Stimulus Amoris

The Franciscan Stimulus Amoris in Counter-Reformation Controversy: the Recusant Goad of Love, Douai 1642

Allan F. Westphall

(written 2011)

This article studies the history and context of this early printed book

Stimulus Divini Amoris, that is The Goad of Divine Love, Verie proper and profitable for all deuout persons to read. Written in Latin by the Seraphicall Doctour S. Bonaventure, Of the Seraphicall Order of S. Francis. trans. by B. Lewis Augustine (Douai: by the Widow of Mark Wyon, 1642). (1)

Reprinted as rev. and ed. by W. A. Phillipson (Glasgow: R. & T. Washbourne, 1907).

The first printed English translation of the pseudo-Bonaventuran Stimulus Amoris is the recusant translation produced in Douai in Northern France/Flanders in 1642. In this chief centre for Englishmen exiled for their faith in the post-Reformation period were found the English College and Seminary (founded by William Allen in 1568, and the place that saw the completion of the Douai-Rheims full Bible translation in 1609/10), along with separate colleges for Scottish and Irish Catholic clergy. Also in Douai were the Benedictine Priory of St Gregory founded by John Roberts 1605 (later established at Downside in Somerset) and the Franciscan house established in 1618. (2)   It was in this Franciscan house, the Monastery of St Bonaventure, that B. Lewis Augustine worked from an early printed Latin edition of the Stimulus Amoris to complete his English translation, which he entitled The Goad of Divine Love.(3)

Lewis Augustine prefaces the main text of The Goad of Divine Love (the Goad henceforth) with four items that provide paratext, justification, and dedication: First is the ‘Epistle Dedicatorie’, addressed ‘To the verie R’d Father, Fr. G. P. Our Most Loving, Prudent, & Provident Provinciall’, this clearly being the Provincial of the Franciscan house in Douai, who is lauded by the translator as ‘the worthy son of St Francis and the undoubted brother of our countryman Alexander Ales’.(4)  This is followed by a substantial forty-page preface ‘To the amorous, studious, & ambitious English Reader’ that offers a recusant justification for the translation, and, moreover, positions the work squarely in contemporary religious polemics through its alternate addresses to Anglicans and exiled Catholics. Next follows a brief ‘Epistle in the Latin Copie, to the devout Reader, in praise of the Authour’ that translates what is found in the printed Latin edition, the chief part consisting of a conventional encomium to the Seraphic Doctor, here attributed to Jean Gerson. The final item is the ‘Preface of S. Bonaventure before his Goad of Divine Love’; as this is not a part of the manuscript tradition of the pseudo-Bonaventuran text we may perhaps regard this final seven-page item as apocryphal pseudo-Bonaventure! Between these items and the main text itself are four approbations in Latin by reputable professors and lectors at Douai colleges.

   The discussion below will look at the initiative in Douai to render available sophisticated vernacular theology and material for devotional guidance. Central to this enterprise were the printings of the pseudo-Bonaventuran Stimulus Amoris and Nicholas Love’s adaptation of the Meditationes vitae Christi among many others – texts that had been neglected or rejected in England for more than a century.(5)  In particular, I will concentrate on Lewis Augustine’s long address ‘to the amorous, studious, & ambitious English Reader’, to show how an originally Franciscan meditative text that came to enjoy wide circulation and translation among diverse readerships – lay, clerical, and monastic – in the late medieval period becomes re-absorbed into an English Franciscan milieu in the mid-seventeenth century, and made to function polemically in support of the recusant cause. The discussion here will draw attention to the shifting boundaries of orthodox and heterodox religious thinking through time and across a key cultural divide. In a way comparable to the Douai-Rheims version of the Bible, the printing in Douai of the Goad is made to serve clear political, polemical, as well as pious ends, providing us with important insight into the identity and devotional priorities of exiled English Catholics on the Continent.

‘To the amorous, studious, & ambitious English Reader’: the Recusant Stimulus Amoris in the ‘Present Controversies’

B. Lewis Augustine’s English translation of the Stimulus Amoris contains a very interesting, and very long, preface in which are found alternate addresses to Protestants in England – ‘beloved countrymen that are not Catholics’ – and to exiled Catholics. The lesson that Protestant readers are to learn, the translator insists in his preface, is that in persecuting Catholics they in fact provide them with an empowering opportunity for the imitation of the life and virtue of Christ. The persecution experienced by Catholics can be for nothing but ‘for justice, for their Religion, for their conscience: & in a word, for being Christ’s true disciples and followers’; through it can be found a way of emulating the example of Christ, and of enacting the spiritual programme of the Stimulus Amoris, which centres on the Pauline image of being crucified with Christ on the Cross:

Hence, O most noble & honoured Catholikes, ought you to take courage, and be exceedingly joyfull, to see your selves so conformable, and like to Christ crucified; the greatest honour and dignitie that can happen unto you, and from whence the greatest benefit that may be will accrew unto you. In the likeness that you have with Christ as men, you symbolize with all the world, but as persecuted Catholikes you are singular, you have no sharers.(6)

