Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lever, Ralph

LEVER or LEAVER, RALPH, D.D. (d. 1585), master of Sherburn Hospital, Durham, was a native of Lancashire, and a younger brother of Thomas Lever [q. v.], master of St. John's College, Cambridge. He was himself educated in that college, graduating B.A. in 1547–8, and M.A. in 1551, and being admitted a fellow by the royal visitors on 4 July 1549. During the reign of Queen Mary he was an exile for religion, and he probably resided with his brother Thomas at Zürich and Aarau. On the accession of Elizabeth he returned to England, and was elected a senior fellow of St. John's College on 30 July 1559 (Baker, Hist. of St. John's, ed. Mayor, i. 325). On 30 July 1560 he was incorporated M.A. at Oxford. Baker complains that Lever, Thomas Cartwright, William Fulke, and Percival Wiburn, while fellows of St. John's, ‘infected the college with an almost incurable disaffection, and laid the seeds of our succeeding divisions’ (ib. i. 148). During the mastership of Leonard Pilkington he had a lease of the manor of Bassingbourne, in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, although he was a fellow of the college; this favour was shown to him because he was the master's countryman.

In 1563 he became reader or tutor to Walter Devereux, afterwards first earl of Essex [q. v.] On 5 Nov. 1565 he was collated to the rectory of Washington, co. Durham (Surtees, Durham, ii. 44). On 21 Aug. 1566 he became archdeacon of Northumberland, and on 17 Oct. 1567 he was installed a canon of Durham. In 1573 he resigned the archdeaconry of Northumberland, and on 17 Nov. 1575 he was collated to the rich rectory of Stanhope, co. Durham, resigning Washington then or soon afterwards. During the vacancy in the see of Durham occasioned by the death of Bishop Pilkington he was appointed by the dean and chapter commissary to exercise episcopal jurisdiction, and he with Richard Fawcett, another prebendary, presented a supplication to the queen on 30 March 1577, complaining of the grant of leases by the dean and chapter, and desiring redress from her majesty by a royal visitation, sede vacante (State Papers, Dom. Eliz. vol. cxi. art. 48). On 16 July 1577 he was collated to the mastership of Sherburn Hospital, vacant by the death of his brother Thomas, and he soon afterwards resigned the rectory of Stanhope. He was created D.D. at Cambridge in 1578, under a grace which states that he had studied theology for twenty years subsequently to his taking the degree of M.A. (Cooper, Athenæ Cantabr. i. 507). In 1582 disputes arose between him and Dr. Barnes, bishop of Durham. On 30 Sept. 1583, however, Bishop Barnes wrote to some of the justices of the peace within the county palatine, ordering them to give satisfaction to Lever for the wrongs done to his hospital by assessments, impositions, and taxes for bridges and other matters. On 24 Feb. 1584–5 Lever wrote to Lord Burghley, requesting him to forward in parliament the bill, which soon afterwards became law, for the incorporation of Sherburn Hospital and the rectification of abuses that had long existed therein. He died about March 1584–5.

His works are: 1. ‘The Assertion of Raphe Lever touching the Canon Law, the English Papists, and the Ecclesiastical Offices of this Realm, with his most humble Petition to Her Majesty for Redress,’ printed in Strype's ‘Annals,’ i. 357–60, folio. 2. ‘The most noble, auncient, and learned playe called the Philosophers game, inuented for the honest recreation of students, and other sober persons, in passing the tediousnes of tyme to the release of their labours and the exercise of their wittes. … By Rafe Leuer, and augmented by W[illiam] F[ulke];’ black letter, London, 1563, 8vo; dedicated by James Rowbothum to Lord Robert Dudley. Fulke published this curious work without the author's consent. Rowbothum had in 1562 published ‘The Pleausaunt and Wittie Playe of the Cheastes,’ also dedicated to Lord Dudley. 3. ‘The Arte of Reason, rightly termed Witcraft, teaching a perfect way to Argue and Dispute,’ London, 1573, 16mo; dedicated to Walter, earl of Essex. This is one of the rarest of early English treatises on logic.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 507; Addit. MS. 5875, fol. 79 b; Brydges's Censura Literaria, 1808, viii. 341; Cal. of State Papers (1547–80) pp. 540, 644 (1581–90), pp. 121, 122, 228, 570; Strype's Works (general index); Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 479.]

T. C.