The connection between autobiography and conversion remains an inexhaustible topic of research, and lies at the heart of this paper. The exploration will begin with the story of Tobie Matthew (1577-1655), an Englishman who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1606, during a journey to Italy, and years later described his experience in a manuscript. Attentive reading of conversion narratives allows us: better to understand how the self is invented and shaped by the conflicting canons, norms, demands, relations and fears. Matthew offers an excellent case study to observe not just the creativity, ne gotiations and compromises, but also the violence and pressure that pervaded early modern religiosity. A cultivated man, translator of Augustine and Teresa of Avila, lifelong friend of Francis Bacon and John Donne, Matthew consciously constructed his conversion tale based on his literary, moral and theological models. But the narrative he tells, as well as his conversion, far from being an academic exercise, are an effort to overcome his «inner disorder», to heal and free himself from what he called «a desolation of the mind».
Keywords: Autobiography; James I; John Donne; Francis Bacon; conversion; diary; Grand Tour; Agostino d’Ippona