Wilson, Thomas

, a statesman and divine in the reign of queen Elizabeth, celebrated for the politeness of his style and the extent of his knowledge, was the son of Thomas Wilson of Stroby in Lincolnshire, by Anne daughter and heir of Roger Comberwortb, of Comberworth in | the same county. He was educated at Eton, and atKing’scollege, Cambridge; and went thence into the family of Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, who intrusted him with the education of his two sons. During the reign of Mary, to whose persecution many fugitives owed their qualifications for future honours, he lived abroad, received the degree of doctor of laws at Ferrara, and was for some time imprisoned by the inquisition at Rome, on account of his two treatises on rhetoric and logic, which he had published in England, and in the English language, several years before. He is said to have suffered the torture, and would have been put to death, on refusing to deny his faith, had not a fire happened, which induced the populace to force open the prison, that those confined there might not perish > by which means he escaped; and, returning to England, after queen Mary’s death, was appointed one of the masters of requests, and master of St. Katherine’s hospital near the Tower. This was in the third year of queen Elizabeth, at which time he was her majesty’s secretary; but finding his patent for the mastership of St. Catherine’s void, because he was not a priest, according to queen Philippa’s charter, he surrendered the office, and had a new patent, with a non obstante, Dec. 7, 1563. According to Dr. Ducarel, his conduct in this office was somewhat objectionable, as he sold to the city of London the fair of St. Katherine’s, for the sum of 700 marks, surrendered the charter of Henry VI. and took a new one 8. Elizabeth, leaving out the liberty of the aforesaid fair; and did many other things very prejudicial to his successors. In 15lhe had been admitted a civilian; and in 1576 he was sent on an embassy to the Low Countries, where he acquitted himself so well, that in the following year he was named to succeed sir Thomas Smith as secretary of state; and in 1579 obtained a deanery of Durham. He died in 1581, and was buried in St. Katherine’s church. He was endowed with an uncommon strength of memory, which enabled him to act with N remarkable dispatch in his negociations. Yet he was more distinguished as a scholar than as a minister, and was perhaps unfortunate in having served jointly with the illustrious Walsingham, whose admirable conduct in his office admitted of no competition. Sir Thomas Wilson married Anne, daughter of sir William Winter, of Lidney in Gloucestershire, and left three children: Nicholas, who settled at Sheepwash in Lincolnshire; Mary, married, first, to | Robert Burdett, of Bramcote in Warwickshire, secondly to sir Christopher Lowther, of Lowther in Westmoreland; and Lucretia, wife of George Belgrave, of Belgrave in Leicestershire.

Sir Thomas Wilson wrote, 1. “Epistola de vita et obita duorum fratrum SufFolciensium, HenricietCaroli Brandon,” Lond. 1552, 4to, prefixed to a collection of verses written on their deaths by several scholars of Oxford and Cambridge. Of this rare book there are only three copies known, one in the Bodleian, another in the British museum, and a third in the magnificent library of earl Spencer. 2. “The rule of Reason, containing the art of Logic,1551, 1552, 1553, 1567, 4to. 3. “The art of Rhetoric,1553, 4to, often reprinted. 4. “Discourse upon Usury,” Lond. 1572, a work much praised by Dr. Lawrence Humphrey, the queen’s professor of divinity at Oxford, in his life of Jewell. Wilson also translated from Greek into English, <c The three Orations of Demosthenes, chief orator among the Grecians,“Lond. 1570. Of his” Art of Logic,“Mn Warton says that such a” display of the venerable mysteries of this art in a vernacular language, which had hitherto been confined within the sacred pale of the learned tongues, was esteemed an innovation almost equally daring with that of permitting the service of the church to be celebrated in English; and accordingly the author, soon, afterwards happening to visit Rome, was incarcerated by the inquisitors of the holy see, as a presumptuous and dangerous heretic.“Of his” Art of Rhetoric," Mr. Wartori says, it is liberal and discursive, illustrating the arts of eloquence by example, and examining and ascertaining the beauties of composition with the speculative skill and sagacity of a critic. It may therefore be justly considered as the first book or system of criticism in our language. This opinion Mr. Warton confirms by very copious extracts. 1


Tanner. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. new edit. —Strype’s Annals. Lodge’s Illustrations, vol. II. —Warton’s Hist. of Poetry. Hutchinson’s Hist, of Durham, vol. II. p. 152. 0ucarel’s Hist, of St. Katharine’s.