Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ammonio, Andrea

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AMMONIO, ANDREA (1477–1517), Latin secretary to Henry VIII, was born at Lucca in Italy, and lived during his early years in Rome, where he acquired a great reputation as a classical student. He was sent to England as apostolic notary and collector for the pope, and became the friend of the eminent English scholars, John Colet and William Grocyn, and of Erasmus, then residing in this country. For some time he lodged with the celebrated Sir Thomas More, and suffered great misery, as he says in one of his letters to Erasmus (Erasm. Epist. 125), where he expresses his regret at having left Rome. In 1512 the king gave him a canonry and a prebendal stall in the cathedral of Westminster, and the following year he was appointed Latin secretary to Henry VIII, and was made prebendary of Compton-Dundon and Writhlington in Somersetshire, as well as prebendary of Fordington in the diocese of Salisbury. The same year he accompanied the king during his campaign in France, and is said to have celebrated the Battle of the Spurs, the taking of Tournay and Terouenne, as well as the victory obtained in Scotland over James IV, in a Latin poem called Panegyricus, which seems never to have been printed, but was highly extolled by Erasmus. In 1514 he became naturalised by letters patent, and it is said that shortly afterwards Leo X appointed him his nuncio at the English court. But, according to the ‘Calendar of State Papers’ (ii. par. 774), Ammonio was still secretary to the king in 1516, whilst the pope's nuncio was Cardinal Chieregato. Sir Thomas More in a letter to Erasmus, dated 19 Aug. 1517, bewails the loss of Andrea Ammonio, who died, probably the day before, of the sweating sickness, when he had not yet reached his fortieth year. This sickness seems to have attacked him suddenly, for on 14 July he wrote to the Marquis of Mantua, professing his devotion (Calendar of Venetian State Papers, ii. par. 906). Eleven of his letters are found among those of Erasmus, and three holograph letters are in the manuscript department of the British Museum. In one of these three he raises Wolsey's suspicion against the Bishop of Worcester; in the second he exposes to the cardinal the dangers threatening Italy from the Turks and the Swiss, and in the third he expresses his apprehension that the pope will join France unless Henry VIII can bring the Swiss to assist him. In the ‘Scriptorum illustrium Majoris Brytanniæ Catalogus,’ Bâle, 1559 (cent. xiii. num. 45), it is mentioned that Ammonio wrote several eclogues, bucolic and other poems and epigrams, a history of the war in Scotland, and a ‘De Rebus Nihili,’ all in Latin. These seem to have been lost, or perhaps were never published. A clever Latin eclogue, however, between Ammon and Lycas, was printed in the ‘Bucolicorum Auctores,’ Bâle, 1546, and a poem entitled ‘Lucensis, carmen Asclepiadeum et alia carmina,’ attributed to Ammonio, is said to have been, in 1784, in the Royal Library of Paris.

[Giammaria Mazzuchelli's Gli Scrittori d'Italia, vol. i. part 2; Desiderius Erasmus, Epistolae; John Bale, Scriptorum Illustrium Majoris Brytanniæ, &c.; Adelung's continuation of Jöcher's Allgemeines Gelehrten Lexicon; Brit. Mus. Catal.]

H. v. L.