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1185 [1185]

K. Hen. 8. Thomas Bilney, Martyr. Aunswere to Syr Thomas More.

though a man would runne him through the hart with a sword. Yet for all this, he was reuiued and tooke his death paciently, and dyed well against the tyrannicall Sea of Rome. Hæc Latim. Serm. 7.

Agayne, the sayd M. Latimer speakyng of Bilney in an other of hys Sermons preached in Lincolneshyre, hath these wordes folowing: 

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Bilney's `anguishe and agonie' following his recantation of 1527: which appeared in one of the final books Day printed, in Latimer's Lincolnshire Sermons for the Second Sunday in Advent Fruitfull sermons preached by the right reuerend Father, and constant martyr of Iesus Christ M. Hugh Latimer (London: John Day, 1584, STC 15280), fols. 247-247B; reprinted in Sermons and Remains, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), p. 51.

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That same M. Bilney, which was burnte here in England for Gods wordes sake, was induced and persuaded by his frendes to beare a Fagot, at the tyme, when the Cardinall was a loft, and bare the swynge. Now when that same Bilney came to Cambridge agayn, a whole yeare after, he was in such an anguish and agonye, that nothyng did him good, neither eatyng nor drinking, nor any other communication of Gods worde: for he thought that all the whole Scriptures were agaynst him, and sounded to his cōdemnation: So that I many a time cōmoned with hym (for I was familiarely acquaynted with him) but all thynges, what soeuer any man could alleage to his comfort, semed vnto him, to make against him. Yet for all that, afterwardes he came agayne: God indued him with such strength & perfectnes of faith, that he not only cōfessed his faith, the Gospell of our Sauiour Iesus Christ, but also suffred his body to be burned for that same gospels sake, whiche we now preach in Englād. &c. Hæc ille, Serm. 8. fo. 132.

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Furthermore, in the first Sermon of the said M. Latimer before the Duches of Suffolke. 

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John Day began to print Latimer's sermons when he was working with William Seres as early as 1548, with the backing of Katherine Brandon, the widowed Duchess of Suffolk, whose arms appear at the beginning of Latimer's books. For one example among many, see A notable sermon of the reuerende father Maister Hughe Latemer whiche he preached in the Shrouds at paules churche in London, on the. xviii. daye of Ianuary. 1548 (London: John Day and William Seres [1548], STC 15291). Further details about her patronage of Latimer and other preachers, and of printers, can be found in my account of her life in ODNB (under Katherine Bertie). Latimer's story concerning how Bilney asked him to hear his confession was first printed by Day in 1562 in a collection known as 27 sermons preached by the ryght Reuerende father in God and constant matir [sic] of Iesus Christe, Maister Hugh Latimer, as well such as in tymes past haue bene printed, as certayne other commyng to our handes of late, whych were yet neuer set forth in print, (STC 15276) in the section known as Certayn Godly Sermons, made vppon the Lordes Prayer, from a series that he preached in Lincolnshire before the Duchess of Suffolk and her household in 1553. Latimer's reminiscence appeared in his first sermon on the Lord's Prayer, at fol. 13B (reprinted in the Parker Society edition of Latimer's Sermons, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), pp. 334-5. The events that Latimer described here probably occurred in 1524, about the same time that he was proceeding to his bachelor's degree in theology.

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fol. 5. he yet speakyng more of Bilney, inferreth, as foloweth: Here I haue (sayth he) occasion to tell you a story, whiche happened at Cambridge. M. Bilney, or rather Saint Bilney, that suffered death for Gods woordes sake, MarginaliaLatimer called, and conuerted by Bilney.the same Bilney was the instrument wherby God called me to knowledge. For I may thanke him next to God, for that knowledge, that I haue in the worde of God. For I was an obstinate Papiste, as any was in England: insomuch that when I should be made Baccheler of Diuinitie, my whole Oration went agaynst Philip Melanchton, and agaynst his opinions. Bilney heard me at that tyme, and perceaued that I was zelous without knowledge, and came to me afterward in my studie, and desired me for Gods sake to heare his confeßion. I did so: and (to say the truth) by his cōfeßion I learned more, then afore in many yeares. So from that tyme forward I began to smell the word of God, & forsake the scholdoctors, & such fooleries. &c. And much more he hath of þe same matter, which ye may see hereafter, in þe life of M. Latimer.

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MarginaliaBilney returneth agayne from hys abiuration.By this it appeareth how vehemently this good mā was pearced with sorow & remorse for his abiuratiō, þe space almost, of ij. yeres, that is, frō þe yere. 1529. to the yere. 1531. It folowed then þt he by Gods grace, & good counsaile, came at length to some quyet of conscience, beyng fully resolued to giue ouer his life for the confession of that truth, which before he had renounced. And thus beyng fully determined in his minde, and settyng his tyme, he tooke his leaue in Trinitie Hall 

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Bilney's college at Cambridge was Trinity Hall.

