1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crowley, Robert

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CROWLEY, ROBERT (1518?–1588), English religious and social reformer, was born in Gloucestershire, and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, of which he was successively demy and fellow. Coming to London, he set up a printing-office in Ely Rents, Holborn, where he printed many of his own writings. As a typographer, his most notable production was an edition of Pierce Plowman in 1550, and some of the earliest Welsh printed books came from his press. As an author, his first venture seems to have been his “Information and Petition against the Oppressors of the poor Commons of this realm,” which internal evidence shows to have been addressed to the parliament of 1547. It contains a vigorous plea for a further religious reformation, but is more remarkable for its attack on the “more than Turkish tyranny” of the landlords and capitalists of that day. While repudiating communism, Crowley was a Christian Socialist, and warmly approved the efforts of Protector Somerset to stop enclosures. In his Way to Wealth, published in 1550, he laments the failure of the Protector’s policy, and attributes it to the organized resistance of the richer classes. In the same year he published (in verse) The Voice of the last Trumpet blown by the seventh Angel; it is a rebuke in twelve “lessons” to twelve different classes of people; and a similar production was his One-and-Thirty Epigrams (1550). These, with Pleasure and Pain (1551), were edited for the Early English Text Society in 1872 (Extra Ser. xv.). The dozen or more other works which Crowley published are more distinctly theological: indeed, the failure of the temporal policy he advocated seems to have led Crowley to take orders, and he was ordained deacon by Ridley on the 29th of September 1551. During Mary’s reign he was among the exiles at Frankfort. At Elizabeth’s accession he became a popular preacher, was made archdeacon of Hereford in 1559, and prebendary of St Paul’s in 1563, and was incumbent first of St Peter’s the Poor in London, and then of St Giles’ without Cripplegate. He refused to minister in the “conjuring garments of popery,” and in 1566 was deprived and imprisoned for resisting the use of the surplice by his choir. He stated his case in “A brief Discourse against the Outward Apparel and Ministering Garments of the Popish Church,” a tract “memorable,” says Canon Dixon, “as the first distinct utterance of Nonconformity.” He continued to preach occasionally, and in 1576 was presented to the living of St Lawrence Jewry. Nor had he abandoned his connexion with the book trade, and in 1578 he was admitted a freeman of the Stationers’ Company. He died on the 18th of June 1588, and was buried in St Giles’. The most important of his works not hitherto mentioned is his continuation of Languet and Cooper’s Epitome of Chronicles (1559).

See J. M. Cowper’s Pref. to the Select Works of Crowley (1872); Strype’s Works; Gough’s General Index to Parker Soc. Publ.; Machyn’s Diary; Macray’s Reg. Magdalen College; Newcourt’s Rep. Eccles. Lond.; Hennessy’s Nov. Rep. Eccl. (1898); Le Neve’s Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Pocock’s Burnet; Pollard’s England under Somerset; R. W. Dixon’s Church History. (A. F. P.)