The nineteenth-century was an age of religious ferment and controversy, of revival and reaction. The religious history of Britain in the period was shaped by a resurgent Evangelicalism (building on the original Evangelical Revival of the previous century) and by the Oxford Movement; it was an epoch largely dominated by the conflict between these two forces. The status and reputation of Foxe's Book of Martyrs in nineteenth-century Britain, and the motivation for and response to the various republications and new editions of the text, was in various ways determined by this wider background and context.
The formative influence of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments in shaping the self-understanding of Protestant England from perhaps the time of the 1563 edition onwards, is well known. In 1571 it was ordered that a volume of the martyrology was to be placed alongside the Bible in cathedrals, though recent research suggests that the work actually made it into only a few other churches. Foxe's Acts and Monuments came to rank with the Authorised Version of the Bible (1611) and perhaps John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678) as one of the most influential publications in the English language. As Edwin Jones recently has observed, Foxe made the Marian martyrs stand for 'Everyman'. Although Protestants of all description claimed Foxe, it was the reformed Church of England in particular which canonised Foxe and gave his martyrology the stamp of official authority. Archbishop Tillotson commented that 'catechising and the history of the Martyrs have been the two great pillars of the Reformation'. Foxe linked Catholicism in the minds of the English people with religious persecution and foreign interference. Foxe helped cement a sense of a providential link between English national identity and the Protestant faith.
Between 1563 and 1684, there were nine editions of the Book of Martyrs. As William Haller has observed, the Acts and Monuments 'continued to be regarded as the quasi-official defence of the Church of England so long as the Catholic powers seemed to threaten its security'. However, the fact that the last major new edition of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, produced with reasonable fidelity to the original, prior to the nineteenth century was in 1684, is in itself significant. The eighteenth century witnessed new editions of the Acts and Monuments such as that of the Evangelical Martin Madan in 1761, but they were abbreviated and formed only parts of larger collections of Protestant martyrologies or of works with a broader theme such as histories of persecution. For example, in 1750 John Wesley published a bowdlerised version of Foxe's work in his Christian Library. The lack of a complete edition is perhaps not surprising given the fact that the text was so voluminous and would have been a daunting project for any publisher. Nonetheless, enough excerpts of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, complete with gory woodcuts, were printed to sustain the view that the English were a chosen people and an elect nation, destined to be locked in conflict with a papist 'other'. The mediation of Foxe to a wider readership was evidenced by anti-Catholic propaganda of the period, especially at key moments such as the Salzburg expulsions of Protestants in 1731 and the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745.
Although anti-Catholicism remained undiminished at a popular level, as evidenced by the Gordon riots in 1780, it had been on the wane in elite circles in the later part of the century. The great impetus to a more sustained and general revival of interest in Foxe in the nineteenth century was certainly a renewed anti-Catholicism, partly dictated by political circumstances.This introduction, however, will show that the championing of Foxe within the nineteenth-century Church of England increasingly became a mark or symbol of party spirit and formed an aspect of the Protestant (albeit not exclusively Evangelical) reaction against Tractarianism. The question needs to be posed: why did Anglican Evangelicals from the 1830s onwards take up Foxe? Was it only because Foxe's virulent anti-Catholicism became a useful polemical weapon to employ against the forces of a revived English Catholicism, and as part of a thirty year campaign of opposition to the threat of Catholic emancipation? The republication of Protestant literature of past ages such as Foxe's Book of Martyrs certainly reflected an Evangelical awareness that the struggle with Rome was timeless, with English Protestants rendered part of an apocalyptic vision of the past, present, and future. However, the external anti-Catholic dimension only partly explains the Anglican Evangelical motivation to republish Foxe.
Anglican Evangelicals, who regarded themselves as spiritual heirs of the Reformers and guardians of their doctrinal heritage, sought ways of embarrassing that party which from 1833 onwards was associated with members of the University of Oxford and the series called the Tracts for the Times. This so-called 'Tractarian' party was itself very active in the propagation of theological literature, as was evidenced not only by the Tracts for the Times, and the take-over of the periodical the British Critic in 1838, but in the foundations of the 'Library of the Fathers' (1836) and 'Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology' (1841). Anglican Evangelicals felt a need to counter this literary high church endeavour. Thus, not only the proposal to erect a memorial to Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, in Oxford in 1838-39, but the foundation in 1840 of the Parker Society instituted specifically 'for the publication of the Works of the Fathers and Early Writers of the reformed English Church' arguably were at least partly responses to Tractarianism (though in fact, the 'Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology' was a response in turn to the Parker Society). In particular, Anglican Evangelicals were responding to the publication of the Remains of Richard Hurrell Froude (1838-39), which notoriously repudiated the Reformers in a way in which the Tractarians' high church predecessors had not. It is possible to view the Anglican Evangelical promotion of Foxe in a similar light. Whereas in the pre-Tractarian era, high churchmen and Anglican Evangelicals were at one in defending Foxe against Roman Catholic assailants, in the wake of the Oxford Movement the debate over Foxe's reputation became as much an intra-Anglican dispute as one between British Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
The rise of anti-Catholicism within the Church of England after 1801, fuelled by events in Ireland, the debates over Catholic Emancipation and the perceived threat to the Protestant constitution represented by a resurgent Catholicism, and the growth of a narrower brand of evangelicalism in the second quarter of the nineteenth century pushed on to the defensive by the Oxford Movement, all helped to breathe new life and interest in Foxe and his martyrology. The merits, nature, and legacy of the Reformation became a battle ground of renewed Protestant-Catholic controversy from the 1800s onwards. In this controversial battle, the reliability and integrity of Foxe's historical evidence was put more closely under the spotlight than had been the case for many generations.
There was a long English Catholic tradition of direct controversial responses to Foxe, beginning with Nicholas Harpsfield (died 1583) and subsequently continued by Robert Parsons in his Three Conversions of England from Paganism to Christian religion (St. Omer, 1603-4). Richard Challoner's two-volume Memoirs of Missionary Priests (1741-2) also served as a kind of Catholic reply to Foxe. After the relative calm of the Hanoverian era, Catholic responses became more sustained, though varied widely in tone. John Lingard's widely acclaimed History of England (1819-30), which impressed most readers by its impartiality, and Bishop John Milner's more combative End of Religious Controversy (1822), like his earlier more eirenical Letters to a Prebendary (1802), sought to disarm or overcome the latent fear and hostility of British Protestants towards Roman Catholics. One way of doing this was to demonstrate that such fear and hostility rested on the insecure foundations of the 'black propaganda' of the erroneous and 'lying' testimony of Foxe's martyrology. Charles Butler's Book of the Roman Catholic Church (1824) took issue with Foxe in a more measured tone than Milner's End, but he insisted that the Tudor Catholic martyrs had died for their faith and not for treason. Like Milner, he argued that Protestant historical misrepresentation had disguised the cruelty of their sufferings. In his Letters to a Prebendary, Milner had sought to embarrass Protestants by highlighting Cranmer's part in the executions of John Lambert, Ann Askew, and John Frith, under Henry VIII, criticising Foxe for overlooking 'the share which Cranmer had in these executions'. He also sought to embarrass Anglican high churchmen by highlighting the 'non-conformity' and 'Puritanism' of some of the martyrs, notably Rogers and Hooper, and by implication Foxe himself. Certainly, Anglican high churchmen would have felt discomfited by Milner's charge that,
'Rogers, like Hooper, when led to execution, threatened his fellow Protestants with everlasting fire, if they did not lay aside surplices, and other things belonging to the service of the church of England'.
The whole thrust of the non-Catholic radical pamphleteer William Cobbett's History of the Protestant Reformation (1824-6) was also to undermine Foxe's reputation. Although intended to be a popular work which came out in cheap monthly instalments and sold over 700,000 copies, it sent shock waves through the higher echelons of the established church and caused consternation in Anglican high church as well as Anglican Evangelical circles.
