Bois, John (DNB00)

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BOIS, JOHN (1561–1644), translator of the bible, was born at Nettlestead, Suffolk, 3 Jan. 1561. For the spelling of his surname see his printed publications and the signature to his will in Peck's 'Cromwell.' His father, William Bois, the son of a clothier at Halifax, was educated at Michael House, Cambridge (included in Trinity College by Henry VIII), and acquired proficiency in music and Hebrew. Under Bucer's influence he became a protestant, and retired to a farm at Nettlestead, near Hadleigh. He married Mirabel Pooley. He was presented to the rectory of Elmset, and afterwards to that of West Stow, near Bury St. Edmunds, by Pooley, his brother-in-law, and died 22 April 1591, at the age of seventy-eight. Of several children John was the only one who grew up. His father taught him, and between his fifth and sixth years he could both read the Hebrew bible and write the characters elegantly. He went to Hadleigh grammar school (where he was a schoolfellow of John Overall, afterwards bishop of Norwich), and thence to St. John's, Cambridge, of which John Still, rector of Hadleigh (afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells), was master. He says he went up to Cambridge 27 Feb. 1575; he was admitted 1 March, and on the foundation 12 Nov. His tutor was Henry Copinger, and on the appointment of Copinger as master of Magdalen, Bois was transferred thither. When Copinger's appointment was reversed, Bois was allowed to return to St. John's. He studied hard at Greek, in which he wrote letters in his fifteenth year, and is said to have worked in the university library from four in the morning till eight at night. When elected fellow in 1580 he was ill with small-pox, and was carried in blankets to be admitted, so preserving his seniority. Medicine was his intended profession; he gave it up because he fancied himself affected with every disease he read of. He was ordained deacon on Friday, 21 June 1583, by Edmund Freake, bishop of Norwich (Ely was then vacant), and next day priest by dispensation. He was first elected Greek lecturer at Cambridge on 4 Nov. 1584, and re-elected at intervals till 1595. It was his custom to give extra lectures in his room at four in the morning, when most of the fellows attended. He succeeded his father in 1591 as rector of West Stow, but resigned the living when his mother went to reside with her brother Pooley. Holt, rector of Boxworth, five miles from Cambridge, left a will by which he nominated Bois as his successor and expressed a wish that he should marry his daughter. Bois was instituted to the living 13 Oct. 1596, and married the daughter 7 Feb. 1598-9. His college gave him 100l. when he resigned his fellowship. Mrs. Bois was a bad economist; and an accumulation of debt was only discharged by the sale, at great loss, of Bois's fine library. There was a temporary estrangement, but the story that Bois thought of expatriating himself seems mere gossip. He soon reconciled himself to circumstances, and continued to leave all pecuniary matters in his wife's hands. He took boarders, and had a succession of young scholars in his house to teach them, along with his children and some of the neighbouring poor. A clerical society of twelve was established by him, to meet on Fridays and exchange the results of study. Though not living in the university, he was appointed in 1604 one of the Cambridge translators for King James's bible, and did his own part (in the Apocrypha) and that of another (in the section from Chronicles to Canticles). No pay was given for this work, but the translators got their commons. He was one of the six selected to go up to London and revise the whole translation when the several parts had been done, a labour which occupied nine months, each member of this committee receiving thirty shillings a week from the Stationers' Company. This was the extent of his recompense, though Peck identifies him with the John Boys, D.D., nominated fellow of the projected college at Chelsea (Fuller, Ch. Hist. lib. x. p. 52), but this was John Boys, dean of Canterbury [q. v.] Bois gave his labour for many years in aid of Sir Henry Savile's noble edition of St. Chrysostom's works (printed 1610-13, eight vols. fol., the date on the title-pages is 1612), and got a present of a single copy for his pains. He was under the impression that Savile intended him for a fellowship at Eton, but was prevented by death (19 Feb. 1622-3) from giving him this appointment. However, on 25 Aug. 1615, Lancelot Andrewes, then bishop of Ely, had instituted him to a prebend in his cathedral. In Bentham's 'Catalogue of the Principal Members of the Conventual and Cathedral Church of Ely,' Camb., 1756, 4to, he is called B.D., and it is said that he held the first and second stalls in 1615. As a clergyman Bois was exemplary, preaching plain sermons with much preparation, but without notes. He was also liberal to the poor. A curious story is told of his stating to four successive bishops of Ely his scruples about baptising a stray child, over the usual age, but too young to make a personal profession of faith. He lived by rule and fasted on a system of his own, sometimes twice a week, sometimes once in three weeks. He was fond of walking, and had learned from William Whitaker, master of St. John's (d. 4 Dec. 1595), to study standing, never in a window, and not to go to bed with cold feet. In his sixty-eighth year (1628) he retired to Ely. His wife died 16 May 1642. He made his will 6 June 1643, and died at Ely 14 Jan. 1644. He was not buried till 6 Feb. He had four sons and two daughters, but only his second son John and second daughter Anne survived him.

His extant writings are: 1. Notes to various parts of Chrysostom's works, and two Latin Letters to Sir H. Savile (the second characterises Chrysostom's writings) all in vol. viii. of Savile's 'Chrysostom,' Eton, 1612, fol. 2. Commendatory Epistle (dated 21 Sept. 1629) prefixed to Richard Francklin, B.D., of Elsworth's 'Ὀρθοτονία, seu Tractatus de Tonis in Lingua Græcanica,' 1630, small 8vo; another edition 1633, small 8vo (Francklin had drawn up this treatise on the Greek accents six years before for a pupil and kinsman; Bois was probably the friend, 'vir omni literatura insignis,' who suggested that he should revise and perfect the work. Cole's account is incorrect). 3. 'Veteris Interprets cum Beza aliisq; recentioribus Collatio in Quatuor Evangeliis, & Apostolorum Actis. In qua annon sæpiùs absque justa satis causa hi ab illo discesserint disquiritur. Autore Johanne Boisio, Ecclesiae Eliensis Canonico. Opus auspiciis Reverendi Praesulis, Lanceloti Wintonensis Episcopi, τοῦ μακαρίτου, coeptum & perfectum, &c.,' London, 1655, small 8vo. (Of this posthumous work few copies were printed, and the wretched type and paper have a foreign look; it consists of brief critical notes on words and passages of the Greek text, in which the renderings of the Vulgate are in the main defended, but Bois frequently proposes more exact translations of his own, both Latin and English; he finished Matthew 13 Aug., Mark 30 Sept. 1619 ; Luke 24 Aug., John 13 Oct. 1621 ; Acts 9 April 1625 : his manuscript extended a little way into the Epistle to Romans.) Caleb Dalechamp, of Sedan (M. A. Trin. Coll. Camb.), dedicates to Bois, as the first of living Greek scholars, his 'Harrisonus Honoratus,' appended to 'Christian Hospitalitie,' Camb. 1632, 4to (in memory of Thomas Harrison, B.D., vice-master of Trinity).

[Life by Anthony Walker in Peck's Desid. Cur. 1779, ii. 325 (founded on Bois's Diary and personal recollections); additions by T. Baker in Collection of Historical Pieces, p. 94, at end of Peck's Cromwell, 1740; Biog. Brit. 1748, ii. 937; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. 1861, ii. 101, 197, 467; Burial Register, West Stow; Davy's MS. Suffolk Collections, iii. 460; Cole's MS. Athenæ Cantab, p. 4: Eadie's The English Bible, 1876, ii. 185, 190, 201.]

A. G.