Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tomkins, Thomas (1637?-1675)

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TOMKINS, THOMAS (1637?–1675), divine, born about 1637 in Aldersgate Street, London, was the son of John Tomkins, organist of St. Paul's, London [see under Tomkins, Thomas, d. 1656)]. Thomas was educated by his cousin, Nathanael Tomkins (d. 1681), prebendary of Worcester, and matriculated from Balliol College on 12 May 1651, graduating B.A. on 13 Feb. 1654–5, and M.A. on 6 July 1658. He was elected fellow of All Souls' in 1657, was proctor in 1663, was incorporated at Cambridge in 1664, and proceeded B.D. in 1665, and D.D. on 15 May 1673. Although Tomkins had not suffered under the Commonwealth and protectorate, on the Restoration he distinguished himself as a zealous royalist and churchman. In 1660 he published ‘The Rebel's Plea, or Mr. Baxter's Judgement concerning the late Wars’ (London, 4to), in which he criticised with considerable force Baxter's theory of the constitution, as well as his defence of particular actions of parliament. This was followed next year by ‘Short Strictures, or Animadversions on so much of Mr. Crofton's “Fastning St. Peters Bonds” as concern the reasons of the University of Oxford concerning the Covenant’ (London, 8vo), a pamphlet which Hugh Griffith in ‘Mr. Crofton's Case soberly considered’ termed ‘frivolous, scurrillous, and invective.’ On 11 April 1665 he was admitted rector of St. Mary Aldermary, London, and about the same time was appointed chaplain to Gilbert Sheldon [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, and employed as an assistant licenser of books. In this capacity he nearly refused to license ‘Paradise Lost’ because he thought treasonable the lines:

    As when the Sun, new risen,
    Looks through the horizontal, misty air
    Shorn of his beams, or from behind the moon,
    In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
    On half the nations, and with fear of change
    Perplexes monarchs

(Toland, Life of Milton, 1761, p. 121). On 18 July 1667 he was appointed rector of Great Chart in Kent, and in the same year published a pamphlet entitled ‘The Inconveniences of Toleration.’ On 8 Nov. 1669 he was installed chancellor and prebendary of the see of Exeter, and on 30 Nov. 1669 was instituted rector of Lambeth, all of which preferments he held till his death, resigning his two former livings. On 2 July following he licensed ‘Paradise Regained’ and ‘Samson Agonistes,’ and in 1672 was instituted rector of Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire. In 1675 he published ‘The Modern Pleas for Comprehension, Toleration, and the taking away the Obligation to the Renouncing of the Covenant considered and discussed’ (London, 8vo); another edition appeared in 1680 entitled ‘The New Distemper, or the Dissenter's usual Pleas for Comprehension, &c., considered and discussed;’ the first edition was answered by Baxter in his ‘Apology for the Nonconformist's Ministry.’ Tomkins died at Exeter on 20 Aug. 1675, aged 36, and was buried in the chancel of Martin Hussingtree church, near Droitwich in Worcestershire. Besides writing the works mentioned, he composed some commendatory verses prefixed to Elys's ‘Dia Poemata’ (1665), and is said to have edited ‘Musica Deo Sacra et Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ’ (1668), composed by his uncle, Thomas Tomkins (d. 1656) [q. v.]

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 1046; Masson's Life of Milton, vi. 506, 514, 515, 616, 651; Manning and Bray's History of Surrey, iii. 519; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 436; Hasted's History of Kent, iii. 251; Notes and Queries, III. ix. 259; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714.]

E. I. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.267
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
12 i 13f.e. Tomkins, Thomas (1637?-1675): for 37 read 36
12f.e. for Marton read Martin Hussingtree