John Foxe: a biography
by Tom Freeman

John Foxe (1517-1587) was born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1517. His father, of whom little is known, may have been related to Henry Foxe, an affluent merchant who became Mayor of the town in 1551. He died while John was very young, and his mother subsequently married Richard Melton, a prosperous yeoman of the nearby village of Conningsby. John Hawarden, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, became rector of Conningsby in 1533, and about 1534 John Foxe entered Brasenose, where his room mate was Alexander Nowell, the future Dean of St Pauls. Three decades later Foxe was to dedicate a work to Hawarden, thanking him for making his university career possible.

Magdalen College

Although he took his bachelor's degree on 17th July 1537, it is not clear how long Foxe remained at Brasenose. He may have taught for a time at Magdalen College School, because he became a probationer Fellow at Magdalen in July 1538, and a full Fellow a year later. In 1539-40 he was a College Lecturer in logic, and in July 1543 proceeded Master of Arts. During this time, Foxe became a committed evangelical, and among his papers is a draft of a letter addressed to Owen Oglethorpe, the President of Magdalen, defending himself against charges of belonging to novae cuiusdam religionis (a certain new religion), on account of his zealous study of the scriptures.[1] It is clear that Foxe belonged to an evangelical minority at Magdalen, which was under pressure from the conservative majority.

In a letter of 1545[2] he calls the college a prison, and he resigned his Fellowship soon after. There was also a specific reason for this move - a college statute requiring every Fellow to take priests orders within one year of completing his Regency as Master of Arts. For Foxe this would have meant Michaelmas 1545, and he had no vocation to celibacy. In a letter to a friend he explained that he could not remain in College, 'unless I castrate myself and leap into the priestly caste'. This was a disappointing end to a promising academic career, but his years at Magdalen were not without achievement. In the autumn of 1544 he had written his first surviving literary work, 'Titus et Gesippus', a Latin comedy based on one of Boccacio's tales. More importantly he had also become a part of the Oxford evangelical network. In the future some of his protestant contemporaries (Robert Crowley, Henry Bull and Laurence Humphrey in particular) were to be among his closest friends. However, in the immediate future, he was out of work.

The lean years, 1546-1548

Eventually, several pleading letters later, Foxe secured a position as tutor in the household of Sir William Lucy at Charlecote in Warwickshire. While at Charlecote, on 3rd February 1547, he married Agnes Randall the daughter of a Coventry merchant; but shortly after he left the Lucy household for unknown reasons. Perhaps his conservative enemies had caught up with him.

He moved to London, where his younger son Simeon, writing many years later, in 1611, described him as living in penury, having fallen out with his conservative stepfather. Simeon invented a mysterious stranger who advised him of a change in his fortunes, but it was almost certainly through one of his evangelical contacts, that he was offered the position of tutor in the household of the Duchess of Richmond, where his charges were to be the children of her bother the Earl of Surrey, who had been executed in January 1547. Although this was a dramatic improvement in his fortunes, evidence from the dedication of his translation of a sermon by Martin Luther [3] suggests that he had been living in Stepney before his employment by the Duchess, and had not been destitute. In fact he seems to have made several other translations for the evangelical printer Hugh Singleton during that time, one of which, Urbanus Regius's An Instruction of the Christian faith [4], was dedicated to Richard Melton. In this dedication he thanks his stepfather for his kindness, which suggests that Simeon exaggerated (at least) the rupture between them, and that Foxe may even have received money from that quarter to tide him through the lean times. It may have been Singleton who recommended him to the Duchess of Richmond.

An Edwardian Reformer, 1548-53.

Foxe's pupils were Thomas Howard, then aged about ten, later the fourth Duke of Norfolk, and his younger siblings Jane, later Countess of Westmorland and Henry, later Earl of Northampton. At first they lived at Mountjoy House, the Duchess of Richmond's London residence, and later at her manor of Reigate. There Foxe added a fourth pupil, Charles Howard, later Lord Howard of Effingham. He became in a sense a surrogate father to Thomas, and formed with him a bond which was later to be of great significance to both of them. The Duchess's patronage was also a further passport to the ranks of England's protestant elite.

Foxe was ordained deacon by Nicholas Ridley, then Bishop of London, on the 24th June 1550; he met John Hooper, and became friends with William Turner and John Rogers. He also attracted the attention of William Cecil, who became Principal Secretary in September 1550. Most important, in the spring or summer of 1548, he met John Bale at Mountjoy House. Later in the reign Bale loaned Foxe valuable manuscripts, and encouraged - and possibly guided - the composition of his first martyrology. In 1548 also Foxe became a controversialist, with a tract De non plectendis morte adulteri consultatio [5], in which he argued that adultery should not be a capital crime.

This was highly contentious, and in 1549 the veteran reformer George Joy published a vehement and effective rebuttal - A contrary to a certain mans consultation [6]. Nevertheless Foxe's arguments bore interesting fruit. When arguing against imposing the death penalty on adulterers, he had recommended the use of ecclesiastical sanctions, including excommunication, against them. Joye argued in response that excommunication had fallen into desuetude, and when Foxe published his next work, De censura sive excommunicatione ecclesiastica rectoque eius usa [7], he called for the revival of excommunication, and also for an effective system of ecclesiastical discipline including a new code of Canon Law. This has to be seen as an attempt to encourage, if not influence, the commission for the reformation of the ecclesiastical laws, which finally met in October 1551. De censura … was also dedicated to Cranmer, the sponsor and director of the proposed revision. When it came to the point, the revised Canon Law was rejected by parliament in 1553, but years later Foxe was to attempt the rescue and re-launch of Cranmer's great project.

During his stay at Reigate, Foxe strengthened his evangelical credentials by suppressing a cult attached to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Ouldsworth, which had been credited with miraculous healing powers. This congenial round of teaching, writing and iconoclasm, however, came to an abrupt end with the accession of Mary in July 1553.

The third Duke of Norfolk was released from the Tower, and by order of the Privy Council, recovered custody of his grandchildren. His heir was placed in the household of Stephen Gardiner, and Foxe was sacked. For the time being, he remained in London, and at the end of January 1554 wrote to his friend Peter Deleen, a minister of the Dutch Stranger Church, revealing both his pessimism about the future and his reluctance to leave England. A few months later his fear proved to be stronger than his reluctance, and in the spring he set out with his pregnant wife from Ipswich. After a number of (alleged) adventures, and a storm, the Foxes arrived safely in Nieuport.


The couple stayed only a few days in Nieuport before moving on to Antwerp. However, that offered no safe refuge, and after a detour to Rotterdam to see the birthplace of Erasmus, they pressed on to Frankfort, and finally to Strasbourg, which they reached in July 1554.

There from the press of Wendelin Rihelius Foxe published his Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum.This was dedicated (in a fruitless attempt to secure patronage) to Duke Christopher of Wurtemberg, and dated 31st August 1554. The Commentarii is a history of the true church and the persecution which it suffered from John Wycliffe (ob.1387) to Reginald Peacock and Savonarola, confined largely (but not entirely) to England. Although only an octavo of 212 leaves, this was the forerunner of the Acts and Monuments, and much of it was incorporated into the later work. It was also the main product of the research which had been inspired and directed by John Bale. The Commentarii was largely based on the Fasciculi Zizaniorum, a unique manuscript in Bale's possession, which he must have loaned to Foxe for the purpose.

Foxe returned to Frankfort in the autumn of 1554, and resided with Anthony Gilby, later the puritan sage of Ashby de la Zouche. By that time the English in Frankfort had split into two factions. One, headed by John Knox, used a revised version of the 1552 Prayer Book; and the other, led by Thomas Lever, used the Book without revision. Both parties agreed to invite Peter Martyr to preside over a reconciliation, and Foxe wrote to him on the 12th October 1554, urging him to accept the invitation, but it was not taken up. In January 1555 Foxe sat on a committee of five (the others were Knox, Gilby, William Whittingham and Thomas Cole), which drew up another order of worship, based on the Genevan liturgy. This was rejected by the congregation, but a further compromise formula, (with which Foxe was not involved) was accepted. However, the arrival of Richard Cox in March 1555 put an end to the shortlived harmony. Cox and his supporters, who formed a majority of the congregation, moved the Frankfort authorities to expel Knox at the end of March and to impose the use of the unrevised 1552 order. Foxe's sympathies were, and would remain, with Knox, whom he described years later as having been unjustly treated. In 16 years time Foxe was to initiate his own plan to revise the Prayer Book - with an equal lack of success.

