Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Payne, Peter (d.1455)

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PAYNE, PETER (d. 1455), lollard and Taborite, was born at Hough-on-the-Hill, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, where a family of the name survived till the middle of the eighteenth century, when by the marriage of Ethelred, daughter and heiress of Thomas Payne, the property passed to Sir John Cust [q. v.] (Baker, pp. 32–3). Thomas Gascoigne [q. v.] expressly states that Payne was the son of a Frenchman by an English wife (Loci e Libro Veritatum, pp. 5–6, 186–7). Payne must have been born about 1380, and was educated at Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Peter Partridge [q. v.], by whom he was first introduced to the doctrines of Wiclif; Partridge alleged that he in vain urged Payne to abandon heresies which, even if true, would be an obstacle to his advancement in preaching and teaching (Petrus Zatecensis, p. 344). Payne had graduated as a master of arts before 5 Oct. 1406. Under this date a letter purporting to be issued by the congregation of the university was addressed to the Bohemian reformers, declaring that all England was on the side of Wiclif, except for some false mendicant friars. Gascoigne roundly asserts that Payne had stolen the seal of the university and affixed it to this document (Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 20). The letter was quoted by John Huss, and in the convocation at St. Paul's in 1411 reference was made to the seal having been secretly affixed to some lying letters in support of heresy (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 336); allusion was also made to the letter at the council of Constance (H. von der Hardt, Conc. Constantiense, iv. 326), and it was probably in reference to this incident that in 1426 the university took precautions to prevent an improper use of the seal. Mr. Maxwell Lyte (Hist. of the University of Oxford, p. 279) has suggested that the letter was passed by a snatch vote of congregation during the long vacation. In 1410 Payne became principal of St. Edmund Hall, and retained this position till 1414; he was also principal of the adjoining White Hall (Wood, Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, p. 663). During his tenure of the office he was involved in a quarrel with the mendicant orders. According to Thomas Netter or Walden [q. v.], Payne was chosen by a certain noble (perhaps Sir John Oldcastle) to dispute with William Bewfu, a Carmelite, and so became involved in a controversy with Netter himself. Netter alleges that Payne, ‘suffocatus vecordia,’ withdrew from the controversy before they had come to close quarters (Doctrinale Fidei Ecclesiæ, i. 7–8, ed. Blanciotti). Payne himself refers to a quarrel which arose from his refusal to give bread to begging monks at his hall, and from his having said some things of them that they did not like (Petrus Zatecensis, p. 344). But elsewhere he admitted that when at Oxford an attempt was made to make him swear not to teach Wiclifite doctrines, and alleged that, on an appeal to the king (Henry V), he obtained protection (John of Ragusa, De Reductione Bohemorum, pp. 269–70). Payne would seem to have taught his doctrines at London and elsewhere in England, besides Oxford; Ralph Mungyn, who was tried for heresy in 1428, was his disciple (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 498). Afterwards, apparently in 1416, he was diffamed for heresy, and, failing to appear when cited, was excommunicated; Payne pleaded that he had already left England at the time of the citation, but Partridge declared that he met him on the very day (Petrus Zatecensis, p. 343). Partridge also alleged that Oldcastle had been led into a course of treason through Payne's influence, and there appears to have been some charge of treason against Payne himself; this Payne vehemently denied, though admitting that he left England to escape martyrdom (ib. pp. 334, 343–4). Payne may have known Jerome of Prague at Oxford, but he says he never saw Huss (John of Ragusa, p. 276). He was, however, clearly on friendly terms with the Bohemian reformers, and on his flight from England took refuge at Prague, where he was received among the masters of the university on 13 Feb. 1417 (Palacky, Geschichte von Böhmen, bk. vii. p. 184). According to Gascoigne (Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 10), Payne took with him to Bohemia many of Wiclif's writings, and the statement is confirmed by other writers (cf. Loserth, Wiclif and Huss, English transl. p. 72).

