Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jane, William
JANE, WILLIAM (1645–1707), divine, son of Joseph Jane [q. v.], was born at Liskeard, Cornwall, where he was baptised on 22 Oct. 1645. He was educated at Westminster School, elected student of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1660, and graduated B.A. in June 1664, M.A. in 1667, and D.D. in November 1674. After his ordination he was appointed lecturer at Carfax Church, Oxford. He attracted the notice of Henry Compton, who became canon of Christ Church in 1669, and when Compton was created bishop of Oxford in 1674 he chose Jane to preach the sermon at his consecration, and appointed him one of his chaplains. In 1678 he was made canon of Christ Church, and was further presented by Compton, then bishop of London, to the rectory of Wennington, Essex. In 1679 the prebendal stall of Chamberlainswood in St. Paul's Cathedral and the archdeaconry of Middlesex were conferred on him. In May 1680 he was made regius professor of divinity at Oxford. This rapid promotion was due to his businesslike character and energy rather than to any marked ability or scholarship. In July 1683 he gave an example of his dangerous dexterity by framing the Oxford declaration in favour of passive obedience, and in the heat of his loyalty committed the university to opinions which were as unreasonable as they proved to be impracticable. He received his reward in the deanery of Gloucester, in which he was installed on 6 June 1685. He resigned the archdeaconry of Middlesex in 1686, but kept his canonries of Christ Church and St. Paul's till his death. In November 1686 Jane was summoned to represent the anglican church in a discussion which was held with some Roman catholic divines in the presence of James II, with a view to the conversion of the Earl of Rochester [see under Hyde, Lawrence, Earl of Rochester], Jane did not take much part in the disputation, which was mostly left to Rochester himself (Macaulay, Hist. ch. vi.) But he was too staunch an anglican to enjoy this position, and changed his opinion about passive obedience as soon as it could be done with safety. When James II's cause was hopeless, Jane sought William of Orange at Hungerford, and assured him of the adhesion of the university of Oxford, hinting at the same time his willingness to accept the vacant bishopric of Oxford in return for his service in procuring this sign of devotion (Birch, Life of Tillotson, p. 188). William paid no heed to this suggestion, and Jane was disappointed. The fact that the framer of the Oxford declaration should be so ready to disown its principles occasioned a shower of epigrams, by which Jane is best known. The Latin form of his name, Janus, gave a good opportunity to the wits (cf. Kennett, Hist. iii. 413, and Gent. Mag. for 1745, p. 321).
The disappointment combined with the epigrams to cure Jane of his whig tendency, and he set to work to regain the confidence of his old friends. He was put upon a commission of divines who were appointed, at the suggestion of Tillotson and Burnet, to revise the prayer-book, with a view to the comprehension of dissenters, which William III was anxious to promote. In the first session of the commission (21 Oct. 1689) Jane opposed the entire removal of the Apocrypha from the calendar. In the second session he supported Sprat, bishop of Rochester, in protesting against the legality and expediency of the commission, and ceased to attend its meetings ('William's Diary,' in Parliamentary Returns for 1854, 1. 95-6). The results of the deliberations of the commission were to be laid before convocation, and the Earls of Rochester and Clarendon went to Oxford to devise with Jane a scheme of opposition. When convocation met on 21 Nov., Jane had organised his party, and engaged battle on the question of the election of a prolocutor. Tillotson was the candidate of one party, Jane of the other, and Jane was elected by 55 votes to 28 (Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 607). He emphasised the meaning of his victory when he was presented to the president of the upper house by ending his speech with the words, 'Nolumus leges Angliae mutari' (Kennett, Hist. iii. 591). After this the comprehension scheme was allowed to drop. On Jane's return to Oxford he found another opportunity of defending the church by framing the decree in 1690 which condemned the 'Naked Gospel' of Arthur Bury [q. v.] Jane had now little hopes of preferment from William III, and in 1696 it was rumoured that he was to be removed from his professorship and other preferments, because he had not signed the 'Association for King William' (Luttrell, iv. 150). On Anne's accession Jane again hoped for a bishopric, and it is clear from Atterbury's letters that there was a desire to get rid of him in Oxford, where much of his work as a teacher was discharged by Smalridge as his deputy. Atterbury did his best to secure Jane's removal, but could suggest nothing better than the deanery of Wells, which was, however, given to another (Atterbury, Correspondence, iii. 95, 286-7, iv. 398). As some compensation, and probably with a view to make it easier for Jane to resign his professorship, Bishop Trelawney appointed him, in February 1703, to the chancellorship of Exeter Cathedral, which he exchanged for the precentorship in May 1704. Jane, however, preferred to hold his professorship to the end. He resigned the precentorship of Exeter in 1706, and died on 23 Feb. 1707 in Oxford, where he was buried in Christ Church.
