White, Thomas (1593-1676) (DNB00)

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WHITE, THOMAS (1593–1676), philosopher and controversialist, who wrote under the pseudonyms of Albius, Anglus, and Blacloe or Blacklow, was born in 1593, being the second son of Richard White of Hutton, Essex, by his wife Mary, daughter of Edmund Plowden [q. v.], the celebrated lawyer. He was carefully educated in the Roman catholic religion, and sent while very young to the English College at St. Omer, and afterwards to the college at Valladolid, which he entered on 4 Nov. 1609 (Palatine Note-book, iii. 103, 175). Subsequently he removed to the English college at Douay, and, having completed his studies, he was ordained priest at Arras on 25 March 1617 under the name of Blacloe. He afterwards graduated B.D., and was employed in teaching classics, philosophy, and theology in Douay College. On 17 Aug. 1623 he set out for England, where some business affairs required his attention, and on his return to Douay in the same year he brought with him one of the ribs of Thomas Maxfield (d. 1616) [q. v.], who had been executed on account of his sacerdotal character (Douay Diaries, p. 36).

On 17 April 1624 he left Douay for Paris in order to prosecute his studies in canon law, and after a short time he was sent by the clergy to settle some affairs at Rome, where he was residing on 21 March 1625–6. On his return he was again employed in teaching divinity at Douay. In 1633 he was sent to Lisbon, where he was appointed president of the English College. Not long afterwards he came to England, and applied himself to the exercise of his priestly functions. In 1650 he was again teaching divinity at Douay, and executing the office of vice-president of the English College. On retiring from academic life he settled in London, and spent most of his time in publishing books which ‘made a great noise in the world.’ Wood relates that ‘Hobbes of Malmsbury had a great respect for him, and when he lived in Westminster he would often visit him, and he and Hobbes but seldom parted in cool blood: for they would wrangle, squabble, and scold like young sophisters’ (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 1247). White died at his lodgings in Drury Lane on 6 July 1676, and was buried on the 9th near the pulpit in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. His portrait has been engraved by Vertue.

White's peculiar philosophical and theological opinions raised up a host of adversaries from all quarters. Many protestants engaged with him upon controversial topics, and he had several serious quarrels with the secular and regular clergy of his own communion, who attacked his works with great fury. In particular his treatise on the ‘middle state of souls’ gave great scandal. Another, which drew a persecution upon him, was entitled ‘Institutiones Sacræ.’ Thence the university of Douay drew twenty-two propositions, which they condemned under censures, on 3 Nov. 1660, chiefly at the instigation of George Leyburn [q. v.], president of the English College, and John Warner (1628–1692) [q. v.], professor of divinity in the same house. He was again censured for the political scheme exhibited in his book entitled ‘Obedience and Government,’ in which he was said to assert a universal passive obedience to any species of government that had obtained an establishment. White's object, his adversaries insinuated, was to flatter Cromwell in his usurpation, and to incline him to favour the catholics in the hope of their being influenced by such principles. These and several other writings having given great offence, and the see of Rome having been made acquainted with their dangerous tendency, especially when White had attacked the pope's personal infallibility, they were laid before the inquisition and censured by decrees of that court dated 14 May 1655 and 7 Sept. 1657. In the meantime a number of priests, who had been educated in the English College at Douay, signed a public disclaimer of his principles. Eventually White recanted his opinions, and submitted himself and his writings unreservedly to the catholic church and the Holy See (Kennett, Register and Chronicle, p. 625).

White's sentiments may be best ascertained from his edition of William Rushworth's ‘Dialogues, or the Judgment of Common Sense in the choice of Religion’ (Paris, 1654, 12mo); as well as from ‘An Apology for Rushworth's Dialogues. Wherein the exceptions of the Lords Falkland and Digby are answer'd, and the arts of Daillé discovered’ (2 parts, Paris, 1654, 8vo). These works exhibit a Christian without enthusiasm, tolerant of doubt and discussion, but at the same time determined for catholicism as against the reformed doctrines, because the uncertainties and obscurities of the Scriptures require to be corrected by a constant tradition of which a permanent authority has guarded the deposit. To rely solely upon Scripture, as the protestants did, was only, in his judgment, a plausible way for going on to atheism. The question, therefore, was this: ‘Is it better to confide in a church or to be an atheist?’ It was in some measure by prudential considerations that White would have a man decide upon the choice of a religion (De Rémusat, Hist. de la Philosophie en Angleterre, 1875, i. 301–13).