These are claims, partly supportive and partly confrontational, about the nature of spiritual authenticity and singularity, intended to reassure Catholics and to chastise ‘you, beloved Countrimen, that are not Catholikes (if happily this booke do chance to come into your hands)’. And they are words that chime remarkably well with directives in the text of the Goad (articulated through the voice of the meditative persona) that similarly revolve around social and religious exclusion as a new opportunity for spiritual reform and the following of Christ:

Love rules me, and not reason, and I runne with force & violence, whithersoever thou inclinest and forcest me. But they that see me, deride me, because they know not, that I am drunke with thy love. And they say; what ailes this same mad fellow, that he makes such yawling in the streets? Whereas they doe not consider the greatnes of my desire. They are ignorant, that the vehement love of thee, hinders the use of reason: & he that searches for thee with a pure heart, doth so little care for outward thing, that even often times he heeds not what he does.(7)

The Preface to the Goad bears witness to the cultural mobility of this form of devotional direction and validation: it repositions the themes of confrontation, persecution, and spiritual authenticity that are a feature of certain passages of the Latin Stimulus Amoris to function as justification for recusant Catholicism. The opposition, according to Lewis Augustine’s appeal, is that between the Catholic, the true follower of Christ, who desires to be crucified with Him on the Cross, and the Protestant who not only neglects Christ but emphatically works against his life, or, as Lewis Augustine puts it, is ‘incompatible’ with Christ’s Cross.

The polemical tone sharpens considerably when Lewis Augustine turns to the subject of religious images and Protestant iconoclasm. Addressing iconoclasts who reject cultic images as pure materiality and as spurs to idolatry and superstition, he admonishes: ‘You strive and fight against Christ himselfe, (who is more mightie than you are) to your owne greater hurt, which you will one day feele, unlesse you cease, and be converted’. Written against the background of a century-long process of evangelical iconoclasm in England, Lewis Augustine’s preface culminates in a defence of images and crucifixes that proclaims the priorities of a previous cultural order; it asserts the real power of living iconic images to convey divine blessing and to act as spur to precisely the sort of penitential grief that the Stimulus Amoris demands. In fact, the very text that Lewis Augustine translates becomes the crucial part in the recusant justification of image worship: the Stimulus Amoris, insists the translator, provides example to all Christians that the crucifix that was so ardently worshipped in exemplary manner by St Francis and St Bonaventure is the most efficient stimulus amoris, i.e. the most efficient pricking to the love of God. To deny this with the Protestants and to reject the focal structuring image of the text means to incur the harshest ‘pricking’ of all:

Is it possible that you can love & honour the Crucifixed, when you hate and dishonour the Crucifixes. Certainly if you loved Christ, and were not too ungratefull, you would love both Crosses and Crucifixes too, because they put you in minde of so great a benefit as is your Redemption, & of the benefactour that was your Redeemer.(8)

Such runs Lewis Augustine’s chastising of reformed iconoclasts, which asserts of the efficacy of religious images as memorial and iconic objects. Central to his purpose is offering readers the text of the Stimulus Amoris which itself holds up the salvific imago pietatis as the focal point of religious meditation. He offers this text as the instrument that will help the exiled Catholic to enflame devotion and meditate on the events of the Passion through the power of interior visual and affective focusing, so as to cultivate ideals of compassion and interior contrition. Entirely in the tradition of late-medieval meditative spirituality, Lewis Augustine thus provides rich exploration of the power and efficacy of the living, iconic image: for him, as we shall see, this means also exploring the extraordinary iconic and associational power of the material book printed on a foreign press.

Reading the Book of Christ

When B. Lewis Augustine wrote his long Preface to his English translation of the Stimulus Amoris he proved himself an astute reader of the Latin text before him. Addressing ‘the amorous, studious, and ambitious English reader’, he pursues the kind of concentrated imaginative exploration of Christ’s body that is such a characteristic feature of his text. Urging his readership of exiled English Catholics to perform similar labours of concentration and imagination, Lewis Augustine intensifies scrutiny and imaginative exploration, and he presents before his reader an evolving comprehension of Christ’s humanity through his concentrated handling of images. At first, and in a manner reminiscent of the rich conventions of the metaphysical love poetry composed in the period, he develops the sustained conceits, first of Christ as a loadstone (a magnet or compass) that works ‘to drawe the beloved to him’, and then of his Passion as ‘the furnace of love’.(9)  Subsequently, the dominant image (one by no means unfamiliar to readers of medieval devotional writing) is unfolded in the Preface to aid the reader’s meditation on details of the Passion: Christ is a book and the leaves ‘his sacred flesh, of the whitest, finest, and purest paper’; the small and capital letters signify our minor and mortal sins, while the five vowels stand for the five wounds, the periods for the pricks from the thorn crown, and the commas for the prints of the whip lashes; by the Garden of Gethsemane the reader is to understand a printing press printing in the red letters of Christ’s blood,

which were (as it were) the rubricks of this booke; whose use is, (in what book soever they be,) to be as Rules and directions, for the better understanding and truer reading of that which is printed in black letters.(10)

There is nothing surprising in seeing this analogy developed in this preface: the idea of Christ as a book to be read and meditated on by the devout reader provided one of the most common metaphoric clusters in late-medieval devotional writing.(11)  Nor is it surprising to see the sustained allegory explored and elaborated in a seventeenth-century exiled religious community keen to invoke continuities with the efflorescence of mystical and devotional writing of late-medieval England. What is remarkable, though, is the length to which the seventeenth-century editor goes to extend this already elaborate simile, and to re-orientate a ubiquitous image of the pre-print age of inscription and affective impression to apply to the material properties of the printed book. What was done to Christ in his Passion ‘was by impression or printing’, and the book of Christ was itself ‘examined and censured’ by Pilate and the Devil, ‘and found to contain nothing in Him contrarie either to faith or good manners’.

