Open main menu

Harding, Thomas (1516-1572) (DNB00)

HARDING, THOMAS (1516–1572), divine and controversialist, was born at Beckington, Somersetshire, in 1516, and educated first at Ba'rnstaple school, and afterwards at Winchester, where he obtained a scholarship in 1528 at the age of twelve (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 116). From Winchester he passed to New College, Oxford, and after two years of probation became fellow (1536). He took his M.A. degree in 1542, and, 'being esteemed a knowing person in the tongues,' was selected by Henry VIII for the Hebrew professorship. About this time he became chaplain to Henry Grey, marquis of Dorchester, afterwards duke of Suffolk. During the reign of Edward VI he was a strong upholder of the reformed religion, and is said to have 'animated the people much to prepare for persecution, and never to depart from the gospel.' To Harding's protestant zeal was probably attributable the fact that King Edward issued letters directing the fellows of New College to elect him warden (Strype). During this time Harding was contemporary at Oxford with John Jewel [q. v.], also a Devonshire man, who was lecturing with great distinction at Corpus. On the accession of Queen Mary both Harding and Jewel subscribed the required declaration, but the latter quickly repented and escaped, whereas Harding accepted the Romish views with ardour, and probably with sincerity. As chaplain to her father Harding was well known to Lady Jane Grey, in whose religious education he had assisted. When his ready conversion to Romanism became known to this lady, she wrote to Harding from her prison a most severe letter, in which she declares, 'I cannot but marvel at thee, and lament thy case, which seemed sometime to be the lively member of Christ, but now the deformed imp of the devil; sometime the beautiful temple of God, but now the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan; sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unshameful paramour of Antichrist,' &c. This violent language did not, however, move Harding, who now became prebendary of Winchester, chaplain and confessor to Bishop Gardiner, and (July 1555) treasurer of the church of Salisbury. Of this office he was deprived on the accession of Elizabeth, being not prepared to accept another change in his religious views. Harding retired at once to Louvain, where he was attached to the church of St. Gertrude. His famous controversy with Jewel began by his publication at Louvain in 1564 of an 'Answer to M. Jewel's Challenge,' made in a sermon preached at Paul's Cross four years previously. This well-known challenge specified a large number of points, on any one of which, if he was confuted out of scripture and the ancient fathers, Jewel declared himself ready to accept Romanism. Harding undertakes to confute him from these sources, not on one only, but on all the points which he had put forward. His treatise was written with great violence and scurrility. Jewel answered it at enormous length in a treatise defending all the twenty-three articles of the challenge. Before seeing this, Harding wrote another work against Jewel, directed against his 'Apology for the Church of England,' under the title of 'Confutation of a Book called Apology of the Church of England,' Antwerp, 1565. Jewel published a 'Defence,' to which Harding replied by a 'Detection of sundry foul Errors, Slanders, Corruptions, and other false Dealings touching Doctrine and other Matters uttered and practised by M. Jewel, in a book lately by him set forth, entitled a "Defence of the Apology," ' Louvain, 1568. Jewel now published a reissue of his 'Defence,' combined with a confutation of Harding's 'Detection.' This forms a treatise of immense length. Harding had previously written (in the matter of the challenge) a 'Rejoinder to Mr. Jewel's Reply,' Antwerp, 1566, and 'Another Rejoinder to Mr. Jewel's Reply against the Sacrifice of the Mass,' Louvain, 1567. Thus two sets of controversial treatises were going on simultaneously between these two insatiable disputants. They seem to have been fairly matched in learning and power, but Harding certainly excels the bishop in invective. The Romanist party looked upon Harding as a most formidable champion. Most of his treatises were translated into Latin by his countryman, William Reynolds, but, according to Wood, 'money being wanting, their publication was therefore hindered.' Harding died at Louvain in 1572, and was buried (16 Sept.) in the church of St. Gertrude, where a monument with a simple Latin inscription marks his tomb.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, vol. i.; Works of Bishop Jewel, London, fol. 1611; Foxe's Acts and Monuments, vol. iii., London, 1684; Prince's Worthies of Devon, ed. 1701. pp. 383-386.]

G. G. P.