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553 [497]

¶ The storie of the examination, death, and martyrdome of Iohn Fryth. 
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John Frith

Foxe's treatment of the John Frith martyrdom provided him with the material (Frith's own writings, and those of his critics) to provide an exposition of protestant doctrines on purgatory and transubstantiation, supported by relevant patristic material, within the overall context of a narrative that emphasised his valiant steadfastness, intellectually and physically. The story was somewhat elaborated in the 1570 editions and subsequently, with Frith's beliefs examined in greater detail and the letter 'to his friends' printed in extenso. The story of the martyrdom of Andrew Huet ('Hewet'), who accompanied Frith to the scaffold, provided much less possibility for doctrinal elaboration, but he served to make the point that Frith's doctrines and steadfastness had been persuasive.

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Andrew ChibiUniversity of Leicester

Marginalia1533.AMongest all other chaunces lamētable, there hath bene none a great time semed vnto me more greuous, thē þe lamētable death and punishment of Iohn Fryth so learned and excellent a yong man, who hauing so profited in al kind of learning & knowledge, that skarsly there was his equal amōgst all his companions, and besides that, ioyned suche a godlines of life with his doctrine, that it was harde to iudge, in which behalf he was moste commēdable, being greatly prayse worthy on either parte. But as touchinge his doctrine, by the grace of Christe we will speake hereafter. Howe great godlines there was in hym, may hereby sufficiently appeare. That notwithstāding his great manifold and singular giftes and ornamentes of the minde, which all men in a maner do embrace, wherewithall he might haue opened an easie waye vnto honour and dignitie, notwithstanding he chose rather wholie to consecrate him selfe vnto the church of Christe, excellently shewyng fourth this thing, which hath bene commaunded by many: that the lyfe of many is so geuen vnto them, that howe muche better the man is: so muche the lesse he should liue vnto him selfe, but vnto other, seruing for a common vtilitie, and that we should thinke, a great part of our birth to be dew vnto our parentes, a greater part vnto our countrie, and the greatest parte of all to be bestowed vpon the churche, if we will be counted good men. MarginaliaIohn frith studieth in Mary hal.First of all, he began his study at Oxforde, being brought vp in the schole which is commonly called Mary hall. 

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Foxe is too ready to place Frith at Oxford. In fact, Frith's education is somewhat of a difficult prospect to uncover with any certainty at all. According to Richard Rex, the traditional orthodoxy (Sevenoaks Grammar - where his tutor was Stephen Gardiner - to Eton to King's College around 1524/5) is problematic. At the very least Frith appears to have been first at Queen's College (c.1523) at least according to J A Venn, before moving on to King's and, subsequently, to Cardinal College (c.1525). All sources placing Frith at King's, however, trace back to the work of the contemporary Tudor chronicler John Bale. Unfortunately, Bale's information (written twenty years after the fact) is not backed up by any contemporary record from King's. Rex's conclusion is that Frith moved directly from Queen's to Cardinal's without ever having studied at King's. It is said that Frith had an aptitude for mathematics but, once in Oxford, his interests in the so-called 'new learning' was inspired by Thomas Bilney, who had founded the so-called 'Little Germany' group at the White Horse Inn (where Frith also encountered Tyndale). It was only following his graduation in 1525 that Frith transferred to Oxford, having been recruited (as a junior or 'petty' canon) as part of Wolsey's efforts to attract new scholars for his own collegiate foundation - Cardinal College. See Herbert Samworth, John Frith: Forging the English Reformation, found on-line at]

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Nature had planted in hym being but a chylde maruailous instinctions and loue, vnto learning, wherunto he was addicte, he had also a wonderfull promptnes of witte, and a ready capacitie to receaue and vnderstand any thyng, in so much that he semed not to be sent vnto learning, but also borne for the same purpose. neither was there any diligēce wanting in him, equal vnto that towardnes, or worthy of his disposition, wherby it came to passe, that he was not only a louer of learning, but also became an exquisite learned man. in the which exercise, when he had diligently laboured certaine yeares, not without great profit both of Latin and Greke, at the last he fell into knowledge and acquaintaunce with William Tyndall, through whose instructions, he first receiued into his hart, the seede of the gospell and syncere godlines. At that time, Thomas Wolsey Cardinall of Yorke, prepared to buylde a colleage in Oxford, maruailously sumptuous whiche hadd the name & title of Frydeswyde, 
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This refers to the Abbey of St Frideswide which, along with Wallingford Priory, was suppressed in 1525 to provide the necessary building funds. It is interesting to note that the college was subsequently suppressed in 1531 following the fall from grace of Wolsey and re-founded in 1532 as King Henry VIII's College and re-founded again in 1546 as Christ Church (the seat of the new diocese of Oxford).

