(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

The family of Inglesant had long been loyal to the British crown, which had conferred lands and honors upon it, and yet the family also had strong leanings toward the Roman Catholic Church. Such inclinations were dangerous during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the whole of England was forced to change religions several times, according to the monarch who sat on the throne. In 1622, two sons were born to the family, twins whose mother died at their birth. One was named Eustace, after his father; the other, born a few minutes later and therefore the younger son of the family, was named John.

In boyhood, the twins saw little of each other. Eustace, the older, was given a worldly training, for his father, outwardly conforming to the Anglican Church under James I and Charles I, wished him to make a place for himself at court. The younger son, John, was given bookish training in the classics and philosophy by various tutors. At the age of fourteen, John was placed under the tutelage of Father St. Clare, who was in England on a political and ecclesiastical mission for his order. The priest saw in the highly intelligent and cultured young lad the prospects of a fine instrument that his order might use; in addition, he felt that the boy deserved the training that would make him fitted for the unquestioning discipline of the highest order, as the Jesuits saw it: the discipline that is enforced from within the individual but controlled from without.

After several years of study and training, John Inglesant became a page in the queen’s train at the court of Charles I. Father St. Clare had sent him to court so that he might come to the attention of the Roman Catholic nobles and serve to further the interests of the Roman Church in England.

The country became more and more troubled, and civil war threatened because of rivalry between the Puritans and the adherents to the crown and the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholics felt themselves in a rather strong position with the king and everyone loyal to him. As a member of the Society of Jesus, Father St. Clare dreamed of returning England to the domination of Rome. With that end in view, he did all he could to aid the crown against the Puritans. Because John Inglesant, who came from a family long noted for its loyalty to the king, was active as an agent between Roman Catholic leaders and the crown, he was often employed on secret missions by the king. Father St. Clare, who saw Inglesant as having greater value as an Anglican communicant with papist leanings, advised the young man against conversion to the Roman Church. Inglesant was puzzled and followed his mentor’s wishes.

When fighting broke out between the Cavaliers and the Puritans, Inglesant spent much of his time on missions for the king and Father St. Clare. Eustace Inglesant, after marrying a rich woman some ten years his senior, believed the king’s cause doomed to failure and left England for France. John Inglesant was sent on a secret mission to Ireland, where Lord Glamorgan was attempting to raise an Irish army to aid the...

(The entire section is 1259 words.)