Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/48

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
 

on Gascoigne, is put forth in ignorance of the university system of the time. Gascoigne was first chancellor in 1434 (Dict. Theol. i. 550 a), when Wood (Fasti, p. 45), though aware of Gascoigne's own statement, describes him as commissary, adding (p. 47) that he filled this post again in 1439. According to the same authority (p. 48) he was again chancellor in the summer of 1442, during the interval between the resignation of William Grey and the election, about Michaelmas, of Henry Sever, the first provost of Eton College and afterwards warden of Merton College. The presumption would be that Gascoigne was on this occasion ‘cancellarius natus,’ were not a doubt cast upon the record by the appearance of another person, John Kexby, as chancellor in July of this year (Munim. Acad. Oxon. ii. 526). Probably Wood has transferred to 1442 a notice which really belongs to the following year, when there is evidence that Gascoigne was ‘cancellarius natus’ on 13 March 1443–4 (ib. p. 533; Wood, Fasti, p. 49). On the day following this notice, the university having sought in vain the acceptance of the post by Richard Praty, bishop of Chichester, Gascoigne was elected to the full dignity of chancellor. He resigned at the beginning of Easter term 1445 and was re-elected, but apparently was unwilling to continue in office. He remained, however, ‘cancellarius natus’ (Munim. Acad. Oxon. ii. 547 f.), and, Wood says (p. 50), ultimately consented to hold the chancellorship, but before the end of the year was succeeded by Robert Burton. Here again Wood is seemingly in error, since Gascoigne more than once says that he was only twice chancellor, though thrice elected (Dict. Theol. i. 311 a, ii. 567 a).

Of Gascoigne's activity as chancellor there are plentiful traces in the university registers. It is not indeed true, as stated by Mr. Rogers, that ‘in 1443 he procured from the king a charter, or letters patent, to the effect that the chancellor of Oxford should always be ex officio a justice of the peace, and in the same year carried a statute by which compurgation should be disallowed in the university court, except at the chancellor's discretion’ (intr. xix, xlv), since the document upon which this statement rests recites expressly that the former privilege was granted by kings Edward and Henry III, and refers generally to various enactments as to the latter, without a hint of their having been procured by Gascoigne, a further note showing them to date from the time of one of his predecessors (Munim. Acad. Oxon. ii. 535–8). These notices possess, however, the interest of having been written in the register Aaa. in Gascoigne's own hand for the guidance of future chancellors; and it was probably through his personal efforts (cf. Dict. Theol. i. 306 a, where he speaks of an interview with Henry VI) that the king in 1444 empowered the chancellor to expel all rebellious and contumacious persons from the precinct, extending twelve miles every way, of the university (Munim. Acad. Oxon. ii. 540). Some years later, in November 1452, Gascoigne was appointed with others to hear an appeal from the chancellor (Register of the Univ. of Oxford, i. 18, ed. C. W. Boase, 1885), and in the summer of the following year he once more acted as ‘cancellarius natus’ (Wood, Fasti, p. 54).

He had been ordained priest in the prebendal church of Thame by Bishop Fleming in 1427 (Dict. Theol. ii. 397 a), and afterwards became rector of Dighton, probably Kirk Deighton in the West Riding of Yorkshire; but resigned this benefice some time—probably long—before 1446 (ib. ii. 304 a). In 1432, on the death of John Kexby (Le Neve, Fasti Eccl. Anglic. iii. 164, ed. Hardy), Archbishop Kemp offered Gascoigne the chancellorship of the church of York; but he refused it, partly from a scruple to be enriched at the expense of two parish churches whose rents and tithes were appropriated to the office (Dict. Theol. ii. 517 a, cf. i. 432 b). Thirteen years later, in 1445, he was given the valuable living of St. Peter's-upon-Cornhill, in the city of London, but he resigned it within the year, 24 Feb. 1445–6, on the ground of feeble health (MS. ap. Rogers, 232). Three years later, 7 Feb. 1448–9, he was installed at the presentation of Bishop Beckington in the prebend of Combe the Tenth in the church of Wells (Dict. Theol. ii. 517 a; Wood ap. Tanner, l. c.)

Throughout his life Gascoigne was an active preacher, vehement in his hostility to the Wycliffite tradition, and as unsparing as Wycliffe himself of evils in the church wherever he found them. In 1436 he received the thanks of the university of Oxford for his sermons at Easter on the sacrament of the altar and in defence of the authority of holy scripture and of the king's prerogatives. It has been said (Rogers, intr. xix) that on this occasion he was given the ‘special title of “Doctor catholicus;”’ but this statement is unsupported by the register, which is our only evidence on the point: this merely describes Gascoigne as ‘doctorem hunc catholicum’ because he argued ‘egregie et catholice’ (Reg. F. ep. iii., ap. Tanner, l. c.). In the last year of his life he headed the thanksgiving service for the deliverance of Belgrade (22 July 1456), and preached before the university at St. Frideswide's in commemoration of the