Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/White, Francis (1564?-1638)

WHITE, FRANCIS (1564?–1638), bishop of Ely, son of Peter White (d. 19 Dec. 1615), curate, afterwards vicar, of Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire, was born at Eaton Socon about 1564 (parish register begins in 1566). His father had five sons, all clergymen, of whom John White, D.D. (1570?–1615), is separately noticed. Francis, after passing through the grammar school at St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, was admitted pensioner at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, on 20 March 1578–9, aged 15. He graduated B.A. in 1582–3, M.A. in 1586, and was ordained priest by the bishop of London on 17 May 1588. His early preferments were the rectory of Broughton-Astley, Leicestershire, a lectureship at St. Paul's, London, and the rectory of St. Peter's, Cornhill, London (not in Newcourt). In the controversy against Rome he took a prominent part. His first publication, ‘in answer to a popish treatise, entituled, White dyed Black,’ was ‘The Orthodox Faith and Way to the Church,’ 1617, 4to; reprinted at the end of the ‘Workes’ (1624, fol.) of John White, his brother. He graduated D.D. in 1618. Early in 1622 he was employed by James I as a disputant against John Fisher (1569–1641) [q. v.], to stay the Roman catholic tendencies of Mary, countess of Buckingham [see under Villiers, Sir Edward]. He held two ‘conferences;’ the third (24 May 1622) was entrusted to William Laud [q. v.] White's ‘Replie’ to Fisher (1624, fol.) was dedicated to James I, whose copy is in the British Museum; it was reprinted by subscription, Dublin, 1824, 2 vols. 8vo. An account, from the other side, is in ‘Trve Relations of Svndry Conferences,’ 1626, 4to, by ‘A. C.’ On 14 Sept. 1622 White was presented to the deanery of Carlisle (installed 15 Oct.). He took part, in conjunction with Daniel Featley or Fairclough [q. v.], in another discussion with Fisher, opened on 27 June 1623, at the house of Sir Humphrey Lynde, in Sheer Lane, London; a report was published in ‘The Fisher catched in his owne Net,’ 1623, 4to; and more fully (by Featley) in ‘The Romish Fisher cavght and held in his owne Net,’ 1624, 4to.

In 1625 White became senior dean of Sion College, London. He was consecrated bishop of Carlisle on 3 Dec. 1626 at Durham House, London, by Neile of Durham, Buckeridge of Rochester, and three other prelates, John Cosin [q. v.] preaching the consecration sermon. His elevation was much canvassed; a letter (13 Feb. 1627–8) in Archbishop Ussher's correspondence states that he ‘hath sold all his books to Hills the broker … some think he paid for his place.’ It was said that he had ‘sold his orthodoxe bookes and bought Jesuits'.’ Sir Walter Earle referred to the matter in parliament (11 Feb. 1628), quoting the line ‘Qui color albus erat, nunc est contrarius albo’ (appendix to ‘Sir Francis Seymor his … Speech,’ 1641, 4to). On 22 Jan. 1628–9 he was elected bishop of Norwich (confirmed 19 Feb.). He was elected bishop of Ely on 15 Nov. 1631 (confirmed 8 Dec.) Shortly afterwards he held a conference at Ely House, Holborn, with Theophilus Brabourne [q. v.] on the Sabbath question, and had much to do with Brabourne's subsequent prosecution. His 'Treatise of the Sabbath-Day,' 1635, 4to 3rd ed. 1636, 4to, was dedicated to Laud and written at the command of Charles I. White treated the question doctrinally; its historical aspect was assigned to Peter Heylyn [q. v.] He visited Cambridge in 1632, to consecrate the chapel of Peterhouse, and was entertained at his own college, 'where with a short speech he encouraged the young students to ply their books by his own example.' His last publication was 'An Examination and Confutation of … A Briefe Answer to a late Treatise of the Sabbath-Day,' 1637, 4to; this 'Briefe Answer' was a dialogue (by Richard Byfield [q. v.]), with title, 'The Lord's Day is the Sabbath Day,' 1636, 4to. He died at Ely House, Holborn, in February 1637-8, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His will, dated 4 March 1636-7, proved 27 Feb. 1637-8 by his relict, Joane White, shows that he survived a son, and left married daughters and several grandchildren; the bulk of his property, which was not large, went to his grandson Francis White. His portrait (1624, set. 59), engraved by Thomas Cockson or Coxon [q. v.], was prefixed to his 'Replie' to Fisher, and reproduced by an opponent in 'The Answere vnto the Nine Points,' 1626, 4to, for the purpose of rallying White on the vanity of the inscription and the luxury of his attire. Another engraving, by G. Mountin, was reproduced at Frankfort in 1632.

[Fuller's Worthies (Nichols), 1811, i. 469 (under Huntingdonshire); Stow's Survey of London (Strype), 1720, vol. ii. App. p. 137; Granger's Biographical Hist, of England, 1775, i. 357; Gorham's Hist. and Antiq. of Eynesbury and St. Neot's, 1824, i. 210-16; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), 1854, i. 344, ii. 471, iii. 243, 246; Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, 1865, i. 166, 188; Venn's Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College, 1897, i. 101; Stubbs's Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, 1897, p. 117; White's will at Somerset House.]

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