Rogers, John (1500?-1555) (DNB00)

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ROGERS, JOHN (1500?–1555), first martyr in the Marian persecution, born about 1500 at Deritend in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham, was son of John Rogers a loriner, of Deritend, by his wife, Margery Wyatt (cf. R. K. Dent, John Rogers of Deritand, in ‘Transactions of Birmingham Archæological Section’ [Midland Institute] 1896). After being educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. in 1526. He is doubtless the John Rogers who was presented on 26 Dec. 1532 to the London rectory of Holy Trinity, or Trinity the Less, now united with that of St. Michael, Queenhithe. He resigned the benefice at the end of 1534, when he seems to have proceeded to Antwerp to act as chaplain to the English merchant adventurers there. He was at the time an orthodox catholic priest, but at Antwerp he met William Tindal, who was engaged on his translation of the Old Testament into English. This intimacy quickly led Rogers to abandon the doctrines of Rome; but he enjoyed Tindal's society only for a few months, for Tindal was arrested in the spring of 1535, and was burnt alive on 6 Oct. next year. The commonly accepted report that Rogers saw much of Coverdale during his early sojourn in Antwerp is refuted by the fact that Coverdale was in England at the time. Rogers soon proved the thoroughness of his conversion to protestantism by taking a wife. This was late in 1536 or early in 1537. The lady, Adriana de Weyden (the surname, which means ‘meadows,’ Lat. prata, was anglicised into Pratt), was of an Antwerp family. ‘She was more richly endowed,’ says Fox, ‘with virtue and soberness of life than with worldly treasures.’ After his marriage Rogers removed to Wittenberg, to take charge of a protestant congregation. He rapidly became proficient in German.

There seems no doubt that soon after his arrest Tindal handed over to Rogers his incomplete translation of the Old Testament, and that Rogers mainly occupied himself during 1536 in preparing the English version of the whole bible for the press, including Tindal's translation of the New Testament which had been already published for the first time in 1526. Tindal's manuscript draft of the Old Testament reached the end of the Book of Jonah. But Rogers did not include that book, and only employed Tindal's rendering to the close of the second book of Chronicles. To complete the translation of the Old Testament and Apocrypha, he borrowed, for the most part without alteration, Miles Coverdale's rendering, which had been published in 1535. His sole original contribution to the translation was a version of the ‘Prayer of Manasses’ in the Apocrypha, which he drew from a French Bible printed at Neuchatel by Pierre de Wingle in 1535. The work was printed at the Antwerp press of Jacob von Meteren. The wood-engravings of the title and of a drawing of Adam and Eve were struck from blocks which had been used in a Dutch Bible printed at Lübeck in 1533. Richard Grafton [q. v.] of London purchased the sheets, and, after presenting a copy to Cranmer in July 1537, obtained permission to sell the edition (of fifteen hundred copies) in England. The title ran: ‘The Byble, which is all the Holy Scripture: in whych are contayned the Olde and Newe Testament truly and purely translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew, MDXXXVII. Set forth with the kinges most gracyous Lyce[n]ce.’ The volume comprised 1,110 folio pages, double columns, and was entirely printed in black letter. Three copies are in the British Museum. A second folio edition (of greater rarity) appeared in 1538, and Robert Redman is credited with having produced a 16mo edition in five volumes in 1540; of this no copy is known. It was twice reprinted in 1549: first, by Thomas Raynalde and William Hyll, and again by John Day and William Seres, with notes by Edmund Becke [q. v.] Nicholas Hyll printed the latest edition in 1551.

Although Rogers's responsibility for the translation is small, to him are due the valuable prefatory matter and the marginal notes. The latter constitute the first English commentary on the Bible. The prefatory matter includes, firstly, ‘The Kalendar and Almanack for xviii yeares’ from 1538; secondly, ‘An exhortacyon onto the Studye of the Holy Scripture gathered out of the Byble,’ signed with Rogers's initials ‘I. R.’ (the only direct reference to Rogers made in the volume); thirdly, ‘The summe and content of all the Holy Scripture, both of the Old and Newe Testament;’ fourthly, a dedication to King Henry, signed ‘Thomas Matthew;’ fifthly ‘a table of the pryncypall matters conteyned in the Byble, in whych the readers may fynde and practyse many commune places,’ occupying twenty-six folio pages, and com- bining the characteristics of a dictionary, a concordance, and a commentary; and sixthly, ‘The names of all the bokes in the Byble, and a brief rehersall of the yeares passed sence the begynnynge of the worlde unto 1538.’ In the ‘table of the princypall matters’ the passages in the Bible which seemed to Rogers to confute the doctrines of the Romish church are very fully noted. An introductory address to the reader prefaces the apocryphal books, which are described as uninspired.

