Taverner, Richard

, a pious layman of the reigns of Henry VIII. Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, descended from an ancient family in Norfolk, and was the eldest son of John Taverner of Brisley, where he was born in 1505. He is said to have studied logic for some time in Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, and, if so, must have been contemporary with archbishop Parker. He afterwards removed to Oxford, and was one of the learned scholars invited by cardinal Wolsey to his new college there. Wood informs us that he took the degree of A. B. on May 21, 1527, and that of A.M. in 1530, having been made one of the junior canons the year before. Having thus acquired a competent knowledge in the sciences and learned languages, he studied law in the Inner Temple. In 1534 he was introduced to court, and being taken into the service of sir Thomas Cromwell, principal secretary of state, he was recommended by him to the king for one of the clerks of the signet in 1537, which place he held until the reign of queen Mary, notwithstanding his commitment to the Tower about four years after for “slandering the ladie Anne of Cleve,” or rather on account of his being deemed one of the gospellers, as they were termed, of his college. He certainly was a friend to the reformation, and in order to promote it undertook a new translation or edition of the English bible, “recognized with great diligence after most faithful examples,” Lond. 1539, fol. It was dedicated to the king, and allowed to be read in churches. But in 1545, his patron, lord Cromwell, being then dead, the popish | bishops caused the printers to be imprisoned and punished; and the editor himself also was committed to the Tower. Here however he acquitted himself so well, that he was not only soon after released, but restored again to the king’s favour, and chosen a member of parliament in 1545. Bale calls Taverner’s edition of the Bible, “Sacrortim Bibliorum recognitio, seu potius versio nova;” but it is neither a bare revisal of the preceding editions, nor a new version, but between both. It is a correction of what is called Matthewe’s Bible; many of whose marginal notes are adopted, and many omitted, and others inserted by the editor. Archbishop Newcome thinks it probable that Taverner’s patron, Cromwell, encouraged him to undertake this work, on account of his skill in the Greek tongue; but it is more probable that he was principally induced to it by the printers, as we learn from a passage in the dedication, in which, after telling the king that a correct or faultless translation of the Bible must be the production of many learned men, and of much time and leisure, he adds; “but forasmuch as the printers were very desirous to have the Bible come forth as faultless and emendately as the shortness of the time for the recognising of the same would require, they desired him, for default of a better learned, diligently to overlook and peruse the whole copy, and, in case he should find any notable default that needed correction, to amend the same, &c.

On the accession of king Edward, Taverner, although a layman, had a special licence in 1552 to preach throughout the king’s dominions. Good preaching was at that time so very scarce, that not only the king’s chaplains were obliged to make circuits round the country to instruct the people, and to fortify them against popery, but even laymen, who were scholars, were employed for that purpose. From this however he was obliged to desist when queen Mary came to the throne, and therefore retired to Norbiton hall, near Kingston in Surry, where he lived quietly during the whole of her reign. As soon as Elizabeth became queen, to whom he presented a congratulatory epistle in Latin upon that happy occasion, he resumed his preaching in Oxford and elsewhere. Her majesty had a high respect for him, and besides offering him knighthood (which Tanner thinks he accepted), put him into the commission of the peace for the county of Oxford. Here numerous concerns were intrusted to him, and in 1569, he was made high | sheriff of the county. His zeal was still warm against popery, probably owing to the frightful effects of popish bigotry which he had witnessed in Mary’s reign, and notwithstanding his new office, he continued his preaching. Even while high sheriff, he appeared in St. Mary’s pulpit, with his gold chain about his neck, and his sword by his side, and is said to have begun one of his sermons in the following words “Arriving at the mount of St. Mary’s, in the stony stage *


St. Mary’s pulpit was then of stone.

where I now stand, I have brought you some fine biskets, baked in the oven of charity, and carefully conserved for the chickens of the church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet swallows of salvation.” This style was much admired in his days even by the generality of the scholars, and indeed such alliteration was long afterwards a favourite both with speakers and hearers. He also endeavoured to promote the reformation by his writings and translations; of which, besides his Bible, we have the following list: 1. “The sum and pith of CL Psalms of David, reduced into a form of prayers and meditations, with certain other godly orisons,” Lond. 1539, 8vo. 2. “The Epistles and Gospels, with a brief postill upon the same, from Advent to Low Sunday; and from Easter to Advent,” Lond. 1540, two parts, 4to. 3. “Fruit of Faith, contain* ing all the prayers of the patriarchs, &c. in the Old and New Testament,” ibid, 1582, 12mo. 4. “The Garden of Wysdome, &c. containing the sayings of princes, philosophers, &c.1539, 2 books. 5. “Flores aliquot sententiarum ex variis scriptoribus,” translated from Erasmus. 6. “Catonis Disticha Moralia,” Lond. 1553, 8vo, 1555, 4to. 7. “In Mimum Publianum lib. 1,1562. 8. “Catednsmus fidei.” 9. “Proverbs or adagies gathered out of the Chiliades of Erasmus,1515. His translations were, “Grostete’s Prayers on the Psalms” “Confession of the Germans, with the apology of Melancthon,” and some tracts from Erasmus.

In the latter part of his life, Taverner lived at a seat he had built at Woodeaton in Oxfordshire, whence he dates a letter to archbishop Parker in 1562, excusing himself from lending the queen 100l., from inability at that time. He died at this place, July 14, 1575, in the seventieth year of his age, and was buried in the chancel of the church with great solemnity. He married two wives, Margaret | the daughter of Walter Lambert, esq. and after her decease, Mary, the daughter of sir John Harcourt, and had issue by both. Ward gives some account of his family and descendants in his “Lives of the Gresham Professors.1


Ath Ox. vol. I.—Master’s Hist. of C. C. C. C.—Ward’s Gresham Professors. —Newcombe’s English Biblical Translations.