Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taverner, Richard

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TAVERNER, RICHARD (1505?–1575), religious reformer and author, born, it is said, in 1505 at Brisley, Norfolk, was the eldest son of John Taverner of North Elmham, by his first wife, Alice, daughter and heiress of Robert Silvester of the same place. The father died in 1545, when he is improbably said to have been eighty-eight years old. His three other sons by his first wife founded numerous families: Roger at Upminster, Essex, Robert at ‘Arnoys,’ Essex, and Silvester at Marston, Bedfordshire (Visitations of Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex, Harleian Soc. passim).

Roger Taverner (d. 1582) was educated at Cambridge, but did not graduate, and about 1540 became surveyor-general of the king's woods south of the Trent. In 1554 he sat in parliament for Launceston. He died in 1582, and was buried at Upminster, Essex. Two works by him on the scarcity of provisions, written in 1560 and 1562, are extant in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 370 (Nasmyth, Cat. MSS.; Morant, Essex, i. 173; Cooper, Athenæ, i. 461). His son John (d. 1606) was also surveyor of woods and forests (see many letters by him on forestry in Lansdowne MSS.)

Richard is said to have been educated at Benet or Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but to have migrated, on Wolsey's visitation, to Cardinal College, Oxford, where his career is always confused with that of John Taverner [q. v.], perhaps a distant relative. Richard graduated B.A. at Oxford on 21 June 1527 (Oxford Univ. Reg. i. 147). He then returned to Cambridge, entering Gonville Hall, and being incorporated B.A. in 1529. In the following year he commenced M.A.; he made a living by teaching at Cambridge, but was induced by friends to leave it and became a student abroad (Taverner to Cromwell in Letters and Papers, v. 1762). The friend who supported him, perhaps Wolsey, died, and Taverner returned to England before 1532 in a destitute state. In that year he appealed for help to Cromwell, to whom he was unknown, not daring, as he said, to ask for the king's liberality without first communicating with Cromwell (ib.) Cromwell induced the Duke of Norfolk to promise him a small pension, and in 1533 Taverner was described as ‘last year master of Greek in Cambridge, and now Cromwell's client’ (ib. v. 1763, vi. 751). He also entered as a student at the Inner Temple, and, probably with a view to Cromwell's service, devoted himself to a study of law. In 1536 Cromwell secured his appointment as clerk of the privy seal, and in August 1537 he was enabled to marry (ib. xii., 9 Aug. 1537).

Meanwhile Taverner, under Cromwell's direction, was actively engaged in producing works designed to encourage the reformation in England. His first book was ‘The Confession of the fayth of the Germaynes exhibited to the most victorious Emperour Charles the V in the council or assemble holden at Augusta [Augsburg] the yere of our Lord 1530,’ London, 1536, 8vo, with dedication to Cromwell. Two years later followed ‘The Garden of Wysedome conteyning pleasaunt floures, that is to saye, propre and quicke sayinges of Princes, Philosophers, and other sortes of men. Drawen forth of good authours by Rycharde Tauerner.’ No copy of the first edition, which was issued probably in 1538, is known to be extant, but a second edition, ‘newly recognised and augmented,’ is bound up with ‘The Second booke of the Garden of Wysedome …’ London, 1539. In that year appeared Taverner's English version of the Bible. It was entitled ‘The most Sacred Byble which is the Holy Scripture conteyning the olde and new Testament translated into English and newly recognised with great diligence after moost faythful exemplars by Rycharde Taverner,’ London, 1539, fol. John Byddell for Thomas Barthlet (sic). Thirteen extant copies of this edition are enumerated by Cotton (Editions of the English Bible, 1852, pp. 15–16; one was sold by Messrs. Sotheby on 20 Aug. 1857 for 36l., see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iv. 179), and two quarto editions are said to have been issued in the same year, one by Byddell and the other by Nicolson; a copy of one edition is mentioned by Dibdin, and a copy of the other by Lewis, but neither is now known to be extant (Cotton, p. 16; cf. Christopher Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, 1845, ii. 80–2). Taverner's Bible was really a revised edition of Matthew's, in which the latter's marginal notes were largely incorporated, with others added by Taverner himself. In the same year Taverner issued two editions of the New Testament, both printed by T. Petit—one in duodecimo, of which the Duke of Sussex and Herbert possessed copies, and the other in quarto, copies of which are in the Bodleian and St. Paul's Cathedral libraries.

In 1540 Taverner brought out a commentary on the epistles and gospels for the year, in two parts, the first extending from Advent to Easter, and the second from Easter to Advent. Copies of both are in the British Museum Library. The title-page of the first part is lost, and is supplied from the second, which runs: ‘The Epistles and Gospelles with a brief Postil upon the same from after Easter tyll Advent.’ Both parts were edited by Dr. Edward Cardwell [q. v.] in 1841. They were written with Henry VIII's authority, and the ‘sacraments of the church be here not heretically contemned, but catholykly avaunced;’ and ‘anabaptists, sacramentaries, and other heretics’ are denounced. Nevertheless the book contains ‘many exhortations of great force, arguments that do full justice to their subjects, and some discourses which were adopted at a later period by the church almost without the change of a single sentiment’ (Cardwell, pref. p. ix; cf. Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xi. 461, xii. 131).

