Turner, William (d.1568) (DNB00)

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TURNER, WILLIAM (d. 1568), dean of Wells, physician and botanist, a native of Morpeth, Northumberland, and believed to have been the son of William Turner, a tanner, became a student of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, under the patronage of Thomas, lord Wentworth (Turner, Herbal, pt. ii. Pref.). He proceeded B.A. in 1529–30, and was elected junior fellow; became joint-treasurer of his college in 1532, commenced M.A. in 1533, had a title for orders from the college in 1537, and was senior treasurer in 1538 (Cooper). While at Cambridge he was intimate with Nicholas Ridley [q. v.] (afterwards bishop of London), who was of the same college and instructed him in Greek, was often his opponent in theological exercises, and joined him in practising archery and playing tennis (Strype, Memorials, iii. i. 385–6). He often heard Hugh Latimer [q. v.] preach, accepted his teachings, and was one of those early professors of the gospel at Cambridge who used to meet for religious conference at a house called the White Horse, and nicknamed ‘Germany’ by their opponents (Strype, Parker, i. 12–13). Before leaving Cambridge he published his translation of ‘The Comparison between the Olde Learnynge and the Newe’ in 1537, a small religious book, ‘Unio Dissidentium,’ in 1538, and in the same year his ‘Libellus de re Herbaria,’ which was his first essay in a branch of science then little cultivated at Cambridge; for, writing of this work thirty years later, he says that while he was there he ‘could learne neuer one Greke nether Latin nor English name euen amongst the Phisicions of any herb or tre, suche was the ignorance in simples at that tyme’ (Herbal, pt. iii. pref.) He left Cambridge in 1540 and travelled about preaching in various places, stayed for a time at Oxford for ‘the conversation of men and books,’ and was afterwards imprisoned for preaching without a license (Wood, Athenæ, i. 361). On his release he left England and travelled in Holland, Germany, and Italy, receiving in 1542 a benevolence of 26s. 8d. from his college (Cooper); stayed some time at Bologna, studying botany under Luca Ghini, and either there or at Ferrara graduated M.D. From Italy he went to Zurich, became intimate with Conrad Gesner, the famous naturalist, who had a high opinion of his knowledge of medicine and general learning; was at Basle in 1543, and at Cologne in 1544. He collected plants in many parts of the Rhine country, and in Holland and East Frieseland, where he became physician to the ‘Erle of Emden,’ and made expeditions to the islands lying off the coast (Jackson). During this time he put forth several books on religion which were popular in England, and on 8 July 1546 all persons were forbidden by proclamation to have any book written by him in English (Ames, Typogr. Antiq. i. 450); he also wrote his ‘Herbal,’ but delayed its publication until he returned to England.

He returned on the accession of Edward VI, became chaplain and physician to the Duke of Somerset, and, it appears from a passage in his ‘Spirituall Physick’ (f. 44), had a seat in the House of Commons. He continued his botanical studies, had access to the duke's gardens, and had a garden of his own at Kew, where he was residing. In September 1548 he wrote to William Cecil (afterwards Lord Burghley) [q. v.], then the duke's secretary, declaring that he was destitute, and expressing his wish for some clerical preferment which would not take him far from the court (Jackson). He received a promise of a prebend at York, and while expressing his thanks for this in another letter to Cecil of 11 June 1549, says that he hopes that he shall soon get it, for ‘my childer haue bene fed so long with hope that they are uery lene, i would fayne haue them fatter’ (ib.) The prebend came to him on 12 Feb. 1550 (Le Neve, iii. 176). In July the privy council directed that he should be elected provost of Oriel College, Oxford, but an election had already been made to the office. He wrote to Cecil in September, asking for the presidentship of Magdalen College, Oxford, and he also applied for an archdeaconry, but failed in both requests. Deeply disappointed, he wrote a despondent letter to Cecil, saying that, if he could have his health, he could get his living in Holland and many places in Germany, and asking for license to go to Germany, carrying ‘ii litle horses’ with him, for he was ‘every day more and more vexed with the stone;’ he desired to drink ‘only rhenish wine’ at small cost, for he believed that would relieve him; and he promised that if he was allowed to retain his ‘poor prebend’ while abroad, he would correct the English translation of the Bible, giving reasons for his corrections, would finish his ‘great herball,’ and write a book on fishes, stones, and metals (Jackson). In November, however, he was appointed to the deanery of Wells, vacant by the deprivation of Dean Goodman. He found some difficulty in establishing himself in his office, for when Somerset got hold of the episcopal palace he made the dean's house over to the bishop, and Goodman had therefore lived in a prebendal house, which he was not willing to resign to his successor (Tytler, Edward VI, i. 372). Turner complained in 1551 that he had neither house nor a foot of land, and that he was in uncomfortable quarters, and could not go to his book ‘for the crying of childer.’ An order was issued by the crown for his installation on 24 March, and on 10 April he received a dispensation from residence without loss of emoluments while preaching the gospel within the kingdom (ib.; Wells Cathedral Manuscripts, p. 237). About this time, while acting as lecturer at Isleworth, Middlesex, he had a controversy with Robert Cooke, a man of heretical opinions, who held a subordinate office at court. In answer to Cooke, he wrote his ‘Preservative or Triacle agaynst the Poyson of Pelagius’ (Strype,, Memorials, ii. i. 111; Wood, Athenæ, i. 362). On 21 Dec. 1552 he was ordained priest by Bishop Ridley (Cooper). In 1553 he was deprived of his deanery, in which Goodman was reinstated. He left England and remained abroad during Mary's reign, staying at Bonn, Strasburg, Spires, Worms, Frankfort, Mayence, Cologne, and Weissenberg, at both which last-named places he had gardens, at Chur and at Basle. He was one of the many writers whose books were prohibited as heretical by a proclamation of the council in 1555 (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vii. 127–8).

