Button, Ralph (DNB00)

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BUTTON, RALPH (d. 1680), canon of Christ Church under the Commonwealth, was the son of Robert Button of Bishopstown, Wiltshire, and was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He proceeded B.A. in 1630; in 1633 the rector of Exeter, Dr. Prideaux, recommended him to Sir Nathaniel Brent, the warden of Merton, for a fellowship in his college. The fellowship was conferred on him, and he became famous in the university as a successful tutor. Among his pupils were Zachary Bogan and Anthony à Wood. On the outbreak of the civil war in 1642, Button, who sympathised with the parliamentarians, removed to London, and on 15 Nov. 1643 was elected professor of geometry at Gresham College, in the place of John Greaves. In 1647 he was nominated a delegate to aid the parliamentary visitors at Oxford in their work of reform, and apparently resumed his tutorship at Merton. On 18 Feb. 1647-8 Button was appointed by the visitors junior proctor; on 11 April he pronounced a Latin oration before Philip, earl of Pembroke, the new chancellor of the university, and on 13 June he resigned his Gresham professorship. On 4 Aug. he was made canon of Christ Church and public orator of the university, in the room of Dr. Henry Hammond, who had been removed from those offices by the parliamentary commission. At the same time Button declined to supplicate for the degree of D.D. on the ground of the expense; it appears from Wood that he had then lately married. Button showed similar independence in successfully resisting the endeavour of the visitors to expel Edward Pocock from the Hebrew and Arabic lectureship on the ground of political disaffection. At the Restoration Button was ejected from all his offices and his place at Christ Church filled by Dr. Fell. Leaving Oxford, he retired to Brentford, where he kept a school. Baxter says that he was soon afterwards imprisoned for six months 'for teaching two knight's sons in his house, not having taken the Oxford oath.' At the date of the Declaration of Indulgence (1672) Button removed to Islington, and Sir Joseph Jekyll lived with him a as his pupil. He died at Islington in October 1680, and was buried in the parish church. A son died and was buried at the same time. Baxter in 'Reliquiae Baxterianae' speaks of him as 'an excellent scholar, but of greater excellency; a most humble, worthy, godly man, of a plain, sincere heart and blameless.' He left a daughter, who married Dr. Boteler of London.

[Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 508, ii. 107, 158-9 (where a memoir is given); Wood's Gresham Professors; Baxter's Reliquiae, pt. iii. pp. 36, 96; Palmer's Nonconformist Memorial, i. 315, iii. 126; Brodrick's Memorials of Merton College; Burrows's Parliamentary Visitation of Oxford (Camd. Soc.)]

S. L. L.