Jane was a clerical politician of a low type, and had not much grasp on the principles which he professed to support. Calamy says of him: 'Though fond of the rites and ceremonies of the church, he was a Calvinist with respect to doctrine;' and the pleasantest thing recorded about him is the kindliness which he showed at Oxford to the ejected presbyterian, Thomas Gilbert [q. v.] (Calamy, Own Life, i. 275). Jane was a poor lecturer, and it was difficult for him to get an audience. Hearne says that in his later years he was 'given to good living, and was intemperate and niggardly' (Collections, ed. Doble, i. 237).
The only writings published under Jane's name are four sermons: (1) on the consecration of Henry Compton, London, 1675; (2) on the day of the public fast, before the House of Commons, London, 1679; (3) on the public thanksgiving, before the House of Commons, Oxford, 1691; (4) before the king and queen at Whitehall, Oxford, 1692. Besides these Wood ascribes to him 'The Present Separation Self-condemned,' London, 1678, a pamphlet against a sermon of William Jenkyn, on the ground that Jenkyn's answer, 'Celeusma, seu Clamor ad Theologos Anglite,' 1679, attributes the authorship to Jane. But Jenkyn's words are: 'Authore aut saltern approbatore quodam Jano,' and are founded solely on the fact that Jane, as chaplain to Bishop Compton, gave his imprimatur to the book. Similarly, Wood puts down to him 'A Letter to a Friend, containing some Queries about the New Commission,' 1689; but Lathbury (Hist. of Convocation, p. 326) says that his copy, which came from the collection of a nonjuror, was ascribed by its owner to Sherlock. Again, three letters written to Dr. Wallis, criticising his views about the doctrine of the Trinity (1691), are signed ' W. J.' In the 'Biographia Britannica' (s. v. 'Sherlock,' note O) 'W. J.' is identified as Jane, and Hunt (Religious Thought in England, ii. 206) accepts the identification. Flintoff, in his edition of Wallis (Eight Letters on the Trinity, p. 251), is more cautious, and thinks that if Wallis's correspondent was William Jane, there is nothing to show that he was the same person as the Oxford professor. It is noticeable that in the 'Biographia' the writer is called Mr. William Jane, whereas the professor was Dr. Wallis clearly did not recognise his correspondent, and it is difficult to suppose that he would not have identified the initials and handwriting of a brother professor, or that Jane would have adopted so transparent a disguise if he had wished to remain anonymous.
[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 269-70; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 643; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 413, 444; Birch's Life of Tillotson, pp. 188-98; Life of Humphrey Prideaux, pp. 55-6; Wallace's Anti-Trinitarian Biography, i. 210; Sylvester's Reliquiae Baxterianae, iii. 177; Tanner MSS. 31.31, 24.96, 38.59; Kennett's Collections, Lansdowne MS. 987, f. 185; Prideaux's Letters (Camden Soc.), p. 69; Kennett's Complete Hist. iii. 552. 590-1; Macaulay's Hist. ch. xiv.; Lathbury's Hist. of Convocation, pp. 321-328.]