Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, John (1544-1619)
GORDON, JOHN, D.D. (1544–1619), dean of Salisbury, probably the eldest son of Alexander Gordon [q. v.], bishop-elect of Galloway, was born on 1 Sept. 1544. He first studied at St. Leonard's College, St. Andrews. In June 1565 he was sent to pursue his education in France, having a yearly pension granted him by Queen Mary, payable out of her French dowry. He spent two years at the universities of Paris and Orleans. On 4 Jan. 1568 he was confirmed by royal charter in the bishopric of Galloway and abbacy of Tongland, vacated in his favour by his father; the charter specifies his skill in classical and oriental tongues. At this time he was in France, in the service of the protestant leader, Prince Louis of Condé, but he soon came to England, entered the service of Thomas, duke of Norfolk, and attended him at the conferences of York (October 1568) and Westminster (November 1568), held for the purpose of considering Mary's guilt. When Norfolk was sent to the Tower (October 1569), Gordon transferred his services to Mary herself, and seems to have remained with her till January 1572, when she was deprived of her household. Mary commended him to the French king, and he enjoyed the post of gentleman ordinary of the privy chamber to Charles IX, Henry III, and Henry IV, with a yearly pension of four hundred crowns. He saved the lives of several countrymen at the massacre of St. Bartholomew, but never renounced protestantism. In 1574 he exhibited his Hebrew learning in a public disputation at Avignon with the chief rabbi Benetrius. By his marriage in 1576 with Antoinette, widowed daughter of René de Marolles, he acquired an estate which gave him the style of sieur of Longorme. With the see of Galloway his connection was never more than nominal, the revenues going to his father or to his brother George. He is mentioned in 1583 as bishop of Galloway; but he resigned his rights before 8 July 1586. His first wife died in 1591. He married in 1594 a strong protestant, Genevieve, daughter of Gideon Pétau, sieur of Maule, and 'first president' of the parlement of Brittany. In 1601 he was selected by the Duchess of Lorraine, sister of Henry IV, to take part with Daniel Tilenus and Dumoulin in a public disputation against Du Perron (afterwards cardinal), who had been charged with the task of converting her to the catholic faith.
On the accession of James I to the English throne (1603), Gordon published in French and English a strongly protestant panegyric of congratulation, and in the same year a piece, in Latin elegiacs, addressed to Prince Henry. James called him to England, and nominated him in October to the deanery of Salisbury, whereupon he took orders, being in his fifty-ninth year. He was present at the Hampton Court conference in January 1604 as 'deane of Sarum,' though he was not confirmed till 24 Feb. In the second day's conference James singled him out 'with a speciall encomion, that he was a man well trauailled in the auncients.' He approved of the ring in marriage, but doubted the cross in baptism. He preached often at court; among the 'pulpit-occurrents' of 28 April 1605 it is mentioned that 'Deane Gordon, preaching before the kinge, is come so farre about in matter of ceremonies, that out of Ezechiell and other places of the prophets, and by certain hebrue characters, and other cabalisticall collections, he hath founde out and approued the vse of the crosse cap surplis et ct.' During James's visit to Oxford in 1605 he was created D.D. (13 Aug.), 'because he was to dispute before the king his kinsman.' He is described as of Balliol College. His second wife was French tutoress to the Princess Elizabeth (1596-1662) [q.v.], afterwards queen of Bohemia. In 1611 the barony of Glenluce, which had belonged to his brother Lawrence, was bestowed on him by royal charter.
During the ten years 1603-13 Gordon produced a number of quartos full of quaint learning, protestant fervour, controversial elegiacs, and prophetic anticipations drawn from the wildest etymologies. He was assiduous in his ecclesiastical duties, which included a quasi-episcopal supervision of some eighty parishes. He procured an act of the chapter devoting one-fifth of the revenue of every prebend for seven years to cathedral repairs. While on a triennial visitation he died at Lewston House, Dorsetshire, on 3 Sept. 1619, in his seventy-fifth year. He was buried on 6 Sept. in the morning chapel of his cathedral, where an inscribed stone marks his grave. On the north wall of the choir there was a brass (which no longer exists) 'bearing the figure of a bishop, raised from his tomb by two angels,' with a long biographical epitaph in Latin (given in the 1723 history of the cathedral). By his first wife he had issue Armand Claude, who was wounded at Pavia, and died on his way to Scotland; George, who died in the college of Beauvais; and two daughters who died young. C. A. Gordon, who gives a somewhat questionable pedigree of the descendants of Armand Claude, says that he had his first name from Cardinal Richelieu, his godfather; if so, he must have received catholic baptism rather late in life. Gordon's second wife died at Gordonstoun, Morayshire, on 6 Dec. 1643, in her eighty-third year, and was buried at the Michael Kirk in the old churchyard of Oggston, parish of Drainie, Morayshire; by her he had issue Lucie (often called Louise), born 20 Dec. 1597, who married Sir Robert Gordon (1580-1656) [q.v.], and died in September 1680, aged 83 (her daughter Catherine was mother of Robert Barclay, the apologist). The dean assigned the barony of Glenluce with all his French property to Sir Robert Gordon, whom he made his literary executor. He left books to the cathedral library, and a legacy for rebuilding the cloisters.