On the 27th August 1555, Whittingham, Foxe and nearly 20 other members of Knox's party wrote a letter to the rest of the congregation, declaring their intention to withdraw, but requesting an arbitration before they left. Their request was rejected. Instead they were summoned to a meeting on the 31st August, which predictably accomplished nothing. Foxe left Frankfort almost immediately thereafter, and by the 22nd September had arrived in Basle. There on that day his infant daughter Christina was baptised, with Thomas Bentham, the future Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield as her Godfather. In Basle Foxe was reunited with John Bale, and lived with him in the former convent which the English exiles rented from the city. He also began to work for the city printers. In a period of seven months in 1557-8, Foxe and his assistants received the equivalent of ₤15 from Hieronymus Froben for preparing a new Latin edition of Chrysostom's works. Most of his work, however, was done as proof reader for Johann Oporinus. This was not lucrative work, and he had a growing family to feed, but he was also partly supported by small sums from more affluent fellow exiles, notably Edmund Grindal and James Haddon.

Working in a print shop had other advantages, notably that it placed him at the very centre of the network of protestant scholarship. Bale who was a known and respected figure in Europe, also helped by introducing him to the great Conrad Gesner, and to Alexander Ales (or Alesius) who was able to supply Foxe with a lot of information about the Henrician Reformation. Another member of Bale's extensive circle was Heinrich Panteleon, a protestant physician, whose own martyrology was to become entwined with Foxe's. In fact Bale was a very generous friend. He not only praised Foxe lavishly in his own great work, the Scriptorum illustrium maioris Brytanniae, he even gave him credit for work which had been based upon his own research.

The continental scholar who had by far the greatest influence on Foxe was Matthias Flacius, whose seminal Catalogus testium veritatis was published by Oporinus in 1556, and in the preparation of which Foxe was certainly involved. This work, which posited a True Church consisting of isolated groups of faithful Christians through the ages, united only by the Holy Spirit and having neither institutions nor personnel in common, would exercise a powerful influence over Foxe's ecclesiology. It also provided him with a rich source of data which would be incorporated into the Acts and Monuments. Extracts from another historical work, edited anonymously by Flacius, the Ioannis Hus et Hieronymi Pragensis confessorum Christi Historia et monimenta, also appeared in Foxe's second Latin martyrology, and much larger pieces would be reprinted in the Acts and Monuments.

Another advantage of working for Oporinus was that it facilitated the publication of his own works. Foxe's Christus Triumphans, an allegorical drama on the history of the church in Latin verse, appeared from that press in March 1556. The major interest of this play lies in the fact that it provides the first evidence of what was to become one of the author's major preoccupations - the history of the church as an ongoing fulfilment of the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelation.

Two minor works by Foxe were also printed by Oporinus in March 1557. The Locorum Communium Tituli was a structured commonplace book, designed to systematise study and develop the memory. In it he supplied headings for 154 topics, divided into 10 categories, but left the pages blank to be filled in by the reader. Ad inclytos ac praepotentes Angliae procures … supplicatio was an appeal to the English nobility to end the persecution of protestants in England. Predictably, the latter had no effect, but it did earn a commendation from Thomas Lever, written in the winter of 1557-8, in response to which Foxe made the first of the complaints of ill health which were to become such a regular feature of his letters in later life.

This ill health may have been aggravated, if not caused, by overwork. In addition to his labours for Oporinus and Froben, and the writing of numerous minor works, Foxe was also busy with two major projects. The first was a translation into Latin of Thomas Cranmer's Answer … unto a crafty cavillation[8]. By the summer of 1556 Foxe had a draft of this ready, but was unable to find a printer for it, because Cranmer's eucharistic theology ruled out any Lutheran printer, and the Basel authorities refused to issue a licence on the grounds that it would stir up undesirable controversy. Christopher Froschauer, the eminent Zurich publisher eventually agreed to print it in March 1558, but it never appeared.

Foxe's second Latin martyrology

The other project did come to fruition as the second Latin martyrology. This was originally intended as part of a more ambitious undertaking proposed, probably by Edmund Grindal who seems to have acted as an informal co-ordinator. The idea was for two parallel editions of a 'martyrum historia', [9] one in English and the other in Latin. Foxe was to be responsible for the latter, while a team of other exiles gathered data and prepared the English version. The intention was that the two works should be as nearly identical as possible, but Foxe seems to have envisaged a different strategy from the beginning. Grindal intended to cover only the Marian persecution, but he (and here Bale's influence can be seen) planned to include also the Lollards and the pre-Marian reformers. Grindal had hoped to have both works ready for publication soon after the summer of 1556, but that proved to be wildly over-optimistic. Foxe did not finish until the late summer of 1559, and then only by drastically curtailing the original scope. The planned English edition was never completed at all, but the considerable collection of documents which had been assembled was then passed to Foxe and used in the preparation of the Acts and Monuments.

Meanwhile, on the 8th September 1558 Foxe's daughter Dorcas was christened, and on the 17th November Queen Mary died. When news of the latter event reached the continent Grindal wrote to Foxe, urging him to delay the publication of his martyrology until 'ex Anglia et certiora et plura comparemus' [10] ('we are able to obtain more accurate and detailed information from England'). Foxe ignored this and pressed on, interrupting his labours only to compose a tract entitled Germaniae ad Angliam gratulatio, which was printed by Oporinus in January 1559. This expressed felicitations on the restoration of the Gospel, and included an epilogue addressed to the Duke of Norfolk, who responded in early March, warmly extending his patronage and expressing his eagerness to see his former tutor.

The Duke was to wait more than six months for his reunion, because for the time being Foxe remained in Basel working on his martyrology. Although he had written repeatedly to Henrich Bullinger and others seeking information on non-English martyrs, in the end (with the important exceptions of John Hus and Jerome of Prague) he restricted himself to those English men and women who had died for the Gospel, a fact reflected in the extended title of the work. At this stage, as the title also suggests,[11] he was planning a further volume or volumes on the continental martyrs, and saw the English Reformation very much in its European context.

The Rerum in ecclesia gestarum, which was printed in Basel in August 1559 by Oporinus and his colleague Nicholas Brylinger, was a folio of about 750 pages divided into six books. The first book was largely a reprint of Foxe's 1554 work with some interesting additions, notably material from Flacius's work on Hus and from Bale's Catalogus. The second book covered the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, from the death of Richard Hunne to the execution of the Duke of Somerset.

The two main sources for this book were firstly Bale's Catalogus and secondly Edward Hall's Chronicle. These sources were supplemented from Alesius's Of the authoritie of the word of God, Bale's edition of a treatise by John Lambert, and Bale's Examination of Anne Askew,extracts from which were reproduced (in Latin). Foxe also relied to some extent on eyewitness accounts which had been sent to him. Among these were the vivid description of Somerset's execution, and (a triumph of directed inquiry) the extraordinarily accurate account of the martyrdom of William Gardiner. With Edward VI's reign, Foxe came into his own, but for earlier events he was almost entirely dependent upon Bale's research, writings and contacts.

The final four books of the Rerum were devoted to the Marian persecution. Book Three, which covered the first 18 months of the reign, ended with the martyrdoms of John Rogers and John Hooper. This was almost entirely a collage of extant printed or MS treatises - Philpot's account of the dispute over the Eucharist in the 1553 Convocation, Foxe's Ad inclytos, the letters of Jane Grey, Stephen Gardiner's examination of Sir James Hales, the accounts by Rogers and Hooper of their examinations, and two works by Hooper which would never be reprinted (an appeal to the English nobility and a treatise on the Eucharist). Where he had previously relied on Bale, Foxe now depended upon material gathered by Grindal and Bullinger.