In Bohemia Payne obtained the protection of Elizabeth, widow of King Wenceslaus, and soon acquired a prominent position. According to Dlugosz (Historia Polonica, i. 432), he was one of the Bohemian envoys sent to offer the crown to Wladyslaw of Poland in August 1420; but there is some doubt as to the accuracy of this statement (cf. Palacky, vii. 154 n.) He may, however, as stated by Dlugosz (Hist. Pol. i. 436), have formed one of the embassy which for the second time unsuccessfully offered the crown to Wladyslaw on 2 Feb. 1421. In the previous autumn he had been instrumental in inducing the ‘Old Town’ of Prague to agree with the propositions of the Taborites relative to the fourth of the Prague articles, and in November 1421 he again appears as mediating between John the Priest and the nobles at Prague (Palacky, vii. 185, 262). After this Payne is not mentioned for five years; but in the autumn of 1426 John Pribram began to attack the doctrines of Wiclif; and on 25 Dec. a disputation was held at Prague before Prince Korybut between Pribram and Payne, in which the latter maintained the doctrines of his countryman against the romanising teaching of the former. After the outbreak against Korybut, who was intriguing with the pope, articles were drawn up in May 1427 with the intention of preserving unity among the Hussites. The article setting forth the doctrine on transubstantiation was specially directed against Payne, who now dissociated himself from the Praguers, and joined the sect of the ‘Orphans’ (ib. vii. 427–8). In the following summer came the crusade of Henry Beaufort [q. v.], the cardinal and bishop of Winchester, against the Bohemian reformers. After his defeat at Tachau, Beaufort arranged for a conference between Bohemian and papal delegates. In the discussions which took place at Zebrak on 29 Dec., Payne and John Rokycana appeared as the Hussite theologians (ib. vii. 459). The year 1428 was filled with fighting, but in the spring of 1429 an endeavour was made to arrange peace. A number of Bohemian representatives, of whom Payne was one, came to Sigismund at Pressburg on 4 April. The conference lasted till 9 April, Sigismund urging the Bohemians to submit to the council, which was to met at Basle two years later. The Bohemian representatives pleaded that they had not full power to act, and the meeting broke up with an arrangement that a Landtag should be held at Prague on 23 May. In the Landtag Payne took no prominent part. But afterwards he held a fresh disputation with Pribram, which lasted for three weeks from 20 Sept., in the presence of an assembly of Bohemian and Moravian notables at Prague. Pribram charged Wiclif with heresy; Payne maintained the catholicity of all his opponent's citations; but the debate ended in a species of truce, the terms of which Pribram did not well observe, and he again charged Payne and the Taborite party with heresy (ib. vii. 485–7; Hoefler, Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen, ii. 594–596). In March 1431 a fresh conference of the sects with a view to the proposed council was arranged to take place at Cracow in the presence of Wladyslaw of Poland. Payne was present as a representative of his party; but the congress effected nothing, and the Bohemians went home very wroth before Easter (Dlugosz, i. 577–8).

