Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 350. KATHARINE CAWCHES, GUILLEMINE GILBERT, PEROTINE MASSEY, AND AN INFANT, THE SON OF PEROTINE MASSEY.

350. KATHARINE CAWCHES, GUILLEMINE GILBERT, PEROTINE MASSEY, AND AN INFANT, THE SON OF PEROTINE MASSEY.

 

A tragical, lamentable, and pitiful history, full of most cruel and tyrannical murder, done by the pretended eatholics upon three women and an infant; to wit, the mother, her two daughters, and the child, in the isle of Guern-sey , for Christ's true religion, July the 18th, the year of our Lord 1556.

            Amongst all and singular histories touched in this book before, as there be many pitiful, divers lamentable, some horrible and tragical; so is there none almost either in cruelty to be compared, or so far off from all compassion and sense of humanity, as this merciless fact of the papists, done in the isle of Guernsey, upon three women and an infant, whose names be these as follow:-- Katharine Cawches, the mother; Guillemine Gilbert, the daughter; Pe-rotine Massey, the other daughter; an infant, the son of Perotine.

            But before I cotne to the purpose of this story, it shall be necessary for the better explaining of the matter, to begin first with the circumstances where-upon the first original and occasion did rise of this tragical cruelty: the case was this: --

            The seventeenth day of May, anno 1556, in the isle of Guernsey, which is a member of England, in a town there called St. Peter's Port, was a naughty woman named Vincent Gosset, who, being evil disposed, went, the day aforesaid, to the house of one Nicholas le Conronney, dwelling in the town of the said St. Peter's Port, about ten of the clock at night; and there, taking the key of the house, (lying under the door,) entered into a chamber toward the street; where she, espying a cup of silver within a cupboard, took it away, and so conveyed herself out of the house again: who, immEdiately after this fact done, (whether by counsel or by what occasion else I have not to say,) brought the said cup to one Perotine Massey, an honest woman, dwelling in the said town, desiring her to lend her sixpence upon the same.

            Perotine, seeing the cup or goblet, and suspecting (as truth was) the same to be stolen, answered, that she would not take it: yet nevertheless, having knowledge of the owner thereof, took it to restore it again to whom it did appertain; and to the end she should not carry it to another, gave her then presently sixpence. Where moreover is to be noted, that Thomas Effart saith and testifieth, that knowledge was given by the said Perotine to Conronney touching the stealing of this piece, who eftsoons, upon the misliking thereof, attached the said Vincent Gosset of the trespass; who, being apprehended and examined upon the same, immediately confessed the fact, desiring to have one sent with her (which was Collas de Loutre) with sixpence to fetch again the goblet, where it was; and so she did.

            The next day following, the king's officers being informed of the premises by one Nicholas Cary, of the said town, constable, assembled the justices there to inquire and examine further, as well upon that fact of Vincent Gosset, as upon other griefs and things there amiss. So that after declaration made by the officers and constable before the justices, for that the said constable did report to have found a certain vessel of pewter in the house of the foresaid Perotine Massey, (who then dwelt with her mother Katharine Cawches, and her sister Guillemine Gilbert,) the which vessel did bear no mark; and especially for that there was a pewter dish, whereof the name was scraped out; their bodies upon the same were attached, and put in prison, and their movable goods taken by inventory. Within a few days after these things thus done and past, these three silly women, abiding thus in durance in the castle, made their supplication to the justices to have justice ministered unto them, viz., If they had offended the law, then to let them have the law; if not, beseeching to grant them the benefit of subjects. Which supplication put up, thereupon they were appointed to come to their answer the fith day of June, in the year aforesaid: upon which day; after strait examining of the matter, and the honest answering of the cause by the said good women, at the last they submitted themselves to the report of their neighbours, that they were no thieves, nor evil-disposed persons, but lived truly and honestly, as became Christian women to do, the false and untrue report of their accusers notwithstanding.

            So the cause being thus debated, after the inquiry made by the king's officers, they were found by the said neighbours not guilty of that they were charged with, but had lived always as honest women among them; saving only that to the commandments of holy chuh they had not been obedient, &c. Upon this trial and verdict of their neighbours, it was in fine adjudged, first, that the said Vincent Gosset, being attainted of felony and condemned for the same, should be whipped, and after, her ear being nailed to the pillory, should so be banished out of the isle without further punishment. And as touching the other three women, the mother with her two daughters, for their not coming to the church they were returned prisoners again into the castle the first of July.