As Anthony Milton has shown, the Laudian divines in the seventeenth century tended to sideline and reduce the status of Foxe's martyrology in their own controversial rhetoric. Laud did not want to see Foxe republished. At his trial, he lumped together John Foxe with Jewel and somewhat condescendingly referred to both as: 'two very worthy men in their time, yet everything which they say is not by and by the doctrine of the Church of England'. The Laudians were uncomfortable not so much with Foxe's virulent anti-Catholicism per se, but with the way in which Foxe's essentially millenarian and apocalyptic understanding of church history led him to root Protestant origins in an underground or 'invisible church' succession of true believers. These true believers who kept the true church alive during the depths of Antichrist's reign, were identified by Foxe with various medieval 'heretical' sects: the Waldensians, Albigensians, Lollards, Hussites and others. Unlike later Jacobean 'conformist' divines who sought to vindicate the orthodoxy and 'visibility' sects such as the Waldensians, Foxe tended to brush aside questions. Foxe's eschatalogical emphasis meant that for him what alone mattered was the defiance of and persecution of these sects by Rome. Such an emphasis did not square easily with the new theological synthesis of the 1630s, being in conflict with the Laudian preference for a systematic and unambiguous rendering of Protestant origins as rooted in an enduring apostolical succession of order and institutional continuity. Laudian writers, notably Peter Heylin, Richard Montagu, and John Pocklington, poured scorn on claims for a proto-Protestant descent from the pedigree of Wycliffe, Hus, and the Albigensians. For the Laudians, such groups were unruly iconoclasts. In short, the Laudians sought to recover for the Church of England precisely that which they regarded Foxe (though not Jewel) as having rejected or at least understated - the concept of the visible and historical church as the appointed vehicle for the transmission of truth.
The nineteenth-century champions of Foxe's martyrology were aware of this Laudian tradition of lack of sympathy for Foxean historiography within a section of the Church of England. In his introduction to the first of the four complete Victorian editions of the Acts and Monuments, published (1837-41) by Seeley & Burnside, the Reverend George Townsend complained that, 'to despise Foxe, and to believe the rulers and senate of their own Church to have erred in approving him, has been made the proof and pledge of high churchmanship'. However, Townsend's contention that Laud's government was responsible for the removal of volumes of Foxe from parish churches is open to question. Townsend also exaggerated by reading back the very public repudiation of Foxe by high churchmen and Tractarians in the 1840s, over a longer period than was justified. With the exception of a few individual writers, such as the nonjuror Jeremy Collier who charged Foxe with Puritan bias, the equivocal attitude of Laudian divines to Foxe was by no means representative of high churchmanship in the nearly two centuries separating the fall of Laud and rise of the Oxford Movement.
Pre-Tractarian orthodox or high churchmen such as George Pretyman-Tomline (1750-1827) and Archdeacon Daubeny (1745-1827) became locked in theological dispute with Anglican Evangelicals over the doctrines of grace, free-will, and the nature of Justification, but both sides trumpeted the merits of the English Reformers and Reformation. Their differences primarily centred on whether or not Calvinism or Arminianism could be read into the teaching of the Reformers and into the Reformation formularies, and as to which side could lay claim to being the true spiritual heirs of the sixteenth-century. In this dispute, the evidence or witness of Foxe's martyrology was not widely utilised. However, in this pre-Tractarian era, Foxe was a unifying force among groups or parties within the Church of England against the external threat posed by Roman Catholicism.
Anglican Evangelicals such as Legh Richmond were prominent early in the century in trying to rescue Foxe from relative neglect. Richmond's eight-volume The Fathers of the English Church; or a selection from the writings of the Reformers and early Protestant Divines of the Church of England (1807-12) drew heavily on Foxe. However, mindful of the conflicting interpretation of the Church's doctrinal Articles being made by contemporary Evangelical and orthodox churchmen, Richmond went out of his way to profess a non-partisan approach:
'Nothing can be more remote from the fixed determination of the editors, than that this selection should be intentionally so compiled and arranged as to favour the particular views of any description of systematists and controversialists whatsoever, either within or without the pale of the established church'.
Richmond explained the timing of his republication of accounts (largely from Foxe) of the life and writings of the Reformers by the contemporary need, in the context of opposing Catholic political claims, of informing or reminding Protestants 'as to the ground of their forefathers' separation from the Church of Rome'. Contemporary Orthodox or high churchmen were at one with Anglican Evangelicals in promoting this aim. They were just as forward in utilising Foxe's Acts and Monuments as a weapon in the Protestant polemical armoury against the perceived Catholic challenge of the 1810s and 1820s. Thus, in his six-volume Ecclesiastical Biography (1810), the prominent high churchman Christopher Wordsworth (1774-1846), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, made extensive, albeit bowdlerised and abbreviated, use of Foxe's martyrology. The memoir of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer which comprised the third volume was entirely transcribed by Wordsworth from Foxe's Acts and Monuments. Wordsworth maintained that 'the most valuable parts of his volumes' were taken from the Acts and Monuments. In his introduction to the first volume, while conceding that he had removed or softened 'gross terms and expressions, especially such as occurred against Papists', Wordsworth explained the contemporary anti-Catholic controversial context to his publication. Wordsworth was responding to the attacks by Bishop Milner in his Letters to a Prebendary (1802) on 'the frequent publications of John Foxe's lying Book of Martyrs', and to 'what has been said by Dr J. Milner's predecessors in the same argument, by Harpsfield, Parsons, and others'. Wordsworth was dismissive of this critique, declaring complacently:
'neither his [Milner's] writings nor thesis, have proved, and it never will be proved, that John Foxe is not one of the most faithful and authentic of all historians. We know too much of the strength of Foxe's book, and of the weakness of those of his adversaries, to be further moved by Dr John Milner's censures. All the many researches and discoveries of later times, in regard to historical documents, have only contributed to place the general fidelity and truth of Foxe's melancholy narrative on a rock which cannot be shaken'.
Robert Southey, in his Book of the Church (1824), Henry Soames, in his History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1826), also relied heavily on Foxe, 'the venerable martyrologist' who has 'presented us with a series of valuable documents and important statements'. In a significant comment on its then priorities, Lingard privately dismissed Southey's Book of the Church as having 'plainly been written for a purpose to please the high-church party'. According to Sheridan Gilley, Southey's Book of the Church (to which Butler's Book of the Roman Catholic Church was a response) 'signified a new heat in the relations between the churches, and the reversal of the latitudinarian tendencies of eighteenth-century Christianity'.
Lingard was privately scathing about the uncritical reliance of Protestant churchmen such as Wordsworth, Southey and Soames on Foxe, complaining in 1824 of Southey's Book of the Church, that in,
his reigns of Henry, Edward and Mary he has done little more than make a compendium of Foxe, and has related without the least semblance of a doubt as to their accuracy the hearsay stories collected by that writer'.
It would seem that Milner and later, his still more outspoken Catholic co-religionist, William Eusebius Andrews in his Critical and Historical Review of Fox's Book of Martyrs (1824), touched on a particularly sensitive nerve as far as high or orthodox churchmen such as Wordsworth and Soames were concerned. One of the familiar tropes of English Catholic controversial literature was an, albeit, selective appeal to other Protestant historical authorities in order to discredit standard laudatory accounts of the Reformation and its English martyred Reformers in general and the evidence of John Foxe in particular. Protestant annalists of a 'high church' character, such as the Laudian Peter Heylin (1600-62) and Nonjuror Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), who were highly critical of the sacrilege and spoliation of church property that accompanied some phases of the Reformation, were particular favourites in this respect. Thus, Andrews drew on evidence from Heylin's History of the Presbyterians in order to highlight the supposedly tumultuous violence inspired by protestant preachers in the Netherlands in the 1590s and to use this as a weapon to discredit the 'Protestant pretended reformers' whom Foxe sought to canonise:
'The "Book of the Martyrs" talk of the many thousands that fell "martyrs to superstitious malice and barbarous bigotry", but we hear not a word of the cruel barbarities and sacrilegious injustices practised by these pretended martyrs whenever they got the ascendancy over the Catholics'.
