Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 172. BOOKS BANNED BY THE PAPISTS.


Before the time of Master Bilney, and the fall of the cardinal, I should have placed the story of Simon Fish, with the book called The Supplication of Beggars; declaring how, and by what means, it came to the king' s hand, and what effect thereof followed after, in the reformation ,of many things, especially of the clergy. But the missing of a few years in this matter breaketh no great square in our story, though that be now entered here, which should have come in six years before. The manner and circumstance of the matter is this:

After that the light of the gospel, working mightily in Germany, began to spread its beams here also in England, great stir and alteration followed in the hearts of many; so that coloured hypocrisy, and false doctrine, and painted holiness, began to be espied more and more by the reading of God's word. The authority of the bishop of Rome, and the glory of his cardinals, were not so high, but such as had fresh wits, sparkled with God's grace, began to espy Christ from antichrist; that is, true sincerity from counterfeit religion: in the number of whom was the said Master Simon Fish, a gentleman of Gray's Inn. It happened the first year that this gentleman came to London to dwell, which was about A.D. 1525, that there was a certain play or interlude made by one Master Roo, of the same inn, gentleman, in which play partly was matter against the Cardinal Wolsey; and when none durst take upon them to play that part which touched the said cardinal, this aforesaid Master Fish took upon him to do it. Thereupon great displeasure ensued against him upon the cardinal's part, insomuch as he, being pursued by the said cardinal the same night that this tragedy was played, was compelled by force to void his own house, and so fled over the sea to Tyndale: upon occasion whereof, the next year following, this book was made (being about the year 1527); and so, not long after, in the year, as I suppose, 1528, was sent over to the Lady Ann Bullen, who then lay at a place not far from the court. Which book her brother seeing in her hand, took it and read it, and gave it her again, willing her earnestly to give it to the king, which thing she so did. This was (as I gather) about A.D. 1528.

The king, after he had received the book, demanded of her who made it: whereunto she answered and said, a certain subject of his, one Fish, who was fled out of the realm for fear of the cardinal. After the king had kept the book in his bosom three or four days, as is credibly reported, such knowledge was given by the king's servants to the wife of the said Simon Fish, that she might boldly send for her husband without all peril or danger: whereupon she, thereby being encouraged, came first and made suit to the king for the safe return of her husband; who, understanding whose wife she was, showed a marvellous gentle and cheerful countenance towards her, asking where her husband was. She answered, "If it like your Grace, not far off." "Then," saith he, "fetch him, and he shall come and go safe, without peril, and no man shall do him harm:" saying moreover, that he had much wrong that he was from her so long; who had been absent now the space of two years and a half. In the which mean time the cardinal was deposed, as is afore showed, and Master More set in his place of the chancellorship.

Thus Fish's wife, being imboldened by the king's words, went immediately to her husband, (being lately come over, and lying privily within a mile of the court,) and brought him to the king; which appeareth to be about A.D. 1530. When the king saw him, and understood he was the author of the book, he came and embraced him with loving countenance. Who after long talk for the space of three or four hours, as they were riding together in hunting, the king at length dismissed him, and bade him take home his wife, for she had taken great pains for him; who answered the king again, and said, he durst not so do, for fear of Sir Thomas More, then chancellor, and Stokesley, then bishop of London. This seemeth to be about A.D. 1530.

The king, taking the signet off his finger, willed him to have him recommended to the lord chancellor, charging him not to be so hardy as to work him any harm. Master Fish, receiving the king's signet, went and declared his message to the lord chancellor, who took it as sufficient for his own discharge, but he asked him, if he had any thing for the discharge of his wife? For she, a little before, had by chance displeased the friars, for not suffering them to say their gospels in Latin in her house, as they did in others, unless they would say them in English. Whereupon the lord chancellor, though he had discharged the man, yet not leaving his grudge towards the wife, the next morning sent his man for her to appear before him; who, had it not been for her young daughter, which then lay sick of the plague, had been like to come to much trouble. Of the which plague, her husband (the said Master Fish) deceasing within half a year, she afterwards married one Master James Bainham, Sir Alexander Bainham's son, a worshipful knight of Gloucestershire; the which aforesaid Master James Bainham not long after was burned, as incontinently after, in the process of this story, shall appear.