By adopting the pseudonym ‘Thomas Matthew’ on the title-page, and when signing the dedication to Henry VIII, Rogers doubtless hoped to preserve himself from Tindal's fate. He was thenceforth known as ‘Rogers, alias Matthew,’ and his bible was commonly quoted as ‘Matthew's Bible.’

It was the second complete printed version in English, Coverdale's of 1535 being the first. Rogers's labours were largely used in the preparation of the Great Bible (1539–1540), on which was based the Bishop's Bible (1568), the latter being the main foundation of the Authorised Version of 1611. Hence Rogers may be credited with having effectively aided in the production of the classical English translation of the Bible (J. R. Dore, Old Bibles, 1888, pp. 113 seq.; Eadie, English Bible, i. 309 sqq.; Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, i. 519 sq.).

Rogers returned to London in the summer of 1548. For a time he resided with the publisher, Edward Whitchurch, the partner of Richard Grafton, and Whitchurch published for him ‘A Waying and Considering of the Interim, by the honour-worthy and highly learned Phillip Melancthon, translated into Englyshe by John Rogers.’ Rogers's preface is dated 1 Aug. 1548. ‘The Interim’ was the name applied to an edict published by the Emperor Charles V's orders in the diet of Augsburg on 15 May 1548, bidding protestants conform to catholic practices. According to Foxe's story, which may be true, though some details are suspicious, Rogers in 1550 declined to use his influence with Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, to prevent the anabaptist, Joan Bocher, from suffering death by burning. Rogers told the friend who interceded with him for the poor woman that death at the stake was a gentle punishment. ‘Well, perhaps,’ the friend retorted, prophetically, ‘you may yet find that you yourself shall have your hands full of this so gentle fire’ (Foxe, Commentarii Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum, p. 202).

On 10 May 1550 Rogers was presented simultaneously to the rectory of St. Margaret Moyses and the vicarage of St. Sepulchre, both in London. They were crown livings, but Nicasius Yetswiert, whose daughter married Rogers's eldest son, was patron of St. Sepulchre pro hac vice. On 24 Aug. 1551 Rogers was appointed to the valuable prebend of St. Pancras in St. Paul's Cathedral by Nicholas Ridley [q. v.], bishop of London. With the prebend went the rectory of Chigwell, but this benefice brought no pecuniary benefit. Ridley formed a high opinion of Rogers's zeal. He wrote somewhat enigmatically to Sir John Cheke, on 23 July 1551, that he was a preacher ‘who for detecting and confuting of the anabaptists and papists in Essex, both by his preaching and by his writing, is enforced now to bear Christ's cross.’ Subsequently the dean and chapter of St. Paul's appointed him divinity lecturer in the cathedral. But Rogers's attitude to the government was not wholly complacent. The greed of the chief courtiers about Edward VI excited his disgust, and in a sermon at Paul's Cross he denounced the misuse of the property of the suppressed monasteries with such vigour that he was summoned before the privy council. He made an outspoken defence, and no further proceedings are known to have been taken. But at the same time he declined to conform to the vestments, and insisted upon wearing a round cap. Consequently, it would appear, he was temporarily suspended from his post of divinity lecturer at St. Paul's. According to an obscure entry in the ‘Privy Council Register’ in June 1553, orders were then issued by the council to the chapter to admit him within the cathedral, apparently to fulfil the duties of divinity-lecturer. In April 1552 he secured a special act of parliament naturalising his wife and such of his children as had been born in Germany.

On 16 July 1553, the second Sunday after the death of Edward VI and the day before Mary was proclaimed queen, Rogers preached, by order of Queen Jane's council, at Paul's Cross. Unlike Ridley, who had occupied that pulpit the previous Sunday, he confined himself to expounding the gospel of the day. On 6 Aug., three days after Queen Mary's arrival in London, Rogers preached again at the same place. He boldly set forth ‘such true doctrine as he and others had there taught in King Edward's days, exhorting the people constantly to remain in the same, and to beware of all pestilent Popery, idolatry, and superstition.’ For using such language he was summoned before the council. He explained that he was merely preaching the religion established by parliament. Nothing followed immediately, but Rogers never preached again. On the 16th he was again summoned before the council. The register described him as ‘John Rogers alias Matthew.’ He was now ordered to confine himself to his own house, within the cathedral close of St. Paul's, and to confer with none who were not of his own household. About Christmas-time his wife, with eight female friends, paid a fruitless visit to Lord-chancellor Gardiner to beg his enlargement. He had been deprived of the emoluments of his benefices. The St. Pancras prebend was filled as early as 10 Oct. 1553, and, although no successor was inducted into the vicarage of St. Sepulchre until 11 Feb. 1555, Rogers derived no income from it in the interval. On 27 Jan. 1554 Rogers was, at the instigation of Bonner, the new bishop of London, removed to Newgate.

