(c. 1561-1595)
Robert Southwell served as a Jesuit missionary in England, wrote religious tracts and verse, was executed at Tyburn in 1595 for treason, and was canonized by the Roman Catholic church in 1970. Born in Norfolk, England, Southwell was educated at various Roman Catholic schools on the Continent, first at Douai, then as a Jesuit novitiate at Sant' Andrea, and finally at the Jesuits' Roman College. Upon completing his education, he served as a tutor and prefect of studies at the English College of Rome. In 1584 he was ordained priest. Most of Southwell's fame stems from his work as a missionary priest. Along with his superior, Henry Garnet, Southwell was sent to England in 1586 and ministered there until his arrest in 1592. He acted as priest for various Catholic households, including those of William, Baron Vaux of Harrowden, and Anne Howard, countess of Arundel. Once Southwell established a network of patrons, he as­sisted priests as they negotiated England's anti-Catholic policies.
Southwell viewed writing as an essential aspect of his ministry. He wrote theological tracts and spiritual verse that circulated widely in manuscript and were printed repeatedly, some by Southwell on a secret press. His works include Mary Magdalen's Funeral Tears, An Humble Supplication to Her Majesty, A Short Rule of Good Life, The Triumphs over Death, and An Epistle of Comfort. Many of these touch upon the importance of active faith and martyrdom and discuss the spiritual rewards for those being persecuted. With his poetry, South­well hoped to move poetic forms away from their emphasis on sensual topics; he used sonnets and songs to speak of holiness and divine love in St. Peter's Complaint and Moeniae.
In 1592 Southwell was caught by Richard Topcliffe, a priest hunter. Southwell was tortured but would not admit to being a priest. Eight months after his arrest, he decided that his silence hurt the reputation of the priesthood, so he confessed and asked for release or a trial. He was tried in 1595, found guilty of treason, and executed at Tyburn.
F. W. Brownlow, Robert Southwell, 1996.
Karen Nelson

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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