The final three books covered the rest of the reign down to Cranmer's death in March 1556, and were also based on the research of Grindal and his team. They consisted almost entirely of the writings of the martyrs themselves, mainly their letters and accounts of their examinations. Those for whom such material did not exist were simply listed unless (as happened with John Cardmaker and Thomas Tomkins) other informants supplied accounts of their sufferings. The last four pages merely list the martyrs of the final two and a half years of Mary's reign, with the dates and locations of their executions. The Rerum appeared, with a warm dedication to the Duke of Norfolk, in September 1559.

Although rushed and truncated, this was Foxe's first great literary success. Jean Crespin expressed an interest in publishing a French translation, but ultimately simply paid the author the compliment of extensive plagiarism. The great Bullinger wrote Foxe a letter, congratulating him upon the work. He had left England in 1554, penniless and almost unknown; when he returned in October 1559 he was not much richer, but had a substantial reputation. He also returned with a clear objective in mind - to complete, on his own terms - the martyrology which he had started. That task would preoccupy him for the next decade.

The first edition of the Acts and Monuments

Foxe wasted no time in getting to work. On the 10th November he published one of the last letters which Nicholas Ridley had written as A friendly farewell which master doctor Ridley did write[12], and in an epilogue announced that this was just a sample from the larger work which he was preparing. This was the first of Foxe's works to be printed by John Day, and as there is no indication that they had known each other before, a swift introduction by someone influential is indicated. In September 1560 Day published another of Foxe's books, this time anonymous. A Solemne contestation of divers Popes was a first person singular narrative, ostensibly by the Papal Antichrist himself, describing how he had risen to power over the Princes of Christendom, and how he abused that power. It is composed entirely of quotations from papal Bulls, books of Canon Law and historical works, giving it an appearance of authenticity. The quotations themselves were accurate, but were often twisted completely out of context. This tract was to be reprinted in the Acts and Monuments, and demonstrates that the scope of Foxe's research was already extending beyond England and before Wycliffe.

Since arriving in England, the Foxes had been living at the Duke of Norfolk's mansion in Aldgate, from where on the 25th January 1560, John was ordained priest by Edmund Grindal, now Bishop of London. In the autumn of that year he left the capital and went to Norwich, where he stayed with another Episcopal friend, John Parkhurst. Letters written to Foxe during this period indicate that he was preaching in the diocese, and he also conducted archival and oral research in Norfolk and Suffolk, the fruits of which would soon be incorporated in the Acts and Monuments. On 31st December 1560 his eldest son Samuel was born in the Episcopal palace, but by August 1562 the family was back at Aldgate. From there John commuted on a regular basis to Day's nearby workshop to oversee the printing of his martyrology.

On the 20th March 1563 Day published the first edition of the Acts and Monuments (immediately and much to his chagrin known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs). It is a massive folio volume of about 1800 pages - three time the length of the Rerum. The bulk of it covers English church history from Wycliffe until the accession of Elizabeth, but there is an introductory section outlining the earlier history of the church, and particularly of the papacy, from the year 1000, which is not specifically addressed to England. The large scale of the work is partly explained by the range of sources upon which it is based. Foxe drew again, and more extensively, on favoured authors such as Bale and Flacius, while also extracting large sections from works such as Johannes Cochlaeus's history of the Hussite wars, and the various martyrological essays of Jean Crespin, which he had not used before. He also expanded still further his reprintings of the writings of the Marian martyrs, and greatly extended his use of eyewitness and oral testimony. All this he had done before on a smaller scale, but this time he also printed archival material, and in that advanced for the first time beyond the methodology of Bale. His most important archival source was the London Episcopal registers, which he quarried systematically, working backwards from Mary's reign and reaching the 1520s by the time that the Acts and Monuments was completed. The fact that he was forced to break off at that point is an indication of the pressure which Day was applying to get something out quickly. His work on the equivalent records for Norwich was less extensive and focussed, and for Coventry and Lichfield he relied upon friends who sent him relevant extracts. Although he was greatly to exceed it later, the range of sources used by Foxe in 1563 was unprecedented at that stage.

In spite of its forbidding size, the Acts and Monuments must have been a considerable financial success, for Day and Foxe quickly agreed upon a second edition. When Henry Bull published Certain most Godly … letters of such true saints and martyrs[13] in 1564 it already included a marginal note that more information would be forthcoming on a particular topic 'in the next edition of the boke of martyrs'[14]. One of the incentives towards a second edition was the opportunity to correct errors - of which there were many. The translations had been done by others, sometimes unsatisfactorily, and there had been no chance to check the texts and eliminate passages which ran contrary to the main message of the book. However, Day would never have agreed to a second edition if he had not been encouraged by sales of the first.


Someone in authority - probably Sir William Cecil - was also pleased, because shortly after the Acts and Monuments appeared Foxe was provided to the Prebend of Shipton under Wychwood in Salisbury Cathedral. This preferment, which was worth just under ₤40 a year, was the only ecclesiastical living which he held for any length of time, and it provided the bulk of his income for the rest of his life. Peter Vannes, the previous incumbent, died sometime between 28th March and 30th April 1563, so it looks as though Foxe was simply given the first suitably large benefice to come vacant after his great work was published.

The manner in which Foxe dealt with the responsibilities of this position is indicative of his views on the proper role of the clergy. To his duties as a Canon of Salisbury he paid no attention whatsoever, and never even visited it, much to the indignation of his colleagues, who pronounced him contumacious and cited him for refusing to give a tithe of his income towards the repair of the cathedral. Towards Shipton, on the other hand, he was a model of responsibility, appointing as vicar there a friend of his named William Masters, a former exile who was unusually well educated for such a position, and who was anxious to gratify his patron. The regard was mutual. On one occasion Foxe gave Masters permission to cut and sell the vicarage timber, an offer so generous that Masters was reluctant to take advantage of it. So while neglecting the upkeep of Salisbury cathedral, Foxe was more than willing to pay far more to keep a Godly minister and preacher in a parish for which he was responsible.

By this time Oporinus had long since despaired of getting Foxe to complete the second part of the Rerum, and had enlisted his friend Heinrich Panteleon for the job. This arrangement must have had Foxe's blessing. Not only did Pateleon make a point of insisting upon this in the introduction to the Historia martyrum, but also the fact that the two works were published almost simultaneously, and that extensive parts of the Historia were translated and reprinted in the Acts, can only be accounted for if Pateleon had sent a copy of his work to Foxe before publication - perhaps for his approval.

Minor works and major controversies, 1563-66.

Plague broke out in London in the summer of 1563, and Foxe remained in the city to minister to the afflicted. He also composed A brief exhortation … in this heavy tyme of Gods visitation on London[15], which was not only intended to comfort the infected and bereaved, but also contained a forceful plea to the civic authorities for money to aid the sufferers. In January 1564 Bishop Parkhurst wrote to Foxe a letter of condolence for some unspecified bereavement, so perhaps one of his daughters had died. In November 1563 Foxe lost a valued friend and mentor with the death of John Bale. Not only had both the Latin martyrologies been largely based on Bale's work, he had also written substantial parts of the Acts and Monuments. Most important, it had been Bale's interpretation of Revelation which had inspired Foxe's view of history as the struggle between the True and False churches. That he wove the Lollards and other medieval heretics into this protestant pattern was also due largely to Bale's influence. At the same time his death removed a somewhat stifling personality, and enabled Foxe to develop in different directions. The complete edition of Wycliffe to which Bale had been urging him was quietly dropped, and he turned his attention in a more pastoral direction, which would have been far removed from Bale's interests.

Foxe's new partner was Henry Bull, whose Certain most godly … letterswas published in 1564, and generally attributed to Miles Coverdale, who wrote the introduction. This was simply a collection of many of the letters of the Marian martyrs, without any notes or connecting narrative. Bull apparently began his research independently of Foxe, but by 1562 or 63 they were exchanging information. Bull made some use of material gathered by or for Foxe, but the latter made far more use of his. Much of the Letters of the Martyrs would eventually be incorporated into the subsequent editions of the Acts and Monuments, making it even more of a compilation and less of an authored work. Bull made a number of changes to the texts of the letters which he printed, and Foxe followed these changes faithfully in reproducing them.

