Fulke, William (DNB00)
|←Fulford, Francis||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20
FULKE, WILLIAM, D.D. (1538–1589), puritan divine, the son of Christopher Fulke, a wealthy citizen, was born in London in 1538, and is said to have been educated at St. Paul's School. As a London schoolboy he was a contemporary of Edmund Campion [q. v.], who defeated him in the competition for the silver pen offered as a prize to the city schools. He matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge, in November 1555. He graduated B.A. in January 1557–8, and M.A. in 1563. By his father's desire he studied law at Clifford's Inn for six years, when, finding legal studies increasingly distasteful, he returned to Cambridge, and applied himself to mathematics, languages, and theology. He had already made one or two trifling essays upon astronomical subjects (see below). His father refused to help him after he relinquished the law, but his election to a foundation fellowship in 1564 placed him in comparative independence. He was thus enabled to study the text of holy scripture, having already taken up Hebrew and the other oriental languages then much neglected at Cambridge. In 1565 he was appointed principal lecturer of his college, in 1567 preacher and Hebrew lecturer, and in 1568 took his degree as B.D. Fulke on his return to Cambridge had attached himself to Thomas Cartwright (1535–1603) [q. v.], the puritan leader at Cambridge. He took a prominent part in the ‘vestiarian’ controversy, which was then distracting the university, and by his sermons and personal influence ‘beat into the heads of younger sort such a persuasion of the superstition of the surplice,’ that nearly three hundred at one time discarded it in the chapel of St. John's. The dispute led to scenes of violence, barely stopping short of bloodshed (Strype, Annals, ii. i. 154). The contagion spread to other colleges. Discipline was relaxed, the whole university was in an uproar. Cecil found it necessary to interpose his authority as chancellor. He caused Fulke to be cited before him ‘by special commandment’ as the chief author of the dissension, intending, he said, ‘to proceed with him himself’ (ib. p. 156). Fulke was deprived of his fellowship, and expelled the college. He remained at Cambridge, took lodgings at the Falcon Inn in the Petty Cury, and continued to give lectures there and to hold public disputations. The puritans supported their champion successfully. The decree of expulsion was speedily removed, and he was readmitted to his fellowship 21 March 1566–1567, and on the 15th of the following April was elected a senior fellow. At this period of his life Fulke fell under grave suspicion of conniving at an incestuous marriage. Owing to relaxation of ancient ecclesiastical authority, connections within the prohibited degrees had become painfully common, and of these, says Strype, ‘Cambridge was too guilty.’ Fulke was so strongly suspected of being concerned in one of these illegal unions that he deemed it prudent to resign his fellowship. His case was heard before Bishop Cox of Ely, as visitor of the college, by whom he was acquitted, and in 1569 was a second time restored to his fellowship (Strype, Parker, i. 556). He so completely regained his reputation, that during the same year, on the vacancy of the headship, Dr. Longworth having left the college, then distracted by cabals, for fear of expulsion, Fulke, to the great disgust of Archbishop Parker, narrowly missed being elected master. Longworth, who offered himself for re-election, and Fulke, though of the same theological school, were the heads of the rival college factions. The feud became so hot that the Bishop of Ely expelled Longworth, a hot-headed and intemperate man, while Fulke, to escape a like fate, retired quietly (ib. i. 555–6). To console him for his disappointment, Leicester, the great favourer of the puritan party, who had supported his candidature, appointed him his chaplain, and obtained for him the livings of Warley in Essex and Dennington in Suffolk (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 728), both of which he held till his death. By Leicester's influence also he obtained the degree of D.D. by royal mandate, 19 May 1572, being about to proceed to France with Edward Clinton, earl of Lincoln [q. v.] (Strype, Annals, ii. i. 354–5). In the same year he was one of the friends who prevailed upon Cartwright to return from his banishment. He accompanied