Heylin, a favourite author for early nineteenth-century high churchmen when they themselves sought to separate the Church of England from associations with Calvinist predestinarianism or with the excesses of the Puritans and of the Protestant sectaries, was hailed by Andrews as a,
'Protestant historian and divine, who wrote when the circumstances he recorded were fresh upon the minds of every intelligent person, to show the irreligious and blasphemous pretensions of those religion-menders'.
Contrawise, Soames was led to regard Heylin as somewhat suspect, because his History of the Reformation (1661) was written in the wake of the English Civil War and Commonwealth and thus:
'with something of an unfriendly feeling against those who had disturbed an established order of ecclesiastical affairs even for the purpose of introducing a system avowedly superior'.
Andrews' Critical and Historical Review of Fox came out in instalments between 1823 and 1826. Andrews claimed that the work 'met with a greater sale than any Catholic controversial work ever before published in this country'. The third volume entitled An Examination of Fox's Calendar of Protestant Saints, Martyrs, etc. Contrasted with a biographical sketch of Catholic missionary priests and others executed under the Protestant penal laws from the years 1535 to 1684 (1826-9), was a response to the publication of a cheap edition of Fox's Book of Martyrs in 1823 by what Andrews referred to as 'a nest of bigots in the Borough of Southwark'. A later editor of Victorian editions of Foxe, the Reverend George Townsend, in a backhanded compliment, acknowledged the effectiveness of Andrews' critique, yet proceeded to cite a contemporary critic in the Tory Quarterly Review, for whom Andrews' 'arguments bear the same relation to sound logical reason, as the scratchings of a lunatic to the diagrams of the mathematician'. Townsend also dismissed Milner's charges against Foxe, claiming that they were 'as vague and unmeaning as those of Andrews'.
The attempt in the later 1820s to publish a more elaborate and complete edition emanated from more reputable Anglican sources than the Southwark 'bigots' who had provoked Andrews. At this stage, it was by no means only Evangelicals who were interested in republishing Foxe. The new proposal enjoyed the patronage of prominent figures in the orthodox or high church party within the Church of England. In 1827, plans were made for a new edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs when Thomas F. Dibdin, sometime rector of St Mary's, Bryanston Square, London, succeeded in persuading the high churchman William Howley, then Bishop of London, 'to accept the dedication to himself'. According to Dibdin, Howley 'desired nothing more than that error might be guarded against; and truth, if possible, still more firmly established'. Dibdin also received encouragement from other prominent orthodox and anti-Evangelical churchmen such as Thomas Rennell (1763-1840), Dean of Winchester, and Henry John Todd, Archdeacon of Cleveland and Canon of Durham, author of a response to criticisms by Lingard and Butler of his introduction to a new edition in 1825 of Cranmer's Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament, and later of a two volume Life of Archbishop Cranmer (1831) which relied heavily on Foxe. In short, the proposals for a new edition of Foxe's work could not have been more timely for the so-called Protestant high churchmen fighting a rearguard action against the threat of Catholic Emancipation. Thus, Rennell assured Dibdin that it was 'impossibe to conceive an undertaking of more importance to the best interests of our protestant cause'. Todd was no less enthusiastic, advising Dibdin:
'Do not make needless concessions in your prospectus; as loud as you can cry, I will (much older though I be,) shout louder for the historian, and exclaim, Foxe for ever!'.
However, Dibdin's project was not carried through and no new edition of Foxe was published at his editorial hands. The moment passed and the impetus for a new edition now passed to members of the Evangelical party in the Church of England.
After the relative harmony of the 1820s in the face of the Catholic threat, friction between Anglican Evangelicals and high churchmen began to resurface by the mid-1830s prior to the full-blown development of Tractarianism and any 'Romeward' shifts, symbolised by the publication of Froude's Remains (1838) with its bitter assault on the Reformers, and of Tract 90 (1841). Anti-Catholicism ceased to be a unifying principle within the Church of England. A more strident, albeit non-political anti-Catholicism among Anglican Evangelicals was symbolised by the foundation of the British Society for Promoting the Religious Principles of the Reformation (1827). John Wolffe has shown that the Reformation Society soon developed a wide network of local branches, and had a varied social composition though with a distinct preponderance of military and naval officers. The Society consciously distanced itself from the more political anti-Catholicism of the 'Ultra Tories' in the context of the debates over Catholic emancipation. Anglican Evangelical moves to republish Foxe were part of this more sharply defined religious anti-Catholicism and soon ran into conflict with high church Anglican priorities and concerns.
The outbreak of disputes between the Anglican Evangelical and orthodox parties within the Church of England found expression within the SPCK and in particular over the theological content of its officially sanctioned publications. The Church of England Tract Society, which was amenable to Evangelical influence, published from the 1830s onwards a series of exemplary lives that incorporated extracts from Foxe and laced with fierce anti-Catholic rhetoric. However by 1836, Anglican Evangelicals were voicing their grievance over the failure of their attempts, such as by Edward Bickersteth, to induce the SPCK to republish a new edition of Foxe's Acts and Monuments. George Townsend also recalled in his preface to the second Seeley edition of the Acts and Monuments (1843-9) that 'efforts had been made to induce the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to undertake the work' for several years prior to 1836. High churchmen not directly or personally involved with the Oxford Movement and its leaders, such as William Barter, led the opposition to Anglican Evangelical efforts to get a new edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs put on to the Society's publication lists, revealing a new found unease over its historical accuracy. As Barter explained,
'I have the deepest respect for the venerable Martyrologist; but I should be sorry to hear the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had made itself responsible for the historical accuracy of all his statements; and I trust that it will never republish any historical work without considering that it incurs that responsibility in its fullest measure'.
A few years previously, Christopher Wordsworth and Archdeacon Todd had felt no such qualms. The new context here was a conflict between Evangelical and orthodox churchmen for influence within the SPCK. The dispute had theological substance behind it. Evangelical members of the SPCK became increasingly strident in criticising the 'un-evangelical' character of some of the Society's republications, even complaining about new editions (which, according to high churchmen, they sought to 'mutilate') of the writings of the saintly Thomas Wilson (1663-1755), bishop of Sodor & Man, and of the nonjuror Robert Nelson (1656-1715), author of the high church spiritual classic, The Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England (1704). Anglican Evangelical misgivings were rooted in a conviction that there had, as Edward Bickersteth put it: 'been a great decay of Protestant principles among us. The precious doctrine of salvation by grace through faith has been extensively lost'. The implication was that this decay was not merely represented by the latitudinarianism of the previous century against which high churchmen as well as the Evangelical revivalists had reacted, but by the 'popish' character of recently revived high church principles which he dated back to Laudian divines such as Henry Hammond (1605-60) and which he characterised as 'a serious departure from the principles of the Reformation'. Bickersteth made clear that he regarded 'popery' from within as even more of a threat than 'popery' from without the established church:
'There are alas, within us, those who have forsaken and who oppose the pure faith established amongst us by our Protestant forefathers; and being within us, I have no hesitation in saying that I think our danger from them on that account is the greater'.
Barter and other high churchmen opposed the plans of Bickersteth and other Anglican Evangelicals to republish Foxe in the mid-1830s not out of crypto- or pro-Catholicism but because they feared that such Evangelicals were under cover of an external anti-Catholicism really directing their censures against a large majority of members of their own church (i.e. high churchmen) who were not of their (Evangelical) opinion. Barter challenged Bickersteth's contention that Popery was increasing because the SPCK was failing to stand up for Protestant principles by failing to publish soundly Protestant literature, as evidenced in its opposition to republishing Foxe. As he put it:
'Mr Bickersteth himself also notes the rapid increase of Popery from the last thirty or forty years, a period of time during which, I think, that no one would maintain that the influence of Reformation principles, according to his notice of them, has diminished in this country'.
