The Clink Prison, London Bridge
The Clink Prison plaque

Ralph Emerson SJ

Ralph Emerson was born in 1553, entered the Society in Rome in 1580 and took his vows at Novellara in 1582. He became Edmund Campion’s assistant and one of the first Jesuit missionaries sent to England, arriving in April 1580. By the end of 1581, he was sent to Scotland after Campion and other Jesuits were captured and martyred. On 15th September 1584, Emerson sailed with Weston, a Jesuit priest, from Dieppe landing between Lowestoft and Yarmouth. In 1586, he was seized by the customs, trying to smuggle in two crates of Robert Parson’s books. Emerson was sent to the Clink, a notorious prison in Southwark, London. He only emerged from prison nineteen years later, one side of his body paralyzed. While in prison he gave a short account of his career to the magistrates who examined him in 1593: “he confesseth that he is a lay Jesuit and took the degree at Rome fourteen years since and was some time Campion’s boy, and saith when he took that order he did vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience to the superior of the house”. He was exiled and died on 12th March 1604 at St. Omer in France.