Ely, Humphrey (DNB00)


ELY, HUMPHREY, LL.D. (d. 1604), catholic divine, brother of William Ely [q. v.], president of St. John's College, Oxford, was a native of Herefordshire. After studying for some time at Brasenose College, Oxford, he was elected a scholar of St. John's College in 1566, but on account of his attachment to the catholic faith he left the university without a degree, and proceeding to the English college at Douay was there made a licentiate in the canon and civil laws. He appears to have been subsequently created LL.D. In July 1577 he and other students of law formed a community in the town of Douay, and resided together in a hired house (Douay Diaries, p. 125). This establishment was soon broken up by the troubles attributed to the machinations of the queen of England's emissaries, who had probably excited the passions of the Calvinist faction. Ely was hooted as a traitor in the streets of Douay, and the members of his community and of the English college were subjected to frequent domiciliary visits which satisfied the municipal authorities but not the populace. In consequence Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Allen found it necessary to remove the college from Douay to Rheims in 1578. After studying divinity at Rheims Ely accompanied Allen to Rome in August 1579, when the dissensions had occurred in the English college there, but he returned with him to Rheims in the following spring. During his stay in Rome Allen employed him in revising several controversial books (Knox, Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, hist. introd. p. lii seq.; Douay Diaries, pp. 130, 136).

In June 1580 he paid a visit to England, disguised as a merchant, travelling under the name of Havard or Howard. There sailed in the same vessel with him three priests, Edward Rishton, Thomas Cottam [q. v.], and John Hart. On their landing at Dover the searchers arrested Cottam and Hart, and the mayor, supposing that Ely was a military man, requested him to convey Cottam to London, and hand him over to Lord Cobham, governor of the Cinque ports. When they were out of the town, Ely allowed his prisoner to go at large, but Cottam, entertaining scruples about the danger which his friend might incur, insisted upon delivering himself up, and was afterwards executed. Ely was committed to prison, but soon obtained his release, probably on account of his not being a priest (Foley, Records, ii. 150 seq.). On 23 April 1581 he arrived at Rheims, out of Spain, and in the following month visited Paris, in company with Allen. He was ordained subdeacon at Laon on 8 March 1581–2, deacon at Châlons-sur-Marne on the 31st of the same month, and priest on 14 April 1582. On 22 July 1586 he left Rheims for Pont-à-Mousson, where he had been appointed by the Duke of Lorraine to the professorship of the canon and civil laws, and he occupied that chair till his death on 15 March 1603–4. He was buried in the church of the nuns of the order of St. Clare.

Dodd says Ely ‘was a person of great candour and remarkable hospitality; and as he had a substance, he parted with it chearfully; especially to his countrymen, who never failed of a hearty welcome, as their necessities obliged them to make use of his house. He was also of a charitable and reconciling temper; and took no small pains to make up the differences that happened among the missioners upon account of the archpriest's jurisdiction.’

He wrote: ‘Certaine Briefe Notes vpon a Briefe Apologie set out vnder the name of the Priestes vnited to the Archpriest. Drawn by an vnpassionate secular Prieste, friend to bothe partyes, but more frend to the truth. Whereunto is added a seuerall answeare vnto the particularites obiected against certaine Persons,’ Paris (1603), 12mo. This work, elicited by Parsons's ‘Brief Apology,’ was written by Ely shortly before his death and published by an anonymous editor, probably Dr. Christopher Bagshaw [q. v.] It was an important contribution to the archpriest controversy. A copy of the book, probably unique, is in the Grenville Library, British Museum. Ely wrote in English, with a view to publication, the lives of some of the martyrs in Elizabeth's reign, as appears from a letter addressed by him from Pont-à-Mousson, 20 June or July 1587, to Father John Gibbons, S. J., rector of the college of Treves (Lansd. MS. 96, art. 26, printed in Foley, iv. 483).

[Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 71; Douay Diaries, p. 421; Ely's Brief Notes; Foley's Records, ii. 150, vi. pp. xii, 730, 737, 742; Fuller's Church Hist. (Brewer), iv. 241, v. 340; Gillow's Bibl. Dict.; Bibl. Grenvilliana, i. 224; Knox's Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, p. 464; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, ii. 20, iii. 109; Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 803; Simpson's Campion, p. 120; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 739.]

T. C.