Among White's numerous works are the following:

  1. ‘De mundo dialogi tres; quibus materia, … forma, … caussæ … et tandem definitio rationibus purè è natura depromptis aperiuntur, concluduntur,’ Paris, 1642, 4to.
  2. ‘Institutionum Peripateticarum ad mentem … K. Digbæi pars theorica. Item appendix theologica de Origine Mundi,’ two parts, Lyons, 1646, 12mo; 2nd edit. London, 1647, 12mo; translated into English, London, 1656, 12mo.
  3. ‘Institutionum sacrarum Peripateticis inædificatarum; hoc est, Theologiæ, super fundamentis in Peripatetica Digbæana jactis, extructæ, pars theorica … Tomus secundus,’ two parts, [Lyons?], 1652, 12mo.
  4. ‘Mens Augustini de gratia Adami. Opus hermeneuticum. Ad conciliationem gratiæ et liberi arbitrii in via Digbæana accessorium,’ Paris, 1652, 12mo.
  5. ‘Quæstio Theologica, quomodo, secundum principia peripatetices Digbæanæ … humani arbitrii libertas sit explicanda et cum gratiæ efficacia concilianda,’ [Paris, 1652], 12mo.
  6. ‘Villicationis suæ de medio animarum statu ratio episcopo Chalcedonensi [see Smith, Richard, 1566–1655] reddita,’ Paris, 1653, 12mo; this was translated by White as ‘The Middle State of Souls. From the hour of Death to the day of Judgment,’ 1659, 12mo.
  7. ‘A Contemplation of Heaven: with an exercise of love, and a descant on the prayer in the Garden. By a Catholique gent.’ Paris [London], 1654, 12mo.
  8. ‘Sonus Buccinæ; sive tres tractatus de virtutibus fidei et theologiæ, de principiis earundem, et de erroribus oppositis,’ Paris, 1654, 12mo, Cologne, 1659, 12mo.
  9. ‘The state of the future life, and the present's order to be considered,’ translated from the Latin, London, 1654, 12mo.
  10. ‘The Grounds of Obedience and Government. Being the best answer to all that has been lately written in defence of Passive Obedience and Non Resistance,’ 2nd edit. London, 1655, 12mo, 3rd edit. London [1685?], 12mo.
  11. ‘Tabulæ Suffragiales de terminandis Fidei ab ecclesia Catholica fixæ: occasione Tesseræ Pseudōnymōs Romanæ, inscriptæ adversus folium unum Soni Buccinæ,’ London, 1655, 12mo (cf. Addit. MS. 4458, art. 13).
  12. ‘Euclides Physicus, sive de principiis naturæ stœcheidea ߱E,’ London, 1657, 12mo.
  13. ‘Euclides Metaphysicus, sive de Principiis sapientiæ, stœcheidea ߱E,’ London, 1658, 12mo.
  14. ‘Exercitatio Geometrica de geometria indivisibilium et proportione spiralis ad circulum,’ London, 1658, 12mo.
  15. ‘Controversy-Logicke, or the method to come to truth in debates of religion,’ [Paris], 1659, 12mo.
  16. ‘A Catechism of Christian doctrine,’ 2nd edit. enlarged, Paris, 1659, 12mo.
  17. ‘Chrysaspis seu Scriptorum suorum in scientiis obscurioribus Apologiæ vice propalata tutela geometrica,’ 2 parts [London], 1659, 16mo.
  18. ‘Institutionum Ethicarum sive Stateræ Morum, aptis rationum momentis libratæ, tomus primus (—secundus) … authore T. Anglo ex Albiis East-Saxonum,’ 2 vols. London, 1660, 12mo.
  19. ‘Religion and Reason mutually corresponding and assisting each other. … A reply to the vindicative Answer lately published against a Letter, in which the sense of a Bull and Council concerning the duration of Purgatory was discust,’ Paris, 1660, 8vo.
  20. ‘Apologia pro Doctrina sua, adversus Calumniatores. Authore Thoma Albio,’ London, 1661, 12mo.
  21. ‘Devotion and Reason. Wherein modern devotion for the dead is brought to solid principles, and made rational, in way of answer to J[ames] M[umford]'s Remembrance for the living to pray for the dead,’ Paris, 1661, 12mo.
  22. ‘An exclusion of scepticks from all title to dispute: being an answer to The Vanity of Dogmatizing [by Joseph Glanvil],’ London, 1665, 4to.

[Biogr. Brit. iv. 2206; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 285, 350–6; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of Engl. 5th edit. ii. 382; Hallam's Lit. of Europe (1854), iii. 301; Lominus [i.e. Peter Talbot [q. v.],], Blackloanæ Hæresis Historia et Confutatio, Ghent, 1675, 4to; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. v. 144; Nouvelle Biogr. Générale, 1853, vi. 162; Panzani's Memoirs, pp. 226, 293; Plowden's Remarks on Panzani, pp. 255–73; Reid's Works, ed. Hamilton, 6th edit., 1863, pp. 898, 952; Weldon's Chronological Notes, pp. 197, 228.]

T. C.