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Ad doctum LectoremI. Foxus. 
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Ad Doctum Lectorem
Translation

John Wade, University of Sheffield

John Foxe to the learned reader.

When I think and turn over in my mind how dangerous and hazardous a thing it is to send out now something in public, which may come to the hands and eyes of many people, especially in these so troubled ways and times, when almost everything is boiling with so many disagreements of people, so many desires of parties, so many fretful individuals, such rigid censures, and mockery of Critics, that it is very difficult to write anything so circumspectly, that it is not seized upon for some grounds for misrepresentation, assuredly they seem very fortunate and lucky who are allowed to hold such a course of life, that living in leisure with dignity, they are able so to enjoy other peoples' labours, as though sitting as idle spectators in the theatre, that they must not in the meantime fear any weariness from doing it or any danger from their work. But a very different way of life has indeed somehow or other exercised me so far, since it has not fallen to my lot to experience, scarce even to taste throughout my life, either that happiness of fortune, in whose embraces I see so many being sweetly cherished, or the delight of leisure, amid the constant fervour and strife of my labours and employment. And yet I complain little about fortune which I have always despised, and indeed I will not say much about my labours, if only those labours may either benefit or please other people as much as they privately wear me down and inconvenience me. Now there is added on top of the pile of my misfortune the fact that I have had to work on that kind of subject matter which, beside the mournful nature of the matters themselves, beside the unpleasantness of the language, beside the difficulty of treatment, which may scarcely receive the elegance of speech, furthermore reduces the author himself to such constraint that he may neither tell lies without injustice to history nor tell the truth without incurring great ill will towards himself and the hatred of many people. For since I have had to engage in such an historical theme of history, as does not relate only to events of earlier years recalled from the distant past, but touches upon this very age of ours, and men of our race who are even now present and alive, rubs on them, and points them out in such a way as has of necessity to be done in this kind of subject, I ask what else I should expect here, except, after I have destroyed my health in vainly wearing myself out, damaged my eyes, hastened the onset of old age, and exhausted my body, finally after all this to expose myself to the hatred, hissings, ill will and censure of many people. In so many adversities as these when nothing will be able to keep me safe, not a Caesar, not Monarchs, not a King, not Queens, not any protection in this world, save only the powerful right hand of the divine Spirit, at the outset therefore and before all I have betaken myself to him as though to a very safe haven, to him I have commended and do commend myself and my book. But then in addition in the same Lord I have wished to appeal to that candor of yours (learned and pious Reader) and that humanity of yours, with which I know that you are endowed from your study of the literae humaniores, so that the vote of your approbation given for these efforts of ours or, if we do not deserve approbation, at least that the kindness of your support may not be lacking: by which if we feel that the this mixture of our history will be approved, we shall the more lightly bear the judgements of the others who are our detractors.

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For otherwise I know that there will be no lack of those who in various ways will cause us trouble. Here Momus will have his bites, the informer will have his whispers, nor will the Chicaner be without his tongue and sting to stick into me. This one will detract from the reliability of the narrative. That one will find a lack of skill in the treatment, another of conscientiousness or judgement in investigating the facts. That one will perhaps not like the size of the work or its less than organised or sequential chronology. And if it is none of these, yet in such a great conflict of religion, in such a great variety of judgements, heads and thoughts, where each man favours and promotes his own side, what can be so skilfully or circumspectly explained that it can please everyone? On the contrary, even now I hear that there is also muttering on the part of some people, who say that they are held by long expectation, until this Golden Legend of ours, as they call it, at last be published: if they first wish our tardiness in the matter to be censured, I in truth would like to ask those pretty gentlemen to show themselves more ready in publishing their own things before attacking someone else's slowness.

