Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phillips, John (1555?-1633)

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PHILLIPS, JOHN, D.D. (1555?–1633), bishop of Sodor and Man, was born in Wales, probably about 1555. He was educated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, and graduated B.A. on 19 May 1579, M.A. on 25 May 1584. In 1579 he became rector of Sessay, North Riding of Yorkshire; and in 1583, rector of Thorpe-Bassett, East Riding of Yorkshire. In 1587 he was appointed archdeacon of Man, and rector of Andreas, Isle of Man; in 1590 he became chaplain to Henry Stanley, fourth earl of Derby. In March 1591 he became rector of Slingsby, North Riding of Yorkshire. He was present at the Manx convocation in 1597. In April 1601 he was appointed archdeacon of Cleveland. In 1604 he took part in a consistory court in Man.

On the translation of George Lloyd [q. v.] to Chester, in December 1604, Phillips was nominated (29 Jan. 1605) his successor as bishop of Sodor and Man, and consecrated on 10 Feb. 1605. In the same year he was made D.D. He retained in commendam the archdeaconry of Man and his English preferments; the income of his see did not exceed 140l. He was presented by the Earl of Derby in 1605 (when he resigned Thorpe) to the rectory of Hawarden, Flintshire, which he held till his death. In 1619 he resigned Slingsby (where he was succeeded by his son Samuel in January 1619) and the archdeaconry of Cleveland (in which Henry Thurcross succeeded him on 2 Aug. 1619).

As bishop of Man, Phillips was exemplary in many ways. He made a visitation of his diocese in the autumn of 1605. He was resident on the island and attentive to his duties. He had learned the Manx language ‘so exactly that he ordinarily did preach in it.’ By 1610 he had completed ‘The Mannish Book of Common Prayer by me translated,’ and in the convocation of that year he proposed that it should be perused by his clergy, ‘so with one uniform consent to have it ready for printing.’ In the Manx convocation of 1610, held in the church of St. Peter-in-Holme (Peel), some important reforms were carried under his presidency. The ecclesiastical statutes, hitherto only transmitted orally, were reduced to writing by Norris and Crow, the vicars-general. Parochial registers were made imperative; catechising was introduced; rectors were required to preach or provide sermons six times a year, other incumbents four times a year; for the first time the children of the clergy were formally legitimised, a fact which illustrates the retention in Man of many pre-Reformation customs. The bishop's plans were received with considerable jealousy; he was taunted with his nationality, and in the governor, John Ireland, he had a strong opponent. Ireland, whose leanings were puritan, told him that, ‘being a Welshman, he could never do any good.’ Their first difference was caused by Ireland's action in abrogating (1609) an insular custom according to which claims on the estate of a deceased person were proved by the claimant making oath, lying upon his back on the grave with a bible on his breast, in the presence of compurgators. Phillips objected to interference with this custom, which in fact survived the abrogation. Phillips now complained that Ireland set ‘a layman in the chaplain's place to read service to the garrison in a scandalous manner, viz. in his doblett and hose, and sometime in his livery coat; yea, when a minister or two have been present.’ Ireland also assumed the right of issuing licenses to eat flesh in Lent; fined parish clerks on their entering office; and confiscated the bishop's turbary. The dispute culminated in a struggle on the question whether the garrison was subject to the bishop's spiritual jurisdiction, and on this point the bishop was ultimately worsted, though for a short time after Ireland's removal he succeeded in maintaining his claim. To prevent an appeal to higher authorities, Ireland refused Phillips a passport to England; his friends ‘were obliged to forbare his house and his company for fear of the governor.’

In 1611 the vicars-general reported on the bishop's translation of the prayer-book. They appear to have been affronted that ‘the bishop had not acquainted them with his intention of making a translation.’ The custom of the Manx clergy was to conduct public worship by extemporising translations of the prayers and lessons. Of Phillips's version ‘Sir’ William Norris affirmed that ‘he could not read the same book perfectly, but here and there a little;’ ‘Sir’ William Crow said ‘he could upon deliberate perusal thereof read some part of it, and doth verily think that few else of the clergy can read the same book, for that it is spelled with vowells wherewith none of them are acquainted.’ The project of printing it was dropped, and the manuscript lay neglected. William Sacheverell spoke of it (1702) as ‘scarce intelligible to the clergy themselves, who translate it off hand more to the understanding of the people.’ Similarly the great Bishop Wilson regarded it (apparently with little examination) as ‘of no use to the present generation.’ The subsequent translation (1765), executed under the superintendence of Mark Hildesley, D.D. [q. v.], was made without reference to it. Phillips's version was first printed by the Manx Society (vols. xxxii. and xxxiii. 1893–4), under the editorship of Mr. Arthur W. Moore and Professor Rhys. Mr. Moore, who describes the spelling as phonetic and the translation as ‘simple and direct,’ says that it is ‘for the most part easily understood by those who speak Manx at the present day.’

James Chaloner [q. v.] is authority for the statement that Phillips translated also the whole Bible into Manx, as the result of twenty-nine years' labour, with help from others. Of this work there is no trace. Bishop Wilson doubted the statement, and his doubt is endorsed by Mr. Moore. It is certain that in 1658 Chaloner, then governor of Man, gave to ‘sir’ Hugh Cannell, vicar of Kirk Michael, an addition of 14l. to his salary on this ground among others, that he had been ‘assistant to the late reverend father in God, John Phillips, Bishopp of this isle, in translatinge of the Bible.’

Phillips died on 7 Aug. 1633 at Bishop's Court, in the parish of Ballaugh; he could not have been less than seventy-three years of age. He was buried in St. Germans Cathedral, Peel; a later bishop, Richard Parr or Parre [q. v.], was buried in the same grave, but the site is unknown. His son Samuel, born in Yorkshire in 1589, matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, on 16 Nov. 1610, graduated B.A. on 22 Nov. 1610, M.A. on 6 July 1617, and succeeded his father as rector of Slingsby in 1619 (see above).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (ed. Bliss), ii. 883; Wood's Fasti (ed. Bliss), i. 212, 226, 341; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, 1891, iii. 1157, 1159; Moore's Diocesan Hist. of Sodor and Man, 1893, pp. 123 sq., 135 sq., 140 sq.; information from the Rev. D. P. Chase, D.D., principal of St. Mary Hall; from the Rev. E. W. Kissack, Ballaugh; from John Quine, esq., Douglas; and from the Rev. S. E. Gladstone, Hawarden.]

A. G.