And as bookes are beaten with the hammer of the book-binder, so in like manner this Booke wanted no beating, I’le warrant you […] Book-binders also use to sprinkle or colour their bookes with vermilion, red, green, yellow, or the like. And so was this our Booke besprinckled and coloured with the most filthy spittings and spawlings of the beastly Iewes.

Through such concentrated handling of images, the translator collaborates with the imaginative, metaphoric probing of Christ’s body and Passion that is such a central feature of the Stimulus Amoris. He explores what it means, as Walter Hilton put it in his vernacular adaptation of the same text, to ‘prente ihesu sadli in thi thoughte’, the understanding here being that Christ is a book to be read and expounded correctly by the individual Christian as a prerequisite for salvation.(12)  As has been noted, with reference to similar imagery in the early fourteenth-century Franciscan treatise of moral and pastoral theology, the Fasciculus Morum, ‘it was the Passion as the exemplar of the moral life that believers as faithful scribes were to copy on the tablets of their hearts and that preachers were to teach to the people’.(13) 

   Lewis Augustine’s preface thus presents metaphoric notions of books and reading to a readership in a place such as the house of St Bonaventure in Douai that would have been engaged in a structured programme of meditative reading and in contemplation of the deeper meaning of the text of Christ’s body. But he also foregrounds the manifest materiality of the printing process and of the finished printed volume in a way that must have signified vividly in the deeply bookish culture of seventeenth-century Douai, a centre for the printing of Catholic devotional and theological materials. Technical terms pertaining to the object of the book and the process of printing are invariably printed in italics in the text (e.g. ‘leaves’, ‘printing-press’, ‘letters’, ‘commas’, ‘full-points’, ‘bookbinder’, ‘clasps’), signalling also words that the reader may usefully imagine and understand in a transferred spiritual sense. Furthermore, and no doubt resonating particularly strongly with the recusant community at Douai, the reader encounters a whole vocabulary of book approval and censorship (e.g. ‘examination’, ‘censure’, ‘censor’, ‘correction’, ‘approbation’, ‘approval’) that testifies once again to the book-centred culture at this place and to the deeply controversial nature of seventeenth-century English Catholic printing. In statements that provide fascinating linkage between the Christocentric meditations of the Stimulus Amoris and the presence of contemporary censorship that Lewis Augustine would have been keenly aware of, Christ is expounded as the book that was ‘examined and censured’:

This Book, being thus approved, was reprinted and bound again the second time at the pillar, where He received a new correction, and after that Pilate published Him to the world, when he showed Him and said: Ecce homo!(14)

In this way, correlation is established between the material book printed in English on Continental press and the imago pietatis that is the focus of the meditative gaze. The book becomes a very material mnemonic of Christ’s Passion; both the book and the image of the crucified Christ, explored so intensely in the Stimulus Amoris, are invoked as reminders of the proscription and persecution faced by a Catholic community, who would have been highly aware of the dangers of printing and distributing Catholic literature at a time when recusancy had been identified with treason in England from the last decades of the sixteenth century.

Meditation and Martyrology in Douai

We see in Lewis Augustine’s preface to The Goad of Divine Love a figurative probing of realities of printing, censure, and exclusion, as well as the outspoken charges voiced on behalf of a devout community that sees itself as engaged in a spiritual war with iconoclasts who are ‘incompatible’ with Christ’s Cross. At the level of rhetorical address, the Goad is offered as necessary for all Christian readers on either side of the sectarian divide, but at the same time the preface goes to great length to highlight, even glorify, Catholic exile and martyrdom. This mode of address finds its clear parallel in the Bible translation produced in the English College in Douai (and partially in Rheims during a temporary transferral of the Douai institution) 1582 (New Testament) –1610 (Old Testament). The purported universality of appeal is evident, for instance, in the 1635 edition of the Bible printed at Rouen, which proclaims that, in offering the full text of the Bible, ‘we speke to you al, that understand our tongue, whether you be of contrarie opinions in faith, or of mundane feare participate with an other Congregation, or professe with us the same Catholike religion’.(15)  In fact, as all versions of the preface to the Douai Bible point out, they adhere rather slavishly to the Latin of St Jerome as this version should be agreeable to both sides, being ‘free from partiality, as being the most ancient of al Latin copies, and long before the particular controversies of these dayes began’.(16)

But these topoi of impartiality and universality that we find in the Douai Bible project, in the Goad, and in much more recusant writing besides, coexist of course with a determined attempt to construe recusant martyrology. This we saw in Lewis Augustine’s laudatory appeal to Catholics persecuted ‘for justice, for their conscience’, who (drawing on the key theme from the Stimulus Amoris) ‘ought to take courage, and be exceedingly joyfull, to see your selves so conformable, and like to Christ crucified’. In similar phrasing, the preface to the Douai Bible pitches its polemics and recusant justification at readerships that nominally traverse the Catholic-Protestant divide, while exalting those Catholics ‘which also indure persecution for the truths sake’.(17)

