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'Judaising' in the Period of the English Reformation - the Case of Richard Bruern

John Fines

<plain_text><page sequence="1">'Judaising' in the Period of the English Reformation ?The Case of Richard Bruern JOHN FINES, M.A., Ph.D. Mr. Christopher Hill has recently noted a tendency among some sections of Puritan opinion to declare for the full Jewish Sabbath, and a parallel tendency in their opponents to impute to them Judaising motives. He com? ments : 'Many Puritans regarded themselves as the chosen people, and their reliance upon Old Testament texts is notorious. "Judaising" meant, among other things, looking back to the customs and traditions of a tribal society, still relatively egalitarian and democratic; its standards and myths could be used for destruc? tive criticism of the institutions that had been built up in medieval society.51 Throughout his book, Mr. Hill notes many instances of connections between Puritanism and its earlier forebears in England,2 and this particular instance of 'Judaising' can also be traced in earlier periods, where it shows even more clearly the uncertainties and eccentricities of a faith based on the individual's interpreta? tion of Scripture. We can find a very early Lollard, John Seygno, asserting that the Sabbath should be reckoned according to the manner of the Jews, and that it was sinful to eat pork.3 Later, William Fuer of Gloucester, who abjured his opinions in 1448, stated firmly that only the Sabbath should be observed?and that accord? ing to the Old Testament?only the prepara? tion of food being lawful upon that day.4 In 1472 the Lollards of Lydney were of the opinion that the authority of the Old Testament was preferable to that of the New.5 Yet again, in 1491, Richard Hilling, of Newbury, believed that the priests were the disciples of Antichrist, as would soon be shown at the coming of Enoch and Elijah.6 Later still, in 1542, two parishioners of Kelvedon, near Witham, in Essex, were dis? cussing a recent sermon with their vicar, who had evidently disliked it. One of them said to him: 'Why maister vicar he preached nothyng but the Gospell, and by the Gospell I truste to be savyd.' But the priest burst out in reply: 'Truste thowe well to the Gospell, and thow shalt goo to the devyll; for I cannott see by noo poynt of my learnyng but that the fayth shalbe taken frome us and gyven to the Jewys; for wee bee the Gentylles, and the children of unpromyse and they bee the children of Israeli and children of promysse.'7 But by far the most interesting of these early 'Judaisers' was Richard Bruern, a fascinating character in himself whose life was full of incident, and yet, like so many, unfor? tunately, poorly served by the Dictionary of National Biography.9 Bruern must have been born c. 1519, for he was about 32 at the time of Stephen Gardiner's trial.9 He went up to Lincoln College, and soon showed himself an apt student, for in 1545 Leland lists him among the most noted scholars of the day, calling him 'Hebraei radius chori'. Later on Bishop Cox also bears witness to his excellence as a Hebrew scholar.10 He was admitted B.D. in July 1547, and within a year was created Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford.11 At the time of this appointment, Peter Martyr was settling in there too, and plainly had a profound effect on the young professor. In January 1551 he was to recall 'as concerning the controversy of the sacrament of the altar? when it began he knoweth not, nor remember any that did openly read, preach or dispute of it at Oxford, before Peter Martyr began, which was last February twelve months. . . .'12 In the famous disputations at Oxford in May 1549, Peter Martyr opened up the discussion of the Eucharist in English academic circles in grand style, covering the whole field of autho? rities on the subject. The effect of his action spread wide and large in the annals of the English Reformation; but it was one aspect of his discussion that interested Bruern most? 323</page><page sequence="2">324 John Fines the Old Testament view of sacrifice. The Pro? fessor of Hebrew was naturally interested in things Jewish, and without doubt he paid special attention when Peter quoted such autho? rities as St. Cyprian saying: 'None eateth of this lamb, but such as be true Israelites, that is true Christian men, without colour or dissimulation.'13 We can gauge Bruern's reaction to Peter Martyr's