Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Foxe, John
FOXE, JOHN (1516–1587), martyrologist, was born at Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1516. The date is supplied by a grant of arms made to his family on 21 Dec. 1598 (Maitland, Notes, pt. i. 8–10). He is there said to be lineally connected with Richard Foxe [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, but this relationship is improbable. The father, of whom nothing is known, died while his sons were very young. Foxe had at least one brother. The mother married a second husband, Richard Melton, to whom Foxe dedicated an early work, ‘An Instruccyon of Christen Fayth,’ with every mark of affection. He was a studious youth, and attracted the notice of one Randall, a citizen of Coventry, and of John Harding or Hawarden, fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. His stepfather's means were small, and these friends sent him to Oxford about 1532, when he was sixteen years old. According to the untrustworthy biography of 1641, attributed to Foxe's son Samuel, Foxe entered at Brasenose College, where his patron Hawarden was tutor. He is not mentioned in the college books. It must, however, be admitted that Foxe, when dedicating his ‘Syllogisticon’ (1563) to Hawarden, writes of him as if he had been his tutor; and that Alexander Nowell, afterwards dean of St. Paul's (stated in the biography of 1641 to have been Foxe's chamber-fellow at Oxford), was a member of Brasenose, and was one of Foxe's lifelong friends. Foxe also refers to Brasenose thrice in his ‘Actes and Monuments,’ but the absence of any comment indicating personal association with the place does not give this circumstance any weight. If he resided at Brasenose at all, it was probably for a brief period as Hawarden's private pupil. He must undoubtedly have attended Magdalen College School at the same time. A close connection with both Magdalen School and College is beyond question. The matriculation register for the years during which Foxe would have been ‘in statu pupillari’ is unfortunately lost. But he became probationer fellow of Magdalen in July 1538, and full fellow 25 July 1539, being joint lecturer in logic with Baldwin Norton in 1539–1540, and proceeding B.A. 17 July 1537 and M.A. in July 1543 (Oxf. Univ. Reg., Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 188). Foxe repeatedly identifies himself with Magdalen in his works and private letters. ‘For which foundation,’ he writes in the ‘Actes,’ iii. 716, ‘as there have been and be yet many students bound to yield grateful thanks unto God, so I must needs confess to be one, except I will be unkind.’ About 1564, when one West (formerly of Magdalen) was charged in the court of high commission with making rebellious speeches, Foxe used his influence to procure the offender's pardon, on the sole ground that he had belonged to the same school and college at Oxford as himself. As fellow of Magdalen Foxe had his difficulties. His intimate friends and correspondents at Oxford included, besides Nowell, Richard Bertie [q. v.], John Cheke of Cambridge [q. v.], Hugh Latimer, and William Tindal, and like them he strongly favoured extreme forms of protestantism. His colleagues at Magdalen were divided on doctrinal questions, and the majority inclined to the old forms of religious belief. He was bound by the statutes to attend the college chapel with regularity, and to proceed to holy orders within seven years of his election to his fellowship. He declined to conform to either rule. Complaint was made to the president, Dr. Owen Oglethorp, and Foxe defended himself in a long letter (Lansd. MS. 388). He expressly objected to the enforcement of celibacy on the fellows. Finally, in July 1545, he and five of his colleagues resigned their fellowships. There was no expulsion, as Foxe's biographer of 1641 and most of his successors have asserted. The college register records that ‘ex honesta causa recesserunt sponte a collegio,’ and Foxe's future references to his college prove that he bore it no ill-will.
Before leaving Oxford, Foxe mentioned in a letter to Tindal that he had derived much satisfaction from a visit to the Lucy family at Charlecote, Warwickshire. Thither he now directed his steps. William Lucy seems to have given him temporary employment as tutor to his son Thomas. On 3 Feb. 1546–7 Foxe married, at Charlecote Church, Agnes Randall, daughter of his old friend of Coventry—a lady who seems to have been in the service of the Lucys. He thereupon came up to London to seek a livelihood. The biographer of 1641 draws a dreary picture of his disappointments and destitution, and relates how an unknown and anonymous benefactor put a purse of gold into his hand, while in a half-dying condition in St. Paul's Cathedral, and how he received soon afterwards an invitation to visit Mary Fitzroy [q. v.], duchess of Richmond, at her residence, Mountjoy House, Knightrider Street. The latter statement is well founded. It is undoubted that Foxe and his friend Bale, whose acquaintance he first made at Oxford, were both, early in 1548, entertained by the duchess, who was at one with them on religious questions (Actes, iii. 705). Through the joint recommendation of his hostess and of Bale, Foxe was moreover appointed before the end of the year tutor to the orphan children of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, who had been executed 19 Jan. 1546–7. The duchess was the earl's sister, and Bale was intimate with Lord Wentworth, who had been the children's guardian since their father's death. There were two boys, Thomas, afterwards duke of Norfolk (b. 1536), and Henry Howard, afterwards earl of Northampton (b. 1539), together with three girls. Foxe joined his pupils at the castle of Reigate, a manor belonging to their grandfather, the Duke of Norfolk. He remained there for five years.