Apart from his response to the plague, Foxe wrote only two minor works in the period immediately following the publication of the Acts and Monuments. The first of these was a translation into Latin of Grindal's sermon on the death of the Emperor Ferdinand. The other was the Syllagisticon[16], a collection of theological arguments on the Eucharist, formulated as syllogisms. This was preceded by a long exhortation to Catholic readers to see and understand the logical and theological absurdity of transubstantiation.

Most of Foxe's energy was taken up with research for the second edition of the Acts and Monuments, but he also found himself drawn into the controversy over vestments. As he had demonstrated by supporting Knox in Frankfort, Foxe was one of those who had an earnest desire to purge the English church of the 'dregs of popery'. His name appeared on a list of 28 'godly preachers which have utterly forsaken Antichrist and all his Romish rags, which was presented to Lord Robert Dudley sometime between 1561 and 1564.[17]; and on 20th March 1565 he was one of 20 ministers who appealed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to be allowed to follow their consciences over the wearing of vestments[18]. Archbishop Parker was unmoved, but as Foxe did not hold a benefice in London his defiance cost him nothing. Ironically, he may even have gained. In the Spring of 1566 his friend Robert Crowley was suspended from his livings and placed under arrest for his outspoken opposition to the Archbishop's vestarian policy. He remained suspended for the rest of the decade, and there is considerable evidence that Foxe acted as his surrogate at StGiles Cripplegate. He moved into the parish in 1569, and John Field, who was assisting him with the research for the Acts and Monuments became a curate at St Giles at about that time.

Preparing the second edition of the Acts and Monuments

Internal evidence suggests that Foxe began the writing of the second edition in 1566, starting with a history of the Ottoman empire. This had not featured in any of his earlier works, and indicates that he was planning something radically different. Also in January 1566 a work was published in Antwerp entitled Dialogi sex, contra summi pontificatus monasticae vitae, Sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatores et pseudomartyres. Although published over the name of Alan Cope, this was actually written by Nicholas Harpsfield, Archdeacon of Canterbury during Mary's reign who was a prisoner in the Fleet. It was a substantial work of about 1,000 pages, mostly devoted to an attack upon the Magdeburg Centuriators, and to a lesser extent on Johannes Sleidanus and John Jewel. But the sixth and longest dialogue, comprising some 250 pages, was an attack on the Acts and Monuments. Foxe was mortified. There had been earlier attacks by Catholic scholars such as Thomas Harding and Thomas Stapleton, which had occasionally been effective, but these had been isolated pages in works devoted to other topics. This was the first sustained and systematic attack - and indeed the only one in Foxe's lifetime.

His sense of injury in confronting Harpsfield was to be vividly expressed in a dedicatory epistle to Elizabeth, which expatiates on catholic criticisms of the first edition and barely mentions the Queen. Where Harpsfield's attacks were justified - and worse still demonstrably so - the offending passages were quietly removed. Where they could be rebutted, he mounted a vigorous counter attack, burying his opponent's arguments under piles of documents. A two page attack on Foxe's account of the martyrdom of Sir John Oldcastle was answered in 34 pages, including the texts of several statutes.

A jibe at protestant disunity provoked in response a lengthy quotation from Gervase of Canterbury's chronicle demonstrating the catholic capacity for internecine feuding - in this case between monks of St Augustines and the canons of Canterbury cathedral. Harpsfield provoked Foxe to more intensive and extensive research, and made the second edition of the Acts and Monuments much more impressive (if not necessarily more accurate) than the first.

On the 2nd February 1568 Agnes Foxe gave birth to their second son, who was named Simeon. Simeon was born in Aldgate, but shortly after John moved his family into a newly purchased house in Grub Street in the parish of St Giles, Cripplegate, where he was to spend the rest of his life. Perhaps he wanted to be closer to Day's printshop; perhaps he wanted more independence; but the most likely reason is the indiscretions of his patron.

In the summer of 1569 Foxe wrote Norfolk a remarkably frank letter, saying that rumours of the Duke's plan to marry the Queen of Scots were flying round the city, and warning him 'that in case you take this way to marry with this lady in our Queen's days, it will in the end turne you to noe great good.'[19] This excellent advice was not heeded, and Norfolk was sent to the Tower on the 8th October 1569. After a brief rehabilitation he became enmeshed in the Ridolfi plot, and on the 16th January 1572 was attainted as a traitor. On the day after his conviction, Norfolk's gaoler reported that he 'longethe moche for Mr Foxe his old scholemaister, to whome he moche desiyres to performe that faith whiche he first grounded him in ...' [20] Throughout the spring Foxe and Alexander Nowell, now Dean of St Pauls, ministered to the spiritual needs of a man condemned for catholic conspiracy, and on the 2nd June when he was executed, Foxe and Nowell attended him on the scaffold. In spite of his attainder, the Duke was able to direct his heirs to pay Foxe ₤20 a year for life, and according to Simeon that obligation was faithfully discharged.

The second edition of the Acts and Monuments

Meanwhile, the second edition had been printed, in two folio volumes, in 1570. Although incorporating much of the first edition, this was so thoroughly re-written as to constitute a separate work The scope was considerably extended to cover the early church, and the whole of the first volume was devoted to the pre-reformation period. Although English history still predominated, a real effort was made to cover events in the rest of Europe. If his projected appendix, printing verbatim accounts of the trials of all continental martyrs, had ever been accomplished, the balance would have been decisively continental. As it was the breadth of the research was altogether new. Foxe not only printed more extracts out of standard protestant works, such as the Magdeburg Centuries, Flacius's Catalogus and Sleidan's Commentaries, but he also drew on such catholic historians as Pope Pius II and Johannes Cochlaeus. In addition to these great rafts of text, the work was also embellished with scores of pamphlets, tracts and sermons. Most of the letters published by Bull, together with others collected by Foxe himself, were also included.

This second edition far surpassed any previous English historical work, including Polydore Vergil's Anglica historia, in the range of chronicles and histories upon which it was based. Foxe was fortunate enough to be able to use the vast collection of manuscripts assembled by Matthew Parker. The archbishop and the martyrologist did not always see eye to eye, as was later to become apparent, but Parker saw the enormous potential of the Acts and Monuments. Not only did it destroy the credibility of the catholic church as an ecclesiastical system, it also supported his own view that the English church was of apostolic origin, independent of Rome. Corruption had begun with Augustine of Canterbury, and become more corrosive as foreign bishops such as Lanfranc and Anselm were foisted on the English church after the Norman conquest. It had been by these foreigners that abuses such as transubstantiation, clerical celibacy and auricular confession had become established in England.

Parker used the Acts and Monuments, and the research upon which it was based, to bring this message to a wider audience. His own Testimonie of Antiquitie[21] was actually incorporated in the martyrology, and it was no doubt partly in return for this exposure that the archbishop made his collection available. Foxe's single most important source for medieval England was Matthew Paris's Chronica majora, which he obtained from Parker. Other notable benefits were the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Gervase of Canterbury's Chronicle, the Saxon law codes, and certain other pre-Norman ecclesiastical documents. Through Parker also Foxe came into contact with a group of antiquarian scholars working under the archbishop's patronage. He became friends with William Lambarde, whose Archianomia was also reprinted in the Acts and Monuments, and shared resources with John Stow (notably the Great Chronicle of London), although he never became friendly with the latter. Parker also seems to have used some of his own researchers to refute specific charges made by catholic scholars against Foxe's first edition. Someone combed his manuscripts for proof that King John was really poisoned by the monk of Swinstead, a claim indignantly (and correctly) denied by Thomas Stapleton.