disputation by reference to a manuscript that comes from a later period in his life, when the visitors of Eton College were examining Richard's fellow-canons of Windsor about his life and activities.14 One of the pre? bendaries observed 'his manner in the churche, that tho he knele, he never preyth, but alweys his mouth open'. Another 'iudgeth him to be a Jewe or pagan rather than a christen man by his behaviour in the churche', and an enemy to the 'Quenes proceadings' and their favourers. A third deposed that Bruern had said in Queen Mary's time that neither the religion practised then nor that of King Edward's days was right. More seriously still, three people stated that he ate the paschal lamb every Maundy Thursday, and Canon Allen gave full details: 'about ij yeres past the said Mr Bruarne tolde this deponent, that at sondry tymes at such tyme as Peter Martyr was in Oxford he ded eate the paschall Lambe without spot and that he and the company wolde have had Mr Martyr at the eating therof And further that the Lambe was chosen at one tyme at Mrs Bengers house beside Oxford, and that she ded marvaile wherfor the Lambe shulde serve'. It seems that two Oxford men, one Alford and Thomas Barnard, who occupied the seventh stall at Christ Church (although de? prived during Mary's reign),15 tried to have Bruern prosecuted for Judaism and scandalous behaviour, but he managed to stop these moves.16 In fact, he went from strength to strength: his appearance as a witness at Stephen Gardiner's trial has already been noticed; in Hilary Term 1553 he replaced Peter Martyr in the first stall at Christ Church; in April 1554 he was present in his official capacity at Cranmer's Oxford disputation; and in May 1557 he was made a canon of Windsor.17 His career had made steady and solid pro? gress up to this time, and his eccentricity in matters of religion does not appear to have hampered it unduly. Now, however, a more personal eccentricity bade fair to ruin him, forcing him to resign his Professorship in 1559. John Jewel wrote to Peter Martyr in March, telling him of the deprivations for religious and moral reasons, and, having dealt with some notable cases of adulterous clergy, says, 'Bruerne too has been compelled for a similar offence, only far more flagitious, to relinquish his professorship of Hebrew'.18 Jewel was being delicate, but the visitors at Windsor some two years later were to be told the whole truth? Bruern had been found guilty of homosexual conduct with Roger Marbeck, who was 16 years his junior. Roger was the son of John, the great musician, who had himself been tried in the 'Persecution at Windsor' by Stephen Gardiner in 1543, for copying heretical literature?a letter of Calvin's?and for attempting to make an English Concordance to the Bible.19 Roger was a physician and attained considerable success at Oxford, being Proctor in 1562, Public Orator, and Provost of Oriel in 1564, and succeeding to Bruern's stall at Christ Church on his death in 1565.20 His career had not been ruined by his connection with Bruern, be it noted, but it very nearly was by what the D.N.B, life describes as 'an unhappy and discreditable marriage'; his wife died early, however, and, helped by royal patronage, he went on to achieve respectability and success, outliving his healthy patron by two years. To return to Bruern: as Oxford society must now have closed its gates upon him, he turned his attention to his canonry at Windsor, where soon the sparks began to fly. By using bribery and corruption on a grand scale, and keeping the matter secret from the Queen, he managed to get himself elected Provost of Eton. But the matter could not remain a secret long; on 11 August 1561 Grindal wrote to Cecil, mentioning the 'hedge-priests' at Eton; on the 22nd, Elizabeth contacted Parker, ordering him to look into this illegal election of a man 'of whom there is dispersed very evil fame'; and, between 8 and 9 o'clock on the morning</page><page sequence="3">'Judaising' in the Period of the English Reformation 325 of 9 September, the visitors were at work in Eton College Chapel.21 Bruern, along with nearly everybody con? nected with the College (including the riding master), responded to the citation, and those who failed to do so were declared contumacious. The following day the Provost challenged the validity of the visitors' commission, declaring it to be out of date even after being shown and having read out to him the commission