He returned to England on the accession of Elizabeth, and on 10 Sept. 1559 preached at St. Paul's Cross before the lord mayor and a great audience (Machyn, p. 210). He brought a suit against Goodman for his restitution to the deanery of Wells, which was decided in his favour by a commission, and he was restored by royal order on 18 June 1560 (Wells Cathedral Manuscripts, p. 240). Moreover, he received possession of the dean's house and the prebend and rectory of Wedmore, which anciently pertained to the deanery, and had been restored to it by Mary (ib. p. 271; Reynolds, Wells Cathedral, Pref. p. v). Although he was neither present at the debate in convocation for altering certain rites and ceremonies of the church on 13 Feb. 1562, nor voted by proxy, he was violently opposed to all ceremonial observance, contemned episcopal authority, and was a conspicuous member of the party that endeavoured to bring the church into conformity with the reformed churches of Germany and Switzerland; indeed, one of his books that had been printed abroad and was at this time largely read in England is said to have animated the strife on these matters (Strype, Grindal, p. 145). He used to call the bishops ‘white coats’ and ‘tippet gentlemen’ in ridicule of their robes, and maintained that they had no more authority over him than he over them, unless it were given them ‘by their holy father the pope.’ The use of the square cap was particularly obnoxious to him, and he is said to have ordered an adulterer to wear one while doing his open penance, and to have so trained his dog that at a word from him it plucked off the square cap of a bishop who was dining with him (Strype,, Parker, i. 301). His bishop, Gilbert Berkeley [q. v.], was so ‘encumbered’ with his unbecoming behaviour and his indiscreet language in the pulpit that in March 1564 he wrote to Cecil and to the archbishop complaining of him, and he was suspended for nonconformity.

After his suspension he appears to have resided in Crutched Friars, London, where he had a garden. He made his will on 26 Feb. 1567, and in a letter to Cecil of 13 May 1568, complaining of the delay in the receipt of his dividends from his deanery, he describes himself as old and sickly. He died at his house in Crutched Friars on 7 July following, and was buried at St. Olave's, Hart Street, where the inscription on the monument erected to him by his wife records his ability in science and theological controversy. He married Jane, daughter of George Auder, alderman of Cambridge, and by her had a son Peter, who became a physician; and two daughters: Winifred, married to John Parker (1534–1592) [q. v.], archdeacon of Ely; and Elizabeth, married to John Whitehead of Hunston, Suffolk (Cooper). His widow married Richard Cox (1500–1581) [q. v.], bishop of Ely.

Turner was a zealous botanist, learned, and of sound judgment in scientific matters. He was the first Englishman who studied plants scientifically, and his ‘Herbal’ marks the start of the science of botany in England. He is said to have introduced into this country lucern, which he called horned clover (ib.) His works on theological controversies are violent and racily written. While his wit was somewhat broad, his learning is undoubted and is warmly acknowledged by eminent men of his own time, such as Conrad Gesner, to whose museum he contributed, and in more modern days by John Ray. Nor was his vigour in controversy belied by his life; he suffered for his principles, and never, so far as is known, was false to them, for the suggestion (ib.) that he probably recanted soon after leaving Cambridge appears to be wholly without foundation.