Even apart from Parker's manuscripts, there was a geometric expansion in the archival resources used for the 1570 edition. Having already used the London diocesan records, he went on to exploit the Canterbury registers with equal thoroughness, and worked extensively on similar material for the dioceses of Hereford, Lincoln and Rochester. Isolated extracts from Bath and Wells, Chichester, Durham and York were also sent to him. He was also able for the first time to make extensive use of the Royal archives, particularly those in the Tower, for which access he was probably indebted to Sir William Cecil. Above all, he made much greater use of oral sources. Some of this was gleaned from quite casual acquaintances. One William Maldon left a vivid account of Foxe at work:

'I with another chanced to goe in the company of mr. Foxe, the gather together of these great boke, and he desired us to tell hym if we knewe of any man that had suffered persecution for the gospell of Jesus Christ, to the end that he myght add it unto the boke of marters. Then said I that I knew one that was whipped in king Henryes time for it, of his father. The he enquired of me his name. Then I bewrayed and said it was I myself ... Then I promised him to wryght it.'[22]

After the publication of the first edition, personal testimonies flooded in unsolicited, as people sought either to exonerate themselves, or to accuse or eulogise others. While much new material was thus added, some parts of the first edition were not reproduced. It is a persistent error to think that the successive editions of the Acts and Monuments were simply cumulative. In fact a good deal was also suppressed, some of it highly significant. None of this suppressed material made it to the nineteenth century editions, because they were based upon the 1583 text. There were a number of reasons for these deletions: considerations of space; effective attacks by Harpsfield or others; and also a determined effort to airbrush away blemishes in the doctrinal orthodoxy of those whom he wished to present as the martyrs of an Edwardian protestant church.

The authorship of the Acts and Monuments

In spite of these cuts, Day's printing operation buckled under the weight of the second edition. Most seriously, he underestimated its size (which ran to about 2,300 pages) and consequently ran out of paper. Many smaller sheets had to be pasted together to complete the work, and it was probably for that reason that Foxe's ambitious appendix on the continental martyrs was never printed. Day's commitment to the project was immense, and Foxe was very fortunate to find such a crucial ally. He made considerable sacrifices to produce the Acts and Monuments; an enormous outlay on paper; the cost of hiring additional workmen; and the income lost while his presses were committed to this massive book. Moreover, there were the woodcut illustrations. The first edition had included about 50; the second three times that number; and it was Day who underwrote this visual extravaganza. However, Cecil was also a supporter, and he was in a position to ensure that the printer received some important favours, such as permission to exceed the legal quota of foreign workers, and lucrative monopolies for the printing of primers and metrical psalms. Nevertheless Day took risks, and if he eventually made money and obtained great credit for his efforts, then he earned both.

Without Day, the Acts and Monuments would have been a much less impressive work, with far fewer illustrations - or even none at all. From start to finish, it was a collaborative effort. It was built out of material collected by Bale, Grindal, Bull and Parker, as well as Foxe himself. He had copyists who transcribed official and ecclesiastical documents; field workers who poured over archives or interviewed their neighbours, and John Field (later the Presbyterian leader) locating potential informants. Consequently the term 'author' as applied to Foxe needs to be used with care.

If it is used to mean the person who shapes a text and controls its messages, the Foxe is the author of the Acts and Monuments; if it is used to mean the person who actually wrote all (or even most) of the words, then he is not. Even a cursory comparison of the first edition with the second reveals how completely and systematically the passages common to both were re-written. Similarly, anyone comparing the original version of a text with the version appearing in the Acts and Monuments, will observe his readiness to alter even quite small details in the interests of his message. He could be compared to the conductor of a large orchestra, where the musicians have each written their own scores, and the conductor has then orchestrated them into one harmonious composition. Even the least jarring or discordant note has been eliminated. There are factual inconsistencies, repetitions, chronological inaccuracies and faulty organisation; but the themes of the text are presented with complete assurance. It says exactly what Foxe wishes it to say, and absolutely nothing else.

All this is true in varying degrees of each of the editions for which Foxe was responsible, but it is particularly true of 1570. Internal evidence proves that this text was rigorously proofread and impeccably cross referenced. Isolated errors were even corrected by hand in individual copies before they left the printshop. No effort was spared to eliminate error, particularly typographical or doctrinal, from this edition.


Even allowing for the efforts of his supporting team, the energy which Foxe invested in this enormous task was phenomenal, and his health was undermined by the effort. He had started to complain of sickness during his exile, and a decade spent on completing this magnum opus certainly aggravated his condition. He claimed in the 1570 dedication to have spent his health on the martyrology, and that appears to have been no exaggeration. His son Simeon, who was a physician, claimed that as a result of his father's mind being 'overstrained', he 'fell into that withered leannesse of body in which many afterward saw him, never returning to that pleasing and cheerfull countenance which he had before'[23].

However, the effort also made Foxe England's first literary celebrity. Complete strangers wrote him letters, which survive among his papers, asking advice on matters theological and personal. He also had a reputation, which arose out of his notoriety as an author, as a popular and influential London minister, in spite of never holding a benefice there. A prisoner condemned to death wrote to Foxe asking him and Nowell to raise money on his behalf, not for an appeal but to enable him to bribe his way to a pardon. 'Scio … vestramque auctoritatem plurimum pollere apud omnes ministros qui Londonini agunt' ('I know … your influence to work powerfully among all the ministers of London') he wrote.[24].

Foxe, Nowell and Robert Crowley are frequently described as working together, as in January 1578 when they attended the deathbed of a former lord mayor[25]. The association of Foxe with Crowley, and their prestige, is attested by a notice on the cover of Whartons Dream[26], a verse diatribe against usury and other social ills which appeared in 1578. This claimed that the work was 'perused and well thought of by Foxe, Crowley and others, with what justification is not known. He was also a generous alms giver. Simeon later claimed 'there was nothing that so much won to master Fox the love of people as the pity he usually showed to all sortes of men in distresse', adding that wealthy individuals often entrusted his father with large sums of money to be spent on charitable causes.[27]. This claim is corroborated by a letter from one suppliant who claimed that he would be ashamed to beg money from one so poor as Foxe, were it not that he had been told that he had generous friends from whom he obtained funds.[28].

With his personal charisma and lack of an institutional base, Foxe was the harbinger of later puritan divines such as Richard Greenham, William Bradshaw and John Ball, whose personal influence and moral authority far outstripped their ecclesiastical rank. This had its drawbacks, and he was eventually less popular with his ecclesiastical superiors than he was with the Privy Council. However that was still in the future when he further burnished his reputation by preaching the Paul's Cross sermon on Good Friday 1570. This would have been a major event in any year, but in 1570 it had a particular significance because Pius V had issued his Bull Regnans in excelsis in the previous month, excommunicating and deposing the Queen. The main aim of his Sermon of Christ Crucified was to contrast Catholicism with 'true religion', and to convert catholics to the gospel. It proved to be very popular, going through six English editions in Foxe's lifetime, and being translated into Latin in 1571.

The Reformation

Foxe's first major project after the appearance of the second edition of the Acts and Monuments was to edit the code of ecclesiastical law drawn up by Cranmer in 1552. His interest in the Canon Law went back 20 years to his De censura, but this project was a deliberate attempt to secure the enactment of the code which had failed in parliament in 1553. However the title which he gave to this edition, Reformatio legum ecclesiasticarum, hinted that his plan also went further than reviving Cranmer's work. The introduction explicitly called for the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, and it appears that the publication of the Reformatio was part of a complex scheme, probably devised by Thomas Norton and Laurence Humphrey, to have parliament remove all 'popish remnants' from the liturgy. If that was the case, the plan failed, because despite Norton's best efforts in the parliament of 1571, neither the law code nor the revision was ever implemented.

We can be reasonably certain that Archbishop Parker was less than impressed by these efforts, and may well have been irritated by the fact that he had innocently helped in the preparation of the Reformatio. Foxe hastened to take remedial action by composing a laudatory preface to an edition of the gospels printed in Anglo-Saxon characters - The gospels of the fower evangelistes,[29] which was published under Parker's auspices in 1571. There is no evidence that Foxe could read Anglo-Saxon, so he probably just lent his famous name to the enterprise, and wrote the preface.

