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JOHN CORNELIUS, ALIAS, MOHUN, PRIEST. S. J.*
Joun Cornelius, alias, Mohun, was born at Bodmin, in Cornwall, of Irish parents, and brought up at school in the same town: from whence he was sent to Oxford by Sir John Arundel, who was much taken with his rare genius and diligence in learning. But Mr. Cornelius liking the old religion better than the new, left Oxford, and went beyond the seas to Rhemes, (the English college having been lately translated thither, from Douay,) and was there received by Dr. Allen, the institutor and first president of that seminary of martyrs. After some stay here, he was sent, in 1580, to Rome, to finish his studies in the English college of that city, where he remained for some years ; and had the honour once to make an oration in Latin, and speak it in the pope's chapel on St. Stephen's day. Here he was made priest, and from hence was sent upon the English mission, where he laboured, with great fruit, for about ten years. He was a man of a most mortified life, and greatly addicted to prayer and contemplation; but, withal, zealous and diligent in his pastoral functions, and had a notable talent in preaching, so that he was admired and loved by all that knew him.
Mr. Manger relates of him, from the testimony of a worthy gentleman, who was familiarly acquainted with him, that he was very powerful in dealing with those who were possessed; and that from one, in the presence of the same gentleman, he forced the devil to bring forth, from her inward parts, a piece of a rusty knife, of an inch and a half in length, which he took out of her mouth, and a bag of sand of the fashion of a pincushion, and bigness of a little penny purse.' He adds also, from the same testimony, that when Mr. Cornelius was saying mass for the soul of John Lord Stourton, (who had died unreconciled, but with great desire of the sacraments, and more than ordinary marks of sorrow and repentance,) he had a vision after the consecration and elevation of the chalice, of the soul of the said Lord Stourton, then in purgatory, desiring him to pray for him, and to request of the lady, his mother,t to cause masses to be said for his soul. This vision was also seen at the same time, by Patrick Salmon, a good religious soul, who was then serving Mr. Cornelius, at mass.
Mr. Cornelius was apprehended in the house of the widow of Sir John Arundel, (upon the information of a wicked servant,) on the second Sunday after Easter, in April, 1594, by Mr. Trenchard, sheriff of Dorsetshire ; and with him, Mr. Thomas Bosgrave, a Cornish gentleman, a kinsman of Sir John Arundel, was also hurried away to prison, because, seeing Mr. Cornelius in the hands of the officers, hurried away with
* From a manuscript relation in my hands, penned by the Reverend Mr. Manger; and from the bishop of Tarrasona's history of the persecution of England, 1. 5. c. 4.; from a relation sent out of England, three months after Mr. Cornelius's martyrdom.
+ She was the daughter of the Earl of Derby, and had for her first husband, the lord Stourton. After whose death, she was married to Sir John Arundel.
out any hat, he clapped his own hat upon the confessor's head, saying, the honour I owe to your functions may not suffer me to see you go bare-headed. Upon which the sheriff told him, he should bear him company ; and, as we shall see by-and-by, for this offence he afterwards also suffered with him. John, or, as others call him, Terence Carey and Patrick Salmon, both natives of Dublin, and servants in the family, were also committed to prison upon this occasion, as aiding and assisting Mr. Cornelius.
The confessor was first carried to the sheriff's house, where some protestant ministers strongly attacked him on the subject of religion ; but Mr. Cornelius maintained the catholic cause with such strong argument, that the sheriff, fearing the influence his words would make upon those that were present, put a stop to the dispute. Shortly after, the council being informed of all that had passed, the confessor was ordered to be sent up to London, where he was examined by the lord treasurer, the archbishop of Canterbury, and others of the privy council, who strove to extort out of him, first by words, and afterwards by the rack, the names of such catholics as had harboured or relieved him ; but his constancy was proof against all their efforts, and he refused to the last to make any discovery which might redound to the prejudice of his benefactors. Upon this he was sent back into the country, there to take his trial, and there to die. The three last days before the assizes, he spent wholly in prayer and pious exhortations to his fellow prisoners, without eating, in a manner, or sleeping, and so prepared himself for his conflict. After this, he was brought to the bar with his three companions, where they were all found guilty by the jury; Mr. Cornelius of high treason, for being a priest, and coming into this kingdom and remaining here; Mr. Bosgrave and the other two, of felony, for aiding and assisting Mr. Cornelius, knowing him to be a priest.
