Friday, September 25, 2009

Bishop Foxe's 'Ding-dong the witch is dead' moment

I am swapping my ISP at the moment, and my access to Blogger here has been patchy. A scholar called Sue Ward sent me an interesting comment on a posting I did about William Lilly. I can’t get it out of my old inbox into ‘Blogger’ at the moment, I’d be grateful for the chance of another try now I have changed my primary email (and Blogger seems to know who I am again).

Amidst all this, a short post: an anecdote about John Foxe, the martyrologist, being tipped off by the Holy Spirit that his exile is over, Mary Tudor having died. It must be 1558, and (if this ever did take place), it might have happened in Basle. Foxe got home in 1559. Atwell says:

‘Whether is it possible or whether is it lawful for one to tell of one that died this very hour 100 miles off. This is not a foretelling, but an aftertelling, but such a one as exceeds the common apprehension of man. If you say it is impossible, I prove it thus, I teaching a School at Hitchin in Hartfordshere, about anno 1634 where amongst others, I teaching three of one Mr. Christopher Butlers children of Stapleford near Hartford, who inviting me to keep my Christmas with them, I being there discoursing with his wife, a godly Gentlewoman, she told me she was the famous Doctor Foxes grand-child, that wrote the Book of Martyrs, and withal told me this story of him, that he being beyond Sea at the time of the death of Queen Mary as he was preaching, about the midst of his Sermon he stood still a pretty while and paused, insomuch that the people marveled, by and by he stands up, and utters these words: My Brethren, I can do no less then impart unto you what the Spirit of God hath now revealed to me, that this very hour Queen Mary is dead in England, and so it proved.’

George Atwell, An apology, or, Defence of the divine art of natural astrologie (1652)

It’s like John Donne in Paris, knowing that his child has died. I suppose Foxe would have been kept apprised of the state of Bloody Mary’s health. Perhaps one day he did suddenly become convinced that the nightmare was all over.

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