            And thus far concerning the true discourse of this matter, with all the circumstances and appurtenances of the same in every point as the case stood, according to the faithful tenor and testimony of the Guernsey men, written with their own hands both in the French and English tongue wherein you see what false surmised matter was pretended against these women, and nothing proved; and how by the attestation of their neighbours they were fully cleared of the fact, and should by the temporal court have been dismissed, had not the spiritual clergymen, picking matter of religion against them, exercised such extremity in persecuting these miserable prisoners, that in no case they should escape their bloody hands, till at length they had brought them (as you shall hear) to their final end. For after the time of this declaration above mentioned made by the neighbours, whereby they were purged of all other things, and being then known of their not coming to the church, the bailiff, the lieutenant, and the jurats, thinking the matter not to pertain to them, but to the clergy, forthwith wrote their letters or mandate under their signets to the dean, whose name was Jaques Amy, and to the curates of the said isle: the contents whereof here follow.

            "Master Dean and justices in your court and jurisdiction, after all amiable recommendations, pleaseth you to know that we are informed by the depositions of certain honest men, passed before us in manner of an inquiry; in the which inquiry Katharine Cawches and her two daughters have submitted themselves in a certain matter criminal: wherein we be informed that they have been disobedient to the commandments and ordinances of the church, in contemning and forsaking the mass and the ordinances of the same, against the will and commandment of our sovereign lord the king and the queen. Whereof we send you the said matter, forasmuch as the matter is spiritual, to the end you may proceed therein after your good discretions, and as briefly as you possibly can, and also for that it pertained to your office; recommending yo to God, the which give you grace to do.that which pertaineth to right and justice.-- Written the first day of the month of July, in the year of our Lord 1556.

            After these letters and information thus addressed to Jaques Amy, dean, and to others of the clergy, the said women were again convented before the justice aforesaid with his assistants: in the presence of whom they, being examined of their faith concerning the ordinances of the Romish church, made their answer that they would obey and keep the ordinances of the king and queen, and the commandments of the church, notwithstanding that they had said and done the contrary in the time of King Edward the Sixth, in showing obedience to his ordinances and commandments before. After which answer taken, they were returned again to prison, until the others had an answer of their letter from the dean and his complices. During which time, the dean and curates gave their information touching the said women, and delivered the same to the bailiff and jurats, condemning and reputing them for heretics, the women neither hearing of any information, neither yet being ever examined at any time before of their faith and religion. Whereupon, when the said bailiff and jurats understood that the said dean and curates had not examined the women of their faith, they would not sit in judgment on that day, but ordained the women to come first before the dean and curates to be ex-amined of their faith. And so the officers, at the commandment of the justices, did fetch and present them before the said dean and curates. The which being accomplished and done, they were examined apart severally one from another: after which examination, they incontinently were returned again into prison.

            Then the fourteenth day of the said month of July, in the year aforesaid, after the examination above specified before Helier Gosselin, bailiff, in the presence of Richard Devicke, Pierre Martin, Nicholas Cary, John Blundel, Nicholas de Lisle, John le Marchant, John le Fevre, Pierre Bonamy, Nicholas Martin, John de la March, jurats; Sir Jaques Amy, dean, and the curates, did deliver before the justice, under the seal of the dean and under the signs of the curates, a certain act and sentence, the sum whereof was, that Katharine Cawches and her two daughters were found heretics, and such they reputed them, and have delivered them to justice, to do execution according to the sentence.

            When this was done, commandment was given to the king's officers to go to the castle to fetch the said women, to hear the sentence against them in the presence aforesaid. And they, appearing before them, said in the ears of all the auditory, that they would see their accusers, and know them that have deposed against them, because they might make answers to their sayings and personages, and to have their libel accordingly; for they knew not that they had offended the Majesties of the king and queen, nor of the church, but entirely would obey, serve, and keep the ordinances of the king and queen, and of the church, as all good and true subjects are bound to do. And for any breach of the king and queen's laws that they had done, they required justice. All which their reasons and allegations notwithstanding, the said poor women were condemned, and adjudged to be burnt, until they were consumed unto ashes, according to a sentence given by Helier Gosselin, bailiff: of the which sentence the tenor hereafter followeth.

