English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535): Sermons and Other Writings, 1520-1535

By John Fisher; Cecilia A. Hatt | Go to book overview

7 Tower Writings

Introduction

Bishop Fisher was committed to the Tower of London on 21 April 1534, after having refused, like Sir Thomas More, to take the Oath of Succession. 1 It seems that he took leave of his household in the clear expectation that he would not return. 2 Shortly afterwards Cromwell's servants made an inventory of Fisher's possessions, which were now forfeit to the state. 3 He was 65 years old and not in robust health. A letter written to Cromwell, just before Christmas 1534, makes it clear how uncomfortable the bishop's situation was:

I byseche yow to be gode, master, vnto me in my necessitie, for I haue neither shirt nor sute, nor yet other clothes that ar necessary for me to wear; but that bee ragged and torne to shamefully. Notwithstandyng I mighte easily suffer that, if thei wold keep my body warm. But my dyett allso, God knowes how slender itt is att many times. And now in myn age, my stomake may not away with but a few kinds of meats, which if I want, I decay forthwith, and fall into coffes and diseases of my body and cannot keepe myself in health. And as owr Lord knoweth, I haue nothing left vnto me for to prouyde any better but as my brother of his owne purse layeth out for me to his great hyndrance. 4

It was in these circumstances that John Fisher wrote two short treatises for his half-sister Elizabeth, who was a nun in the Dominican house at Dartford. 5 It is significant that in his letter to Cromwell Fisher had expressed a need for books

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