Barter complained not about Bickersteth's anti-Catholicism per se as evidenced in his proposal for a new edition of Foxe, but of the tone, character, tendency, and implications of the anti-Catholicism being displayed and recommended. As Barter put it:
'Mr Bickersteth may be sure that the time for beating down the Church of Rome by opprobrious appellations is passed by. In times of ignorance and popular excitement, they answered their intended purpose; but the abuse of such weapons which were certainly wielded with success in the times of the reformers, and which he confounds with the doctrines then held by the Church of England, has much injured our cause by its reaction'.
In short, a fierce anti-Catholic invective might have been appropriate for Foxe and his age in order to win people from the 'thraldom of Popery' but it was not necessary or appropriate in the nineteenth century. Moreover, Barter and other high churchmen sensed that Anglican Evangelicals sought to manipulate and present Foxe in such a way as to justify their own contemporary partisan proceedings at the expense of high church principles and their advocates. Barter complained that,
'the self-styled Religious Press is unwearied in the publication of Church Histories, falsely so called, and the biography of learned and pious men is now frequently used as a means only of conveying and recommending the devotional opinion of their respective annalists. But the injury thus done to the cause of religion is irreparable'.
According to Barter, Anglican Evangelicals such as Scott and Bickersteth advised on the publication of works of the Reformers (in 1836, Bickersteth edited a compilation entitled The Testimony of the Reformers as well as in 1832, The Christian's Family Library), and of Foxe, in order that it might be shown that their own theological opinions coincided with theirs. In short, it was part of a strategy of presenting themselves as the sole guarantors of authentic Protestant orthodoxy against the incursions of 'popery' both from within and without the citadel of the established church.
The announcement in the mid-1830s by the Anglican Evangelical publishing house of Seeley and Burnside of 'a new and complete edition' of The Acts and Monuments opened a new chapter in the legacy and publication history of Foxe's Martyrology. The first volume of this new edition, edited by Stephen Reed Cattley, with assistance from George Townsend, Archdeacon of Allerton & Allertonshire, Yorkshire, and the Evangelical clergyman Josiah Pratt, Junior, was published in 1837 and continued until 1841. The first volume of the new edition immediately attracted the hostile notice of the learned Anglican cleric, Samuel Roffey Maitland, who was to be appointed librarian of Lambeth Palace Library in 1838.
Maitland's role as critic-in-chief of the Cattley-Townsend edition of the Acts and Monuments, his controversy with Townsend (commencing with his articles in the British Magazine in 1837-8), and his wider repudiation of the Evangelical historiography exemplified in Joseph Milner's History of the Church of Christ, are well known and only merit brief notice here. However, it is important to note, as Andrew Penny has shown, that Maitland's main concern was not simply to point up the inaccuracies in the Cattley-Townsend edition but to refute the whole Foxean tradition of an eschatological reading of church history. As with the Laudian divines of two centuries earlier, Maitland repudiated the status accorded by Joseph Milner, like Foxe, to the Albigensians and Waldensians as orthodox precursors of Protestantism and one of the 'witnesses' predicted in the Book of Revelations. The tenor of Maitland's initial critique of the Cattley-Townsend edition in his Letters on Foxe's Acts and Monuments (1837-8) and his more extended Notes on the contributions of the Rev. George Townsend, M.A. Prebendary of Durham, etc. to the new edition of Fox's martyrology (1841-2) followed on closely from his earlier critique of Evangelical prophetic and eschatological readings of early and medieval church history contained in his Strictures on Milner's 'Church History' (1835).
Tractarianism increasingly became a notorious bugbear or bogey for Anglican Evangelical and many mainstream or 'orthodox' churchmen (such as Townsend himself) by the 1840s. It served the purpose of Townsend, and of some Anglican Evangelical critics of Maitland's attack on Foxe and the Cattley-Townsend edition, to indulge in conspiracy theory, portraying Maitland as 'the spy within' and his anti-Foxe writings as part of a wider Tractarian plot to tarnish the reputation of the Reformers and thereby undermine the Protestant credentials of the Church of England (what one Tractarian acknowledged as 'unprotestantising'). Townsend linked Maitland to the principles of 'reserve' in preaching the Atonement which he identified in number 80 of the Tracts for the Times, 'Reserve in Communicating Religious Knowledge', and with no. 89 of the same series, 'On the Mysticism of the Fathers' (on which Maitland himself had passed critical comment). However, it is possible to overestimate Maitland's 'Tractarian' proclivities and associations as an explanation for the motivation of his assault upon not only Foxe's contemporary champions in the 1830s and 1840s, but upon Foxe himself. In his many disquisitions on Foxe and the Cattley-Townsend edition, Maitland gave little attention to the Reformation or the Reformers or Marian martyrs. It was only later, in his The Reformation in England (1849), that Maitland focused on the Reformation era. His approach in response to the new edition of the Acts and Monuments was critical in terms of sources and text and not merely an exercise in theological polemic. As is well known, a polemical repudiation of the character and authority of the leading English Reformers, Cranmer and Jewell (though Ridley tended to be treated more respectfully) comprised a major component of the Tractarian historiography as promoted not only by Froude, but Newman, Keble, and eventually Pusey himself. Maitland was close to Hugh James Rose (1795-1838), and succeeded Rose as editor of the high church British Magazine in 1839, but neither Rose himself nor that journal (which he helped found in 1832) were uncritical in their support for even the earlier phase of the Oxford Movement.
Another high churchman who kept his distance from the Oxford Movement, Edward Churton (1800-74), rector of Crayke, Yorkshire, castigated 'my friend, Mr Townsend' for trying to implicate Maitland with individual aspects of Tractarian teaching or polemic. Given the importance of establishing the accuracy of his edition, in view of the very large number of financial subscribers to the project, Churton regretted that Townsend had not confined 'himself to the subject of controversy between himself and Mr Maitland' and the only one that mattered - the authenticity of various points under dispute in Foxe's martyrology:
'What I complain of is, that Mr Townsend, the grand vizier of this host of names [of subscribers] should have made an onslaught, on the present occasion, into a neutral territory, which no one can suppose to be bound in any alliance, offensive or defensive, with Mr Maitland. What has the good or ill fame of John Fox to do with Tract No. 80? What has Mr Maitland to do with "the papists and tractarians", against whom Mr Townsend expresses so much of what he calls "his strong language"? One would think, after what Mr Maitland has himself published on Tract No. 89, there would be no necessity for thinking him to be concerned in this venomous conspiracy'.
Maitland himself repudiated the notion, implied by Townsend's criticisms, 'that to censure what Fox has written is to apologise for Rome'. Part of Maitland's critique of Foxe was on grounds of taste and morality as well as inaccuracy and falsification, deliberate or unintentional. For example, he expressed profound contempt for Foxe's 'Letter of Lucifer' as profane and ribald in character, but insisted that he had 'said nothing but what I might have said, and should have said, if the letter had been written by a papist against the protestants'. However, if Maitland's case against Foxe was not designed to bolster the Tractarian, still less the Roman Catholic cause, it was infused by a 'high church' rejection of Foxe on the ground that he was a Puritan or Puritan sympathiser whose principles and influence were potentially subversive of sound Anglican notions of episcopal order and authority. Maitland condemned Foxe's 'low radical mockery at all ecclesiastical authority', arguing that Foxe's vehement language against 'proud prelates' as applied to Archbishops Arundel, Courtenay, Gardiner, and Bonner, had potentially a wider application against prelates even of the present day, and had been used by Protestant Dissenters in support of their attacks on the Anglican clergy and establishment. Maitland maintained that the logic of Foxe's portrayal of episcopal authority struck 'at the root of episcopacy', representing 'it as an usurpation and tyranny'. He concluded, with a warning that by making Foxe into an authority and aiming to uphold the 'cause of the Church' through him, there was a danger of his anti-episcopal notions being considered as one of 'the sound principles of the Protestant Reformation' worthy of imitation among contemporary churchmen:
'Is there any one thing in the book more obvious than its Presbyterianism? Surely those who are zealous to give "extended circulation" to such a work among the younger clergy and their parishioners, with high panegyric of its principles, and not one word of difference or censure, are likely to "injure the cause of the Church"'.