In that interval Foxe published his earliest theological tracts. All advocated advanced reforming views. Their titles are: ‘De non plectendis morte adulteris consultatio Ioannis Foxi,’ London, per Hugonem Syngletonum, 1548, dedicated to Thomas Picton; ‘A Sarmon of Jhon Oecolampadius to Yong Men and Maydens,’ dedicated to ‘Master Segrave,’ London? 1550?; ‘An Instruccyon of Christen Fayth,’ London, Hugh Syngleton, 1550? dedicated to Melton, his stepfather, a translation from Urbanus Regius; and ‘De Censura, sive Excommunicatione Ecclesiastica, Interpellatio ad archiepiscopum Cantabr.,’ London, Stephen Mierdmannus, 1551. The first work was reissued in 1549 under the new title ‘De lapsis in Ecclesiam recipiendis consultatio,’ with a ‘Præfaciuncula ad lectorem’ substituted for the dedication to Picton (Maitland, Early Books in Lambeth Library, pp. 223–4). Furthermore, he prepared a school book, ‘Tables of Grammar,’ London, 1552. According to Wood, eight lords of the privy council subscribed to print this work, but its brevity disappointed its patrons. Meanwhile Foxe was reading much in church history with a view to an elaborate defence of the protestant position. On 24 June 1550 he was ordained deacon by Ridley, bishop of London, in St. Paul's Cathedral. He stayed for the purpose in Barbican, at the house of the Duchess-dowager of Suffolk, who became the wife of his friend, Richard Bertie [see Bertie, Catharine]. Subsequently he preached as a volunteer at Reigate, being the first to preach protestantism there.
The accession of Mary in July 1553 proved of serious import to Foxe. One of the queen's earliest acts was to release from prison the old Duke of Norfolk (d. 1554), the grandfather of Foxe's pupils. The duke was a catholic, and promptly dismissed Foxe from his tutorship. It is probable that Foxe thereupon took up his residence at Stepney, whence he dates the dedication of ‘A Fruitfull Sermon of the moost Euangelicall wryter, M. Luther, made of the Angelles’ (London, by Hugh Syngleton, 1554?). The elder lad, Thomas, had formed a strong affection for his teacher, and when he was sent from Reigate to be under the care of Bishop Gardiner at Winchester House, he contrived that Foxe should pay him secret visits. Foxe was soon alarmed by the obvious signs of a catholic revival. A rumour that parliament was about to re-enact the six articles of 1539 drew from him a well-written Latin petition denouncing any change in the religious establishment. It is reported by the biographer of 1641 that early in 1554 Foxe was visiting his pupil at Gardiner's house, when the bishop entered the room, and was told that Foxe was the lad's physician. Gardiner paid Foxe an equivocal compliment, which raised his suspicions. The majority of his friends had already left England for the continent at the first outbreak of persecution, and he determined to follow them. With his wife, who was expecting her confinement, he hurried to Ipswich, and arrived at Nieuport after a very stormy passage. He travelled to Strasburg by easy stages, and met his friend Edmund Grindal there in July. He had brought with him in manuscript the first part of a Latin treatise on the persecutions of reformers in Europe from the time of Wycliffe to his own day. A Strasburg printer, Wendelin Richelius, hurriedly put it into type in time for the great Frankfort fair. The volume, a small octavo of 212 leaves, is now of great rarity. It forms the earliest draft of the ‘Actes and Monuments;’ but only comes down to 1500, and deals mainly with the lives of Wycliffe and Huss. Some notes of Bishop Pecock are added, together with an address to the university of Oxford, deploring the recent revival there of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The dedication, dated from Strasburg 31 Aug. 1554, was addressed to Christopher, duke of Würtemberg, and is said to have displeased the duke, a well-known patron of protestants. The title usually runs: ‘Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum maximarumque per totam Europam persecutionum a Vuicleui temporibus ad hanc usque ætatem descriptio. Liber primus. … Anno mdliiii.’ But copies are met with with a title-page beginning ‘Chronicon Ecclesiæ continens historiam rerum,’ &c., where the date is given as MDLXIIII, and the printer's name as Josias instead of Wendelinus Richelius. Dr. Maitland suggested that this date was an error due to the hasty production, but it seems more probable that the second title belongs to a later reprint.