After the jury had brought in their verdict, the three laymen cast themselves at the feet of Mr. Cornelius, to crave his blessing; and they were all sent back to prison, sentence not being to be pronounced till the next day. They prepared themselves for it by prayer, and animated one another by pious colloquies, in which they passed that night; and, on the following day, they were all sentenced to die. It was observed, that judge Walmsley pronounced the sentence with tears in his eyes. Mr. Cornelius would have spoken to the judges after sentence was given, but was ordered to be silent. However, the judges assured them all, that their lives should be saved, if they would conform and go to the protestant church, which they all stoutly refusing, were sent back to prison, there to prepare for their last end.
They were condemned on the 2d of July, 1594, and on the 4th were carried out to their martyrdom. Mr. Cornelius was drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution; the other three walked on foot. The confessor animated them by the way to suffer death with courage and constancy; and, indeed, it appeared by their countenances that they went to the gallows with as much content and satisfaction as if they had been going to a feast. Mr. Cornelius made also the best use he could of his time, in favour of a malefactor, who was to suffer with them ; whom he so effectually exhorted to faith and repentance, that the man declared
aloud, that he looked upon himself happy that he was to die in such good company.
The first that was ordered up the ladder was John Carey, a man of great courage. He kissed the rope when it was to be put about his neck, saying, O precious collar! then made a profession of his faith, for which he declared he died, and so was turned off. The next was Patrick Salmon, a man much admired and beloved for his virtues. In dying, he admonished the people that the only way to secure their eternal welfare, was to embrace that faith for which he and his companions laid down their lives. Mr. Bosgrave was called upon next, who being a man of reading, made a speech to the people of the certainty of the catholic faith, which was heard with great attention, the ministers standing by and not offering a word in vindication of their religion. And now it was come to Mr. Cornelius's turn to ascend the ladder; at the fout of which he knelt down and prayed a little while, then kissed the ground, and afterwards the feet of his companions, who were still hanging; then addressing himself to the gallows, he saluted it with those words of St. Andrew, O bona crux diu desiderata, &c. O good cross, a long time desired, &c. And going up the ladder, offered three several times to speak to the people, and was as often interrupted. Then he declared what had hitherto been kept a secret, viz: that he was admitted into the society of Jesus, in London, by the superior of the English jesuits, and was io have gone over with others to make his noviceship in Flanders, had he not been prevented by his apprehension. After which he prayed aloud for his persecutors, and for the conversion of the queen, and so was flung off the ladder, and shortly after cut clown and quartered. His quarters were set up upon four poles, but afterwards were taken down by the catholics, and buried with the bodies of his companions. His head was nailed to the gallows, till it was removed at the desire of the town, apprehending the scourges of God upon them, as they had experienced before on the like occasions. Yet we are told, that the following year, a dreadful plague ensued amongst them, which carried off so many that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead.
Mr. Cornelius and his companions suffered at Dorchester, July 4th, 1594.
Since this was written, I received from the English college of St. Omer's, a copy of a manuscript concerning Mr. Cornelius, the original of which is kept in the archives of that college. In which are added the following particulars relating to the life of this holy servant of God. That he every day said mass at five o'clock in the morning, and never without tears; that whenever he read the passion of Christ, in the office of the holy week, he wept exceedingly; that he was sometimes in an ecstasy at his prayers ; and that a gentleman who came to him for counsel, found him on his knees, his hands crossed before his breast, his eyes cast up to heaven, but without motion, and the whole man so absorbed in God, that the gentleman, for some time doubted whether he was alive or dead, and not without difficulty brought him to hear and see him; that he always wore a rough hair shirt, and used frequent disciplines, and for many years fasted four days in the week: that his
charity for the poor was such, as to give them all that came to his hands, committing the care of himself to God's providence ; that he preached regularly twice a week; gave catechistical instructions for about an hour almost every day, and read some pious lessons for about half an hour in the evening, tò such as more particularly aspired to perfection. In fine, that the mortification of his senses, and his recollection in God was so great, that for three whole years, that his lodging was in a room, the window of which looked upon the parish church, he had never observed it, nor knew whether the house in which he lived was leaded or tyled. The manuscript adds, that upon more occasions than one, his face was observed to shine with a certain heavenly light. A copy of a Letter written by father Cornelius, half an hour before he was called out to suffer, to his ghostly child, Mrs. Dorothy, the eldest daughter to the lady Arundel
, who had consecrated her virginity to God, and promised, by vow, to be a religious woman, of the order of St. Bridgit.