            "The seventeenth, or some others think the twenty-seventh, day of the month of July, 1556, Helier Gosselin, bailiff, ill the presence of Richard Devicke, Pierre Martin, Nicholas Cary, John Blundel, Nicholas de Lisle, John le Marchant, John le Fevre, Pierre Bonamy, Nicholas Martin, and John de la March, jurats: Katharine Cawches, Perotine Massey, Guillernine Gilbert, (the said Perotine and Guillemine, daughters to the said Katharine,) are all condemned and judged this day to be burned, until they be consumed to ashes, in the place accustomed, with the confiscation of all their goods, movables, and heritages, to be in the hands of the king and queen's Majesties, according and after the effect of a sentence delivered in justice by Master Dean and the curates, the thirteenth day of the month of July, in the year aforesaid, in the which they have been approved heretics."

            After which sentence pronounced, the said women did appeal unto the king and queen, and their honourable council, saying, that against reason and right they were condemned, and for that cause they made their appeal; notwithstanding, they could not be heard, but were delivered by the said bailiff to the king and queen's officers, to see the execution done on them according to the said sentence.

            The time then being come, when these three good servants and holy saints of God, the innocent mother with her two daughters, should suffer, in the place where they should consummate their martyrdom were three stakes set up. At the middle post was the mother, the eldest daughter on the right hand, the youngest on the other. They were first strangled, but the rope brake before they were dead, and so the poor women fell in the fire. Perotine, who was then great with child, did fall on her side, where happened a rueful sight, not only to the eyes of all that there stood, but also to the ears of all true-hearted Christians that shall read this history. For as the belly of the woman burst asunder by the vehemence of the flame, the infant, being a fair man-child, fell into the fire, and eftsoons being taken out of the fire by one W. House, was laid upon the grass. Then was the child had to the provost, and from him to the bailiff, who gave censure that it should be carried back again, and cast into the fire. And so the infant, baptized in his own blood, to fill up the number of God's innocent saints, was both born and died a martyr, leaving behind to the world, which it never saw, a spectacle wherein the whole world may see the Herodin cruelty of this gracelesmeeoutation of catholic tormentors.

Illustration -- The Three Guernsey Women at the Stake

 

ow forasmuch as this story percase, for the horrible strangeness of the fact, will be hardly believed of some, but rather thought to be forged, or else more amplified of me than truth will bear me out, therefore to discharge my credit herein, I have not onlt foretold thee a little before, how I received this story by the faithful relation both in the French and English, of them which were there present witnesses and lookers upon; but also have hereto annexed the true supplication of the said inhabitants of Guernsey, and of the brother to the mother of the said two sisters, complaining to the queen and her commissioners concerning the horribleness of the act; which supplication, for the more evidence, hereunder followeth to be seen.

 

"To the right honourable, and the queen's Highness's most gracious commissioners, for the hearing and determining of matters of religion and causes ecclesiastical.

            "Most lamentably and woefully complaining, showeth unto your gracious and honourable Lordships your poor and humble orator Matthew Cawches, of the isle of Guernsey, that whereas Jaques Amy, clerk, dean of the isle aforesaid, assisted by the curates there, against all order, law, and reason, by colour of a sentence of heresy pronounced against Katharine Cawches, the sister of your Honours' said supplicant, and Perotine and Guillemine her two daughters, did cause the said Katharine, being a poor widow, and her said two daughters, most cruelly to be burnea; although neither the said persons, nor any of them, did hold, maintain, or defend any thing directly against the ecclesiastical laws then in place, under the reign of the late Queen Mary, but in all things submitted themselves obediently to the laws then in force: and yet the cruelty of the said dean and his accomplices, in perpetrating such murder as aforesaid, raged so far, that whereas, whilst the said persons did consume with violent fire, the womb of the said Perotine being burned, there did issue from her a goodly man-child, which by the officers was taken up and handled, and after, in a most despiteful manner, thrown into the fire, and there also with the silly mother most cruelly burnt. In tender consideration whereof, and forasmuch as this bloody murder was not in due order of any law, or in any manner according to justice, but of mere malicious hatred, as the true copy of the whole proceedings in this matter, by the said dean and his accomplices, here ready to be showed to your Honours, will make very plain and manifest: may it therefore please your good and gracious Lordships, of the zeal that you bear to justice, and for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, to have due consideration in justice of such horrible murder, so cruelly committed as aforesaid, according to the right demerit thereof. And may it please your honourable Lordships to order and decree also, that all the goods of all the said parties, by pretence aforesaid wrongfully taken as confiscate, may be delivered to your said poor beseecher, to whom of right they do belong. And your Honours' said suppliant will daily pray to God for your long preservation, to his glory, and your everlasting health."

