Bathe, William (1564–1614), diplomat, author, and Jesuit, was born in Drumcondra castle on Easter Sunday 1564, son of John Bathe (d. 1586), Irish solicitor general, chancellor of the exchequer, and grandson of James Bathe (qv), chief baron, and Eleanor Bathe (daughter of Jenico Preston, 3rd Viscount Gormanston, and Catherine Fitzgerald, sister of Thomas Fitzgerald (qv), ‘Silken Thomas’). He was educated privately in Dublin and at St John's College, Oxford; he left before graduation, probably on grounds of conscience. In 1589 he registered in Gray's Inn, one of the four inns of court in which candidates for the Irish bar were required to study. He attended the courts of Elizabeth and Philip II before commencing the study of theology in Louvain (1592), and entered the Jesuit order in Courtrai (1595). He acted as intermediary for O'Neill (qv) during the early stages of the nine years war. After ordination he was appointed adviser to Ludovico Mansoni, legate a latere to Ireland. They reached Valladolid in December 1601 but did not proceed further after the fall of Kinsale.
Bathe never returned to Ireland. Two long letters written in June 1602, in Irish Jesuit archives, indicated keen support for fresh forces massing in northern Spain to free Ireland a jugo haereticorum (‘from the yoke of the heretics’). He maintained periodic contact with the court of Philip III. A brother, Sir John Bathe (qv), deeply respected in Old English circles, assumed the role of religious spokesman for his class for more than a quarter of a century; he too visited the Spanish court. A younger brother, Fr Luke Bathe, headed the Capuchin mission in Ireland in the 1620s and was a renowned preacher. William Bathe was spiritual director to expatriate students in the Irish College, Salamanca. He founded a sodality, ‘Congregación de pobres’, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the poor of that city, and gained a wide reputation for conducting retreats and days of recollection in monasteries and seminaries. He died suddenly in June 1614 while holding a mission for government personnel in Madrid.
His Brief introduction to the true art of music, published in 1584 while he was a student in Oxford (reproduced by Colorado College of Music Press, 1979), and A brief introduction to the skill of song (1596; new ed. by Boethius Press, 1982), were among the earliest printed texts in English on the theory of music and song, and highlighted the ambiguities in mutation from one hexachord to another in a melody with a range of more than six notes. Aparejos para administrar el sacramento de penitencia (1614) reflected his pastoral work. His main claim to fame, however, was Ianua linguarum (1611) with its long preface on linguistic theory. At least thirty editions of this work were published. The most elaborate, A messe of tongues (London, 1617), Ianua linguarum silinguis (Strasbourg, 1629), and Mercurius quadrilinguis (Basel and Padua, 1637), included English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, and German versions. He used short pithy sentences in parallel columns to enable mature students to learn several languages simultaneously. He allowed no repetition of the 5,300 different items of lexis. His multilingual presentation was adopted by Ian Amos Komensky for his Janua linguarum reserata series. Bathe's first cousin, Christopher Nugent (qv), 14th Baron Delvin, used a small number of colloquial phrases in parallel Latin, Irish, and English columns in his Primer of the Irish language for presentation to Queen Elizabeth (1562). The primer followed a system used by English-born wives in the Kildare household to learn Irish from the early fifteenth century. As such the method predated the Aldine Press and the Adagia of Erasmus.