Biographer; b. Alton, Hants, c. 1559 or 1560; d. Liverdun, Lorraine, Oct. 17, 1616. Pitts was nephew to Nicholas Sanders and a scholar of Winchester College (1571) and New College, Oxford (1578–79). He went abroad and entered the English College, Rome (1581), and was ordained (1588). Professor of rhetoric and Greek at the English College, Reims, Pitts earned further degrees at Pont-à-Mousson, Trier (1592), and Ingolstadt (1595). After two years as a canon at Verdun, he was for 12 years confessor and almoner to Antonia, Duchess of Cleves. Following her death, a former pupil, then bishop of Toul, appointed him dean of Liverdun.
Pitts published Tractatus de legibus (Trier 1592), Tractatus de beatitudine (Ingolstadt 1595), and De peregrinatione libri septem (Düsseldorf 1604); but his chief work is Relationum historicarum de rebus Angliae, of which only volume 1, De Illustribus Angliae scriptoribus, completed in 1613, was published (posthumously, Paris 1619, ed. William Bishop). Other sections, on the kings, bishops, and apostolic men of England, were left in MS at his death. Although he strove to replace John Bale's virulently anti-Catholic bibliography, and although he took pains to cite his authorities, Pitts, in exile, lacked opportunities for original research into the English medieval authors who occupy most of his volume, and he was seldom able to supersede or correct Bale's statements of fact by appealing to fresh sources. Concerning English Catholic writers who were his own contemporaries, however, he records valuable firsthand information.
Bibliography: j. pitts, De illustribus angliae scriptoribus (Paris 1619) 816–817. j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time. (London–New York 1885–1902) 5:318–319. t. f. kirby, Winchester Scholars (London 1888). Publications of the Catholic Record Society 37 (1940) 30. w. r. trimble, The Catholic Laity in Elizabethan England 1558–1603 (Cambridge, Mass. 1964).
[d. m. rogers]