This account is a striking example of the importance of individual informants to the Acts and Monuments. All that the Rerum contains on White is a note stating that he was burned in Cardiff on 27 March 1555 (Rerum, p. 428). This note was reprinted in the 1563 edition. Then, in the 1570 edition, Foxe produced the detailed and vivid account of White, sent to him by a 'Master Dane'. There were no changes to this account in the 1576 and 1583 editions.[Back to Top]
Tomkins may be said to have had greatness, as well as a lit candle, thrust upon him. He is virtually unique among the Marian martyrs in being more famous for what happened before his execution than for the execution itself. Descriptions of the burning of his hand circulated rapidly and widely among the protestants in exile. John Bale referred to it in a tract denouncing Bonner, written in 1554, although not published until Elizabeth's reign (Bale, A declaration of Edmonde Bonner's articles [London, 1561, STC 1289, fo. 108v), and Anna Hooper had heard about in Frankfurt by November 1554 (OL, I, p. 113).[Back to Top]
It is thus hardly surprising that the incident was written up in the Rerum (pp. 425-26) with only the briefest mention being made of Tomkins' actual execution. The account in the Rerum is based on an account, or accounts, almost certainly sent to Grindal.How accurate their information was is uncertain; in any case, the account, emphasizing Bonner's 'prodigious cruelty' and Tomkins' heroism along with a detailed comparison of Tomkins to the Roman hero Caius Mucius Scaevola, is long on rhetoric and short on verifiable detail.[Back to Top]
Nevertheless, this account was reprinted in the first edition of the Acts and Monuments. Foxe was able to add to this documents taken from Bonner's register: official accounts of Tomkins' examinations, the articles charged against him with the martyr's replies and two confessions of faith Tomkins made. In the course of printing the 1563 edition, Foxe also obtained a description, based on oral sources, of Bonner setting Tomkins to work on his estate at Fulham and of the bishop having Tomkins' beard forcibly shaved off, which was printed in an appendix to this edition.[Back to Top]
In the second edition, Foxe completely rewote the account of Tomkins' hand being burned which had been printed in the Rerum and in 1563. The new account was much more detailed. Foxe moved the account ofTomkins' forced labour for Bonner from the appendix. He also added another account of a compulsory beard-shaving and testimony of Tomkins' good character, all of which was obtained from fellow residents of Shoreditch.[Back to Top]
The account of Tomkins was unchanged in the second and third editions of the Acts and Monuments.
MarginaliaMarch. 15.LYke as the former moneth of February, as it hath bene told before was notable, by the martirdome of fyue most worthye Preachers and true Byshops: so no lesse memorable was the next moneth of Marche, by the death & murther of eyghte moste constant wytnesses of the Christian doctrine. Amonge whom Thomas Tomkins, citizen of London and Weauer by his occupation, hath the first place. Now those former persons that hytherto haue bene spoken of, were all condemned by Stephan Gardiner, byshop of Winchester which then was hygh Chauncellour: but he beyng now weary, as it seemeth, of the payne and trouble, put of al the rest to Edmund Bōner MarginaliaBoner. byshoppe of London, to be condemned by hym, as hereafter God wyllyng ye shal heare. And touching Wynchester, we haue spoken somewhat before in the histories aboue. Now[Back to Top]
concernyng Boner, because wee shall often make mencion of hym hereafter, the occasion of this place woulde require, that we shoulde wryte somwhat of hym likewise, who was almost nothing els (in one word to speake al his qualities) but a belly. And as for hys prodigious crueltye, in shedding of bloude, to whych thing onelye he seemed to haue bene brought foorth of nature, here myght we haue a great field to walke in: but because we wryte an hystory, and not inuectiues, we wyll leaue hym to hys Iudge, especially seyng the very Martirs them selues, whom he hath condemned, haue sufficiently performed thys part, as here after we shall heare. Now resuming our history of Tomkyns, let vs procede in the matter which we haue begonne. Thys Weauer therfore whō I speake of, MarginaliaTomkyns with his felowes the fyrste that came before Boner in q. Maries tyme.being brought forth vnto Boner, among al the other Martirs, which after folowed in great nomber, had this thing as a peculiar desteny, that he was the fyrst of them al whych should try the violence & rage of this byshop of London. Who also begynnynge hys persecution, gaue foorth in thys man a notable example or declaration of hys cruelty to be considered. For Tomkyns, although he was vnlearned, yet was he better learned then that he coulde bee ouercome by hym, and more louyng the truthe, and better styckyng to it, then that he woulde geue place to anye false disallowed errours. Therefore[Back to Top]