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Then if the volume comes out later than they thought it was going to, let them remember the proverbial instruction that haste should be slow. Even the weary ox is said to fix its step quite firmly. In this matter indeed we have done our level best, we have done, I hope, what our duty demanded, if not sufficiently expeditiously as regards the measure of time, yet certainly we have acted in accordance with our health, and I shall add, moreover, beyond our health. Let me add, moreover, with their indulgence, that we have acted quicker than perhaps will suit those very people, who trifle in this way: certainly we have acted more expeditiously than was appropriate for a work of such great importance and size, which demanded a more painstaking interval of time and care in sorting the materials, since, as those who were witnesses to this, who were aware of the time, and were companions in the labour know, scarcely eighteen full months were given over by us to preparing the material, to collecting and putting together items, to comparing copies, to reading books, to re-writing the things which had been entrusted to manuscript, to correcting type, to arranging the history appropriately and to putting it in order, etc. But if they apply the title of their own Golden Legend to this, because they think this history, after the example of that one, is similarly legendary, and from this by a hateful word prejudice its truth, what am I to reply to them except that they are naively themselves betraying their own false accusation, which they cannot even put off until the publication of the book, making judgements on matters before they know them. In the meantime it is right that they themselves finally are ashamed of that entirely fabulous Golden Legend. And yet they were not ashamed to ridicule the world for so long with those little stories, even threatening those persons with danger, if any should dare to disparage that Legend, that is, their most deceitful rubbish. Wherefore, since nothing can be more impious than to stain the sacrosanct faith of the church with fabrications of this kind and invented nonsense beyond all credibility, yet those most foolish liars measure all other writers from their own abilities, and neither themselves trouble to tell the truth, nor think that others who do tell it should be believed, obviously considering that everything is akin to their own golden dreams. But away, you impudent liar, with your Golden Legend, which all of us know, nor do you yourself not know, to be a book abounding with unnatural monstrosities of lies and most empty inventions – I should not even wish to compare it with the stories of Homer: so far is it removed from having anything in common with the serious and weighty history of the Church. Because those Papists and unchaste monks of yours liked to play the fool in the ridiculous monstrosities of their miracles, do you at once think that no serious authority of history in the church should be allowed? Why should we not, by the same token, pass judgement both concerning the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius and the tripartite history of Sozomen, Socrates and the rest. There are in addition to these certain other miracles on record concerning Saints and Divines, which come closer to this Legend, and yet are not all regarded among us as being apt to be numbered with that Papist Legend, even those which are of very suspect reliability. And yet I have no interest in passing judgement on other writers. Indeed, as far as concerns my martyrology, I would like it to be made manifest to all that I have taken pains to ensure that there should not be anything legendary in the work, or of such a kind as either could have been invented by me, or could not be everywhere very unlike that Golden (I should rather say Leaden) Legend. To this the matter itself and the natural appearance of the history will be able to bear witness, whose whole fabric will be able to seem drawn and conflated from the very archives and registers of bishops, and partly from the martyrs' own letters. Although in this history I do not demand that the individual examples here should be regarded as oracles, yet we have given the effort in accordance with our strength, to the end that if we might not fully achieve it, yet we might approach as close as possible to that old law of history, that we should avoid two things, the particular plagues of history, namely fear and flattery, of which the one always says less and the other always adds more to the narrative than is proper. But it is more honourable that reliability in this matter be built up from the work itself than from my recommendation. For truth itself has its own simple and natural appearance, which it will not be difficult for the reader who is not thick in the head to understand, either from the very character of the utterance, or from the appearance of things or from other characteristics of circumstances. But I am afraid that here also, just as in other things, there may be a place for experience of the old proverb, namely, that liars see to it that not even someone speaking the truth is believed. Since hitherto in the records of martyrological legends and lives of saints, lies, and the most trifling inventions of dreams are read in place of true narratives, it also happens that the rest of the subject matter of the same cast equally comes under the same suspicion, so that now scarcely anything can be read or said in the Church with trust. But since we are unable to remedy this evil, it will be enough to have done what it was in our power to do. What remains let us leave to the care of divine providence. So much then as regards the certainty and the truth of my history: I could indeed wish that it were not even as true and certain as those people want it to seem, but false rather, and very like this which they call their Golden Legend, or the lives of the fathers, or the Festival, or the 'sleep securely', and the rest of these Papist 'babblings of babblers'. But, as it is, the punishments and the dreadful slaughter of these martyrs, which were not invented by us, but inflicted by you, prove this history to be truer and have more witnesses to their truth than those of us who have written the history would wish. Now I come to the other part of the charge, which will perhaps be raised – the Calendar. For I hear that here too I am being criticised not only by silent opinions, but also by open comments from certain papists, to whom it will seem that I have acted unjustly in rejecting and ejecting from the Calendar the divines, martyrs, confessors and virgins of the ancient church, and have put in their place new martyrs and confessors. First, I would wish none of the old divines to have been injured by this action. Nor indeed for the reason that they are inserted in the Calendar are those persons mentioned by me as being among the divines. I have never taken to myself this apotheosis, which Gregory IX undertook so confidently to himself. Moreover, this Calendar does not aim at prescribing some new law for the feast days of the Church. Then much less do I establish the cult of some saint. Already there are more than enough feast days in the world. I wish we could spend Sunday only as the sabbath, properly and as is right. As far as I am concerned, let the papists keep their Calendar. Let the Church also keep its saints, both recent and old, provided they are approved, provided in the meantime that the same are not worshipped, provided that they are truly as saintly as they are old.

