White, John (1576-1618) (DNB00)

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WHITE alias Bradshaw, JOHN, afterwards Augustine (1576–1618), Benedictine monk, was born near Worcester, probably at Henwick, in 1576, of parents of good con- dition and of the old faith. Father Oldcorne, the jesuit, was chaplain at Hindlip, and it was most likely through him that young White was introduced to Henry Garnett [q. v.], the jesuit superior, who sent him to St. Omer. On 21 Feb. 1596 he arrived at the jesuit seminary at Valladolid, one of the establishments founded by Robert Parsons (1547–1610) [q. v.], which accustomed the English secular clergy to the Spanish and jesuit influences necessary for the realisation of his intrigues concerned with the succession to the English crown. White was made prefect over his companions. During a dangerous illness in the winter of 1598–9 he vowed to become a Benedictine monk if his life were spared. Already several English youths in Rome, dissatisfied with the attempts the jesuits were making to secure the mastery over the secular priests at home, had joined the Italian monks of Monte Cassino and other Benedictine monasteries with the hope of one day returning to England. White was the first to leave the seminary for the monastery of San Benito in Valladolid, April 1599. After a month's postulancy he was sent to Compostella, where he was received as a novice on 26 May and took the name of Augustine. In 1600 he was professed with four others (one of them being John (Leander) Jones [q. v.]), who had followed him from the seminary. He then went to the university of Salamanca. On 5 Dec. 1602, in spite of the opposition of the jesuits, Clement VIII granted formal permission to the English Benedictines to return to their country as missionaries. As soon as the news arrived in Spain, White with three others set out for England on 26 Dec., and arrived just as Elizabeth was dying.

White had been appointed superior over his companions. He seems to have worked at first in his native county. He is also very likely the White mentioned as a priest haunting Worcestershire and the neighbouring counties (State Papers, Dom. James I, vol. xiii. No. 52). The Benedictines were received with open arms by their co-religionists, and the secular clergy gave them a special welcome as allies in the struggle against the jesuits. So many desired to join their order that it was soon evident that steps must be taken to find a spot more accessible than Spain for a monastery in which English subjects could be trained. So in the spring of 1604 White set out again for Spain to attend the general chapter and lay before his superiors the plan. On his way he called upon the nuncio in Paris, and there it was that most likely his attention was first directed to Douai as a suitable position for the proposed foundation, it being a university town with rich abbeys close at hand. The Spanish abbots agreed to the proposal, and White returned to England with the title of vicar-general.

During the early part of 1605 White was engaged in a scheme for purchasing a toleration from the government (Westminster Archives, viii. 99). Garnett, the jesuit superior, had lately failed in a similar attempt, and did his best to prevent White's success. It was very likely about this time that White came into personal contact with Cecil, who, tradition asserts (Weldon, manuscript History), was so struck with the loyalty and Christian spirit of the monk that he promised as far as in him lay that no Benedictine should suffer the penalty of the law for exercising his priestly functions.

In the autumn of 1605 Thomas Arundell, first lord Arundell of Wardour [q. v.], had taken command of an English regiment in the service of the Archduke Albert. He ‘brought Father Augustine Bradshaw [White] out of England with him to be chaplain-general of that regiment’ (Downside Review, xvi. 30 seq.). Coniers, a jesuit and confessor to the English College at Douai, also joined the camp at Ostend as one of the chaplains, but he by no means liked being under the command of the Benedictine chaplain-general. Every means was taken, therefore, by the jesuits to secure White's removal. All other plans failing, it was determined to get rid of White by procuring the dismissal of Lord Arundell. James Blount, one of the officers, was sent, with recommendations, ‘to blast his late colonel’ at the Spanish court, and succeeded so well that at the end of May 1606 Lord Arundell and almost half of the officers were cashiered, and with them, of course, the chaplain-general White. The nuncio at Brussels, Frangipani, and William Giffard, dean of Lille, also lost their posts, being favourers of the Benedictine.

Why the jesuits were so incensed against White is clear from the history of the foundation of the monastery at Douai. Parsons, as a means to an end, had secured the control, directly or indirectly, over all the seminaries on the continent in which the English secular clergy were educated. At Douai, the only college nominally in the hands of the clergy, he was also in power, as the president, Dr. Thomas Worthington [q. v.], had made a secret vow of obedience to the jesuit. Under Worthington the state of the college, both material and intellectual, had been reduced with the express purpose, so the logic of events proves, of lowering the standard of the secular clergy. If the Benedictines, with their tradition of learning, were to be allowed to settle in Douai, it would entirely upset the intentions that Parsons had as regards the secular college and the English mission. The maladministration would be exposed, and students leave the college for the monastery. The new foundation was made early in 1605, and White, as vicar-general, had control over it, although his work as chaplain-general and the defence of his position kept him away from Douai till the September of 1606, when he was actually in residence as prior. Very soon he found that Dr. Worthington had been appointed to head the attack. In June 1607 he went to Brussels to defend his monastery, and had an interview with the nuncio Caraffa, who told him that he sent for him to counsel him to leave Douai, for that ‘the jesuits and the president will never let you be quiet.’

