Matthew, Tobie (1546-1628) (DNB00)

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MATTHEW, TOBIE or TOBIAS (1546–1628), archbishop of York, was the son of John Matthew of Ross, Herefordshire, and his wife Eleanor Crofton of Ludlow. He was born at Bristol in 1546, and and gave many books to his native city when archbishop (Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ, 1516). He received his early education at Wells and matriculated at Oxford as a probationer of University College in 1559. He graduated B.A. in February 1563–4. In February 1564–5 he was a member of Christ Church, and he proceeded M.A. in July 1566, being then student of that house. He was ordained in the same year, ‘at which time he was much respected for his great learning, eloquence, sweet conversation, friendly disposition, and the sharpness of his wit’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxonienses). When Queen Elizabeth visited the university in the same year he took part in a ‘disputation in philosophy’ before her in St. Mary's Church on 3 Sept., arguing in favour of an elective as against an hereditary monarchy. When the queen left Christ Church on her departure from Oxford, he bade her farewell in an eloquent oration (Elizabethan Oxford, Oxford Historical Society). His handsome presence and his ready wit attracted the queen's notice. ‘He was one of a proper person (such people, cæteris paribus and sometimes cæteris imparibus, were preferred by the queen) and an excellent Preacher’ (Fuller, Church History, p. 133). The queen continued her favour to him throughout her life (Thoresby, Vicaria Leodiensis, gives many instances), and was equally kind to his wife, on whom she bestowed ‘a fragment of an unicorn's horn.’ On 2 Nov. 1569 he was unanimously elected public orator of the university, and held the office till August 1572. In 1570 he was appointed a canon of Christ Church, on 28 Nov. 1572 archdeacon of Bath, on 15 May 1572 prebendary of Teynton Regis in the cathedral of Salisbury, and ‘being much famed for his admirable way of preaching he was made one of the queen's chaplains in ordinary’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxon.) On 17 July 1572 he was elected president of St. John's College, which had then an intimate connection with Christ Church. He was the fifth president since the foundation seventeen years before, and he had to struggle with the difficulties of a poor and divided college. In 1573 he endeavoured, on the score of poverty, to win release from the annual obligation to elect scholars from Merchant Taylors' School (Wilson, History of Merchant Taylors' School). In 1576 he was appointed dean of Christ Church, and resigned the headship of St. John's on 8 May 1577. He took the degree of B.D. 10 Dec. 1573, and D.D. June 1574. On 14 July 1579 he was nominated vice-chancellor of the university by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, then chancellor. When Campion published his ‘Decem Rationes’ in 1581, Matthew's was the first answer from Oxford. In a Latin sermon before the university, 9 Oct. 1581, he defended the Reformation, appealing chiefly to the teaching of Christ and primitive Christianity, and refraining from either quoting or defending Luther. In June 1583 he became precentor of Salisbury, but resigned in the following February. He was installed as dean of Durham 31 Aug. 1583, and resigned the deanery of Christ Church early in 1584. He was inducted as vicar of Bishop's Wearmouth on 28 May 1590.

While dean of Durham, Matthew acted as a political agent of the government in the north, and was a vigorous pursuer of recusants. Through him the queen's advisers frequently received information on the condition of Scotland (‘a court and kingdom as full of welters and uncertainties as the moon is of changes,’ Tobie Matthew to Walsingham, 15 Jan. 1593, Cal. State Papers). He was none the less active as an orator, and his services as preacher were eagerly sought all over the county palatine. ‘Yet for all his pains in preaching he neglected not his proper episcopal acts of visitation, confirmation, ordination, &c. … he confirmed sometimes five hundred, sometimes a thousand at a time; yea, so many that he hath been forced to betake himself to his bed for refreshment. At Hartlepool he was forced to confirm in the churchyard.’ In 1595 he was promoted to the bishopric of Durham. A letter of his successor in the deanery to Cecil (16 Jan. 1597, ib.) gives a graphic picture of the condition of the great northern diocese at the time. In the bishopric five hundred ploughs had decayed within fifty years. Of eight thousand acres lately in tillage not eight score were then tilled, and the people were driven into the coast towns. In Northumberland great villages were dispeopled, and there was no man to withstand the enemy's attack. The misery had arisen through decay of tillage. Amid the confusion recusancy held up its head. Matthew sat in the court of high commission and examined the offenders, but they were obstinate. The remedies suggested for the condition of Northumberland (June 1602, ib.) show the difficulties against which he had to contend. The bishop, it is proposed in this paper, should compel his incumbents to be resident and preach, and the queen's farmers of taxes who hold Hexham, Holy Island, Bamborough, and Tynemouth, and leave churches either wholly unprovided, or supplied with mean curates, ought to be forced to support preachers. The bishop seems gradually to have brought about an improvement; he was most energetic in discharge of his duties, and constantly sent up lists of recusants and examinations of suspected persons. His services were recognised by James I no less than by his predecessor; he took a prominent part in the Hampton Court conference, and preached at the close before the king, who greatly admired his sermons (cf. Strype, Whitgift, App. pp. 236–8).

