Higgons, Theophilus (DNB00)

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HIGGONS, THEOPHILUS (1578?–1659), divine, son of Robert Higgons, born at Chilton, near Brill in Buckinghamshire, was educated partly in the free school at Thame in Oxfordshire. In November 1592 he became a student of Christ Church, Oxford, at the age of fourteen (Oxf. Univ. Reg., Oxf. Hist. Soc., vol. ii. pt. ii. 206). He proceeded B.A. 20 Oct. 1597, and M.A. 4 June 1600 (ib. iii. 205), ‘being then noted to be a young man of pregnant parts, and a tolerable Latin poet.’ He was inclined to puritanism, and while censor at Christ Church he sawed down the maypole. On the promotion of Dr. Ravis, dean of Christ Church, to the see of Gloucester, Higgons became his domestic chaplain, continuing with him till his translation to London, when he became lecturer at St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street, and was much followed for his eloquent preaching. ‘But so it was that many of his contributory auditors thought that his long prayers and spitting pauses were too short, because the reverend bishops (yea, his own lord and master) were ever left out for wranglers and anti-Christian hierarchies’ (Sir Edward Hoby, Letter to T. H. p. 13). After he had been established there for some time, Higgons gave offence to his relations and admirers by a marriage. He therefore left his wife and went into the north of England, but soon returned and published a book in favour of protestantism.

Higgons, according to Wood, became discontented owing to the want of preferment and debts occasioned by his marriage. He was converted to Roman catholicism ‘by one Fludde,’ probably John Floyd [q. v.], jesuit, and is said to have immediately written a pamphlet ‘of venial and mortal sin.’ But according to Wood, who had not seen it, this was said by some to be still directed against Rome. Afterwards he went to France and spent two years at Douay and St. Omer's, to which last his father went, in vain, to recall him. He now took the name of Thomas Forster, and wrote ‘A first motive to adhere to the Romish Church,’ 1609 (ib.) Thence he went to Rouen, where he lived some time, but again, not finding preferment, was reconverted to protestantism by Thomas Morton [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Durham, who had replied to one of his books. After his reconversion he became rector of Hunton, near Maidstone, Kent. During the rebellion his living was sequestered, when he was taken into the house of a Daniel Collins of Maidstone. He died there in 1659 and was buried in Maidstone churchyard.

Besides the works already noticed, Higgons wrote: 1. ‘A Scholastical Examination of Man's Iniquity and God's Justice,’ 1608. 2. ‘Apology, refuting Sir E. Hoby's Letter,’ &c., Rouen, 1609. 3. ‘The First Motive to suspect the Integrity of his Religion, with an Appendix against Dr. Field, Dr. Humfrey, &c.,’ 1609. 4. ‘Sermon at St. Paul's Cross,’ 1610. 5. ‘Reasons proving the lawfulness of the Oath of Allegiance,’ 1611. 6. ‘Sermon on Ephesians ii. 4–7,’ London, 1611, 4to. 7. ‘Mystical Babylon, or a Treatise on Apoc. xxiii. 2,’ London, 1624, 4to. 8. ‘A Miscellany of divers remarkable Passages and Practices of Master Freeman, by T. H., rector of Hunton,’ 1655 (appended to R. Boreham's ‘Mirrour of Mercy and Judgment’).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), 1813, ii. 195, iii. 482–6; Watt's Bibl. Brit. 1824, p. 495; Hazlitt's Collection Series, 1882, ii. 283; Sir E. Hoby's Letter, 1609.]

N. D. F. P.