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but nowe named Christes churche, MarginaliaThe colledge in Oxford of Frysdeswyde now called Christes college. as it is thought, not so muche for the loue and zeale þt he bare vnto learning, as for an ambitious desyre of glory and renoune, and to leaue a perpetuall name vnto the posteritie. but in that building he being cut of by willing deathe (for he was sent for vnto the kyng accused vpon certayn crimes, who in þe way by immoderat purgations killed hymselfe) he left it partly begon, partly halfe ended, and but a small parte therof fully fynished. Howe large and ample those buildinges should haue bene, what sumptuous cost should haue bene bestowed vpon it, may easely be perceiued, by that whiche is already fynished, as the kitchen, the hal, and certayne chambers, where as there is suche curious grauing, and workemanship of stone cutters, that all thinges on euery syde did glyster for the excellencie of the workemanship, for the clearnes of the matter, with the gilte antykes, and enbossing, in so muche that if all the rest had bene fynished, to that determinate end as it was begonne, it myght well haue excelled not only all colleages of studentes, but also palaices of Princes. This ambitious Cardinall gathered together into that colleage, what soeuer excellent thing there was in the whole realme, either vestimentes, vessels or other necessaries, beside prouision of all kynde of precious thinges. Besides that, he also appointed vnto that cōpany al such men as were found to excel in any kind of learning & knowledge, MarginaliaFryth, Tyndall. Tauerner. I. Clerck.amonges whome being many excellent learned men, this Iohn Fryth was one, William Tyndall, and Tauenar of Bostone, a mā very singular in musick. Also Iohn Clerk a mā of singuler learning, beside many others of graue iudgement and sharpe wittes, 
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The other men mentioned here are John Taverner and John Clarke. Taverner was recruited (as early as 1524 but declined the offer until 1526) and became the 'Informator Choristarum' (or director of music and instructor of the choristers) - a prestigious position. He is now recognized as one of the most influential musicians of the period and, although later arrested for holding heretical views, his talent saved him from death. For more details on his music, see the biography at music/comp.lst/taverner.html or the listing in David M Greene, Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers (London, 1985), pp.30-1. John Clarke is a rather more obscure figure, later captured by Bishop Longland and died in prison prior to his scheduled execution for heresy. According to the research of Brian Raynor, several other scholars were recruited at this time, including such men as Richard Cox, John Fryer, Godfrey Harman, William Betts, Henry Sumner, William Baily, Michael Drumm and Thomas Lawney - for which, see Brian Raynor, John Frith: Scholar and Martyr (Peterborough, 2000), p.60].

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who conferring together, whē as these aforenamed were perceiued to iudge vprightly vpon religion, they were accused of heresie by the Cardinal: they were cast into prison within a depe caue vnder the grounde in the same colleage, where as through the fylthy stynke of the fish they all were infected almoste vnto death, MarginaliaI. Clarke of famous learning died in prisonbut Iohn Clerk with a few other good mē, whose names are vnknowē, through the filthines of the pryson died there. 
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Clarke died in the custody of Bishop Longland of Lincoln.

The fame of whose excellent doctrine, yet remaineth amongst them of Oxford. But Fryth being as it were reserued for further & more wayghtie matters, escaped that dongeon, but notwithstanding was not long free from the crosse, for immediatly after suspition daily encreasing more & more, Fryth begā greatly to be enuied, & wt cōtinuall cruelty to be persecuted, whereby at length he was cōpelled to depart out of Englād for the space of iiii. yeares. 
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Frith was released from imprisonment in 1528 and spent the next four years travelling Europe, sometimes in the company of William Tyndale. He was, for instance, with Tyndale at Marburg and Antwerp, but Frith also travelled around the centres of Reformed Protestantism (e.g., Basel and Zurich). The influence of Oecolampadius is obvious in his later doctrine.

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After þt again he returned, within short space fell into the hatred & deadly pursute of Syr Thomas More, who at that tyme beyng Chaūcelour of Englād, persecuted him

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