John Foxe: Wikis


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John Foxe

Born 1517
Boston, Lincolnshire, England1
Died 1587
Occupation clergyman, author
Genres church history
Literary movement Puritan

John Foxe (1517[1] – April 18, 1587) was an English martyrologist, the author of what is popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history but emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the fourteenth century through the reign of Mary I. Widely owned and read by English Puritans, the book helped mould British popular opinion about the Catholic Church for several centuries.[2]



Foxe was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, England of a middlingly prominent family[3] and seems to have been an unusually studious and devout child.[4] In about 1534, when he was about sixteen, he entered Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was the pupil of John Hawarden (or Harding), a fellow of the college.[5] In 1535 Foxe was admitted to Magdalen College School, where he may either have been improving his Latin or acting as a junior instructor. He became a probationer fellow in July 1538 and a full fellow the following July.

Foxe took his bachelor's degree on July 17, 1537, his master's degree in July 1543, and was lecturer of logic, 1539-40.[6] A series of letters in Foxe's handwriting dated to 1544-45, shows Foxe to be "a man of friendly disposition and warm sympathies, deeply religious, an ardent student, zealous in making acquaintance with scholars."[7] By the time he was twenty-five, he had read the Latin and Greek fathers, the schoolmen, the canon law, and had "acquired no mean skill in the Hebrew language."[8]

Resignation from Oxford

Foxe resigned from his college in 1545 after becoming an evangelical and thereby subscribing to beliefs condemned by the Church of England under Henry VIII.[9] After a year of "obligatory regency" (public lecturing), Foxe would have been obliged to take holy orders by Michaelmas 1545, and the primary reason for his resignation was probably his opposition to clerical celibacy—which he described in letters to friends as self-castration.[10] Foxe may have been forced from the college in a general purge of its Protestant members, although college records state that he resigned of his own accord and "ex honesta causa."[11] Foxe's change of religious opinion may have temporarily broken his relationship with his stepfather and may even have put his life in danger. Foxe personally witnessed the burning of William Cowbridge in September 1538.[12]

After being forced to abandon what might have been a promising academic career, Foxe experienced a period of dire need. Hugh Latimer invited Foxe to live with him, but Foxe eventually became a tutor in the household of Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, near Stratford-on-Avon. Before leaving the Lucys, Foxe married Agnes Randall on February 3, 1547. [13] They had six children.[14]

In London under Edward VI

Foxe's prospects, and those of the evangelical cause generally, improved after the death of Henry VIII in January 1547, the accession of Edward VI, and the formation of a Privy Council dominated by pro-reform Protestants. In the middle or latter part of 1547, Foxe moved to London and probably lived in Stepney. There he completed three translations of Protestant sermons published by the "stout Protestant" Hugh Singleton.[15] During this period Foxe also found a patron in Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond, who hired him as tutor to the orphan children of her brother, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a Catholic who had been executed for treason in January 1547.[16] (The children were Thomas, who would become the fourth duke of Norfolk and a valuable friend of Foxe's; Jane, later Countess of Westmorland; Henry, later earl of Northampton; and Charles, who would later command the English fleet against the Spanish Armada.) Foxe lived in the duchess's London household at Mountjoy House and later at Reigate Castle, and the duchess's patronage "facilitated Foxe's entry into the ranks of England's Protestant elite."[17] During his stay at Reigate, Foxe helped suppress cult that had arisen around the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Ouldsworth, which had been credited with miraculous healing powers.[18]

Foxe was ordained deacon by Nicholas Ridley on June 24, 1550, and his circle of friends, associates, and supporters included John Hooper, William Turner, John Rogers, William Cecil, and most importantly John Bale, who was to become a close friend and "certainly encouraged, very probably guided, Foxe in the composition of his first martyrology.[17] From 1548 to 1551, Foxe brought out one tract opposing the death penalty for adultery and another supporting ecclesiastical excommunication of those whom he thought "veiled ambition under the cloak of Protestantism." He also worked unsuccessfully to prevent the two burnings for religion that occurred during the reign of Edward VI.[19]