By the end of 1554 Foxe had joined the protestant refugees at Frankfort, and was lodging with a well-known puritan, Anthony Gilby [q. v.] Foxe found a heated controversy as to forms of worship raging among his countrymen at Frankfort. Some wished to adhere to Edward VI's second prayer-book, others desired a severer liturgy, and denounced the surplice and viva-voce responses. The civic authorities had meanwhile directed the adoption of the service-book of the French protestants. Various modifications were suggested, but all failed to pacify the contending factions. Knox had lately been summoned from Geneva by a portion of the English at Frankfort to act as their minister. He proposed that the dispute should be referred to Calvin. Foxe, who at once took a prominent place among Knox's supporters, encouraged this course. Calvin recommended a compromise between the Anglican and Genevan forms of prayer. Foxe offered, in conjunction with Knox and others, to give the suggestion practical effect. The offer was rejected, but a temporary settlement was effected by Knox without Foxe's aid. In the middle of 1555 the quarrel broke out anew. Dr. Richard Cox [q. v.] reached Frankfort, and at once headed the party in favour of an undiluted anglican ritual. Knox attacked Cox from his pulpit. But Cox and his friends had influence with the civic authorities; serious charges were brought against Knox, and he was directed to quit the town. The controversy was not ended. Foxe suggested arbitration, but he was overruled. On 1 Sept. 1555 he and Whittingham, now the leaders of the Genevan party, announced their intention of abandoning Frankfort. They gave Knox's expulsion as their chief reason for this step. Whittingham straightway left for Geneva. Foxe remained behind, reluctant to part with Nowell and other friends. As a final attempt at reconciling the rival parties he wrote (12 Oct.) entreating Peter Martyr, whom he had met at Strasburg, to come and lecture on divinity to the English at Frankfort. Despite the controversy, he spoke of the kind reception with which he had met there. But Martyr declined the invitation, and in the middle of November Foxe removed to Basle.
Foxe suffered acutely from poverty while at Basle. He wrote to Grindal soon after his arrival that he was reduced to his last penny, and was thankful for a gift of two crowns. He begged his pupil, now Duke of Norfolk, and his new patron, the Duke of Würtemberg, to help him. But his destitution did not blunt his energies. He found employment as a reader of the press in the printing-office of Johann Herbst or Oporinus, an enthusiastic protestant and publisher of protestant books. Foxe was henceforth closely connected with the trade of printing. According to the ‘Stationers' Register’ (ed. Arber, i. 33), one John Foxe took up the freedom of the Stationers' Company on 5 March 1554–5, and paid 3s. 4d. for his breakfast on the occasion. His intimate association in later years with the London printer, John Day (1522–1584) [q. v.], makes it almost certain that this entry refers to the martyrologist. Oporinus and Foxe lived on the best of terms; they corresponded after Foxe had left the continent, and Oporinus allowed Foxe, while in his employ, adequate leisure for his own books. Before leaving Frankfort he had begun to translate into Latin Cranmer's treatise on the Eucharist in answer to Gardiner (London, 1551). He found the task difficult. Grindal and others begged him to persevere. When he heard of Cranmer's death in 1556 he at once negotiated with Christopher Froschover of Zurich for its publication, but the negotiation dragged on till 1559, and the work, although partly utilised by Foxe elsewhere, still remains in manuscript (Harleian MS. 418). In 1556 Oporinus published Foxe's ‘Christus Triumphans,’ an apocalyptic drama after German models, in five acts of Latin verse, concluding with a ‘panegyricon’ on Christ in Latin prose. The original manuscript is in Lansdowne MS. 1073. Tanner says that an edition was issued in London in 1551, a statement of doubtful authority. The work is a crude and tedious mystery play, but achieved such success as to be published in a French translation by Jean Bienvenu at Geneva in 1562, a form in which it is now of the utmost rarity. An English translation by Richard Day [q. v.] appeared in 1578, 1599, and 1607, and reprints of the original, prepared by Thomas Comber for use in schools, ‘ob insignem styli elegantiam’—an undeserved compliment—are dated 1672 and 1677 (cf. Herford, Studies in the Lit. Relations of England and Germany, pp. 138–48). After Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer had fallen at the stake, Foxe drew up an admirable expostulation and plea for toleration, addressed to the nobility of England (8 Feb. 1555–6). It was first printed by Oporinus at Basle in 1557 under the title ‘Ad inclytos ac præpotentes Angliæ proceres … supplicatio. Autore Ioanne Foxo Anglo.’ In the same year he brought out an ingenious series of rules for aiding the memory, entitled ‘Locorum communium logicalium tituli et ordines 150, ad seriem prædicamentorum decem descripti,’ Basle, which was reissued in London as ‘Pandectæ locorum communium’ in 1585. In 1557 and 1558 Foxe remonstrated in a friendly way with Knox on account of the strong language used in ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet;’ and on Elizabeth's accession he wrote a congratulatory address, which Oporinus printed.