And thus much concerning Simon Fish, the author of the Book of Beggars, who also translated a book, called The Sum of the Scripture, out of the Dutch.

Now cometh another note of one Edmund Moddis, the king's footman, touching the same matter.

This Master Moddis, being with the king in talk of religion, and of the new books that were come from beyond the seas, said, if it might please his Grace to pardon him, and such as he would bring to his Grace, he should see such a book as it was a marvel to hear of. The king demanded what they were. He said, "Two of your merchants, George Elyot and George Robinson." The king appointed a time to speak with them. When they came before his presence in a privy closet, he demanded what they had to say, or to show him. One of them said, that there was a book come to theirhands, which they had there to show his Grace. When he saw it, he demanded if any of them could read it. "Yea," said George Elyot, "if it please your Grace to hear it." "I thought so," said the king, "for if need were thou canst say it without book."

The whole book being read out, the king made a long pause, and then said, "If a man should pull down an old stone wall, and begin at the lower part, the upper part thereof might chance to fall upon his head." And then he took the book, and put it into his desk, and commanded them, upon their allegiance, that they should not tell to any man that he had seen the book, &c.

Against this Book of the Beggars, being written in the time of the cardinal, another contrary book or supplication was devised and written shortly upon the same, by one Sir Thomas More, knight, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, under the name and title of The poor silly Souls pulling out of Purgatory. In the which book, after the said Master More, the writer thereof, had first divided the whole world into four parts, that is, into heaven, hell, middle earth, and purgatory; then he maketh the dead men's souls, by a rhetorical prosopopœia, to speak out of purgatory pin-fold, sometimes lamentably complaining of, sometimes pleasantly dallying and scoffing at, the author of the Beggars' Book; sometimes scolding and railing at him, calling him fool, witless, frantic, an ass, a goose, a mad dog, a heretic, and all that naught is. And no marvel, if these simple souls of purgatory seem so fumish and testy; for heat (ye know) is testy, and soon inflameth choler. But yet these purgatory souls must take good heed how they call a man a fool and heretic so often; for if the sentence of the gospel doth pronounce them guilty of hell-fire, who say, "Fool!" it may be doubted, lest those poor, simple, melancholy souls of purgatory, calling this man fool so oft as they have done, do bring themselves thereby out of purgatory-fire to the fire of hell, by that just sentence of the Gospel; so that neither the five wounds of St. Francis, nor all the merits of St. Dominic, nor yet of all the friars, can release those poor wretches! But yet, forasmuch as I do not, nor cannot think, that those departed souls either would so far overshoot themselves, if they were in purgatory, or else that there is any such fourth place of purgatory at all, (unless it be in Master More's Utopia,) as Master More's poetical vein doth imagine, I cease therefore to burden the souls departed, and lay all the wit on Master More, the author and contriver of this poetical book, for not keeping decorum personae, as a perfect poet should have done. They that give precepts of art, do note this, in all poetical fictions, as a special observation, to foresee and express what is convenient for every person, according to his degree and condition, to speak and utter. Wherefore if it be true that Master More saith, in the sequel of his book, that grace and charity increase in them that lie in the pains of purgatory, then is it not agreeable that such souls, lying so long in purgatory, should so soon forget their charity, and fall a railing in their supplication so fumishly, both against this man, with such opprobrious and unsuiting terms, and also against John Badby, Richard Hovedon, John Goose, Lord Cobham, and other martyrs of the Lord, burned for his word: also against Luther, William Tyndale, Richard Hun, and other more, falsely belying the doctrine by them taught and defended; which it is not like that such charitable souls of purgatory would ever do, neither were it convenient for them in that case; which indeed, though their doctrine were false, should redound to the more increase of their pain. Again, where the bishop of Rochester defineth the angels to be ministers to purgatory-souls, some will think, peradventure, Master More to have missed some part of his decorum, in making the evil spirit of the author and the devil to be messenger, between middle-earth and purgatory, in bringing tidings to the prisoned souls, both of the book, and of the name of the maker.