The fall of Cromwell in 1540 put a stop to Taverner's literary activity and endangered his position. On 2 Dec. 1541 he was committed to Gardiner's custody for concealing from the government and communicating to others a report that Anne of Cleves was pregnant by Henry VIII. Three days later he was sent to the Tower, and his wife and mother-in-law were also imprisoned (Acts P. C. ed. Nicolas, vii. 279; State Papers, i. 697–8, 706). He was soon released, retaining his place in the signet office and the rewards his favour at court brought him. On 20 Jan. 1538–9 he had been granted the dissolved priory at Alvingham, Lincolnshire, with the rectories of Alvingham and Cokerington Mary (Letters and Papers, xiv. i. 607). In 1544 he had acquired land and begun building at Wood Eaton, Oxfordshire; in 36 Henry VIII (1544–5) the king gave him the site of the dissolved Franciscan priory at Northampton (Rot. Pat. 36 Henry VIII, f. 24); in the following year he received ‘Nun's acres,’ part of the lands of Stamford Priory, and in 1546 other lands in Horningtoft, Norfolk (Bridges, Northamptonshire, i. 455, ii. 480; Blomefield, Norfolk, ix. 522). In 1545 he was returned to parliament for Liverpool.

Taverner retained his position as clerk of the signet throughout Edward VI's reign. On 28 May 1550 he was paid 333l. 13s. 4d. as wages for soldiers who had served at Boulogne (Acts P. C., ed. Dasent, iii. 38). On 13 May 1552, though a layman, he was licensed to preach, and he is said to have frequently officiated in this capacity before Edward VI (Lit. Remains of Edw. VI, p. 376). On Mary's accession, which Taverner welcomed with ‘An Oration Gratulatory’ (printed by Day, London, n.d.), he lost his place in the signet office, but lived unmolested at his house at Norbiton, Surrey, through the reign. In 1558 he addressed a congratulatory Latin epistle to Elizabeth, who offered to knight him. Taverner declined, but he served as justice of the peace, and in 1569 as high sheriff for Oxfordshire. He signed as a witness the instrument by which Parker signified his assent to his own election as archbishop of Canterbury. While high sheriff of Oxford he preached a sermon at St. Mary's, Oxford (Wood, Athenæ, i. 420; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xii. 214, 334). He is also said to have been in the habit of preaching in the streets and catechising children on religious topics. He died at Wood Eaton on 14 July 1575, and was buried with some ceremony in the chancel of the church.

Taverner married, first, in August 1537, Margaret, daughter of Walter Lambert, a goldsmith of London. By her, who was buried at Wood Eaton on 31 Jan. 1561–2, he had issue four sons and three daughters, of whom Martha married George Caulfeild, ancestor of the earls and viscounts Charlemont. He married, secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir John Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt; by her he had a son, Harcourt Taverner (d. 1587), and a daughter Penelope, who, by her husband Robert Petty, was maternal grandmother of Anthony à Wood [q. v.], the Oxford antiquary (Wood, Life and Times, ed. Clark, i. 38–41).

A grandson, John Taverner (1584–1638), graduated B.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, early in 1602 and M.A. in 1605; he was incorporated at Oxford on 10 March 1605–6, was for nine years secretary to Bishop John King, and for twenty-eight (1610–38) professor of music at Gresham College. From 1624 to 1629 he was vicar of Tillingham, Essex, and from 1629 to his death vicar of Hexton, Hertfordshire, and rector of Stoke Newington, Middlesex, where he died and was buried in 1638. The autograph of his lectures, which in no way touch upon practical music, forms Sloane MS. 2329 in the British Museum (Ward, Gresham Professors, pp. 211–16; Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; note supplied by Mr. H. Davey).

In addition to the works already mentioned Taverner published: 1. ‘A ryght frutefull Epystle … in laude … of matrymony translated … [from the Latin of Erasmus], by R. Taverner,’ London, 8vo, n.d. (conjectured in the ‘British Museum Catalogue’ to be 1530, but probably at least six years later). 2. ‘Comon places of Scripture ordrely … set forth … Translated into English [from the Latin of E. Sarcerius] by R. T.,’ London, 1538, 8vo; other editions 1553 and 1577. 3. ‘An Epitome of the Psalmes. … Translated by R. T.,’ London, 1539, 8vo. 4. ‘Proverbs or Adagies gathered out of the Chiliades of Erasmus by R. T.,’ London, 1539, 8vo; another edition 1552 (cf. Narratives of the Reformation, Camden Soc. p. 160). 5. ‘Flores aliquot Sententiarum. … The Flowers of Sentences gathered out of sundry wryters by Erasmus in Latine, and Englished by Richard Taverner,’ London, 8vo, ‘ex aula regia Idibus Septembribus 1547;’ other editions 1550 and 1560? 6. ‘Catonis Disticha Moralia ex castigatione D. Erasmi Roterodami una cum annotationibus et scholiis Richard Tauerneri …’ London, 1562, 8vo. Other works are mentioned by Bale and Wood which have not been traced (cf. Cooper, Athenæ Cantabr. i. 340–1). Letters from Taverner are extant in Harleian MSS. 416 and 1581.

[Wood's account of Taverner (Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 419–23) is peculiarly valuable from his relationship to Taverner and his use of a manuscript genealogy of the family compiled by Francis Taverner in 1636 and not now known to be extant. See also Taverner's works in Brit. Mus. Library; Bale's Scriptores; Foxe's Acts and Mon.; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib.; Hazlitt's Handbook and Collections; Cooke's Admissions to the Inner Temple; Lewis, Todd, Cotton, and Anderson's works on the English Bible; Strype's Works; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Masters's Hist. of Corpus Christi, Cambridge, p. 389; Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth, iii. 165, 172; Brook's Puritans, i. 189; Maitland's Essays on the Reformation; Dixon's Hist. of the Church of England; authorities cited.]

A. F. P.