Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fuller, William (1608-1675)

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FULLER, WILLIAM, D.D. (1608–1675), bishop of Lincoln, was son of Thomas Fuller, merchant of London, by his wife, Lucy, daughter of Simon Cannon, citizen and merchant taylor. He was born in London, and was educated at Westminster School, from which he removed to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, as a commoner, about 1626, migrating to Edmund Hall, at which he took the degree of B.C.L. about 1632. After admission to holy orders he was appointed one of the chaplains or petty canons of Christ Church Cathedral. He was presented by the king to the rectory of St. Mary Woolchurch in the city of London on 30 June 1641, and resigned it on 16 Dec. of the same year, in which he was also appointed to the rectory of Ewhurst, Sussex. When Charles I shut himself up in Oxford in 1645, he became chaplain to Edward, lord Lyttelton, lord keeper of the great seal. As an ardent loyalist he suffered greatly in the civil wars, and in the parliamentary visitation of the university lost his position at Christ Church. During the protectorate he fell into 'a low condition.' Pepys tells us he supported himself by keeping a school at Twickenham, where he endeavoured to instil principles of loyalty and churchmanship into the minds of his scholars. While at Twickenham he had for his assistant William Wyatt, who had acted in the same capacity to Jeremy Taylor when he maintained himself by keeping school at Llanfihangel in Carmarthenshire, in conjunction with Nicholson, afterwards bishop of Gloucester. Wyatt was rewarded by his former principal when bishop of Lincoln with the precentorship of that cathedral (Wood, Fasti, ii. 254).