            This supplication being presented in manner aforesaid to the queen's honourable commissioners in the year 1562, such order therein was taken, that the matter being returned again down to the said country, further to be examined, the dean thereupon was committed to prison, and dispossessed of all his livings. So that in conclusion, both he, and all other partakers of that bloody murder, whether of conscience, or for fear of the law, were driven not long after to acknowledge their trespass, and to submit themselves to the queen's pardon.

 

A defence of this Guernsey story against Master Harding.

            And thus have you the true narration of this history, discoursed without corrupting or falsifying any part or sentence thereof; no less faithfully of my part reported, than I received of them, who, dwelling in the same isle, and being present the same time, were best acquainted with the matter, and have given sufficient evidence, not only to me, but also to the queen's Highness's commissioners, concerning the same, as both by the letter of the bailiff, by the sentence of the dean, by the supplication of the plaintiff, and submission of the parties, and likewise by the queen's pardon granted unto then), may well appear.

            By all which proofs and circumstances thus debated, it remaineth manifest for all men to perceive, what cruelty and wrong were wrought against these poor women above specified, and no less matter offered, in a case so unjust, justly to expostulate, or rather to wonder at the hard hearts of these men, but especially of the catholic clergy of Guernsey, who, professing the gospel of peace and charity, should after the example of Christ walk in the steps of meekness and mercy, and yet, contrary not only to all Christian charity and mansuetude, but also against all order of equity or humanity, were so extreme and rigorous to condemn them to the burning fire, under the pretended colour of heresy; who, if they had been heretics indeed, yet mercy would have corrected the error, and saved life; equity would have considered man's weak fragility; at least true justice would have heard both the parties advisedly, and also substantially have surveyed the cause, and not have rashed out the sentence of death so hastily as they did: yea, and though they had been heretics indeed, yet true Christian charity would have stretched further, and at least have given them leisure and respite of time to reclaim themselves. But now what is here to be said, they being no heretics at all, as neither it could then, nor yet can, be proved? For if King Edward's religion (which was objected to them) were heresy, yet were they then no heretics, when they revoked the same; and if Queen Mary's religion were heresy, then were they much more heretics themselves, which condemned them of heresy.

            But, most of all, we have herein to wonder at Master Harding,who in his late Rejoinder,written against the bishop of Salisbury, notwithstanding all these evidences and demonstrations so certain and manifestly appearing, yet goeth about first to deny the story, terming it to be a fable; and afterward, being forced to fly, a statu inficiali, to admit the story, he removeth ad translationem criminis; and there, seeking by all means to clear the clergy from the spot of cruelty, transferreth the whole blame only upon the women that suffered; but principally upon poor Perotine, whom he specially charged with two capital crimes; to wit, whoredom and murder.

            And first, touching his accusation of whoredom, let us hear how he proveth this matter: "because," he saith, "by story it is granted, that she was with child; and yet the historiographer doth not declare (neither durst for shame) who was her husband, or father to the child," &c. As though that historiographers, being occupied in setting forth the persecution of God's people suffering death for religion and doctrine of Christ, were bound, or had nothing else to do but to play the sumner, and to bring forth who were husbands to their wives, and fathers to their children; which new-found law of history, being never required before, nor observed of any story writers, if Master Harding now shall exact of me, first let him begin with himself, and show us (as wise as he is) who was his own father, if he can. And yet I think not contrary, but his mother was an honest woman. And no less also do I think of this Perotine aforesaid; whereof more shall be said (God willing) hereafter.

            But in the mean time here cometh in the cavilling objection of Master Harding, who beareth the reader in hand, as though for shame I durst not, or of purpose would not, express it, &c. My answer whereunto is this: First, to express every minute of matter in every story occurrent, what story writer in all the world is able to perform it? Secondly, although it might be done, what reasonable reader would require it? Thirdly, albeit some curious readers would so require, yet I suppose it neither requisite, nor convenient to be observed. And, fourthly, what if it were not remembered of the author? what if it were to him not known? what if it were of purpose omitted, as a matter not material to the purpose? Many other causes besides might occur, which the reader knoweth not of. And shall it then by and by be imputed to shame and blame, whatsoever in every narration is not expressed? or doth Master Harding himself, in all his sermons, never pretermit any thing that conveniently might be inferred? Who was the husband of this Perotine, the historiographer hath not expressed, I grant: and what thereof? Ergo, thereupon concludeth he, that for shame I durst not. Nay, I may marvel rather, that he durst for shame utter such untidy arguments, or so asseverantly pronounce of another man's mind and purpose, which is as privy to him, as then it was to me unknown, what was her husband's name. And though it had been known, what was that material in the story to be uttered? or what had it relieved the cruel parts of them, which burned both the mother and infant together, though the infant's father had been expressed? And how then did I for shame conceal that which was not in my knowledge at that time (if I would) to express, nor in my suspicion to misdeem?