Meanwhile Foxe was receiving through Grindal reports of the protestant persecutions in England. Bradford's case was one of the earliest he received. When reports of Cranmer's examinations arrived Foxe prepared them for publication, and Grindal seems to have proposed that these and the reports of proceedings against other martyrs should be issued separately in two forms, one in Latin and the other in English. Foxe was to be responsible for the Latin form. The English form was to be prepared and distributed in England. Only in the case of the story of Philpot's martyrdom was this plan carried out. Strype preserves the title of Foxe's pamphlet, printed at Basle, detailing Philpot's sufferings, ‘Mira et elegans cum primis historia vel tragœdia potius de tota ratione examinationis et condemnationis J. Philpotti … nunc in Latinum versa, interprete J. F.,’ but no copy is now known. On 10 June 1557 Grindal urged Fox to complete at once his account of the persecution of reformers in England as far as the end of Henry VIII's reign (Grindal, Remaines, Parker Soc., p. 223 et seq.) He worked steadily, and in 1559 had brought his story of persecution down to nearly the end of Mary's reign. Nicolaus Brylinger with Oporinus sent the work, which was all in Latin, to press, and it appeared in folio under the title ‘Rerum in ecclesia gestarum, quæ postremis et periculosis his temporibus evenerunt, maximarumque per Europam Persecutionum ac Sanctorum Dei Martyrum si quæ insignioris exempli sunt, digesti per Regna et Nationes commentarii. Pars prima, in qua primum de rebus per Angliam et Scotiam gestis atque in primis de horrenda sub Maria nuper regina persecutione narratio continetur. Autore Joanne Foxo, Anglo.’ A second part, giving the history of the persecutions of the reformers on the continent, was announced to follow, but Foxe abandoned it, and that part of the work was undertaken by Henry Pantaleone of Zurich. This great volume of 732 numbered pages is in six books, of which the first embodies the little volume of ‘Commentarii.’ The expostulation addressed to the nobility is reprinted (pp. 239–61). Bishop Hooper's treatise on the Eucharist, forwarded to Bullinger, and written while in prison, appears with dissertations on the same subject by Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer. The whole was dedicated to Foxe's pupil, the Duke of Norfolk (1 Sept. 1559). At the same time as the book was issued the pope (Paul IV) announced that he had prohibited Oporinus from publishing any further books.
Foxe left for England in October, a month after his great book had been published. He wrote announcing his arrival to the Duke of Norfolk, who offered him lodgings in his house at Christchurch, Aldgate, and afterwards invited him to one of his country houses. On 25 Jan. 1559–60 Grindal, now bishop of London, ordained him priest, and in September 1560 Parkhurst, another friend, who had just become bishop of Norwich, promised to use his influence to obtain a prebendal stall at Norwich for him. Foxe is often represented as having lived for some time with Parkhurst, and as having preached in his diocese. The bishop invited him to Norwich (29 Jan. 1563–4), but there is no evidence of an earlier visit. From the autumn of 1561 Foxe was chiefly engaged in translating his latest volume into English and in elaborating its information. The papers of Ralph Morice, Cranmer's secretary, had fallen into his hands, together with much new and, as Foxe believed, authentic material. Most of his time was clearly spent in London at the Duke of Norfolk's house in Aldgate, but every Monday he worked at the printing-office of John Day in Aldersgate Street, who had undertaken the publication.
In 1564, after the death of the Duchess of Norfolk, Foxe removed from the duke's house to Day's house in Aldersgate Street, and took a prominent part in Day's business. He petitioned Cecil (6 July 1568) to relax in Day's behalf the law prohibiting a printer from employing more than four foreign workmen. Day's close connection with Foxe's great undertaking is commemorated in the lines on Day's tombstone in the church of Little Bradley, Suffolk:—
He set a Fox to wright how martyrs runne
By death to lyfe: Fox ventured paynes and health
To give them light: Daye spent in print his wealth.
(Notes and Queries, 6th ser. viii. 246.)
But Foxe's stay in Day's house was probably only temporary. In 1565 he spent some time at Waltham. The register states that two of his children, Rafe and Mary, were baptised there on 29 Jan. 1565–6. Fuller in ‘The Infant's Advocate,’ 1653, not only credits Waltham with being Foxe's home when he was preparing ‘his large and learned works,’ but says that he left his posterity a considerable estate in the parish. The biographer of 1641 writes that Foxe was on very good terms with Anne, the wife of Sir Thomas Heneage [q. v.], who was a large landowner in the neighbourhood of Waltham. On 24 July 1749 the antiquary Dr. Stukeley made a pilgrimage to the house associated with Foxe at Waltham, and it then seems to have been a popular show-place (Memoirs, ii. 211). About 1570 Foxe removed to Grub Street, where he probably lived till his death.
On 20 March 1562–3 Foxe's ‘Actes and Monuments’ issued from Day's press, on the very same day as Oporinus published at Basle the second part of the Latin original containing Pantaleone's account of the persecutions on the continent. The title of the ‘Actes and Monuments’ seems to have been borrowed from a book called ‘Actiones et Monimenta Martyrum,’ printed by Jean Crespin at Geneva in 1560. Grindal had written of Foxe's projected work as ‘Historia Martyrum,’ 19 Dec. 1558. From the date of its publication it was popularly known as the ‘Book of Martyrs,’ and even in official documents as ‘Monumenta Martyrum.’ The first edition has four dedicatory epistles: to Jesus Christ, the queen, ad doctum lectorem (alone in Latin), and to the persecutors of God's truth. A preface ‘on the utility of the story’ is a translation from the Basle volume of 1559. Foxe forwarded a copy to Magdalen College, with a letter explaining that the work was written in English ‘for the good of the country and the information of the multitude,’ and received in payment 6l. 13s. 4d. The success of the undertaking was immediate, and at the suggestion of Jewell, bishop of Salisbury, the author received his first reward in the shape of a prebend in Salisbury Cathedral, together with the lease of the vicarage of Shipton (11 May 1563). Before the year was out he had brought out an elaborate treatise on the Eucharist, entitled ‘Syllogisticon,’ with a dedication to his old friend Hawarden, now principal of Brasenose, and in 1564 he published a Latin translation of Grindal's funeral sermon in memory of the Emperor Ferdinand I. But he also spent much time in helping the plague-stricken, and made a powerful appeal to the citizens for help for the afflicted (1564). His poverty did not cease. His clothes were still shabby; the pension which the Duke of Norfolk gave him was very small, and when he bestowed the vicarage of Shipton on William Master he appealed to the queen (August 1564) to remit the payment of first-fruits, on the ground that neither of them had a farthing. He also informed her, in very complimentary terms, that he contemplated writing her life. At Salisbury he declined to conform or to attend to his duties regularly. He had conscientious objections to the surplice. He was absent from Jewell's visitation in June 1568, and in the following December was declared contumacious on refusing to devote a tithe of his income to the repair of the cathedral.