Another old project was resurrected in 1572, when an expanded and restructured version of the Locorum communium tituli was published as the Pandectae locorum communium[30]. Like its predecessor the Pandectae consisted of blank pages with Foxe's (revised) headings. Unlike the earlier version, this proved popular enough to be reissued (in 1585), although it could hardly be described as a great success. Both of these works, as Foxe made clear in his introduction to the latter, were designed to help the reader to develop his memory through systematic study. They also demonstrate what is clearly visible in the Acts and Monuments,the author's abiding interest in the twin arts of rhetoric and logic.

In the autumn of 1572 Foxe received his second, and last, preferment. His friend from Basel days James Pilkington was now Bishop of Durham, and Foxe was presented to a prebend in Durham cathedral. He was installed by proxy on the 14th October, but resigned a year later, apparently having fallen victim to a purge of non-residents. Thomas Lever, the Archdeacon of Coventry, also resigned at the same time.

Practical Divinity and Spiritual Healing.

In the second edition of the Acts and Monuments Foxe had promised that he would edit a collection of the works of William Tyndale, John Frith and Robert Barnes, and that duly appeared in January 1573. This book neatly combines two themes which were to preoccupy Foxe for the remainder of his life. On the one hand the apologetic - the desire to convert by logical, theological and historical arguments, catholics and Jews from their 'superstitions' to the gospel - and on the other hand the desire to offer spiritual guidance to readers of all types and ages.

In the introduction Foxe expressed the hope that those that 'be not yet wonne to the worde of trueth, setting aside all partialitie and preiudice of opinion, would with indifferent iudgementes bestow some reading and hearing likewise of these' [three authors].[31] One of the reasons why he chose these authors was his appreciation of their polemical exchanges with Thomas More, John Fisher and Stephen Gardiner. For spiritual guidance he advised young readers to study Frith, the middle aged Tyndale, and the older Barnes.[32] The Reformers and martyrs of a previous generation supplied excellent models for the godly readers of the present - a practical divinity, as it were, by historical precedent.

A similar pastoral concern also underlay a remarkable series of translations, edited by Foxe and Henry Bull. The first, and most important of these was an English version of Luther's commentary upon Galatians, A commentarie … upon the epistle to the Galathians.[33] In a short foreword, dated 28th April 1575, Edwin Sandys Bishop of London, declared that all the 'godly affected' people involved in the translation wished to remain anonymous, 'seeking neither their owne gaine nor glory, but thinking it their happiness, if by any meanes they may releve afflicted mindes'.[34] An introduction, which was addressed to 'All afflicted consciences which grone for salvation' and which extolled Luther as a comforter of troubled consciences,[35] further demonstrated the purpose and intended readership of the work. Close paraphrases of statements made about Luther in the Acts and Monuments, and the repetition of comments made over 20 years before in a translation of one of Luther's sermons, establish Foxe as the author of this introduction, and so his involvement in the translation.

This commentary met a need. There were six further editions in Elizabeth's reign, and its popularity increased in the seventeenth century. When Henry Bull died in 1577 he left two completed but unpublished translations. The first of these was Luther's commentary upon the psalms of ascent. Foxe wrote to Bishop Sandys urging that it be published, and it appeared before the end of the year. In an introduction Foxe again extolled Luther as a great spiritual physician, and described the consolation which Bull had received from translating the work.[36]. The second, Bull's translation of Hooper's commentary upon four psalms, was printed in 1580.[37] This contained an introduction praising that 'godly professor of the truth M. Henrie Bull' and recommending the work to 'the sorrowing soul which gronest for reliefe', signed by A. F., who may have been Foxe's wife, Agnes.

Meanwhile others were at work on similar projects. In 1578 William Gace published his translation of another collection of Luther's sermons, with a dedication professing that he had first been urged to the task 'by a learned father of this lande, whose wordes and judgement I make no small account of' [38]. As Foxe contributed a commendatory preface to this also, the identity of the 'learned father' may be surmised. Similarly William Hilton, the translator of a work by Urbannus Regius, stated that he was set to the task by an unnamed person, and his work again carried a commendatory preface by the martyrologist.

All these translations had a pastoral purpose. Hilton warned his readers that Satan's purpose was to 'drive the godly to despair', but claimed that any reader, no matter how afflicted would

'in this sermon gather such hart, receave such hope and grow unto such knowledge, strength and stabilitie, that if he wyll but come, and either heare it or reade it, he shall … leape lyke an hart, waLke lyke a Lyon, and stande lyke a rocke...' [39]

It seems that Foxe was an organiser, if not the organiser, of a series of works by earlier reformers designed to comfort afflicted consciences. Just as the young Foxe's translations of sermons or treatises by Luther, Oecolampadius and Regius were for the edification of his friends, so the mature successful Foxe invested his time, energy and prestige in translations intended to give comfort to those in need.

This activity was both a continuation of the preoccupation of decades, and also an extension of his activity as a spiritual physician in London. Simeon later wrote of his father:

'There repaired to him, both Citizens and strangers, Noblemen and Common people of all degrees, and almost all for the same cause, to seek some salve for a wounded conscience. At length some who were likewise sick in body, would needs be carried to him, but to stop rumours he would not suffer [this] to be used. For because they were brought thither, they were by some reported to be cured.'[40]

Foxe refused to attempt ordinary cures, but he was active in the field of demonic possession. His most notable success there related to a lawyer named Robert Briggs. Briggs had fallen into despair at his sinfulness, and the impossibility of obtaining salvation; he had repeatedly attempted suicide, and in April 1574 fell into mysterious seizures. During these fits, in which he was apparently bereft of his normal senses, he would hold conversations with Satan and with angels, in the course of which the name of Foxe was repeatedly mentioned. On the 24th April Foxe visited Briggs at the Temple during one of his seizures, and led a group of bystanders in prayer, commanding the devil to depart in the name of Jesus. Briggs immediately regained his senses. A few days later he suffered another seizure, but was fully restored when the bystanders used a prayer which Foxe had left for just such an emergency. After the 1st May his seizures ceased, and he was deemed to be cured. The case created a sensation. Four manuscript accounts survive, and we know there were others.

John Darrell and other early modern English exorcists were greatly influenced by Foxe's example. A few months later, in July 1574, there was another case, in which Foxe was not the actual exorcist, but was closely involved. This was the cure of two London girls, Agnes Briggs (no relation) and Rachel Pinder, which was described within a few weeks in a pamphlet entitled A verie wonderful straunge miracle. In spite of his marginal role, Foxe got the credit for this success also, and his reputation swelled. At this point Archbishop Parker intervened. Ostensibly he was concerned about fraud and superstition, but was probably also alarmed by the sudden rise in the prestige of a loose cannon like Foxe, who, because he was unbeneficed, was almost immune from normal ecclesiastical discipline.

Parker had the two supposed demoniacs interrogated, and imprisoned the mother of one of them. The pamphlet was called in and the printer also imprisoned. When it came to demonic possession, Parker was a radical sceptic. The two girls did penance at Paul's Cross and confessed that their possession had been a fraud. A book, The disclosing of a late counterfeyted possession was published under the Archbishop's auspices soon after, the preface to which declared that the fraudulent demoniacs had been 'bolstered out by some certeine persons, which for the maintenance of their owne estimacion, would delude Gods good people and the Queenes maiesties subiectes with manifest untruth.'[41]. Foxe was not named in the preface, but he was in the body of the work, so this was a deliberate and forceful rebuke. From the Archbishop's point of view all demonic possession was fraudulent, and those who claimed to expel demons were sorcerers[42]. This ended Foxe's dramatic expulsion of evil spirits, but his extensive ministry among the spiritually afflicted continued.

