Feilde, John (DNB01)

FEILDE or FIELD, JOHN (d. 1588), puritan divine, was educated at Oxford University, but in what college is not known. His name appears in his publications most commonly as Feilde, also as Fielde, and later as Feild and Field; his signature is always Feilde or (when writing Latin) Feildeus. It is not impossible that he was, as Brook thinks, the John Field who was admitted fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1555, without taking a degree. He refers, however, in his ‘Caveat’ (1581) to John Howlet [q. v.] who was B.A. 1566, M.A. 1569, as having been ‘a scholler in my time,’ twenty-three years before, in 1558, and he may have been the John Fielde, B.A. 16 Dec. 1564, M.A. 20 June 1567, whom Wood inclines to identify with him. Wood describes him as ‘minister of Wandsworth and of St. Giles's, Cripplegate;’ the latter is certainly an error if it means that he held the cure. His ministry at Wandsworth seems a mere inference from his presumed connection with a voluntary association of presbyterian type, begun there, according to Bancroft, on 20 Nov. 1572; he certainly had not, as Heylin says, ‘the cumbencie or cure of souls’ (Aerius Redivivus, 1670, p. 273). John Edwyn was vicar of Wandsworth 1561-85, followed by Jerom Shepherd. Nor was he, as has been suggested, the John Field who became rector of Edgcott, Buckinghamshire, in 1564 and (as the parish register shows) held the living till his death in 1609.

Feilde first appears in 1572, as taking part in a private meeting, which included Anthony Gilby [q. v.], Thomas Sampson [q. v.], Thomas Lever or Leaver [q. v.], and Thomas Wilcox [q. v.] (Bancroft, Svrvay, 1593, p. 54). At this meeting ‘An Admonition to the Parliament’ was drawn up. It was printed (n.d. 1572; four editions in two years) with some other matter, including letters of 1566 by Gualter and Beza, and the ‘admonition,’ with its petition for relief, was presented to parliament by Feilde and Wilcox. For so doing they were committed to Newgate on 7 July 1572. The ‘admonition’ having been answered by Whitgift, who referred to its authors as heretical, Feilde and Wilcox drew up in Newgate (4 Sept.) a confession of faith (briefer than the one printed in A Parte of a Register, p. 528, and addressed to ‘an honourable ladie,’ probably Lady Elizabeth Tyrwhit, formerly governess of Queen Elizabeth; Urwick thinks it was Lady Anne Bacon, Nonconformity in Herts, 1884, p. 86). Archbishop Parker's chaplain, Pearson, had a futile conference with them on 11 Sept. (Brook, ii. 185). On 2 Oct. they were sentenced in the lord mayor's court to a year's imprisonment for breach of the Uniformity Act. If the Wandsworth organisation was actually begun on 20 Nov., Feilde could not have been present; nor does Bancroft imply that he was, or even that he drafted ‘the order of Wandesworth,’ which Bancroft read in ‘a bill endorsed with Master Fields hand’ (Dangerous Positions, 1640, reprint, p. 43, i.e. 67); the date, moreover, may be that of the scheme, not of the first meeting. While in prison, Feilde and Wilcox were constantly visited by the puritan leaders. After vain petitions for better treatment they were discharged some time after 2 Oct. 1573; they had been threatened with banishment. Feilde was, according to Bancroft, the chief manager of ‘the discipline,’ ‘all the letters . . . from the brethren of other places ... to the London assemblies were for the most part directed vnto him’ (Svrvay, p. 369).

