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Sir Everard Digby's Letters from the Tower Concerning the Plot


" Jesus
I have not named any either living or dead, that should hurt (to?) my Lord Salisbury: and only intended these general informations to procure me access of some friend, that I might inform my knowledge, for I never intended to hurt any creature, though it would have gained me all the world. As yet they have not got of me the affirming that I know any Priest particularly, nor shall ever do to the hurt of any but myself.
At my first examination, the Earl of Salisbury told me that some things should be affirmed against me by Gerrat the Priest, who (saith he) I am sure you know well. My answer was, that if I might see him, I would tell him whether I knew him or no, but by that name I did not know him, nor at Mrs. Vauxe's, as he said I did, for I never saw a Priest there. Yesterday I was before Mr. Attorney and my Lord Chief Justice, who asked me if I had taken the Sacrament to keep secret the plot as others did. I said that I had not, because I would avoid the question of at whose hands it were. They told me that 5 had taken it of Gerrard, and that he knew of the Plot, which I said was more than I knew.
Now for my intention let me tell you, that if I had thought there had been the least sin in the Plot, I would not have been in it for all the world: and no other cause drew me to hazard my Fortune, and Life, but Zeal to God's religion. For my keeping it secret, it was caused by certain belief, that those which were best able to judge of the lawfulness of it, had been acquainted with it, and given way unto it. More reasons I had to persuade me to this belief than I dare utter, which I will never, to the suspicion of any, though I should be to the rack for it, and as I did not know it directly that it was approved by such, so did I hold it in my concience the best not to know any more if I might.
I have, before all the Lords, cleared all the Priests in it for anything that I know, but now let me tell you, what a grief it hath been to me, to hear that so much condemned which I did believe would have been otherwise thought on by Catholics; there is no other cause but this, which hath made me desire Life, for when I came into prison death would have been a welcome friend unto me, and was most desired; but when I heard how Catholics and Priests thought of the matter, and that it should be a great sin that should be the cause of my end, it called my concience in doubt of my very best actions and intentions in question: for I knew that my self might be easily deceived in such a business, therefore I protest unto you that the doubts I had of my own good state, which only proceeded from the censure of others, caused more bitterness and grief in me than all the miseries that ever I suffered, and only this caused me with life till I might meet with a ghostly friend. For some good space I could do nothing, but with tears ask pardon at God's hands for all my errors, both in actions and intentions in this business, and in my whole life, which the censure of this contrary to my expectance caused me to doubt: I did humbly beseech that my death might satisfy for my offense, which I should and shall offer most gladly to the Giver of life.
I assure you as I hope in God that the love of all my Estate and wordly happiness did never trouble me, nor the love of it since my imprisonment did ever move me to with life. But if that I may live to make satisfaction to God and the world where I have given any scandal, I shall not grieve if I should never look living creature in the face again, and besides that deprivation endure all worldly misery. I shall not need to clear any living body either private or public, for I never named any body, but reported that those that are dead did promise that all forces in those parts about Mr Talbot would assist us, but this can hurt nothing, for they openly spoke it. You must be careful how you send, for Mr. Lieutenant hath stayed the [...] book, but take no notice of it. Let my Brother [1] see this, or know the contents, tell him I love his sweet comforts as my greatest jewel in this Place, if I can, I will convey in the tables a copy of a letter which I sent yesterday; it is as near as I can understand the meaning of the instruction. I perceive it works with the Lords, for I shall be sent to them. Oh how full of joy should I die if I could do anything for the cause which I love more than my life! Farewell my"
"Besides the trunk of armour which was sent to Mr. Catesbye's I did carry but one other trunk with me, which had in it cloathes of mine, as a white satin doublet cut with purple, a jerkin and hose of de-roy color satin laid very thick with gold-lace; there were other garments in it of mine, with a new black winter gown of my wife's, there was also in the trunk 300 pounds in money, and this trunk I did see safe at Mr. Lyttleton's house after the blowing up of the powder.
