Edmund Campion (1540–81) and Elizabeth Anscombe (1919–2001) were among the most brilliant of their generations of Oxford students: he at St. John’s College, she at St. Hugh’s. Later, each held fellowships in the university and delivered sermons in the university church of St. Mary the Virgin. Both converted to Roman Catholicism at some personal cost and wrote powerfully in defense of its teachings. She, who even after her marriage to Peter Geach insisted on being addressed as “Miss Anscombe,” came to hold the Chair of Philosophy at Cambridge previously occupied by her teacher Wittgenstein. After a period of private tutoring and theological education in Douai and Rome, Campion was made Professor of Rhetoric and then of Philosophy at the Jesuit Novitiate in Prague.
Each was skilled in debate and resolute in the face of attack. Both died in the sure conviction of the life to come. Had they ever met, Campion and Miss Anscombe would have had much to discuss—though, living four centuries apart, they never could have done so. Yet, during her final undergraduate year at Oxford, there was indeed a brief meeting between a puzzled Campion and a purposeful Miss Anscombe. The story of that meeting begins in Tudor England.