            Nevertheless, if he be so greatly desirous (as he pretendeth) to know of me, who was this infant's father, I will not stick with Master Harding, although I cannot swear for the matter, yet to take so much pain for his pleasure, to go as near as I may. For precisely and determinately to point out the right father, either of this, or any child, I trow, neither will Master Harding require it of me, neither is he able peradventure himself, being asked, to demonstrate his own. And yet, as much as I may, to satisfy his dainty desire herein, and partly to help the innocency of the woman, touching this demand, Who should be the infant's father? who, say I, but his own mother's husband? the name of which husband was David Jores, a minister, and married to the said Perotine in King Edward's time, in the church of our Lady's-castle parish at Guernsey; the party which married them being called Master Noel Regnet, a Frenchman, and yet alive, witness hereunto, and now dwelling in London, in St. Martin's-le-grand.

            Thus then, after my knowledge, I have showed forth, for Master Harding's pleasure, the right husband of this Perotine, and what was his name, who was also alive, his wife being great with child, and partaker of the persecution of the same time, and a schoolmaster afterward in Normandy, &c. Now, if Master Harding can take any such advantage hereof to disprove that I have said, or be so privy to the begetting of this child, that he can prove the said David Jores, which was the right husband to this wife, not to be the right father to this infant, let him show herein his cunning by what mighty demonstrations he can induce us to deem the contrary; and as I shall see his reason, I shall shape him an answer in such sort (I trust) that he will perceive, that whoredom, wheresoever I may know it, shall find no bolstering by me -- I wish it might find as little amongst the chaste catholics of Master Harding's church.

            From this I proceed now to the second part of his infamous accusation, wherein he chargeth her of murder. A strange case, that she which was murdered herself, with her child, and died before him, should yet be accused to murder the child. Murder doubtless is a horrible iniquity in any person; but the mother to be murderer of her own infant, it is a double abomination, and more than a monster; so far disagreeing Om all nature, that it is not lightly to be surmised of any, without vehement causes of manifest probation.

            Wherefore, to try out this matter more thoroughly, touching this murdering mother, let us see, first, what hand did she lay upon the child? None. What weapon had she? None. Did she then drown it, or cast it in some pond, as we read of the strumpets at Rome, whose children's heads were taken up in Pope Gregory's moat by hundreds, what time priests began first to be restrained of a lawful wedlock -- witness the epistle of Volusianus?

Illustration -- The Bones of Infants found in a Wall in Lenton Abbey

            Or else did she throw it by the walls into some pHvate corner, as I am credibly certified, that in the eighth year of Queen Elizabeth, certain scalps and other young infants' bones were found and taken out with a stick in the hole of a stone wall, in Lenton Abbey, by certain gentlemen within the county of Nottingham, (James Barusse, Richard Loveit, and W. Lovelace,) walking in the prior's chamber; witness the said W. Lovelace, with others which saw the bones aforesaid? Or otherwise did she take any hurtful drink to impotionate the child within her, as commonly it is reported few nunneries to have been in England, wherein such a tree hath not been growing within their ground, meet for practising of such a purpose? Neither so nor so. What then? did she purposely and wittingly thrust herself in jeopardy, to the destruction of her child, when she needed not, as Pope Joan, when she might have kept her bed, would needs adventure forth in procession, where both she herself and her infant perished in the open street?

            Well then, thus much by this hitherto alleged and granted, we have gotten this woman here to be accused of murdering her child, which neither laid hand upon it, nor used weapon against it; neither used any other practice in drowning, hanging, breaking, burying, poisoning, or any other wilful means, whereby to destroy it. And how then? by what manner of way was this woman a murderer of her young babe? Forsooth, saith Master Harding, "When she was accused and condemned to be burned, she did not claim the benefit of her condition; whereby the life both of herself for the time might have been delayed, and the child preserved,"

            Whether she did or no, I have not perfectly to say; no more, I ween, hath Master Harding. Howbeit this is certain, and by witness known, that she uttered no less to her ghostly father in confession. And what if she had opened the same to the judges? "They would," saith he, "have spared her life for the time, and so the innocent had been preserved." And how is Master Harding sure of this, more than was the life spared of the young lady, and mistress sometime of Master Harding, who suffered, not withstanding she was reported of some to be with child?