On the Good Friday after the publication of the papal bull excommunicating the queen (1570), Foxe, at Grindal's bidding, preached a powerful sermon at St. Paul's Cross, and renewed his attacks on the catholics. The sermon, entitled ‘A Sermon of Christ Crucified,’ was published by Day immediately, with a prayer and ‘a postscript to the papists,’ and was reissued, ‘newly recognised by the authour,’ in 1575, 1577, and 1585. A very rare edition was printed for the Stationers' Company in 1609. On 1 Oct. 1571 Foxe translated it into Latin, and Day issued it under the title ‘De Christo Crucifixo Concio.’ In this shape it was published at Frankfort in 1575. Foxe's correspondence was rapidly increasing, and his position in ecclesiastical circles grew influential. Parkhurst (29 Jan. 1563–4) solicited his aid in behalf of Conrad Gesner, who was writing on the early Christian writers. Lawrence Humphrey, president of Magdalen, appealed to him to procure for him an exemption from the regulations affecting clerical dress, but Humphrey afterwards conformed. On 20 Nov. 1573 one Torporley begged him to obtain for him a studentship at Christ Church. Strangers consulted him repeatedly about their religious difficulties. Francis Baxter (4 Jan. 1572) inquired his opinion respecting the lawfulness of sponsors, and another correspondent asked how he was to cure himself of the habit of blaspheming. About the same time Foxe corresponded with Lord-chief-justice Monson respecting the appointment of a schoolmaster at Ipswich, and recommended a lady to marry one of his intimate friends.
Much of his correspondence also dealt with the credibility of his monumental work. The catholics had been greatly angered by its publication. They nicknamed it ‘Foxe's Golden Legend,’ and expressed special disgust at the calendar prefixed to the book, in which the protestant martyrs took the place of the old saints (Strype, Annals, i. 375–80). Foxe's accuracy was first seriously impugned in the ‘Dialogi Sex,’ published in 1566 under the name of Alan Cope [q. v.], although the author was without doubt Nicholas Harpsfield. Foxe showed some sensitiveness to such attacks. He instituted inquiries with a view to corrections or corroborations for a second edition, which the puritan party deemed it desirable to issue before the meeting of parliament in April 1571. This edition (1570) was in two volumes, the first of 934 pages, and the second of 1378. New engravings were added; there was a new dedication to the queen, in which Foxe declared that he only republished the book to confute the attacks of evil-disposed persons, who had made it appear that his work was as ‘full of lies as lines.’ The address to the persecutors of God's truth was omitted; a protestation to the true and faithful congregation of Christ's universal church, and four questions addressed to the church of Rome were added. Magdalen College paid 6l. 8s. for a copy of this new edition, and another copy belonging to Nowell was bequeathed by him to Brasenose, where it still is. Convocation meeting at Canterbury on 3 April resolved that copies of this edition, which was called in the canon ‘Monumenta Martyrum,’ should be placed in cathedral churches and in the houses of archbishops, bishops, deacons, and archdeacons. Although this canon was never confirmed by parliament, it was very widely adopted in the country.
About the same time Foxe prepared, from manuscripts chiefly supplied by Archbishop Parker, a collection of the regulations adopted by the reformed English church, which was entitled ‘Reformatio Legum.’ A proposal in parliament to accept this collection as the official code of ecclesiastical law met with no success, owing to the queen's intervention and her promise—never fulfilled—that her ministers should undertake a like task. But it was printed by Day in 1571, and held by the puritans in high esteem. It was reissued in 1640, and again by Edward Cardwell in 1850. In the same year (1571) Foxe performed for Parker a more important task. He produced, with a dedication to the queen, an edition of the Anglo-Saxon text of the Gospels. This was similarly printed by Day, and is now a rare book. Two years later he collected the works of Tindal, Frith, and Barnes, giving extracts from his own account of the writers in his ‘Actes.’
