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399 [399]

To the gentle Reader.

WHer as it hath of lōg time ben receiued and thought of the common people (gentle reader) that this religion nowe generally vsed hathe sprong vp and risen but of late and few yeres euē by the space as many do think) of xx. or xxx. yeres, for thauoiding of which fond & vaine opinyon, we haue thought good at this present to aduertise thee how that not only the actes and monumentes heretofore passed, but also the histories here after following, shal manifest and declare that thys profession of Christes religion hath bene spread abrode in Englande, by the space almost of CC. yeres, yea and before that time & hath oftentimes sparcled although the flames therof haue neuer so perfectly burst out, as it hath done within these C. yeres and more. As by these histories here collected and gathered out of registers, especially of the dioces of Norwiche shal manifestly appear, wher in may be seene what men, and how many both menne and wemen within the said diocesse of Norwich, there haue been which haue defended the same cause of doctrine, whyche now is receyued by vs in the church. Which persons although then they wer not so strōgly armed in their cause and quarel, as of late yeres they haue bene, yet were they warriours in Christes church, and fought for their power. And although they gaue backe through tirannye, yet iudge thou the best good reader, and referre the cause therof to God, who reueleth all thinges according to his determined wyll and appoynted time.

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The thirde part or section of this Ecclesiasticall history, conteining the actes of the church and Martirs, wyth suche other thinges as necessaryly depende vpon the same.

VVylliam Tayler an English man.
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In Foxe's first edition the story of William Tayler (or Taylor) opens the 'The thirde part or section of this Ecclesiasticall history'. William Taylor, 'a persistent and, in the end at least, fearless follower of Lollard views', was burned for heresy after a long heretical career. We know about his opinions not only from the record of proceedings against him in Archbishop Chichele's register and reports in Thomas Netter's Doctrinale, but also (unusually) from the survival of one of his sermons. Taylor was a native of Worcestershire and sometime principal of St Edmund's Hall, Oxford, who was cited and arrested for heresy on several occasions, the first being for a sermon he preached at Paul's Cross in 1406. He admitted in 1420, when arrested in Bristol, that he had been excommunicate for about fourteen yerars. His long, persistent careeer of heretical sympathies was finally terminated in March 1423, when he was burned at Smithfield as a relapsed heretic. It was his writings that incriminated him, the authorship of which he neither confessed nor denied to be in his own handwriting when examined. Foxe stated that his writings were so 'indifferent' that he deemed them not worthy of such a severe judgement against the man. In 1563 Taylor was represented by one of the vivid group of woodcuts that proved problematical because of their size. It showed a martyr chained to the stake with raised arms and the words 'Lord help me and forgeve them' in a bandarole. In and after 1570 he was illustrated by one of the new small woodcuts. . CUL copy: the martyr is depicted as wearing a white shroud. Although balding, his hair and beard are coloured in light brown. WREN copy: in this copy Tailor's hair and beard are greying slightly.

 
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William Taylor

In the Commentarii (fos. 81v-82r), there is a brief account of William Taylor, stating that he was an M.A. of Oxford and a follower of Wiclif, and that he recanted his beliefs, but returned to them and was burned as a relapsed heretic in Smithfield. This account was taken word-for-word from a note by Bale in the Fasciculus Zizanniorum (Bodley Library MS e Musaeo 86, fo. 97r-v). This note was repeated in the Rerum (p. 72) and in the 1563 edition. In the 1570 edition, Foxe replaced this account with a much more detailed narrative covering Taylor's examination by convocation in May 1421, his sentence of perpetual imprisonment, his re-examination as a relapse, a summary and citation from his offending treatise and a description of his degradation. All of this is a summary of The Register of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1414-1443, ed. E. F. Jacob, Canterbury and York Society, 3 vols (Oxford, 1945), III, pp. 157-73. The 1570 account of Taylor was reprinted without change in the 1576 and 1583 editions.

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Thomas S. Freeman
University of Sheffield

Marginalia1422.THere hathe beene no region or coūtry more fertil or fruteful for martirs thē our only region of Englād, whether it hapneth or cometh by þe singuler gifte or priueledge of Goddes deuine grace, or els thorow the barbarous and folish cruelty of such as at that time ruled & gouerned the church it is vncerten. Oxforde at þe presente was as it has ben a cōtinual spring of christian knowledge and learninge, from whence as out of the Troyan horse there hath come forth so manye inuincible witnesses of Christ and his truth, which with singuler lerning, and with their bloud haue not onlye deserued praise of such as wer in their dais, but also of such as shall come after. Amongste whome William Tailor, master of Art hath not deserued the least praise, beinge a fauorer of Wickleffe. This man because he had wrytten certen thinges against the inuocatyon of saintes, and many other matters, after he had recanted ix. Articles he returned againe into the right way, and wyth a meruailous constācy and boldnes he was burned at London in smithfeld in the yere of oure Lord 1422. the second day of March.

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