Gill, Alexander (1565-1635) (DNB00)

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GILL, ALEXANDER, the elder (1565–1635), high-master of St. Paul's School, born in Lincolnshire 7 Feb. 1564-5, was admitted scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in September 1583, and proceeded B.A. 1586 and M. A. 1589. Wood believed that he was a schoolmaster at Norwich, where he was living in 1597. On 10 March 1607-8 he was appointed high-master of St. Paul's School in succession to Richard Mulcaster [q. v.] Milton was among his pupils from 1620 to 1625. 'He had,' says Wood, 'such an excellent way of training up youth that none in his time went beyond him; whence 'twas that many noted persons in church and state did esteem it the greatest of their happiness that they had been educated under him.' The escapade of his son [see Gill, Alexander, the younger] in 1628 caused him much disquietude, and he successfully exerted himself supplicating 'on his knees,' says Aubrey to obtain at the hands of Laud, with whom he was on friendly terms, a remission of the punishment inflicted by the Star-chamber. He died at his house in St. Paul's Churchyard 17 Nov. 1635, and was buried 20 Nov. in Mercers' Chapel. A transcript of his will, dated 30 July 1634, is among Wood's MSS. (D 11) at the Bodleian Library. His widow Elizabeth received a pension from the Mercers' Company till 1648. He had two sons, Alexander [q. v.] and George, who was in holy orders (cf. Masson, i. 211). A daughter, Annah Banister, received grants from the Mercers' Company in 1666 and (as a widow) in 1673.

Gill was not only famous as a schoolmaster, but 'was esteemed by most persons to be a learned man, a noted Latinist, critic, and divine.' He published:

  1. 'A Treatise concerning the Trinitie of Persons in Unitie of the Deitie ' (written at Norwich in 1597), London, 1601, 8vo; reprinted with 3 (see below), 1635. This was a remonstrance addressed to Thomas Mannering, an anabaptist, who 'denied that Jesus is very God of very God,' and said that 'he was but man only, yet endued with the infinite power of God.'
  2. 'Logonomia Anglica, qua gentis sermo facilius addiscitur,' London, by John Beale, 1619, 2nd edit. 1621; dedicated to James I. Gill's book, written in Latin, opens with suggestions for a phonetic system of English spelling by reviving the Anglo-Saxon signs for the two sounds of th and similar means. In his section on grammatical and rhetorical figures Gill quotes freely from Spenser, Wither, Daniel, and other English poets, with whose works he shows an intimate acquaintance. For Spenser he had a special affection, preferring him to Homer (pp. 124-5); nearly all his examples were taken from the 'Faerie Queen.'
  3. 'Sacred Philosophie of the Holy Scripture,' London, 1635, 8vo, a commentary on the Apostles' Creed, with a reprint of an attempted demonstration of the truth of the Apostles' Creed in opposition to the beliefs of Turks, Jews, and other heretics.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 597-600; Gardiner's Reg. St. Paul's School, p. 32; Masson's Life of Milton, i. 78-82; Aubrey's Lives, ii. 286.]

S. L. L.