With Hooper, Lawrence Saunders, Bradford, and other prisoners, Rogers drew up, on 8 May 1554, a confession of faith, which adopted Calvinistic doctrines in their extremest form (Foxe). Thenceforth Rogers's troubles rapidly increased. He had to purchase food at his own cost, his wife was rarely allowed to visit him, and petitions to Gardiner and Bonner for leniency met with no response. In December 1554 Rogers and the other imprisoned preachers, Hooper, Ferrar, Taylor, Bradford, Philpot, and Saunders, petitioned the king and queen in parliament for an opportunity to discuss freely and openly their religious doctrines, expressing readiness to suffer punishment if they failed fairly to establish their position. Foxe states that while in prison Rogers wrote much, but that his papers were seized by the authorities. Some of the writings ascribed to his friend Bradford may possibly be by him, but, beyond his reports of his examination, no literary compositions by him belonging to the period of his imprisonment survive. The doggerel verses ‘Give ear, my children, to my words,’ which are traditionally assigned to Rogers while in prison, were really written by another protestant martyr, Robert Smith.

In December 1554 parliament revived the penal acts against the lollards, to take effect from 20 Jan. following. On 22 Jan. 1555 Rogers and ten other protestant preachers confined in London prisons were brought before the privy council, which was then sitting in Gardiner's house in Southwark. To Gardiner's opening inquiry whether he acknowledged the papal creed and authority, Rogers replied that he recognised Christ alone as the head of the church. In the desultory debate that followed Rogers held his own with some dexterity. Gardiner declared that the scriptures forbad him to dispute with a heretic. ‘I deny that I am a heretic,’ replied Rogers. ‘Prove that first, and then allege your text.’ From only one of the councillors present—Thomas Thirlby, bishop of Ely—did he receive, according to his own account, ordinary civility. Before the examination closed he was rudely taunted with having by his marriage violated canonical law. On 28 Jan. Cardinal Pole directed a commission of bishops and others to take proceedings against persons liable to prosecution under the new statutes against heresy. On the afternoon of the same day Rogers, Hooper, and Cardmaker were carried to St. Saviour's Church, Southwark, before Gardiner and his fellow-commissioners. After a discussion between Rogers and his judges, in which he maintained his former attitude, Gardiner gave him till next day to consider his situation. Accordingly, on 29 Jan. he was again brought before Gardiner, who heard with impatience his effort to explain his views of the doctrine of the sacrament. As soon as he closed his address, Gardiner sentenced him to death as an excommunicated person and a heretic, who had denied the Christian character of the church of Rome and the real presence in the sacrament. A request that his wife ‘might come and speak with him so long as he lived’ was brusquely refused. A day or two later, in conversation with a fellow-prisoner, John Day or Daye [q. v.], the printer, he confidently predicted the speedy restoration of protestantism in England, and suggested a means of keeping in readiness a band of educated protestant ministers to supply future needs. While awaiting death his cheerfulness was undiminished. His fellow-prisoner Hooper said of him that ‘there was never little fellow better would stick to a man than he [i.e. Rogers] would stick to him.’ On Monday morning (4 Feb.) he was taken from his cell to the chapel at Newgate, where Bonner, bishop of London, formally degraded him from the priesthood by directing his canonical dress to be torn piecemeal from his person. Immediately afterwards he was taken to Smithfield and burnt alive, within a few paces of the entrance-gate of the church of St. Bartholomew. He was the first of Mary's protestant prisoners to suffer capital punishment. The privy councillors Sir Robert Rochester and Sir Richard Southwell attended as official witnesses. Before the fire was kindled a pardon in official form, conditional on recantation, was offered to him, but he refused life under such terms. Count Noailles, the French ambassador in London, wrote: ‘This day was performed the confirmation of the alliance between the pope and this kingdom, by a public and solemn sacrifice of a preaching doctor named Rogers, who has been burned alive for being a Lutheran; but he died persisting in his opinion. At this conduct the greatest part of the people took such pleasure that they were not afraid to make him many exclamations to strengthen his courage. Even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding’ (Ambassades, vol. iv.) Ridley declared that he rejoiced at Rogers's end, and that news of it destroyed ‘a lumpish heaviness in his heart.’ Bradford wrote that Rogers broke the ice valiantly.

