Southwell, Robert

Southwell, Robert, 1561?–1595, English Jesuit poet, venerated by Roman Catholics as a martyr, b. Norfolk. He was brought up a Catholic and educated abroad, mainly at Douai. In 1580 he made his simple vows as a Jesuit, and in 1586 at his own request, desiring martyrdom as he said, he was sent to England with Father Garnett to minister to the oppressed Catholics. For six years he was active in the south of England as their pastor, but in 1592 he was arrested and imprisoned. After being tortured he was tried for treason, and on admitting his priesthood he was hanged. His poetry is deeply religious, extolling the beauty and magnificence of the spiritual in contrast to the material. Southwell's major work is St. Peter's Complaint (1595), but he also wrote several fine short devotional poems, such as “The Burning Babe.”

See his complete poems (1872, repr. 1971); biography by C. Devlin (new ed. 1967).

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