Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crakanthorpe, Richard

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CRAKANTHORPE, RICHARD (1567–1624), divine, was born at or near Strickland in Westmoreland in 1567, and at the age of sixteen was admitted as a student at Queen's College, Oxford. According to Wood he was first a 'poor serving child,' then a tabardar, and at length in 1598 became a fellow of that college. In the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth the university of Oxford was very puritanical, and the influence of Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus, the very learned leader of the puritans, was supreme. It would appear that Crakanthorpe at once fell under his influence, and became closely attached to him. He proceeded in divinity and became conspicuous among the puritanical party for his great powers as a disputant and a preacher. Wood describes him as a 'zealot among them,' and as having formed a coterie in his college of men of like opinions with himself, who were all the devoted disciples of Dr. Reynolds. That Crakanthorpe had acquired a very considerable reputation for learning is probable from the fact that he was selected to accompany Lord Evers as his chaplain, when, at the commencement of the reign of James I, he was sent as ambassador extraordinary to the emperor of Germany. It appears that he had preached an 'Inauguration Sermon' at Paul's Cross on the accession of James, which probably brought him into notice. Crakanthorpe had as his fellow-chaplain in the embassy Dr. Thomas Morton [q. v.], afterwards well known as the bishop of Chester and Durham. The two chaplains could hardly have been altogether of the same mind, but Wood tells us that they 'did advantage themselves exceedingly by conversing with learned men of other persuasions, and by visiting several universities and libraries there.' After his return Crakanthorpe became chaplain to Dr. Ravis, bishop of London, and chaplain in ordinary to the king. He was also admitted, on the presentation of Sir John Leverson, to the rectory of Black Notley, near Braintree in Essex. Sir John had had three sons at Queen's College, and had thus become acquainted with Crakanthorpe. The date of his admission to this living in Bancroft's 'Register' is 21 Jan. 1604–5. Crakanthorpe had not as yet published anything, and with the exception of his 'Inauguration Sermon,' published in 1608, the earliest of his works bears date 1616, when he published a treatise in defence of Justinian the emperor, against Cardinal Baronius. His merits, however, and his great learning seem to have been generally recognised, and in 1617, succeeding John Barkham [q. v.] or Barcham, Crakanthorpe was presented to the rectory of Paglesham by the Bishop of London. He had before this taken his degree of D.D. and been incorporated at Cambridge. It was about this time that the famous Mark Anthony de Dominis [q. v.], archbishop of Spalatro, came to this country as a convert to the church of England, having published his reasons for this step in a book called 'Consilium Profectionis ' (Heidelberg and Lond. 1616). With this prelate Crakanthorpe was destined to have his remarkable controversial duel. His most important previous works were:

  1. 'Introductio in Metaphysicam,' Oxford, 1619.
  2. 'Defence of Constantine,with a Treatise of the Pope's Temporal Monarchy,' Lond. 1621.
  3. 'Logicæ libri quinque de Prædicabilibus, Prædicamentis,' &c., Lond. 1622.
  4. 'Tractatus de Providentiâ Dei,' Cambridge, 1622.

The 'Defensio Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,' Crakanthorpe's famous work, was not published till after his death, when it was given to the world (1625) by his friend, John Barkham, who also preached his funeral sermon. It is said by Wood to have been held 'the most exact piece of controversy since the Reformation.' It is a treatise replete with abstruse learning, and written with excessive vigour. Its defect is that it is too full of controversial acerbity. Crakanthorpe was, says Wood, 'a great canonist, and so familiar and exact in the fathers, councils, and schoolmen, that none in his time scarce went before him. None have written with greater diligence, I cannot say with a meeker mind, as some have reported that he was as foul-mouthed against the papists, particularly M. Ant. de Dominis, as Prynne was afterwards against them and the prelatists.' The first treatise of De Dominis (mentioned above) had been received with great applause in England, but when, after about six years' residence here, the archbishop was lured back to Rome, and published his retractation ('Consilium Reditûs'), a perfect storm of vituperation broke out against him. It was this treatise which Crakanthorpe answered in his 'Defensio Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,' taking it sentence by sentence, and almost word by word, and pouring out a perpetual stream of invective on the writer. The Latin style of Crakanthorpe's treatise is admirable, the learning inexhaustible, but the tone of it can scarcely be described otherwise than as savage. Its value as a contribution to the Romish controversy is also greatly lessened by the fact of its keeping so closely to the treatise which it answers, and never taking any general views of the subjects handled. The book having been published without the author's final directions, in consequence of his illness and death, the first edition was full of errors. It was well edited at Oxford in 1847. Crakanthorpe died at his living of Black Notley, and was buried in the chancel of the church there on 25 Nov. 1624. King James, to whom he was well known, said, somewhat unfeelingly, that he died for want of a bishopric. Several works written by him on the Romish controversy, in addition to his great work, the 'Defensio,' were published after his death.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, vol. i.; Crakanthorpe's Defensio Ecclesiæ Anglicæ, Oxford. 1847 ; M. Ant. de Dominis, Reditus ex Anglii Consilium Sui, Rome. 1622.]

G. G. P.