As is well known, the witnesses of the martyrs were of extraordinary appeal and a key component in the religious controversies of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: confronting Lewis Augustine’s praise of Catholic martyrdom was a burgeoning Protestant martyrology that found early expression in John Foxe’s famous Actes and Monuments of 1563 with its catalogue of heroic prototypes for non-conformism with the Catholic Church.(18)  The following reflection from the preface to the Douai-Rheims Bible serves as apt illustration of the characteristic recusant narrative of persecution and unjust suffering. The commendations here should be seen in the context of a surge in published accounts of the English Catholic martyrs printed on Continental presses for Continental audiences, often, as Thomas McCoog has recently noted, as part of a propaganda intended to secure funding and endowments for English institutions from Catholic powers.(19)

What shal we therefore meditate of the special prerogative of English Catholikes at this time? For to you it is given for Christ, not only that you believe in him, but also that you suffer for him. […] Manie of you have susteyned the spoile of your goods with ioy, knowing that you have a better and a permanent substance. Others have been deprived of your children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and nerest friends, in readie resolution also, some with sentence of death, to lose your owne lives. Others have had trial of reproches, mockeries, and stripes. Others of bands, prisons, and banishments. The innumerable renowned late English Martyrs, and Confessours, whose happie soules for confessing true faith before men, are now most glorious in heaven, we passe here with silence; because their due praise, requiring longer discourse, yea rather Angels than English tongues, farre surpasseth the reach of our conceits.(20)

Such attempt at construing recusant identity and martyrology can be discerned in both Lewis Augustine’s The Goad of Love and in the Douai-Rheims Bible translation; texts produced in the Franciscan House of St Bonaventure and in the neighbouring English College and Seminary respectively.

There can be no doubt that the Douai-Rheims Bible emerged on the background of a missionary zeal and that one of its chief functions was, in the words of one recent commentator, ‘to be an accompanying book of reference, even a crib book, for a Catholic clergy seeking to regain the evangelical advantage’.(21)  Religious polemic is here to a large extent conducted within the discipline of translation: whereas the Protestant Bibles are accused of partisan translation, profanations, and, in the case of the Geneva Bible, appeared with compendious Calvinist and anti-Catholic annotations, the Catholic Bible purports to transcend sectarianism, following closely the text of the Vulgate, ‘being most ancient of al Latin copies, and long before the particular Controversies of these dayes began’.(22)  At stake was thus an incensed struggle of language and representation, and the claim to be ‘free from partiality’. In this struggle, the Douai Bible translation was a bid at a solid and alternative evangelical platform: ultimately, and in spite of its tropes of impartiality, it produced a heavily and polemically annotated text as a vehicle for theological argument, which meant, in effect, seeking to combat Protestant’s with their own weapon.

If the central charge in the Douai Bible is against those who renounce the authority and ‘purity’ of the Vulgate in favour of the ‘corruptions’ in Protestant translations, that in Lewis Augustine’s preface to the Goad is at another level against those who reject Christ’s Cross, even ‘strive and fight against Christ himself’. Lewis Augustine’s translation and preface make vehement promotion of, even fight for, the values in the original Stimulus Amoris – the values inherent in Crucifixion piety, in devotional images and figures, and in disciplines of concentrated and imaginative visualisation of the crucified Christ.

Thus becoming a participant in Counter-Reformation apologetics, the Stimulus Amoris in translated form also becomes an important enabling resource for the contemplative activity of the recusant religious communities that gathered in Douai, Cambrai, and elsewhere on the Continent. Being a much-favoured text particularly in female religious houses, and certainly forming part of the meditative syllabus of the Poor Clares in Douai, it appears to have been strongly promoted as a compendium of exemplary Christocentric devotions to aid the in-house practice of contemplative devotion. When Gertrude More of the English Benedictine congregation in Cambrai, the great-great grand-daughter of Sir Thomas More and for a while under the instruction of Augustine Baker, recommends reading ‘S. Bonauentures little works, or opuscula’, she no doubt had in mind among these the Stimulus Amoris, which appears as an evident influence on her devotions and contemplations.(23)  As the textual history of Bonaventure’s works shows, the word opusculum, as the diminutive of opus, refers to Bonaventure’s properly spiritual and mystical works, such as (it was assumed) the Meditationes vitae Christi, the Stimulus Amoris, along with his Itinerarium mentis in Deum, De triplici via, Lignum vitae, Vitis mystica, and others. These mystical opuscula were seen as distinct from Bonaventure’s longer dogmatic, exegetical, and homiletic writings.(24)

Another Douai publication that sources the Stimulus Amoris was printed in 1684 and entitled A Pious Collection of several profitable directions fitted for the English Poore Clares in Order to the better Observance of their Institute.(25)  This draws substantially on the Stimulus Amoris, particularly for the sections ‘certain intentions or Meditations which we ought to have when we Communicate: out of S. Bonauenture’ and ‘Considerations before Communion taken out of the same Saint’.(26)

In these instances and several more, the Stimulus Amoris becomes an important tool for framing contemplation, obedience, and monastic discipline, but also a key part in the justification for recusant Catholicism itself. In Lewis Augustine’s address, it remains the text that perhaps most urgently and eloquently reminds all English readers why they ought to join St Francis and St Bonaventure in making Christ ‘your best beloved to affect, your chiefest book to study, and your greatest honour to aspire unto’.(27)  The following final part looks at the evidence we have for one individual seventeenth-century reader of The Goad of Divine Love, a person who reads and co-operates with the text, much in the way envisaged by Lewis Augustine, very possibly as part of a structured meditative syllabus, and certainly as a conduit for affective meditative immersion, at the centre of which is the cultivation of feelings of remorse and compunction.