Similarly, Maitland taunted the reputedly staunch churchman Townsend for proudly citing the Dissenter Daniel Neal's (author of a eulogistic History of the Puritans, 1732-8) almost as evidence of Foxe's veracity, even while Townsend conceded Neal's partiality. Maitland's appeal to the unimpeachably Protestant Southey's dismissive view of Neal was also designed to embarrass Townsend and to paint him into a corner:
'he considers a puff from one person as good as a puff from another, or he would never have stooped to pick up Neal's eulogy of Foxe. In his reply, he tells us that Neal "was a coarse and partial writer, who read history through the green spectacles of his own opinions, but he was not a wilful liar". This may be Mr Townsend's opinion. Southey has characterised Neal as "the most prejudiced and dishonest of all historians". Surely even those who prefer the authority of Mr Townsend will admit that praise from such a person as he describes, bestowed on a partisan, is not worth picking up, except as it adds a name in a "childish parade" of authorities, or a dishonest attempt to deceive ignorant readers'.
In short, Maitland was primarily concerned at Anglican Evangelical attempts to set up Foxe's martyrology as a sacred text, on account of his deep misgivings over what he regarded as its potentially subversive quality. Townsend was right to assert that 'before a single sheet of the 1837 edition of Foxe was printed', Maitland had made clear in response to the challenge of the Anglican Evangelical Christian Observer, that 'the attempt to set up Foxe as an authority of any kind' was 'perfectly absurd'.
One of the episodes which most troubled even non-Tractarian high churchmen by the late-1830s, stemmed from accounts of Foxe's own personal ecclesiastical career rather than from the Book of Martyrs itself. In an ongoing correspondence in the British Magazine about the merits of Foxe and early parts of the Cattley-Townsend edition, Edward Churton lamented the 'schismatical' spirit of the way in which Foxe sided with the 'Genevan' rather than 'English liturgy' party among the Marian exiles in Frankfort in 1554-55. Churton was dismayed that Foxe, like John Knox and William Whittingham, proposed the Genevan order of worship in January 1555, commenting pithily: 'such was our Martyrologist's regard for the Common Prayer!' For Churton, this episode helped colour the way in which the Acts and Monuments should be regarded, for it afforded 'an easy clue to the spirit in which such a man would write his memorials of the Reformation'. Criticism of Foxe need not imply criticism of the Reformers as expounded by Hurrell Froude, nor tenderness towards Rome: 'In short, the character of our venerated martyrs is one thing; that of the martyrologist another'. Thus, Churton concluded with this nuanced distinction in which he sought to play off the unreliable martyrologist Foxe against the worthy Marian martyrs themselves:
'For the authentic documents collected by Father Coverdale and Foxe, we owe them the respect due to painful compilers of valuable matter; but the spirit of the man, who chose rather to make a new schism than to dwell with his brethren in exile, and join his voice with theirs in the English liturgy, is not such as the sainted Ridley would have wished for in his faithful chronicler'.
This was a neat way of indicating Protestant loyalty but on high church terms of respect for church order and authority - being both anti-Foxe and yet at the same time a friend of 'Reformation principles' properly understood. One wonders what Ridley himself might have made of this selective canonisation of his witness as a martyr at the expense of his martyrologist.
Like Churton, Maitland focused on evidence for what he regarded as Foxe's 'Puritanism'. The non-Tractarian high churchman, Francis Massingberd (1800-72), Vicar of South Ormsby, Lincolnshire, and later Chancellor of Lincoln cathedral, in his The English Reformation (1842) took a similar line, pointing to a generational shift in attitude among high churchmen (even among those not closely allied to the Oxford Movement) towards the status and reputation of Foxe and his martyrology. Massingberd explicitly distanced his approach from the apparently more uncritical attitude towards Foxe adopted by Christopher Wordsworth in his Ecclesiastical Biography:
'It is only to be regretted, that one so eminently qualified to write a history of those times himself, should have reprinted so much of Foxe and other earlier historians, when his own notes give so much more information, and present a truer picture of facts, than the matter which they serve to illustrate'.
Foxe clearly did not measure up to the 'Anglican style' which Massingberd looked for in a Reformation worthy, and Massingberd's criticism bore the characteristic tone of the early Victorian high churchman, embarrassed by Foxe's 'Puritanism':
'though his book was, naturally enough, in Queen Elizabeth's reign, the most popular work, next to the Bible, which then appeared, it must be confessed that his notions were more in accordance with the Geneva Bible of that age, which explained the courts of the Apocalypse to mean bishops and archbishops, than with the Church's prayers for Ember-week. Foxe was a man of piety in his own way, and of great simplicity of character; nor can the honesty of his intentions be impeached. But being also a man whose judgement was less strong than his feelings, and having joined himself with John Knox at Frankfort, he wrote in the spirit of one who believed that the whole Catholic church was apostate, and that all who belonged to it for some ages before were servants of Antichrist. It is much to be regretted, that any should now think such a spirit fit to be perpetuated, and try to keep alive a feeling of bitterness which widens the breach between different churches'.
Moreover, another high churchman who kept his distance from the Tractarians and fell out with them, the combative Vicar of Leeds, W.F. Hook (1798-1875), was critical, if not disparaging, of Foxe's authority in his twelve-volume Lives of the Archbishop of Canterbury (vol. 1, p. 119).
The argument then is that after the first thirty years of the century when disputes over Foxe's status, reliability, and accuracy as an historian formed part of a wider denominational conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism, the 1830s onwards witnessed Foxe becoming a source of contention with a Church of England increasingly divided along party lines. Anglican Evangelicals were keen to promote Foxe as an icon of not only Protestantism vis a vis Rome but as a symbol of their own form of Protestant identity within the Church of England. This identity was threatened by a resurgent high churchism, which Anglican Evangelicals chose to characterise as 'Tractarian', but which represented a far wider constituency than that of the leaders and immediate followers of the Oxford Movement. Andrew Penny has recently drawn attention to the crucial importance of the role of prophecy and prophetical interpretation in Foxe's martyrolgy. It is possible that just as even non-Tractarian high churchmen felt increasingly uneasy and threatened by the apocalyptic framework of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, it was this very aspect of his work which helped boost the 'extreme' millenarian wing among Evangelicals. Maitland's attack on Foxe was primarily motivated by his rejection of Foxe's historical prophetic periodization of church history (rather than by what Foxe had to say about the Marian martyrs). It was precisely this prophetical understanding of church history (resurgent in the wake of the French Revolution) which Foxe's early nineteenth-century radical Evangelical defenders were most anxious to revive and promote. Foxe maintained that the second beast in Revelation 13 was Antichrist, that Antichrist had been fulfilled in time in the medieval and later Papacy and that this accounted for the persecution of those which challenged Papal authority, from Wycliffe and Huss to the Marian martyrs. This identification of Antichrist was repudiated not only by Maitland but by the Irish high churchman, James Henthorn Todd (1805-69) in his Donnellan lectures (dedicated to Maitland) at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1838 and 1839, and by John Henry Newman in his 'Advent Sermons on Antichrist' (1840) in no. 83 of the Tracts for the Times (later published as 'The Protestant Idea of Antichrist'). For some Anglican high churchmen in the 1830s, as for the Laudian divines two centuries earlier, Foxe's eschatalogy was deemed to be subversive of what they regarded as the correct doctrines of the nature, constitution, and order of the church.
