Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hooper, John
HOOPER, JOHN (d. 1555), bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, was born towards the end of the fifteenth century in Somerset, where his father was a man of wealth. The exact date and place are not known. He himself usually spelt his name Hoper, others wrote it Houper. He graduated B.A. at Oxford early in 1519, but his college is unknown (Oxf. Univ. Reg. Oxf. Hist. Soc. i. 108). An older kinsman of the same names was elected fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 1510, and was afterwards (1514) principal of St. Alban Hall (cf. Memorials of Merton, Oxf. Hist. Soc. p. 248). Hooper, the future bishop, is said, very doubtfully, to have also studied at Merton College, but the statement is possibly due to a confusion between the two John Hoopers. The ‘Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London’ (ed. Nichols, Camd. Soc. p. 63), says of him ‘That sometyme [he] was a whyte monnke,’ which points to his having been a Cistercian. He is said, after leaving the university, to have entered the Cistercian monastery at Gloucester, where he probably received holy orders. On the dissolution of the monasteries he went to reside in London, and, according to Foxe, lived ‘too much of a court life in the palace of the king.’ He soon became impressed by the writings of Zuinglius and Bullinger, and went back to Oxford with the intention of forwarding reforming views. He attracted the attention of Dr. Richard Smith (1500–1563) [q. v.], regius professor of divinity, who made preparations to seize and try him under the Six Articles Law; but Hooper fled in time from Oxford, and became steward in the household of Sir Thomas Arundell [q. v.]. His patron, finding that his opinions savoured of heresy, sent him to Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, to be convinced of his errors. But, after a disputation with the bishop, Hooper returned with his views unchanged, and it became necessary for him to fly from England to escape a prosecution for heresy. He went to Paris in 1539, but soon returned to England. Finding danger still threatening, he assumed the disguise of a captain of a ship and again went abroad, passing to Ireland, and thence by way of France to Switzerland. At Strasburg he had met with a lady of Antwerp, Anna de Tserelas, whom he married at Basle towards the end of 1546. In March 1547 Hooper went to Zurich, where he resided two years. He became very intimate with Bullinger, and corresponded also with Bucer and John Laski, or a Lasco [q. v.], whose opinions he eagerly adopted.
In May 1549, when the reformation was well established in England, Hooper returned and became chaplain to Protector Somerset. He now appeared as the leader of the advanced section of the reformers. He lectured twice a day in some of the London churches, and drew enormous auditories. His demeanour was excessively severe and repellent, and he was not personally popular. He engaged in controversy about divorce, maintaining its lawfulness, both for the woman and the man, in case of adultery. He was also engaged in a controversy with Traheron on predestination, and took a prominent part in denouncing Bonner. His views on the Eucharist recommended him to the young king, and he was chosen to preach the Lent lectures before him in 1550. He selected for his subject the prophet Jonas, and made many bitter attacks on the ordinal then lately set forth, on the oath by the saints, and the vestments. By his combativeness he much angered Cranmer, who caused him to be brought before the council, where he was severely rated. The king, however, was faithful to him, and the Lord-protector Warwick offered him the see of Gloucester, then vacant. The letters-patent nominating him to the see are dated 3 July 1550 (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 240). Hooper refused the see, on the ground of his fixed objection to the wording of the oath of supremacy; thereupon the king, on 20 July, erased with his own hand the specification of saints and angels. Hooper still hesitated on account of the vestments, which he considered idolatrous, upon which the king, on 5 Aug., issued a dispensation to Archbishop Cranmer, which was signed by six of the council, empowering Cranmer to consecrate him without the vestments. But this the archbishop refused to do. He, however, requested Ridley, bishop of London, to discuss with Hooper the question of wearing the episcopal dress. The discussion took place, and appears to have been angry and bitter. Hooper called the vestments impious. Martyr and Bucer were then asked by Hooper for their opinions, and both agreed that the vestments might lawfully be worn. Laski and Micronius, however, encouraged him in his resistance. Hooper was again called before the council, and, refusing to yield, was ordered to keep his house, and not to publish anything. This order he openly disobeyed, going about everywhere, and straightway publishing his ‘Confession of Faith.’ The council, sorely perplexed, ordered him into the Archbishop of Canterbury's custody (13 Jan. 1550–1). Cranmer soon reported that he could do nothing with him, and Hooper was committed to the Fleet (27 Jan.). Thereupon he signified to the council, and afterwards to Cranmer, his willingness to wear the episcopal dress. Accordingly, he was consecrated (8 March 1551) with the usual ceremonies. Bullinger, writing to Utenhovius 8 Nov. 1551, says that he heard the news of Hooper's submission ‘non sine dolore.’
