Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Willis, Thomas (1582-1660?)

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1048834Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Willis, Thomas (1582-1660?)1900Bertha Porter

WILLIS, THOMAS (1582–1660?), schoolmaster, was the son of Richard Willis of Fenny Compton, Warwickshire, and of his wife, whose maiden name was Blount. He was born in 1582, matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 11 June 1602, graduated B.A. on 2 June 1606 and M.A. on 21 June 1609, and was incorporated at Cambridge in 1619. On leaving college he became schoolmaster at Isleworth, and remained there teaching for about fifty years. He published two Latin schoolbooks, ‘Vestibulum Linguæ Latinæ,’ London, 1651, and ‘Phraseologia Anglo-Latina,’ London, 1655, published with the author's initials only. The latter work appeared also in the same year under the title of ‘Proteus Vinctus.’ It occasionally goes by the name of ‘Anglicisms Latinized,’ and some copies contain the three title-pages. Prefixed are some Latin dedicatory verses. In 1672 William Walker (1623–1684) [q. v.] republished Willis's book, reprinted the laudatory verses, omitting the headings ‘To Volentius,’ then adding his own ‘Parœmiologia Anglo-Latina; or a Collection of English and Latin Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings match'd together,’ and placed his name alone on the title-page. The whole book has in consequence been occasionally assigned to Walker. The true state of things is honestly explained in the preface.

Willis died about 1660. He married Mary Tomlyn of Gloucester, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

The elder son, Thomas Willis (d. 1692), was educated first in his father's school and afterwards at St. John's College, Oxford, where he was created M.A. on 17 Dec. 1646, by virtue of the letters of Sir Thomas Fairfax. He was possibly the ‘Mr. Thomas Willis, minister, who was chaplain to the regiment of Col. Payne, part of the brigade under the command of Major-general Brown.’ In 1646 he was appointed minister of Twickenham in Middlesex, and was instituted on 8 Oct. In 1651 he had his stipend increased by 100l. a year from tithes belonging to the dean and canons of Windsor. He was one of the commissioners for the county of Middlesex and city of Westminster for the ejection of ignorant and scandalous ministers. In August 1660 the inhabitants of Twickenham petitioned parliament for his removal. In the petition he is described as not having been of either university, but ‘bred in New England,’ and not ‘a lawfully ordained minister.’ In 1661 he was deprived of the living, but afterwards conforming he was instituted to the rectory of Dunton in Buckinghamshire on 4 Feb. 1663, holding it in conjunction with the vicarage of Kingston-on-Thames, to which he was instituted on 21 Aug. 1671. At this time he was chaplain-in-ordinary to the king, and had been created D.D. in 1670. He died on 8 Oct. 1692, and was buried at Kingston, Surrey.

He was twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth, he had four sons and one daughter; and by his second, Susanna, who survived him, three sons and one daughter. Calamy says that he was a good scholar, like his father, ‘a grave divine, a solid preacher, of a very good presence, and a man zealous for truth and order in the churches of Christ, of great holiness of life, of a public spirit and much fervour in his work, and great usefulness in the county of Middlesex.’

He published: 1. ‘A Warning to England; or a Prophecy of Perilous Times,’ London, 1659. 2. ‘Help for the Poor,’ 1665. 3. ‘The Excellency of Virtue disclosing itself in the Virtues of a Good Life,’ London, 1676. 4. ‘The Key of Knowledge,’ London, 1682. 5. ‘עדוה אל God's Court; wherein the dignity and duty of Judges and Magistrates is shew'd,’ London, 1683.

[Visitation of Warwickshire (Harl. Soc. Publ.), xii. 311; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iii. 406, iv. 698–9, Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 95, 326–7; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Cobbett's Memorials of Twickenham, pp. 110, 124, 188–9; Lysons's Environs, iii. 291–2; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, ii. 470; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iii. 343; Manning and Bray's Surrey, i. 394; Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey, i. 25; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 128; Lords' Journals, viii. 514, ix. 627; P. C. C. 193, Fane.]

B. P.