Ignatius of Loyola Establishes Hell on the Moon - Donne’s Scathing Satire Against the Jesuits

Donne, John (1573-1631)

Ignatius his conclave: or, his inthronisation in a late election in hell: wherin many things are mingled by way of satyr. Concerning the disposition of Iesuites, the creation of a new hell, the establishing of a church in the moone. There is also added an apology for Iesuites. All dedicated to the two adversary angels, which are protectors of the Papall Consistory, and of the Colledge of Sorbon. By Iohn Donne, Doctor of Divinitie, and late Deane of Saint Pauls.

London: Printed [by Augustine Mathewes] for Iohn Marriott, and are to be sold by W. Sheares at the Harrow in Britains Bursse, 1635


Duodecimo: 12.4 x 6.8 cm. [6], 135, [3] p. A-F12

THIRD EDITION in English, second issue, with imprint date changed to 1635.

Bound in late 18th c. or early 19th c. mottled calf, gold filet border, rebacked with spine preserved. With a single woodcut initial and a few ornamental headpieces in the text. A nice, complete copy of a very scarce book. Provenance: a few early ownership inscriptions, two of them "Robert Chase."

Donne’s ‘Ignatius his Conclave’, a damning, satirical exposé of the Jesuits and the order’s founder, Ignatius of Loyola, appeared one year after his ‘Pseudo-Martyr’, a work of deadly seriousness in which Donne argued that English recusants, rather than risking martyrdom in refusing the oath of allegiance, risked suicide instead. “Pseudo-Martyr” was a work of serious controversial literature; “Ignatius”, while still revealing its author’s erudition, is rich in comedic –if biting- episodes.

Donne begins by telling us that his “little wandring sportful Soule” went traveling through the universe while he lay in an “extasie,” until he “saw all the rooms of Hell open to my sight.”  In Hell, he watched as the souls of six learned men contended for the title of Greatest Innovator, that is one “which had so attempted any innovation in this life, that they gave an affront to all antiquitie, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of beleeving what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before.”

Each approached Lucifer to make his case, and in each instance Lucifer consulted Ignatius of Loyola, who had made his way up to the side of Lucifer’s throne. For Ignatius, seeing that his position of authority in Hell was at risk opposed himselfe against all others. He was content they should bee damned, but not that they should governe.”

The six contestants are, in order of appearance, Copernicus, Paracelsus, Machiavelli, Columbus, Pietro Aretino, and Filippo Neri. Copernicus makes his case first, explaining that his heliocentric theory (which “lowers” the Sun and “raises” the Earth) has had the effect of raising poor Lucifer from the lowest position in the heavens to the highest. Lucifer, in a quandary, calls upon Ignatius for his opinion. Ignatius (who by that time had learned a great deal about astronomy from the Jesuit scientists who showed up almost daily in Hell) and, while admitting that Copernicus’ theory is correct, tells Lucifer that Clavius, the great Jesuit astronomer who staunchly denied heliocentrism in defense of the incorrect doctrine of geocentrism, deserves a spot before Copernicus.

Ignatius also rejects the physician-alchemist Paracelsus, telling Lucifer that the Jesuits, who practice medicine even though they are untrained, can kill off just as many people as Paracelsus can with his quackery. Paracelsus also transmutes metals found in Lucifer’s domain, metals that may be better used to fashion expensive gifts for Lucifer’s confrère, the pope. He therefore advises Lucifer to appoint Paracelsus as head of the “Legion of homicide-phisitians.”

The next contender, Machiavelli, addresses Ignatius (Lucifer’s “beloved son”) directly, in an effort to plant suspicion in Lucifer’s mind. Machiavelli praises the followers of Ignatius for bringing equivocation into the world, an art learned from “The secretest Records of Hell itselfe: that is out of the minds of Lucifer, the Pope, and Ignatius (persons truly equivocal).” Although Machiavelli admits that the Jesuits have wrought far greater death and confusion on Earth than he could ever have hoped to, he prides himself on having given the Jesuits an alphabet upon which to build, and having taught them “perfidiousness and dissembling of religion.” He excites such suspicion in Lucifer’s mind that the devil plans to keep Machiavelli on board as a to foil Ignatius, of whom the devil has grown suspicious.

But Ignatius, ever the more cunning disputant, reminds Lucifer that Machiavelli does not even believe in the Devil. Moreover, Machiavelli refused to give the popes due credit for their spectacular sins. Ignatius then launches into a long catalogue of the most notorious of those sins, a list so long that Donne, the narrator, remarks, “Truely, I thought this Oration of Ignatius overlong, and I began to thinke of my body which I had so long abandoned, lest it should putrefy, or grow mouldy, or bee buried.”

Ignatius also dispatches Columbus and Aretino yet the pope awards the title of Greatest Innovator to Saint Filippo Neri. Still, Lucifer realizes that he cannot leave out Ignatius all together. His plan to exalt Ignatius is as follows: He will write to the pope and have him order Galileo to lasso the moon, bringing it sufficiently close to Earth that the Jesuits will all be able to sail there together, with Ignatius as their ruler. For while Lucifer cannot die, and therefore Ignatius cannot inherit his throne, he reassures Ignatius that on the moon, he may “beget and propagate many Hells, and enlarge your empire, and so come nearer unto the high seat (i.e. Heaven) which I left at first.”

In the final scene, Pope Boniface appears on a throne next to Lucifer’s own. Terrified that Ignatius will take his own place, Lucifer helps the Jesuit depose the pope and hurl him from his seat. Remarking on this final episode, Donne tells the reader, “after I had seene a Jesuit turne the Pope out of his Chaire in Hell, I suspected that that Order would attempt as much at Rome.”

STC 7030; ESTC S116961; Grolier/Donne 9; Keynes, Donne 9