Reformation Views of Church History

By Glanmor Williams | Go to book overview

III
THE LINK: JOHN BALE

BALE WAS a near-contemporary of Tyndale, though neither as an author or reformer did he develop with anything like the rapidity of the latter. Bale was born at Cove near Dunwich on November 21, 1495, of not-very-wealthy parents. At an early age he was placed in the Norwich house of the Carmelite friars, a house blessed with a good library, which was from the outset to be a great attraction to Bale. He showed a marked taste for scholarship and soon began to record the history of his own Order. In 1514 he went up to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was to remain for fifteen years. Among his contemporaries at Cambridge were Thomas Cranmer, Bilney, Latimer, Matthew Parker, Robert Barnes and, for a short space of time, William Tyndale himself. It is not easy now to unravel Bale's friendships and associations at Cambridge, but nearly all those with whom he is known to have had contacts had at least flirted with reforming opinions. Bale himself had by this time very probably been converted to such views, although after leaving the university in 1529 he nevertheless became prior of a number of Carmelite houses.

Having fallen in with Thomas Cromwell's associate, Lord Went worth, Bale left his own Order and took a wife. He became increasingly active after 1534 in the reforming party, among whom his fluent and provocative pen made him very useful as a propagandist. During this period he wrote a number of plays, all of them with a strong anti-papal slant, and organized his own company of players. In 1536 he got into a certain amount of trouble for his advanced Protestant beliefs. The man who wrote most warmly in his defence to Cromwell was none other than the King's Antiquary, John Leland. Leland, to his credit, spoke up bravely for Bale and testified of him, "Surely if the man be not more strongly changed there is in him learning, judgment, modesty, with many other good qualities."1 But more to the point in this crisis probably was Cromwell's own regard for Bale. It saved him from harm at this time, and it can hardly be a coincidence that when in 1540 Cromwell fell from power Bale went into exile in various Swiss and

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Reformation Views of Church History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Ecumenical Studies in History 4
  • Preface 5
  • I - The Continental Background 7
  • II - The English Pioneer: William Tyndale 22
  • III - The Link: John Bale 33
  • IV - The Consummation: John Foxe 46
  • V - Aftermath and Conclusions 63
  • Bibliography 75
  • Notes 78
  • Index 82
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