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Atkinson, Matthew (Paul of St. Francis)


English Franciscan who was imprisoned for more than 30 years under the anti-Catholic penal laws of his time; b. Yorkshire, 1656; d. Hurst Castle, Hampshire, 1729. Father Paul, who had served for 12 years on the English mission and was at one time definitor of the English province of Franciscans, was betrayed to the authorities for £100. In 1698 he was condemned to life imprisonment for the offense of being a Catholic priest, and most of the long years of his incarceration were spent at the prison of Hurst Castle on the Solent. Gentle and amiable, he soon gained the trust and regard of his keeper, and was allowed for a time to walk outside the prison walls and to enter into friendly relations with many of the people of the area. Eventually, however, a complaint was made about his warder's leniency, and for the last 30 years of his life he voluntarily confined himself to the narrow limits of his cell to avoid causing difficulties for his keeper.

Bibliography: j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present time, 5 v. (LondonNew York 18851902) 1:84. j. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 1:697.

[h. f. gretsch]

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