Now, as touching the manner how this devil came into purgatory, laughing, grinning, and gnashing his teeth, in sooth it maketh me to laugh, to see the merry antics of Master More. Belike then this was some merry devil, or else had eaten with his teeth some nasturcium before; which, coming into purgatory, to show the name of this man, could not tell his tale without laughing. "But this was," saith he, "an enmious and an envious laughing, joined with grinning and gnashing of teeth." And immediately upon the same, was contrived this scoffing and railing supplication of the puling souls of purgatory, as he himself doth term them. So then, here was enmying, envying, laughing, grinning, gnashing of teeth, puling, scoffing, railing, and begging; and all together to make a very black sanctus in purgatory. Indeed we read in Scripture, that there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell, where the souls and bodies of men shall be tormented. But who would ever have thought before, that the evil angel of this man that made the Book of Beggars, being a spiritual and no corporal substance, hath teeth to gnash, and a mouth to grin?, But where then stood Master More, I marvel, all this mean while, to see the devil laugh with his mouth so wide, that the souls of purgatory might see all his teeth? Belike this was in Utopia, where Master More's purgatory is founded; but because Master More is hence departed, I leave him with his merry antics. And as touching his book of purgatory, which he hath left behind, because John Frith hath learnedly and effectuously overthrown the same, I will therefore refer the reader to him, while I repair again (the Lord willing) to the history.

After the clergy of England, and especially the cardinal, understood these books of The Beggars' Supplication aforesaid, to be strewed abroad in the streets of London, and also before the king, the said cardinal caused not only his servants diligently to attend to gather them up, that they should not come into the king's hands, but also, when he understood that the king had received one or two of them, he came unto the king's Majesty, saying, "If it shall please your Grace, here are divers seditious persons which have scattered abroad books containing manifest errors and heresies;" desiring his Grace to beware of them. Whereupon the king, putting his hand in his bosom, took out one of the books, and delivered it unto the cardinal. Then the cardinal, together with his bishops, consulted how they might provide a speedy remedy for this mischief, and thereupon determined to give out a commission to forbid the reading of all English books, and namely, this Book of the Beggars, and the New Testament of Tyndale's translation; which was done out of hand by Cuthbert Tonstal, bishop of London, who sent out his prohibition unto his archdeacons with all speed, for the forbidding of that book and divers others; the tenor of which prohibition here followeth

"Cuthbert, by the permission of God, bishop of London, unto our well-beloved in Christ, the archdeacon of London, or to his official, health, grace, benediction. By the duty of our pastoral office, we are bound diligently, with all our power, to foresee, provide for, root out, and put away, all those things, which seem to tend to the peril and danger of our subjects, and specially to the destruction of their souls. Wherefore we, having understanding, by the report of divers credible persons, and also by the evident appearance of the matter, that many children of iniquity, maintainers of Luther's sect, blinded through extreme wickedness, wandering from the way of truth and the catholic faith, craftily have translated the New Testament into our English tongue, intermeddling therewith many heretical articles, and erroneous opinions, pernicious and offensive, seducing the simple people; attempting, by their wicked and perverse interpretations, to profanate the majesty of the Scripture, which hitherto hath remained undefiled, and craftily to abuse the most holy word of God, and the true sense of the same, of the which translation there are many books imprinted, some with glosses, and some without, containing in the English tongue that pestiferous and most pernicious poison dispersed throughout all our diocese of London in great number; which truly, without it be speedily foreseen, without doubt will contaminate and infect the flock committed unto us, with most deadly poison and heresy; to the grievous peril and danger of the souls committed to our charge, and the offence of God's divine Majesty. Wherefore, we, Cuthbert, the bishop aforesaid, grievously sorrowing for the premises, willing to withstand the craft and subtlety of the ancient enemy and his ministers, who seek the destruction of our flock, and with a diligent care to take heed unto the flock committed to my charge, desiring to provide speedy remedies for the premises, do charge you jointly and severally, and by virtue of your obedience straitly enjoin and command you, that by our authority you warn, or cause to be warned, all and singular, as well exempt as not exempt, dwelling within your archdeaconries, that within thirty days' space, whereof ten days shall be for the first, ten for the second, and ten for the third and peremptory term, under pain of excommunication, and incurring the suspicion of heresy, they do bring in, and really deliver unto our vicar-general, all and singular such books as contain the translation of the New Testament in the English tongue; and that you do certify us, or our said commissary, within two months after the day of the date of these presents, duly, personally, or by your letters, together with these presents, under your seals, what you have done in the premises, under pain of contempt.