There is a portrait of Rogers in the ‘Herωologia,’ which is reproduced in Chester's ‘Biography’ (1861). A woodcut representing his execution is in Foxe's ‘Actes and Monuments.’

By his wife, Adriana Pratt or de Weyden, Rogers had, with three daughters, of whom Susannah married William Short, grocer, eight sons—Daniel (1538?–1591) [q. v.], John (see below), Ambrose, Samuel, Philip, Bernard, Augustine, Barnaby. Numerous families, both in England and America, claim descent from Rogers through one or other of these sons. But no valid genealogical evidence is in existence to substantiate any of these claims. The names of the children of Rogers's sons are unknown, except in the case of Daniel, and Daniel left a son and daughter, whose descendants are not traceable. According to a persistent tradition, Richard Rogers (1550?–1618) [q. v.], incumbent of Wethersfield, and the father of a large family, whose descent is traceable, was a grandson of the martyr Rogers. Such argument as can be adduced on the subject renders the tradition untrustworthy. More value may be attached to the claim of the family of Frederic Rogers, lord Blachford [q. v.], to descend from John Rogers; his pedigree has been satisfactorily traced to Vincent Rogers, minister of Stratford-le-Bow, Middlesex, who married there Dorcas Young on 25 Oct. 1586, and may have been the martyr's grandson. Lord Blachford's ‘family,’ wrote the genealogist, Colonel Chester, ‘of all now living, either in England or America, possesses the most (if not the only) reasonable claims to the honour of a direct descent from the martyr.’

The second son, John Rogers (1540?–1603?), born at Wittenberg about 1540, came to England with the family in 1548, and was naturalised in 1552. He matriculated as a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 17 May 1558, graduated B.A. in 1562–3, and M.A. in 1567, and was elected a fellow. He afterwards migrated to Trinity College, where he became a scholar. In 1574 he was created LL.D., and on 21 Nov. of that year was admitted to the College of Advocates. He also joined the Inner Temple. He was elected M.P. for Wareham on 23 Nov. 1585, 29 Oct. 1586, and 4 Feb. 1588–9. Meanwhile he was employed on diplomatic missions abroad, at first conjointly with his brother Daniel. In August 1580 he was sent alone to arrange a treaty with the town of Elving, and afterwards went to the court of Denmark to notify the king of his election to the order of the Garter; thence he proceeded to the court of Poland. In 1588 he was a commissioner in the Netherlands to negotiate the ‘Bourborough Treaty’ with the Duke of Parma, and his facility in speaking Italian proved of great service. Later in 1588 Rogers went to Embden to treat with Danish commissioners respecting the traffic of English merchants with Russia. From 11 Oct. 1596 till his resignation on 3 March 1602–3 he was chancellor of the cathedral church of Wells. He married Mary, daughter of William Leete of Everden, Cambridgeshire. Cassandra Rogers, who married Henry, son of Thomas Saris of Horsham, Sussex, was possibly his daughter. He must be distinguished from John Rogers, M.P. for Canterbury in 1596, and from a third John Rogers, who was knighted on 23 July 1603. The former was of an ancient Dorset family; the latter of a Kentish family (Cooper, Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 385; Chester, John Rogers, pp. 235, 271–4; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. xi. 306).

[There is an elaborate biography, embracing a genealogical account of his family, by Joseph Lemuel Chester, London, 1861. Foxe, who is the chief original authority, gave two accounts of Rogers which differ in some detail. The first appeared in his Rerum in Ecclesia Pars Prima, Basle, 1559; the second in his Actes and Monuments, 1563. The Latin version is the fuller. An important source of information is Rogers's own account of his first examination at Southwark, which was discovered in manuscript in his cell after his death by his wife and son. This report was imperfectly printed, and somewhat garbled by Foxe. A completer transcript is among Foxe's manuscripts at the British Museum (Lansdowne MS. 389, ff. 190–202), which Chester printed in an appendix to his biography. See also Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 121, 546; Strype's Annals; Anderson's Annals of the Bible; Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.]

S. L.