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ANECDOTES OF JOHN FOXE.
(With an Engraving.)
The birth-place of John Foxe was Boston, in Lincolnshire. The day of his birth is not known. The year was 1517. In that year Luther published his theses against the Church of Rome.
At the age of sixteen he was sent to Oxford. His father was dead; and a step-father, perhaps not of so “good estate' as the deceased parent, could not, or did not, provide all the expenses, but accepted assistance from friends who admired the youth's "good inclinations and towardness to learning." He took his Bachelor's Degree in 1538, his Master's in 1543, and was elected Fellow of Magdalen College in the same year. He entered College a decided Romanist, and so continued for a long time. Alexander Nowell, known by the admirable Catechism that bears his name, was his chamber-fellow, senior by several years, and probably led him into habits of careful study and vigorous thought.
From this College, from the University, and even from the county, he was expelled for heresy, so called, in the year 1545. That glorious heresy, the knowledge of God, whom to know is everlasting life, was drawn by him from the fountains of eternal truth. He spent whole nights in stud and laboured Sard in gathering spiritual wisdom from the original Hebrew
Vol. XVI. Second Series,
and Greek Scriptures, adding prayer to study.
His son relates,* briefly, his conversion to real Christianity. “He would leave his study or his bed, and retire to a neighbouring grove, where the students delighted to walk, and spend some hours of recreation ; and there, amidst darkness and solitude, ponder deeply over what he had been reading, so that he might confirm his mind in the truths he had embraced. How many nights he watched in these solitary walks ! What combats and wrestlings he suffered within himself! How many heavy sighs, and sobs, and tears he poured forth with his
prayers to Almighty God!” Some of his acquaintances, at length, who had become aware of those extraordinary exercises of mind, reported him to the heads of the College as an abettor of the new faith. Spies were placed around him, who feigned themselves friends, and pried into his inmost thoughts, which their affectation of sympathy induced him to disclose. At length unable, in conscience, to unite in the idolatry of the mass, he absented himself from the College chapel and from the church, except on necessary and official occasions. They accused him of heresy, and after being examined by the heads of the College, and convicted, he was expelled. The Judges bade him be thankful for their gentleness in being satisfied with expulsion only, whereas the law empowered them to deliver him to the flames.
After suffering extreme distress, he obtained a situation as private tutor in the fainily of Sir Thomas Lucy, at Charlecote, in Warwickshire, where he married a visiter in the house, daughter of a citizen of Coventry; but, on the termination of his tutorship, was again plunged into profound poverty. At Coventry he found shelter with his wife's father, until searchers for heretics discovered his retreat. Then he asked refuge of his father-in-law in Boston, who told him that he might just come for a short visit; or, if he would “alter his mind," offered him a permanent abode. He could not alter his mind, because God had changed his heart. Reproaches of heresy embittered the brief interview with his mother and step-father ; the people of Boston pointed at him as a heretic, expelled from Oxford, accursed and fugitive; and he therefore resolved to hide himself among the crowds of London, and endeavour, by some honest means, to earn his bread.
* As quoted by Prebendary Townsend, in the “Life of John Foxe," profixed to his invaluable edition of the “ Acts and Monuments," the fullest extant biography of Foxe, and the source of this article.
“As Master Foxe one day sate in St. Paul's Church, spent with long fasting, his countenance thin, and eyes hollow, after the ghastly manner of dying men, everyone shunning a spectacle of so much horror, there came to him one whom he never remembered to have seen before, who, sitting down by him, and saluting him with much familiarity, thrust an untold sum of money into his hand, bidding him be of good cheer; adding withal, that he knew not how great the misfortunes were which oppressed him, but supposed it was no light calamity; that he should therefore accept in good part that small gift from his countryman which common courtesy had forced him to offer; that he should go and take care of himself, and take all occasions to prolong his life; adding, that within a few days, new hopes were at hand, and a more certain condition of livelihood.” Foxe never knew this benefactor. He could not trace the charity to its human source, but no doubt he acknowledged God to have sent that present help in time of need.
Within three days the presage was fulfilled. Some one waited
him from the Duchess of Richmond, who invited him, on fair terms, to enter into her service. The fact was, that the Duke of Norfolk and his son, the Earl of Surrey, were thrown into the Tower for some state offence, and the Earl's children (Thomas, afterwards Duke of Norfolk; Henry, afterwards Earl of Northampton; and Jane, afterwards Countess of Westmoreland) were confided to their aunt, the Duchess of Richmond, to be brought up. She chose Foxe to be their tutor, not ignorant of his principles, nor unwilling that those principles should be brought into the family. The young Duke always regarded his tutor with veneration, and showed him great kindness.
