Travers, Walter (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57
Travers, Walter

by Charlotte Fell Smith
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle John Travers (d. 1620).

TRAVERS, WALTER (1548?–1635), puritan divine, eldest son of Walter Travers, a goldsmith, of Brydelsmith Gate, Nottingham, by his wife Anne, was born at Nottingham about 1548. The father, a strong puritan, divided his lands among his three sons, Walter, John, and Humphrey, and his only daughter, Ann (see copy of his will, proved 18 Jan. 1575 at P. C. Nottingham, in Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. v. 27).

Travers matriculated as a student at Christ's College, Cambridge, on 11 July 1560, graduated B.A. 1565, M.A. 1569, was elected a junior fellow of Trinity on 8 Sept. 1567, and senior fellow 25 March 1569 (Mullinger, Hist. of the Univ. Cambr. p. 631). Whitgift was then master, and professed afterwards that had he not left Cambridge he would have expelled Travers for nonconformity (Strype, Life, i. 343). Travers went to Geneva, formed a lifelong friendship with Beza, then rector of the university, and became strengthened in his desire for reform within the church of England. He there wrote the famous ‘Ecclesiasticæ Disciplinæ et Anglicanæ Ecclesiæ ab illa Aberrationis plena è verbo Dei & dilucida explicatio,’ printed anonymously at La Rochelle, 1574, 8vo. This was at once ascribed to Travers's authorship. An English translation by Thomas Cartwright [q. v.], was entitled ‘A full and plaine declaration of Ecclesiasticall Discipline owt off the word off God, and off the declininge off the churche off England from the same, 1574’ [probably 1574–5], 4to; the Latin preface by Cartwright (cf. p. 7) is dated 2 Feb. In this work Travers discusses the proper calling, conduct, knowledge, apparel, and maintenance of a minister, the offices of doctors, bishops, pastors, and elders, and the functions of the consistory. He severely criticised the universities, calling them ‘the haunts of drones … monasteries whose inmates yawn and snore, rather than colleges of students.’

Nevertheless, on his return to England, Travers proceeded B.D. at Cambridge, and was incorporated D.D. at Oxford 11 July 1576. He declined to subscribe, and was unable to obtain a license to preach (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, 1566–79, p. 528). Early in 1578, when Cartwright was settled in the Low Countries, it was suggested by Henry Killigrew to William Davison [q. v.], the English ambassador there, that Travers should found an English service for the merchants at Antwerp (ib. pp. 532, 534, 540, 542, 544, 549). After taking leave of his mother at Nottingham, he went over about April, and on 14 May was ordained by Cartwright, Villiers, and others at Antwerp, preaching his ordination sermon the same day to a large congregation (Fuller, Church Hist. bk. ix. p. 214; Neal, Hist. of Puritans, i. 289).

In a year or two Travers was back in England, perhaps as pastor at Ringwood, Hampshire (Foster), and acting as domestic chaplain to Lord-treasurer Burghley, and tutor to his son Robert Cecil (afterwards Earl of Salisbury). In 1581, recommended by Burghley and by two letters from Bishop Aylmer of London, he was appointed afternoon lecturer at the Temple, Richard Alvey being master. At the Lambeth conference of distinguished laymen and clergy in September 1584 Travers was the chief advocate of the puritan party. He urged reformation of the rubric on the following points, namely: the abolition of private baptism and baptism by women; private communion; the vestures ‘which Bishop Ridley had condemned as too bad for a fool in a play;’ the reading of the apocrypha; pluralities, and insufficient ministry. Nothing definite resulted from the conference. Strype wrongly says ‘the ministers were convinced.’ Travers remained a nonconformist until his death.

Alvey, the master of the Temple, on his deathbed (10 May 1583) recommended Travers as his successor. The benchers petitioned for him, and Burghley's opinion was sought by the queen (Strype, Whitgift, i. 342). The appointment of the master lay with the crown. Archbishop Whitgift insisted that Travers must be re-ordained according to the rites of the church of England. Travers refused on the ground that it would invalidate all ordinations of foreign churches, and annul every marriage or baptism at which he had officiated (cf. Lansdowne MSS. xlii. 90, 1. 78, reasons why he will not be reordained, one paper apparently in Travers's hand, with marginal comments by Whitgift; printed by Strype in ‘Life of Whitgift,’ App. bk. iii. No. xxx.). Richard Hooker [q. v.] was appointed on 17 March 1585; but on 4 Nov. 1586 the benchers made an order that ‘Mr. Travers's pension should be continued, and he remain in the parsonage-house’ (‘Register of the Temple,’ in Morrice's manuscript Chron. Acc. of Nonconformity). Thus Travers remained afternoon lecturer, and in the afternoon confuted ‘in the language of Geneva’ what Hooker had said in the morning, and what he again vindicated on the following Sunday. ‘Some say the congregation ebbed in the morning and flowed in the afternoon’ (Fuller, bk. ix. p. 216). The church was crowded by lawyers, who were deeply interested in the controversy between the preachers. One half of Travers's auditors sided with him, and consequently it was said ‘one half of the lawyers in England’ became ‘counsel against the ecclesiastical government thereof’ (ib. p. 218). To bring the debate to a conclusion, a prohibition was served upon Travers as he was ascending the pulpit stairs on a Sunday afternoon in 1586, and he quietly dismissed the congregation. It is noticeable that the disputants, who were connected by marriage—Travers's brother John having married, 25 July 1580, Hooker's sister Alice—throughout esteemed each other ‘not as private enemies, but as public champions of their separate parties.’ Hooker alludes in generous terms to Travers, and attributes to his criticism the reflection and study which resulted in the ‘Ecclesiastical Polity.’ Travers's ‘Supplication’ to the council was privately printed and circulated. It and Hooker's ‘Answer’ were both printed at Oxford in 1612, and are in all editions of Hooker's works.

