Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Day, George (1501?-1556)

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DAY, GEORGE (1501?–1556), bishop of Chichester, was the third son of Richard Day of Newport in Shropshire. He was educated at Cambridge, where he was chaplain to Bishop Fisher, and public orator (1528). He became master of St. John's College and vice-chancellor in 1537, and in 1538 provost of King's College, by virtue of the king's supreme authority, though he had never been a fellow of that society. About the same time he was presented by the king, one of whose chaplains he was, to the rectory of All Hallows the Great, London (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. i. 156). His name occurs in the commission appointed by Thomas Cromwell in 1540 which drew up in three years the third great doctrinal formulary of the reign of Henry VIII, the ‘Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of a Christian Man;’ and his answers, which he modestly called ‘Opiniones non Assertiones,’ to the preparatory questions that were propounded to the divines engaged on that undertaking are extant (Burnet Coll. iii. No. xxi.). In the convocation of 1542 he was one of the doctors to whom was assigned a portion of the New Testament to translate, in the abortive attempt of the clergy to have a really authorised version of the scriptures, which was quashed by King Henry (Fuller). Next year he was consecrated bishop of Chichester, with license to hold King's College in commendam for six years; and was associated with Cranmer and Heath in a design for abolishing superstitious ceremonies (Dixon, Hist. of the Church of England, ii. 365). In 1545 he occurs as almoner to the queen, and also in a commission to inquire into the distribution of the king's moneys given to cathedral cities and towns for the relief of the poor and maintenance of highways. In 1547 he wrote a severe letter to the fellows of King's, where private masses had been laid aside. Soon after that he resigned the provostship. In the following reign of Edward VI, in 1548, Day was appointed on the celebrated body called the Windsor Commission, which drew up the first English order of communion and the first English prayer-book (Strype, iii. 134). But he voted in the House of Lords against the first act for uniformity, by which the first prayer-book was enforced in 1549, along with seven other bishops. He is said also to have gone beyond the rest of the dissentients, not only in voting against the bill to enforce the book, but in refusing to put his name to the book itself (Heylyn). In 1549 he was on the great heresy commission which examined Joan Bocher (Rymer xv. 181), and in the same year also he joined the leaders of the old learning in opposing the renewal of the nugatory statute of the last reign for revising the ecclesiastical laws (Dixon, iii. 159). He also opposed the calamitous measure of the same session for calling in all the old Latin service books, the antiphoners, missals, grayles, and the rest (ib.); and also an act for having a new ordinal in English. In consequence of this his name was struck off the list of divines employed to draw up the new ordinal itself, who were probably the same body that are known as the Windsor Commission (Heylyn). At the same time his troubles in this reign began by the resistance which he offered in his diocese to the illegal destruction of altars by the council. He preached against this, whereupon he was summoned before the council, and committed to the Fleet, 9 Dec. 1550. He was taken from prison in the following year to give evidence on the trial of Gardiner (Fox, 1st ed.; Dixon, iii. 258, 268). Soon afterwards a commission sat on his case, and he was deprived for contempt, October 1551. He remained in prison till June 1552, when he was sent to Goodrich of Ely, ‘to be used of him as in christian charity shall be most seemly.’ (The case of Day is given fully out of the Council Book by Harmer, Specimen p. 113 seq., and Strype, Cranmer, book ii. chap. xx.; see also Dixon, iii. 203, 323). He was in the Tower at Mary's accession, and was released when she entered London in August 1553. In the reign of Mary he was treated with distinction, not only on account of his dignity, but for his eloquence, being esteemed ‘the floridest preacher’ that was found among the prelates of the old learning. It has been questioned whether he preached the sermon at the obsequies of King Edward, but there seems no doubt of the fact (Grey Friars Chron. p. 88). He was the preacher also at the coronation of the queen (Fox). Day was restored to his see, like the other bishops deprived under Edward, before the end of Mary's first year. It is related of him that in 1555 he, along with Archbishop Heath, paid a voluntary visit to the martyr Bradford in the Compter, and had a long conversation with him, in the course of which he confessed that though as a young man, fresh from the university, he had complied with the first steps of the Reformation, it had always been against his conscience (ib.) He is said not to have persecuted, but several persons were burnt in his diocese. Day died in August 1556 (Machyn, 111).

[Besides the authorities cited, see Dallaway's Chichester, p. 72; Archæologia, xviii. 149, 174; and Cooper's Athenæ Cantab.]

R. W. D.