First edition title page
|Author||Joseph Henry Shorthouse|
The eponymous hero is an Anglican, despite being educated partly by Jesuits, and remains so, largely on the advice of his Jesuit mentor, despite strong temptations to convert to Roman Catholicism. Even so, he finds himself involved in intrigues between the Roman Catholic Church and the High Church party of the Church of England, and becomes a courtier of Charles I. He also spends some time at Nicholas Ferrar's community at Little Gidding, where he falls in love (the girl soon dies). He fights on the Royalist side in the English Civil War, is wounded at the battle of Edgehill, and fights at Naseby. As a result of his role in negotiations on the King's behalf in Ireland, he is tried and condemned for treason; he only narrowly escapes execution. Soon afterwards his brother is murdered, and he pursues his brother's murderer to Italy, where among much else (including marriage) he observes a Papal Conclave as it elects a new Pope in Rome.
Despite all the above, this is a book of ideas, not action, and religious ideas at that. Every page of brisk activity or intrigue is usually followed by at least two more of debate on such topics as Arminianism, Quietism, the Papacy, and the like. Even by the standards of its time, it is a wordy book, and at the opposite extreme from the preferred all-action mode of the 21st century. It nonetheless has what might be described as a cult following.
Its subtitle ('John Inglesant: a romance') may also be misleading to modern readers; it implies free invention, not love interest, and the book has little or nothing in common with the romance novel of the present day.
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