Tears of compassion and compunction: a seventeenth century lachrymose reader

The copy of Lewis Augustine’s The Goad of Divine Love that is kept in National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh bears the ownership inscription, in what appears to be a seventeenth-century hand, of a certain ‘Mary B’ – we do not know her full family name, and we cannot know for certain if she was an English Catholic living on the Continent, perhaps in the House of St Bonaventure in Douai, or a pious woman in England harbouring Catholic sympathies and adhering to prohibited rituals: the fact that she recorded only the initial of her family name could suggest some awareness of the danger of owning this type of literature in England.(28)  What we do know is that the book was subject to heavy and frequent use: the pages (many of which have been restored) are clearly well-thumbed, often with small burns, probably resulting from sparks from a fire or candle, and the original binding has not survived.

On the front flyleaf of the book is written the following note in the same hand that wrote the Mary B. ownership inscription. The brief note continues the theme found in the Stimulus Amoris itself, and, more elaborately, in Lewis Augustine’s preface, of the process and implements of writing as metaphors for Christ’s Passion. Here the comments invoke St Francis de Sales (1567-1622), who appears to have been especially popular among English seventeenth-century recusants, to assert the inspired nature of Bonaventura’s assumed authorship:

St Bonaventure seems, says St Francis of Sales, when he wrote the Spiritual Effusions of his soul, to have no other paper than the Cross, no other pen than the Lance, no other ink than what is dipped in the precious Blood of Xt.(29)

Particularly noticeable in Mary B’s book is the severe water damage that appears on the pages containing some of the most intense prayers and the climactic, most fervent, moments of Passion meditation. It seems fair to speculate that the water damage is the result of tears dripping unto the pages; the stains themselves have clear white rims from the salt content (sodium and potassium chloride) secreted in the process of lachrymation. The saline water stains appear frequently and sporadically throughout the book; they disappear as suddenly as they occur, and by examining the occurrence of tear stains together with the passages of the Goad that appear to have triggered them, we may gain some understanding of the responses of one specific devout reader and of the ways in which she is brought to manifest the tears of compunction and compassion that the text demands.

Below, I note three themes or discourse types of the text that appear almost invariably to be glossed with the tears of Mary B.

First-person prayer of compunction and contrition

There are rich indications that Mary B experienced the sorrowful compassion and the afflictive power of affective devotion that the text so powerfully articulates. Passages that contrast Christ’s humility and love with the degradation of human sin often have water damage beside them, especially if these are in the form of first-person prayer that give intense articulation to feelings of mourning, compunction, and self-loathing. For instance, the abundant tears of compunction of the seventeenth-century reader annotate the following:

But woe is me, how vile am I become! For it seemes, that God, who loves his very enemies, hates me. What, am I worse then his enemie? For to redeeme his enemies, he would be wounded unto death; whereas I faint and pine away, and he seemes not to regard me. I doe not desire, that he should be wounded againe for me, but onely that he would applie his wounde to me, who am already dead, that I may receive and live againe.(30)

The reader evidently entered whole-heartedly into the meditations, perhaps performing or reciting the first-person prayers that concentrate on the process of self-assessment and on feelings of remorse and love-longing. Especially where such prayers suggest that outward crying can serve as token of interior repentance does the lachrymose reader respond correspondingly, as in these instances:

What is there in all the world more wicked then my selfe? and what is there greater than the wickedness of my heart? Woe is me, what shall I doe, who, though I am verie sicke, yet can I not be cured by the Passion of my Lord Jesus Christ? Let mine eyes therefore never cease weeping, until the abundance of tears, has mollified the hardnes of my heart.(31)

Certainly I know what I will doe: I will cast my selfe prostrate at thy feet, and there with cries and teares will I incessantly demaund, implore, and define thy grace, and earnestly importune thee, that thou wouldst be pleased to grant me those wounds.(32)

Exclamation and apostrophe

The many prayerful exclamations and apostrophes of the Stimulus Amoris appear to have functioned as a spur to intensive, possibly performative and recitative, reading, and often have the marks from tears beside them. Chapter ten of the Second Book contains a long string of exclamations to Christ, part of which has the following, which appears to have been bathed in tears:

O my God, O my love, O delectable light […] O indissoluble coniunction, cordiall diffusion, inward transformation! O most loving enkindling, O provoking enflaming, most sober inebriation, and most solid melting! O my husband, O my God, O my love! O the joy of my heart, O the ardour of my mind, O the enflaming of my love! O most sweet solace!(33)

In a similar way, passages that implore for divine grace, while recognizing Christ’s extravagant torment and great humility appear to have been subject to strong and fervent response:

