Knell, Thomas (DNB00)

KNELL, THOMAS (fl. 1570), divine and verse-writer, was made rector of Wareham, Dorset, in 1569; he was appointed rector of St. Nicholas Acons, London, on 6 March 1570, and resigned before 3 March 1573. On 21 May 1571 he was instituted to the vicarage of Hackney, Middlesex, and on 19 May 1573 to that of St. Bride's. The last preferment he resigned at once, probably because he had become chaplain to Walter Devereux, first earl of Essex [q. v.] With Essex he proceeded to Ireland, and was present at the earl's death on 22 Sept. 1576. A contemporary copy of an account which he drew up of Essex's last illness is preserved in the British Museum (Add. MS. 32092, f. 5). He favoured the current rumour that the earl was poisoned. Knell was author of: 1. ‘Of the Hurt done in divers Parts of this Realm by a terrible Tempest, 20 Oct. 1570,’ 1571 (?). 2. ‘Epitaph on the Death of the Earl of Essex, in English verse’ (in Tanner's time among the Le Gros MSS.)

Knell has been confused with another author of the time, known as Thomas Knell, junior (fl. 1560–1581). The latter, who was probably Knell's son, and was also a clergyman, wrote: 1. ‘An A B C to the Christian Congregation,’ 1560 (?), a broadside. 2. ‘An Epitaph, or rather a short Discourse made upon the Life and Death of Dr. Boner,’ London, 1569, 12mo, reprinted in vol. i. of the ‘Harleian Miscellany.’ 3. ‘A pithy Note to Papists all and some that joy in Felton's Martyrdome,’ London, 1570, 12mo. A copy of this rare work is in the Lambeth Library. It has been reprinted by Collier in vol. i. of ‘Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature.’ 4. ‘An Answer at large to a most Hereticall and Papisticall Byll, in English Verse, which was cast abroade in the Streetes of Northampton, and brought before the Judges at the last Assizes there,’ London, 1570. A copy of this work is in the library of St. John's College, Cambridge, and it has been reprinted in the ‘Collection of Northamptonshire Reprints.’ Another edition, also issued in 1570, was in the Heber Library, and is now in the possession of Mr. S. Christie Miller. The two editions differ in the ‘Answer,’ but the ‘Bill’ of course remains the same. The work is an answer to a Romish ballad ridiculing the marriage of the English clergy. 5. ‘An Historical Discourse of the Life and Death of Dr. Story,’ 1571, 12mo, in English verse. This has been attributed to the elder Knell. 6. ‘A Treatise of the Use and Abuse of Prayer,’ London, 1581 (Tanner). The younger Knell was also author of the ‘Epistle to the Christian Reader’ prefixed to Northbrook's ‘Poore Man's Garden,’ 1573. All the verses by Knell junior are characterised by a strong bias against the Roman catholics.

Thomas Knell, junior, has been erroneously identified by Collier with the Knell (fl. 1586) mentioned (without a christian name) by Nashe in ‘Pierce Penilesse’ and by Heywood in his ‘Apology for Actors’ as a notable actor. Heywood speaks of him as dead before 1609. The actor seems to have been son of John Knell, a vintner, who was buried at St. James's, Garlick Hill, in 1574. He married at the same church one Alice Turner in 1568. John Heming or Hemminge [q. v.] the actor married in March 1587–8 Rebecca, widow of William Knell. Collier conjectures that the latter was the actor to whose christian name we have no other clue. If Collier be right, Rebecca Knell was the actor's second wife. In 1601 a player named Nill lived in Southwark, and had a child, Alice, baptised on 13 Aug.

[Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Newcourt's Repert. i. 317, 505, 620; Collier's Reg. of the Stationers' Company, ii. 3, &c.; Collier's Bibl. Cat. art. ‘Knell;’ Collier's Lives of the Actors (Shakesp. Soc.), p. 63; Heywood's Apol. for Actors, ed. Collier (Shakesp. Soc.), pp. 43, 64; Nashe's Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 93; Ritson's Bibl. Angl. Poet. p. 263; Devereux's Lives of the Earls of Essex, i. 140, 146.]

W. A. J. A.