Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alley, William
ALLEY, WILLIAM, D.D. (1510?–1570), bishop of Exeter, was a native of Chipping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He was educated at Eton, and was elected from that foundation to King's College, Cambridge, in 1528. He graduated as B.A. of that university in 1533, but subsequently removed to Oxford, where he spent some time in academical studies, and probably commenced M.A. He married and had a benefice, but it does not appear where it was situated. John Vowell, alias Hooker, whose narrative is the principal authority for the life of this prelate, says (Catalog of the Bishops of Excester, 1584, No. 46), that ‘in all Q. Maries time, which were called the Marian daies, he travelled from place to place, in the North countrie, where he was not knowne; and sometimes by practising of physick, and sometimes by teaching of scholers, he picked out a poore liuing for himselfe and his wife, and so continued, being not knowne to have beene a preest, during all Q. Maries time.’
Early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth he became divinity reader at St. Paul's, London, and admirably performed the duties of that office. On 1 Jan. 1558–9 he was admitted to the penitentiaryship of St. Paul's with the prebend of St. Pancras in that church. Soon afterwards he was promoted to the see of Exeter, the royal assent to his election being given on 8 June 1560. He was consecrated on 14 July, and had restitution of the temporalities on 26 Aug. following. In consequence of ‘the tenuitie of that living’ he had the royal permission to hold other preferments therewith for a limited period. On 11 Nov. 1561 he took the degree of D.D. at Oxford.
Queen Elizabeth, out of the great respect she had for Alley, sent him yearly a silver cup for a new year's gift. John Vowell, alias Hooker, in the work cited above, gives the following character of him: ‘He was verie well learned universallie, but his cheefe studie and profession was in divinitie, and in the tongs. And being bishop, he debated no part of his former travels, but spent his time verie godly and vertuous. Upon everie holie daie for the most part he preached, and upon the weeke daies he would and did reade a lecture of divinitie; the residue of his time, and free from his necessarie businesse, he spent in his private studies, and wrote sundrie bookes, whereof his prelections or lectures which he did reade in Paules, and his poore mans librarie he caused to be imprinted: the like he would have doone with his Hebrue grammar, and other his works, if he had lived. He was well stored, and his library well replenished, with all the best sort of writers, which most gladlie he would impart and make open to everie good scholar and student, whose companie and conference he did most desire and embrace: he seemed to the first apparance, to be a rough and an austere man, but in verie truth, a verie courteous, gentle, and an affable man; at his table full of honest speeches, joined with learning, and pleasantnesse, according to the time, place, and companie; att his exercises which for the most part was at bowles, verie merrie and pleasant; void of all sadnesse, which might abate the benefit of recreation, loth to offend, readie to forgive, void of malice, full of love, bountifull in hospitalitie, liberall to the poore, and a succourer of the needie, faithful to his freend, and courteous to all men; a hater of covetousnesse, and an enimie to all evill and wicked men, and lived an honest, a godlie, and vertuous life. Finallie he was indued with manie notable gifts and vertues, onelie he was somewhat credulous, and of a hasty beleefe, and of light credit, which he did oftentimes mislike, and blame in himselfe; in his latter time, he waxed somewhat grosse, and his bodie full of humors, which did abate much of his wonted exercises.’
Bishop Alley died on 15 April 1570, and was buried in the choir of his cathedral near the altar. His epitaph described him as being ‘acerrimus Evangelicæ veritatis Propugnator, morum probitate præcelebris, bonarum disciplinarum mirabili scientiâ clarus.’ By his wife Sybil, who survived him and was his executrix, he had a son Roger, whom he collated to the archdeaconry of Cornwall.
His works are: 1. ‘Πτωχομυσειον. The Poore Mans Librarie. Rapsodiæ G. A. Bishop of Exceter upon the first epistle of saint Peter, red publiquely in the Cathedrall church of saint Paule within the Citye of London, 1560. . . . Here are adioyned at the end of every special treatie, certaine fruitful annotacions which may properly he called Miscellanea, bicause they do entreate of diverse and sundry matters marked with the nombre and figures of Augrime.’ 2 vols. Lond. 1565, 1570, and 1571, fol. Dedicated to the Earl of Bedford. The ‘Miscellanea’ consist of many curious anecdotes, and explanations of persons, places, &c., which manifest his extensive reading. 2. ‘Hebrew Grammar,’ MS. 3. ‘Judgment concerning the doctrine and discipline of the Church,’ printed in Strype's Annals, i. 348. 4. He revised the book of Deuteronomy for the Bishops' Bible.[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 376; Biog. Brit. ed. Kippis, i. 150; Calendars of State Papers; MS. Addit. 16398 f. 59; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 284, 557; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn; Godwin, De Præsulibus, ed. Richardson; MS. Lansd. 11 art. 56; Nasmith's Cat. of C.C.C. MSS. 153, 157; John Vowell, alias Hooker's Catalog of the Bishops of Excester (1584), No. 46.]