Marian Exile

On the accession of Mary I in July 1553, Foxe lost his tutorship when the children's grandfather, the Duke of Norfolk was released from prison. Foxe walked warily as befitted one who had published Protestant books in his own name. As the political climate worsened, Foxe believed himself personally threatened by Bishop Stephen Gardiner. Just ahead of officers sent to arrest him, he sailed with his pregnant wife from Ipswich to Nieuwpoort.[20] He then traveled to Antwerp, Rotterdam, Frankfurt and Strasbourg, which he reached by July 1554. In Strasbourg Foxe published a Latin history of the Christian persecutions, the draft of which he had brought from England and "which became the first shadowy draft of his Acts and Monuments."[21]

In the fall of 1554 Foxe moved to Frankfurt, where he served as a preacher for the English church ministering to refugees in the city. There he was unwillingly drawn into a bitter theological controversy. One faction favored the church polity and liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer while the other advocated Reformed models promoted by John Calvin's Genevan church. The latter group, led by John Knox, was supported by Foxe; the former was led by Richard Cox. (In other words, the exiles were divided into Knoxians and Coxians.) Eventually Knox—who seems to have acted with the greater magnanimity—was expelled, and in the fall of 1555, Foxe and about twenty others also left Frankfurt.[22] Although Foxe clearly favored Knox, he was irenic by temperament and expressed his disgust at "the violence of the warring factions."[23]

Moving to Basel, Foxe worked with his fellow countrymen John Bale and Lawrence Humphrey at the drudgery of proofreading. (Educated Englishmen were noted for their learning, industry, and honesty and "would also be the last persons to quarrel with their bread and butter." No knowledge of German or French was required because the English tended to socialize with each other and could communicate with scholars in Latin.)[24] Foxe also completed and had printed a religious drama, Christus Triumphans (1556), in Latin verse. Yet despite receiving occasional financial contributions from English merchants on the continent, Foxe seems to have lived very close to the margin and been "wretchedly poor."[25]

When Foxe received reports from England about the ongoing religious persecution there, he wrote a pamphlet urging the English nobility to use their influence with the queen to halt it. Foxe feared that the appeal would be useless, and his fears proved correct.[26] When his friend Knox attacked Mary Stuart in his now famous The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, Foxe apparently criticized Knox's "rude vehemency," although their friendship seems to have remained unimpaired.[27]

Return to England

After the death of Mary I in 1558, Foxe was in no hurry to return home, and he waited to see if religious changes instituted by her successor, Elizabeth I, would take root. Foxe was also so poor that he was unable to travel with his family until money was sent to him.[28] Back in England, he seems to have lived for ten years at Aldgate, London, in the house of his former pupil, Thomas Howard, now Fourth Duke of Norfolk.[29] Foxe quickly became associated with John Day the printer and published works of religious controversy while working on a new martyrology that would eventually become the Actes and Monuments.

Foxe was ordained a priest by his friend Edmund Grindal, now Bishop of London, but he "was something of a puritan, and like many of the exiles, had scruples about wearing the clerical vestments laid down in the queen's injunctions of 1559." Many of his friends eventually conformed, but Foxe was "more stubborn or single-minded." Some tried to find him preferments in the new regime, but it "was not easy to help a man of so singularly unworldly a nature, who scorned to use his powerful friendships to advance himself."[30]

Actes and Monuments

Dual martyrdom by burning, 1558; from a 1641 edition of Foxe.

Foxe began his Book of Martyrs in 1552, during the reign of Edward VI, with the Marian burnings still in the future. In 1554, while still in exile, Foxe published in Latin at Strasbourg the first shadow of his great book, emphasizing the persecution of the English Lollards during the fifteenth century. But as word of the contemporary English persecution made its way to the continent, Foxe began to collect materials to continue his story to the present. He published the first true Latin edition of his famous book at Basel in August 1559, although the segment dealing with the Marian martyrs was "no more than a fragment."[31] Of course, it was difficult to write contemporary English history while living (as he later said) "in the far parts of Germany, where few friends, no conference, [and] small information could be had."[32] Nevertheless, Foxe who had left England poor and unknown, returned only poor. He had gained "a substantial reputation" through his Latin work.[33]


