The Correspondence and Unpublished Papers of Robert Persons, SJ, vol. 1: 1574–1588

Edited by
Victor Houliston, Ginevra Crosignani, and Thomas M. McCoog, SJ

Studies and Texts 207; Catholic and Recusant Texts of the Late Medieval & Early Modern Periods 4. 2017. xx + 730 pp. ISBN 978-0-88844-207-9 • Cloth • $115

Robert Persons is recognized as one of the most intriguing public figures of the Reformation era in England. As the superior of the Jesuit English mission from 1580 until 1610, he was engaged in a campaign for the reconversion of England that had wide political, ecclesiastical, pastoral, and polemical ramifications. Awareness of his importance has increased with the rapid growth of early modern British Catholic studies. His career continues to prompt much debate, especially over his political attitudes and activities; hence the need for a comprehensive and up-to-date edition of his correspondence.

This book is the first of a projected three-volume edition which aims to contribute to our understanding of Robert Persons’s significance in early modern European history. It includes documents and letters by Persons, as well as letters to Persons, notably from the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Claudio Acquaviva. Letters in Latin, Italian, and Spanish are presented both in the original language and spelling, with English translation, and letters in English in original spelling. All letters have been collated with the extant manuscript witnesses. The introduction comprises Persons’s biography, relevant aspects of early Jesuit history and the Jesuit mission to England, and overviews of the papacy and the political situation in England and Scotland, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, for the period 1574–88 covered by the letters in this volume.

For volume 2, please click here.


Victor Houliston, chief editor and director of the Robert Persons correspondence project, is a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford (1986). Since 1988 he has been teaching at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he is Professor of English Literature. His field is early modern literature, religion and politics; he has published a critical edition of Persons’s Christian Directory (1582): The first booke of the Christian exercise, appertayning to Resolution (1998) and an analysis of his career as an author, in Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’s Jesuit Polemic, 1580–1610 (2007).

Ginevra Crosignani, Italian specialist and co-editor, received her PhD from the University of Rome, “La Sapienza,” in 2002. She has taught at Caltech (Pasadena, California) and at San Diego State University, and is now based in Rome. Her research interest is early modern religious history, with special regard to the phenomenon of religious conformity in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, and the rise of casuistical literature. She has published with the Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu and in the Jesuit journal, Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, and co-edited Recusancy and Conformity in Early Modern England (2010) with Thomas M. McCoog, SJ, and Michael C. Questier.

Thomas M. McCoog, SJ, historical consultant and co-editor, received his doctorate from the University of Warwick in 1984. Currently curator of the Avery, Cardinal Dulles Archives (Fordham University), he commuted between London and Rome for over twenty years. In London he was archivist of the British Province of the Society of Jesus; in Rome, editor of the publications of the Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu. Several of his essays have been collected in “And touching our society”: Fashioning Jesuit Identity in Elizabethan England (2013). His most recent monograph is The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1598–1606: “Lest Our Lamp be Entirely Extinguished” (2017).


“This scholarly and meticulous collection of the correspondence of the Jesuit writer and activist Robert Persons provides extraordinary insight into the circumstances of the early modern British Catholic community at home and abroad. It documents covert activity in England and Scotland under legal prohibition, and gives a picture of Persons’s tireless journeys in Flanders, Italy, and Spain, as he began to lay the foundations for a counter-reformation directed at an increasingly isolated and xenophobic Britain. The volume also provides many perspectives on a remarkable man: at once a spiritual writer with an international readership and a driven politician deeply involved in the conflicts of his time.” — Peter DavidsonCampion Hall, University of Oxford


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