Since that Mr. Addis cannot spare time from his business to sell such goods as shall be necessary to defray the expense of my Wife, children and family, and my own charges, my desire therefore, is that one Andrew Knight of Newport, dwelling near the house where these goods are, should have power given him to make sale of such things as shall be thought necessary for these purposes.
by me, Everard Digby
W. Waad, locum ten. turris
Since the writing of the other which I sent you, I have been with the Lords, whose chiefest questions were what I meant by the message, which I should send you to Coughton, about laying up that which I delivered, which, said the Lords, were either a Priest or money, but I denied the sending of any such message; they asked me of Father Wallies [2] being there, which I denied; also they asked me what letter Mr Catesby did send to him, but could tell him of none: it seemeth that Bate hath confessed thus much, whether he hath been tortured or no I do not know; they asked me what company I kept the Sunday sevenight before the day: to which I could not answer, for I did not remember; but they told me I was in the company of Father Walley, Father Greenaway [3] and Father Gerrard at Mrs. Vauxe's; I told them I had been in their companies, but not there, nor anywhere else with others but myself, they said Mr. Greenaway came to Huddington when we were there, and had speech with Mr. ________, but I told them it was more than I took note of, and that I did not know him very well, that he would be very careful of himself; my Lord Salisbury told me he had received my letter, but if the King should propose such a course he had no need of me, and so they dismissed me for this time. Farewell my dearest."
"Since my late writing, I have been examined about the knowledge of Foster and Hamon, I give my Brother many thanks for his sweet comforts; and assure him that now I desire death; for the more I think on God's mercy the more I hope in my own case: though others have censured our intention otherwise than I understood them to be, and though the act be thought to wickid by those of judgement, yet I hope than my understanding it otherwise, with my sorrow for my error, will find acceptance at God's hands. I have not as yet acknowledged the knowledge of any Priest in particular, nor will do to the hurt of any but myself, whatsoever betide me. I could give unanswerable reasons both for the good that this would have done for the Catholic cause, and for my being from home, but I think it now needless, and for some respect unfit. I do perceive the Lords will come hither no more, which caused me to write, which copy I send you. I have some guess it worketh, but the Lieutenant maketh all show to me of the contraryl for, saith he, the Catholics are so few in number as they are not to be feared on any terms, for on his knowledge there were not above 4000 in all England. Besides, he said, they were easily pacified. I would not at all argue the matter with him, but if the number should be objected by the Lords unto me, why may I not answer it thus, that it is certain that there are at least 400 priests in England, therefore by all consequence there must be more Catholics: if there be inconvenience in it let me know and I have done. If I be called to question for the Priest, in my letter I purpose to name him Winscombe, uless I be advised otherwise.
I do desire my brothers advice for Sir Oliver (Manners), for his rents I never received any, and only owe 200 pounds, which I kept in my hands for the good of the best cause, out of which I had paid 30 pounds. There is 100 pounds yet to be paid to my cousin John to him, and the bonds for that and three more he hath paid, are in my gilt-box, at least there I left them: I durst not make a perfect note for his estate, because I know not his course, and whether it would be hurtful for me to put it from myself to him, as."
"I do not well conceive my brother, for I did never say that any other told me but Mr. Catesby about the Lord's particulars; and for affirming that a priest in general said something of Intentions of redress, I did understand Tar: notice to give approbation, I have not been asked his name, which if I had, should have been such a one as I knew not of. Howsoever my brother is informed, I am sure they fear him for knowledge of the Plot, for at every examination I am told that he did give the Sacrament to five at one time, who they say have confessed it - I do not know who they may be; sure I am that I never did confess to know him nor any of the three. I do it not in regard of myself, as it shall appear at the bar, for whatsoever I could do for him or any of his, I would do it though it cost me never so much sufferance; but I have been sparing in that, because I may do more in public, which will, I think, be best, as you wish I will do, and what else may clear me from scandal, not with any hopes or desire of favour; my little friends' courtesey is very comfortable, entreat them to pray for the pardoning of my not sufficient striving against temptations since this business was undertook. Farewell, God send you can read."
"You forgot to tell me whether Winscombe be a fit name: I like it, for I know none of it. You need not fear this lord, for he never looks in the tables, nor dare shew them to any. Tell my brother that I do honor him as befits me, but I did not think I could have increased in so much, loving him more as his charitable lessons would make me. Your information doth much comfort me, but I pray you after my death, let me not want good prayers, for my need is great, though my Trust in God is not small, as occasions fall out you will know. Farewell."