Hooper at once went to his diocese of Gloucester, and displayed the utmost zeal in his work. He is said to have preached three or four times a day. He drew up a paper of fifty articles for the instruction of his clergy, and issued a large list of injunctions and interrogatories; but finding the replies not very satisfactory, he began a personal examination of his clergy as to their knowledge of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer, in which simple subjects he is said to have found them very insufficiently informed. His nonconformist leanings appeared in the organisation of his diocese. He followed John Laski [q. v.] or the Zurich usage in appointing ‘superintendents’ instead of rural deans and archdeacons. Early in 1552 the see of Worcester was given to him to hold in commendam with the see of Gloucester. Later, Gloucester was made an archdeaconry merely, and Hooper was termed bishop of Worcester. He seems to have been forced to consent to the alienation of the revenues of Gloucester to the crown. Hooper endeavoured to carry out the same strict discipline at Worcester as he had inaugurated at Gloucester, but he appears to have met with greater resistance, his articles being denounced as illegal by two of the canons, with whom he held a disputation. When, in 1552, the commission for the confiscation of church goods was at work, Hooper, at Worcester, removed, as far as possible, all the plate and church furniture. He wrote to Cecil in October to correct any false rumours which his action might have given rise to. While Hooper was occupied at Worcester, the old practices which he had condemned were resumed at Gloucester, but he returned to his work there with unabated energy. He gained much reputation by his severe censure of the irregularities of Sir Anthony Kingston, who was so enraged at being censured that he responded with abuse, and even with blows. The day before Hooper's execution Kingston visited him, thanked him for reforming his morals, and urged him to recant and save his life. The bishop's liberality to the poor was unbounded, and in spite of his severity he appears to have been beloved at Gloucester. From 1551 he was a member of the commission of thirty-two which had to report upon the ecclesiastical laws.
Hooper was opposed to the attempt to set aside Mary in favour of Lady Jane Grey, which Cranmer and some other of the reforming bishops favoured, but he was nevertheless one of the first persons against whom proceedings were taken in her reign. The laws for the punishment of heresy not having been yet re-enacted, Hooper was sent to the Fleet on an apparently unfounded charge of owing a debt to the queen. His imprisonment was excessively rigorous. He complains that he was used ‘worse and more vilely than the veriest slave.’ On 15 March 1553–4 a commission was issued by Queen Mary to deprive him of his bishopric (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 370). On 22 Jan. 1554–5 he was brought before the commissioners sitting in the church of St. Mary Overie at Southwark and accused of heresy. The principal charge against him was grounded on his teaching on the Eucharist. He refused to recant, was excommunicated and degraded, and handed over to the sheriffs of London, who put him in Newgate (Wriothesley, Chron. ed. Nichols, Camd. Soc. ii. 126). It was determined to send him to Gloucester for execution, and as his popularity there was well known, strict orders were given to prevent him speaking to the people at the stake. Full details of his last hours are given by Foxe. His sufferings were extreme, but his constancy remained unshaken. He was burned on 9 Feb. 1554–5. The lower end of the stake to which he was bound has recently been discovered.
By his actions and writings Hooper very effectively contributed to the popularising of extreme puritanic views of religion in England. Of his numerous works, both in Latin and English, the following have been printed: 1. ‘Answer to the Bishop of Winchester's Book entitled “A Detection of the Devil's Sophistry,”’ Zurich, 1547, 4to. 2. ‘A Declaration of Christ and His Office,’ dedicated to Edward, duke of Somerset, 8 Dec. 1547, Zurich, 1547; recus. cum correctionibus per Christoph. Rosdell, 12mo, London, 1582. 3. ‘A Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments of Almighty God,’ 1548, 8vo; 1550, 8vo; 1588, 12mo. 4. ‘Lesson of the Incarnation of Christ,’ London (E. Whitchurch), 1549, 8vo. 5. ‘A Funerall Oratyon,’ preached 14 Jan. on chapter xiv. of Revelation, London (E. Whitechurch), 1549; another edition in same year by T. Purfote. 6. ‘An Oversight and Deliberacion upon the Holy Prophete Jonas’ [London], J. Daye and W. Seres, 1550; sermons on Jonas before the king and council in Lent; two other editions in the same year by J. Daye and J. Tisdale; another issue appeared in 1559. 7. ‘Annotations on XIII Chapter of Epistle to Romans,’ Worcester, 1551; London, 1583, 12mo. 8. ‘A Godly Confession and Protestation of the Christian Faith,’ London (John Day) [1551?], 4to. 9. ‘Homily to be read in the time of Pestilence, and a most present Remedy for the same,’ Worcester (J. Oswen), 1553, 4to. 10. ‘Certain Sentences written in Prison,’ London, 1559, 4to. 11. Speech at his death, ‘An Apology against the Untrue and Slanderous Report that he should be a Maintainer and Encourager of such that Cursed Queen Mary, newely set forth,’ London (J. Tisdale and T. Hacket), 1562, 8vo; also appended to No. 12. 12. ‘Exposition on Psalm 23,’ London, 1562. 13. ‘Comfortable Expositions on the 23, 62, 73, 77 Psalms,’ London, 1580, 4to. 14. ‘Twelve Lectures on the Creed,’ London, 1581, 8vo. 15. ‘Confession of the Christian Faith, containing 100 Articles according to the order of the Creed of the Apostles,’ London, 1583 and 1584, 8vo.