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But while Jerome did not hesitate to think that even in his own times many were being tortured in the fires of gehenna whom many indiscriminately regarded as saints in the Church, what would Jerome then say here, if he were somehow to have survived and saw this papist dregs of saints with calendars smeared by so many popes, so many bishops and abbots?

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Although this Calendar was instituted indeed by me for no other reason than to serve the private use of the reader as merely an Index to mark each martyr's month and year, yet, however, if in the Churches it is also right to record the days of individual months with the personal names of saints, how should I the less be allowed to do in the case of true martyrs what they themselves have permitted with such licence, not to say impudence, in the case of their pseudo-martyrs? If not punishment but cause makes a martyr, why should I not not compare but prefer one Cranmer to six hundred Beckets of Canterbury? What is there seen in Nicholas Ridley which is not to be compared to any divine Nicholas you please? In what way are Latimer, Hooper, Marsh, Simpson and the rest of the Christian martyrs dressed in white to seem inferior to those highest and greatest divines of the Papist Calendar, and not rather even to be preferred to them on many accounts? Meanwhile I harm the cause of no good and holy man (provided he is truly holy), nor do I extinguish his memory or lessen his glory. And if this Calendar is displeasing to anyone, let him remember that it is not being placed in the Churches, but is only being prepared for reading in the home.

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But having dismissed these calumnies of my opponents, it is time, learned and sincere Reader, for my address to return to you, since this letter was designed for you, whose judgment in these matters as I value the more, so I also need here your patronage the more. For I know that in this vast accumulation you will find some things at which you will deservedly frown. Nor indeed could it easily have been achieved, especially in a work produced so quickly, that everything would be so completely filed to rule and finger-nail, but that somewhere either the writer becomes drowsy from fatigue, or something escapes the author through negligence, or that from haste it turns out that the dog, which proverbially is used to hurrying too much through eagerness, predictably produces blind puppies. Indeed, in carrying out these things, we must beg rather for your pardon than for your criticism. Wherefore, learned and at the same time most kind Reader, I have been pleased to place this brief προοιμαζειν (preface) before the beginning of the work, so that, while perusing it, if anything turns up which is not complete in all its numbers, not composed laboriously by the lamp of Cleanthes, not expressed to the standard of the choice ingenuity of theologians, or otherwise less worthy of your most intelligent discernment, you may understand that these things have been published not for your ears, but for mine, that it is for men of the duller crowd, by whom books are more easily read than judged. Or if not even that satisfies your most weighty opinion, let me be allowed to use that law, by which it is always permitted for sleep to steal upon the writer in a great work. But if indeed I gain your willingness in this matter, I shall labour the less over what the rest may clamour, being mindful of the Greek proverb, which I could wish that themselves remember: 'one will blame quicker than one will imitate.'