, at x. of the clocke at night, of certeine of his frendes, & sayd that he would go to Hierusalem, MarginaliaNā facies eius erat euntis Hierosolymā.alludyng, belike, to þe words and example of Christ, in the Gospell, goyng vp to Hierusalem, what tyme hee was appoynted to suffer his Passion. MarginaliaBilney going vp to Hierusalem.And so Bilney meanyng to giue ouer his lyfe for the testimonie of Christes Gospell, told his frendes that he would go vp to Hierusalem, and so would see them no more, and immediatly departed to Northfolk, and there preached first priuely in housholdes to confirme the brethren and sisterne, and also to cōfirme the Anchres, whom hee had conuerted to Christ. Thē preached he openly in the fieldes, confessyng his facte, and preachyng publikely that doctrine, whiche before hee had abiured, to be the very truth, and willed all men to beware by him, & neuer to trust to their fleshly frendes in causes of religion. And so settyng forward in hys iorney toward þe celestiall Hierusalem, he departed from thence to þe Anchres 
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The place where the Anchoress was walled up was near the convent of the Dominican Friars in Norwich (now known as St. Andrew's and Blackfriars Halls). Sir Thomas More wrote that Bilney was 'secretely kepte' for a time in Norwich, and he was seized while he was delivering to her 'dyuers of Tyndales bokes'. The books afterward were conveyed away by another man, who was found with them, and the double discovery of Bilney and the books 'came to lyght by the very prouysyon of god.' Sir Thomas More, The confutacyon of Tyndales answere, ed. L. A. Schuster et al., in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vol. 8, pt. 1 (New Haven, 1973), p. 23 from The confutacyon of Tyndales answere (London: William Rastell, 1532, STC 18079), sig. Cc3B.

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in Norwich, and there gaue her a new Testament of Tyndals translation, and the obedience of a Christian man, 
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Foxe tells us here that Bilney gave her only two books (rather than the `dyuers' that More mentioned) by William Tyndale: his translation of the New Testament, and The obedience of a Christen man. Tyndale's New Testament began to reach England from its first edition of 1525 (printed in Cologne, STC 2823) and from the Worms edition of 1526. Other expositions of scripture followed when Tyndale was living in Antwerp. The obedience of a Christen man appeared in 1528. The obedience of a Christen man and how Christen rulers ought to governe (Marlborow in the land of Hessen: Hans Luft [Antwerp: J. Hoochstraten], 1528, STC 24446).

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wherupon he was apprehended and caryed to prison, there to remayne, till the blind Byshop Nixe sent vp for a writte to burne him.

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Marginalia4. orders of Fryers agaynst Bilney.In the meane season, the Fryers and religious mē, with the residue of theyr Doctours, Ciuill and Canon, resorted to hym, busilie labouring to perswade him not to dye in those opinions, saying: he shoulde bee damned bodye and soule, if he so continued. MarginaliaDoct. Call and Doct. Stokes, sent to dispute with Bilney.Among whom, first were sent to hym of the Byshop, Doct. Call minister (as they call hym) or Prouinciall of the graye Fryers: and Doct. Stokes an Augustine Fryer, who laye with hym in prison in disputation, till the writte came that he shoulde be burned. MarginaliaDoct. Call, called by Bilney.Doctor Call, by the worde of God, through the meanes of Bilneys doctrine, and good lyfe, wherof he had good experience, was somewhat reclamed to the Gospells side. Doctor Stokes, remayned obdurate, and doth yet to thys day, whose hart also the Lord, if it be hys will, reforme, and open the eyes of hys olde age, that he may forsake the former blindnes of hys youth. MarginaliaFryer Byrde busie about Bilney.An other great doer agaynst hym, was one Fryer Byrde, with one eye 

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John Byrd was born in Coventry, and he became a suffragan bishop in 1537. In 1541 he was made bishop of the newly-created diocese of Chester. At the time of Bilney's examinations, Byrd was still a Carmelite friar. See Richard Copsey's account of him in ODNB. Dr John Stokes, was the prior of the convent of Augustinian friars in Norwich.

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, Prouinciall of the white Fryers. Thys Byrde was a Suffragane in Couentrie, and after, Byshop of Chester, and was he that brought apples to Boner, mentioned in the storye of Haukes. MarginaliaFryer Hodgkins a blacke Fryer, agaynst Bilney.An other was a blacke Fryer, called Hodgekyns, who after, being vnder the Archbyshop of Canterbury, maried, and afterward, in Queene Maryes tyme, put away hys wife. These iiij. orders of Friers were sent (as is said) to baite Bilney: who notwithstandyng, as hee had planted hym selfe vpon the firme rocke of Gods worde, was at a point, and so continued vnto the end.