            "Because the law," saith he, "is beneficial to women in her case, claiming the benefit thereof." The law so giveth, I grant. But it followeth not therefore, whatsoever the law giveth or prescribeth, the same to be put by and by in execution: but many times the law goeth as it pleaseth them which have the handling of the law. As for example: the law willeth none to be condemned by sentence of death for heresy, which the first time revoke their opinion, and yet contrary to this law they condemned her unlawfully. Again, the like law prescribeth none to be executed for heresy, before the writ be sent down de comburendo; and yet contrary to this law, without any such writ, (as far as I yet understand,) they burned her most cruelly. And what law then was here to be looked for of these men, who in their doings herein seemed neither to observe law, nor to regard honesty, nor much to pass for charity? And albeit she had claimed never so much the privilege of the law, what had that availed with those men, whose hunting altogether (as by their own proceedings may appear) seemeth to be for the household goods of these women, which after death immediately they encroached into their own hands.

            But be it admitted, that neither she demanded this benefit of the law, nor that the judges would ever have denied her, if she had so done; yet it had been the part of a grave accuser, before he had been descended into such a railing action of murder against a poor woman now dead and gone, first to have advised wisely with himself, whether it might be, that she had no such intelligence what benefit the law would have given, in case it had been required. For not unlike it is, and well may be thought rather yea than no, that the simple woman, brought up all her life long in her mother's house in an obscure island, and in such an out-corner of the realm, far off from the court, and practice of English laws, never heard before of any such benefit of the law; and therefore upon mere simplicity, and for lack of skill, required it not, because she knew not what to require. Peradventure also her senses might be so astonied with the greatness and suddenness of the fear, that it was out of her remembrance. Certes, it had been the duty of the judges, which knew the law, and, having of the woman before them, could not be ignorant of her case, to have questioned with her hereof, and to have holpen her simplicity in that behalf. Or at least, if they had disdained, yet it had been the priest's part, who was her ghostly father, and made privy thereunto, either to have instructed her, or to have stayed the execution of her death for safeguard of the child.

            But all this denieth Master Harding, and to aggravate the matter, inferreth that she, not of any simple unskilfulness of the law, "but only of mere wilfulness, for avoiding of worldly shame, concealed her own turpitude, and so became a murderer of her babe," &c. These be the words of Master Harding, written by him not of any sure ground, but only upon his catholic conjecture; for other demonstration certainly to prove this true, he bringeth none. Wherefore to answer conjecture by conjecture, thus I reply to him again: that in case she had been asked the question of the judges and inquisitors, whether she had been with child, and then had denied the same; or else if she by any other colourable means had cloaked her being with child, whereby it should not appear, this accuser might have some probable advantage against the woman. Now, as she was never demanded of their parts any such question, nor did ever deny any such matter; so, to answer this man with as good probability, I hold that in case they had required that matter of her, she would never have denied it. And therefore whereas she is accused for her not uttering of her being with child; why may she not, by as good reason again, be defended for not denying the same?

            "But she should have uttered it," saith he. It had been well done, say I; and I would she had: but yet that is not the question between him and me, what she should have done, but why she did it not. Master Harding, wandering in his blind surmises, fantasieth the cause only to be, "for hiding her dishonesty, and for that she would not shame the gospel." So that in summa, to this effect tendeth all his accusation.

            Perotine, being with child at her condemnation, did not show it to the judges.

            Ergo, She did it to conceal her turpitude, and because she would not shame the gospel.

            But here this accuser must understand, if he have not forgot his logic, that such arguments which do truly hold a signis, do always presuppose, that the signs which go before the things signified, must be necessary, perpetual, and firm, as is between causes natural and their effects. Otherwise, if the signs be doubtful, voluntary, or accidental, there is no firm consequent can proceed thereof.

            Now, if the said accuser should be put to his proof, how to justify this his sequel to be true by evident demonstration, that she did it only for covering her dishonesty; I suppose verily he should be found to say more than he is able to make good, and in conclusion should be brought into the like case as were the Pharisees, who, coming to accuse the adulteress before Christ, went away mute, with as much shame out of the temple, as the woman herself came in, having not one word to answer. For a man to pronounce assuredly upon the secret cogitation and intent either of man or woman, further than by utterance of speech is to him signified, passeth his capacity, and is to be left only to Him, who is scrutans corda et renes Deus.