First edition

On March 20, 1563, Foxe published the first English edition of the Actes and Monuments from the press of John Day.[34] It was a "gigantic folio volume" of about 1800 pages, about three times the length of the 1559 Latin book.[35] As is typical for the period, the full title was a paragraph long and is abbreviated by scholars as Acts and Monuments,[36] although the book was popularly known then, as it is now, as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Publication of the book made Foxe instantly famous—-"England's first literary celebrity"-—although because there were then no royalties, Foxe remained as poor as ever despite the fact that the book sold for more than ten shillings, three week's pay for a skilled craftsman.[37]

Second edition

Actes and Monuments was immediately attacked by Catholics such as Thomas Harding, Thomas Stapleton, and Nicholas Harpsfield.[38] In the next generation, Robert Parsons, an English Jesuit, also struck at Foxe in A Treatise of Three Conversions of England (1603-04). Harding, in the spirit of the age, called Actes and Monuments ' "that huge dunghill of your stinking martyrs," full of a thousand lies'.[39]

Intending to strengthen his book against his critics, and being flooded by new material brought to light by the publication of the first edition,[40] Foxe put together a second edition in 1570 and where the charges of his critics had been reasonably accurate, Foxe removed the offending passages. Where he could rebut the charges, "he mounted a vigorous counter-attack, seeking to crush his opponent under piles of documents."[41] Even though he deleted material that had been included in the first edition, the second edition was nearly double the size of the first, "two gigantic folio volumes, with 2300 very large pages" of double-columned text.[42]

The edition was well received by the English church, and the upper house of the convocation of Canterbury meeting in 1571, ordered that a copy of the Bishop's Bible and "that full history entitled Monuments of Martyrs" be installed in every cathedral church and that church officials place copies in their houses for the use of servants and visitors. The decision was of certain benefit to Foxe's printer Day because he had taken great financial risks printing such a mammoth work.[43]

Third and fourth editions

Foxe published a third edition in 1576, but it was virtually a reprint of the second, although printed on inferior paper and in smaller type.[44] The fourth edition, published in 1583, the last in Foxe's lifetime, had larger type and better paper and consisted of "two volumes of about two thousand folio pages in double columns." Nearly four times the length of the Bible, the fourth edition was "the most physically imposing, complicated, and technically demanding English book of its era. It seems safe to say that it is the largest and most complicated book to appear during the first two or three centuries of English printing history."[45] The title page included the poignant request that the author "desireth thee, good reader, to help him with thy prayer."[46]


Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others; and his accounts of these early events were no more accurate than his sources.

Foxe's great contribution, however, was his compilation of the English martyrs from the period of the Lollards through the persecution of Mary I. Here Foxe had primary sources of all kinds to draw on: episcopal registers, reports of trials, and the testimony of eyewitnesses, a remarkable range of sources for English historical writing of the period.[47]

Foxe maintains a high standard of honesty in his work, although he often treated this material casually, and any reader "must be prepared to meet plenty of small errors and inconsistencies."[48] Furthermore, Foxe did not hold to later notions of neutrality or objectivity. He made unambiguous side glosses on his text, such as "Mark the apish pageants of these popelings" and "This answer smelleth of forging and crafty packing"[49]—although as J. F. Mozley argues in his defense, Foxe's age not only one of strong language but of cruel deeds. Foxe was, after all, describing the burning of human beings for the crime of holding unfashionable religious opinions.[50]

Foxe's material is more accurate when he deals with his own period, although it is selectively presented, and the book is not an impartial account. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica went so far as to accuse Foxe of "wilful falsification of evidence."[51] Nevertheless, Foxe is "factually detailed and preserves much firsthand material on the English Reformation unobtainable elsewhere."[52] And in the words of J. F. Mozley, Foxe presented "lifelike and vivid pictures of the manners and feelings of the day, full of details that could never have been invented by a forger."[53]