On 2 June 1572 Foxe's pupil and patron, the Duke of Norfolk, was executed, at the age of thirty-six, for conspiring with Mary Queen of Scots and the catholic nobility against Elizabeth. Foxe attended him to the scaffold. Some time before he had heard the rumours of Norfolk's contemplated marriage with the Queen of Scots, and had written a strong protest against it. Foxe's biographers have exaggerated the influence which his early training exerted on the duke and on his brother, Henry Howard, afterwards earl of Northampton. It is obvious that they assimilated few of their tutor's religious principles. On the scaffold the duke denied that he was a catholic; but he, like his brother in after years, had shown unmistakable leanings to catholicism. It is to the credit of both Foxe and the duke that their affection for each other never waned. The duke directed his heirs to allow Foxe an annuity of 20l. On 14 Oct. of the same year Bishop Pilkington installed Foxe in a prebendal stall at Durham Cathedral; but Foxe was still obstinately opposed to the surplice, and within the year he resigned the office. Tanner asserts that he was at one time vicar of St. Giles's, Cripplegate. Foxe's friend, Robert Crowley [q. v.], held this benefice for a long period; but he was suspended between 1569 and 1578, when Foxe may have assisted in the work of the parish. In 1575 Foxe energetically sought to obtain the remission of the capital sentence in the case of two Dutch anabaptists condemned to the stake for their opinions. He wrote to the queen, Lord Burghley, and Lord-chiefjustice Monson, pointing out the disproportion between the offence and the punishment, and deprecating the penalty of death in cases of heresy. He also appealed to one of the prisoners to acknowledge the errors of his opinion, with which he had no sympathy. A respite of a month was allowed, but both prisoners were burnt at the stake 22 July. In 1576 and 1583 the third and fourth editions of the ‘Actes’ were issued. On 1 April 1577 Foxe preached a Latin sermon at the baptism of a Jew, Nathaniel, in Allhallows Church, Lombard Street (cf. ‘Elizabethan England and the Jews,’ by the present writer, in New Shakspere Soc. Trans. 1888). The title of the original ran: ‘De Oliva Evangelica. Concio in baptismo Iudæi habita. Londini, primo mens. April.’ London, by Christopher Barker, 1577, dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham. At the close is a prose ‘Appendicula de Christo Triumphante,’ dedicated to Sir Thomas Heneage. A translation by James Bell appeared in 1578, with the Jew's confession of faith. In 1580 the same translator issued a tract entitled ‘The Pope Confuted,’ which professed to be another translation from Foxe, although the original is not identified. Tanner assigns ‘A New Years Gift touching the deliverance of certain Christians from the Turkish gallies’ to 1579, and says it was published in London. Foxe completed Haddon's second reply to Osorius in his ‘Contra Hieron. Osorium … Responsio Apologetica,’ dedicated to Sebastian, king of Portugal (Latin version 1577, English translation 1581). In 1583 he contested Osorius's view of ‘Justification by Faith’ in a new treatise on the subject, ‘De Christo gratis iustificante. Contra Osorianam iustitiam, Lond., by Thomas Purfoot, impensis Geor. Byshop,’ 1583. Tanner mentions an English translation dated 1598. ‘Disputatio Ioannis Foxij Angli contra Iesuitas’ appeared in 1585 at Rochelle, in the third volume of ‘Doctrinæ Iesuiticæ Præcipua Capita.’ According to Tanner, Foxe also edited in the same year Bishop Pilkington's ‘Latin Commentary on Nehemiah.’
Foxe's health in 1586 was rapidly breaking. An attempt in June of that year on the part of Bishop Piers of Salisbury to deprive him of the lease of Shipton much annoyed him; but the bishop did not press his point when he learned that he might by forbearance ‘pleasure that good man Mr. Foxe.’ Foxe died after much suffering in April 1587, and was buried in St. Giles's Church, Cripplegate, where a monument, with an inscription by his son Samuel, is still extant. His final work, ‘Eicasmi seu Meditationes in Sacram Apocalypsin,’ was printed posthumously in 1587 by George Bishop, and dedicated by Foxe's son Samuel to Archbishop Whitgift. Foxe was charitable to the poor, although he never was well-to-do, and would seem to have been of a cheerful temperament, despite his fervent piety. A letter to him from Bishop Parkhurst shows that he was a lover and a judge of dogs. His wife, who possessed all the womanly virtues, died 22 April 1605. Two sons, Samuel and Simeon, are separately noticed. A daughter, born in Flanders in 1555, and the two children Rafe and Mary, baptised at Waltham Abbey early in 1566, seem to have completed his family.
Of Foxe's great work, the ‘Actes and Monuments,’ four editions were published in his lifetime, viz. in 1563, 1570, 1576, and 1583. Five later editions are dated respectively 1596, 1610, 1632, 1641, and 1684. All are in folio. The first edition was in one volume, the next four in two volumes, and the last four named in three. The fifth edition (1596) consisted of twelve hundred copies. The edition of 1641 includes for the first time the memoir of the author, the authenticity of which is much contested. All have woodcuts, probably by German artists, inserted in the printed page. The first eight editions are all rare; the first two excessively rare. No quite perfect copy of the 1563 edition is extant. Slightly imperfect copies are at the British Museum, the Bodleian, the Cambridge University Library, Magdalen and Christ Church, Oxford. In the Huth Library a good copy has been constructed out of two imperfect ones. Early in the seventeenth century the first edition had become scarce, and Archbishop Spotiswood, writing before 1639, denied its existence. The corrected edition of 1570, which convocation directed to be placed in all cathedral churches, is more frequently met with. Many Oxford colleges possess perfect copies, but as early as 1725 Hearne wrote that this edition also was excessively rare. The British Museum possesses a complete set of the nine early editions.