"I have found your pennywares, but never that in the waistcoat till this night. The substance of my last writing was strictly examined about Mr. Darcy, who they said, the first time, was Blackwell [4], but after they told me it was Walley or Garnet. I told them it was more than I knew, for I did not take him to be a priest. They also urged me with Brooke, Fisher, and Browne, and said they were priests, and that Brooke was Gerrard, but I answered I did not know so much; they told me that I had been at Mrs. Vauxe's with this company, and that I knew Gerrard there, but I denied it. They did in a fashion offer me the torture, which I will rather endure than hurt anybody, as yet I have not tried it...the next time I will write more, I could scarce."
"You shall not find this paper with....the reasons of my not aquainting an inward friend with the business,was not for any particular wilfulness, or ill end; but I thought it not best for the Cause, nor did not think it ill, which was to be done, since necessity compelled, as I thought somewhat to be done. I saw the principal point of the case, judged in a latin book of M.D., [5] my brother's father-in-law, I neither can nor will draw in suspect for a world, but if he were deceived in that point by a prefixed day, let him think I had more cause than he."
"My Dearest the ........ I take at the uncharitable taking of these matters, will make me say more than I ever thought to have done. For if the design had taken place, there could have been no doubt of other success: for that night, before any other could have brought the news, we should have known it by Mr. Catesby, who would have proclaimed the Heir Apparent at Charing Cross, as he came out of Town; to which purpose there was a Proclaimation drawn; if the Duke had not been in the House, then there was a certain way laid for possessing him; but in regard of the assurance, they should have been there, therefore the greatest of our business stood in the possessing the Lady Elizabeth, who lying within eight miles of Dunchurch, we would have easily surprised before knowledge of any doubt: this was the cause of my being there. If she had been in Rutland, then Stoaks was near, and in either place we had taken sufficient order to have been possessed of her; there was also courses taken for the satisfying the people if the first had taken effect, as the speedy notice of liberty and freedom from all manner of slavery, as the ceasing of Wardship and all Monopolies, which with change would have been more plausible to the people, if the first had been than it is now. There was also a course taken to have given present notice to all Princes, and to associate them with an oath answerable to the League in France. I have not uttered any of these things, nor ever thought to do; for my going from Dunchurch I had this reason. First, I knew that Faukes could reveal me, for I must make choice of two besides Mr. Catesby, which I did of him and Mr Winter. I knew he had been employed in great matters, and till torture sure he carried it very well. Secondly, we all thought if we could procure Mr. Talbot to at least to a composition....that was not little, because we had in his company his son-in-law [6], who gave us some hope of, and did not much doubt it. I do answer your speech with Mr. Browne thus. Before that I knew anything of this plot, I did ask Mr. Farmer [2] what the meaning of the Pope's brief was; he told me that they were not to undertake or procure stirs: but yet they would not hinder any, neither was it in the Pope's mind they should that should be undertaken for Catholic good. I did never utter thus much, nor would not but to you; and this answer with Mr. Catesby's proceedings with him and me, give me absolute belief that the matter in general was approved, though every particular not known. I dare not take that course that I could, to make it appear less odious; for divers were to have been brought out of the danger, which now would rather hurt them than otherwise. I do not think that there would have been three worth saving that should have been lost; you may guess that I had some friends that were in danger, which I had prevented, but they shall never know it. I will do as much as my partner wisheth, and it will then appear, that I have not hurt or accused one man, and howsoever I might in general possess them with fear, in hope to do the Cause good, yet my care was ever to lose my own life, rather than hurt the unworthiest member of the of the Catholic church. Tell her I have loved her and her house, and though I never shew it, I will not live to manifest the contrary. Her Go: I hope will remember me, who I am in temporal respects indebted to: your sister salute from me, whose noble mind to me in this misery I will lord of Arundell may do much with the Lord and the Queen. One that you write of which dearly loveth him, and is dearly loved of him again, can tell him that I love him, and did manifest it in his fight, and he might have found it; last time as I saw him, was in his company, as I think. I am sure when this was, he was there. If your mother were in town you should....Farewell, and where you can understand, send to me by your next, and I will explain."
[1] Fr. John Gerard
[2] Fr. Henry Garnet
[3] Fr. Oswald Tesimond
[4] Fr. George Blackwell, Archpriest in England
[5] Fr. Martin del Rio
[6] Robert Wintour
Notes on these documents: These letters were written by Sir Everard Digby while he was in the Tower and smuggled out. They were mostly unaddressed and written in lemon juice, although some appear to be sanctioned letters. They were not discovered until 1675 amongst the papers of his son.
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