Cheke, Sir John

, a learned writer of the sixteenth century, descended from an ancient family in the Isle of Wight, was born at Cambridge, June 16, 1514, being the son of Peter Cheke, gent, and Agnes, daughter of Mr. Dufford of Cambridgeshire. After receiving his grammatical education under Mr. John Morgan, he was admitted into St. John’s college, Cambridge, in 1531, where he became very eminent for his knowledge in the learned languages, particularly the Greek tongue, which was then almost universally neglected. Being recommended as such, by Dr. Butts, to king Henry VIII. he was soon after made kind’s scholar, and supplied by his majesty with money for his education, and for his charges in travelling into foreign countries. While he continued in college he introduced a more substantial and useful kind of learning than what had been received for some years; and encouraged especially the study of the Greek and Latin languages, and of divinity. After having taken his degrees in arts he was chosen Greek lecturer of the university. There was no salary belonging to tnat place: but king Henry having founded, about the year 1540, a professorship of the Greek tongue in the university of Cambridge, with a stipend oi forty pounds a year, Mr. Cheke, though but twenty-six years of age, was chosen the first professor. This place he held long after he left the university, namely, till October 1551, and was highly instrumental in bringing the Greek language into repute. He endeavoured | particularly to reform and restore the original pronunciation of it, but met with great opposition from Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, chancellor of the university, and their correspondence on the subject was published. Cheke, however, in the course of his lectures,- went through all Homer, all Euripides, part of Herodotus, and through Sophocles twice, to the advantage of his hearers and his own credit. He was also at the same time universityorator. About the year 1543 he was incorporated master of arts at Oxford, where he had studied some time. On the 10th of July 1544 he was sent for to court, in order to be school- master, or tutor, for the Latin tongue, jointly with sir Anthony Cooke, to prince Edward and, about the same time, as an encouragement, the king granted him, being then, as it is supposed, in orders, one of the canonries in his new- founded college at Oxford, now Christ Church but that college being dissolved in the beginning of 1545, a pension was allowed him in the room of his canonry. While he was entrusted with the prince’s education, he made use of all the interest he had in promoting men of learning and probity. He seems also to have sometimes had the lady Elizabeth under his care. In 1547, he married Mary, daughter of Richard Hill, serjeant of the wine-cellar to king Henry VIII. When his royal pupil, king Edward VI. came to the crown, he rewarded him for his care and pains with an annuity of one hundred marks; and also made him a grant of several lands and manors .*


In 1548 he granted to him and Walter Moyle, the very advantageous purchase of the college of St. John Baptist of Stoke, near Clare, in Suffolk, and likewise all the messuages, tenements, &c. with the appurtenances belonging to the college of Corpus Christi, in the parish of St. Laurence Poultney, London, lately dissolved; together with divers other lands and tenements in the counties of Suffolk, Devon, Kent, and in London; for the sum of 958l. 3s. 5d. ob. a good penny-­worth, undoubtedly, as Mr. —Strype ob­ serves. The next year he obtained the house and site of the late priory of Spalding in the county of Lincoln, the manor of Hunden in the same county, and divers other Jands and tenements in the counties of Lincoln and Suffolk, to the yearly value of 118l. McL q. and no rent reserved. As we hear no more of church preferments given to him, it seems doubtful whether he ever was in orders, and it is certain that the canonry of Christ Church, mentioned in the text, might have been held by a layman at that time.