Cartwright in his visits to the puritans Field and Wilcox, then in prison for the publication of their ‘Admonition to Parliament,’ and urged them to persevere in the cause. On 10 May 1578 Leicester obtained for him the mastership of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, vacant by the promotion of Dr. John Young to the see of Rochester, which he held till the end of his uneasy polemical life in 1589. He is said to have held frequent meetings with Chaderton, Whitaker, and other puritan divines at Cambridge for the study of holy scripture (Clarke, Lives, p. 169). Fulke having no private means, and being burdened with a wife and family, found the stipend of the mastership insufficient, and got it augmented at the expense of the other members of the college. He is said by Bishop Wren to have been eager to increase the number of his college at the expense of its reputation. No fewer than twenty-six fellows were elected in his mastership. He at once enlarged the buildings of the college by the erection of the University Hostel, to which he only contributed 20l., leaving the main burden to be borne by the society. He also most inconsiderately bound his college by covenant with Queens' College to maintain six scholars, although the income was barely sufficient for three. On Chaderton's resignation in 1579 he was recommended to Lord Burghley by Dr. Still for the regius professorship of divinity, which was, however, more worthily conferred on Dr. Whitaker. In 1582 he unsuccessfully urged Cecil, then Lord Burghley, to set on foot a visitation of all the colleges in the university, by royal authority, with a view to the promotion of puritanism (State Papers, Dom. 10 Oct. 1582, p. 72). In 1580 he was appointed by the Bishop of Ely to hold a conference with Dr. Watson [q. v.], the deprived bishop of Lincoln, and Abbot Feckenham [q. v.], then imprisoned as papists in the bishop's castle of Wisbech, and in September 1581 was one of the divines deputed to hold a public disputation with his old schoolboy rival Campion in the Tower of London (Strype, Annals, ii. ii. 361). In the same year he served the office of vice-chancellor of his university. In 1582 he was one of the body of twenty-five theologians appointed by the council to hold disputations with Romish priests and jesuits on the points of controversy between the two churches (Strype, Whitgift, i. 198). The last ten years of his life were the period of his greatest literary activity. No year passed without the appearance of one or more books in defence of protestantism, and in confutation of the doctrines of the church of Rome. His language was unmeasured, and, even in that age, he was conspicuous for the virulence of his invectives against his opponents. His learning was, however, extensive and sound, and he was an able master of controversy. His style is clear and incisive, though deformed by the coarseness of the time. He gained high reputation among protestants by his writings against Cardinal Allen [q. v.], and other leaders of the counter-reformation in England. His defence of the English translation of the Bible against the attacks of Gregory Martin, the seminarist of Rheims, bears a high reputation for learning and ability. It has been republished by the Parker Society, as well as his ‘Discovery of the dangerous rock of the Papist Church, with the confutation of Stapleton and Martial.’ His last work was a completion of Cartwright's unfinished confutation of the Rhemish translation of the New Testament, which was published in the year of his death, 1589, with a dedication to Queen Elizabeth, ‘his undertaking therein being,’ according to Fuller, ‘judiciously and learnedly performed’ (Fuller, Church History, v. 79; Strype, Whitgift, i. 484). He is described by contemporaries as ‘a pious and learned man, well skilled in history and languages, a very diligent student, industrious both in writing and printing, and “acerrimus Papamastix.”’
Fulke died 28 Aug. 1589, and was buried in the chancel of his church at Dennington, where a monument, with a laudatory epitaph, was erected to him by Dr. Thomas Wright, one of his successors. He was succeeded in his mastership by the celebrated Lancelot Andrewes [q. v.]
Fulke was twice married. By his wife Margaret he left two sons, Christopher and William, and four daughters, Mary, Hester, Elizabeth, and Ann. He bequeathed to his college a silver-gilt acorn-shaped cup, which is still in the possession of the society.