• He that loveth his life in this world, shall lose it; and he that hateth it, shall find it. If I find it, by the grace and infinite mercy of God, (though very unworthy and miserable), with exceeding great satisfaction, and never-ending pleasure, I shall remember you. In the mean time, whilst the soul remains in this body, pray you for me; for I have a great confidence that we shall see one another in heaven; if you keep inviolable the word you have given, first to God and then to St. Bridgit." I heartily recommend you to my poor mother, and the promise of your vow, concerning which, I have written to you three or four times, and wonder that you have taken no notice of it. The devil is always upon the watch: be you also watchful. Signify your will to me, that I may carry with me your resolution to St. Bridgit. I do not forget those whom I do not name. God be your keeper.
John, who is going to die for a moment, that he
live for ever.
JOHN BOST, PRIEST.*
MR. Bost, or Boast, was born of a gentleman's family, in the of Penrith, (vulgo Pereth.) in the county of Cumberland. He was educated in one of our universities at home, where he also took the degree of master of arts ; and was cotemporary with, and much esteemed by, Tobie Matthews, who, at the time of Mr. Bost's execution, was bishop of Durham, (afterwards archbishop of York,) and who, extolling his excellent parts, is reported to have said, upon that occasion,—It was pity so much worth should have died that day. But Mr.
* From two manuscript relations sent me from Douay; the one formerly sent over by the Reverend Cuthbert Trollop, archdeacon; the other by the Reverend Father Thuresby, of the Society of Jesus, and from letters written out of England, in 1504, recorded by the bishop of Tarrasona, in his history, l. 5, c. 5.
Bost left both the university and the kingdom, and all hopes of worldly preferment for conscience sake, and being reconciled to the catholic church, was received into the college lately translated from Douay to Rhemes ; and after some time spent there in his studies, was made priest, and sent upon the English mission, in 1581. Here he laboured, for several years, with great zeal, and much fruit: insomuch, that he was, in a particular manner, sought after by the persecutors : and the earl of Huntington, in particular, then lord president of the North, and a most bitter enemy of the catholics, of all the priests in those provinces, was most intent upon the apprehending him. So that when the said lord president was promised, by one Francis Ecclesfield, to have two of the gravest priests of the north betrayed to him, he desired the traitor rather to be sure of Bost. At length, after many narrow escapes, he was betrayed, by the said Ecclesfield, into the president's hands, in this manner : the traitor having intelligence that Mr. Bost was in the house of Mr. William Claxton, “in the bishopric of Durham," signified the same to the lord president; and, to be more sure of his game, went thither to confession and communion ; and having thus hypocritically and sacriligiously abused the sacred mysteries, he went forth, like another Judas, to accomplish his wicked project, and meeting Sir William Bowes and others, went along with them to the house in order to apprehend Mr. Bost. The holy man was so well concealed that, after a long search, they could not find him, so that they thought they had been deluded : but the traitor bid them pull down the house or burn it, for he was sure the priest was in it; upon which, they began to make breaches in the walls, and at length discovered their prey.
Mr. Bost being thus apprehended, was brought before the lord president, who made, upon that occasion, a prolix speech, concerning the long search that had been made for him, from time to time, for the space of some years ; all which while, by his cunning tricks, he had deluded the diligence of the officers, whom he had employed to apprehend so nefarious a traitor; but that now, to his great satisfaction, he had taken him at last. To which speech, Mr. Bost, in the end, replied, with a smiling countenance ; And after all this, my lord, you have but gotten Boast, (alluding to the earl's boast,) in having used such diligence for his apprehension. The consessor was shortly after sent up io London ; where he was, for a long time, kept prisoner in the Tower, and often most cruelly racked, insomuch that he was afterwards forced to go crooked upon a staff
. At length, after a hard imprisonment, and many torments endured at London, he was sent back again into the north, there to be tried and executed.
He was a man of great courage, learning, and wisdom : and no ways defeated or overcome by his sufferings. When he was brought to the bar for his trial, Mr. George Swallowell (who had lately been a reader of the protestant church, and was now arraigned for the catholic religion,) somewhat wavering, and being on the point of yielding through fear, Mr. Bost, in the public court, so effectually encouraged him to stand firm to the catholic faith, that he immediately declared himself sincerely penitent for his staggering ; and Mr. Bost, putting his hand on his heud, publicly absolved him. Upon which, some of the bench