Ignatius on Eloquence (1555)

Robert Claysson, a native of Bruges, had sent a report to Rome in a rather bombastic style, and Ignatius here reproves him for having done so. His comment that Claysson’s letter could not be sent anywhere else without heavy editing refers to the fact that the reports of Jesuit activities regularly sent to Rome were often copied and forwarded to other Jesuit houses and even made public as a way of making the Society better known. Claysson was a very learned, hard-working man and a good teacher and speaker. He later contributed to setting up at Billom in Auvergne, the Society’s first college in France.

For more sources from Ignatius, please visit the Letters of Ignatius of Loyola.



The peace of Christ.

Dearest Master Robert in Christ:

This first letter from me will let you know my attitude towards you, in that I feel so free, without further preliminaries, to admonish you about the style of your letter. Elegant and learned as your letter is in other respects, we find in this very elegance and learning a lack of π ρ ε π ο υ [what is appropriate]. Eloquence and charm in religious speech differs from that of secular speech. Just as in a mature woman one favors modest and unpretentious adornment, so in our men’s speech or writing we like to see an eloquence redolent not of juvenile self-indulgence but of mature gravity, particularly in letters, which by their very nature demand a spare, concise style, with a greater abundance of matter than of words.

We hope Your Charity will receive in good part this advice, which our own charity did not allow us to forgo, for we do not dare send your letter anywhere without heavy editing.

Some selection of topics must also be made, and only those should be included in the quarterly letter which serve for edification.

Moreover, while there are a good many passages in your letter which quite manfully display your happiness to share in the Lord’s cross, there are some others which betray an occasionally somewhat petulant spirit that ill becomes a sturdy soldier of Christ.

Here then, dear brother, you have a censure of our own—so that you will not think that only the Sorbonne is entitled to issue censures! In repayment for my writing my mind to you with such frankness, confidence, and love, I beg your prayers and reciprocal admonition when it is needed.

Farewell in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Rome, March 13, 1555




Original Source (English translation):

Ignatius of Loyola: Letters and Instructions, ed. John W. Padberg, et al. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996, “To Robert Claysson, Rome, March 13, 1555,” pg. 553–554.