Wisdom, Robert (DNB00)

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WISDOM, ROBERT (d. 1568), archdeacon of Ely, probably belonged to the family of that name settled at Burford, Oxford, where one Simon Wisdom was a great benefactor and reputed founder of the free grammar school. Another Simon Wisdom (d. 1623) of Burford, an alumnus of Gloucester Hall, Oxford, was author of various religious tracts, and of ‘An Abridgement of the Holy History of the Old Testament,’ London, 1594, 8vo (Wood, Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 337). A Gregory Wisdom was sent to the Tower on 21 May 1553 for spreading reports about Edward VI's health (Acts P. C. ed. Dasent, 1552–4, p. 275).

Robert, who is claimed as one of the four eminent writers produced by St. Martin's, Oxford, is said (Cooper) to have been educated at Cambridge, though no details of his academical career are forthcoming, except that he was B.D. of some university, and he would more naturally be assumed to have been at Oxford, where he was one of the earliest preachers of the Reformation and was on that account compelled to leave the city. Tanner says that he became rector of Stisted in Essex; but his name does not appear in the list of rectors, and probably he was only curate. About 1538 his religious opinions brought him into collision with Stokesley, bishop of London, and in 1540 he was accused of heresy before Stokesley's successor, Bonner; he was committed by the council to the Lollards' Tower, whence he wrote an answer to the thirteen articles laid to his charge (extant in Harl. MS. 425, art. 3, and printed in Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials, i,. ii. 570–1). Foxe makes him parish priest of St. Margaret's, Lothbury, and Strype of St. Catherine's (sic), Lothbury, in 1541, when he is said to have been forced to recant at St. Paul's Cross; the date is apparently an error for 1543, on 14 July of which year his recantation took place (Wriothesley, Chron. i. 142; Foxe, ed. Townsend, v. 496, and app. No. xii.). He was then curate to Edward Crome [q. v.] at St. Mary's Aldermary, and there is no record of his having held any benefice in London (cf. Hennessy, Nov. Rep. Eccl. 1898).

Wisdom's companion in misfortune was Thomas Becon [q. v.], and with Becon he retired into Staffordshire, where they were hospitably received by John Old [q. v.] (Becon, Works, vol. i. pref. pp. viii–ix, vol. ii. pp. 422–3; Strype, Cranmer, i. 397–8). He continued to preach Reformation doctrines, chiefly in the south of England, and his success again brought him under the notice of the privy council. On 24 May 1546 two yeomen of the chamber were sent to arrest him, with what success does not appear (Acts P. C. ed. Dasent, 1542–7, p. 424). In any case, the accession of Edward VI soon restored him to liberty, and during his reign he was appointed vicar of Settrington in Yorkshire. He was one of the candidates suggested by Cranmer on 25 Aug. 1552 for the archbishopric of Armagh (Cranmer, Works, ii. 438; Lit. Remains of Edward VI, ii. 488; Strype, Cranmer, i. 393, ii. 906). On Mary's accession Wisdom fled abroad, ultimately settling at Frankfort, where he sided with Coxe in his defence of the English liturgy against Knox and William Whittingham [q. v.] In 1559 he returned to England, and in the autumn was restored to his living at Settrington (Strype, Annals, i. i. 246). On 29 Feb. 1559–60 he was collated to the archdeaconry of Ely (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 352), to which were annexed the rectories of Haddenham and Wilburton. He preached at court on 27 March 1560, and at St. Paul's Cross on 7 April (Machyn, pp. 229, 230), and in the convocation of 1562 voted for the six puritan articles (Strype, Annals, i. i. 489, 504; Burnet, Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. ii. 481). He died in September 1568, and was buried at Wilburton on the 28th, and not, as has been supposed, in Carfax, Oxford (Fletcher, Hist. of St. Martin's, 1896, p. 55). Margaret Wisdom, who was buried at Wilburton on 24 Sept. 1567, was probably his wife; and the names of four children also occur in Wilburton parish register.

Wisdom's ‘Postill … upon every Gospell through the year … translated from Ant. Corvinus,’ was published at London (1549, 4to). His metrical translation of the 125th Psalm was in use as late as 1693, and a metrical prayer is prefixed to the old version of the Psalms at the end of Barker's bible (see Boswell, Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, v. 444). He also wrote some verses upon the death of the dukes of Suffolk, 1551, and others prefixed to the second edition of Bale's ‘Scriptores.’ Among the manuscripts at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, are Wisdom's ‘Revocation of his Retractation,’ ‘Summ of all such doctrine’ as he had preached, and translation of two sermons by Tilemann ‘Heshusius.’ His expositions upon the Psalms and Ten Commandments, which do not appear to have survived, were of some repute among early reformers, though his poetic defects earned him the ridicule of Sir John Denham, Sir Thomas Overbury, Sir John Birkenhead, and Samuel Butler (Warton, Hist. Engl. Poetry, iii. 149, 150; Brydges, Cens. Lit. x. 12), while Bishop Corbet addresses him (Poems, ed. Gilchrist, p. 228) as

Thou once a body, now but air,
Archbotcher of a psalm or prayer,
From Carfax come.

[Authorities cited in text and in Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 259–61; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib.; Ritson's Bibl. Anglo-Poetica; Gough's General Index to Parker Soc. Publ.; Strype's works (General Index); Foxe's Actes and Mon. ed. Townsend; Fletcher's Hist. of St. Martin's, Oxford, pp. 53–5; Rawlinson MS. C 21 f. 205; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 80, 3rd ser. ii. 89, 9th ser. v. 473.]

A. F. P.