Caius, Thomas (DNB00)

CAIUS, THOMAS (d. 1572), writer on the history of the university of Oxford, was of a Yorkshire family whose name is usually written Key or Cay, but his immediate relatives resided in Lincolnshire. He was educated at Oxford, and Wood states doubtfully that he was a student of University College. In 1525 he was elected fellow of All Souls' College, proceeded to his degrees in arts, and became proficient in classical studies. In 1534 he was chosen registrar of the university—an office which at that date embraced the additional functions of public orator. He declined to submit readily to the changes brought about by the Reformation; fell under the suspicion of the authorities, and in 1552 was dismissed from the registrarship. In later years he conformed to the new religion, became in 1559 prebendary of Salisbury, and in 1561 was elected master of University College. He became rector of Tredington, Worcestershire, and dying in May 1572 was buried at Oxford, in the church of St. Peter-in-the-East.

Caius is best known as the leader of a very curious controversy touching the comparative antiquity of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His opponent was a Cambridge man of the same surname, although not lineally related, John Caius (1510–1573) [q. v.], warden of Gonville and Caius College. When Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge, in August 1564, the public orator (William Masters) asserted, in a speech, that Cambridge was a more ancient university than Oxford. A friend of Thomas Caius reported the speech to him, and he wrote within a week a little treatise entitled ‘Assertio Antiquitatis Oxoniensis Academiæ,’ to disprove the Cambridge orator's statement. Two copies were made of the manuscript, one of which found its way into the Earl of Leicester's library. There it seems that John Caius saw it, and in 1568 he printed it, without consulting the author, as an appendix to his own ‘De Antiquitate Cantabrigiensis Academiæ libri duo’—a plea for the superior antiquity of Cambridge. John Caius describes the ‘Assertio’ as the work of an unknown author of Oxford University, and attacks it severely. Thomas Caius's treatise was reprinted with John Caius's book for the second time in 1574. Both writers were then dead; but the friends of the champion of Cambridge University were alone responsible for this edition. Thomas Caius had, however, left behind him an annotated copy of John Caius's work, and another manuscript treatise of his own, entitled ‘Vindiciæ Antiquitatis Academiæ Oxoniensis contra Joannem Caium Cantabrigiensem.’ Many copies of this treatise were circulated in manuscript. One copy passed into the hands of Archbishop Ussher, thence to the archbishop's nephew, James Tyrrell Ussher, and thence to an anonymous friend of the antiquary Hearne, who printed it at Oxford for the first time in 1730. Caius's account of the origin of Oxford University is wholly valueless from an historical point of view. It fully accepts the mythical stories about Alfred and earlier times. Its chief interest lies in the numerous and varied authorities cited. Bryan Twine used Caius's manuscripts in his ‘Antiquitatis Academiæ Oxoniensis Apologia,’ 1608.

Caius translated into English, at the request of Queen Catherine Parr and of Dr. Owen, Henry VIII's physician, Erasmus's paraphrase of the Gospel of St. Mark, which, according to Strype, was ‘set up in all churches, for the better instruction of priests.’ He translated from English into Latin Bishop Longland's sermons (London, 1527?), and into Latin from Greek Aristotle’s ‘De Mirabilibus Mundi,’ the tragedies of Euripides, and an oration of Isocrates. His friends, John Leland and John Parkhurst, complimented him on his erudition in Latin epigrams.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 397, s. v. ‘Key ; ' Parker's Early History of Oxford (Oxford Historica1 Society), 21-37; Hearne's edition of Caius's Vindiciæ (1730); Strype's Parker, i. 511; Strype's Annals, i. ii. 108.]

S. L. L.