The third edition of the Acts and Monuments

In 1576 John Day's son, Richard returned from Cambridge, where he had been a Divinity student, and began to work alongside his father. He seems almost at once to have been put in charge of the publication of this new edition - perhaps as a kind of 'master piece' to prove his metal. The decision was taken quite suddenly, with none of the advance planning which had gone into the second edition. There are many typographical errors, and no evidence of the meticulous proofreading which had been such a feature in 1570. The investment was also significantly less, smaller fonts and cheaper paper being used. Foxe's editorial input was also much reduced. It is not true to say that it is merely a reprint of 1570. Information from some oral sources was introduced, particularly relating to the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, but there were no substantial deletions, and no evidence of extended new research. The agenda remained the same, and indeed the 1576 edition may be said to represent the highest level of Foxe's radicalism. The introduction of John Hales's admonitory oration to the Queen, printed here for the first time, was undoubtedly intended as a further spur to Godly Reformation. The colophon bears the date 27th June 1576.

Samuel Foxe and Magdalen College.

Samuel had started his education with a tutor in the Ducal house in Aldgate. When he was almost 12, in October 1572, John entered him at the Merchant Tailors' School, and two years later he proceeded to his father's old college in Oxford. Foxe wrote to his old friend Laurence Humphrey, then the President, asking him to take his son under his wing. Samuel duly became a demy, and at one point was being personally tutored by the President in Greek. However, Humphrey's close attention also had its drawbacks, because the President was drawing flack from the more radical, Presbyterian members of the college, and his protégé became an automatic target for his enemies. There was trouble in the spring of 1577, when John wrote to Humphrey asking that Samuel's tutor, one of the most outspoken radicals in the college, be replaced. The tension clearly affected the boy adversely, and in December he suddenly departed for France without obtaining any leave of absence. Foxe persuaded his son to return, and smoothed things over with the college. For a few years all was well.

In 1579 Samuel was elected a probationary Fellow, and a full Fellow a year later. Then in 1581, he was suddenly expelled. In a letter of complaint to the bishop, Foxe denounced those responsible for his sons expulsion as 'factiosa ista Puritanorum' (those factious puritans) and 'ter puri puritani' (thrice pure puritans). He claimed that Samuel had been dispossessed, not through any fault of his own but because he was a supporter of Humphrey, and went on to warn the bishop that those responsible threatened all bishops, and indeed the very stability of the church.[43]

Samuel's troubles had opened a deep chasm between Foxe and his erstwhile allies, the puritans. In part this was a generational conflict between aging radicals becoming more conservative, and the new young Turks. At one time both Foxe and Humphrey had been noted extremists, but Samuel's treatment had sharpened his father's anger, and led to a marked reduction in his calls for further reform of the church. In 1584 he wrote to Archbishop Whitgift recognising that his programme of mandatory subscription to the Prayer Book was a necessary measure against young and factious agitators. Thirteen years earlier he had been fighting tooth and nail for revision, and even now he did not fully approve, but he could see the point of the Archbishop's measures. Samuel's position was eventually restored by royal command, thanks to his father's frenetic lobbying, which embraced both Cecil and Grindal. However the continuing tensions between Humphrey and his opponents made it a most uncomfortable post, and in December 1582 Samuel obtained a year's leave of absence to study abroad. He left England in the spring of 1583, travelling in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Having obtained a number of extensions, he returned at last in June 1586.

Heretics, Catholics and Jews, 1575-1583.

Apart from ministering to the pastoral needs of the godly, Foxe was also preoccupied with the conversion of those who had not embraced the gospel, and this dominated his writing in the last decade of his life. When a conventicle of Flemish Anabaptists were arrested in London in April 1575, he immediately became involved, perhaps at the request of the Dutch Strangers Church. Some recanted and others were banished, but two remained in prison under sentence of death. Foxe detested their beliefs, and wrote passionately to them urging them to abandon their heresies. He certainly believed that they should be punished, but by banishment, flogging or branding, not by death.

Foxe was profoundly hostile to the use of the death penalty for heresy, and wrote to the Queen, Lord Burghley, the Privy Council and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, urging that their sentences be commuted. He also wrote, and sent to the condemned men, a treatise on the humanity of Christ (which they had denied). His efforts were unavailing and the dissidents were burned at Smithfield on the 22nd July 1575. Both Foxe and his former protégé John Field were present. His opposition to the use of the death penalty, although strongly held, should not be confused with toleration. He did not for a moment believe that Anabaptist doctrine should be tolerated, but he did believe that in time all misbelievers could be converted by persuasion. There was no merit - or salvation - in an enforced conscience.

In 1563 Hieronymo Osorio de Fonseca, the Bishop of Sylva in Portugal had written a book urging Elizabeth to embrace the catholic faith. His work was much admired, both for its Latin style and for the force of its arguments. Walter Haddon responded in 1563, and Osorio replied in 1567. Haddon began a replication, but died in 1572, leaving it unfinished, and at Burghley's request, Foxe picked up the pen and completed it. The first 77 pages of the book were by Haddon, the remaining 344 by Foxe. The latter's approach, however, was quite different from Haddon's. Whereas he had embarked upon a point by point rebuttal, Foxe dealt only with selected arguments, which he handled at exhaustive length. A six folio declaration that Luther's teaching led people to despair of their salvation was thus answered by a 41 folio discourse on justification. Where 14 folios were devoted to an attack on Luther's teaching on freewill, Foxe responded with 101 folios on predestination.[44] This was clearly less a response to Osorius than a treatise upon issues in which he was interested.

On 1st April 1577, Foxe preached at All Hallows, Bread Street. The occasion was the baptism of a convert from Judaism. The sermon was expanded, translated into Latin and published in 1578 as De oliva evangelica[45]. In his sermon of Christ crucified he had contrasted the Catholic church with the true church. Now Foxe did the same with Judaism, equating Jews and Catholics. Both were dominated by a priestly caste, both persecuted the followers of Christ, and both had replaced faith with a slavish observance of laws and ceremonies. Just as Foxe had appealed to Catholics to embrace the gospel, now he appealed to Jews to do the same, not unmindful that the conversion of the Jews was one of the signs of the Last Days. Just as the history of Christianity had been prophesied in the Book of Revelation, so the history of Judaism had been foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. A considerable part of De oliva consists of biblical exegesis, particularly of the ninth chapter of Daniel, which Foxe interprets as foretelling the history of the Jewish people. Significantly, this sermon was published at the same time as the Panegyricon to his apocalyptic allegory Christus Triumphans, and he ended on a characteristic note by appealing to all Christians to remove idols and ceremonies from the church, as major obstacles to the conversion of the Jews.

In 1580 Foxe published, this time anonymously, another anti-papal polemic, Papa confutatus[46]. The first part of this, or 'actio' is a counterpart to his much earlier Solemne contestation. There the papal Antichrist addressed the reader in the first person; here the author, speaking in the persona of the True Church, addresses the Antichrist, denouncing the Petrine succession and Papal primacy. Much of this is a 'scissors and paste' compilation from earlier works, particularly the Acts and Monuments, denouncing the errors of the catholic church, particularly over justification and the Eucharistic presence. He also repeats his claims about the essential similarities of Catholicism and Judaism.

Foxe's last work of anti-catholic polemic, De Christo gratis justificante,[47] was published in 1583. Ostensibly this was another response to Osorius, but it was probably stimulated by Edmund Campion's Decem rationes. Although another propaganda piece, it was also directed to Foxe's favourite constituency, the faithful afflicted in conscience. In spite of disappointments, he remained optimistic to the last, presenting a copy of this treatise to the eminent recusant lawyer Edmund Plowden. Throughout his dealings with catholics, anabaptists and Jews, Foxe remained invincibly convinced that they could be converted by the force of argument - his own, of course.

The fourth edition of the A cts and Monuments

This appeared in October 1583, and unlike its predecessor, had been carefully planned for some time. As word of the intention got about, Laurence Humphrey passed on to Foxe the suggestions which he had received for improvements - the use of better paper and more legible type, more extensive references and the reintroduction of much of the material previously discarded.[48]. Foxe and Day followed some of these suggestions, better paper and more legible type, for example, but only some of the excised material was restored. Indeed further deletions were made, but to offset that more archival material was introduced, particularly from the Tower records and the Acts of the Privy Council. There was also additional oral material, and a highly personal digression, 'The mysticall numbers in the Apocalyps opened'[49], which introduced Foxe's last major project - the application of the chronology of events in the Book of Revelation to the interpretation of human history.