He likewise caused him, by a mandamus, to be elected provost of King’s college, Cambridge, vacant by the deprivation of George Day, bishop of Chichester. In May 1549, he retired to Cambridge, upon some disgust he had taken at the court, but was the same Summer appointed one of the king’s commissioners for | visiting that university. The October following, he was one of the thirty-two commissioners appointed to examine the old ecclesiastical law books, and to compile from thence a body of ecclesiastical laws for the government of the church; and again, three years after, he was put in a new commission issued out for the same purpose. He returned to court in the winter of 1549, but met there with great uneasiness on account of some offence given by his wife to Anne, duchess of Somerset, whose dependent she was. Mr. Cheke himself was not exempt from trouble, being of the number of those who were charged with having suggested bad counsels to the duke of Somerset, and afterwards betrayed him. But having recovered from these imputations, his interest and authority daily increased, and he became the liberal patron of religious and learned men, both English and foreigners. In 1550 he was made chief gentleman of the king’s privy -chamber, whose tutor he still continued to be, and who made a wonderful progress through his instructions. Mr. Cheke, to ground him well in morality, read to him Cicero’s philosophical works, and Aristotle’s Ethics; but what was of greater importance, instructed him in the general history, the state and interest, the laws and customs of England. He likewise directed him to keep a diary of all the remarkable occurrences that happened, to which, probably, we are indebted for the king’s Journal (printed from the original in the Cottonian library) in Burnett’s History of the Reformation. In October, 1551, his majesty conferred on him the honour of knighthood; and to enuhle him the better to support that rank, made him a grant, or gift in fee simple (upon consideration of his surrender of the hundred marks abovementioned), of the whole manor of Stoke, near Clare, exclusively of the college before granted him, and the appurtenances in Suffolk and Essex, with divers other lands, tenements, &c. all to the yearly value of 145l. 19$. 3d. And a pasture, with other premises, in Spalding; and the rectory, and other premises, in Sandon. The same year he held two private conferences with some other learned persons upon the subject of the sacrament, or transubstantiation. The first on November the 25th, in -secretary Cecil’s house, and the second December 3d the same year, at sir Richard Morison’s. The auditors were, the lord Russel, sir Thomas Wroth of the bed-chamber, sir Anthony Cooke, one of the king’s tutors, Throgmorton, | chamberlain of the exchequer, Mr. Knolles, and Mr. Harrington, with whom were joined the marquis of Northampton, and the earl of Rutland, in the second conference. The popish disputants for the real presence were, Feckenham, afterwards dean of St. Paul’s, and Yong; and at the second disputation, Watson. The disputants on the other side were, sir John Cheke, sir William Cecil, Horn, dean of Durham, Whitehead, and Grindal. Some account of these disputations is still extant in Latin, in the library of Mss. belonging to Bene’t college, Cambridge and from thence published in English by Mr. Strypein his interesting Life of sir John Cheke. Sir John also procured Bucer’s Mss. and the illustrious Leland’s valuable, collections for the king’s library but either owing to sir John’s misfortunes, or through some other accident, they never reached their destination. Four volumes of these collections were given by his son Henry Cheke, to Humphrey Purefoy, esq. one of queen Elizabeth’s council in the north, whose son, Thomas Purefoy, of Barvvell in Leicestershire, gave them to the famous antiquary, William Burton, in 1612 and he made use of them in his description of Leicestershire. Many years after, he presented them to the Bodleian library at Oxford, where they now are. Some other of these collections, after Cheke’s death, came into the hands of William lord Paget, and sir William Cecil. The original of the “Itinerary,” in five volumes, 4to, is in the Bodleian library; and two volumes of collections, relating to Britain, are in the Cottonian.

Mr. Cheke being at Cambridge at the commencement in 1552, disputed there against Jesus Christ’s local descent into hell. On the 25th of August, the same year, he was made chamberlain of the exchequer for life; and in 1553 constituted clerk of the council; and, soon after, one of the secretaries of state, and a privy-counsellor. In May the same year, the king granted to him, and hb heirs male, the honour of Clare in ’Suffolk, with divers other lands, to the yearly value of one hundred pounds. His zeal for the protestant religion induced him to approve of the settlement of the crown upon the lady Jane Grey; and he acted, but for a very short time, as secretary to her and hercouncil after king Edward’s decease, for which, upon queen Mary’s accession to the throne, he was committed to the Tower, and an indictment drawn up against him, the 12th or 13th of August. The year following, after he | was almost stripped of his whole substance, he obtained the queen’s pardon, and was set at liberty September 3, 1554. But not being able to reconcile himself to popery, and foreseeing the days of persecution, having obtained a licence from the queen to travel for some time into foreign parts, he went first to Basil, where he staid some time; and thence passed into Italy. At Padua he met with some of his countrymen, whom he directed in their studies, and read and explained to them some Greek orations of Demosthenes. Upon his return from Italy he settled at Strasburgh, where the English service was kept up, and many of his pious and learned friends resided. But this having offended the popish zealots in England, his whole estate was confiscated to the queen’s use, under pretence that he did notcome home at the expiration of his travel. Being now reduced in circumstances, he was forced to read a Greek lecture at Strasburgh for his subsistence.