After his inhibition Travers remained in London, holding meetings, when he dared, at his own house (Fuller, Church Hist. bk. ix. p. 207). It was apparently in 1591 that Travers was invited by Andrew Melville [q. v.], the prefect, to occupy a chair of divinity at St. Andrews University (ib. p. 215).

Soon afterwards Burghley procured him the appointment as provost of the newly founded Trinity College, Dublin, where he succeeded an old Cambridge friend, Adam Loftus [q. v.], the first holder of the office. He was sworn in on 5 Dec. 1595, receiving a salary of 40l. a year. He appealed to the queen through Michael Hicks, secretary to Lord Burghley, to supplement the poor endowment with a grant of 100l. a year in concealed lands (Lansdowne MSS. cviii. 59, cxv. 46).

Travers resigned on 10 Oct. 1598 because ‘he doth find he cannot have his health there’ (Stubbs, Hist. of Univ. of Dublin, App. pp. 20 n., 372), and returned to England. Archbishop Ussher, whose name is erroneously said to have been entered as his first pupil at Dublin, frequently visited him in London, where he lived in great obscurity and, it is said, poverty. On 5 March 1624 he was glad to receive 5l. from a legacy for silenced ministers (Roger Morrice, Manuscripts); but on his death in January 1634, unmarried, he appears to have been wealthy. By his will (P. C. C. 7 Sadler), dated 14 (proved 24) Jan. 1634, he bequeathed, besides legacies to his nephews and nieces, 100l. each to Emmanuel and Trinity Colleges, Cambridge, and to Trinity College, Dublin, to educate students for the ministry; his gold plate, harps, globes, compasses, and 50l. for a Latin sermon passed to Sion College, London.

Both the ‘Ecclesiasticæ Disciplinæ’ and the English translation (which was probably printed at Middelburg) are rare, especially with the folding table. The reprint, ‘A Fvl and Plaine Declaration of Ecclesiastical Discipline ovt of the Word of God, and of the declining of the Church of England from the same. At Geneva mdlxxx.,’ 8vo, is also rare. It was again reprinted [London], 1617, 4to. This book has been confounded by every writer since Strype and Neal with ‘De Disciplina Ecclesiæ sacra, ex Dei verbo descripta,’ a different work by Travers, although apparently it is not extant, which was translated, probably also by Cartwright, as ‘A Brief and Plaine Declaration concerning the desires of all those faithful ministers that have and do seeke for the discipline and reformation of the Church of England. At London, printed by Robert Walde-graue,’ 1584, 8vo (Brit. Mus.). If this book were not written by Travers, it was at any rate referred to him for revision (Bancroft, Dangerous Positions, 1693, p. 76), and was being reprinted at Cambridge in 1585 when all the copies at the university press were seized by Whitgift's order and burned. From one remaining in Cartwright's study a brief set of rules was compiled by a provincial synod (which Cartwright attended from Warwick) at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1589; these rules were subscribed in 1590 by five hundred ministers, and reprinted ‘by authority’ of the Westminster assembly as ‘A Directory of Church Government,’ London, 1644, and more recently in facsimile, with a valuable introduction by Peter Lorimer, London, 1872, 4to. It is the latter work which Soames (Elizabethan Relig. Hist.) and Dr. Dexter (Congregat. of Three Hundred Years) refer to as the ‘text-book of presbyterianism.’

John Travers (d. 1620), brother of the above, graduated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and was chosen fellow 1569. He died rector of Farringdon, Devonshire, 1620, leaving by his wife Alice Hooker four sons—Elias, Samuel, John, and Walter—who all took orders. The youngest, Walter Travers, chaplain to Charles I, rector of Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire, vicar of Wellington, Somerset, and rector of Pitminster, Devonshire, died 7 April 1646, and was buried in Exeter Cathedral; his son Thomas, M.A. of Magdalen College, 1644, lecturer at St. Andrews, Plymouth, was ejected from St. Columb Major, Cornwall, in 1662 (Palmer, Noncon. Mem. i. 349).

[Besides the authorities already given, see Wood's Fasti, i. 204; Nares's Life of Burghley, iii. 355; Heylyn's Hist. of Presbyterians, pp. 314 seq.; Strype's Annals, vol. iii. pt. i. pp. 179, 352–4, 413, 632, 493–4, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 277, pt. ii. p. 174; Elrington's Life of Usher, i. 15, 16; Soames's Elizabethan Relig. Hist. pp. 382, 395, 443, 444–5, 456; Borlase's Reduction of Ireland, pp. 147–9; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, p. 471; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1628–9, p. 542; Killen's Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, i. 452; Urwick's Early Hist. of Trin. Coll. Dublin, p. 17; Hunt's Religious Thought in England, i. 61–73. A valuable account of the ‘Disciplina’ is given in App. C. p. 631 of Mullinger's Hist. of Cambridge, but the edition of 1644 of the Directory of Church Government is treated as a new translation of the earlier work. Roger Morrice's manuscript Account of Nonconformity, in three folio volumes with index, in Dr. Williams's Libr.; cf. arts. Cartwright, Thomas, and Hooker, Richard.]

C. F. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.268
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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163 i 18 Travers, Walter: for lay, however, with Whitgift, who read lay with the crown. Archbishop Whitgift