Mason, Francis (1566?-1621) (DNB00)

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MASON, FRANCIS (1566?–1621), archdeacon of Norfolk, son of poor parents, and brother, according to Walker, of Henry Mason [q. v.], rector of St. Andrew Undershaft, was born in the county of Durham about 1566. He matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, on 10 May 1583, and after 'making a hard shift to rub on' (Wood, Athenae, ii. 305), and being already noted for his learning, was elected probationer fellow of Merton College towards the end of 1586. He proceeded B.A. from Brasenose College on 27 Jan. 1586-7, M.A. from Merton College on 4 July 1590, and B.D. on 7 July 1597. He had incurred the displeasure of William James (1542–1617) [q. v.], dean of Christ Church and the vice-chancellor of the university, in 1591, for having 'vented unseemly words' against Thomas Aubrey, who had recently made his supplication for the degree of B.D. Mason was accordingly deprived of the liberties of the university for a year; but regarding his sentence as an unwarrantable precedent, he appealed to congregation, and a difference of opinion arose between the pro-vice-chancellor (Dr. Thomas Glasier) and the proctors, who were willing to admit the appeal. On 23 Nov. 1599 he was presented to the rectory of Sudbourn, with the chapel of Orford in Suffolk.

Mason's claim to remembrance rests on his vigorous defence of the authority of the church of England, which procured for him the title of 'Vindex Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ.' In 1613, with the encouragement of Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury (to whom, according to Dodd, he was chaplain), he published his book, 'Of the Consecration of the Bishops in the Church of England,' in which he introduced extracts from the records preserved at Lambeth, with a view to proving the validity of the consecration of the protestant bishops, and especially that of Matthew Parker [q. v.] He was the first to refute the widely spread and generally credited 'Nag's Head' story. The book, which exhibits much learning and calm judgment, is written in the form of dialogue between Philodox, a seminary priest, and Orthodox, a minister of the church of England. In 1616 Anthony Champney [q.v.] published at Douay an answer to Mason, entitled 'A Treatise of the Vocation of Bishops and other Ecclesiastical Ministers,' which he dedicated to Abbot. He republished it in Latin in 1618. Champney was Mason's strongest antagonist; but other Roman catholic writers put forth works against him, principally Thomas Fitzherbert [q. v.], Henry Fitzsimon [q.v.], and Matthew Kellison [q.v.] These attacks induced Mason not only to reissue his book in 1618, but to prepare an enlarged version of it in Latin, with answers to his critics. The manuscript was completed in 1620; it was called 'De Ministerio Anglicano,' but his health failing him, the publication was not proceeded with in his lifetime.

Mason was installed archdeacon of Norfolk on 18 Dec. 1619. He appears to have had the archdeaconry bestowed upon him at an earlier date (probably 1614) 'for his ardour in defence of the Church of England,' but his right was contested. A petition from Mason's wife for the archdeaconry was backed by Abbot and Williams, bishop of Lincoln (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 277, where the suggested date, 1622, is clearly wrong).

Mason died in 1621, and was buried at Orford on 21 Dec. (par. reg.) His widow erected a marble monument to his memory in the chancel of Orford Church, which has since been removed to the north transept. In it Mason is represented kneeling in his M.A. gown, with scarf and ruff. During his rectorship Mason built the parsonage house at Orford. A strange mistake respecting him was made by a later rector of Orford, who in 1720 moved the monument, and put up a small tablet, stating that Mason lived over 110 years, and was rector for eighty years. He was probably misled by the signature of Mason occurring at the foot of each page of the register for over eighty years, to attest the accuracy of the transcript into a parchment book of the old paper registers, which was effected during his rectorship.

At the desire of Abbot, Mason's Latin manuscript was taken in hand by Nathaniel Brent [q. v.], who issued it in 1625, under the title of 'Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ.' It was reprinted in 1638. The calmness and moderation with which Mason handles his subject is in marked contrast to the tone of his antagonists. In 1728 an English translation of the Latin edition, under the title of 'A Vindication of the Church of England,' was published, with a lengthy introduction by John Lindsay (1686-1768) [q. v.], in which there is a good account of the whole controversy. Lindsay's edition was reprinted in 1734 and 1778.

Other published works by Mason are: 1. 'The Authority of the Church in making Canons and Constitutions,' London, 1607; Oxford, 1634; London, 1705 (with a dedicatory epistle by George Hickes [q. v.], and a recommendation by Compton, bishop of London); London, 1707; appended to Lindsay's edition of the 'Vindication,' London, 1728; in vol. iv. of Wordsworth's 'Christian Institutes,' London, 1837. 2. 'Two Sermons preached in the King's Court,' in January 1620 (No. 1, Upon David's Adultery; No. 2, Upon David's Politick Practices), at which time he states that recent bodily sufferings have occasioned him to divert his course from 'disputation to devotion' (Address to the Reader), London, 1621; 1747 (republished by Lindsay). A pamphlet entitled 'The Validity of the Ordination of the Ministers of the Reformed Churches beyond the Seas, maintained against the Romanists,' with Mason's name on the title-page, and 'a brief declaration premised,' by John Durey, is considered spurious by Lindsay (Preface to Vindication, pp. lv-ix). It was published in a volume of 'Certain Briefe Treatises, written by Diverse learned Men,' Oxford, 1641. In a letter from George Davenport to Sancroft, January 1655, among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library (lii. 103), the authorship is ascribed to Bishop Overall, who is also credited in a later letter with a large share in the 'Vindication' (lii. 152). Portions of both letters are printed by Wood.

By his wife (born Elizabeth Price) Mason had three children. The baptisms of Elizabeth on 9 Sept. 1604 and of Samuel on 4 May 1606 are recorded in the parish registers of Orford.

John Mason (fl. 1603), a brother of Francis, matriculated from Merton College, Oxford, on 15 Oct. 1591, proceeded B.A. of Corpus Christi College on 23 July 1599, and M.A. on 9 July 1603, and became fellow of Corpus. His exercise for the degree of B.D. excited suspicion of his orthodoxy, but he recanted, and his submission was made in convocation on 12 June (Wood, Hist. and Antiq., Gutch, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 305). He received the degree on 25 June. He was possibly the John Mason who was vicar of Yazor in Herefordshire in 1620.

[Wood's Athenae (Bliss), ii. cols. 305-8, 311, 647; Reg. Univ. Oxon. (Oxford Hist. Soc.), vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 38, 39, 41, pt. ii. p. 127, pt. iii. pp. 139, 216; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. Eliz. 1598-1601, p. 346; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. (Gutch), vol. ii. pt. i. p. 247; Lindsay's Preface to Mason's Vindication, passim; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 269-77, iii. 82; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 376; Davy's Athenæ Suffolciences (Addit. MS. 19165, if. 301-3); Bramhall's Works, 1845, iii. 22, 97, 111, 119, v. 219, 221,238, 242; assistance from the Rev. E. Maude Scott of Orford and the Rev. F. R. Hawkes Mason of Barton Mills, Suffolk.]

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