In the beginning of the year 1556, his wife being come to Brussels, he resolved, chiefly upon a treacherous invitation he received from the lord Paget and sir John Mason, to go thither. But first he consulted astrology, in which he was very credulous, to know whether he might safely undertake that journey; and being deceived by that delusive art, he fell into a fatal snare between Brussels and Antwerp. For, by order of king Philip II. being way- laid there by the provost-marshal, he was suddenly seized on the 15th of May, unhorsed, blindfolded, bound, and thrown into a waggon; conveyed to the nearest harbour, put on board a ship under hatches, and brought to the Tower of London, where he was committed close prisoner. He soon -found that this was on account of his religion; for two of the queen’s chaplains were sent to the Tower to endeavour to reconcile him to the church of Rome, though without success. But the desire of gaining so great a man, induced the queen to send to him Dr. Feckenham, dean of St. Paul’s, a man of a moderate temper, and with whom he had been acquainted in the late reign. This man’s arguments being inforced by the dreadful alternative, “either comply, or burn,” sir John’s frailty was not able to withstand them. He was, therefore, at his own desire, carried before cardinal Pole, who gravely advised him to return to the unity of the church: and in this dilemma of fear and perplexity, he endeavoured to escape by drawing up a paper, consisting of quotations out of the fathers that seemed to | countenance transubstantiation, representing them as his own opinion, and hoping that would suffice to procure him his liberty, without any other public declarations of his change. This paper he sent to cardinal Pole, with a letter dated July 15, in which he desired him to spare him from making an open recantation but that being refused, he wrote a letter to the queen the same day, in which he declared his readiness to obey her laws, and other orders of religion. After this, he made his solemn submission before the cardinal, suing to be absolved, and received into the bosom of the Roman catholic church; which was granted him as a great favour. But still he was forced to make a public recantation before the queen, on the 4th of October, and another long one before the whole court; and submitted to whatever penances should be enjoined him by the pope’s legate, i. e. the cardinal. After all these mortifications, his lands were restored to him, but upon condition of an exchange with the queen for others*. The papists, by way of triumph over him and the protestants, obliged him to keep company generally with catholics, and even to be present at the examinations and convictions of those they called heretics. But his remorse, and extreme vexation for what he had done, sat so heavy upon his mind, that pining away with shame and regret, he died September 13, 1557, aged forty-three, at his friend Mr. Peter Osborne’s house, in Wood-street, London, and was buried in St. Alban’s church there, in the north chapel of the choir, the 16th of September. A stone was set afterwards over his grave, with an inscriptionf. He left three sons; John and Edward, the two youngest, died without issue; Henry, the eldest, was secretary to the council in the north, and knighted by queen Elizabeth: he died about the year 1586. Thomas, his eldest son and heir, was knighted by

* Upon his surrendering the lands " Doctrinoj lumen Checus, vitaeque

mentioned, the queen granted him, magister,

April 12, 1556, the reversion of the Aurea naturas fabrica, morte jacet.

manor of Brampton- Abbot in Devon- Non erat e muitis unus, sed prsestitit

shire, and the annual rents of 377. 2*. unus

6rf. ob. and the reversion of customary Omnibus, et patria? flos erat ille suae.

lands of Freshford, and Woodwick, in Gemma Britanna fuit, tarn magnum

Somersetshire; the capital messuage of nulla tulerunt

Batokysborough the manor of Ays- Tempora thesaurum, tempora nulla

cote; and the manor of Northlode, in ferent."

the same county; the manor of More Langbaine and Wood give the first

in Devonshire; and some other things, verse somewhat differently:

f- It was composed by his learned “Doctrine Checus linguaeque utriusfriend Dr. Walter Haddon. que magister.| James I. He purchased the seat of Pyrgo near Romford in Essex, where he and his posterity were settled several years. He was buried March 25, 1659, in St. Albau’s, Wood-street, near his grandfather. Sir Thomas’s second son, Thomas, commonly known by the name of colonel Cheke, inherited the estate, and was lieutenant, of the Tower in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. This Thomas had two sons, Henry, who died young, and Edward, who succeeded him in his estates. Edward dying in 1707, left two sons; but they died both under age; and the estate devolved to Edward’s younger sister Anne, wife of sir Thomas Tipping of Oxfordshire, bart. who left only two daughters, whereof Catherine, the youngest, was married to Thomas Archer of Underslade in Warwickshire, esq. the late possessor of the Essex estate of the Chekes.