Townsend, however, does not fit the model of Anglican Evangelical appropriation of Foxe outlined above. A striking feature of Townsend's introductory essay, his 'Life of John Foxe' (in Part I) and his reply to Foxe's detractors (in Section I of Part II) in the Cattley edition of the Acts and Monuments, was its moderate and defensive tone. While he was scathing about Catholic criticisms of Foxe from Robert Persons through to Bishop Milner, he showed a readiness to overcome and accommodate the criticisms and misgivings of Anglican high churchmen, Maitland excepted. Thus, the critique of the nonjuring historian, Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), through to contemporary moderate high churchmen of the stamp of Churton and Massingberd, were treated with respect. Churton was on friendly terms with Townsend, and resided in the same part of the country. Townsend attracted John Henry Newman's attention after issuing early criticism of the Tracts for the Times in his archdiaconal Charge of 1838. Churton wrote to reassure Newman that the criticism was not important enough for Newman to meditate any retaliation, and that he would 'manage him' himself. Churton insisted: 'he is not an enemy of ours, in fact is no man's enemy, and I should be sorry to see him treated as such'. Townsend even favoured aspects of the high church programme of the mid-1830s the revival of Convocation, a repeal of that great symbol of the Henrician Reformation, the Statute of Praemunire, and a petitioning campaign against the Marriage & Registration of Tithe bills. In a published sermon, The Church of England the Best Accomplisher of God's Gifts (1838), Townsend even criticised 'Wesley, Whitefield, and their followers', for behaving 'as if the apostolical succession had no existence' and for reviving 'the spirit of Puritanism'. Although he was the son of what Churton called a 'Whitefieldite preacher' (in fact, his father was an Independent minister in Ramsgate), Townsend was not an Evangelical. Churton could not resist one jibe: 'Puritanism does not quite get out of the constitution till the third generation, and I fear he is a little sore about Maitland's attack on Foxe'. However, he concluded: 'we need not quarrel with him, for he is in other respects a good churchman, save when he is bitten with a kind of Papophobia'.
Townsend had won his ecclesiastical spurs and promotion to a Durham prebend (under the patronage of Bishop Shute Barrington who appointed him his chaplain in 1824) with a polemic against Catholic emancipation, The Accusations of History against the Church of Rome (1825). He was to emerge as a virulent anti-Tractarian - being the anonymous author of a work of laboured anti-Tractarian ridicule, The Life and Defence of the conduct and principles of the venerable and calumniated, Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London By a Tractarian British Critic (1842). In this spoof, Townsend assumed the guise of a friend of Hurrell Froude, whose hagiography of Bonner was intended as an antidote to 'the poison' of Foxe's Acts and Monuments. From the perspective of the fictional Tractarian, he lambasted,
'that lying, slandering, malicious, hateful, detestable, abusive, wicked, scandalous, horrible, and most ultra-Protestant book, "The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe", - a book which has done more harm to the system we wish to restore, and rendered more benefit to the ultra-Protestant cause, than any book in the language'. We shall never establish Tractarianism, till Foxe's book be despised or forgotten'.
The heavy-handed scarcasm was designed to link Tractarianism to opposition to Foxe. Townsend was also proud of the early warnings which he had issued against the Tractarians, and as Churton complained, he could not regard Maitland as a disinterested scholar but only as a part of the ongoing and growing threat posed by Tractarianism:
'I was the first who wrote an entire Charge to the clergy, to show the pestilence, by publicly and officially condemning the Oxford Tracts In this very spirit, because I deemed Mr Maitland to be infected with the same disease, in doing the work of the Papist and the Tractarian, I openly repressed him'.
In the same vein, Townsend accused Maitland of being a 'renegade and traitor to the cause of the Protestantism of England'. He linked his own exertions in promoting Foxe's martyrology to a wider duty to defend Protestantism which must continue,
'till the apostasy and the treason, which have begun with the Tractarian at Oxford, and which has extended to the Librarian at Lambeth, be not only resisted, but subdued'.
Yet, if Townsend portrayed criticism of Foxe from a certain quarter as inspired by anti-Protestantism and regarded himself as 'defending the cause of the Church as our Reformers left it', he was much more sensitive to the concerns of contemporary moderate high churchmen such as Churton that Foxe might not be an acceptable 'Anglican' model for the mid-nineteenth century. A damage limitation exercise was called for, and both Townsend's introduction and his contemporary published responses to Maitland can be read in this vein. In an appendix to his published Charge of 1838, The Doctrine of the Atonement to be Taught Without Reserve, Townsend had attempted to separate the cause of the English Reformation and her Reformers from a later Puritan faction. In his introduction to Foxe, Townsend also distanced reverence for the Marian martyrs from the taint of Puritanism. Thus, he reproduced the criticisms raised by Churton and others, that when in exile at Frankfort Foxe had sided with the party who wanted to abandon the Book of Common Prayer in favour of the Genevan form of worship. Townsend was outspoken in his defence of Anglican liturgical order at Foxe's expense, deeply lamenting 'the fact that John Foxe took this active part in opposition to our noble, primitive, catholic, and most spiritual service'. Townsend at this point even referred his readers to the Oxford Tracts as well as to renowned Anglican liturgists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such as Comber and Nichols, for his argument for the correspondence of the Book of Common Prayer with the ancient liturgies. Townsend insisted, in the spirit of a high churchman, that 'Calvin's liturgy' for which Foxe showed a preference, 'was deficient in that deep homage to antiquity which characterises the English service'. However, Townsend took comfort in the fact that on his return to England on the accession of Elizabeth, Foxe 'remained a steadfast conformist to its services, to the hour of his death'. Nonetheless, Townsend conceded that Foxe's conformity was qualified and that he was rightly denied ecclesiastical preferment because of his 'long-recorded objections to some portions of the service-book' and to the use of certain vestments. Townsend, like Southey in his Book of the Church, grudgingly excused the Church's connivance at Foxe's 'inobservances' because they were relatively harmless and 'did not proceed from a principle of insubordination'. In the final resort, however, Townsend was prepared to offer a bolder defence of Foxe's somewhat partial or equivocal conformity on the grounds of the exigencies of the times and the threat posed by the Papal power. In a variant of the argument offered even by high churchmen in defence of the non-episcopal status of foreign Protestant churches, the plea of necessity, he concluded:
'If the rude and fiery soldiery of the Calvinist and nonconformist had not carried on the war in the manner which, in many instances, cannot be justified, we may rightly doubt whether a greater evil than the temporary ascendancy of their power would not have resumed, in the gradual succumbing of episcopacy under the power of the ancient usurper of its authority'.
Townsend was careful to repudiate Maitland's charge, which had originally been made by the nonjuror Collier in his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain (1708-14), that Foxe's strong abuse of pre-Reformation and Marian Catholic prelates could undermine contemporary Anglican ecclesiastical authority:
'No reader of the pages of John Foxe can possibly imagine that the language which the martyrologist applies to Arundel and the martyr-burning bishops, who exerted themselves to reduce England to the yoke of Rome, can be applied to the mild and gentle virtues of Howley and his brethren'.
Townsend also felt it necessary to distance himself, if not Foxe, from the implications of radical doctrines attributed to some of the martyrs depicted in the Acts and Monuments. Thus, Townsend dealt with concerns first raised by Collier that Foxe appeared to sanction the anti-clericalism of the Lollard, William Thorp, who denied 'the necessity of a regular mission or apostolical succession'. For Townsend, Foxe was justified in claiming someone 'a good man and a blessed martyr', even 'if he held some opinions which might be deemed objectionable'. Foxe's apparent anti-clericalism, like his supposed anti-episcopalianism, Townsend argued, had to be seen in he context of the times of Popish thraldom and should be regarded as irrelevant in terms of the contemporary of Church of England. He concluded that if,
'Collier had applied his remarks to the clergy of whom Foxe spoke, and had considered only the period to which they applied, Collier would have agreed with Foxe. The clamour against the popish clergy of the time in which Thorp lived, when Arundel was archbishop, and when Thorp was tried, we may justly thank God, is not applicable to the present day. Collier applies generally the remarks which Thorp applied particularly to the clergy of his own day'.
In this way, the teeth of Lollardy were drawn and the Church of England disassociated from its cause.