On 18 April 1606 he was appointed archbishop of York, on the death of Dr. Matthew Hutton, whom he had succeeded also at Durham. In the primacy his political activity increased. He was named on the commission for ‘examining and determining all controversies in the north’ (21 July 1609, ib.) He was given the custody of the Lady Arabella Stuart, and it was from his house that she escaped in June 1611. He preached the sermon on the opening of parliament in 1614. In the same year, when the lords refused to meet the commons in conference on the impositions, and sixteen bishops voted in the majority, Matthew alone voted for conferring with the lower house. If the letter in ‘Cabala’ is genuine (see below), this was not the only occasion on which he opposed the royal policy. During his last years he retired from political life, and was excused attendance at parliament, 1624–6, on account of his age and infirmities. In 1624 he gave up York House to the king for Buckingham, in exchange for certain Yorkshire manors.

As early as 1607 rumours of his death were abroad (J. Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, ib. 30 Dec. 1607), and he was supposed to encourage them. ‘He died yearly,’ says Fuller (Church History, p. 133), ‘in report, and I doubt not but that in the Apostle's sense he died daily in his mortifying meditations.’ In 1616 one of these reports caused considerable mirth at the expense of the avaricious archbishop of Spalato, who applied to the king for the see which he supposed to be vacant (Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. iv. 285). Matthew died on 29 March 1628, and was buried in York Minster, where his tomb stands (the effigy now separate) in the south side of the presbytery.

Matthew, though renowned in his day as a preacher and divine, was a statesman quite as much as a prelate. The advisers of Elizabeth and James felt that they could rely upon him to watch and guard the northern shires. None the less was he a diligent bishop and a pious man. ‘He had an admirable talent for preaching, which he never suffered to lie idle, but used to go from one town to another to preach to crowded audiences. He kept an exact account of the sermons which he preached after he was preferred; by which it appears that he preached, when dean of Durham, 721; when bishop of that diocese, 550; when archbishop of York, 721; in all, 1992’ (Granger, Biographical History, i. 342). He was noted for his humour. ‘He was of a cheerful spirit,’ says Fuller, ‘yet without any trespass on episcopal gravity, there lying a real distinction between facetiousness and nugacity. None could condemn him for his pleasant wit, though often he would condemn himself, as so habited therein he could as well be as not be merry, and not take up an innocent jest as it lay in the way of his discourse’ (Church History, p. 133).

He married Frances, daughter of William Barlow (d. 1568) [q. v.] , sometime bishop of Chichester, and widow of Matthew Parker, second son of the archbishop. She was ‘a prudent and a provident matron’ (ib.), gave his library of over three thousand volumes to the cathedral of York, and ‘is memorable likewise for having a bishop to her father, an archbishop to her father-in-law, four bishops to her brethren, and an archbishop to her husband’ (Camden, Britannia). She died 10 May 1629. Their brilliant son, Sir Tobie [q. v.] , was a great trouble to his father. Two younger sons were named John and Samuel, and there were two daughters (Hunter, Chorus Vatum, Addit. MS. 24490, f. 234).

His portrait in the hall of Christ Church, Oxford, shows him as a small, meagre man, with moustache and beard turning grey.

Matthew published ‘Piissimi et eminentissimi viri Tobiæ Matthew Archiepiscopi olim Eboracensis concio apologetica adversus Campianum. Oxoniæ excudebat Leonardus Lichfield impensis Ed. Forrest an. Dom. 1638.’ There is a manuscript in late sixteenth-century hand in the Bodleian. The sermon seems to have been largely circulated in manuscript, though it was not printed till ten years after the archbishop's death. Matthew is also credited with ‘A Letter to James I’ (Cabala, i. 108). This is a severe indictment of the king's proposed toleration and of the prince's journey into Spain. The writer declares that the king was taking to himself a liberty to throw down the laws of the land at pleasure, and threatens divine judgments. The letter is unsigned and undated, and, in default of evidence of authorship, it seems improbable that Matthew was the writer. Thoresby attributes it to George Abbot.

‘I have been informed that he had several things lying by him worthy of the press, but what became of them after his death I know not, nor anything to the contrary, but that they came into the hands of his son, Sir Tobie’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxon.)

[For the degrees and university offices held by Matthew the Reg. of Univ. of Oxford, ed. Boase and Clark (Oxford Hist. Soc.). For later life: St. John's College MSS.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Fuller's Church Hist.; Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ; H. B. Wilson's Hist. of Merchant Taylors' School; Granger's Biog. Hist.; Camden's Britannia; Le Neve's Lives of Bishops since the Reformation; Wrangham's Zouch, ii. 160; Thoresby's Vicaria Leodiensis, pp. 155 sq. (largely from the archbishop's manuscript diary). The Calendars of State Papers afford many illustrations of the archbishop's political and private life.]

W. H. H.