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Tobie Matthew

Sir Tobie Matthew or Mathew (3 October 1577 - 13 October 1655) was an English courtier under James I and Charles I, born in Salisbury, who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a priest.

Life

He was the son of Dr. Tobias Matthew, then Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, later Bishop of Durham, and finally Archbishop of York, and Frances, daughter of William Barlow, Bishop of Chichester. Tobie Matthew matriculated from Christ Church on 13 March 1589/90 and became M.A. on 5 July 1597. Because of his youthful extravagance, he his said to have been treated harshly by his parents. On 15 May 1599, he was admitted at Gray's Inn, where he began his close friendship with Sir Francis Bacon. Two years later he became the Member of Parliament (MP) for Newport, Cornwall. During this time, he was a frequent visitor to the court of Elizabeth I. On the accession of James I, Matthew sat in Parliament for St. Alban's (elected 1604) and joined the new court. He also received a large grant from the Crown which provided for his future.

Having always desired to travel, Matthew left England in November 1604 and went via France to Florence, even though he had promised his father he would not go to Italy. In Florence, he met several Catholics and eventually converted to that denomination from Anglicanism. At that time a new persecution was raging in England, but Matthew was determined to return. When he arrived, he was imprisoned in the Fleet for six months and every effort was made to make him recant. In the end, he was allowed to leave England and travelled in Flanders and Spain. In 1614, he studied for the priesthood at Rome and was ordained by Cardinal Bellarmine on 20 May.

In 1617, the king allowed Matthew to return to England and he stayed for some time with Bacon, while he translated that man's Essays into Italian. Matthew was exiled again from 1619 to 1622, and upon his return, he was favorably received by the king, and acted as an agent at court to promote the marriage of Prince Charles with the Spanish Infanta. For this cause, the ill-fated "Spanish Match", James sent Matthew to Madrid and knighted him upon his return on 20 October 1623. In the immediate circle of the Queen, Henrietta Maria, Matthew enjoyed the same favor at court under Charles I as he had under his father; under his charming and playful guise— he offered to prepare for the Queen the new Spanish drink of chocolate, and did so, but absent-mindedly testing it, he tasted it all up— he labored diligently for the Catholic cause there. At the time of Lady Newport's scandalous conversion to Catholicism, he made himself scarce for a while.

When the Civil War broke out in 1640, Matthew, now an old man, took refuge with the English Jesuits at their house at Ghent, where he died. Whether or not Matthew himself ever became a Jesuit remains a matter of controversy to this day.

Notes

Works

Besides his Italian translation of Bacon's Essays, Matthew also translated St. Augustine's Confessions (1620), the Autobiography of St. Teresa (1623), and Father Arias's Treatise of Patience (1650). Matthew himself authored A Relation of the death of Troilo Severe, Baron of Rome (1620), A Missive of Consolation sent from Flanders to the Catholics of England (1647), A True Historical Relation of the Conversion of Sir Tobie Matthew to the Holie Catholic Faith (first published in 1904), as well as some manuscript works. His letters were edited by Dr. John Donne in 1660.

References

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