Foxe's ‘Actes’ is often met with in libraries attached to parish churches. This was not strictly in obedience to the order of convocation of 1571, which only mentioned cathedral churches; but many clergymen deemed it desirable to give the order a liberal interpretation, and to recommend the purchase of the book for their churches. According to the vestry minutes of St. Michael, Cornhill, it was agreed, 11 Jan. 1571–2, ‘that the booke of Martyrs of Mr. Foxe and the paraphrases of Erasmus shalbe bowght for the church and tyed with a chayne to the Egle bras.’ Foxe's volumes cost the parish 2l. 2s. 6d. At the church of St. John the Baptist, Glastonbury, the 1570 edition is also known to have been bought at the same time. Various editions—mostly mutilated but still chained—are known to exist or have very recently existed in the parish churches of Apethorpe (Northamptonshire), Arreton (Isle of Wight), Chelsea, Enstone (Oxfordshire), Kinver (Staffordshire), Lessingham (Norfolk), St. Nicholas (Newcastle-on-Tyne), Northwold (Norfolk), Stratford-on-Avon, Waltham, St. Cuthbert (Wells).
Of modern editions that edited by S. R. Cattley, with introduction by Canon Townsend, in eight volumes (1837–41), is the best known. It professed to be based on the 1583 edition, with careful collation of other early editions. But Dr. Maitland proved these pretensions to be false, and showed that the editing was perfunctorily and ignorantly performed. Slight improvements were made in a reissue (1844–9). In 1877 Dr. Stoughton professed to edit the book again in eight volumes, but his text and notes are not very scholarly. The earliest abridgment was prepared by Timothy Bright and issued, with a dedication to Sir Francis Walsingham, in 1589. Another, by the Rev. Thomas Mason of Odiham, appeared, under the title of ‘Christ's Victorie over Sathans Tyrannie,’ in 1615. Slighter epitomes are Leigh's ‘Memorable Collections,’ 1651; ‘A brief Historical Relation of the most material passages and persecutions of the Church of Christ … collected by Jacob Bauthumley,’ London, 1676; and ‘MAΡΤΥΡΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΑΛΦΑΒΕΤΙΚΗ,’ by N. T., M.A., T.C.C., London, 1677. A modern abridgment, by John Milner (1837), was reissued in 1848 and 1863, with an introduction by Ingram Cobbin [q. v.] Numerous extracts have been published separately, mainly as religious tracts. John Stockwood appended to his ‘Treasure of Trueth,’ 1576, ‘Notes appertayning to the matter of Election gathered by the Godly and learned father, I. Foxe.’ Hakluyt appropriated Foxe's account of Richard I's voyage to Palestine (Voyages, 1598, vol. ii.) Foxe's accounts of the martyrs of Sussex, Suffolk, and other counties have been collected and issued in separate volumes.
With the puritan clergy, and in almost all English households where puritanism prevailed, Foxe's ‘Actes’ was long the sole authority for church history, and an armoury of arguments in defence of protestantism against catholicism. Even Nicholas Ferrar, in his community of Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, directed that a chapter of it should be read every Sunday evening along with the Bible, and clergymen repeatedly made its stories of martyrdom the subject of their sermons. But as early as 1566, when Nicholas Harpsfield wrote his ‘Sex Dialogi,’ which his friend, Alan Cope, published under his own name, Foxe's veracity has been powerfully attacked. Robert Parsons the jesuit condemned the work as a carefully concocted series of lies in his ‘Treatise of the Three Conversions of England,’ 1603. Archbishop Laud in 1638 refused to license a new edition for the press (Rushworth, ii. 450), and was charged at his trial with having ordered the book to be withdrawn from some parish churches (Laud, Works, iv. 405). Peter Heylyn denied that Foxe was an authority on matters of doctrine affecting the church of England. Jeremy Collier contested his accuracy in his ‘Ecclesiastical History,’ 1702–14. Dr. John Milner, the Roman catholic bishop of Castabala (d. 1826), and George Leo Haydock, in ‘A Key to the Roman Catholic Office,’ 1823, are the best modern representatives of catholic critics. William Eusebius Andrews's ‘Examination of Foxe's Calendar,’ 3 vols. 1826, is an intemperate attack from the same point of view. But the most learned impugner of Foxe's honesty and accuracy was Dr. S. R. Maitland [q. v.], who in a series of pamphlets and letters issued between 1837 and 1842 subjected portions of his great work to a rigorous scrutiny.