I complaine unto thee, O God the Father, most just and infinite mercie, concerning thy Son […] That Sonne of thine, I say, hath by his wisdom hid himself under flesh like unto me, and by his exceeding great humility and unspeakable benignity has craftily entered in unto me. He was more humble than any, more despised than any.(34)

A sea of compunction and a vale of tears

What is particularly striking about the appearance of tear stains in this copy of the Goad of Love is how they seem to occur in direct exchange with the text, and in particular abundance in those places where tears and crying are mentioned in the meditations. ‘Let us then enter into this double Sea, that is to say, of compassion towards thy Sonne crucified […] and of compunction for our sinnes that were the cause unto him of so cruell a death’:(35)  When Mary B reads this passage in a long prayer to the Virgin Mary, it elicits direct response and a very literal gloss as her eyes became suffused with the tears that are still manifest on the page.

Particularly notable are the following two passages which appear to have brought about significant weeping from the reader to such an extent that the pages have been in need of thorough restoration. On these pages, as on many others, it seems to have been the case that tears have been consciously deposited and preserved in the margin where they remain particularly visible till this day as the material tokens of heartfelt contrition:

Rouse up thy selfe, O my soul, unto these tender bowells of compassion, by which he wept over Ierusalem, over Lazarus, and on the Crosse […] Certainly if a river of tears went forth from the place of pleasure and all delights: how much more ought it to goe forth from a place of all uncleannes. O good Iesu full of delight, wherefore didst thou weepe for me?(36)

Loaden with sinnes we groane, burthened with afflictions we weep; because we are here in this vale of teares, abounding with all manner of miseries. We groane being wounded, and weep being robbed; because in this vale of tears we are destitute of all help. We groane, because we cannot see the Sunne; we weep, because we are forced to serve our enemies; and therefore we that are in this vale of teares doe implore thy aide.(37)

In these passages, like in so many others, Mary B is present through the traces of her affective and somatic literate competences, as she manifests the tears of compunction which The Goad of Divine Love requires. She follows literally the directive in the text: ‘Let the fountaine of teares never cease running from our eies’.(38)  At times her tears seem to be what we may term reflex tears: whenever tears are mentioned in the text she invariably preserves the material traces of her own tears on the margins of her book, as if she had trained herself in the practice of direct somatic response to textual directive. But her lachrymose responses are also undoubtedly those of one who undergoes significant emotional stress through the discipline of absorbed devotional reading in the meditative mode, and who experiences the full weight of human sinfulness, unworthiness, and spiritual incapacity – themes to which her text constantly returns. In her direct exchange with The Goad of Divine Love, Mary B’s devotion centres on Christ crucified, with particular shedding of tears in meditations that focus on Christ’s blood and wounds, and she manifests the tears of compunction and compassion stipulated by the text as desirable and necessary in order to merit God’s attention and sovereign grace.

Not unlike the fifteenth century reader of the Stimulus Amoris, Margery Kempe, Mary B demonstrates affective and somatic literate competences that seem remarkably congruent, often directly circumscribed, by this devotional text. It is interesting to note that, in Mary B’s copy of the Goad, the only marginal annotation that doesn’t just reiterate the text responds to precisely the passage that we know also appealed strongly to Margery Kempe, namely that cited above beginning ‘Love rules me, and not reason, and I runne with force & violence, whithersoever thou inclinest and forcest me’.(39)  In the margin, beside this passage, Mary B has written ‘Amans est amens’; anyone in love is insane. Across temporal and spatial divides, the Stimulus Amoris is employed to provide validation of spiritual authenticity against a backcloth of suspicion and persecution.


1 All quotations below from The Goad of Divine Love are from Lewis Augustine’s edition of 1642. I retain the somewhat idiosyncratic spelling that is often a feature of seventeenth-century Continental English publications, but standardize u and v. Many prefaces found in English recusant works comment on the complications of printing and of ensuring accuracy of spelling and typography. One example hereof is found in a Douai translation by a Benedictine nun of Cambrai of a work by St Francis of Sales: ‘If in peruseing this translated treatese of sound doctrine and solide documents, thou meet with some faults (as thou will doe, with many, both in the translation & impression) know that the printer was a Wallon, who understood nothing at all English; and the translatresse a woman, that had not much skille in the Frenche’. Delicious Entertainments of the Soule: Written by the Holy and Most Reverend Lord Francis de Sales, Bishop and Prince of Geneva. Translated by a Dame of our Ladie of comfort of the order of S. Bennet in Cambray (Douai: Gheerart Pinson, 1632), preface, unpaginated.

2 Ward, Bernard. "Douai." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <> [accessed November 2010]. An important historical introduction and a selection of written documents regarding the English College can be found in The First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay, and an Appendix of Unpublished Documents, Edited by Fathers of the Congregation of the London Oratory, with an Historical Introduction by Thomas Francis Knox (London: David Nutt, 1878). See also Peter Guilday, The English Catholic Refugees on the Continent 1558-1795 (London: Longman’s, Green, and Co, 1914). An analysis of the experiences of post-Reformation English nuns in Continental exile can be found in Claire Walker, Gender and Politics in Early Modern Europe: English Convents in France and the Low Countries (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). Some useful discussion of the recusant interest in Middle English devotional and mystical writing is provided by T. A. Birrell, ’English Catholic Mystics in Non-Catholic Circles’, Downside Review, 94 (1976), 60-81, 99-117, 213-28; David Rogers, ’The English Recusants: Some Mediaeval Literary Links’, Recusant History, 23 (1997) 483-507. Helen C. White examines the continuing interest across the Reformation divide in early devotional material, also among exiled Catholics, in ’Some Continuing Traditions in English Devotional Literature’, PMLA 57, 4 (1942) 966-80.

