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Some Notes on The Recusant Stimulus Amoris (The Goad of Divine Love, Douai 1642)

Some Notes on The Recusant Stimulus Amoris (The Goad of Love, Douai 1642)

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).

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

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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 in 1569 and the place that saw the completion of the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible in 1609/10), along with separate colleges for Scottish and Irish Catholic clergy.[1] Also in Douai was the Benedictine Priory of St Gregory founded by John Roberts 1605 (later established at Downside in Somerset) and the Franciscan house established 1618. It was in this Franciscan house that B. Lewis Augustine worked from a printed Latin edition of the Stimulus Amoris to complete his English translation by the title The Goad of Divine Love.[2]

Lewis Augustine prefaces the main text of the Stimulus Amoris 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’, no doubt 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’.[3] 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 address 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 and the majority of which consists of a traditional encomium, here attributed to Jean Gerson. The final item is Bonaventure’s preface ‘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 seven-page item as apocryphal pseudo-Bonaventure! Between these items and the main text are four approbations in Latin by professors and lectors at Douai colleges.

My comments below will focus on the initiative in Douai to render available sophisticated vernacular theology that had been neglected and rejected in England for more than a century, and I will comment on the centrality of The Goad of Divine Love to this endeavour. 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 enjoyed wide circulation and translation among diverse readerships, lay and monastic, in the late medieval period becomes reabsorbed into an English Franciscan milieu in the mid-seventeenth century, and made to function polemically in support of the Recusant cause. In a way comparable to the Douai-Rheims version of the Bible, the printing in Douai of The Goad of Divine Love is clearly and explicitly made to serve 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 Stimulus Amoris in Seventeenth-Century Religious Polemics

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, is that in persecuting Catholics they in fact provide them with an opportunity for imitatio Christi. 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 Stimulus Amoris, which centres on a Pauline understanding of what it means to be crucified with Christ:

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.

These are confrontational claims about the nature of spiritual authenticity and singularity intended to reassure Catholics and to chastize ‘you, beloved Countrimen, that are not Catholikes (if happily this booke do chance to come into your hands)’. The words chime particularly well with directives in the Stimulus Amoris (here 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.[4]

The Introduction to The Goad of Divine Love bears witness to the cultural mobility of instruction such as this as it repositions the themes of confrontation and persecution that are a feature of certain passages of the Stimulus Amoris to function as justification for Recusant Catholicism. The opposition, in 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 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 seeks to maintain the priorities of a previous cultural order, asserting the real power of living iconic images to serve devotional ends and act as spur to the sort of penitential grief that the Stimulus Amoris demands.

In fact, The Goad of Divine Love does important work in this Recusant justification of image worship: the translated text, insists the translator, shows how the crucifix is the most efficient stimulus amoris, i.e. the most efficient pricking to the love of God. To deny this and to reject the focal structuring image of the text, is 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.

For Lewis Augustine, it is the exemplarity of St Francis and St Bonaventure that also serves as proof of the centrality and efficacy of the crucifix ‘as you may see in the pages of this booke’. More than that, the text of the Stimulus Amoris, which itself holds up the imago pietatis as the subject of religious meditation, is offered by the translator as the instrument that will help the exiled Catholic to relive the events of the Passion through the power of the visualizing imagination so as to manifest ideals of compassion and interior contrition.

Reading Christ as a Book

When B. Lewis Augustine wrote his long introduction to his English translation of the Stimulus Amoris he got it just right – and 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. After developing the sustained conceits of Christ as a loadstone (a magnet or compass) that works ‘to drawe the beloved to him’ and of his Passion as ‘the furnace of love’,[5] the dominant image (by no means unfamiliar to readers of late-medieval devotional writing) is unfolded to aid concentrated meditation on the 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 red letters of 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.[6]

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 Middle English religious writing.[7] Nor is it surprising to see the 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 how he re-orientates a ubiquitous image of the pre-print age of inscription and affective impression to apply to 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 enters the imaginative, metaphoric probing of Christ’s body and Passion that is so central to the Stimulus Amoris. He explores what it means, as Hilton put it in his earlier vernacular adaptation, to ‘prente ihesu sadli in þi þou3te’,[8] the understanding here being that Christ is a book to be read and expounded correctly by the individual Christian. As has been noted, with regard to 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’.[9]

