Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perne, Andrew

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PERNE, ANDREW (1519?–1589), dean of Ely, born at East Bilney, Norfolk, about 1519, was son of John Perne. Educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. early in 1539, and proceeded M.A. next year. He became a fellow of St. John's in March 1540, but a few months later migrated to Queens' College, where he was also elected a fellow. For three weeks he held fellowships at both colleges together, but soon identified himself with Queens', where he acted as bursar from 1542 to 1544, as dean in 1545–6, and as vice-president from 1551. He served as proctor of the university in 1546. He proceeded B.D. in 1547, and D.D. in 1552, and was incorporated at Oxford in 1553. He was five times vice-chancellor of the university (1551, 1556, 1559, 1574, and 1580).

Perne gained in early life a position of influence in the university, but his success in life was mainly due to his pliancy in matters of religion. On St. George's day 1547 he maintained, in a sermon preached in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft, London, the Roman catholic doctrine that pictures of Christ and the saints ought to be adored, but he saw fit to recant the opinion in the same church on the following 17 June. In June 1549 he argued against transubstantiation before Edward VI's commissioners for the visitation of the university (Foxe, Acts), and just a year later disputed against Martin Bucer the Calvinist doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture (MS. Corpus Christi Coll. Cambr. 102, art. 1). In 1549 he was appointed rector of Walpole St. Peter, Norfolk, and in 1550–1 was rector of Pulham. Subsequently he held the livings of Balsham, Cambridgeshire, and Somersham, Huntingdonshire. Edward VI, convinced of his sincerity as a reformer, nominated him one of six chaplains who were directed to promulgate the doctrines of the Reformation in the remote parts of the kingdom. For this service Perne was allotted a pension of 40l. a year. He was one of those divines to whom Edward's articles of religion were referred on 2 Oct. 1552. On 8 Nov. he became a canon of Windsor. When convocation met shortly after Queen Mary's accession, he, in accordance with his previous attitude on the subject, argued against transubstantiation; but Dr. Weston, the prolocutor, pointed out that he was contradicting the catholic articles of religion. Aylmer attempted to justify Perne's action, but Perne had no intention of resisting the authorities, and his complacence did not go unrewarded.

Early in 1554 he was appointed master of Peterhouse, and next year formally subscribed the fully defined Roman catholic articles then promulgated. As vice-chancellor he received in 1556 the delegates appointed by Cardinal Pole to visit the university. He is said to have moderated the zeal of the visitors, and he certainly protected John Whitgift, a fellow of his college, from molestation. His pusillanimous temper is well illustrated by the facts that he not only preached the sermon in 1556 when the dead bodies of Bucer and Fagius were condemned as heretics (Foxe), but presided over the senate in 1560, when a grace was passed for their restoration to their earlier honours. On 22 Dec. 1557 he became dean of Ely.

As soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne, Perne displayed a feverish anxiety to conform to the new order of things, and in 1562 he subscribed to the Thirty-nine articles. He took part in the queen's reception when she visited Cambridge in August 1564, and preached before her a Latin sermon, in which he denounced the pope, and commended Henry VI and Henry VII for their benefactions to the university (Nichols, Progresses, iii. 50, 105–6). Elizabeth briefly complimented him on his eloquence, but she resented his emphatic defence of the church's power of excommunication which he set forth in a divinity act held in her presence a day or two later, and next year his name was removed from the list of court preachers. In 1577 he was directed with others to frame new statutes for St. John's College, Cambridge, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the mastership. In 1580 he endeavoured to convert to protestantism John Feckenham, formerly abbot of Westminster, who was in prison at Wisbech. In October 1588 he officially examined another catholic prisoner, Sir Thomas Tresham, at the palace of Ely, and obtained from him a declaration of allegiance to the queen. In 1584 his old pupil, Archbishop Whitgift, vainly recommended him for a bishopric.

Perne died while on a visit to Archbishop Whitgift at Lambeth on 26 April 1589, and was buried in the parish church there, where a monument was erected to his memory by his nephew, Richard Perne. A portrait is at Peterhouse.

To the ‘Bishops' Bible’ Perne contributed translations of ‘Ecclesiastes’ and the ‘Song of Solomon.’ He was an enthusiastic book-collector, and was credited with possessing the finest private library in England of his time. At Peterhouse he built the library, and to it, as well as to the university library, he left many volumes. He also bequeathed lands to Peterhouse for the endowment of two fellowships and six scholarships. Among numerous other bequests to friends and university officials was one to Whitgift of his best gold ring, Turkey carpet, and watch.

Immediately after his death he was hotly denounced by the authors of the Martin Mar-Prelate tracts as the friend of Archbishop Whitgift and a type of the fickleness and lack of principle which the established church encouraged in the clergy. The author of ‘Hay any more Worke’ nicknamed him ‘Old Andrew Turncoat.’ Other writers of the same school referred to him as ‘Andrew Ambo,’ ‘Old Father Palinode,’ or Judas. The scholars at Cambridge, it was said, translated ‘perno’ by ‘I turn, I rat, I change often.’ It became proverbial to say of a coat or a cloak that had been turned that it had been Perned (Dialogue of Tyrannical Dealing). On the weathercock of St. Peter's Church in Cambridge were the letters A. P. A. P., which might be interpreted (said the satirists) as either Andrew Perne a papist, or Andrew Perne a protestant, or Andrew Perne a puritan.

Gabriel Harvey, in his well-known controversy with Nash, pursued the attack on Perne's memory in 1592. Perne, while vice-chancellor in 1580, had offended Harvey by gently reprimanding him for some ill-tempered aspersions on persons in high station. Nash, in attacking Harvey, made the most of the incident, and Harvey retorted at length by portraying Perne as a smooth-tongued and miserly sycophant. Nash, in reply, vindicated Perne's memory as that of ‘a careful father of the university,’ hospitable, learned, and witty. Perne was reputed to be ‘very facetious and excellent at blunt-sharp jest, and loved that kind of mirth so as to be noted for his wit in them’ (Fragmenta Aulica, 1662). Fuller represents Perne as a master of witty retort. But he seems, while in attendance on Queen Elizabeth, to have met his match in a fool named Clod, who described him as hanging between heaven and earth (Doran, Court Fools, p. 168).

Andrew Perne (1596–1654), doubtless a kinsman of the dean of Ely, was fellow of Catherine Hall, Cambridge, from 1622 to 1627, when he was made rector of Wilby, Northamptonshire; he held puritan opinions, and was chosen in 1643 one of the four representatives from Northamptonshire to the Westminster assembly. He preached two sermons before the House of Commons during the Long parliament—one on the occasion of a public fast, 31 May 1643, which was printed; the other on 23 April 1644, at the ‘thanksgiving’ for Lord Fairfax's victory at Selby. He died at Wilby on 13 Dec. 1654, and was buried in the chancel of his church, where an inscription to his memory is still extant. A funeral sermon by Samuel Ainsworth of Kelmarsh was published (William Perkins on the ‘Life and Times of Andrew Perne of Wilby’ in Northampton Mercury, 1881). [Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 45–50; Maskell's Mar-Prelate Controversy, pp. 131–3, 159; Nash's Works, ed. Grosart; Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart; Fuller's Worthies; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge; Heywood and Wright's University Transactions; Dr. Jessopp's One Generation of a Norfolk House; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ii. 185.]

S. L.