The enormous size of Foxe's work has prevented a critical examination of the whole. But it is plain from such examination as the work has undergone that Foxe was too zealous a partisan to write with historical precision. He is a passionate advocate, ready to accept any primâ facie evidence. His style has the vigour that comes of deep conviction, and there is a pathetic picturesqueness in the forcible simplicity with which he presents his readers with the details of his heroes' sufferings. His popularity is thus amply accounted for. But the coarse ribaldry with which he belabours his opponents exceeds all literary license. His account of the protestant martyrs of the sixteenth century is mainly based on statements made by the martyrs themselves or by their friends, and they thus form a unique collection of documents usually inaccessible elsewhere and always illustrative of the social habits and tone of thought of the English protestants of his day. ‘A Compendious Register’ (Lond. 1559) of the Marian martyrs by Thomas Brice [q. v.] doubtless supplied some hints. Foxe's mistakes sometimes arise from faulty and hasty copying of original documents, but are more often the result of wilful exaggeration. A very friendly critic, John Deighton, showed that Foxe's account of the martyrdom of ‘Jhon Horne and a woman’ at Newent on 25 Sept. 1556 is an amplification of the suffering at the stake of Edward Horne on 25 Sept. 1558 (Nichols, p. 69). No woman suffered at all. The errors in date and christian name in the case of the man are very typical. Foxe moreover undoubtedly included among his martyrs persons executed for ordinary secular offences. He acknowledged his error in the case of John Marbeck, a Windsor ‘martyr’ of 1543 whom he represented, in his text of 1563 to have been burnt, whereas the man was condemned, but pardoned. But Foxe was often less ingenuous. He wrote that one Greenwood or Grimwood of Hitcham, near Ipswich, Suffolk, having obtained the conviction of a ‘martyr’ John Cooper, on concocted evidence, died miserably soon afterwards. Foxe was informed that Greenwood was alive and that the story of his death was a fiction. He went to Ipswich to examine witnesses, but never made any alteration in his account of the matter. At a later date (according to an obiter dictum of Coke) a clergyman named Prick recited Foxe's story about Greenwood from the pulpit of Hitcham church. Greenwood was present and proceeded against Prick for libel, but the courts held that no malicious defamation was intended (see Croke, Reports, ed. Leach, ii. 91). Foxe confessed that his story of Bishop Gardiner's death is derived from hearsay, but it is full of preposterous errors, some of which Foxe's personal knowledge must have enabled him to correct. With regard to the sketch of early church history which precedes his story of the martyrs, he undoubtedly had recourse to some early documents, especially to bishops' registers, but he depends largely on printed works like Crespin's ‘Actiones et Monimenta Martyrum,’ Geneva, 1560, or Illyricus's ‘Catalogus Testium Veritatis,’ Basle, 1556. It has been conclusively shown that his chapter on the Waldenses is directly translated from the ‘Catalogus’ of Illyricus, although Illyricus is not mentioned by Foxe among the authorities whom he acknowledges to have consulted. Foxe claims to have consulted ‘parchment documents’ on the subject, whereas he only knew them in the text of Illyricus's book. This indicates a loose notion of literary morality which justifies some of the harshest judgments passed on Foxe. In answering Alan Cope's ‘Sex Dialogi’ in the edition of 1570 he acknowledges small errors, but confesses characteristically, ‘I heare what you will saie; I should have taken more leisure and done it better. I graunt and confesse my fault; such is my vice. I cannot sit all the daie (M. Cope) fining and minsing my letters and combing my head and smoothing myself all the daie at the glasse of Cicero. Yet notwithstanding, doing what I can and doing my good will, me thinkes I should not be reprehended.’ He was a compiler on a gigantic scale, neither scrupulous nor scholarly, but appallingly industrious, and a useful witness to the temper of his age.
Dr. Maitland insisted that Foxe's name should be spelt without the final e. He himself spelt it indifferently Fox and Foxe, and latinised it sometimes as Foxus, sometimes as Foxius. His contemporaries usually write of him as Foxe.
Foxe's papers, which include many statements sent to him by correspondents in corroboration or in contradiction of his history, but never used by him, descended through his eldest son Samuel to his grandson, Thomas Foxe, and through Thomas to Thomas's daughter and sole heiress, Alice. Alice married Sir Richard Willys, created a baronet in 1646, and their son, Sir Thomas Fox Willys, died a lunatic in 1701. Strype obtained the papers shortly before that date, and when Strype died in 1737, they were purchased by Edward Harley, earl of Oxford. The majority of them now form volumes 416 to 426 and volume 590 in the Harleian collection of manuscripts at the British Museum. A few other papers are now among the Lansdowne MSS. 335, 388, 389, 819, and 1045. Strype has worked up many of these papers in his ‘Ecclesiastical Memorials,’ ‘Life of Cranmer,’ and elsewhere. An interesting selection is printed by J. G. Nichols in ‘Narratives of the Reformation’ (Camden Society, 1859).
A portrait by Glover has been often engraved. A painting by an unknown artist is in the National Portrait Gallery, and is inscribed ‘An. Dom. 1587. Ætatis suæ 70.’ There is also an engraving in Holland's ‘Herωologia,’ p. 200.