‘Forgotten Englishman’, the latest (and ninth) book by Nick Fogg, relays the story of one of this area’s notable characters who left their very significant mark on the World, but somehow managed never to become a household name. Until now….
Thomas Stephens was the first Englishman to make a significant impact in India. Born near to Marlborough at Bushton Manor in the parish of Clyffe Pypard in 1549, he fled religious turmoil in England became a Jesuit in Rome and was then selected to join the mission in India. To do so he sailed from Lisbon aboard a Portuguese carrack, a voyage never previously made by any other Englishman.
His account of the voyage, detailed in a letter to his father contributed greatly to the growing interest in the Far East in this country. The letter was a rich account of the voyage, describing the amazing sights and the deprivations and hazards faced by those on that journey and became widely circulated to create a picture of a part of the World unknown to everyone here.
He wrote a classic of Indian literature, the Christian Purana. Nick Fogg’s ‘Forgotten Englishman’ captures both the exotic character of 16th-century life in the eastern outposts of the Portuguese Empire — its venality, cultural clashes, brutality and license — and explores the self-sacrifice of those in the Society of Jesus who had dedicated their lives to the service of their fellow men. It is an extraordinary account of heroic witness.
He was a very early member of the ‘Society of Jesus’, otherwise known as the Jesuits, which was founded in Rome – with the approval of the then Pope, Paul III – in 1540 not long before Thomas Stephens was born. Jesuits are recognised as the ‘Soldiers of God’ and even in the early days of the order members of the ‘Society of Jesus’ were expected to expected to accept orders to go anywhere in the world. This is exactly what Thomas Stephens did.
The leading writer on the Moghul Empire, William Dalrymple, has enthusiastically endorsed the book:
Encompassing tales of martyrdoms, shipwrecks, colonialism, kidnapping
and piracy, Nicholas Fogg’s Forgotten Englishman tells the story of a
fascinating life, brilliantly illuminated by dogged research in the archives.
Forgotten Englishman: Thomas Stephens and the Mission to the East is published by Gracewing at £20.00.
It can be purchased in Marlborough from The White Horse Bookshop. The visit could also act as an excuse to visit one of the town’s retail icons, but any purchaser would likely leave to become richer in spirit and knowledge once Nick Fogg’s ‘Forgotten Englishman’ had been opened, read and devoured as it promises to be a voyage of discovery, just as Thomas’s original departure from Lisbon turned out to be.