Continuing to meet high church objections head on, Townsend conceded that some of the martyrs who were burned and who were portrayed in Foxe's pages 'held opinions which the Church of England now condemns'. Townsend was here responding to the charge of Maitland and others alleged against Foxe,
'that in drawing up the articles of impeachment against a man who was burned, Foxe mentions the man's opinions against pilgrimages, transubstantiation, auricular confession, and other points of this nature; but he did not insert in the list the accusation, that the man taught the non-necessity of the sacraments to salvation'.
Against this, Townsend resorted to a note of defensive special pleading, conceding that here Foxe erred, but that he was in good company:
'Foxe, I answer, was guilty of the fault which almost every writer of biography, excepting the inspired writers, has committed, of concealing the faults of those whom he eulogises. He ought to have mentioned the article which he has omitted'.
Townsend, however, sought to turn the tables on Maitland by asserting that what he regarded as Maitland's cavils against Foxe on particular points did not touch the heart of the matter - the need to combat the Antichristian forces of the Papacy, and that they only played into the hands of Foxe's Roman Catholic denigrators. Thus, Townsend claimed that while Foxe wrongly concealed the sacramentarian views of a martyr burned in an individual case, 'it is not less true, that the man would have been burned if he had denied transubstantiation, even if he had maintained to the uttermost the validity of the sacraments'. He accused Maitland of using criticisms of Foxe's accuracy and language as a cover for a more deep-seated antipathy to Foxe's principles:
'Foxe wrote to hold up to reprobation the cruelty, treachery, and abominations of Rome. Mr Maitland and his friends hate the principles of Foxe more than they hate his language. They discover many, very many indefensible faults in his voluminous work, and they are saving the Papists much trouble, while they are giving them also much satisfaction, by their incessant abuse of the martyrologist'.
Townsend, however, was confident that the process of sifting 'the wheat' from 'the chaff' would strengthen the honour in which Foxe would be held by posterity.
Townsend concluded his 'vindication' of Foxe by further revealingly back-handed compliments. Clearly out of sympathy with the 'Puritan' Foxe's penchant for the 'miraculous' gifts of prophecy and healing, he also deplored Foxe's speaking 'incautiously' on the subject of the Lord's Prayer and church music, and many other things 'common to the early church and the Church of Rome'. Far from acknowledging Foxe as a model of toleration in his day, in which guise both the late Geoffrey Elton and V. Norskov Olsen tried to dress him, Townsend criticised Foxe for speaking 'too disparagingly of such eminent men as More and Fisher; though it must be remembered that both these men were guilty of the common crime, the persecution which Foxe abhorred'. In his final judgement, Townsend almost appeared to acknowledge the basis of at least part of the latter-day high church, if not Tractarian, objection to Foxe and his martyrology, of which Maitland was the most celebrated exponent:
'It is difficult to vindicate him from the charge of Puritanism. It is certain that if he could have effected a further reform in the Church of England, he would have conducted it further from Rome. It is difficult to distinguish between his opinions and those of the persons of whom he is speaking. This is a great defect'.
As Thomas Freeman has argued, Townsend can be placed in the company of several other post-Elizabethan biographers of Foxe who have been 'eager to emphasise Foxe's conformity and de-emphasise those aspects of Foxe's life, such as his iconophobia or his career as an exorcist' which were out of tune with the tone and character of later Anglican churchmanship. As with the Martyrs Memorial project and the early editions of the Parker Society (the volumes were adorned with mitres and there was significance in the very choice of the name of Parker, an Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the more moderate of the English Reformers), one can discern a conscious agenda of conciliating moderate high churchmen and disengaging them from the Tractarians. Even Anglican Evangelical editors of works of the Reformers for the Parker Society and Religious Tract Society were sensitive to questions of churchmanship. As a high church writer in the British Magazine noted in 1844: 'the Religious Tract Society cut out of Hooper's work his most violent and schismatic passages (that, for instance, concerning the surplice, in the sermons of Jonah').
Townsend admitted that his readiness to conciliate moderate high churchmen by in effect repackaging Foxe for a mid-nineteenth century Anglican readership, got him into trouble with some more extreme Evangelicals, notably the ultra-Evangelical Record newspaper. In one of his many exchanges with Maitland, he complained, as if appealing for sympathy from his combative opponent: 'The editor of the "Record" and his correspondents are abusing me as a high churchman, because I honour, value, and defend the Apostolical Succession. So let it be'. 'Recordite' Evangelicals would certainly have been appalled at the way in which Townsend lumped together and commended martyrs from all religious traditions, those of modern Rome included, in his remarkably eirenical Ecclesiastical and Civil History philosophically considered (2 vols, 1847), in which he maintained:
'Modern Rome has produced its martyrs. Presbyterian Scotland, and Puritan and Dissenting England, have added their partisans to the list of martyrs. These all died in faith, and all sealed their testimony to the common truths of Scripture with their blood'.
Most Evangelicals proponents of Foxe had a more unreservedly extreme Protestant agenda than that of Townsend and were anything but eirenical. They ascribed opposition to the republication of the Acts and Monuments primarily to those who were 'carried away by the love of antiquity, and of an orderly succession of ministers', and a reluctance 'to admit that the successors of the Fathers in the Church of Rome were guilty of more than the bringing in of some errors and unwarranted practices', but identified a secondary group of opponents as those who suffered from an exaggerated liberality and tenderness for individuals which they unwittingly extended even to what they recognised as an erroneous religious system. These liberal-minded critics of republications of Foxe were regarded as placing an undue and misguided faith in the power of improved education for the eradication of religious error, not appreciating the unchangeableness of Rome.
Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, the Anglican Evangelical editor of a popular abridged edition of Foxe's martyrology and of the Christian Lady's Magazine, embittered by experiences in Ireland, made clear that she had aimed in her promotion of Foxe not only to keep alive the memory of 'past cruelties' reputedly inflicted by the Church of Rome but to warn contemporaries that Popery had not changed its character. She argued that,
'recent events have shown, and modern writings abundantly prove, that Popery never changes, and not a murder or crime has ever been committed but would be repeated, had it the power and thought it expedient to exercise it'.
Her own Protestant Evangelical convictions had been shaped for life by her exposure as a child in Norwich to the gruesome illustrations to a popular edition of the Book of Martyrs. Her impressions had been first aroused when her father took her at the age of six to the site of Marian burnings in Norwich. When her father gave her 'the old folio of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, in venerable black letter', she could hardly be parted from 'that magic book'. As she later observed:
'I could not, it is true, decipher the black letter; but … every wood-cut was examined with aching eyes and a palpitating heart. Assuredly I took in more of the spirit of John Foxe, even by that imperfect mode of acquaintance, than many do by reading his book through; and when my father next found me at what became my darling study, I looked up at him with burning cheeks and asked, "Papa, may I be a martyr?"'.
A later study of the printed text of Foxe by the infatuated girl confirmed her love affair with the martyrology. As she later put it, 'in the progress of reading this work I became better acquainted with the true doctrines of the Reformation than ever before'. Her own two volume The English Martyrology abridged from Foxe (1837), with a glowing introduction from Edward Bickersteth, was clearly a labour of love. In an editorial in her Christian Lady's Magazine, she proudly listed the number of high dignitaries, lay and clerical, who subscribed to the Cattley-Townsend edition of Foxe, and revelled in the known discomfiture of liberal politicians and latitudinarian as well as high churchmen at the reappearance of the Acts and Monuments;
'Of all the apparitions that could rise from the shades, to startle the eyes, and grieve the hearts of modern liberalists, what more astounding than the stern martyrologist, old John Foxe himself, clanking the chains of the sixteenth century, which Lord John Russell has just informed us, must not be brought forward to fetter the enlightened minds of the nineteenth!'.
Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna derided those who tried to dilute or disguise the harsh language of Foxe's original text which had been 'served up to stouter stomachs than ours'. Many of even the staunchest Protestant advocates of Foxe, however, were sensitive to the charge of 'coarseness' in his language and were careful to produce bowdlerised versions for household use. Thus, Michael Hobart Seymour in 1838 edited a cleaned up two-volume family edition of the martyrology in which all 'coarseness of expression' in the original was suppressed. It was frequently reprinted and had a wide circulation.