3 On the Franciscan establishment at Douai see Guilday, ‘The English Franciscans, 1618-1794’, in The English Catholic Refugees on the Continent 1558-1795, pp. 284-306. Lewis Augustine was of course unaware of the later attribution of the Stimulus Amoris to James of Milan, and he follows tradition by ascribing authorship to St Bonaventure. In his 1907 revision of the 1642 edition, Phillipson makes the attribution to James of Milan in his brief preface. There is no indication that Lewis Augustine (nor Phillipson for that matter) knew of Walter Hilton’s distinct Middle English translation and adaptation of c. 1400 known as The Prickynge of Love. Lewis Augustine obviously worked from a printed edition of the expanded version of the Latin Stimulus Amoris, the version of the text that achieved the widest circulation throughout Europe in the late medieval period. This expanded Latin version was also printed at Douai, in a very handy miniature quadrasegesimo-octavo format (10x5 cm; an unusual book format but one often used for recusant works): Stimulus Divini Amoris Sancti Bonaventurae (Douai: Baltazar Bellerus, 1626).


4 The Goad, Preface. The pages up to and including the approbations are unpaginated, so no page references may be provided.

5 Nicholas Love’s text is The Miroure of the Blessed Life of Our Lorde and Savioure Iesus Christe. Written in Latin by the venerable and famous Doctor Saint Bonauenture. Newly set forth in Englishe for the profite and consolacion of all deoute persons (Douay: S. Boscard, 1606)

6 The Goad, Preface.

7 Ibid., p. 35.

8 Ibid., Preface.

9 Lewis Augustine’s metaphors are strikingly suggestive of John Donne’s preoccupation in his love poems with the motif of the magnet and compass (e.g. ‘An Anatomy of the World’, ll. 219-26; ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’, ll. 25-32; ‘Holy Sonnet I’ line 14 has ‘And thou like Adamant [magnetic loadstone] draw mine iron heart’). Lewis Augustine explains his use of the conceit thus: ‘For a lover is nothing but a load-stone, to drawe the beloved to him. Est magnes magni magnus amoris amor. And a load-stone (in respect of iron) seemes to be nothing, but (as it were) a lover. For what is that which makes the load-stone drawe iron to it but love (as I may so say) to the iron, desiring (according to the true and chiefest property of love) to be united and ioyned to it’. The Goad, Preface.

10 Ibid., Preface. Italics are in the text.

11 The image of Christ as a book is not itself prominent in the Latin Stimulus Amoris. It is, however, one that Hilton introduces in his adaptation when he describes meditation on Christ’s blood and Passion as ‘my boke and my clergie my studie & my meditacioun for to strengþe my feyth and my hope’. The Prickynge of Love, ed. by Harold Kane, Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92:10 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1983), p. 60. Elsewhere in the Middle English pseudo-Bonaventuran corpus, the image of Christ as a book – and his skin as parchment being prepared for writing – occurs in the Privity of the Passion: ‘he was thus sprede o-brode one **e crosse more straite **an any parchemyne-skyne as sprede one **e harowe, so **at mene myghte tell all **e blyssede bones of his body’. Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole, an English Father of the Church and his Followers, ed. by Carl Horstmann, 2 vols. (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1895-1896) I, p. 206. A nearly identical example in which Christ is compared to parchment stretched on the parchment-maker’s frame is found in the pseudo-Bonaventuran Liber Aureus, like Privity of the Passion an English adaptation of material from the Passion sequence of the Meditationes vitae Christi. Adrian James McCarthy considers the origin of the metaphor of Christ as book and its occurrence in Bonaventure’s Lignum Vitae and Vitis Mystica in Book to a Mother: An Edition with Commentary (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1981) Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92, pp. xxxviii-xliii.

12 The Prickynge of Love, ed. by Harold Kane, p. 6.

13 Eric L. Saak, High Way to Heaven: The Augustinian Platform between Reform and Reformation, 1292-1524 (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 529. Saak discusses the Fasciculus Morum and its use of scribal imagery pp. 523-29. The idea of the Passion as a model and exemplar occurs also in Hilton’s rendering of the Stimulus Amoris, The Pricking of Love: ‘make **at **i rewle & **i saunplarie [model/exemplar] for to lyue by & conforme **e to be like hym & his passioun **our$$e wilful sufferynge of al maner disese’, The Prickynge of Love, ed. by Harold Kane, p. 26.

14 The Goad, p. xxi.

15 The Holy Bible. Faithfully translated into English out of the authentical Latin, diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greek, & other Editions in divers languages (Rouen: John Cousturier, 1635). Preface entitled ‘To the Right Welbeloved English Reader Grace and Glorie in Iesus Christ Everlasting’, unpaginated.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 John Foxe, Actes and Monuments of these latter and perilous dayes (London: John Day, 1563). Helen C. White discusses sixteenth and seventeenth century martyrology and the flourishing of Protestant saints’ lives in ‘Some Continuing Traditions in English Devotional Literature’.