The terms on which the Bohemians would appear at the council were still unsettled, though the time for its assembly had arrived. In May 1432 representatives of the Bohemians, including Payne, met at Eger, and began negotiations with the council. The discussion was renewed at Kuttenberg in September, and at length terms were agreed upon. In a letter from the Praguers on 5 Sept. 1432 Payne was named one of the Bohemian delegates to the council, and on 6 Dec. he set out with his colleagues for Basle, where they arrived on 4 Jan. 1433. On 6 Jan. the Bohemians held religious services, the ‘Orphan’ representatives, of whom Payne was one, preaching publicly in German (Mon. Conc. Gen. i. 64). Next day Procopius the Great, the principal Bohemian delegate, entertained his colleagues and some members of the council at dinner. Payne engaged in a hot dispute with John of Ragusa, who says ‘the Englishman was like a slippery snake—the more closely he seemed to be tied down to a conclusion, the more adroitly would he glide away to some irrelevant matter’ (ib. i. 260). On 13 Jan. Payne was one of the delegates who petitioned Cardinal Julian to grant the Bohemians a public reception in the cathedral. The request was refused, and three days later they had their first audience, when Payne, as one of the orators, delivered a brief allegorical address on the text (Psalm civ. 22) ‘ortus est sol, et congregati sunt in cubilibus suis,’ in which he compared the doctrines of Wiclif and Huss to the rays of the sun. In the subsequent meetings the Bohemian envoys spoke at length on various set themes; on 26 Jan. Payne began a discourse ‘De civili dominio clericorum,’ which lasted three days, and which he finally summed up in a short schedule, to be recorded in the acts of the council (Martene, viii. 215 E). The month of February was occupied with the replies of the catholic representatives. John of Ragusa spoke for eight days amid constant interruptions from Payne. On 4 Feb. Payne declared that certain opinions were falsely attributed to Wiclif by John of Ragusa. John Keninghale [q. v.] at once declared that he would produce extracts from Wiclif's works in refutation of Payne (John of Ragusa, p. 278). On 10 Feb. Payne started a controversy with John as to the institution of holy water by Alexander V (ib. p. 282; Petrus Zatecensis, p. 307). In the last week of February John de Palomar replied to Payne's speech ‘de civili dominio.’ After this the discussion was referred firstly to a committee of fifteen, and on 19 March to one of eight from each side. At length it was decided that the council should send representatives to discuss the matter in the Landtag at Prague, the debates to continue at Basle until the arrangements for this purpose were complete. In these final discussions Payne took a prominent part; on 31 March and 1 April he spoke in reply to Henry of Kalteisen on the freedom of preaching; on 6 April he had a hot dispute with Partridge on the incidents of his English career, and on the following day endeavoured to make Keninghale produce his promised proofs of Wiclif's alleged heresies (ib. pp. 343–4). His interventions in the debate were received with much impatience by his opponents, and his unyielding temper probably contributed to the failure of the Bohemians to come to terms with the council. He had tried to prevent the reception of a friendly apology for the title of heretics, which John of Ragusa applied to the Bohemians on 7 Feb., and early in March the more moderate of the Hussites had considered whether an arrangement would not be practicable if Payne and other extremists were left out (ib. pp. 304–6, 321).

On 14 April the Bohemians left Basle with the delegates of the council, chief of whom were Gilles Charlier and John de Palomar. Prague was reached on 8 May, and after some negotiations, in which Payne took part, the Landtag met on 8 June. As the chief representative of the Orphans, Payne had a prominent part in the debates (ib. pp. 367, 372; Thomas Ebendorfer, pp. 707, 710). The Landtag broke up on 3 July without any decisive result, and a second Bohemian embassy was sent with the delegates of the council to Basle. On 22 Oct. they brought back with them certain articles which might form the basis of a concordat, and in a second Landtag which met on 16 Nov. the aristocratic party accepted the agreement known as the First Prague Compact. The Orphans and Taborites resisted, Payne being foremost in the opposition. On 18 Nov. he attempted to speak, but was shouted down; and in a speech on 28 Nov. he complained that ‘the lords want to tie us up in a sack.’ He is asserted to have declared that he had a knife which would cut whatever the delegates of the council sewed together (Carlerius, De Legationibus, pp. 450–68, 512, 515). The split between the two parties grew wider, and in the spring of 1434 resulted in open war. On 29 May the nobles were victorious in the battle of Lipau, where Procopius, the Taborite leader, was killed; it was falsely reported in England that Payne was also among the slain (Chron. Giles. Henry VI, p. 14); another account states that he was taken prisoner (Nicolas, Chron. London, p. 120). In the subsequent negotiations the party of the nobles continued to gain ground, and in the November Landtag the majority of the Orphans were won over by the moderate party under John Rokycana. Payne then joined the Taborites. Certain doctrinal points were nevertheless referred to him for arbitration, but in the interests of his friends he postponed his decision for two years (Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen, ii. 704–5; Palacky, viii. 181–2). As one of the Taborite representatives, Payne attended the conference before Sigismund at Brunn in June–July 1435 (Carlerius, De Legationibus, pp. 565–74). But from the subsequent proceedings that led up to Sigismund's reconciliation with the Bohemian nobles at Iglau in July 1436 he held aloof. After Sigismund came to Prague, Payne was compelled to give his decision on the points submitted to his arbitration. He pronounced in favour of Rokycana, though avowing that his own convictions were on the other side. The Taborites at once protested, and, after some discussion, the debatable points were on 16 Nov. submitted to four doctors, of whom Payne was one (Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen, ii. 728). As a result, the Taborites obtained permission to worship after their own fashion.