UT forasmuch as Master Harding worketh (as I said) by sur-mises, constru-ing every thing, to the worst, let us see what may be surmised as much again to tlie contrary, concerning the quality of this surmised murder; wherein divers things are to be considered, as hereunder followeth.

            The first conjecture is this: that such manner of women, which for worldly shame are disposed to murder their children, have other ways to compass that wickedness, than by silence-keeping. Now, as touching this Perotine going to be burned, neither could this silence save her, if she would, from worldly shame, neither is it to be thought any such intent ever to be in her, to murder her child; as might well appear in her mother's house, where if she might have continued her whole time out, she intended no less but honestly to be brought to bed, and to nurse up her child; neither caring for shame of the world, nor fearing any slander to the gospel. Whereby may be argued, that no such intent of murder was ever in her thought. For how is it like that she, which had gone so long with child, almost to the full time of her deliverance, and never thought nor wrought any hurt to the infant all that while, should now, going to her own death, mind more hurt to her child, than she did before, hoping herself to live?

            Secondly, how knoweth Master Harding to the contrary, but that she was known in the town to be with child, and went boldly abroad without note of any shame, before the time she came in trouble? Which being true, shame then could be no cause why she could conceal her child more now, after her condemnation, than she did before she was condemned.

            Thirdly, admit the case, it was not known before, what advantage thereby should rise to her, being now appointed to die, by concealing her being with child? "She should have eschewed," saith Master Harding, "the public shame and obloquy of the world, in that none should have known her to be with child." First, what shame was it for a married wife to be noted to be with child? Again, what gain had that been to her, to avoid the shame and fame of the world, whith had not to live in the world, being now condemned to die?

            Fourthly, how is it likely that for shame she meant to conceal that from the world, who both knew she should not live in the world, and also suffer that kind of death whereby her child could not be hidden from the sight of the world, though she had gone about, herself, never so much to con-ceal it?

            Fifthly, how is it to be thought that any woman, going to such a sharp punishment of fire to be consumed, would let for any worldly shame to rescue her own life from so bitter torment, at least so long as she might -- besides the safeguard also of her child, if by any means she had known any remedy?

            Sixthly, forasmuch as Master Harding doth so heinously charge her with the wilful murdering of her own natural child, let all indifferent consciences this consider with themselves, what was the cause that moved her so willingly to recant as she did, but partly to save her own life, and especially the poor innocent? Whereby it is manifest to be understood, what a motherly affection she had to save her infant, if the fathers of the spiritualty had not been so cruel, against all order of law to cast both her and her child away, all this her said recantation notwithstanding.

            Seventhly and lastly, when Master Harding hath inveighed all that ever he can against this poor Perotine, yet is all the same but a by-matter from this principal purpose pretended, supposing thereby, through his depraving of her, to justify and excuse the pope's holy clergy, which wrought her death. Which will not be; for whatsoever her life was besides, yet forasmuch as the cause of her death and condemnation was neither for theft, whoredom, nor murder, but only and merely for religion, which deserved no death; I therefore having in my story no further to deal, as I said before, so do I say again, that the cause of her condemning was wrongful, her death was cruel, the sight of the babe was rueful, the proceeding of the judges was unlawful, the whole story is pitiful, and of all this the priest and clergy were the authors principal. All which being considered, and well expended, Master Harding., I trust, may stand sufficiently contented. Or if he think murder to be a thing which ought not (as it ought not indeed) lightly to be passed over, let him then find out murder where it is, and tell us truly, without affection of partiality, where the true murder lieth; whether in the poor woman, which together with her child was murdered, or in them which, without all law and conscience, brought them both to death.

            Briefly, and finally, to conclude with this man; whatsoever the woman was, she is now gone. To bite so bitterly against the dead is little honesty. And though the accusation had in it some truth, yet this accusation here needed not. Now the same being false, it is too much unmerciful. At least, being doubtful and to him unknown, charity would have judged the best. Humanity would have spared the dead. And if he could not afford her his good word, yet he might have left her cause unto the Lord, which shall judge both her and him. To pray for the dead, he findeth in his mass; but to back-bite the dead, he neither findeth in his mass, matins, nor even-song. And no doubt but in his dirige and commendations he commendeth many a one, less deserving to be commended than this woman, let catholic affection be set aside. And though the merits of her cause deserved not his commendations, yet did she never deserve this at Master Harding's hand to give her such a Kyrie eleison (as they say) after her departure. Cruelty she suffered enough alive, though Master Harding had not added this cruel invective to her former afflictions: wherein notwithstanding he hurteth not her, but hurteth peradventure himself; neither so much distaineth her honesty as he blemisheth his own. It hath been the manner of learned men in time past, with their defending oration ever to he more ready, than to accuse. And if they did at any time accuse, yet never but enforced; neither did they accuse any but such only as were alive, and that neither but in such matters wherein either the commonwealth or themselves were vehemently touched.