Sometimes Foxe copied documents verbatim; sometimes he adapted them to his own use. Although both he and his contemporary readers were more credulous than most moderns, Foxe presented "lifelike and vivid pictures of the manners and feelings of the day, full of details that could never have been invented by a forger."[54] Foxe's method of using his sources "proclaims the honest man, the sincere seeker after truth."[55]

Life under Elizabeth I

Salisbury and London

Foxe had dedicated Acts and Monuments to the queen,[56] and on May 22, 1563, he was appointed prebend of Shipton in Salisbury Cathedral, in recognition of his championship of the English church.[57] Foxe never visited the cathedral or performed any duties associated with the position except to appoint a vicar, William Masters, a highly educated, fellow evangelical and former Marian exile. Foxe's inaction as a canon of the cathedral led him to him being declared contumacious, and he was charged with failing to give a tithe for repairs to the cathedral. Perhaps his poverty made him unwilling to spare the time or money to make visits or contributions. In any case, he retained the position until his death.[58]

By 1565 Foxe had been caught up in the vestments controversy led at that time by his associate Crowley. Foxe's name was on a list of "godly preachers which have utterly forsaken Antichrist and all his Romish rags" that was presented to Lord Robert Dudley some time between 1561 and 1564.[59] He was also one of the twenty clergymen who on March 20, 1565 petitioned to be allowed to choose not to wear vestments; but unlike many of the others, Foxe did not have a London benefice to lose when Archbishop Parker enforced conformity. Rather, when Crowley lost his position at St Giles-without-Cripplegate, Foxe may have preached in his stead.[60]

At some point before 1569, Foxe left Norfolk's house and moved to his own on Grub Street. Perhaps his move was motivated by his concerns about Norfolk's exceptionally poor judgment in attempting to marry Mary Stuart, which led to his imprisonment in the Tower in 1569 and his condemnation in 1572 following the Ridolfi Plot. Although Foxe had written Norfolk "a remarkably frank letter" about the injudiciousness of his course, after Norfolk's condemnation, he and Alexander Nowell ministered to the prisoner until his execution, which Foxe attended, on June 2, 1572.[61]

In 1570, at the request of Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, Foxe preached the Good Friday sermon at Paul's Cross. This lofty exposition of the Protestant doctrine of redemption and attack on the doctrinal errors of the Roman Catholic Church was enlarged and published that year as A Sermon of Christ Crucified.[62] Another sermon Foxe preached seven years later at Paul's Cross resulted in his denunciation to the Queen by the French ambassador on grounds that Foxe had advocated the right of the Huguenots to take arms against their king. Foxe replied he had been misunderstood, that he had argued only that if the French king permitted no foreign power (i.e. the Pope) to rule over him, the French Protestants would immediately lay down their arms.[63]

In 1571, Foxe edited an edition of the Anglo-Saxon gospels, in parallel with the Bishops' Bible translation, under the patronage of Archbishop Parker, who was interested in Anglo-Saxon and whose chaplain, John Jocelyn was an Anglo-Saxon scholar. Foxe's introduction argues that the vernacular scripture was an ancient custom in England.[64]

Death and legacy

Foxe died April 18, 1587 and was buried at St. Giles's, Cripplegate. His widow, Agnes, probably died in 1605. Foxe's son, Samuel Foxe (1560-1630) prospered after his father's death and "accumulated a substantial estate." Fortunately for posterity, he also preserved his father's manuscripts, and they are now in the British Library.


Foxe was so bookish that he ruined his health by his persistent study.[65] Yet, he had "a genius for friendship," served as a spiritual counselor, and was a man of private charity. He even took part in matchmaking.[66] Foxe was so well known as a man of prayer that Francis Drake credited his victory at Cadiz in part to Foxe's praying.[67] Furthermore, Foxe's extreme unworldliness caused others to claim that he had prophetic powers and could heal the sick.[68]

Certainly Foxe had a hatred of cruelty in advance of his age. When a number of Flemish Anabaptists were taken by Elizabeth's government in 1572 and sentenced to be burnt, Foxe first wrote letters to the Queen and her council asking for their lives and then wrote the prisoners themselves (having his Latin draft translated into Flemish) pleading with them to abandon what he considered their theological errors. Foxe even visited the Anabaptists in prison. (The attempted intercession was in vain; two were burnt at Smithfield "in great horror with roaring and crying.")[69]