Some of Hooper's letters were printed by Coverdale in ‘Certain most Godly Letters of such true Saintes,’ 1564. These, and others written in prison, appear in Foxe's ‘Actes’ and Strype's ‘Cranmer.’ Many of Hooper's letters are in the collection of original letters published by the Parker Society, 1846–7. Hooper's ‘Answers to certain Queries concerning the Abuses of the Mass’ is printed in Burnet's ‘Reformation Records,’ No. 25, 2nd ser. A portion of the manuscript of Hooper's book to the council against the use of the disputed vestments, written in October 1550, to which Ridley replied, was in existence in 763 (cf. Glocester Ridley, Life of Ridley, p.315).
Hooper's ‘Articuli 50, Injunctiones 31, et Examinationes in Visitatione Diœcesis Glocestriæ,’ appear in Strype's ‘Life of Cranmer,’ p. 216.
The following tracts are attributed to Hooper by Bale: ‘Variæ Conciones,’ lib. i.; ‘Ad Vigornenses et Glocestrenses,’ lib. i.; ‘De Perseverantiâ Christianorum,’ lib. i.; ‘An Fides celari possit,’ lib. i.; ‘Vitandos esse Pseudoprophetas,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Abominationem Missæ,’ lib. i.; ‘Adversus Concionem Jacobi Brokes,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Mendacia Thomæ Martin,’ lib. i.; ‘In Psalmum “Levavi oculos meos,”’ lib. i.; ‘Super Orationem Dominicam,’ lib. i.; ‘Fidelis Uxoris Officia,’ lib. i.; ‘De triplici Hominis Statu,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Buceri Calumniatorem,’ lib. i.; ‘De Re Eucharisticâ,’ lib. i.; ‘De verâ et falsâ Doctrinâ,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Obtrectatorem Divini Verbi,’ lib. i.; ‘Ad Londinensis Antichristi Articulos,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Primatum Romani Episcopi,’ lib. i.; ‘Exhortationes ad Christianos’—[Scripsit ex carcere]; ‘Epistolam ad Episcopos, Decanos, Archidiaconos et ceteros Clerici Ordinis,’ Foxe, p. 2135; ‘De Pseudo-doctrinâ fugiendâ,’ lib. i.; ‘Ad Parliamentum contra Neotericos,’ lib. i.; ‘Pro Doctrinâ Cœnæ Dominicæ,’ lib. i.; ‘Contra Corporalem Præsentiam,’ lib. i.; ‘Ad Cardinalem Polum Epist.;’ ‘Ad Acestrensem Episcopum Epist.;’ ‘Ad Calvinum Epist.,’ Epist. ii., Foxe, p. 1482; ‘Transtulit in Anglican. ling.,’ ‘Tertulliani ad uxorem,’ ‘De Electione Mariti et uxoris.’ Selections from Hooper's works have been published in ‘Fathers of the English Church,’ vol. v., London, 1810, and by the Parker Society, in two volumes: vol. i. edited by the Rev. C. Carr, Cambridge, 1843; vol. ii. by the Rev. R. C. Nevinson, Cambridge, 1852.
[Authorities quoted; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 222; Dixon's Hist. of the Church of England, vols. iii. and iv. passim; Literary Remains of Edward VI, ed. Nichols (Roxburghe Club), vol. ii.; Froude's Hist. of Eng., vols. iii. and iv.; Ecclesiæ Londino-Batavæ Archivum (ed. Hessels), ii. 33, &c.; Wordsworth's Eccl. Biography, vol. iii., London, 1839; later writings of Bishop Hooper, with biographical sketch, ed. Nevinson, Cambr., 1852; Orig. Letters, 1537–1558, Cambr., 1847; Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials, 3 vols. folio, London, 1721; Archæologia, vol. xviii.]