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Stephens, Thomas (1549?-1619) (DNB01)

STEPHENS or STEVENS, THOMAS (1549?–1619), Jesuit missionary and author, born about 1549, is described (Foley, Records S.J. vii. 1453) as a native of 'Bulstan' in the diocese of Salisbury; he may therefore be identified with the Thomas Stevens, native of Bourton, Dorset, who was elected scholar of Winchester in 1564, his age being given as thirteen (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 139). According to Hakluyt he was for a time at New College, Oxford, but his name is not to be found in the registers. He found a friend and patron in one Thomas Pound, and the two formed a resolution to proceed to Rome and enter the Society of Jesus. Pound was, however, arrested on the eve of his departure, and remained in prison for thirty years. Stephens went to Rome alone, and at St. Andrew's College there he was admitted to the Society of Jesus on 20 Oct. 1575, his age being given as twenty-six. At the Roman College he studied philosophy under Garnett and theology under Parsons. On 4 Nov. 1578 he drew up an account of his friend Pound, and a petition from him to be admitted, in spite of his absence, to the Society of Jesus; Stephens's account is extant among the archives at Brussels and at Stonyhurst (Collectio Cardwelli, i. 16; Foley, iii. 580–4).

Meanwhile a perusal of the life and works of St. Francis Xavier had animated Stephens with the desire to become a missionary in the East Indies. He sailed from Lisbon in 1579, and, on arriving at the Portuguese settlement at Goa, he wrote to his father an account of the journey, which is printed in Hakluyt's 'Principall Navigations,' in Purchas's 'Pilgrimes,' and in John Hamilton Moore's 'New and Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels' [1780], i. 337-8. He laboured as a Jesuit missionary at Goa for forty years; on 10 Feb. 1587-8 he was made spiritual coadjutor, for five years he was rector of Salsette College, and for a time he was minister of the domus professorum at Goa. He was the first to make a scientific study of Canarese, the vernacular Malabar tongue, and he also learnt Hindostani, in both of which tongues he published manuals of piety and grammars. He is said to have protected Englishmen at Goa, but his recommendation of Sir Robert Shirley [q. v.] to another Jesuit was held to throw suspicion on Shirley (Cal. State Papers, East Indies, 1515-1616, no. 574). Stephens died at Goa in 1619, aged 70.

Three of his books, all published after his death, are extant in the National Library at Lisbon: 1. 'Doctrina Christa em Lingua Bramana-Canarin,' em Rachol, 1622, 8vo. 2. 'Arte da Lingua Canarin,' em Rachol, 1640, 8vo; a copy of this appears to be also extant at Goa, where it was reprinted in 1857, 8vo. 3. 'Discorso sobre a Vinda de Jesus Christo,' Goa, 1626, 1649, and 1654.

[Authorities cited; Cal. State Papers, East Indies, 1515-1616, nos. 239, 574; Voyage of François Pyrard, vol. ii. pp. xix, 269-70, Travels of Pietro della Valle, i. 162 sqq., and Voyage of Linschoten to the East Indies (these three in Hakluyt Soc. Publ.); José da Fonseca's City of Goa, Bombay, 1878, pp. 256 sqq.; Henry More's Hist. Prov. Angl.; Ribadeneira's, Southwell's, and De Backer's Bibl. Jesuit.; Oliver's Collections; Foley's Records, iii. 573-589, vii. 738, 1453; Archive Universal, Lisbon, January 1861; Indian Antiquary, vii. 117; Monier- Williams in Contemporary Rev. April 1878.]

A. F. P.