John Day's son Richard, who knew Foxe well, described him in 1607 as an "excellent man...exceeding laborious in his pen...his learning inferior to none of his age and time; for his integrity of life a bright light to as many as knew him, beheld him, and lived with him."[70] Foxe's funeral was accompanied "by crowds of mourners."[71]

Foxe's historical reputation

After his death, Foxe's Acts and Monuments continued to be published and appreciatively read. John Burrow refers to it as, after the Bible, "the greatest single influence on English Protestant thinking of the late Tudor and early Stuart period." [72]

By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the work tended to be abbreviated to include only "the most sensational episodes of torture and death" thus giving to Foxe's work "a lurid quality which was certainly far from the author's intention."[73] Because Foxe was used to attack Catholicism and a rising tide of high-church Anglicanism, the book's credibility was challenged in the early nineteenth century by a number of authors, most importantly, Samuel R. Maitland.[74] In the words of one Catholic Victorian, after Maitland's critique, "no one with any literary pretensions...ventured to quote Foxe as an authority."[75] Further analysis of Maitland's criticism in the twenty-first century has in the words of David Loades, that Maitland "deserves to be treated with genuine, but limited, respect. His demolition of the martyrologist's history of the Waldenses, and of some of his other medieval reconstructions, was accurate up to a point, but he never addressed those parts of the Acts and Monuments where Foxe was at his strongest, and his general conclusion that the work was nothing but a tissue of fabrications and distortions is not supported by modern analysis."[76]

It was not until J. F. Mozley published John Foxe and His Book in 1940 that Foxe's rehabilitation as a historian began, initiating a controversy that has continued to that present.[77] Recently, renewed interest in Foxe as a seminal figure in early modern studies created a demand for a new critical edition of the Actes and Monuments, Foxe's Book of Martyrs Variorum Edition.

In the words of Thomas S. Freeman, one of the most important living Foxe scholars, "current scholarship has formed a more complex and nuanced estimate of the accuracy of Acts and Monuments....Perhaps [Foxe] may be most profitably seen in the same light as a barrister pleading a case for a client he knows to be innocent and whom he is determined to save. Like the hypothetical barrister, Foxe had to deal with the evidence of what actually happened, evidence that he was rarely in a position to forge. But he would not present facts damaging to his client, and he had the skills that enabled him to arrange the evidence so as to make it conform to what he wanted it to say. Like the barrister, Foxe presents crucial evidence and tells one side of a story which must be heard. But he should never be read uncritically, and his partisan objectives should always be kept in mind."[17]

