Copcot, John (DNB00)

COPCOT, JOHN, D.D. (d. 1590), master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, is said to have been a native of Calais. He matriculated at Cambridge as a pensioner of Trinity College on 16 Nov. 1562. He became a scholar of the college, proceeded B.A. in 1566, and was soon afterwards elected to a fellowship. He commenced M.A. in 1570, had a license as one of the preachers of the university in 1576, proceeded B.D. in 1577, and was created D.D. in 1582. In 1584 he preached at St. Paul's Cross, London, upon Psalm lxxxiv., in defence of the discipline of the established church against the attacks contained in Dudley Fenner's publication, entitled ‘Counter-Poyson.’ In October 1586 he preached a learned Latin sermon before the convocation in St. Paul's Cathedral (Fuller, Church Hist., ed. Brewer, v. 83). In November the same year he became vice-chancellor of the university of Cambridge. When chosen vice-chancellor he was only a fellow of Trinity College, ‘within which he gave upper hand to Dr. Still (then master), but took it of him when out of the walls of the college’ (Fuller, Hist. of Cambridge, ed. Prickett and Wright, p. 281). An act was accordingly made among the doctors that for the future no one who was not head of a house should be eligible for the vice-chancellorship (Addit. MSS. 5807 f. 40, 5866 f. 32 b). Copcot's official year was unquiet. Serious dissensions prevailed in several colleges, rigorous measures were deemed necessary to repress nonconformity and to preserve discipline, and the university was involved in unpleasant disputes with the town (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, ii. 428–51).

On 6 Nov. 1587 Copcot was, on the recommendation of Lord Burghley, elected master of Corpus Christi College. He was also rector of St. Dunstan-in-the-East, London, prebendary of Sidlesham in the church of Chichester, and chaplain to Archbishop Whitgift. On more than one occasion he represented the clergy of London in convocation, and he was among the fit and able persons recommended to be employed in the conferences with priests and jesuits (Strype, Life of Whitgift, p. 99, folio). His ejection of Anthony Hickman from a fellowship in Corpus Christi College occasioned many disputes in that society. Hickman was eventually restored by superior authority (Masters, Hist. of C. C. C. C. pp. 120–2). Copcot died in the early part of August 1590; the place of his burial is unknown (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. ii. 94).

He is said to have been well skilled in controversy, and a great critic in the Latin language. Fuller relates that he was very familiar with the elder John Drusius, who wrote a letter to him superscribed ‘Manibus Johannis Copcot’—to the ghost of John Copcot—so much was the doctor macerated by constant study (Hist. of Cambridge, p. 103).

He was author of ‘A Sermon preached at Powles Crosse in 1584, wherein answeare is made unto the autor of the Counter-Poyson touching the sense of the 17th verse of the fifte chapter of the first to Timothye. Also an answeare to the defence of the reasons of the Counter-Poyson for the maintenaunce of the Eldership,’ Lambeth MS. 374, f. 115. An extract from the sermon is in ‘A Parte of a Register of sundrie memorable matters written by divers godly and learned men, who stand for a Reformation in the Church’ (Ames, Typogr. Antiq. ed. Herbert, p. 1675; Tanner, Bibl. Brit. p. 277). His ‘Injunctions for Christ's College, Cambridge,’ December 1586 (Latin), are in Strype's ‘Annals.’ Other letters relating to Cambridge affairs have been printed.

To Copcot's exhortations the university of Cambridge is indebted for the valuable collection of records made by Robert Hare (Masters, Hist. of C. C. C. C. p. 124; Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. iii. 47).

[Authorities cited above; also Egerton MSS. 2528, 2598 f. 240.]

T. C.