Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cresswell, Joseph

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CRESSWELL, JOSEPH (1557–1623?), jesuit, was born in London in 1557, and entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on 11 Oct. 1583. It has been stated that on joining the order he took the name of Arthur instead of Joseph, and Lord Coke says this is the only instance of a man changing his christian name (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 147 n.) The statement is unfounded, and perhaps originated in the circumstance that there was an Arthur Cresswell, probably Joseph's elder brother, who was also admitted into the Society of Jesus in 1583. Joseph was professed of the four vows in 1599. His mother becoming a widow married William Lacey, esq., who after her death was ordained priest, and was executed at York in 1582.

He was rector of the English college at Rome, in succession to Father Parsons, from 1589 to 1592, and subsequently spent most of his life in Spain (Foley, Records, vi. 124). When Parsons quitted that country he left Cresswell at Madrid to manage the concerns of the English jesuits. Sir Charles Cornwallis, the resident minister of James I in the Spanish capital, describes him, in a letter written to the Earl of Salisbury in 1606, as being desirous to conciliate those whom the turbulence of Parsons had alienated, and as wishing to ‘take hold of the advantage of the tyme, and build the foundation of his greatness in preaching and perswading of obedience and temperance, and becomeing a meanes to combyne the two great monarchs of Great Britaine and Spaine’ (Winwood, Memorials, ii. 226). Cresswell, however, was viewed by James and his ministers with so evil an eye that they directed the ambassador to hold no correspondence with him. For some time Cornwallis disregarded this injunction, but eventually he came to an open rupture with the jesuit, whom he describes as a vain-glorious man, observing that ‘he played on Cresswell's vain-glory to discover his secrets’ (Winwood, vols. ii. and iii. passim; Butler, Hist. Memorials of the English Catholics, 3rd edit. ii. 224–6). Cresswell's name frequently occurs in the State Papers and in the ‘advertisements’ of the government spies (Foley, vi. p. xix, n.) In 1620 he was prefect of the mission at St. Omer, and in 1621 rector of the college at Ghent. He died in the latter city on 19 Feb. 1622–3, according to the Necrology of the society (Stonyhurst MSS.), but a status of the college of St. Omer mentions his death on 20 March 1621–2 (Foley, vi. 182).

Oliver says: ‘That he was a man of great abilities and distinguished piety is undeniable, but his admirers had occasionally to regret peevishness of temper and tenacity of opinion’ (Jesuit Collections, p. 78); and Dodd remarks that ‘by corresponding with statesmen and princes he gave a handle to his enemies to misrepresent his labours upon several occasions’ (Church Hist. ii. 419).

His works are:

  1. A Latin treatise, ‘De vitâ beatâ.’
  2. A work in English, under the name of John Perne, against Queen Elizabeth's proclamation of 29 Nov. 1591. It appeared in Latin under the title of ‘Exemplar Litterarum missarum è Germania ad D. Guilielmum Cecilium Consiliarium Regium,’ 1592, 8vo (Southwell, Bibl. Scriptorum Soc. Jesu, p. 521).
  3. ‘Responsio ad edictum Elizabethæ reginæ Angliæ contra Catholicos Romæ, per Aloysium Zanettum,’ 1595, 4to. A translation of Father Parsons's work under the name of ‘Andreas Philopater’ (Gillow, Bibl. Dict. i. 591).
  4. ‘Historia de la Vida y Martyrio que padeció en Inglaterra, este año de 1595, el P. Henrique Valpolo, Sacerdote de la Compañia de Jesus, que fué embiado del Colegio de los Ingleses de Valladolid, y ha sido el primer martyr de los Seminarios de Spaña. Con el martyrio de otros quatro Sacerdotes, los dos de la misma Compañia, y los otros dos de los Seminarios,’ Madrid, 1596, 8vo. A French translation of the life of Father Walpole appeared at Arras, 1597, 8vo (Backer, Bibl. des Écrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus, ed. 1869, i. 1464; Jessopp, One Generation of a Norfolk House, 2nd edit. pp. xvi, 105, 168–170).
  5. Treatise against James I's proclamation issued against the catholics in 1610, St. Omer, 1611, 4to.
  6. A translation into Spanish, under the name of Peter Manrique, of Father William Bathe's ‘Preparation for administering the Sacrament of Penance,’ Milan, 1614, 4to (Southwell, p. 313; Backer, p. 1464).
  7. A translation into English and Spanish, under the initials N. T., of Salvian's book ‘Quis dives salvus?’ St. Omer, 1618.
  8. ‘Meditations upon the Rosary,’ St. Omer, 1620, 8vo.
  9. ‘Relacion del Estado de Inglaterra en el gobierno de la Reina Isabella,’ manuscript in the National Library at Madrid, X. 14.

[Authorities cited above.]

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