See also



  1. ^ "On the other hand, the patent of arms granted in 1598 to the family of John Foxe, and first printed by Maitland from a copy of 1692 in the college of arms, gives his birth year as 1516, and the date may have been supplied by [his own son] Samuel. But Samuel is very inaccurate in such matters; his diary misdates important happenings in his own life; and [his other son] Simeon's statement is too precise to be disregarded." Mozley, 12.
  2. ^ William Haller, Foxe's First Book of Martyrs and the Elect Nation (London: Jonathan Cape, 1963) argues that the Acts and Monuments is a complex book, both a reconceptualization of the history of England and a portrait of the English church as an elect people whose history of suffering and dedication to the pure faith echo the history of Israel in the Old Testament.
  3. ^ In 1551, one Henry Foxe, a merchant and possible relative, became mayor of that town.
  4. ^ J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and His Book (New York: Macmillan Company, 1940), 13. After work when boys went out to play, "John would stay behind; and when search was made, he was found in church (sacro) as his prayers or deep in a book."
  5. ^ Hawarden was perhaps a family friend; he had become rector of Coningsby in 1533, and Foxe's mother, her husband having died when Foxe was young, had married Richard Melton, a yeoman of Coningsby. Three decades later Foxe made a dedication to Hawarden in one of his books, thanking Hawarden for enabling his education. At Brasenose College, Foxe shared rooms with Alexander Nowell, afterwards dean of St Paul's Cathedral.
  6. ^ Foxe wrote several Latin plays on biblical subjects, of which the best, De Christo triumphante or Christus triumphans, an allegorical verse drama on the history of the church, was printed in London in 1551 and by Oporinus in Basel in March 1556. It was performed at Cambridge and probably Oxford in the 1560s. The play was translated into French in 1562 and English in 1579. The latter translation was produced by Richard Day, son of the printer, John Day or Daye, who published Foxe's Actes and Monuments. Foxe's earliest extant literary creation is Titus et Gesippus (w. 1544), a Latin comedy based on Boccaccio.
  7. ^ Mozley, 18.
  8. ^ Mozley, 20.
  9. ^ Foxe may have refused to attend mass. Other evangelicals of future renown at Magdalen then were Henry Bull, Laurence Humphrey, Thomas Cooper, and Robert Crowley.
  10. ^ BL, Lansdowne MS 388, fols. 80v, 117r.
  11. ^ There exists in Foxe's papers a draft of a letter to Owen Oglethorpe, president of Magdalen, in which Foxe protests against the charges of irreverence and of belonging to a new religion, which were brought against him by some of the college's masters who are not named by Foxe (BL, Lansdowne MS 388, fols. 53r–58r). Foxe says these masters were persecuting other fellows, including Thomas Cooper, later bishop of Lincoln and Winchester under Elizabeth, and Robert Crowley, a lifelong friend and associate of Foxe's who also left the college at this time. Foxe's letter is printed in Pratt's edition (vol. i. Appendix, 58-61); see also J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and His Book (New York: Macmillan Company, 1940).
  12. ^ Mozley, 21.
  13. ^ Thomas S. Freeman, "Foxe, John," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). The reasons for Foxe's departure from the Lucys are unknown. According to short remembrance written by Simeon Foxe in 1611 and appended to the 1641 Actes and Monuments, Foxe stayed with the Randalls in Coventry before returning to his parents' in Coningsby.
  14. ^ John H. King, ed., Foxe's Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), xvii.
  15. ^ One sermon was by Martin Luther ESTC 16983 and another by Urbannus Regius: An Instruction of the Christian Faith (ESTC 120847).
  16. ^ Surrey's father, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was then imprisoned in the Tower of London.
  17. ^ a b c Freeman, ODNB.
  18. ^ Freeman, brief on-line biography of Foxe.
  19. ^ Mozley, 31-36.
  20. ^ Mozley, 41.
  21. ^ Mozley, 42. He had assistance from two clerics of widely differing opinions--from Edmund Grindal, who was later, as Archbishop of Canterbury, to maintain his Puritan convictions in opposition to Elizabeth; and from John Aylmer, afterwards one of the bitterest opponents of the Puritan party. Bale too is also thought to have been a critical assistant in the production of this book which dealt chiefly with figures deemed precursors to the Protestant Reformation: John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Savonarola and Reginald Pecock. It was printed in Strasbourg by Wendelin Richelius with the title of Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum.