"Given under our seal, the three and twentieth of October, in the fifth year of our consecration, anno 1526."

The like commission, in like manner and form, was sent to the other three archdeacons of Middlesex, Essex, and Colchester, for the execution of the same matter, under the bishop's seal.


The names of the books that were forbidden at this time, together with the New Testament.

The Supplication of Beggars; the Revelation of Antichrist, of Luther; the New Testament of Tyndale; the Wicked Mammon; the Obedience of a Christian Man; an Introduction to Paul's Epistle to the Romans; a Dialogue betwixt the Father and the Son; Christian Economics; The Union of Dissenters; Pious Prayers.; The Babylonish Captivity; John Huss on Hosea; Zwingle on the Anabaptists; On the Education of Children; Brentius on the Government of a State; Luther on the Galatians; On Christian Liberty; Luther's Exposition upon the Lord's Prayer.

Besides these books here before-mentioned, within a short time after there were a great number more of other books in like manner prohibited by the king's proclamation; but yet by the bishop's procurement, A.D. 1529.

The New Testament, in the catalogue above recited, began first to be translated by William Tyndale, and so came forth in print about A.D. 1529, wherewith Cuthbert Tonstal, bishop of London, with Sir Thomas More, being sore aggrieved, devised how to destroy that false, erroneous translation, as he called it. It happened that one Augustine Packington, a mercer, was then at Antwerp, where the bishop was. This man favoured Tyndale, but showed the contrary unto the bishop. The bishop, being desirous to bring his purpose to pass, communed how that he would gladly buy the New Testaments. Packington hearing him say so, said, "My lord! I can do more in this matter than most merchants that be here, if it be your pleasure; for I know the Dutchmen and strangers that have bought them of Tyndale, and have them here to sell; so that if it be your Lordship's pleasure, I must disburse money to pay for them, or else I cannot have them: and so I will assure you to have every book of them that is printed and unsold." The bishop, thinking he had God by the toe, said, "Do your diligence, gentle Master Packington! get them for me, and I will pay whatsoever they cost; for I intend to burn and destroy them all at Paul's Cross." This Augustine Packington went unto William Tyndale, and declared the whole matter, and so, upon compact made between them, the bishop of London had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money. After this, Tyndale corrected the New Testaments again, and caused them to be newly imprinted, so that they came thick and threefold over into England. When the bishop perceived that, he sent for Packington, and said to him, "How cometh this, that there are so many New Testaments abroad? you promised me that you would buy them all." Then answered Packington, "Surely, I bought all that were to be had: but I perceive they have printed more since. I see it will never be better so long as they have letters and stamps: wherefore you were best to buy the stamps too, and so you shall be sure:" at which answer the bishop smiled, and so the matter ended.

In short space after, it fortuned that George Constantine was apprehended by Sir Thomas More, which was then chancellor of England, suspected of certain heresies during the time that he was in the custody of Master More, After divers communications, amongst other things, Master More asked of him, saying, "Constantine! I would have thee be plain with me in one thing that I will ask; and I promise thee, I will show thee favour in all other things, whereof thou art accused. There is beyond the sea, Tyndale, Joye, and a great many of you: I know they cannot live without help. There are some that help and succour them with money; and thou, being one of them, hadst thy part thereof, and therefore knowest from whence it came. I pray thee, tell me, who be they that help them thus?" "My lord," quoth Constantine, "I will tell you truly: it is the bishop of London that hath holpen us, for he hath bestowed among us a great deal of money upon New Testaments to burn them; and that hath been, and yet is, our only succour and comfort." "Now, by my troth," quoth More, "I think even the same; for so much I told the bishop before he went about it."

