Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kett, Francis

KETT or KET, FRANCIS (d. 1589), clergyman, executed for heresy, son of William Kett, and grandson of Robert Kett [q. v.], was probably born at Wymondham, Norfolk. He was admitted of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, proceeded B.A. 1569, and M.A. 1573; and was elected fellow in the same year. On 27 Dec. 1575 he joined in a letter of thanks to Burghley, as chancellor, for a settlement of college disputes. In 1580 he resigned his fellowship and left the university, probably for some preferment. Though described as of Wymondham, he does not appear to have been vicar of that parish. He has been identified with the ‘Francis Kett, doctor of phisick,’ who published ‘The Glorious and Beautiful Garland of Man's Glorification’ (prose) in 1585, with a dedication to Queen Elizabeth. In 1588 Edmund Scambler, bishop of Norwich, summoned him to his court, and condemned him on charges of heresy. Scambler in a letter (7 Oct. 1588) to Burghley, as lord high treasurer, urged his ‘speedy execution,’ as a ‘dangerous’ person, of ‘blasphemous opinions.’ The ‘Articles of Heretical Pravity objected by’ Scambler against Kett (in Lansd. MS. 982, f. 162), and the ‘Blasphemous Heresyes of one Kett’ (Record Office, ccxvii. f. 11), are both printed in Storojenko's ‘Life of Greene,’ and adequately dispose of the allegation, sometimes brought against Kett, that he indoctrinated Greene and Marlowe in atheism. William Burton (d. 1616) [q. v.], who classes him with Arians, correctly describes him as a sort of millenarian, holding that ‘Christ wyth his Apostles are nowe personally in Iudea gathering of his church,’ and that the faithful must ‘goe to Ierusalem,’ there to be ‘fed with Angelles foode.’ Underlying this theory was a view of Christ as ‘not God, but a good man,’ who ‘suffered once for his owne sinnes’ and is to ‘suffer againe for the sinnes of the world,’ and ‘be made God after his second resurrectiō.’ It seems probable that Kett was a mystic of the type of Johann Scheffler (1624–1677). Strype thinks he may have belonged to the ‘family of love.’ Burton notes ‘how holy he would seeme to bee … the sacred Bible almost neuer out of his handes, himselfe alwayes in prayer.’ He was burned alive in the castle ditch at Norwich on 14 Jan. 1589. Burton, who witnessed the execution, and deemed Kett ‘a deuill incarnate,’ says that ‘when he went to the fire he was clothed in sackecloth, he went leaping and dauncing: being in the fire, aboue twenty times together, clapping his hands, he cried nothing but blessed bee God … and so continued vntill the fire had consumed all his neather partes, and vntill he was stifled with the smoke.’ The presentation of his surname as ‘Knight’ arises from a mere blunder, Ket having been read Kt.

[Burton's Dauid's Euidence, 1596, pp. 124 sq.; Blomefield's Norfolk, 1805 ii. 508, 1806 iii. 293 sq.; Strype's Annals, 1824, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 73; Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biog. 1850, i. 38 sq.; Heywood and Wright's Cambridge University Transactions, 1854, i. 190 sq.; Gabriel Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. 1861, ii. 38, 543; Storojenko's Life of Greene, in Greene's Works, ed. Grosart, i. 42–5, and App. pp. 259–61.]

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