Fell, Dr. John

, an eminently learned divine, was the son of the preceding, by Margaret his wife, daughter of Thomas Wyld, of Worcester, esq. and was born at Longworth in Berkshire, June 23, 1625. He was educated mostly at the free-school of Thame in Oxfordshire; and in 1636, when he was only eleven years of age, was admitted student of Christ Church in Oxford. In Oct. 1640 he took the degree of B. A. and that of M. A. in June 1643j about which time he was in arms for Charles I. within the garrison of Oxford, and afterwards became an ensign. In 1648 he was turned out of his place by the parliamentarian visitors, being then in holy orders; and from that time till the restoration of Charles II. lived in a retired and studious manner, partly in the lodgings, at Christ Church, of the famous physician Willis, who was his brother-in-law, and partly in his own house opposite Merton college, wherein he and others kept up the devotions and discipline of the church of England.

A.fter the restoration he was made prebendary of Chichester, and canon of Christ Church, in which last place he was installed July 27, 1660; and in Nov. following was made dean, being then D. D. and chaplain in ordinary to the king. As soon as he was fixed, he earnestly applied himself to purge the college of all remains of hypocrisy and nonsense, so prevalent in the late times of confusion, and to improve it in all sorts of learning as well as true religion. Nor was he more diligent in restoring its discipline, than in adorning it with magnificent buildings, towards which he contributed very great sums. By his own benefactions, and what he procured from others, he completed the north side of the great quadrangle, which had remained unfinished from Wolsey’s time, and in which his father had made some progress when interrupted by the rebellion. He rebuilt also part of the lodgings of the canon of the second stall, the east side of the chaplain’s quadrangle, the buildings adjoining fronting the meadows, the lodgings belonging to the canon of the third stall, and the handsome tower over the principal gate of the college; into which, in 1683, he caused to be removed out of the | steeple in the cathedral, the bell called “Great Tom of Christ Church,” feaid to have been brought thither with the other bells from Oseney-abbey, which he had re-cast with additional metal, so that it is now one of the largest bells in England. Round it is this inscription: “Magnus Thomas Clusius Oxoniensis, renatus April viii. MDCLXXX. regnante Carolo Secundo, Decano Johanne Oxon. Episcopo, Subdecano Gulielmo Jane S. S. Theol. Professore, Thesaurario Henrico Smith S. S. Theol. Professore, cura et arte Christopher! Hodson.” Sixteen men are required to ring it; and it was first rung out on May 29, 1684. From that time to this it has been tolled every night, as a signal to all scholars to repair to their respective colleges and halls; and so it used to be before its removal.

In 1666, 1667, 1668, and part of 1669, Dr. Fell was vice-chancellor of the university: during which time he used all possible means to restore the discipline and credit of the place; and such was his indefatigable spirit, that he succeeded beyond all expectation. Among his other injunctions was, that persons of all degrees should appear in their proper habits; he likewise looked narrowly to the due performance of the public exercises in the schools, and reformed several abuses that had crept in during a long period of relaxation. He frequently attended in person the disputations in the schools, the examinations for degrees, and the public lectures, and gave additional weight and stimulus to the due performance of these duties. In his own college he kept up the exercises with great strictness, and, aware of the importance of the best education to those who were destined for public life, it was his practice, several mornings in the week, to visit the chambers of the noblemen and gentlemen commoners, and examine their progress in study. No one in his time was more zealous in promoting learning in the university, or in raising its reputation by the noblest foundations. The Sheldonian theatre was built chiefly by his solicitation; and he likewise advanced the press and improving printing in Oxford, according to the public-spirited design of archbishop Laud. He was likewise an eager defender of the privileges of the university, especially while vice-chancellor. In 1675-6 he was advanced to the bishopric of Oxford, with leave to hold his deanery of Christ Church in commendarn, that he might continue his services to his college and the university: and he was no sooner settled in his see, than he | began to rebuild the episcopal palace of Cuddesden in Oxfordshire. Holding also the mastership of St. Oswald’s hospital, at Worcester, he re-built that in a sumptuous manner, bestowing all the profits of his income there in augmenting and recovering its estates: and, part of the revenues of his bishopric arising from the impropriation of the dissolved prebend of Banbury, he liberally gave 500l. to repair that church. He likewise established daily prayers at St. Martin’s, or Carfax church, in Oxford, both morning and evening. In a word, he devoted almost his whole substance to works of piety and charity. Among his other benefactions to his college, it must not be forgot, that the best rectories belonging to it were bought with his money: and as he had been so bountiful a patron to it while he lived, and, in a manner, a second founder, so he left to it at his death an estate, for ten or more exhibitions for ever. It is said that he brought his body to an ill habit, and wasted his spirits, by too much zeal for the public, and by forming too many noble designs; and that all these things, together with the unhappy turn of religion which he dreaded under James II. contributed to shorten his life. He.died July 10, 1686, to the great loss of learning, of the whole university, and of the church of England: for he was, as Wood has observed of him, “the most zealous man of his time for the church of England; a great encourager and promoter of learning in the university, and of all public works belonging thereunto of great resolution and exemplary charity; of strict integrity; a learned divine; and excellently skilled in the Latin and Greek languages.” Wood relates one singularity of him, which is unquestionably a great and unaccountable failing, that he was not at all well-atfected to the royal society, and that the noted Stubbes attacked that body under his sanction and encouragement. He was buried in Christ Church cathedral; and over his tomb, which is a plain marble, is an elegant inscription, composed by Aldrich, his successor. He was never married.

