Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Charke, William

CHARKE, WILLIAM (fl. 1580), puritan divine, was distinguished as the opponent of Edmund Campion, the Jesuit priest [q. v.], and as a leader of the puritan party. He was a fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, from which society he was expelled in 1572 for declaring, in a sermon preached at St. Mary's, that the episcopal system was introduced by Satan. From the judgment of the vice-chancellor and heads of houses he appealed to the chancellor, Burghley, who interceded for him, but without success. On his expulsion from the university he was appointed domestic chaplain first to Lord Cheney, and afterwards to the Duchess of Somerset. In 1580 he published 'An Answere to a Seditious Pamphlet lately cast abroade by a Jesuite [Edmund Campion], with a discoverie of that blasphemous sect,' 8vo. When Campion was a prisoner in the Tower, Charke was employed with others to hold a discussion with him. 'A true report of the disputation ... set down by the reverend learned men themselves that dealt therein,' was published in 1583. Father Parsons, in his 'Defence of the Censure gyven vpon two Bookes of William Charke and Meredith Hanmer,' has a very able attack on Charke. If we may believe Parsons's testimony, Charke, not content with having worried Campion (faint from torture and confinement) in the Tower, 'folowed hym in person to the place of hys martyrdome with bygge lookes, steme countenace, prowde woordes, and merciles behavyour' In 1581 Charke was elected constant preacher to the society of Lincoln's Inn. After holding this post for some years, he was suspended in 1593 by Archbishop Whitgift for puritanism. The date of his death is unknown.

Wood (Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 695) accuses Charke of having destroyed the manuscript (as prepared, in its final shape, for publication) of the last three books of the 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' which he obtained from Hooker's widow. Wood's statement is clearly drawn from the appendix to Izaak Walton's 'Life of Hooker, 1665, where the fanatics who committed this act of wanton destruction are said to have been 'one Mr. Charke, and another minister that dwelt near Canterbury.' This 'Mr. Charke' may have been William Charke, but from the same appendix we learn that Hooker's youngest daughter married a certain 'Ezekiel Charke, Bachelor in Divinity and rector of St. Nicholas in Harbledown, near Canterbury.' The suspicion naturally suggests itself, though Walton is silent, that Ezekiel Charke was the culprit.

[Strype's Whitgift, ed. 1822, i. 88-92, 198, iii. 24-7; Strype's Aylmer, ed. 1821, p. 36; Parsons's Defence of the Censure, 1682; Fuller's Church History, ed. Brewer, iv 385, v. 164; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, i. 111-17.]

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