Persons, Or Parsons, Robert, an English theologian, born at Nether Stowey, Somersetshire, June 24, 1546, died in Rome, April 18, 1610. He was educated at St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, and Balliol college, of which he was successively fellow (1568), tutor, bursar, and dean. Having become a Roman Catholic, he went to Padua in 1574, and studied medicine and civil law. He entered the society of Jesus in 1575, was sent to study in the Roman college, and there received holy orders. In 1580 he accompanied Edmund Oampian to England, and travelled about in various disguises ministering to his coreligionists. Campian having been imprisoned in 1581, Persons soon afterward lied to the continent, opened a preparatory seminary for English youths at Eu in Normandy, became successively rector of the English college at Rome and provincial of the English missions, sent emissaries to the king of Scotland at Holyrood to enlist his sympathies in favor of his captive mother, and visited for the same purpose the courts of France, Rome, Portugal, and Spain. He chiefly resided in the Peninsula till 1594, and used his influence to found seminaries for English students at Valladolid (1589), San Lucar (1591), Seville and Lisbon (1592), and St. Omer (1593). In 1594 he was reappointed rector of the English college at Rome, and retained that post till his death.
He has been accused by some writers of employing his credit at the courts of Roman Catholic sovereigns to foment conspiracies against Queen Elizabeth, an accusation supported by the tenor of his writings. His most important works are: " A brief Discours contayning certaine Reasons why Catholiques refuse to goe to Church," printed in London, though dated at Douai (1580; also entitled " A Treatise on Schism "); Be Perse-cutione Anglicana Libellus (Paris and Rome, 1582; English translation, Douai, 1582); "A Christian Directorie guiding men to Eternal Salvation" (part i., London, 1583; part ii., 1591; 2d ed. in modern English, 8vo, 1700, several times reprinted); " A Booke of Christian Exercise appertaining to Resolution " (1584; " altered to the Protestant use," 1585, 1586, 1589, 1594, and 1609); Eesponsio ad Elisabeths Pe-ginm Edicium contra Catholicos, claiming for the pope power to dethrone sovereigns and absolve subjects from their allegiance (Lyons, 1592); "A Conference about the next Succession to the Crown of Ingland" (Nassau, 1594); and "Treatise of the Three Conversions of England from Paganisme to Christian Religion" (3 vols. 8vo, 1603-'4, published under the assumed name of Nicolas Doleman). Several of his works have passed through many editions, and the principal ones are now (1875) in course of republication in England.