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But here now cōmeth in Syr Thomas More trumpyng in our way, with hys paynted carde, and would needes take vp thys Tho. Bilney frō vs, 

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Defence of Bilney

This important passage of Foxe's text, dealing with Archbishop Matthew Parker's erstwhile friend, Thomas Bilney, was quite radically expanded in the 1570 edition of the martyrology. This was in order to respond to Nicolas Harpsfield's criticisms of the passage in the 1563 edition, expressed in the Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566), edited by Alan Cope, which was itself very critical of Foxe's original 1563 edition. It was Harpsfield who raised More's conclusions about Bilney's trials and second recantation at Norwich. It is therefore worth examining in detail how Foxe undertook those changes, and this is done in the notes to the individual passages as they occur.

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Andrew ChibiUniversity of Leicester

& make hym a cōuert after his sect. Thus these coated cardes, though they could not by playne scriptures conuince hym being aliue, yet now after his death, by false play they will make him theirs, whether he wil or no. This Syr Tho. More 
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Foxe expanded the Bilney related material in the 1570 edition to include criticism of More's treatises and unusual Star Chamber investigation after the publication of Nicolas Harpsfield's treatise, Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566) which was itself very critical of Foxe's original 1563 conclusions. It was Harpsfield who raised More's conclusions about Bilney's trials and second recantation at Norwich, forcing Foxe subsequently to deal with these issues too. For comments, see G R Elton, 'Persecution and toleration in the English reformation', in Studies in Church History, 21 (1984), pp. 163-84 (also published in Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government: Papers and reviews 1946-1972, ed. G R Elton (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 175-98.

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in his railing preface before his booke against Tyndall, 
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Foxe is referring here to More's treatise of 1532-3, entitled The confutation of Tyndale's answer. Originally written in two parts, the first written while More was still chancellor and published in 1532, the second was published the next year, after More had resigned his office. More had written that eye-witnesses to Bilney's execution had heard him recant his heresies. See Thomas More, 'The confutation of Tyndale's answer', ed. by Louis A Schuster, Richard C Marius and James P Lusardi, The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, viii/1-3 (New Haven, Y.U.P. 1973), 1, pp. 22-6.

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doth chalēge Bilney to his catholicke church, & fayth, that he, not only at the fyre, but many daies before, both in wordes and wryting, reuoked, abhorred, and detested hys heresies before holden. And how is this proued? Marginalia4. reasons of Syr Thomas More.By iij. or iiij. mightie arguments, as bigge as milpostes, fet out of Marginalia* Vtopia, one of Mores phātasies.* Vtopia, 
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Thomas More's treatise, Utopia (Louvain, 1516).

frō whēce, thou must know reader, cā come no fyttons, but all fine Poetrie.

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Fyrst, he sayth, that certayne Norwich men writing to London, and denying that Bilney did recante, afterward, being therupon examined, were compelled to graunt, that he at hys examination, redde a bill, but what it was, they coulde not tell, for they stoode not so neare, to heare hym. And albeit they stoode not so neare, yet some of them perceaued certayne thynges there spoken, wherby they thought that he dyd reuoke. Some agayne added to those thynges spoken, certayne additions of theyr owne, to excuse him frō recantation. 

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Bilney had recanted originally on 7 December 1527 after a trial in the chapter house at Westminster. For a useful discussion of the trial, see John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24 (1981), pp. 775-90, and for a record of his trials and recantation see Guildhall Library, Register Tunstall, 9531/10, fols. 133v-35v.

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MarginaliaAunswere to Syr Thomas More.First to aūswere hereunto, and to trye out this matter somewhat roundly with M. More, let vs see with what conueyance hee procedeth in this narration. At his first examination (sayth he) he waxed stiffe in his opinions, but yet God was so good Lord vnto him, that he was fully conuerted to the true Catholicke faith. &c. And when might this goodly conuersiō begyn? Many dayes (quoth he) before his burnyng. 

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Bilney was executed on 19 August 1531 at the so-called 'Lollard's Pit' in Norwich.

Here is no certeine day assigned, but many dayes left at large, that he might haue the larger rowme, to walke inuisible. Wel then, but how many dayes could these bee, I would fayne learne of M. More, when hee was not many dayes in their handes, no longer then they coulde send vp to London for a writte to burne him? Belike thē shortly after his apprehension, at the first commyng of the Friers vnto hym, 
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Bilney's sermons against the doctrine of purgatory and against idols and images may very well explain clerical antipathies. See Thomas More, 'A dialogue concerning heresies', in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vi/1-2 (New Haven, Y.U.P. 1981), 1, pp. 27-8.

by and by he reuolted. MarginaliaA lykely tale of M. More.A straunge matter, that he which ij. yeares before had layne in such a burning hell of despayre, 
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Foxe refers to Hugh Latimer's observations on Bilney's mental condition after his return to Cambridge following his recantation. See Hugh Latimer, 'Eighth sermon - Second Sunday in Advent, 1552', in Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), 2, p. 51.

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for his first abiuration, and could finde no other

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