On his release Feilde was chosen preacher (or lecturer) and catechist by parishioners of St. Mary Aldermary ; this office he fulfilled ‘for the space of four years,’ when Aylmer inhibited him. The parishioners fruitlessly petitioned for his restoration, which they had hoped to gain through the mediation of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester [q. v.] Aylmer found Feilde an especially obstinate puritan, and complained that he ‘had entered into great houses and taught, as he said, God knows what.’ He thought, however, that ‘these men . . . might be profitably employed in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, and such other like barbarous countries, to draw the people from papism and gross ignorance,’ and besought Burghley to take measures for raising a fund for the purpose (Strype, Aylmer, 1821, pp. 36-7). Hindered from preaching, Feilde began to produce translations of writings of foreign divines; the earliest of these, dedicated to Lady Tyrwhit, is dated ‘from my poore house in Grubstreat, this second of November, 1577.’ His most curious piece, the ‘Caveat’ (1581), shows a good deal of reading, and is valuable for the documents embodied. He edited the reports of conferences held by protestant divines with Edmund Campion [q. v.] on 18, 23, 27 Sept. 1581 (appended to ‘A True Report of the Disputation ... 31 Aug. 1581,’ by Deans Nowell and Daye, 1583). In this, as in his ‘Caveat,’ he calls himself ‘student in diuinitie.’ In his tract on the catastrophe at the bear-garden, Paris-garden (1583), his only work ‘published by authoritie,’ he describes himself as ‘minister of the word of God.’ It is possible that for a short time he was tolerated as a lecturer at St. Giles's, Cripplegate. He presented to the privy council (8 and 13 Dec. 1583) articles, and an abstract of his opinions, impugning the lawfulness of subscription to the prayerbook (Calendar of State Papers, Dom. 1581-90, pp. 135, 136); he is then described as ‘a preacher of London.’ On 4 March 1584 he was suspended from preaching, for holding in his house an assembly of ministers, including Scottish divines.

He died in March 1587-8, and was buried in St. Giles's, Cripplegate, on 26 March. His will (made 16 Feb. 1587-8, proved 1 June 1588) leaves all to his wife Joane. He left two sons, Theophilus Field [q. v.], bishop of Hereford, and Nathaniel Field [q. v.], actor and dramatist ; the divergence in two directions from their father's points of view is remarkable.

He published : 1. ‘A Caveat for Parsons Hovvlet . . . and all the rest of that darke broode,’ n. d. 8vo (dedication to Leicester, dated 30 Aug. 1581; it is in reply to ‘A Brief Discours,’ 1580, 8vo, anon., but by Robert Parsons or Persons [q. v.] and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth by J. H., i.e. John Howlet). 2. ‘A Godly Exhortation, by occasion of the late iudgement of God, shewed at Parris-garden, the thirteenth day of Ianvarie,’ 1583, 8vo (written 17 Jan. ; dedication to the Lord Mayor and others, 18 Jan.; mainly against Sabbath-breaking, but incidentally pleads for a total suppression of the stage).

His chief translations are : 1. L'Espine's ‘Treatise of Christian Righteousnes,’ 1578, 8vo. 2. Calvin's ‘Thirteene Sermons,’ 1579, 4to (dedicated to the Earl of Bedford). 3. Calvin's ‘Foure Sermons,’ 1579, 4to (dedicated to Henry, earl of Huntingdon). 4. De Mornay's ‘Treatise of the Church,’ 1579, 8vo (dedicated to Leicester; British Museum copy has Feilde's autograph presentation to the Countess of Sussex). 5. Beza's ‘Second Part of Questions . . . the Sacraments,’ 1580, 8vo. 6. Beza's ‘Iudgement ... concerning a threefold order of Bishops’ [1580], 8vo. 7. Olevian's ‘Exposition of the Symbole of the Apostles,’ 1581, 8vo (dedicated to Ambrose, earl of Warwick). 8. De Mornay and Pilesson's ‘Christian Meditations,’ 1581, 8vo. 9. Calvin's ‘Prayers used at ... readings upon . . . Hosea,’ 1583, 8vo.

He wrote a preface to Viret's ‘Exposition upon the Prayer of our Lorde,’ 1582, 4to, translated by John Brooke [q. v.], and a dedication to John Knox on Matthew iv., 1583, 8vo. His autograph letter (25 Nov. 1581) to Leicester (signed Jo. Feilde) is in Cotton MS. Titus B vii. fol. 22.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 534 sq.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, i. 318 sq.; Morris MSS. in Dr. Williams's Library; Feilde's will at Somerset House; information from the Rev. Watkin Davies, Edgcott; works cited above.]

A. G.