He published: 1. 'Panegyrique de Congratulation … par Jean de Gordon Escossois, sieur de Long-orme, Gentil-homme ordinaire de la chambre du Roy Tres-Chrestien,' &c., La Rochelle, 1603, 8vo; also in English, by E. G. (Grimston), 'A Panegyrique,' &c., London, 1603, 4to; and with new title-page 'The Union of Great Britaine, &c., 1604, 4to. 2. 'Assertiones Theologicæ pro vera Veræ Eoclesiæ nota,' &c., Rupellae (Rochelle), 1603, 8vo. 3. 'Echo. Dialogus de Institutione Principis: ad Henricum Fredericum Stuardum,' &c. Paris, 1603, 4to (elegiacs, in which the last word of the pentameter is an echo). 4. 'Elizabethæ Regmæ Manes,' &c., London, 1604, 4to (hexameters, addressed to James I). 5. 'England's and Scotland's Happinesse,' &c., 1604, 4to. 6. 'Ενωτικον Or a Sermon of the Vnion of Great Brittannie … by Iohn Gordovn Deane of Sarum, the 28 day of October … at Whitehall,' &c., 1604, 4to (his first publication as dean). 7. 'Papa-Cacus, sive Elegia Hortativa … Et Dicastichon in Iesuitas,' &c., 1610, 4to (the title anticipates Bunyan's 'Giant Pope'). 8.'Antitortobellarminus,' &c., 1610, 4to (in reply to Cardinal Bellarmin, who wrote as Matthæus Tortus; partly in elegiacs). 9. 'Orthodoxoiacobus: et Papapostaticus,'&c., 1611, 4to. 10. 'Anti-bellarmino-tortor, siue Tortus Retortus,' &c., 1612, 4to (proves kissing the pope's toe to be a piece of Arianism). 11. ‘Εἰρηνοκοινωνία. The Peace of the … Chvrch of England,’ &c., 1612, 4to (defence of some of the ceremonies). 12. ‘Παρασκενή, sive Præparatio ad … decisionem controversiarum de … cultu,' &c., 1612, 4to (against the cultus of saints). 13. ‘The sacred Doctrine of Divinitie gathered out of the Word of God,’ &c., 1613, 4to, 2 vols. According to Strype, he wrote (1571) ‘a book in Latin’ defending Mary's rights. His discussion with Benetrius is said to have been printed.[Hew Scott's Fasti; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. 1691, i. 795; Barlow's Summe and Substance of the Conference at Hampton Court. 1604, pp. 69, 76; Hist. and Antiquities of the Cath. Church of Salisbury, 1723, pp. 99, 107, 282; Gordon's Concise Hist. of the House of Gordon. 1754; Gordon's Geneal. Hist. of the Earldom of Sutherland, 1813, p. 291 sq.; Strype's Annals, 1824, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 117; Lewis's Topogr. Dict. of Scotland, 1851, i. 219; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1870, ii. 329 sq.; Cumming Bruce's Family Records of the Bruces and the Cumyns. 1870, p. 482 sq.; State Papers, Dom. James I, 3 May 1604, 30 April 1605 (letter from John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton), 12 July 1609 (bears Gordon's signature). 2 Nov. 1619; extracts from cathedral records at Salisbury, per the late Dean Hamilton; Barclay archives at Bury Hill, Dorking (see letter of Lucie Gordon, printed in Theological Review, October 1874, p. 539); monumental inscriptions at Michael Kirk, Oggston (see engraving of the monument in Cumming Bruce, ut supra).]