Lewis Augustine’s preface thus presents metaphoric notions of books and reading to an audience that may well 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 reflects the deeply bookish culture of 17th century Douai, a centre for the printing of devotional and theological materials. As already indicated, technical terms pertaining to the object of the book and the process of printing are printed in italics in the text (e.g. ‘leaves’, ‘printing-press’, ‘letters’, ‘commas’, ‘full-points’, ‘bookbinder’, ‘clasps’), suggesting also words that the reader may usefully understand in a transferred, religious sense. Notable is also the occurrence of 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 of Douai 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 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![10]

Tears of Compunction and Compassion: A Seventeenth Century Lachrymose Reader

The copy of Lewis Augustine’s 1642 translation of the Stimulus Amoris that is kept in National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh bears the ownership inscription of a certain ‘Mary B’ in what looks like a seventeenth-century hand – we do not know her full family name, and we cannot know for certain if she was an English Catholic living on the Continent; 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.[11] What we do know is that the book was subject to heavy and frequent use: the pages (many of which are restored) are 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 fly leaf of the book is written the following note, which continues the theme from the Stimulus Amoris itself and Lewis Augustine’s preface of writing as a metaphor for Christ’s Passion. Here the comments invoke St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) 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.

Particularly noticeable in Mary B’s book is the extensive and 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 plausible 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 water stains appear extensively throughout the book and they appear on one page as suddenly as they disappear on the next. By examining the occurrence of these tear stains together with the passages of the Stimulus Amoris 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 led to manifest the tears of compunction and compassion that the text demands.

Below, I note three aspects or discourse types of The Goad of Divine Love that appear almost invariably to be glossed with the tears of Mary B.

First-person prayer of compunction and contrition:
There are 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 and contrition 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.[12]

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 mention outward crying as the sign 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.[13]

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.[14]

Exclamation and apostrophe:
The many prayerful exclamations and apostrophes of the Stimulus Amoris seem to have been 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![15]

Similarly subject to strong and fervent response are passages that implore for divine grace, while recognising Christ’s extravagant torment and great humility:

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.[16]

A sea of compunction and a vale of tears:
What is particularly striking about the appearance of tear stains in this copy of the Stimulus Amoris is how they seem to occur in direct exchange with the text, and in particular quantity 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:[17] 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. Similarly, the following two passages have brought about significant weeping from the reader to such an extent that the pages have been in need of 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?[18]

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.[19]

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’.[20] At times her tears seem to be reflex tears: whenever tears are mentioned in 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 devotional reading 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 a 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 to gain God’s attention and grace.

Perhaps not entirely unlike Margery Kempe, Mary B demonstrates affective and somatic literate competences that seem remarkably congruent, often directly circumscribed, by the Stimulus Amoris. It is interesting to note that in Mary B’s copy of this text the only marginal annotation that does not just reiterate the text is one that also appealed so strongly to Margery Kempe, namely the passage cited above that begins ‘Love rules me, and not reason, and I runne with force & violence, whithersoever thou inclinest and forcest me’. In the margin, beside this passage, the reader has written ‘Amans est amens’, anyone in love is insane.

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[1] Ward, Bernard. “Douai.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. [accessed November 2010]. 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.

[2] Quotations below from The Goad of Divine Love are from the recusant 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. 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, 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 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: Stimulus Divini Amoris Sancti Bonaventurae (Douai: Baltazar Bellerus, 1626).
[3] Goad of Divine Love. The pages up to and including the approbations are unpaginated, so no page references will be provided.
[4] Goad of Divine Love, p. 35.
[5] In words that 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’.
[6] Italics are in the text. The simile of Christ’s body as a book is formulated pp. xvii-xxiv.
[7] 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’ (60, 7-9). 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 þe crosse more straite þan any parchemyne-skyne as sprede one þe harowe, so þat mene myghte tell all þe 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 fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1981) Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92, pp. xxxviii-xliii.
[8] The Prickynge of Love, ed. by Harold Kane, Elizabethan and Renaissance Studies 92:10 (Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1983), p. 6.
[9] 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 The Prickynge of Love: ‘make þat þi rewle & þi saunplarie [model/exemplar] for to lyue by & conforme þe to be like hym & his passioun þour3e wilful sufferynge of al maner disese’, p. 26.
[10] Goad of Divine Love, p. xxi.
[11] The book is shelfmark Jolly 112. It formed part of the library of Alexander Jolly (1756-1838), Episcopal Bishop of Moray.
[12] Goad of Divine Love, pp. 33-34.
[13] Ibid., pp. 27-28.
[14] Ibid., p. 50.
[15] Ibid., p. 340.
[16] Ibid., p. 484.
[17] Ibid., p. 515.
[18] Ibid., pp. 369-70.
[19] Ibid., p. 579.
[20] Ibid., p. 110.


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