The remaining years of Payne's life were troublous. In 1433 it had been reported at Basle that the English wanted to prosecute him on behalf of their king, and still earlier Martin V had demanded a subsidy for his prosecution from the English church (Petrus Zatecensis, p. 317; Foxe, Acts and Monuments, iii. 538). On 13 Feb. 1437 a papal bull was received at Prague, requesting the emperor to send him to the council for trial on a charge of heresy (Johannes de Turonis, p. 852). At this time Payne had a pastorate at Saaz, whence on 15 April he came to Prague under a safe-conduct. A discussion between Payne and Pribram was held before Sigismund, who, when the former proved obstinate, ordered him to leave Bohemia as soon as his safe-conduct had expired. Payne withdrew from Prague; but his English clerk, John Penning, was arrested, and the people of Saaz agreed not to support him (ib. pp. 861–2). According to Matthias Colinus, Payne now took refuge with Peter Chelcicky, the Bohemian author (Palacky, ix. 48, 469). In February 1439 he was captured by John Burian, who imprisoned him in his castle of Gutenstein (ib. viii. 326). Burian, by order of the Emperor Albert, offered to deliver Payne to the representatives of the English king at Nuremberg. Henry VI thanked Burian for his courtesy, and wrote to Eugenius IV proposing that, on account of the dangers of the road, Payne should be sent instead to the council at Florence (Correspondence of T. Bekynton, i. 187–9, Rolls Ser.). This was on 18 May 1440; but before the matter was arranged the Taborites procured Payne's liberty by paying a ransom of two hundred schock (twelve thousand) of groschen (Palacky, ix. 48). Payne returned to Saaz (ib.), but no more is heard of him for three years. When the Taborites met the party of Rokycana in conference at Kuttenberg on 6 July 1443, Payne was one of the two presidents and directors of the assembly. During the subsequent debates the Taborites complained that Pribram had persistently attacked Payne in Bohemian, which language the latter did not well understand. Eventually the discussion was adjourned to the Landtag at Prague in January 1444, where Payne appears to have been again present (ib. ix. 97–9; Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen, ii. 749, 752). This conference proved the death-blow to the Taborite party, though the town of Tabor held out till 1452. In that year George Podiebrad, who was now king, with the support of Rokycana and his party, marched against Tabor, which surrendered to him on 1 Sept. Certain questions of conscience were submitted to a committee of six doctors, of whom Payne was one. The decision of the majority was to be binding; but the Taborite leaders, Niklas Biskupec and Wenzel Koranda, held out, and died in captivity. Payne possibly submitted, though Gascoigne seems to suggest that he died in prison (cf. Wood, Hist. and Antiq. i. 586; Lewis, Life of Wiclif, p. 229). His death took place at Prague in 1455.

Payne was a learned and ardent controversialist. Peter of Saaz notes the delight with which he obtained access to the ‘Doctrinale Fidei Ecclesiæ’ of Thomas Netter at Basle (Mon. Conc. Gen. i. 307). His incisive eloquence made him invaluable in debate, though he appears but little when there was need for action. His acute logic perhaps carried him to extremes of opinion, and his stubborn temper was an obstacle to conciliation. But, on the other hand, he possessed a fund of humour which enlivened the proceedings at Basle with constant sallies of wit (Petrus Zatecensis, passim). He was somewhat of an intellectual adventurer, though he deserves credit for his strict adherence to Wiclif's principles, and he never completely joined any of the Hussite sects (Palacky, ix. 454). He passed under a variety of names: Clerk in England as an Oxford master; Payne or English in Bohemia; and also as Freyng from his father's nationality, and Hogh or Hough from his own birthplace (Gascoigne, Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 187; Correspondence of T. Bekynton i. 187). Bale wrongly distinguishes Payne and Clerk.