So consistent a loyalist naturally obtained speedy preferment at the Restoration. On 3 July 1660, little more than a month after the completion of the Restoration, Fuller was appointed to the deanery of St. Patrick's Dublin, and received the degree of D.C.L. at his own university on 2 Aug., by virtue of a letter of the chancellor, and also was admitted D.D. of Cambridge by the same authority. Other preferments in the Irish church followed: the treasurership of Christ Church, Dublin, on 11 July 1661, the chancellorship of Dromore in 1662, and finally the bishopric of Limerick, to which he was consecrated in Christ Church Cathedral on 20 March 1663-1664, with permission to hold his deanery in commendam for two years. Six months after he became dean of St. Patrick's, 27 Jan. 1660-1661, twelve bishops were consecrated at one time for as many vacant sees in St. Patrick's Cathedral by Archbishop Bramhall, the primate, Jeremy Taylor being then consecrated to the see of Down and Connor, and preaching the sermon. For this ceremonial an anthem was composed by Fuller, entitled 'Quum denuo exaltavit Dominus coronam.' It is evident that Fuller regarded his Irish dignities as little more than stepping-stones to some more acceptable English preferment. During the time he was dean of St. Patrick's we are told that he spent the greater portion of his time in England, leaving the sub-dean to preside at chapter meetings. But he manifested a warm interest in the repair of his cathedral, which during his tenure of office was restored from a ruinous condition to decency and stability (Mason, Hist, of St. Patrick's Cathedral, pp. 191-6). At last, after frequent disappointments, the long-looked-for translation to an English see took place. In 1667 Laney was translated from the bishopric of Lincoln to that of Ely. The see of St. Asaph, which had previously become vacant, had been promised by the king to Dr. Glemham, dean of Bristol, who was, however, anxious to exchange St. Asaph for Lincoln. Dr. Rainbow, the bishop of Carlisle, was not unwilling to accept Asaph. Dean Glemham's wishes were opposed in influential quarters, and Fuller, who was then laid up with the gout at Chester, on his way to Ireland, wrote to Williamson, Lord Arlington's secretary, on 25 May 1667, that, 'as when two contend for a post a third person is sometimes chosen, he hoped that Lord Arlington would propose, and the Archbishop of Canterbury approve of, his being translated from Limerick to Lincoln' (Calendar of State Papers, Dom.) His application proved successful, and in Wood's words he was removed to Lincoln 'after he had taken great pains to obtain it' (Wood, Athenae Oxon. iv. 351). He was elected on 17 Sept. 1667. His episcopal palace at Lincoln having been hopelessly ruined during the civil wars, and Fuller feeling the importance of residing in his episcopal city instead of at the distant manor-house of Buckden, near Huntingdon, an arrangement was made with the dean and chapter by which the bishop had the occupancy of a mansion-house in the cathedral close during his visits to Lincoln (Lincoln Chapter Acts). Fuller enjoyed the friendship both of Evelyn and of Pepys. The former mentions having dined with him at Knightsbridge on 25 March 1674, together with the bishops of Salisbury (Seth Ward) and Chester (Pearson). Many references occur in Pepys's garrulous diaries to his 'dear friend' Dr. Fuller, with whom he dined on his appointment to St. Patrick's, and was 'much pleased with his company and goodness.' His elevation to the sees first of Limerick and then of Lincoln caused Pepys 'great joy' and more especially as he found that his old friend 'was not spoiled by his elevation, but was the same good man as ever;' 'one of the comeliest and most becoming prelates he ever saw;' 'a very extraordinary, good-natured man.' He records the satisfaction with which he saw the bishop for the first time occupying his place in the House of Lords on 6 Nov. 1667, and a conversation he held with him on the probability of the Act of Toleration being carried, 23 Jan. 1668. In 1669 Fuller offered the archdeaconry of Huntingdon to Symon Patrick, afterwards bishop of Ely, which was declined by Patrick, 'thinking himself unfit for that government' (Patrick, 'Autobiography,' Works, ix. 451). During his tenure of the see of Lincoln Fuller did much to repair the damages inflicted on his cathedral church by the puritans during the great rebellion. In a letter to Sancroft, Fuller expressed his intention of presenting the cathedral with 'a paire of faire brass candlesticks' to stand on the altar to take the place of 'a pitiful paire of ordinary brasse candlesticks which,' he writes, 'I am ashamed to see, and can indure no longer' (Granville, Remains, Surtees Soc. pt. i. p. 217 n.) He restored the monuments of Remigius, St. Hugh, and others, supplying appropriate epitaphs in excellent latinity, and, as his own epitaph records, he was intending further works of the same kind when he died at Kensington, near London, on 23 April 1675. His end, according to his epitaph, was as peaceful as his life had been: 'mortem obiit lenissima vita si fieri posset leniorem.' His body was conveyed to Lincoln Cathedral, and interred there under an altar tomb in the retrochoir, by the side of the monument he had erected over the supposed grave of St. Hugh, which the inscription shows he had intended to be his own monument also: 'Hugonis Qui condit tumulum condit et ipse suum.' At the time of his death Fuller was engaged upon a life of Archbishop Bramhall, for which he had collected large materials, 'wherein,' writes Wood, 'as in many things he did, he would without doubt have quitted himself as much to the instruction of the living as to the honour of the dead' (Wood, Athenae Oxon. iv. 351). Fuller was not married. One of his sisters, Catherine, married John Bligh, citizen and salter of London, afterwards of Rathmore, co. Meath, M.P. for Athboy, the founder of the noble family of Darnley. Another sister, Mary, married William Farmery of Thavies Inn. He bequeathed to the cathedral library of Lincoln the best of his books, and to Christ Church his pictures, chest of viols, and his organ. His will speaks of his having had to undertake lawsuits to protect his see 'from the encroachments of ungodly men.'

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 351; Brydges's Restituta, i. 163; Mason's Hist. of St. Patrick's Cathedral, p. 192 sq.; Kennett's Biog. Notes Lansd. MS. 986, No. 85, p. 188; Collins's Fasti Eccl. Hibern. i. 385, &c.; Evelyn's Diary; Pepys's Diary; Cal. State Papers, Dom. sub ann. 1667; information from J. F. Fuller, esq.; Pegge's Anonymiana, pp. 5, 49.]

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