Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fryer, John (d.1563)

FRYER, JOHN, M.D. (d. 1563), physician, born at Balsham, Cambridgeshire, was educated at Eton and elected thence to King's College, Cambridge, in 1517. He graduated B.A. in 1521 and M.A. in 1525. On 5 Nov. 1525 he was incorporated at Oxford, being one of three masters of arts who had been preferred to Cardinal Wolsey's college in that university. Proving, however, ‘violent Lutherans,’ they were one and all obliged to leave. He was imprisoned for heresy in the Savoy, where he solaced himself with the lute, having good skill in music. On this account a friend commended him to the master of the Savoy, who replied ‘Take heed, for he that playeth is a devil, because he has departed from the catholic faith’ (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 72). The date of his incarceration in the Savoy is nowhere recorded, but by 1528 he was again a prisoner, this time in the Fleet. On 16 Sept. 1528 he addressed from that prison an elegant Latin letter to Wolsey, wherein he extols the latter's generosity, ‘which he had often experienced before.’ ‘To Wolsey,’ he writes, ‘he owed his restitution to life from that destruction into which he had precipitated himself by his own folly’ (Letters and Papers of Reign of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer, vol. iv. pt. ii. No. 4741). Fryer's scholarship and personal qualities gained him the friendship of many eminent men, especially that of Edward Fox [q. v.], then provost of King's College. By Fox's assistance he was enabled to study medicine at Padua, where he took the degree of M.D. in 1535 (ib. ed. Gairdner, vol. ix. No. 648). It is probable that he was incorporated on this degree at Cambridge. In December 1535 he attended Fox to the diet at Smalcalde in Saxony (ib. vol. ix. Nos. 917, 1011). The following year he returned home (ib. vol. x. Nos. 321, 411, 418), and ultimately settled at London, residing in that part of Bishopsgate Street which is within the parish of St. Martin Outwich. He was admitted a fellow of the College of Physicians in 1536, was censor in 1541, 1553, 1554, 1555, and 1559, elect in 1547, consiliarius in 1548 and 1555 to 1560, and president in 1549 and 1550. To judge by a letter from him to Thomas, lord Cromwell, Fryer must have possessed no inconsiderable share of humour. He had attended the Bishop of Rochester in his last illness. On the bishop's death his goods were seized to the king's use, so that for twelve days' labour and four nights' watching Fryer received nothing. Thereupon he besought Cromwell's mediation on his behalf, observing, ‘Except your lordshype be good to me, I shal bothe lose my labour, my frende, and also my physycke; and truely if physycyens shuld take no monye for them that they kyll, as well as for them that they save, theyr lyvyngs shuldbe very thynne and bare.’ As regards the amount of his recompense and reward for his pains he remarks: ‘I beseche your lordshyppe it may be so motche the mor lyberall, becawse it shalbe the last payment; for of them that scape, we may take the lesse, becawse we hope they shale ons cum agayne in to our handys’ (Sir H. Ellis, Original Letters, 3rd ser. ii. 346–7). The bishop here alluded to has been erroneously supposed to have been Fisher; it was Hilsey who died in 1539. On 24 June 1560 Fryer was committed to the compter, but for what offence does not appear. He was liberated on the following day. In 1561 he was imprisoned in the Tower, on this occasion not for Lutheranism but for catholicism, ‘wherein he was educated’ (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. Addenda, 1547–65, p. 510). There is extant an examination of his servant, Thomas How, organ-maker, taken before Sir William Chester, lord mayor of London, 23 April 1561. It relates to the visit of his master to Dr. Martyn at Buntingford, Hertfordshire, and states that neither he nor his master to his knowledge had received the communion since the queen's accession (ib. 1547–80, p. 174). Fryer was liberated from prison in the beginning of August 1563, but died of the plague on the ensuing 21 Oct., and was buried at St. Martin Outwich. It is probable that he became outwardly reconciled to the English church before his death, as his will nuncupative (P.C.C. 2, Stevenson) is attested by the then curate of St. Martin's, one Albert Coopeman. His wife, Ursula, and several of his children also lost their lives by the pestilence. In her will, proved 28 Dec. 1563 (P.C.C. 39, Chayre), Mrs. Fryer, after desiring burial with her husband, names as her children three sons, Thomas, Jarmyn, and Reinolde, and two daughters, Mathe and Lucie.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 225; Munk's Coll. of Phys. (1878), i. 31–2; Gillow's Bibliographical Dict. of the English Catholics, ii. 334.]

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