Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 02.djvu/222

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Aston
Aston
210

was appointed governor of Oxford on the death of Sir William Pennyman. Here, on 1 May following, the degree of M.D. was conferred upon him by the university. On 19 Sept. 1644 he was thrown from his horse and broke his leg; gangrene set in, and amputation was performed on 7 Dec. This accident was regarded by the puritans (Vicars, Looking-glass for Malignants, 1645) as a judgment of God against Aston for an act of revolting cruelty which he had perpetrated a short time before in adjudging that a soldier, against whom he bore a grudge, should have his right hand sawn off. As Sir Arthur thus became incapable of discharging the active duties of his office, the king removed him from the command (25 Dec), conferring upon him a pension of 1,000l. a year. He was removed, says Anthony à Wood, 'to the great rejoycing of the soldiers and others in Oxford, having expressed himself very cruel and imperious while he executed that office.'

In November 1646 we find Aston in Ireland with the Marquis of Ormonde, with whom he probably returned to England on the delivery of Dublin to the parliament. It seems likely that, after the execution of the king, he joined the marquis in Ireland on his resuming the government there. Certain it is, that on 27 July 1649 he sat on a council of war convened by the lord-lieutenant. Being left with a garrison of 3,000 men in defence of Drogheda or Tredagh, Sir Arthur three times repulsed the army of General Cromwell, which approached the works 8 Sept. 1649. This determined perseverance, however, eventually proved unsuccessful. The town was entered on the 10th. No quarter was given, and only about thirty persons escaped, who, with several hundreds of the Irish nation, were shipped off as slaves to the island of Barbadoes (Dodd, Church History, iii. 58). Aston perished in the butchery. He was hacked to pieces, and his brains were beaten out with his wooden leg.

Clarendon remarks that the king, in all his armies, had but one general officer of the catholic religion, 'Sir Arthur Aston, whom the papists, notwithstanding, would not acknowledge for a papist.' The same writer, referring to Aston's appointment as governor of Oxford, says he 'had the fortune to be very much esteemed where he was not known, and very much detested where he was; and he was at this time too well known at Oxford to be beloved by any.' Clarendon adds that he was 'a man of a rough nature, and so given up to an immoderate love of money that he cared not by what unrighteous ways he exacted it.'

[Memoir by Gr. Steinman-Steinman, in Gent. Mag. n. s. i. 144, 234; Kippis's Biog. Brit.; Notes and Queries, viii. 126, 302, 480, 629; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Coates's Hist. of Reading, 24 seq.; Addit. MS. 18980 ff. 22, 43; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 77; Life of Anthony à Wood, ed. Bliss, p. xx; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 57; Calendars of State Papers; Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (1850), ii. 205; Faulkner's Fulham, 306.]

T. C.

ASTON, or ASHTON, JOHN (fl. 1382), one of Wycliffe's earliest followers, is described as M.A. and 'scholar' (or, once, 'bachelor') in theology at Oxford, and, according to Anthony à Wood (History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, i. 492, ed. Gutch), was a member of Merton College. He appears first to have been engaged as one of Wycliffe's band of itinerant priests, and by the year 1382 had become conspicuous for his advocacy of his master's views, particularly of those relating to the sacrament of the Lord's supper. Knighton (col. 2658, sq.) describes the zeal with which he carried on his mission as a preacher of the new doctrine, and the author of the 'Fasciculi Zizaniorum' (p. 274) makes the well-known rebel, John Ball, in his confession, name Aston in company with Nicholas Hereford and Lawrence Bedeman as the leaders of Wycliffe's party. In 1382 these three men, together with Philip Repyngdon,were singled out among the Oxford Wycliffites as the subjects of a prosecution at the hands of Archbishop Courtney, who first issued, 12 June, an ineffectual mandate restraining them from public functions in the university, and then summoned them to an examination to be held before him at the Blackfriars Priory in London. Wycliffe's specific doctrines had, in fact, been already condemned at the 'earthquake' council of Blackfriars in the preceding month, and there was little difficulty in implicating his disciples in them. Aston appeared on 18 June. He circulated a broadsheet declaring his allegiance to the faith of the church, and won so much sympathy that his final hearing on the 20th was interrupted and nearly broken up by the invasion of a friendly mob. He was, however, condemned, and, by virtue of a subsequent royal patent, dated 13 July, was expelled from his university. By the archbishop's order a search was then made for him and his companions, and at length, in October, Aston was seized. On 27 Nov. he followed the example of Bedeman and Repyngdon (Hereford had left the country), recanted, and returned to Oxford. His recantation, however, was transient. In 1387 Bishop Wakefield of Worcester denounced him as a dangerous Lollard, and prohibited