Of this George Constantine, moreover, it is reported by Sir Thomas More, that he, being taken and in hold, seemed well content to renounce his former doctrine; and not only to disclose certain other of his fellows, but also studied and devised, how these books, which he himself, and other of his fellows, had brought and shipped, might come to the bishop's hands to he burned, and showed to the aforesaid Sir Thomas More, chancellor, the ship-man's name that had them, and the marks of the fardels, by which the books afterwards were taken and burned. Besides this, he is reported also to have disclosed divers of his companions, of whom some were abjured after, some had abjured before; as Richard Necton, who was committed to Newgate upon the same, and is thought there to have died in prison, or else he had not escaped their hands, but should have suffered burning, if the report of Master More be to be credited.

Notwithstanding the same Constantine afterwards, by the help of some of his friends, escaped out of prison over the seas, and after that, in the time of King Edward, was one of them that troubled the good bishop of St. David's, which after, in Queen Mary's time, was burned. But of Constantine enough.

Mention was made, how the bishops had procured of the king a proclamation to be set forth A.D. 1529, for the abolishing of divers books afore-named, and also for the withstanding of all such as taught or preached any thing against the dignity and ordinances of the Church of Rome. Upon this proclamation ensued great persecution and trouble against the poor innocent flock of Christ.

The books which in this proclamation generally are restrained and forbidden, be afterwards in theregister, more specially named by the bishops; whereof the most part were in Latin, as are above recited, and some were in English, as these and others, partly also above expressed:

A Disputation between the Father and the Son; a Book of the old God and new; Godly Prayers; the Christian state of Matrimony; the burying of the Mass; the Sum of the Scripture; Mattens and Even-song, Seven Psalms, and other heavenly Psalms, with the Commendations, in English; an Exposition upon the seventh Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians; the chapters of Moses called Genesis; the chapters of Moses called Deuteronomy; the Matrimony of Tyndale; David's. Psalter in English; the Practice of Prelates; Hortulus animæ, in English; A.B.C. against the Clergy; the Examination of William Thorpe, &c.

Although these books, with all other of the like sort, by the virtue of this proclamation were inhibited to all Englishmen to use or to read; yet licence was granted before to Sir Thomas More, by Tonstal, bishop of London, A.D. 1527, that he, notwithstanding, might have and peruse them; with a letter also sent to him from the said bishop, or rather by the advice of other bishops, desiring him, that he would show his cunning, and play the pretty man, like a Demosthenes, in expugning the doctrine of these books and opinions: who, albeit he was no great divine, yet because he saw some towardness in him by his book of Utopia, and other fine poetry of his, therefore he thought him a meet man for their purpose, to withstand the proceedings of the gospel, either in making some appearance of reason against it, or at least to outface it, and dash it out of countenance. Wherein there lacked on his part neither good will nor labour to serve the bishop's turn, so far forth as all his rhetoric could reach; filling up with fineness of wit, and scoffing terms, where true knowledge and judgment of Scripture did fail; as by his works and writings against Bilney, Tyndale, Frith, Fish, Barnes, Luther, &c., may soon be discerned, if the reasons and manner of his handling be well weighed, and rightly examined with the touchstone of the Scriptures. But now to fall into our story again.

Upon this fierce and terrible proclamation aforesaid, thus devised and set out in the king's name, A.D. 1529, the bishops, which were the procurers hereof, had that now which they would have; neither did there lack on their part any study unapplied, any stone unremoved, any corner unsearched, for the diligent execution of the same: whereupon ensued a grievous persecution, and slaughter of the faithful; of whom the first that went to rack was Thomas Bilney, of whom sufficiently afore hath been said; and the next was Richard Bayfield, as in the story shall shortly follow.


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