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It is a circumstance which has frequently been remarked, that those authors who by their writings have greatly benefitted mankind, have left to posterity few particulars from which may be gathered the events of their own life. The course of a scholar rarely exhibits any incidents or features of variety. Living more with past generations than his own, holding converse with his books in preference to the world without, the daily tenor of his habits and occupations continues the same. We must be contented, therefore, to dwell with him in his seclusion, and to read the expression of his recorded thoughts, rather than expect to have to trace his history in events of more stirring interest. Such is the case with respect to the subject of the present memoir. The few particulars that have been preserved of the biography of William Fulke, may be briefly stated.
Of his parentage nothing is known. Bishop Wren', who took some trouble to glean notices of his life, has not even left us the date of his birth: but we are incidentally informed by himself that he was born before the year 1538. (See p. 41, and compare the statement there with the notice in p. ix. of No. 17 of his works.) It is
[ Bishop Wren's collections have been used for a similar purpose by Tanner. (Historical Account of the Masters of Pembroke Hall. Compiled by Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely. A MS. volume in possession of the College. Leland's Collectanea, Vol. v. p. 396.) The Manuscript life in Caius College Library seems to be copied from
reasonably presumed, that he was born in London; and that whilst a boy at school he manifested indications of that talent which developed itself so conspicuously at a later age. An anecdote has been preserved which shews that even at an early period he was possessed with the ambition of distinguishing himself above his associates. It happened, singularly enough, that as a schoolfellow he came into competition with Edmund Campian in a contest for the prize of a silver pen, offered by one of the masters as a reward for the best literary exercise. Our aspiring young scholar being unsuccessful bore his disappointment with so ill a grace as to shed tears under it, indignantly looking forward to the reprisals of a future competition. From Christ's Hospital, where it appears likely that Fulke received the rudiments of his education, (as it is certain that Campian was educated there",) he was transferred to St John's College, Cambridge, A. D. 1555. After taking his degree of bachelor of arts, his father, designing him for the legal profession, entered him a student of Clifford's Inn. During the six years and upwards that he remained here pursuing legal studies, he made himself well acquainted with the sciences, and gave to the world his Oipavouaxia, a. treatise in which he exposed the absurdities of astrology. At length returning to the University, he proceeded to his Master's degree, being at the same time elected fellow of his college, A.D. 1564. The change thus indicated in his plans so displeased his father, that for a time he withdrew from him the necessary means of subsistence. The zeal of Fulke suffered, however, little diminution under his pecuniary difficulties; and we find him immediately pursuing his new course of study with alacrity. To that of theology he now joined
[" This however is no conclusive evidence, especially as Fulke must have been at least fifteen years old at the time of the foundation of the Hospital (1553).]
the acquisition of the oriental languages, a deep knowledge of which was by no means common at the time. He proceeded to the degree of bachelor of divinity; and dissensions immediately afterwards springing up in his college, and himself being suspected of holding puritanical opinions in consequence of his close intimacy with Cartwright, he was ejected from the society. Driven from his college, he commenced a course of lectures, and held disputations in a house which was afterwards the Falcon Inn. These were attended by a numerous class of students. The time was however approaching, when his fortunes were to witness a beneficial change; for the Earl of Leicester, who was anxious to promote men of merit, irrespectively of trifling differences of opinion, had singled him out as eminently deserving preferment. Through his means he was presented, Aug. 10, 1571, to the rectory of Warley in Essex, and soon afterwards, March, 1573, to that of Dennington in Suffolk. On the earl of Lincoln being sent as British ambassador to Paris, Fulke was appointed one of his suite, a circumstance which enabled him to obtain the honorary degree of doctor of divinity. The same influence may have contributed to his advancement to the mastership of Pembroke College in 1578, on the promotion of Dr Young to the see of Rochester. He had in this elevated station ample leisure to devote his talents to polemical theology; and that he advantageously availed himself of it, is sufficiently evident from the numerous works he has left to posterity in vindication of the reformed religion. He was also engaged in 1580 and following years in repeated disputations with the Papists, sometimes in the Tower, and once at least in Wisbech Castle. (See No. 17, in the subjoined list of his works.) This castle, originally built by William the Conqueror, was afterwards converted into a palace of the bishops of Ely, and in the reign of Elizabeth was used as a prison for popish conspirators.
One account states that he was also Margaret Professor of Divinity; but this fact appears to be at least very doubtful. Having filled the office of vice-chancellor, and governed his college for eleven years, Fulke died in August, 1589.
The voluminous writings he left behind him are monuments of that industry and love of study, which (it is supposed) alone prevented his higher advancement in the church; and they furnish satisfactory evidence, that among contemporary scholars none surpassed him in erudition, in a grammatical and deep acquaintance with the learned tongues, in acuteness and closeness of reasoning: none devoted more vigorous and untiring energy in supporting the bulwarks of the CHURCH of ENGLAND.
He was buried in the chancel of his church at Dennington, and the following epitaph was placed by one of his admiring successors over his tomb.
30. November. 1621.
Reverendi Gulielmi Fulke, Sacrae Theologiae Doct. Aulae Pemb. in Cantabrigia Praefect. Hujus Ecclesiae Dinningtoniensis pastor, ac in Testimonium amoris sui perpetui erga eum, hoc Monumentum posuit Robertus Wright, Sacrae quoque Theologiae Professor, et nunc ejusdem Ecclesiae Pastor. Corpus illius Terrae traditum fuit 28 Die Augusti 1589, et
in hoc sacello jacet resurrectionem expectans per adventum Christi.
If deepest Learning, with a zealous Love
Heureux celui qu' apres un long Travaill
The present volume, it is believed, will be found to be an accurate reprint (with a corrected punctuation, which was much needed) of the original edition of the “Defence,” 1583. But in one or two places a correction has been introduced from the folio edition, 1633: ex. gr. p. 550, senseless for insenseless, which, though not perhaps absolutely necessary, it appeared desirable and safe to adopt on such authority. In several instances also, in which the quotation from Martin was inaccurately given by Fulke, the mistake has been corrected by reference to the original.
In both the old editions there was subjoined to the present work (but with a separate paging), “A briefe confutation of all such quarrels and cauils, as have bene of late vttered by diuerse Papistes in their English Pamphlets, against the writings of the saide William Fulke; as the reader will see in the copy of the original title-page prefixed to this publication. This ‘Confutation, however, has no connection whatever with the ‘Defence of the Translations: it is therefore not here re-printed with it, but is reserved for a future volume of Fulke, where it will come more appropriately in company with the works which it undertakes to defend.
Besides the “Defence’ reprinted in the present volume, Fulke was the author of the following works:
1. Antiprognosticon contra inutiles astrologorum praedictiones Nostrodami, Cunninghami, Loui, Hilli, Waghami et reliquorum omnium. Authore Guilielmo Fulcone. Authoritate Londinensis episcopi juxta formam in edictis reginae prescriptam. Sexto die Septembris, 1560. Lond, 8vo.