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John Foxe

Protestant martyrologist

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Related topics
Christian martyrs, Church history, Early works, England, Great Britain
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John Foxe (1517-1587), English Protestant clergyman and author

Foxe was born in Boston, Lincolnshire. He was a tutor to the children of English poet and soldier Henry Howard from 1548 to 1553. With the accession to the English throne of Roman Catholic Mary I, he left the country, remaining on the Continent until 1559, after Elizabeth I became queen of England. He was ordained in 1560. He completed a Latin history of Christian persecutions in 1559, published in English as Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perilous Dayes. This book became popularly known as The Book of Martyrs and was the source of the popular conception of Roman Catholics for generations of English people.

He studied at Oxford, and became fellow of Magdalen College, where he appl'ed himself to church history. Dean Nowell, Hugh Latimer, and William Tyndale were among his intimate friends and correspondents. For his Protestant sentiments he seems to have been expelled from his college: He became tutor in Sir Thomas Lucy's family, and then to the children of the Earl of Surrey for five years. During this period he issued several tracts and a Sermon of John Oecolampadiua (London, 1550?).

After the accession of Mary he was obliged to seek refuge from persecution on the Continent. He met Edmund Grindal at Strasburg and saw through the press in that city a volume of 212 pages on the persecution of Reformers from Wyclif to 1500, entitled Commentarii rerum in ecelesia gestarum masitmarumque per totem Buropam persecutwnum a Vuwleut temporibus ad hanc qua otatem descriptio>(1554). He went to Frankfort and sought to be a mediator in the differences between Dr. Cox and John Knox and removed from there, on Knox's departure, to Basel. Poverty forced him to apply himself to the printer's trade.

Encouraged by Grindal, he labored diligently on his great work on the martyrs, which appeared in Latin at Basel, 1559, and was dedicated to his former pupil, now the duke of Norfolk. Returning to England he spent much time under the roof of the duke, and attended hint to the scaffold, when at the age of thirty-six be was executed for conspiring with Mary Queen of Scots. He received a prebend in Salisbury Cathedral but remained poor all his life although an annuity from the duke of Norfolk of ?20 kept him from want. Called by Archbishop Parker to subscribe -to the canons, he refused, and, holding up a Greek Testament, said, " To this will I subscribe." He was fearless in the avowal of his convictions, and petitioned the queen earnestly but unsuccessfully to spare the lives of two Dutch Anabaptists.


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