Richard Taverner, A.M.—This distinguished person was born at Brisley in Norfolk, in the year 1505, and educated first in Bennet college, Cambridge, then in the university of Oxford. The famous Cardinal Wolsey having founded a new college at the latter place,* furnished it with all the best scholars in the nation; among whom were Taverner, Tindal, Frith, Goodman, and many others. Here Mr. Taverner and his brethren were soon called to the trial of their faith. They were men of good learning and grave judgments, and Mr. Taverner was famous for his knowledge of music; but conferring together about the corruptions of the church, they were presently accused to the cardinal, and cast into prison. They were confined in a deep cell under the college, where salt fish was wont to be preserved; so that by the filthiness and infection of the place, several of them soon lost their lives. Mr. Taverner, however, escaped the fatal malady. Though he was accused of hiding one Mr. Clark's books under the boards of his school, the cardinal, on account of his music, exempted him, saying, "He is only a musician;" and so he was released.t He had a good knowledge of the Greek language, philosophy, and divinity; but about this time he removed or was expelled from the university, and became a student at the inns of court. Here, when he read any thing in the law, he made his quotations in Greek. In the year 1534, he was taken under the patronage of Lord Cromwell, principal secretary to Henry VIII.; by whose recommendation the king afterwards made him one of the clerks of the signet. This place he kept till the accession of Queen Mary, having been held in high esteem by King Henry, Edward VI., and the Duke of Somerset, the lord protector.
In the year 1539, he published " A Recognition or Correction of the Bible after the best Exemplars." It was printed in folio, dedicated to the king, and allowed to be publicly read in the churches. But upon the fall of Lord Cromwell, in 1540, the bishops causing the printers of the Bible in English to be cast into prison and punished, Mr. Taverner, as the reward of his labours, was sent to the r
* Cardinal Wolsey possessed, for some years, all that power and grandeur which could be enjoyed by the greatest favourite, and most absolute minister, under an arbitrary prince. He exercised as absolute a power in the church, as he had done in the state. His abilities were equal to his great offices, but these were by no means equal to his ambition. He was the only man that ever had the ascendancy of Henry VIII,, but afterwards fell into disgrace.—Granger'$ Biog. Hitt. vol. i. p. 92.
t Fox's Martyrs, vol. ii. p. 209, SSI.
Tower. Here, however, he did not continue lone; for, having fully acquitted himself before his judges, he was soon after released, and restored to his place and the king's favour. He was about this time, a member of parliament, and held in high esteem by men of piety and worth. Upon King Henry's coming to the parliament house in 1545, and exhorting the members to charity, unity, and concord, he published a translation of Erasmus, entitled " An Introduction to Christian concord and unitie in matters of Religion."
In the year 1552, Mr. Taverner, though he was not ordained, obtained a special license subscribed by King Edward, to preach in any part of his dominions ; and he did not fail to make use of the liberty granted him. He preached from place to place through the kingdom; also at court before the king, and in other public places, wearing a velvet bonnet or round cap, a damask gown, and a chain of gold about his neck; in which habit, he sometimes preached in St. Mary's church, Oxford, in the days of Queen Elizabeth. When Queen Mary came to the crown, he retired to his country house called Norbiton-hall, in Surrey, where he continued during the whole of.her reign. Upon the accession of Elizabeth, he presented her majesty with a congratulatory epistle in Latin, for which she exceedingly respected him, placed great confidence in him, and, besides offering him the degree of knighthood, put him into the commission of peace for the county of Oxford. Here numerous concerns were entrusted to him, and, in 1569, he was made high sheriff of the county. Notwithstanding his high station, he did not relinquish his ministerial labours, but continued preaching as he found opportunity. While he was in the office of nigh sheriff, he appeared in St. Mary's pulpit, with his gold chain about his neck, and his sword by his side, and preached to the scholars, beginning his sermon with the following words:—" Arriving at the mount u of St. Mary's, in the stony* stage where f now stand, I 'f have brought you some fine biskets, baked in the oven of u charity, and carefully conserved for the chickins of the " church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet swallows " of salvation, t This way of preaching was then mostly fashionable, and commended by the generality of scholars
* Wood says the pulpit of St. Mary's wai then of fine carved stone; bat it was taken away in 1654, when Dr. John Owen was vice-chancellor, and a pulpit of wood set up in its place.—J then* Oxon. vol. i. p. 144. not*.
t fuller's Church Hist. b. iz. p. 65.
in those times. This celebrated reformer and zealous nonconformist to the church of England, laid down his head in peace, July 14, 1575, aged seventy years. He died at his manor-house, at Wood-Eaton, in Oxfordshire, and his remains were interred with great funeral solemnity, in the chancel of the church at that place.*
His Works.—1. The Sum or Pith of the 150 Psalmes of David, reduced into a forme of Prayers and Meditations, with other certaine godly Orisons, 1539.—2. Correction of the Bible, already mentioned. —3. The Epistles and Gospels, with a brief Postill upon the same, from Advent to Low Sunday, drawn forth by divers learned men for the singular commoditie of all good Christian Persons, and namely of Priests and Curates, 1540.—i. The Epistles and Gospels, with a brief Postill upon the same, from after Easter till Advent, 1540.—5. Fruite of Faith, containing all the Prayers of the holy Fathers, Patriarks, Prophets, Judges, Kings, renowned Men, and Women, in the Old and New Testament, 1582.—6. Various Poems in Latin and English, and several Translations of the works of other learned men.