Fulke's works are: 1. ‘An Almanack and Prognostication,’ licensed by the Stationers' Company 1560. 2. ‘Antiprognosticon contra inutiles astrologorum prædictiones,’ London, 1560, 8vo. Translated into English by G. Painter, London, 1560, 12mo. 3. ‘A Goodly Gallerye, with a most pleasant prospect into the garden of naturall contemplation, to behold the naturall causes of all kynde of Meteors,’ London, 1563, 12mo. ‘Dedicated by William Fulce to Lord Robert Dudley.’ 4. ‘Οὐρανομαχία, hoc est, astrologorum ludus,’ London, 1571, 1572, 1573, 4to, an astronomical game after the manner of chess. Dedicated to William Lord Burghley, chancellor of the university. 5. ‘A Confutation of a Popishe and sclanderous Libelle,’ London, 1571, 1573, 1574, 8vo. 6. ‘A Sermon preached at Hampton Court, 12 Nov. 1570, wherein is plainly prooved Babilon to be Rome, both by Scriptures and Doctors,’ London, 1572, 1579, 16mo. 7. ‘A comfortable Sermon of Faith. Preached at St. Botulphes, wythout Aldersgate in London, the xv. of February, 1573,’ London, 1573, 12mo. 8. ‘In Sacram Divi Johannis Apocalypsim prælectiones,’ London, 1573, 4to. 9. ‘Two Treatises written against the Papistes,’ London, 1577, 8vo. 10. ‘A Sermon preached on Sondaye, being the 17th of March, anno 1577, at S. Alphage's Church within Cripplegate in London,’ London, 1577, 12mo. 11. ‘Metromachia, sive Ludus Geometricus,’ London, 4to. n.d. and 1578. 12. ‘Gulielmi Fulconis Angli ad epistolam Stanislai Hosii Varmiensis episcopi de expresso Dei verbo Responsio,’ London, 1578, 12mo. 13. ‘Ad Thomæ Stapletoni Responsio,’ London, 1579, 8vo. 14. ‘D. Heskins, D. Sanders, and M. Rastel, accounted (among their faction) three pillers, and Archpatriarches of the Popish Synagogue (utter enemies to the truth of Christes Gospel and all that syncerely profess the same), overthrowne and detected of their severell blasphemous heresies,’ London, 1579, 8vo. 15. ‘Stapletonii fortalitium expugnatum,’ London, 1580, 12mo. Translated with this title: ‘T. Stapleton and Martiall (two Popish Heretikes) confuted,’ London, 1580, 12mo. 16. ‘A Sermon at the Tower on John xvii. 17,’ London, 1580, 8vo; 1581, 16mo. 17. ‘A Godly and learned Sermon, preached before an honourable auditorie, the 26th day of Februarie, 1580’ (anon.), London, 1580, 16mo. On 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. 18. ‘Conferentia cum pontificiis in castro Wisbicensi, 4 Oct. 1580,’ London, 1580, 8vo. 19. ‘A Retentive to stay good Christians in the true faith and religion, against the motives of Rich. Bristow,’ London, 1580; reprinted, Cambridge, 1848, 8vo. 20. ‘A Rejoynder to Bristow's Replie,’ London, 1581, 8vo. 21. ‘A Sermon preached upon Sunday, being the twelfth of March, anno 1581, within the Tower of London: In the hearing of such obstinate Papistes as then were prisoners there,’ London, 1581, 12mo. 22. ‘A briefe Confutation of a Popish Discourse,’ by John Howlet (was written by Robert Persons, S.J.), London, 1581, 4to. 23. ‘Two Conferences with Edmund Campion in the Tower, 23 and 27 Sept. 1581, London, 1583, 4to. 24. ‘A Defense of the sincere and true Translations of the holie Scriptures into the English tong,’ London, 1583, 8vo; 1617, 1633, fol. 25. ‘De successione ecclesiastica, contra Thomæ Stapletoni librum,’ London, 1584, 8vo. 26. ‘A brief and plain Declaration, containing the desires of all those Ministers who seek Discipline and Reformation of the Church of England,’ 1584. This work was written by Fulke, although the name of Dudley Fenner [q. v.] appears upon the title-page. 27. Recommendatory epistle prefixed to John Stockwood's translation of Serranus's ‘Commentary upon Ecclesiastes,’ 1585. 28. ‘An Apologie of the Professors of the Gospel in Fraunce.’ 29. ‘A Confutation of a Treatise made by William Allen in defence of the usurped power of Popish Priesthood,’ Cambridge, 1586, 8vo. 30. ‘The Text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated out of the vulgar Latine by the Papists of the traiterous Seminarie at Rhemes. With a Confutation of all such Arguments, Glosses, and Annotations as contein manifest impietie, of heresie, treason and slander against the Catholike Church of God,’ London, 1589, fol. Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. 31. ‘Answer of Drs. William Fulke and John Still to certain propositions of one Shales on the authority of the Fathers,’ manuscript in State Paper Office. 32. ‘Notes upon Antoninus's “Itinerary.”’[Wren's MS. Lives of the Masters of Pembroke Hall; Strype's Annals, Life of Parker as quoted; Fuller's Church History, v. 79; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 57–61.]