The Anglican Evangelical patronage of Foxe's martyrology continued into the second half of the century. In 1853, Josiah Pratt Junior, and the Rev. R. R. Mendham, edited a third Victorian edition of the text of the Acts and Monuments, which Andrew Penny has shown to have been set forth in two different packages. One version was published as part of a series, 'The Church Historians of England', with particular reference to the 'Reformation period', and appeared in sixteen instalments or parts between 1853 and 1870. However, it was also issued in the standard eight volume set which characterised the other Victorian editions. In 1877, the Congregationalist pastor and historian, John Stoughton (1807-97), edited a fourth edition, which Stoughton claimed was virtually the same as the third, and which drew heavily from Townsend 'in the Life of Foxe'. As the author of highly critical Lectures on Tractarian Theology (1843), Stoughton's anti-Tractarian credentials were clear. However, the sections in the earlier editions devoted to responding to Maitland (who had died in 1866) were drastically reduced, with most of Stoughton's introduction being concerned with reasserting Foxe's trustworthiness, while conceding minor blemishes. The Evangelical Samuel Waldegrave, bishop of Carlisle (1860-9), wrote a preface to a new and cheap edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs in 1868.
Some Evangelicals had far fewer qualms than Townsend about Foxe's apparent breaches of church order. Thus, the Rev. Ingram Corbin in his new and corrected edition of the martyrology (1856) to which he appended an Essay on Popery and additions to the present time, approved of Foxe's adoption of 'the people among whom' he and other English exiles at Frankfort had taken refuge. He lamented that in 'this honest preference he met with much unbecoming opposition from his British brethren, then abroad and afterwards'.
Evangelical patronage of Foxe took other forms. Vivienne Westbrook has shown how local Protestant organisations, notably Thomas Hope Aston's Birmingham Protestant Association, sought to disseminate popular editions of the Acts and Monuments in order to keep alive the memory of the Reformation martyrs as a way of maintaining England's Protestant identity as a nation against the perceived challenge of a revived and growing Roman Catholicism. By 1873, Aston could claim that owing 'to the wide-spread distribution of the Book of Martyrs by the laborious and reliable compiler, John Foxe, no period in our country's history is better known to the youth of both sexes'.
These Evangelical inspired revivals of the Foxean legacy, did not go unchallenged, and provoked a new wave of 'Anglo-Catholic' as well as English Catholic polemical counter-attack in the second half of the century. In 1868, an English Dominican priest, Fr Dominic Trenow prominent Catholic, published a lecture delivered at Stone, Staffordshire, entitled The unreliability of John Foxe the "Martyrologist". Trenow recycled arguments against Foxe's credibility culled from Parsons and Milner, but also praised 'that large and increasing number of clergy and laity of the established church' who had helped to discredit Foxe. He made particularly effective use of Foxe's high church and later 'Anglo-Catholic' critics from within the established church, notably Maitland and Littledale. Trenow's eulogy on Maitland would seem to have been designed to confirm the worst fears of Maitland's Anglican Evangelical critics:
'so completely … did he succeed in unearthing this Foxe, that though a sedate, studious, and learned scholar and clergyman, he has earned for himself the by no means inappropriate, if not dignified nickname, of "Foxhunter". It may be said with truth that he ran him to the death'.
Trenow's lecture was part of a renewed Foxean controversy sparked by the new popular edition of the Book of Martyrs, to which Bishop Waldegrave wrote his preface. Bishop Waldegrave was a particular target of Anglo-Catholic hostility, with the English Church Union trying unsuccessfully to prosecute him for heresy. Trenow was also able to cite approvingly a public lecture by the Ritualist, R.F. Littledale delivered to the Liverpool branch of the English Church Union, in which he castigated 'the infamous Foxe, and the not much more respectable Burnet', and derided even Francis Massingberd's History of the Reformation. Littledale was even more outspoken against Foxe's martyrology than the Roman Catholic Trenow, referring to the Acts and Monuments as,
'that magazine of lying bigotry, a book which no advanced man now living, possessed of any self-respect or honesty, does otherwise than repudiate with contempt and aversion'.
For Littledale, Foxe's Protestant vitriol was a hindrance to an Anglo-Catholic reconstruction of a non-Roman English 'Catholic' identity which downplayed the Reformation as a mere correction of minor late-medieval abuses which in no way undermined the Church of England's organic and linear continuity with the early and medieval English church. His primary appeal in order to gain support from a wider constituency for his viewpoint, however, was to liberal principles of tolerance and objectivity of evidence. Thus, he gloried in the apparent fact that:
'Every day is clearing up the truth. Documents, hidden from public eye for centuries, in the archives of London, Venice, and Simancas, are now rapidly being printed, and every fresh find establishes more clearly the utter scoundralism of the Reformers'.
In the eyes of Foxe's Protestant defenders, this was doing the work of Catholic controversialists for them. Trenow congratulated Littledale for stripping 'of their title to martyrdom the saints canonised by Foxe', and above all, for attributing 'to the persecuting spirit of the reformers, the subsequent retaliations in the reign of Queen Mary'. He concluded by linking Foxe's Acts and Monuments to more recent popular works of fanatical and poisonous anti-Catholicism such as The Confession Unmasked and the History of Maria Monk as 'birds of the same nest'.
In conclusion, the nineteenth-century reception of Foxe's Book of Martyrs involved far more than a mere denominational 'dog fight' between Protestant and Roman Catholic controversialists, with each side striving either to vindicate or discredit Foxe's credibility as an historian. The polemical use of Foxe's martyroloygy and assumptions of his reliability had united Anglican high churchmen and Anglican Evangelicals against the challenge posed by a resurgent English Catholicism in the lead up to Emancipation. In his Book of the Church, Robert Southey had been able happily to combine his protestant martyrology from Fox's Acts and Monuments with a high church historiography from divines like the Laudian Peter Heylin. Some of the new editions of the Book of Martyrs such as Seymour's in 1838 were a clear response to the renewed energies of Roman Catholicism in England. However, the rise of the Oxford Movement in the 1830s coincided with a growing Anglican Evangelical agenda of appropriating Foxe's Book of Martyrs not only as a stick with which to beat Roman Catholicism but in order to discredit the loyalty of Tractarian churchmen and to support the Anglican Evangelical claim to be the true mouthpiece of the theology of the English Reformers. By promoting Foxe's martyrology, some Evangelicals also hoped to gain support and credence for their own eschatalogical views concerning the prophetical interpretation of Scripture. George Townsend, as Sheridan Gilley has remarked, 'best known today as the hero of Ronald Knox's delightful essay on The man who tried to convert the Pope by a mission to Rome in 1850', has emerged as a key figure in the nineteenth-century promotion of Foxe, but one who was outside the Evangelical mainstream and whose cautious and equivocal advocacy of aspects of Foxe's views caused some offence in those circles. Townsend presented a sanitised Foxe, with any 'un-Anglican' blemishes explained way or apologised for.
There was a vigorous English Catholic response to the continued Protestant propagation of Foxe's martyrology, with a second edition of Andrews' Review of Foxe appearing roughly at the same time as the publication of the first volume of the Cattley-Townsend edition in 1837. However, the republications of Foxe provoked, if anything, more debate and controversy within the established church than between Protestants and Catholics. Attitudes to Foxe were almost made into a litmus test of Anglican churchmanship. Although Maitland's campaign, as J. E. Mozley observed in John Foxe and his Book (1940), 'scarcely touched Foxe in his citadel, the story of the English martyrs', Townsend as well as Anglican Evangelical exponents of Foxe associated Maitland with the Tractarian assault on the Reformers. Thus, the Oxford Movement and the Anglican Evangelical as well as Protestant high church response to the Movement helped to reopen old divisions within the Church of England to an extent not evident since the days of Laud. In this process of polarisation, arguments concerning John Foxe and his book played a key, if subordinate, part.