Open main menu

Dewes, Giles (DNB00)

DEWES or DUWES, GILES (d. 1535), was a writer on the French language. The real form of his name, as used by himself, is found, from a double acrostic in the treatise noticed below, to have been Du Wés, alias De Vadis, and it appears in the ‘State Papers’ as Duwes, but his recent French editor, F. Génin, gives Du Guez as its more exact equivalent. Of his life before his settlement in England nothing is known, but for nearly forty years he held office in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. He was, as we learn from his epitaph, teacher of French to Prince Arthur, who died in 1502, and ‘clerk of their libraries,’ or librarian, to both Henry VII and Henry VIII. In the epistle dedicatory to Henry VIII which is prefixed to John Palsgrave's French grammar, printed in 1530, we are told that he was also French tutor to that monarch, being mentioned as ‘the synguler clerke, Maister Gyles Dewes, somtyme instructour to your noble grace in this selfe tong.’ His warrant of appointment as keeper of the king's library at Richmond, on the accession of Henry VIII, with a salary of 10l. per annum, is dated 20 Sept. 1509, and on 24 March 1512 there is a fresh grant of this salary. Licenses for importation of wine were granted to him at various times from 1511 up to 1533, with a liberal grant in 1514 of 1,000l. of the custom duties upon goods imported by him during five years, and a new year's gift of plate from the king was made to him in 1528. A warrant for dress occurs under date of 29 Sept. 1525. It appears to have been in 1527 that he was appointed French teacher to the Princess Mary (when, he says, he had been for thirty years ‘besyed’ in teaching the language); and on 1 Oct. 1533 he was appointed a gentleman-waiter in the princess's household, his wife being also made one of the ladies-in-waiting. He died in 1535, and, in anticipation, as it seems, of his death, the reversion of his office of keeper of the royal library was granted to William Tyldesley on 11 March 1534–5. He was buried in London, in the church of St. Olave, Jewry. His grammatical work (which is divided into two books, the first containing a grammar, and the second consisting of dialogues) is entitled ‘An Introductorie for to Lerne to Rede, to Pronounce, and to Speke French trewly, compyled for the right high, exellent, and most vertuous lady, the lady Mary of Englande, doughter to our most gracious soverayn lorde kyng Henry the Eight.’ There are three early quarto editions of it, all without date, but all apparently between 1528 and 1536; the first printed by Thomas Godfray, the second by Nicholas Bourman for John Reynes, the third, ‘newely corrected and amended,’ by John Waley. This last edition omits in the dedication to Henry VIII of the second book the names of Queen Anne [Boleyn] and her daughter Elizabeth, which are found in the other texts; it is therefore to be inferred that it was printed subsequently to the king's marriage to Jane Seymour. The book was reprinted, under the editorship of F. Genin, in the French official series of ‘Documents inédits sur l'histoire de France’ in 1852, in conjunction with John Palsgrave's large French grammar, originally published in 1530. The dialogues in the second part of the book are very interesting as illustrating the character of the Princess Mary herself and her intercourse with her attendants and instructors. They profess to represent conversations between the princess and messengers from her father and others, the Lady Maltravers, Giles Duwes himself, the almoner of the princess when she was ‘with a privy family’ at Tewkesbury Park (in which she taxes her almoner with neglect of his duties) and the treasurer of her chamber (whom she is represented as addressing jocularly as ‘her husband adoptif’), together with a letter from John ap Morgan, esq., her carver. Duwes when ill with gout sends her an ‘epitaph upon the deth of Frenche’ as the consequence of his absence, as well as verses on his own illness, and holds a philosophical dialogue with her upon the soul, according to St. Isidore, while the almoner discourses of the exposition of the mass. Strange to say, Dewes was also a student of alchemy. A Latin dialogue, ‘Inter Naturam et Filium Philosophiæ,’ of which the dedication, ‘Ægidius de Vadis amico suo N.S.P.D.,’ is dated ‘ex bibliotheca regia Richemetum, 17 idus Julii anno 1521,’ is printed at pp. 95–123, vol. ii., of ‘Theatrum Chemicum,’ printed at Ursel in 1602; and is reprinted, pp. 326–35, vol. ii., of J. J. Manget's ‘Bibliotheca Chemica,’ Geneva, 1702. Two copies of an English translation (of which the second gives the author's name as ‘Devadius’) are in Ashmole MSS. (Bodleian Library), 1487 and 1490.

[Weever's Funerall Monuments, p. 397; Cal. State Papers, Dom., of the reign of Henry VIII; Preface to Genin's edition of the Introductorie.]

W. D. M.