The new edition ran to 2,100 pages, and in spite of all the care taken and the improvements made, in the end it was hastily printed. The reason for this was that John Day's health was deteriorating fast, and he was anxious complete it in his lifetime. This was achieved, because Day lived until 23rd July 1584, but at a certain cost to the edition. One document added to the text was dated 25th July 1583, only weeks before publication. Proofreading and correction were non-existent, and the cross references were not revised, so that notes in the fourth edition direct the reader to places in the third.

This was the last edition of the Acts and Monuments to appear in Foxe's lifetime, and for that reason has probably acquired too much prestige. Five further unabridged editions were to appear over the next 101 years, each of which would contain significant additional material, largely accounts of subsequent persecutions and introductory commentary, all of which reflected the agendas of subsequent editors. So the Acts and Monuments continued to be a living text long after its original creator was dead.

Foxe's final years, 1583-1587.

When Samuel Foxe finally returned from abroad in June 1586, he tried to obtain the 'lawyers place' among the Fellows of Magdalen. Perhaps the college did not want him back at all, but faced with Lord Burghley's powerful patronage, they compromised and he was granted the lesser 'physicians place'. John was also taking steps to secure his son's future. Some time before he had leased his prebendal lands to his brother-in-law Thomas Randall. Randall had died in 1585, and Foxe manoeuvred to have the leases settled on Samuel. Unfortunately John Piers, the Bishop of Salisbury had secured the reversionary rights from the Queen, and had promised the prebend to his own son-in-law, who also happened to be his domestic chaplain. Foxe appealed to Whitgift, who apparently leaned on the bishop, because on the 14th July 1586, Piers agreed to renounce all interest in the prebend, protesting his desire to help the martyrologist. The leases were to remain in the Foxe family until 1761.

In spite of his position in Oxford, Samuel stayed in London to help with his father's last great project, a Latin commentary on the Book of Revelation. This support was required rather by Foxe's declining health than by his son's scholarly expertise, and he died while the work was still in progress, on the 18th April 1587.

The Eicasmi seu meditations in sacram Apocalypsim[50] was published incomplete before the end of the year, with a dedication to Archbishop Whitgift. Samuel had neither the knowledge nor (probably) the inclination to finish it, so although it ran to 396 quarto pages, it stopped at the seventeenth chapter. The reason for the length was the amount of historical information which Foxe felt bound to include. His thesis was that the events described in Revelation before the second coming of Christ were actually prophecies of the course of human history which had already passed, because that second coming was now imminent. It was therefore necessary to retell those events in some detail. In this he followed Bale, and also drew heavily upon his own Acts and Monuments. For example, his commentary upon Revelation 8:7, was followed by a six page description of the first ten persecutions of the church, which was a précis of the first Book; and in order to support his novel identification of Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague as the Two Witnesses of Revelation, he reprinted nearly 40 pages from the Acts and Monuments, which in turn had been lifted from Flacius's work on Hus. It appears that the Eicasmi was not only intended as a guide to the understanding of Revelation, but also a guide to the Acts and Monuments. Both works were parts of the same coherent scheme of exposition.

After John's death Agnes continued to live in the house in Grub Street. A letter from Samuel addressed to her there, and dated 1592 or 93 remains among the family papers. She was almost certainly the 'Mother Foxe' who was buried at St Giles, Cripplegate on 22nd April 1605. After his father's death Samuel entered the service of Sir Thomas Heneage, became his Steward and thanks to his patronage sat in the House of Commons in 1589 and 1595. He also came into possession of his father's books and papers, some of which he subsequently gave or sold to Archbishop Whitgift, and some to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1614, when his son Thomas took his M.A. from Magdalen, he gave the college a further 14 manuscripts. There is every reason to suppose that he understood the value of his gifts, and appreciated the importance of his father's work. He died at his home at Warlies, near Waltham Abbey, in 1630 - a substantial and respected figure.


British Library, Lansdowne MS 388, ff.53r-58r.


British Library, Lansdowne MS 388, f.ll7r.


Revised Short Title Catalogue [RSTC] 16983.


RSTC 120847.


RSTC 11235.


RSTC 14822.


RSTC 11233.


RSTC 5991.


The phrase is Grindal's.

British Library, Harley MS 417, f.l02r.


British Library, Harley MS 417, ff.l02r-v.


Rerum in ecclesia gestarum, quae postremis et periculosis his temporibus evenerunt maximarumque, per Europam persecutionum, et sanctorum Dei martyrum, caeterumque rerum si quae insignioris exempli sint, digest per regna et nations commentarii. Pars prima, in qua primum de rebus per Angliam et Scotiam gestis atque in primis de horrenda sub Maria nuper regina persecutione narratio continetur. Autore Ioanne Foxo Anglo.

[A commentary on the deeds done in the Church in these latter and perilous times and chiefly of the great persecution throughout Europe and of Gods holy martyrs, and other noteworthy things as examples, arranged by kingdoms and by nations. Part one, containing the narration of events in England and Scotland and particularly of the horrendous persecution under the late queen Mary. By John Foxe, Englishman.]


RSTC 21051.


RSTC 5886.


Henry Bull, Certain most godly, fruitful, and comfortable letters of such true Saintes and holy Martyrs … (London, 1564), p. 46.


RSTC 11230.


RSTC 11249.


Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys Library, MS 'Papers of State', ii, p. 701.


Lambeth Palace Library, MS 2019,


British Library, Harley MS 416, f.l54r.


Public Record Office SP 12/85/13.


RSTC 159.


British Library, Harley MS 590, f.77r.


Acts and Monuments,, (London, 1641), II, sig. B2r.


British Library, Harley MS 416, f.165r.


Public Record Office C 24/134/16.


RSTC 25295.


Acts and Monuments, (London, 1641), II, sigs. B3v and B6v.


British Library, Harley MS 416, f.110r.


RSTC 2961.


RSTC 11239.


The whole workes of W.Tydall, J. Frith and Doct. Bames … (London, 1572-3), sig. A3v.


The whole workes of W.Tydall, J .Frith and Doct. Bames (London, 1572-3), sig. A2v.


A Commentarie of M. Doctor Martin Luther vpon the Epistle of S. Paule to the Galathians … (London, 1575);

RSTC 16965.


A Commentarie of M. Doctor Martin Luther vpon the Epistle of S. Paule to the Galathians … (London, 1575), sig*2r.

RSTC 16965.


A Commentarie of M. Doctor Martin Luther vpon the Epistle of S. Paule to the Galathians … (London, 1575), *3r-**lr.;

RSTC 16965.


Martin Luther, A Commentarie upon the Fiftene Psalmes called Psalmi Graduum, … (ed.), Henry Bull, (London, 1577);

RSTC 16975, sigs. *3v-*4r.


John Hooper, Certeine comfortable expositions of the constant Martyr of Christ, M. Iohn Hooper, … (ed.), Henry Bull, (London, 1580)

RSTC 13743.


Martin Luther, Special and chosen sermons of D. M. Luther, collected out of his writings ... (ed.), William Gace, (London, 1578);

RSTC 16993, sig*4r.


Urbanus Rhegius, The Sermon which Christ made on the way to Emaus ... set downe in a Dialogue by D. Urbane Regius … (ed.), William Hilton (London, 1578).

RSTC 20850, sigs A3v-A4v.


Acts and Monuments (London, 1641), II, sig. B2r.


RSTC 3738,sig.A2r.


RSTC 3738, sigs A2r and B2v-B3v.


British Library, Harley MS 416, ff.l52r-153r.



Hieronymo Osorio, Amplissimi atque doctissimi viri D. Hieronymi Osorii (Lisbon, 1567), ff. 140r-146v and 149r-163r, with

John Foxe, Contra Hieron. Osorii (London, 1577);

RSTC 12593, ff. 72r-212r.


RSTC 11236.


RSTC 11240.


RSTC 11234.


British Library, Harley MS 416, ff.203r-205r.


Acts and Monuments, (London, 1583) 1, p.101.


RSTC 11237.

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