19 Thomas M. McCoogan, ‘Construing Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, 1582-1602’, in Catholics and the ‘Protestant nation’, ed. by Ethan Shagan (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), pp. 95-127, p. 105.

20 The Holy Bible (1635), preface.

21 Alexandra Walsham, ‘Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Vernacular Bible, Journal of British Studies, 42 (2003), 141-66, p. 155.

22 The Holy Bible (1635), preface. The long justification on translation and on Protestant textual corruption takes up the major part of the preface, and is particularly concerned with the authority of the patristic tradition and of Jerome’s Latin.

23 Gertrude More, The Holy Practises of a Devine Lover, or The Sainctly Ideots Deuotions (Paris: Lewis de la Fosse, 1657), p. 35. Her singular focus being on the enclosed contemplative life, More recommends a list of writings to aid meditative practices herein, including Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection, Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite’s Mystical Theology, and the manuscripts by Augustine Baker (possibly intending among these his translation of The Cloud of Unknowing). She explicitly cautions against reading works by the Jesuits (a community with presence in both Douai and Cambrai), whom she associates exclusively with the active life: ‘And to save thee a labour never looke to find any booke for thy turne in this way written by any of the Societie of Iesus, whose genius is the active way, and in that they are excellent, and very commendable, but in this contemplative way few or none appeared ever since their first institute above these hundred yeares’, p. 37. See also Marion Norman, ‘Dame Gertrude More and the English Mystical Tradition’, Recusant History, 13 (1976) 196-211. Very useful context and discussion of Augustine Baker’s influence on More can be found in the essays in The Mysterious Man: Essays on Augustine Baker, 1575-1641, ed. by Michael Woodward (Abergavenny: Three Peaks Press, 2001).

24 The encomium in Lewis Augustine’s edition of the Stimulus Amoris similarly contrasts Bonaventure’s ‘Scholasticall Distinctions’ with his ‘Opuscula, that is, his Smaller-workes, that are most abundantly replenished with the mysticall honey of devotion’. ‘The Epistle in the Latin Copie, to the deuout Reader, in praise of the Author’, unpaginated.

25 A Pious Collection of several profitable directions fitted for the English Poore Clares in Graveling in Order to the better observance of their Institute. Very usefull and profitable for all Religious women (Douai: M. Mairesse, 1684).

26 A Pious Collection, pp. 62-64. The passages here borrow from chapter nine of the Second Book of the Stimulus Amoris, as translated by Lewis Augustine, Goad of Divine Love, pp. 62-64. A Pious Collection contains, among several items, a sequence of meditations on the life and Passion of Christ arranged both according to daily and hourly divisions.

27 The Goad, Preface.

28 The book is shelfmark Jolly 112. It formed part of the library of Alexander Jolly (1756-1838), Episcopal Bishop of Moray. Megan Matchinske provides an illuminating account of the dangers of (female) recusant Catholicism, focusing on the life and martyrdom in England of Margaret Clitherow (1556-86), in ‘Framing Recusant Identity in Counter-Reformation England’, in Writing, Gender and State in Early Modern England. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 26 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 53-85.

29 The popularity of St Francis de Sales among the recusants is evidenced in the numerous reprints of his works in the first half of the seventeenth century. His Introduction to the Devout Life was printed in English manifold times from 1613 in Paris, Rouen, Saint Omer, and Douai (reprinted in Douai at least four times; see Short Title Catalogue 11316-11322). His Treatise of the Love of God was printed in Douai 1630 (STC 11323). There was, however, also considerable Protestant interest in Francis de Sales; the Introduction to the Devout Life was printed in London at least four times between 1616 and 1686, and an edition was published in Dublin 1673, ‘fitted for the use of Protestants’.

30 The Goad, pp. 33-34.

31 Ibid., pp. 27-28.

32 Ibid., p. 50.

33 Ibid., p. 340.

34 Ibid., p. 484.

35Ibid., p. 515.

36 Ibid., pp. 369-70.

37 Ibid., p. 579.

38 Ibid., p. 110.

39 Ibid., p. 35. In chapter sixty-two of her Book, Margery Kempe provides extensive citation from the Stimulus Amoris, in which she finds welcome validation for own experiences and for the loud and embodied responses that give outward manifestation to them: ‘Also the same preyste red aftyrward in a tretys which is clepyd The Prykke of Lofe, the ii chapitulo, that Boneaventur wrot of hymselfe thes wordys folwyng: ‘A, Lord, what schal I more noysen [utter] or cryen? Thu lettyst [delay] and thu comyst not, and I, wery and ovyrcome thorw desyr, begynne for to maddyn, for lofe governyth me and not reson. I renne wyth hasty cowrs wher-that-evyr thu wylte I bowe, Lord. Thei that se me irkyn and rewyn [feel pity], not knowing me drunkyn wyth thi lofe. Lord, thei seyn: “Lo, yen wood man cryeth in the stretys”, but how meche is the desyr of myn hert, thei parceyve not.’ The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. by Barry Windeatt (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), pp. 294-95.