Vitell, Christopher (DNB00)

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VITELL or VITELLS, CHRISTOPHER (fl. 1555–1579), translator, a native of Delft and joiner by trade, settled in England some time before the middle of the sixteenth century. He exhibited some inconstancy in matters of religion, professing Arianism under Queen Mary, and being imprisoned in Wood Street, London, until on Elizabeth's succession he recanted his errors before Grindal at St. Paul's Cross.

Eventually, however, Vitells became a convert to the teaching of Henry Nicholas or Niclaes [q. v.], the founder of the ‘Family of Love.’ He wandered up and down in East Anglia using his powers of persuasion, which John Rogers implies were great, in spreading the mystical doctrines, and found a hearing at Cambridge, Willingham in Cambridgeshire, Strethall in Essex, at Colchester (where he was living at Michaelmas 1555), and other places. He became a chief elder in the family, among whom Rogers says his credit was ‘not small.’

Abandoning his trade, he proceeded, although a ‘simple scholar,’ to translate into very fair English the voluminous writings of Niclaes, and one or two by Elidad and Fidelitas, his elders. There is no direct evidence that Vitells himself was identical with the latter.

Eight of the treatises—‘The Prophetie of the Spirit of Love,’ ‘A Publishing of the Peace upon Earth,’ ‘A joyful Message of the Kingdom,’ ‘Proverbs,’ ‘Documentall Sentences,’ ‘Correction and Exhortation out of Heartie Loue,’ ‘A good and fruitfull Exhortation,’ ‘A Distinct Declaration’—were printed abroad in 1574 and secretly introduced into England. They occasioned the attack of John Rogers, ‘The Displaying of an Horrible Sect,’ 1578, to which Vitells replied in a work not apparently now extant, but entitled ‘Testimonies of Sion of the great Stone of Foundation layd therein of Judgement and Righteousness and of holy Priesthood, and spiritual Oblation through Jesus Christ brought forth through the Lord's elected minister Henry Nicholas.’ This was reprinted and answered, paragraph by paragraph, by Rogers in his ‘Answere vnto a wicked and infamous Libel made by Christopher Vitels, one of the chiefe English Elders of the pretended Family of Loue’ [1578], 8vo; another ed. 1579.

The result of Vitells's translation was a proclamation issued in 1580 by Archbishop Grindal against the ‘family’ and all their writings (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 297). There is no authentic record of Vitells's later life.

[Strype's Annals, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 487, pt. ii. p. 284; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 738; Bateman's Doome warning all Men to Judgements, 1581, 4to, p. 414; Pagitt's Heresiography, 6th edit., 1661, p. 109; John Rogers's books above mentioned, and Thomas Rogers's Faith, Doctrine, and Religion, reprinted (1854) by the Parker Society as the Catholic Doctrine of the Church of England, pp. 135, 163, 202; Wilkinson's Confutation of certain Articles, 1579.]

C. F. S.