Bayly, Lewis (DNB00)

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BAYLY, LEWIS (d. 1631), bishop of Bangor, was, according to Anthony à Wood, born at Carmarthen, and educated at Oxford, probably at Exeter College, where he took his B.D. degree in 1611 and his D.D. in 1613. But his descendants claim that he was of an old Scotch family, the Baylys of Lamington in Lanarkshire, and assert that he came to England with James I (Collins's Peerage augmented by Sir E. Bridges, v. 193, ‘from a MS. account of the Paget family in the possession of the Earl of Oxbridge’). Wood says that he became vicar of Evesham, where he preached a series of sermons that became the basis of the famous devotional work, the ‘Practice of Piety,’ as the author of which he is best known. His fame as a preacher may well have brought him to London, where he became rector of St. Matthew's, Friday Street, chaplain to Henry, prince of Wales, to whom he dedicated the ‘Practice of Piety,’ and treasurer of St. Paul's (1611). On his patron's death in 1612 he preached a sermon, notorious at the time, in which he at once showed his devotion to the dead prince and his puritan leanings by bringing accusations of popery against some members of the privy council. This brought him some disfavour at court, yet he was made prebendary of Lichfield (1613–4), archdeacon of St. Albans (1616), and chaplain to the king. On 8 Dec. 1616 he was consecrated bishop of Bangor. It is hard to ascertain the character of his administration of his diocese. If he were one of the few native Welsh bishops of that time, he ought to have been popular; but the puritanism that alienated the court was in those days no less distasteful to the inhabitants of North Wales, and he seems to have had constant disputes both in his wild and remote diocese and at court. In 1619 he was reprimanded by the council, and in 1621 imprisoned for a short time in the Fleet, either for his opposition to the Spanish marriage or for his aversion to the ‘Book of Sports.’ The rise of the Arminian and Anglican party brought his puritanism into further disfavour. In 1626 fresh charges were brought against him, and their endorsement by Laud, then bishop of St. David's, shows the direction in which affairs were tending. Finally, in 1630, he was again in trouble, and his elaborate defence (which is summarised in the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1629–31, p. 230) shows the general character of his offences. He was accused of ordaining clergy who had not fully accepted the discipline and doctrine of the church—a charge which he rebuts while showing that he encouraged preaching both by example and precept, exercised a careful supervision over his clergy, displayed a hospitality beyond his means, and expended 600l. on the restoration of his cathedral. But he laments that increasing infirmities have incapacitated him from active work, and no further measures seem to have been taken against him. He died the next year on 26 Oct. 1631, and was buried at Bangor. He married Ann, daughter of Sir Henry Bagenal, and left four sons, Nicholas, Theodore, John, and Thomas, of whom the latter two attained some celebrity, and to whom he gave livings and prebends with a freedom not unusual at the time.

Bishop Bayly's sole claim to fame is the above-mentioned ‘Practice of Piety,’ which, published early in the century, obtained at once the extraordinary popularity that it long maintained in puritan circles. The date of its first publication is not known, but in 1613 it had reached its third, and in 1619 its eleventh edition. In 1630 a twenty-fifth edition, and in 1735 a fifty-ninth edition, was published. Nor was its fame confined to England. In 1630, when the bishop's disfavour with the dominant Anglicanism of the court was at its height, his book was translated into Welsh. Already, in 1625, a French edition had been issued at Geneva, and in 1629 a German version at Zürich. In 1647 it was published in Polish, and in 1665 the puritans of New England published at Cambridge in Massachusetts a translation in the language of the Indians of that region, while in 1668 it was turned into Romaunsch. So great was its fame for piety on puritan lines that some zealots grudged the glory of so good a work to a bishop of the English church, and scandalous stories, easily refuted, sought to deprive Bayly of the credit of its authorship (see Dumoulin's Patronus Bonæ Fidei, p. 48, and Kennett's Register and Chronicle, p. 350). But its fame was in no way lessened by this charge. It rivalled the ‘Whole Duty of Man’ in a popularity that soon went beyond the bounds of party. It was part of the scanty portion that Bunyan's wife brought to her husband's home, and to its perusal he ascribes the first dawn of his fervid spiritual experiences. A puritan minister complained that his flock looked upon it as an authority equal to the Bible. Even in the present century the book has been republished with a laudatory biographical notice.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses (ed. Bliss), ii. 525–531; Collins's Peerage augmented by Bridges; Practice of Piety, London, 1842, with biographical preface by Grace Webster.]

T. F. T.