As to his character, he was justly accounted one of the best and most learned men of his age, and a singular ornament to his country. He was one of the revivers of polite literature in England, and a great lover and.encourager of the Greek language in particular. The authors he chiefly admired and recommended were Demosthenes, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, and Cicero. He was very happy in imitating the ancient and best writers, and discovered great judgment in translating them. In the orthography and pronunciation of the Latin and Greek languages, he was very critical and exact; and also took great pains to correct, regulate, and improve the English tongue; but his notions on this subject were rather capricious, and never have been adopted. He was a steady adherent to the reformed religion, and extremely beneficent, charitable, and communicative. His unhappy fall is indeed a great blemish to his memory, and a memorable example of human frailty. With regard to his person, he had a full comely countenance, somewhat red, witfi a yellow large beard; and, as far as can be judged by his picture, he was tall and well made.

His works are: 1. A Latin translation of two of St. Chrysostom’s Homilies, never before published, “Contra observatores novilunii;” and “De dormientibus in Christo,London, 1543, 4to. 2. A Latin translation of six homilies of the same father, “De Fato,” and “Providentia Dei,” Lond. 1547. 3. “The hurt of Sedition, how grievous it is to a commonwealth.” The running title is, “The true subject to the rebel*” It was published in | 1549, on occasion of the insurrections in Devonshire and Norfolk; and besides being inserted in Holinshed’s Chronicle, under the year 1549, was reprinted in 1576, as a seasonable discourse upon apprehension of tumults from malcontents at home, or renegadoes abroad. Dr. Gerard Langbaine of Queen’s college, Oxon, caused it to be reprinted again about 1641, for the use and consideration of those who took arms against Charles I. in the time of the civil wars, and prefixed to it a short life of the author. 4. A Latin translation of the English “Communion-book;” done for the use of M. Bucer, and printed among Bucer’s “Opuscula Angiicana.” 5. “De obitu doctissimi et sanctissimi Theologi domini Martini Buceri, &c. Epistolae duse,” Lond. 1551, 4to, printed in Bucer’s “Scripta Angiicana.” He also wrote an epicedium on the death of that learned man. 6. “Carmen heroicum, or Epitaphium, in Antonium Deneium clarissimum virum,” Lond. 4to. This sir Anthony Denny was originally of St. John’s college in Cambridge, and a learned man: afterwards he became one of the gentlemen of the privy chamber, and groom of the stole to Henry VIII. and one of the executors of his will. 7. “De Pronuntiatione Graecse potissimum linguae disputationes,” &c. containing his dispute on this subject with Gardiner, Basil, 1555, 8vo. 8. “De superstitione ad regem Henricum.” This discourse on superstition was drawn up for king Henry’s use, in order to excite that prince to a thorough reformation of religion. It is written in very elegant Latin, and was prefixed by the author, as a dedicar tion to a Latin translation of his, of Plutarch’s book of Superstition. A copy of this discourse, in manuscript, is still preserved in the library of University college, Oxon, curiously written, and bound up in cloth* of silver, which makes it probable, that it was the veiy book that was presented to the king. An English translation of it, done by the learned W. Elstob, formerly fellow of that college, was published by Mr. Strype, at the end of his Life of sir John Cheke. 9. Several “Letters” of his are published in the Life just now mentioned, and eight in Harrington’s “Nugae antiquae,” and perhaps in other places. 10. A Latin translation of Archbishop Cranmer’s book on the Lord’s Supper, was also done by sir John Cheke, and printed in 1553. 11. He likewise translated “Leo de apparatu bellico,Basil, 1554, 8 vo. Strype gives also a long catalogue of his unpublished writings, which are probably lost. Sir John Cheke, like | some other learned men of his time, particularly Smith, Cecil, and Ascham, wrote a very fair and beautiful hand. 1


Life by —Strype, 1705, 8vo.—Biog. Brit Ath. Ox. vol. I.—Wood’s Annalls by Gutch.—Strype’s Life of Cranmer, passim.—Strype’s Parker, p. 23.