Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gee, John

GEE, JOHN (1596–1639), writer against Roman catholics, was grandson of Ralph Gee of Manchester, nephew of Edward Gee (1565–1618) [q. v.], and son of John Gee (d. 1631), incumbent of Dunsford, Devonshire, by his wife Sarah. He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, 13 July 1612, aged 16, and migrated to Exeter College, where he graduated B.A. 28 Feb. 1616–7, and M.A. 17 Oct. 1621. After taking holy orders he obtained a benefice at Newton, near Winwick, Lancashire, in 1622. He would seem to have been temporarily converted to Roman catholicism, and settled in London, where he soon came to live on terms of intimacy with noted persons of the Roman catholic persuasion. He attended the ‘Fatal Vespers’ at Blackfriars (26 Oct. 1623), when the floor fell in and almost all the worshippers were killed [see Drury, Robert 1587–1623]. Gee escaped unhurt. He afterwards explained that the fame of the preacher Drury induced him to be present. A few days later the Archbishop of Canterbury summoned him to an interview. The archbishop's chaplains, Goad and Featley, conversed with him, and he readily consented to rejoin the church of England. The supplications of his aged father contributed to this decision. To prove the sincerity of his conversion he published in 1624 ‘The Foot out of the Snare; with a detection of sundry late practices and impostures of the Priests and Iesuites in England; whereunto is added a Catalogue of Popish Bookes lately dispersed in our Kingdome, the Printers, Binders, Sellers, and Dispersers of such Bookes, Romish Priests, and Iesuites resident about London, Popish Physicians practising about London,’ London, 1624. The dedication is to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of both houses of parliament. The book is full of stories, many purporting to be drawn from the author's personal experience, of the deceptions and vices practised by popish priests. Its publication caused intense excitement, and it rapidly passed through four editions. Some Roman catholics, according to Gee, threatened to cut his throat. Many protestants deprecated its vindictive tone. To one Musket, a secular priest, who complained that Gee had falsely called him a jesuit, Gee replied with biting sarcasm in the fourth edition. The work is historically interesting from its wealth of contemporary allusions. It was reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ and the valuable catalogues appear in Foley's ‘Records of the Society of Jesus’ (i. 671–83). An appendix also appeared in 1624 entitled ‘New Shreds of the Old Snare, containing The apparitions of two new female ghosts. The copies of diuers Letters of late intercourse concerning Romish affaires. Speciall Indulgences purchased at Rome, granted to diuers English gentle-beleeuing Catholiques for their ready money. A Catalogue of English Nunnes of the late transportations within these two or three yeares.’ And in the same year Gee preached a sermon at St. Paul's Cross, which he published with a dedication to Sir Robert Naunton. A very popular book of prayers, entitled ‘Steps of Ascension to God, or a Ladder of Heaven,’ 12mo, London, 1625, is ascribed by Wood to Gee's uncle Edward. But the preface shows that it was Gee's own work. The twenty-seventh edition bears date 1677. Gee was afterwards beneficed at Tenterden, Kent, where he died in 1639.

A brother, Sir Orlando Gee (1619–1705), twenty-three years John Gee's junior, was in the service of Algernon, earl of Northumberland, through whose influence he became in 1660 registrar of the court of admiralty, and was knighted 18 Aug. 1682. He married, first, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Maxey, and, secondly, Ann, daughter of Robert Chilcot of Isleworth, Middlesex. Sir Orlando was a benefactor to the parish church of Isleworth, where he was buried in 1705 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iv. 21–2). He married Elizabeth Barker by license dated 17 May 1662 (Chester, Marriage Licences, ed. Foster, p. 535).

[Boase's Register of Exeter College, pp. 211, 232; Foley's Records, i. 74; Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 390–3; Hasted's Kent, iii. 102.]

S. L. L.