dell'Istoria della Compagnia: L'Inghilterra. Both had access to materials not now accessible. For short biographical notices. Wood's Athenæ, ii. 63-79, where there is a good bibliographical history of the Book of Succession; Dodd's Church History, ii. 402; Charles Butler's Hist. Memoirs, i. 331; Oliver's Biography S. J. p. 157; and Foley's Records, vii. 571. James's Jesuits Downefall, with the Life of Father Parsons (Oxford, 1612), is a worthless compilation of scurrilous passages from the writings of Watson, Bell, Bagshaw, and others. The fullest account of Parsons's missionary life in England will be found in Simpson's Campion. His political dealings from 1581 to 1588 are newly illustrated from original documents in the Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, edited by Fathers of the London Oratory, with an Introduction by F. Knox. An Historical Sketch of the conflicts between Jesuits and Seculars in the reign of Elizabeth, with a reprint of Christopher Bagshaw's True Relation, by T. G. Law, tells the story of Parsons's relations with the archpriest and the appellant clergy, with the aid of fresh information drawn from the Petyt MSS. of the Inner Temple. See also for the whole period Tierney's Dodd, vols, iii.-v.; Butler's Memoirs, i. ii.; Flanigan's Church History, ii. 198-304; Berington's Memoirs of Panzani; Plowden's Remarks on the Memoirs; and A Modest Defense of the Clergy (by Father Hunter, S.J.), 1714. There are abundant inedited materials in the Record Office and other public archives, and especially at Stonyhurst College, where, besides a mass of correspondence, there are some autobiographical fragments and narratives by Parsons, such as Historia earum rerum quas Anglicana causa Catholica ejusque defensores fecerunt, &c.; Story of domesticall difficulties; Autobiographical Notes, begun in 1601; Punti della missione d'Inghilterra, written in 1605. For the bibliography. De Backer's Bibliothèque des Écrivains de la Comp. de Jésus, iii. 564; Sommervogel, Dict. des ouvrages anonym, et pseudonymes, &c.]