  22. ^ Mozley, 44-46. The prayer book faction reported Knox as having written treason against emperor, and they also persuaded the town magistrates to enforce the Prayer Book service on the English church.
  23. ^ Mozley, 46.
  24. ^ Mozley, 50-51, 57. Foxe labored over the proofreading of Thomas Cranmer's second book on the Eucharist in the printing house of Johann Herbst (or Oporinus), a book he thought "crabbed and obscure" (Mozley, 46) and which proved too controversial to be printed. (Mozley, 56) Foxe also served as an assistant to Hieronymus Froben in the production of a Latin edition of St. John Chrysostom's works.
  25. ^ Mozley, 51.
  26. ^ The pamphlet, Ad inclytos ad praepotentes Angliae proceres ... supplicatio (1557) was issued from the press of Oporinus.
  27. ^ Mozley, 58.
  28. ^ Mozley, 61.
  29. ^ Mozley, 62. Howard retained sincere affection for his tutor and left him a small pension in his will years later when Norfolk was executed for treason.
  30. ^ Mozley, 63.
  31. ^ Mozley, 118-123.
  32. ^ Mozley, 124.
  33. ^ Thomas S. Freeman, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  34. ^ Day's epitaph reads: "He set a Foxe to write how martyrs run/By death to life. Foxe ventured pains and health/To give them light: Daye spent in print his wealth,/And God with gain restored his wealth again,/ And gave to him as he gave to the poor." (Mozley, 138)
  35. ^ Mozley, 129.
  36. ^ The full title is "Actes 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 1000 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."
  37. ^ Freeman, ODNB'; Mozley, 130; David Loades, "The Early Reception."
  38. ^ Harpsfield, a former archdeacon of Canterbury under Mary I, wrote under the name of Alan Cope, Dialogi sex, contra summi pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatores, et pseudomartyres (1566), a thousand page book, with the sixth dialogue aimed at Foxe. Mozley, 139.
  39. ^ Mozley, 138.
  40. ^ "[P]ersonal testimonies poured in on Foxe without solicitation as people sought to exonerate themselves and accuse or eulogize others." Freeman, ODNB.
  41. ^ Freeman, ODNB. "In short, Foxe reacted to Harpsfield's challenge like the commander of a besieged city, abandoning what could not be defended and fortifying what could. Harpsfield drove Foxe to more intensive and extensive research and made his martyrology a more impressive, although not necessarily more accurate, work of scholarship."
  42. ^ Mozley, 141.
  43. ^ Mozley, 147.
  44. ^ Mozley, 148-49.
  45. ^ John N. King, Foxe's Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives ((Oxford University Press, 2009), xli.
  46. ^ Mozley, 149-50.
  47. ^ Freeman, ODNB.
  48. ^ Mozley, 155.
  49. ^ Mozley, 157.
  50. ^ Mozley, 158.
  51. ^ "John Foxe", 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
  52. ^ 2009 Encyclopedia Britannica.
  53. ^ Mozley, 168.
  54. ^ Mozley, 168.
  55. ^ Mozley, 168. "What the intent and custom is of the papists to do, I cannot tell: for mine own I will say, although many other vices I have, yet from this one I have always of nature abhorred, wittingly to deceive any man or child, so near as I could, much less the church of God, whom I with all my heart do reverence, and with fear obey." A&M, 3, 393
  56. ^ In the dedication, Foxe compares his work to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, and Elizabeth to Eusebius' patron, the emperor Constantine. This dedication was dropped after 1563.
  57. ^ Mozley, 67.
  58. ^ Mozley, 69.
  59. ^ Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys Library, "Papers of state", 2.701.
  60. ^ Mozley, 75. Mozley says that the registers show that Foxe was never officially vicar of St. Giles.
  61. ^ Freeman, ODNB; Mozley, 84. Norfolk left Foxe twenty pounds a year.
  62. ^ STC 11242.
  63. ^ Mozley, 93-94.
  64. ^ Mozley, 80-81. "Anglo-Saxon studies were patronized by Archbishop Parker in the hope that they would demonstrate that the Church in England had always been independent of Rome. It was a preoccupation analogous to aspects of French Gallicanism." John Burrow, A History of Histories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, 295.
  65. ^ Mozley, 95-96.
  66. ^ Mozley, 96, 100-01.
  67. ^ Mozley, 101-02.
  68. ^ Mozley, 96, 105-07. Foxe had to stop the sick from being carried to him for healing.
  69. ^ Mozley, 86-89.
  70. ^ Mozley, 240-41.
  71. ^ Mozley, 240.
  72. ^ John Burrow, A History of Histories (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 296.
  73. ^ Freeman, ODNB.
  74. ^ Freeman, ODNB. Maitland, Six letters on Foxe's Acts and Monuments (1837).
  75. ^ D. Trenow, "The Credibility of John Foxe, the 'martyrologist' (1868), quoted in Freeman, ODNB.
  76. ^ David Loades, "The Maitland Controversy"
  77. ^ Freeman, ODNB; David Loades, "The Maitland Controversy"

