John Foxe

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John Foxe

John Foxe (1516 or 1517April 18 1587) was an English historian and martyrologist, was the author of Actes and Monuments (otherwise Foxe's Book of Martyrs), telling of Christian martyrs throughout Western history, but particularly the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the 14th century and in the reign of Mary I. Widely owned and read by English Puritans, the book helped to mould British opinion about the Catholic Church for several centuries.


Acts and Monuments (1563)[edit]

Quotations are cited from the transcript of the 1583 edition at HRI Online.

  • There is no keeping down of veritie, but it wil spring and come out of dust and ashes, as appeared right well in this man. For though they digged vp his body, burnt his bones, & drowned his ashes, yet þe word of God and truth of his doctrine with the fruit & successe therof they could not burne.
    • Bk. 5, p. 464
  • M. Tyndall hearing thys, ful of godly zeale, and not bearing that blasphemous saying, replied againe & sayde: I defie the Pope and all his lawes: and further added, that if God spared hym life, ere many yeares he would cause a boy that driueth the plough to know more of the Scripture, then he did.
    • Bk. 8, p. 1076
  • At last, after muche reasoning, when no reason woulde serue, although he deserued no death, he was…brought forth to the place of execution, was there tied to þe stake, and then strangled first by the hangman, and afterward with fire consumed in the morning at the towne of Filford, an. 1536. crieng thus at the stake with a feruente zeale, and a loud voyce: Lord open the King of Englands eyes.
    • Bk. 8, p. 1079
  • Then brought they a fagot kindled with fire, and layd the same downe at D. Ridleys feete. To whome Maister Latymer spake in this maner: Be of good comfort maister Ridley, and play the man: wee shall this day light such a candle by Gods grace in England, as (I trust) shall neuer be put out.
    • Bk. 11, p. 1770
  • Afterward she opened the matter more plainly to M. Rise and Mistres Clarentius (if it be true that they tolde me, whiche hearde it of M. Rise himselfe) who then being most familiar with her, & most bold about her, tolde her that they feared she took thought for king Philips departing from her. Not that onely (sayde she) but when I am dead & opened, you shall find Calice lying in my hart.
    • Bk. 12, p. 2098

Quotes about John Foxe[edit]

  • No one would now argue, as a certain Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries once did, that the vanished register of Bishop Longland of Lincoln on which Foxe drew for his account of the Lollards of the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire and their trials (the fullest and most valuable of all records of early Tudor Lollardy) never existed but was forged by Foxe to give his narrative a spurious "appearance of veracity". A. G. Dickens has observed that Foxe lacked the intent, the incentive and the diabolical erudition to forget his voluminous and highly specific mass of evidence. The missing Lincoln act book is not now likely to be rediscovered. Foxe seems to have used a transcript of it together with other Lollard trial records at Lambeth Palace, where it no longer exists. But other "registers" in similar form have been found by modern research (notably the record of the Coventry trials of 1511) and comparison of these sources with the passages in Foxe which are based on them suggest that the martyrologist worked only a little more carelessly and a few shades more partially than would be tolerable in a modern doctoral thesis, but with essentially the same methods.
    • Patrick Collinson, ‘Truth and Legend: The Veracity of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs’, Elizabethan Essays (1994), pp. 155-156
  • Nor is it any longer profitable to debate whether certain episodes in the Book of Martyrs were Foxe's own invention, or accepted by him as factual in such a casual fashion as to bring his credibility into general question. It was natural that readers should have doubted the facts of the bizarre episode in Guernsey, when a woman reportedly gave birth in the fire and the newly born infant was tossed back into the flames to share the mother's grisly fate. The circumstances stretch credulity. But it appears from other documents that this obscenity indeed happened very much as Foxe reported it. If there were any remaining doubts about Foxe's fundamental honesty in such respects, they were removed by J. F. Mozley's scholarly albeit overly defensive study published in 1940, John Foxe and his Book. Acts and Monuments is stuffed with as many detailed and minor errors as we should expect of a history written on this scale and in great haste, in Foxe's words "so hastily raked such shortness of time". There are mistakes of both person and place, mistakes of dates in plenty, faults of transcription and in proof-reading. But the only elements of pure invention (and not primarily Foxe's own invention) occur in the recounting of sundry extraordinary "providences" and other acts of divine judgment visited upon those responsible for the deaths of the martyrs: fragments in the manner of the De mortibus persecutorum of Lactantius.
    • Patrick Collinson, ‘Truth and Legend: The Veracity of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs’, Elizabethan Essays (1994), pp. 156-157
  • To say that Foxe's Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church (to give the Book of Martyrs its official title) was hugely influential on English thought during the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would be a gross understatement of the case. Only the Bible was read more frequently and more avidly.
    • Meic Pearse, The Gods of War (2007), p. 102
  • Second only to the Bible in its influence, Foxe's work frequently stood beside the Bible on pulpits and in libraries.

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