under the great seal and the Queen's letters to Parker. A number of fellows took the oath of supremacy, and the commission recorded the disbursement, by common consent of the fellows, of ?10 from the funds to Richard Bruern 'as recompense for his labours on College business'. This was plainly a 'golden handshake', but the Provost's dismissal or resignation did not take place immediately, for on the next day, when four recalcitrant fellows and a chaplain were dis? missed, he and the other fellows were warned not to receive them again.22 But go he did, finally, and not without cause, as the revela? tions at Windsor so plainly show. Not only was Bruern denounced for a Jew, as has been noticed, but also for an arrant Papist: for example, Simon Allen says 'that he both in pryvat communycacion is a hinderere of the Religion and proceadinges stablyshed by the common ordres of this Reime: and in one fact that whear this deponent ded put down aultars in this churche the said Mr Bruarne did set them upp agayn. and this was done at Christmas was twelfmoneth and also whear this deponent ded appoint all the mynisteres to lay away the habites used in the quere and that they had so done, the said Mr Bruarne with others commaunded them to resume agayn, and so have ever sens con tynued'. Furthermore, the canons denounced him for an evil-speaker, a user of 'dissymulacion', a 'notable detractor', a slanderer and a tale? bearer. They all agreed he was a 'coniurer', and that he could practise 'coniuracions', and Edward Morecraft noted that 'he hath a famyliar which often in company wolde stryke on the shynnes or elleswhere wheruppon he wolde himself say this famylyar is over famylyar but I will be even with him, and tye his nose to the Jakes thes iij day es'. Several of the witnesses told of his homo? sexual behaviour at Oxford, and went on (none commenting in any way on the many sidedness of his nature) to retail reports of his adulteries in Windsor. The sub-chanter re? vealed that Jane Aldrich had personally con? fessed to him, and that Bruern was now much suspect with the laundrywomen, especially Christine Newcome. George Whitehouse is more up to date in his information that Bruern has dropped Mrs. Newcome and taken up with the wife of Alley, the brewer. This latest affaire was obviously widely known and a subject of great interest in the canons' quarters. Henry Riley told how Bruern would send his servants to Eton to dinner when he had an assignation, pretending that he was dining with the Dean. He further deposed that, while out walking with Canon Rowe, they saw Alley's wife coming up through the orchard, and dashed back to his room to ?see moar of the matter'. They observed her sending the miller's wife?'who is counted to be a bawde'?to spy out the land, and when Mrs. Alley was safely ensconced in Bruern's room, they sent Canon Ashbrook to fetch her husband. Riley's ser? vant and Rowe both confirm the story and the latter tells how Bruern had to pretend to have taken a purge in order to get out of evensong that day, to give himself time to deal with the enraged brewer.23 The evidence mounted against Bruern was very strong, even discounting the tittle-tattle of a small closed community and the faction ridden state of that place and time; the point of interest is that little seems to have been done about it?a very basic kind of loyalty was enough to cover a multitude of sins, so it would seem, in at least one ecclesiastical institution at the accession of Elizabeth. Bruern was certainly not dispossessed of his canonry, for he was appointed one of the auditors at Windsor in both 1563 and 1565;24 but it was probably his shocking reputation that caused the University to give a blank refusal when he supplicated for a D.D. at Oxford in July 1563.2 5 Yet, when he died in April 1565, he was buried in St. George's Chapel, and, quite typically, he left his receivership at Christ Church with</page><page sequence="4">326 John Fines large sums of money unaccounted for.26 The Rabelaisian career of Richard Bruern is of considerable interest in itself; he obviously deeply shocked his rather staid contemporaries, but, possibly out of respect for the promise he once showed, they did remarkably little about it. In an age of high confusion he stands very much as a model of his times; the Reformation was no juggernaut driving-force in English history, and was not imbued with any clear sense of direction; pressures mounted