It may easily be imagined, that so active and zealous a man as Fell had not much time to write books: yet we find him the author and editor of the following works: 1. “The Life of the most reverend, learned, and pious Dr. Henry Hammond, who died April 25, 1660,1660, reprinted afterwards with additions at the head of Hammond’s works. 2. “Alcinoi in Platonicam Philosophiam Introductio, 1667.| 3. “In lauclem Musices Carmen Sapphicum.” Designed probably for some of the public exercises in the university, as it was set to music. 4. “Historia et -Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis,” &c. 1674, 2 vols. fol. This history and antiquities of the university of Oxford was written in English by Antony Wood, and translated into Latin, at the charge of Fell, by Mr. Christopher Wase and Mr. Richard Peers, except what he did himself. He was also at the expence of printing it, with a good character, on a good paper; but “taking to himself,” says Wood, “the liberty of putting in and out several things according to his own judgment, and those that he employed being not careful enough to carry the whole design in their head, it is desired that the author may not be accountable for any thing which was inserted by him, or be censured for any useless repetitions or omissions of his agents under him.” At the end of it, there is a Latin advertisement to the reader, containing an answer to a letter of Hobbes; in which that author had complained of Fell’s having caused several things to be omitted or altered, which Wood had written in that book in his praise. More of this, however, will occur to be noticed in our life of Wood. 5. “The Vanity of Scoffing: in a letter to a gentleman,1674, 4to. 6. “St. Clement’s two epistles to the Corinthians in Greek and Latin, with notes at the end,1677. 7. “Account of Dr. Richard Allestree’s life:” being the preface to the doctor’s sermons, published by our author. 8. “Of the Unity of the Church:” translated from the original of St. Cyprian, 1681. 9. “A beautiful edition of St. Cyprian’s Works, revised and illustrated with notes,1682. 10. “Several Sermons,” on public occasions, 11. The following pieces written by the author of the “Whole Duty of Man,” with prefaces, contents, and marginal abbreviations, by him, viz. “The Lady’s Calling; the Government of the Tongue; the Art of Contentment; the Lively Oracles,” &c. He also wrote the general preface before the folio edition of that unknown author’s works. 12. “Artis. Logicae Compendium.” 13. “The Paraphrase of St. Paul’s Epistles.” There is another piece, which was ascribed to him, with this title; *“The Interest of England stated or, a faithful and just account of the aims of all parties nowprevailing; distinctly treating of the designments of the Roman Catholic, Royalist, Presbyterian, Anabaptist,” &c. 1659, 4to, but it not being certainly known whether he | was the author or not, we do not place it among his works. One thing in the mean time Wood mentions, relating to his literary character, which must not be omitted that “from 1661, to the time of his death, viz. while he was dean of Christ-church, he published or reprinted every year a bookjf commonly a classical author, against newyear’s tide, to distribute among the students of his house; to which books he either put an epistle, or running notes, or corrections. These,” says Wood, “I have endeavoured to recover, that the titles might be known and set down, but in vain.” But one of Dr. Fell’s publications, unaccountably omitted in former editions of this work, still remains to be noticed; his edition of the Greek Testament, of which Michaelis has given a particular account. Dr. Fell was the next after Walton, who published a critical edition of the New Testament, which, although eclipsed since by that of Mill, has at least the merit of giving birth to Mill’s edition. It was published in small octavo, at the Sheldon theatre, 1675. It appears from the preface, that the great number of various readings which are printed in the sixth volume of the London Polyglot, apart from the text, had given alarm to many persons, who were ignorant of criticism, and had induced them to suspect, that the New Testament was attended with so much uncertainty, as to be a very imperfect standard of faith. In order to convince such persons of their error, and to shew how little the sense of the New Testament was altered by them, Fell printed them under the text, that the reader might the more easily compare them. This edition was twice reprinted at Leipsic, in 1697 and 1702, and at Oxford in a splendid folio, by John Gregory, in 1703, but without any additions, which might have easily been procured from t’he bishop’s papers; nor are even those which Fell had been obliged to print in an appendix, transferred to their proper places, an instance of very gross neglect. We learn also from Fabricius in his Bibl. Graeca that the excellent edition of Aratus, Oxford, 1672, 8vo, was published by Dr. Fell. 1


Biog. Brit. —Wood’s Athens, vol. II. and Colleges and Halls.