White had already found another spot in case the jesuits succeeded in driving him out of Douai. Through the good offices of William Giffard, an old disused collegiate church at Dieulewart in Lorraine was transferred to him in December 1606. White, however, succeeded at Rome and Madrid in defeating the opposition to the establishment at Douai, where Philip Caverel, abbot of St. Vedast's in Arras, promised to build and endow a house for them. The monastery of St. Gregory was founded at Douai, where it remained flourishing until the French revolution, when the community passed over to England and finally settled at Downside, near Bath.

While thus engaged in a life and death struggle White was able to help the secular clergy. He obtained, from the munificent Caverel, Arras College in Paris as a house of study for the English clergy who were to devote themselves to writing. The house was to be modelled after the idea of Chelsea College, lately established for Anglican divines by James I. When Worthington was released from his vow of obedience at Parsons's death (15 April 1610), he became reconciled to White, who informed the arch-priest George Birkhead [q. v.] that he might deal confidently with the president. Thus the clergy were induced to forgive the grievous wrong that misguided president had done them.

As vicar-general, White was constantly in England superintending the numerous subjects who were working on the mission. In 1614 there were over eighty. Before Parsons's death White began his negotiations for a reunion of all Benedictines in England into one congregation. The monks from Italy (never more than a dozen) had secured for two of their own men, Edward Maihew [q. v.] and Sadler, an aggregation to the monastery of Westminster, then represented by old Father Robert (or Sigebert) Buckley [q. v.]. These two were joined later on by a third (19 Dec. 1609), who therefore represented the old historic English congregation. White's subjects were numerous: they possessed houses and men. The Italians had neither; the old English had only the succession. These two latter were desirous of a union, and White entered enthusiastically into the project. What would suit the smaller bodies would be for the Anglo-Spanish monks to furnish men, money, and houses, while the others acted as superiors. The incongruity of such an arrangement did not seem to strike White, who, on 13 Feb. 1610, signed an agreement of ten articles. His precipitate action was greatly resented by the rest of his brethren, and the monks at Douai appealed to the Spanish general, and White was summoned to Spain in 1612. The result was that he was removed from his vicarship and John (Leander) Jones set up in his place. The union with the old English congregation was eventually brought about under more equitable terms. On his way back from Spain White came under the notice of the famous Capuchin Joseph de Tremblai, afterwards known as the ‘Grey Cardinal.’ The friar was then engaged in his work of reforming certain abbeys, and had lately taken interest in the order of Fontevrault. Under his influence the Abbess Louise de Bourbon, with her coadjutrix Antoinette d'Orléans, was desirous of restoring monastic observance in the houses of monks and nuns subject to her rule. White was recommended by De Tremblai ‘as one full of zeal, sanctity, ability, and energy.’ He began his work in October 1613, and was so successful that he was called to a like work in the abbeys of Chelles, Remiremont, and Poitiers. He became also engaged in a projected union of the monks of Fontevrault with the English monks at Douai. But, although this would have been of material advantage to the latter, further reflection showed the vicar-general that it would drain the mission of men and be a tax beyond the strength of his English monks. So the matter was dropped, and White withdrawn. He was then sent to found a house for English monks in Paris, and for one year presided over its destinies. In 1616, having a well-earned reputation for observance, he was sent to reform the Cluniac priory of Longueville, near Rouen, where he died on 4 May 1618.

White was a frank, open-minded man, with a singular winning way, which gained him many friends. Dauntless and warm-hearted, his generous nature led him into impetuous actions which caused difficulties a more prudent man would have escaped. It is perhaps open to question whether he would have succeeded so well as he did had he not had the help of such men as John Roberts (1576–1610) [q. v.] and John (Leander) Jones to supply the deficiencies of his character. The only known portrait is reproduced in the ‘Downside Review,’ vol. xvii., from the original in possession of Miss Berkeley of Spetchley.

[Dodd's Church History, vol. iii.; Tierney, vols. iii. iv. v.; Lewis Owen's Running Register; Weldon's History (MS.) and Chronological Notes; Ely's Certaine Briefe Notes; Reyner's Apostolatus Benedictinorum in Anglia; Maihew's Trophæa; A reply to Fr. Parsons's Libel, by W. C.; Records of the English Catholics, i. ii. Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 21203; Cotton MS. Plut. ciii. E. 14; Taunton's English Black Monks of St. Benedict; Gasquet's Henry VIII and the English Monasteries; R. B. Camm's A Benedictine Martyr; Downside Review, vols. xvi. and xvii.; Ampleforth Journal, ii., and various manuscripts quoted from the archives of the diocese of Westminster, the old chapter, the Stonyhurst (jesuit) collections, the registers of the college of Valladolid, and manuscripts from Monte Cassino and Silos.]

E. L. T.