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John Foxe (1516 or 15171587-04-18) was an English Protestant writer, editor and translator. His immensely influential Acts and Monuments, better known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, was for three centuries one of the books most commonly found in English households.



Acts and Monuments (1563)

Quotations are cited from the transcript of the 1583 edition at HRI Online.

  • There is no keeping down of veritie, but it wil spring and come out of dust and ashes, as appeared right well in this man. For though they digged vp his body, burnt his bones, & drowned his ashes, yet þe word of God and truth of his doctrine with the fruit & successe therof they could not burne.
    • Bk. 5, p. 464
  • M. Tyndall hearing thys, ful of godly zeale, and not bearing that blasphemous saying, replied againe & sayde: I defie the Pope and all his lawes: and further added, that if God spared hym life, ere many yeares he would cause a boy that driueth the plough to know more of the Scripture, then he did.
    • Bk. 8, p. 1076
  • At last, after muche reasoning, when no reason woulde serue, although he deserued no death, he was…brought forth to the place of execution, was there tied to þe stake, and then strangled first by the hangman, and afterward with fire consumed in the morning at the towne of Filford, an. 1536. crieng thus at the stake with a feruente zeale, and a loud voyce: Lord open the King of Englands eyes.
    • Bk. 8, p. 1079
  • Then brought they a fagot kindled with fire, and layd the same downe at D. Ridleys feete. To whome Maister Latymer spake in this maner: Be of good comfort maister Ridley, and play the man: wee shall this day light such a candle by Gods grace in England, as (I trust) shall neuer be put out.
    • Bk. 11, p. 1770
  • Afterward she opened the matter more plainly to M. Rise and Mistres Clarentius (if it be true that they tolde me, whiche hearde it of M. Rise himselfe) who then being most familiar with her, & most bold about her, tolde her that they feared she took thought for king Philips departing from her. Not that onely (sayde she) but when I am dead & opened, you shall find Calice lying in my hart.
    • Bk. 12, p. 2098

About John Foxe

  • Second only to the Bible in its influence, Foxe's work frequently stood beside the Bible on pulpits and in libraries.
  • To say that Foxe's Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church (to give the Book of Martyrs its official title) was hugely influential on English thought during the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would be a gross understatement of the case. Only the Bible was read more frequently and more avidly.
    • Meic Pearse The Gods of War (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2007) p. 102.

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Simple English

John Foxe (1516April 8, 1587) is remembered as the author of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.


Education and Resignation from Oxford

Foxe was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, England of a prominent family. In 1535 Foxe was admitted to Magdalen College School. He became a fellow July 1539. Foxe resigned from his college in 1545, after referring to it as "a prison." During his time at Oxford he became an evangelical, meaning that he decided for Protestant beliefs not accepted by the Church of England under Henry VIII. As he wanted to leave Oxford, Foxe looked to other evangelicals for help but received only advice and a little money. Foxe married Agnes Randall on February 3, 1547.

Life in London under Edward VI

With the death of Henry VIII in January of 1547 Foxe's prospects (and those of the evangelical cause generally) changed for the better. Foxe was ordained deacon by Nicholas Ridley on June 24, 1550.

Marian Exile

In the fall of 1554 Foxe moved to Frankfurt, where he lived with Anthony Gilby in the English colony of Protestant refugees. Foxe then removed to Basel where he lived and worked with John Bale and Lawrence Humphrey.

Return to England

In 1559, when Mary I had died Foxe returned to England. He lived for some time at Aldgate, London, in the house of his former pupil, Thomas Howard. Foxe started publishing works of religious controversy and worked on a new martyrology, which would become the Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Foxe was ordained priest by Edmund Grindal, now Bishop of London, on January 25, 1560, and he moved to Norwich to live with its bishop, John Parkhurst. On March 23 of the following year the first edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs was published.

Foxe was one of the earliest students of Anglo-Saxon, and he and Day published an edition of the Saxon gospels with the help of Archbishop Parker. Foxe died on the 8th of April 1587 and was buried at St. Giles's, Cripplegate.

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