Obrazy na stronie

the school of Hadleigh he was sent to that of Westminster, and from the latter to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1587, that of Master of Arts in 1591, and in 1592 he was incorporated of the University of Oxford. During his residence at Trinity College, Cambridge, he appears to have obtained the patronage of Dr. Still, Margaret Professor, Master of the College, and Rector of Hadleigh, and subsequently bishop of Bath and Wells; and Wood in his Athenæ

by the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry, and by a translation to the see of Norwich in 1618, which he enjoyed, however, little more than a year, dying there May 12th, 1619.

Bishop Overall was the intimate friend and correspondent of Gerard Vossius and Grotius. He was styled by Camden " a prodigious learned man;" by Wood, "the best scholastic divine in the English nation," and Cosin, bishop of Durham, who erected a monument to his memory in Norwich Cathedral, terms him in the inscription which he placed upon it, "Vir undequaque doctissimus, et omni encomio major."

Overall was the author of the celebrated "Convocation Book;" he was also one of the translators of the Bible, and is mentioned by Mr. Churton, in his life of Nowell, as having written that part of the Church Catechism which includes the


The author of Gammer Gurton's Needle.

Oxonienses speaks of him as an ornament to that University, calling him "the rarest poet and Grecian that any one age or nation produced."*

It was probably about the period of 1596 or 1597, and when he had acquired no small celebrity as a classical poet, that he received from the Lord Keeper Egerton, the offer of the Rectory of Brettenham, in Suffolk, which he declined however, as not being equal to his expectations, accompanying the letter which he wrote on this occasion, with a copy of elegant Latin hexameters, addressed to his Lordship, who was then deservedly esteemed the Mæcenas of his age.†

The preferment, however, which he did accept at this period, was that of Chaplain to the Earl of Essex during his enterprise against Cadiz in 1597; on his return from which expedition he was unfortunately induced to desert the Church of England for that of Rome, an apostacy which was speedily rewarded by the confinement of a prison, for he sought to vindicate his change of opinion by a publication under

* Athenæ Oxon. Vol. i. Fast. 144.

+ Todd's Spenser, Vol. i. p. ci.

the title of "Seven Motives for his Conversion," an attempt which was not easily pardoned in those days of polemical irritation. "Dr. Alabaster," says one of his adversaries on this occasion, "who published in 1598, by means of private conference with a certain seminary priest, whom in prison he laboured to convert, was by the same priest perverted, so that of a perfect protestant, hee is nowe become an absolute papist, and is for the same imprisoned."*

The controversy to which this defection gave rise, occupied his time for some years, and in 1604 brought upon him an antagonist of the first reputation in his day as a scholar and divine, Dr. William Bedell, afterwards bishop of Kilmore, who wrote an answer to a work which 'Alabaster had published in defence of his new tenets under the title of " Four Demands."+

"A Booke of the Seven Planets, or Seven Wandring Motives of William Alabaster's wit, retrograded or removed by John Racster. Melius est claudicare in via quam currere extra viam. August, at London, printed by Peter Short, for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paule's Church-yard, at the signe of the Angell, 1598. 4to. 47 leaves."- Vide British Bibliographer, vol. i. p. 543.

+ "Among the Lambeth manuscripts (No. 772.)," says Mr. Todd," there is a valuable and curious work, entitled

Whether the arguments of bishop Bedell, or his own further researches, brought about his reconversion, is not known; but shortly after this period, he discovered more motives for returning into the bosom of his mother-church, than he had ever done for quitting it.

Promotion rapidly followed his re-union with the protestant cause, for his talents both as a scholar and a theologian were too well known, and too highly estimated to be suffered to lie dormant for want of due encouragement. He accepted the rectory of Thorfield in Hertfordshire, was made a prebendary of St. Paul's, and, in 1614, a Doctor of Divinity. The sermon which he preached for his Doctor's degree, had for its text, the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles, namely, " Adam, Seth, Enoch," and abounded in recondite and mystical learning.

'A Defence of the Answer to Mr. Alabaster's Four Demands against a Treatise intituled The Catholick's Reply upon Bedell's Answer to Mr. Alabaster's Four Demands.' The letter at the beginning is addressed to the Worshipful and my loveing friend Mr. Ambrose Jermyn;' and is dated, Bury, this 25th February, 1604, your Worshipp's in Christ Jesus, William Bedell.'"- TODD's Spenser, vol. i. p. ci..

After a life occupied to the last in literary and philosophical pursuits, Alabaster died in April, 1640, and in the 74th year of his age. . His works may be classed under the heads of philology, theology, and poetry. In the first of these departments, his "Lexicon Pentaglotton, Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, &c." Folio, London, 1637, may be considered as his chief production, and ranks, without doubt, as the most elaborate of all his publications. It had engaged his attention many years, and was received by the learned world with the admiration due to the industry and erudition with which it had been manifestly constructed.

As a divine, Alabaster, from the warmth of his imagination, and his love of the wonderful and mysterious, was too much addicted to the chimeras of the Cabala, which teach that there exists not word, letter, number, or accent in the Mosaical law which has not some hidden meaning in it, and through which, if rightly interpreted, not only the genuine sense of Scripture may be clearly understood, but even the secrets of futurity unveiled; a doctrine which as Granger observes, "is admirably contrived to make the

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