His known works, all of which, except those otherwise noted, are in the British Museum, are, the titles being somewhat shortened: 1. ‘A comparison between the olde learnynge and the newe,’ a translation from the ‘Novæ Doctrinæ ad Veterem Collatio’ of Urbanus Rhegius, London, 8vo, 1537, 1538, 1548; reprinted in Richmond's ‘Fathers of the English Church’ (iv. 599 sq.). 2. ‘Unio Dissidentium’ [1538], dedicated to Thomas, lord Wentworth (not in Brit. Mus.), see Bale and Tanner. 3. ‘Libellus de re herbaria novus,’ London, 8vo, 1538; reprinted in facsimile with life of Turner by B. D. Jackson, 4to, 1877. 4. ‘The huntynge and fyndynge out of the Romishe Fox … hyd among the Bysshoppes of Englande,’ Basle, 8vo, 1543; published under the assumed name of ‘William Wraghton,’ dedicated to Henry VIII; reprinted by Robert Potts from a copy at Trinity College, Cambridge, with Turner's name and different title-page, 8vo, 1851. 5. ‘Historia de naturis herbarum,’ Cologne, 1544, noted by Bumald, and not otherwise known. 6. ‘Avium præcipuarum … historia ex optimis quibusque scriptoribus contexta,’ Cologne, 8vo, 1544, dedicated to Henry VIII. 7. ‘Dialogus de avibus et earum nominibus per Dn. Gybertum Longolium,’ edited by Turner, Cologne, 1544, 8vo. 8. ‘The rescuynge of the Romishe Fox … deuised by steven gardiner’ at Winchester, 8vo, 1545, ‘by me Hanse hit prik,’ with dedication by ‘William Wraghton;’ a different edition, noted by Ames, ‘Topographical Antiquities’ (iii. 1557; noted by Bale probably as ‘Contra Gardineri technas’). 9. Preface to ‘The sum of divinitie,’ by Robert Hutton or Hutten [q. v.] (sometime Turner's scholar and servant), 1548. 10. ‘The names of herbes in Greke, Latin, Englishe, Duche, and Frenche … gathered by W. T.’ London, 1548, 8vo. 11. ‘A newe Dialogue … examination of the Messe,’ London, 8vo [1548]. 12. ‘A Preservative or Triacle agaynst the poyson of Pelagius,’ London, 8vo [1551]. 13. ‘A newe Herball wherein are conteyned the names of Herbes,’ London, fol. 1551. 14. ‘The huntyng of the Romyshe Wolfe,’ London, 8vo [1554?] (not in Brit. Mus.), Bodleian Library; reprinted as ‘The Hunting of the Fox and the Wolfe’ (Ames, iii. 1605). 15. ‘The booke of Merchants newly made by the lord Plantapole’ before 1555 (see Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend, v. 567). 16. ‘The Spiritual Nosegay’ (see ib.). 17. ‘A new Booke of Spirituall Physick for dyverse diseases of the Nobilitie and Gentlemen of Englande,’ ‘Rome’ (Basle?), 8vo, 1555. 18. ‘The seconde parte of W. T.'s Herball …’ 19. ‘Hereunto is joined a book of the bath of Baeth,’ &c., Cologne, 8vo, 1562; the Bath book is also adjoined with additions to the ‘Herbal’ of 1562, and is printed in Vicary's ‘Treasure for Englishmen’ (4to, 1580, 1589) and later editions. 20. ‘A new Boke of the natures and properties of all Wines commonlye used here in England,’ whereunto is annexed 21. ‘The booke of “the powers … of the three most renowned Triacles,”’ of which an inaccurate edition had already appeared, London, 8vo, 1568. 22. ‘The first and seconde partes of the Herbal … with the thirde part: also a booke of the bath,’ &c., u.s., Cologne, fol. 1568. 23. ‘A catechisme,’ a translation of the Heidelberg catechism with W. T.'s name, London, 8vo, 1572; without his name, 8vo, 1578. Also letters, as a long one to Conrad Gesner on English fishes in Gesner's ‘Historia Animalium’ (iii. 1294 sq., with date 1557; one to Bullinger in ‘Zurich Letters,’ 2nd ser. p. 124; and some in Jackson's ‘Life’ from Lansdowne manuscripts. He prepared for the press William of Newburgh's ‘Historia rerum Anglicarum,’ which was published by Silvius at Antwerp in 1567, but with the omission of some chapters and of Turner's preface; it was reprinted in 1587 and later (Hearne, Hemingi Cartularium, ii. 669). Other works, not now known to exist, are noted by Bale and Tanner, as ‘Imagines stirpium,’ ‘De Baptismo parvulorum,’ &c.

[Memoirs by Jackson, u.s., with Bibliography, Potts u.s., and in Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 255 sq.; Hodgson's Northumberland, ii. 455 sq.; Strype's Works (8vo edit.); Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend; Brook's Puritans, i. 128; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss; Wells Cath. MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm.); Bale's Scriptt. sæc. viii. 95, p. 697; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 727.]

W. H.