            Now if this grieve him so greatly, that in my story I have termed her to be a martyr, let him consider the cause wherefore she suffered, which was neither for felony, murder, nor whoredom, but only for the religion in King Edward's time received; and when he hath confuted that religion, I shall cross her out of the book and fellowship of martyrs. In the mean time my exhortation shall be this to Master Harding:

            First, that if he will needs become a writer in these so furious and outrageous days of ours, he will season his vein of writings with more mildness and charity, and not give such example of railing to others.

            Secondly, that he will moderate his judging and condemming of others with more equity and indifferency, and not to be so rash and partial. For if she be to be accounted a murderer, which so carefully went about by recantation to save both herself and her child from the fire, what is to be said of them which condemned her so cruelly, and caused both her and the infant to be burned, notwithstanding that she, for safeguard of their lives, had (as I said) recanted. And yet so partial is he, that in all this invective, crying out so intemperately against the woman and the child that were burned, he speaketh never a word of their condemners and true murderers indeed.

            Thirdly, forasmuch as Master Harding is here in hand with infanticide, and with a casting away young children's lives, I would wish, that as he hath sifted the doings of this woman to the uttermost, who was rather murdered than a murderer; so he would with an indifferent eye look on the other side a little, upon them of his own clergy, and see what he could find there, amongst those wilful contemners of immaculate marriage. Not that I do accuse any of incontinency, whose lives I know not, but there is One above that well knoweth and seeth all things, be they never so secret to man, and most certainly will pay home at length with fire and brimstone, when he seeth his time.

            I say no more, and not so much as I might; following herein the painters, which when their colours will not serve to express a thing that they mean, they shadow it with a veil. But howsoever the matter goeth with them, whether they may or may not be suspected touching this crime aforesaid of infanticide; most sure and manifest it is, that they are more than worthily to be accused of homicide, in murdering the children and servants of God, both men and women, wives and maids, old and young, blind and lame, mad and unmad, discreet and simple innocents, learned with the unlearned, and that of all degrees, from the high archbishop to the clerk and sexton of the church, and that most wrongfully and wilfully; with such effusion of innocent Christian blood, as crieth up daily to God for vengeance.

            And therefore Master Harding, in my mind, should do well to spare a little time from these his invectives, wherewith he appeacheth the poor Protestants of murder, whom they have murdered themselves, and exercise his pen with some more fruitful matter, to exhort these spiritual fathers first to cease from murdering of their own children, to spare the blood of innocents, and not to persecute Christ so cruelly in his members as they do: and furthermore, to exhort in like manner these agamists, and wilful rejecters of matrimony, to take themselves to lawful wives, and not to resist God's holy ordinance, nor encounter his institution with another contrary institution of their own devising, lest perhaps they, prevented by fragility, may fall into danger of such inconveniences above touched, which if they be not in them, I shall be glad; but if they be, it is neither their railing against the poor protestants, nor yet their secret auricular confession, that shall cover their iniquities from the face of the Lord, when he shall come to reveal abscondita tenebrarum, et judieare sceculum per ignern.

            And thus, for lack of further leisure, I end with Master Harding; having no more at this time to say unto him, but wish him to fear God, to embrace his truth, to remember hinaself, and to surcease from this uncharitable railing and brawling, especially against the dead, which cannot answer him; or if he will needs continue still to be such a vehement accuser of others, yet that he will remember what belongeth to the part of a right accuser: first, that his accusation be true; secondly, that no blind affection of partiality be mixt withal: thirdly, whosoever taketh upon him to carp and appeach the crimes of others, ought themselves to be sincere and upright, and to see what may be written in their own foreheads.

            Whoredom and murder be grievous offences, and worthy to be accused. But to accuse of murder the parties that were murdered, and to leave the other persons untouched which were the true mur-derers, it is the part of an accuser, which deserveth himself to be accused of partiality. A.s verily I think by this woman, that if she had been a catholic papist, and a devout follower of their church, as she was a protestant, she had neither been condemned then alive of them, nor now accused, being dead, of Master Harding. But God forgive him, and make him a good roan, if it be his will!

 

Previous Next