Payne had apparently published some writings before he left England, for in 1428 Ralph Mungyn was charged with having possessed and distributed them (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 498). They, however, seem to have perished. Bale ascribes to him: 1. ‘De temporali dominio clericorum;’ inc. ‘Haec sunt verba quæ hesterna.’ 2. ‘De predestinatione et arbitrio.’ 3. ‘Contra ceremoniarum abusiones.’ 4. ‘Pro utraque sacramenti specie.’ 5. ‘Concilium esse supra papam.’ 6. ‘Ad Antichristi synagogam.’ 7. ‘Contra mendicantes fraterculos.’ Tanner adds: ‘Contra plenam pontificis potestatem.’ The following seem to be extant: 1. ‘Defensio articulorum Wiclevi contra Johannem Pribram;’ inc. ‘Quia nuperin regno Bohemiæ.’ There are two manuscripts at Vienna, and one at Prague (Denis, Cat. Cod. Bibl. Palatinæ Vindobonensis, ii. 1521, 2193; Palacky, ix. 454 n.). 2. ‘Contra scriptum cujusdam juramentum tanquam licitum approbantis;’ inc. ‘In principio tractatus scribitur.’ Manuscript at Vienna (Denis, ii. 1752). 3. A tract inc. ‘Omnipotentis Dei magnificentia,’ MS. Vienna, 3935 ff. 309–40. 4. A tract inc. ‘Quia ut concipio omnes propositiones,’ MS. Budissin Gersdorf, No. 7, 8vo (Palacky). 5. ‘Provocatio Nic. Sloyczin ad disputandum’ (Cooper, Appendix A to Report on Fœdera, p. 228). He has been wrongly credited with the ‘Speculum Aureum’ of Paul Anglicus [q. v.] (ib. p. 231). Palacky also gives the first words of two tracts against Pribram that seem to have perished. Some of the substance of his speeches at Basle may be found in the writers in the first volume of the ‘Monumenta Conciliorum Generalium Sæculi XV.’ All Payne's extant writings are concerned with the exposition of Wiclifite doctrine (cf. Cochlæus, p. 231). John de Torrequemada wrote a treatise, ‘De efficacia aquæ benedictæ contra Petrum Anglicum hereticorum in Bohemia defensorem’ (Cooper, p. 11).

[Our knowledge of Payne's English career is chiefly due to Gascoigne's Theological Dictionary, extracts from which were published by J. T. Rogers as Loci e Libro Veritatum; later English writers for the most part simply reproduce Gascoigne. For his Bohemian career the original authorities are John of Ragusa, De Reductione Bohemorum; Petri Zatecensis (Peter of Saaz) Liber Diurnus; Ægidius Carlerius (Gilles Charlier), De Legationibus; Thomas Ebendorfer's Diarium; Johannis de Turonis Registrum; John de Segovia, Hist. Synodi Basilensis (these are contained in the Monumenta Conciliorum Generalium Sæculi XV, vols. i. ii. iii., published by the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, 1857, 1873, 1892–4); Dlugosz's Historia Polonica, i. 432–6, 578–9; Hoefler's Geschichtsschreiber der Hussitischen, in the Fontes Rerum Austriacarum; Scriptores Rerum Bohemorum, vols. i. ii., Prague, 1783–1829; Æneas Sylvius, Historia Bohemiæ and Historia Universalis; Fordun's Scotichronicon, iv. 1299, sub anno 1432, where he is called Creyk; Zantfliet's Chron. ap. Martene and Durand, v. 431; Cochlæus, Historia Hussitarum. Some other original authorities are cited in the text. For the Council of Basle, see Martene and Durand's Veterum Scriptorum Amplissima Collectio, vol. viii., and Mansi's Concilia, vols. xxix. xxx. Palacky's Geschichte von Böhmen, bks. vii. viii. ix., contributes some information not otherwise readily accessible. See also Tomek's Dějepis Prahy (History of Prague), vol. iv. passim; Bale's Centuriæ, vi. 86, 97; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 582; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. Univ. Oxford, ed. Gutch, i. 543, 560, 585–6,; Creighton's History of the Papacy during the Reformation, esp. ii. 94–102; Robertson's History of the Christian Church, vols. vii. viii. Baker's Forgotten Great Englishman, 1894, is an imperfect and over-partial biography, for the most part based on Palacky's Geschichte von Böhmen.]

C. L. K.