Foxe remained at Reigate, in Surrey, at a residence of the Dukes of Norfolk, during the whole reign of King Edward VI.; and, while there, was ordained Deacon by Ridley, Bishop of London. He was the first, it is said, who preached the Gospel at Reigate, and was instrumental in removing the Popish idolatries of the place. There it was that he added to his engagements as tutor, and to his labours as a Minister of the word of life, the severer studies of an author. He had essayed his powers in the composition of a small work in Latin; and in the year 1548 it issued from the press, the first of his productions printed. Some other small books followed ; but his chief attention was turned towards the collection of materials for that imperishable work, the “ Acts and Monuments of these Latter and Perilous Days, touching Matters of the Church, wherein are Comprehended and Described the Great Persecutions and Horrible Troubles that have been Wrought and Practised by the Romish Prelates, specially in this Realm of England and Scotland, from the Year of our Lord a Thousand, unto the Time now present. Gathered and Collected according to the True Copies and Writings Certificatory, as well of the Parties Themselves that Suffered, as also out of the Bishops' Registers, which were the Doers thereof, by John Foxe.” This, however, is the title of the later English work, which grew into a large volume by the constant accession of new materials. The “Commentaries," written in Latin,* and first printed at Strasburg, were probably begun, and considerably advanced, at Reigate; but the imprinting of such a book in England was then impossible.
When his noble pupil had outgrown his tutorage, he continued to be a visiter, if not a resident, in the ducal mansions. One day Bishop Gardiner called on the young Duke, as he was in the habit of doing, asked after the health of his old tutor, and said he should like to see him. Norfolk instantly surmised the Bishop's object, and, whatever answer he might have made, he did not introduce his tutor. While they were yet talking, Foxe, not knowing that Gardiner was there, came into the room, and, seeing him, suddenly withdrew. “ Who is that?" asked the Prelate. “My physician,” answered the Duke. “ I like his appearance," said Gardiner ; "and, when necessity requires, I will employ him.”
* The title of this more than typographical curiosity is, “ Commentarii Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum, maximarumque per totam Europam persecutionum, a Vuiclevi temporibus ad hanc usque ætatem descriptio. Liber Primus. Authore Joanne Foxo Anglo. His in calce accesserunt Aphorismi Joannis Vuiclevi, cum collectaneis quibusdam, Reginaldi Pecocki Episcopi Cicestrensis. Item, O LOToypapia quædam ad Oxonienses. Argentorati excudebat Vuendelinus Ribelius, Anno M.D.LIIII.
By this time, under Queen Mary, the laws were strangely altered; and although the Duke of Norfolk had dissuaded Foxe from leaving England, Gardiner's back was no sooner turned, than he advised him to lose no time in making his escape. To make the flight as easy and safe as possible, he sent one of his own servants to Ipswich to hire a vessel, and make arrangements for the voyage. Avoiding towns, he sent him with an escort to one of his tenants, on a farm near Ipswich, to be sheltered and concealed until the moment of embarkation. Accompanied by his wife, then great with child, Foxe bade farewell to his pupil and deliverer, and fled for life.
“Scarcely had they weighed anchor, when suddenly a rough wind, rising from the contrary shore, troubled the sea with so great violence, that the stoutest mariners began to tremble. Then followed a dark night, with continued showers; and a great multitude of clouds gathered together into a thick storm of rain and hail, which both hindered the seamen's work, and took away all possibility by the compass any longer to direct their course. That night, with much ado, they lay at anchor; and as soon as the day appeared, when the tempest seemed not likely to cease, they began to cast about, and to make back again to shore; so that, the tide a little favouring them, at length, with much difficulty, they arrived in the same evening at the same haven again whence they had loosed the day before. In the mean while that Mr. Foxe had been at sea, a messenger from the Bishop of Winchester had broke open the farmer's house, with a warrant to apprehend him wheresoever he might be found, and bring him back prisoner to the city ; but understanding he was gone already, after he had pursued him even to the port, and there found that the ship he had embarked in was yet scarcely out of sight, he returned back without his errand. Mr. Foxe, as soon as he came ashore, hearing what had passed, although the news somewhat amazed him, yet recol