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COgitanti mihi, versantique mecum in animo quàm periculosæ res aleæ sit, emittere nunc aliquid in publicum, quod in manus oculósque multorum subeat, his præsertim tam exulceratis motibus temporibúsq, vbi tot hominum dissidiis, tot studiis partiū, tot morosis capitibus, tam rigidis cēsuris, & Criticorum sannis feruent ferè omnia, vt difficillimum sit quicquā tam circūspectè scribere, quod non in aliquam calumniandi materiam rapiatur: perbeati profectò fœlicésque vidētur ii, quibus eum vitæ cursum tenere liceat, vt in otio viuentes cum dignitate, sic alienis frui queant laboribus, velut in theatro ociosi sedentes spectatores, vt nullum interim ipsis vel ex actione tædium, vel ex labore periculum metuendum sit. Me vero nescio quo pacto longe diuersa quidem hactenus exercuit vitæ ratio, quippe cui nec fortunæ illā fœlicitatem, in cuius complexibus tam multos suauiter foueri video, nec otii amœnitatem experiri, vix etiam per omnem vitam degustare in continuo laborum ac negotiorum feruore ac contentione contigerit. Quanquam de fortuna parum queror, quā semper contempsi, quin neque de laboribus multum dicturus, si modo labores ii, tantum vel prodesse vel placere cæteris possent hominibus, quantum me priuatim atterunt incommodántque. Nunc ad meæ infœlicitatis cumulum accedit insuper, quod in eo argumenti genere laborandum fuit, quod præter lugubrem rerum ipsarum materiam, præter linguæ inamœnitatem, præter tractandi difficultatem, quæ vix nitorem recipiat orationis, eo porro autorem ipsum redigit angustiæ, vt neque falsa narrare sine iniuria historiæ, nec verum dicere sine magna sua inuidia odióque multorum liceat. Nam cum in eo historiæ argumento mihi versandum fuit, quod nō ad superiorū modo temporum res gestas altéque repetitas pertineat, sed hanc ipsam ætatē nostram, nostræque gentis nunc homines etiamnum præsentes viuósque sic attingat, sic perfricet, sic designet, quemadmodum in hoc materiæ genere necessario faciundū fuit: quæso quid hîc mihi aliud expectandum sit, nisi postq" frustrà me defatigando, valetudinem attriuerim, oculos perdiderim, senium acciuerim, corpus exhauserim, demum vt post hæc omnia multorum me hominum odiis, sibilis, inuidiæ ac calumniæ exponam. In tot istis asperitatibus cum nihil me tutum præstare poterit, non Cæsar, non Monarchæ, non Rex, non Regina, non vlla huius mundi præsidia, præter solam diuini numinis potentem dexteram: principiò igitur atque ante omnia huc ceu ad tutissimum asylum me recepi, huic me librúmque commendaui & commendo. Tum vero insuper in eodem domino tuum illum candorem (docte piéque Lector) eamque tuam humanitatem appellare volui, qua ex humanioribus literis studiisque te scio præditum, quo nostris his sudoribus tuæ approbationis accedat calculus, aut si approbationem non mereamur, saltem ne fauoris desit benignitas: cui si approbatum iri hanc historiæ nostræ farraginem senserimus, cæterorum iudicia obtrectatorum leuius feremus.

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Nam alioquì non defuturos sat scio qui variis modis nobis facessent molestiam. Habebit hic momus suos morsus, sycophanta suos sibilos, nec deerit Calumniatori sua lingua & aculeus, quem infigat. Hic fidem detrahet historiæ. Ille artificium in tranctando, alter diligentiam, vel in excutiendis rebus iudicium desiderabit. Illi forsam operis displicebit moles, vel minus disposita seruatáque temporum ratio. Et si nihil horum fuerit, attamen in tanta religionis pugna, in tanta iudiciorum, capitum, sensuum varietate, vbi suæ quisque fauet ac blāditur factioni, quid tam affabrè aut circumspectè enarrari potest, quod placeat vniuersis? Quin & iam nunc mussitari etiam audio a nonnullis, qui longa sese teneri dicant expectatione, quoad hæc tandem, (Legenda nostra vt appellant Aurea) euulganda sit: qui si nostram primùm in eo tarditatem repræhensam velint, næ ego suaues istos homines vicissim rogatos velim, vt ipsi pri9 in edendis suis se præbeant expeditiores, quàm alienam incessant lentitudinem.

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Deinde
B. iii.
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