from all sides, and, half attempting to avoid these, half following the tortuous paths of their own intellects and consciences, the religious and political leaders moved forward in time much as soldiers fighting in a fog. The 'Judaisers' were few in number, eccentric individuals, intrinsically unimportant, but they do illustrate the important observation that the way forward in their times was not at all as clear as hind? sight would have us make it. *** I am grateful to Mr. Maurice Bond, o.b.e., f.s.a., Hon. Custodian of the Muniments of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, for his permission to make use of their document xv.58.9. Since com? pleting this article I have had my attention drawn to some further material on Bruern by Mr. Cedric Silverstone. The history of Bruern's living is traced in A. H. Cooke's The Early History of Maple durham, Oxford, 1925, pp. 165-166. He was instituted to the Eton living of Mapledurham in March 1546, but resigned it before July 10 in the same year, though we do not know why. He re entered the same living some time in 1550, but resigned it a second time, 11 August 1559, pre? sumably at the same time he resigned his professor? ship. He had also become Rector of Waterstock, Oxon, in 1551, resigning this in 1557 in order to take up the living of St. Dunstan's in the East, London, which was in the patronage of the Arch? bishop of Canterbury, and which he retained until his death. NOTES 1 C. Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England, London, 1964, pp. 202-205. 2 Op. cit., pp. 149, 188, 383, 402, 465. 3 D. Wilkins, Concilia, iii, 271. 4 J. A. F. Thomson, The Later Lollards, Oxford, 1965, p. 36. 5 A. T. Bannister (ed.), Registrum Johannis Stan bury (Canterbury and York Society), 1919, p. 119. 6 Thomson, op. cit., p. 76. 7 W. H. Hale (ed.), A series of Precedents and Pro? ceedings . . . extracted from the Act-books of ecclesiastical courts in the diocese of London . . ., London, 1847, pp. 131-132. 8 The D.N.B. life was by the Rev. William Hunt. 9 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, 8 vols., London, 1843-1849, vi, 213. 10 Cygnea Cantio, in The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. T. Hearne, 9 vols., Oxford, 1768-1769, ix, 23. H. Robinson (ed.), The Zur^cn Letters (Parker Society), 1842, p. 66. 11 A. Wood, Fasti Oxonienses, ed. P. Bliss, London, 1815, i, col. 125. J. LeNeve, FastiEcclesiae Anglicanae, ed. T. Duffus Hardy, Oxford, 1854, iii, 514. 12 Foxe, vi, 130, 213. 13 Foxe, vi, 305. 14 This document is briefly described in H.M.C. Various Collections, vii (1914), 35. It is to be found in the manuscripts of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and its new numbering is xv.58.9. It consists of three folios of paper, apparently the notes of the visitors' scribe of the acts. As will be seen, it is astonishing that such a document should have come to or, worse still, remained in the Chapel's archive. 15 Le Neve, ii, 528-529. 16 St. George's Chapel MS. xv.58.9, f.2.b. 17 Le Neve, ii, 517. J. Strype, Memorials of Thomas Cranmer, Oxford, 1812, ii, 1090. Le Neve, iii, 395. 18 Rurich Letters, p. 12, trs. Latin original in J. Ayre (ed.), The Works of John Jewel (Parker Society), iv, 1199. 19 Foxe, v, 474ff. 20 Le Neve, iii, 489, 534, 550, and ii, 517. 21 Calendar of State Papers, Domestic . . . Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth, i, 183. J. Bruce &amp; T. T. Perowne (eds.), Correspondence of Matthew Parker (Parker Society), 1853, pp. 149-150. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 114, p. 23. This last is a summary of the visitation at Eton as such, while the St. George's Chapel manuscript covers only the depositions taken separately at Windsor, on the 10th. The visitors must have commuted between Eton and Windsor at some speed on that day. Strype prints a section of another account of the visitation which is apparently no longer extant in manuscript form; it gives much the same informa? tion as the Corpus manuscript (J. Strype, The Life and Acts of Matthew Parker, 2 vols., Oxford, 1821, i, 205-207). 22 C.C.C.C. MS. 114, pp. 23-25. 23 St. George's Chapel MS. xv.58.9 passim. 24 J. N. Dalton, The MSS. of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, 1957, pp. 110 and 99. Note also his appearance as a witness in a chapter meeting in November 1563, ibid., p. 430. 25 Wood,/tort, i, 161. 26 Op. cit., i, 125. Parker Correspondence, p. 240.</page></plain_text>