The Life of Sir Thomas Bodley Written By Himself


IN sending out to my friends
this reprint of the rare little
Life of Sr Thomas Bodley,
'written by himselfe,' my
motive for selecting this par-
ticular work for the purpose will be suffi-
ciently obvious to them : what may be likely
to cause more speculation would, however,
be unaccounted for without this prefatory
note—viz., my reasons for selecting Bodley
as the patron saint of my business.

I have always been in doubt whether
the writing of a great book or the capacity



to appreciate it were the finest thing in the
world; but I am convinced that next in im-
portance after the writing and the appreciating
is the publishing of it. It was this which
led me to regard the starting of a publishing
business as a thing to be achieved sooner
or later.

In July 1887, in company with my friend
Mr. R. W. Wilson of the British Museum,
I was one day at an exhibition in the Rem-
brandt Head Gallery in Vigo Street; and,
casually asking the proprietor, Mr. Dunthorne,
if he knew of any cosy little corner where a
book-shop would be in fit setting, he at once
rejoined that the premises in the same street,
where he had originally hung up the sign of
the Rembrandt Head, were vacant, and that
he would be pleased to show them to me. I
saw them, liked them, and at once made up
my mind that here was the spot I had been
looking for. 'It should have a sign,' I
mused: Mr. Dunthorne's had captivated me.
The inspiration waited on the wish: it should



be The Bodley Head. Bodley, the most pious
of founders! Who could so fittingly be
enshrined as patron? Besides, Bodley was
one of the most notable worthies of Devon,
my native county, and had I needed a con-
tributory motive, this would have been an
ample one.

Mr. C. Elkin Mathews was then in business
at Exeter; and as we had already arranged
that when opportunity offered itself we should
join forces, he came to London at once in
response to my summons, saw and liked the
place as much as I did. The premises were
taken in Mr. Mathews' name, for I was not
at first to take an active part, and we walked
away discussing the future.

'It should have a sign,' I said, 'and I
have thought The Bodley Head is what it
should be.' 'The very same idea was in
my own mind,' answered my partner, fresh
from Exeter, Sir Thomas Bodley's birthplace;
and consumed as he was at the time with
that passion for old literature which would,



Exeter even apart, have made the coincidence
perfectly natural. So The Bodley Head it

In 1888 I made the acquaintance of Mr.
Richard Le Gallienne, and in 1889 intro-
duced him to Mr. Mathews, with the result
that there shortly appeared the first book
with the imprint of The Bodley Head, Mr.
Le Gallienne's first published book, Volumes
in Folio

Many others followed it, and in February
1892 it seemed desirable that our partnership
should be indicated in the style of the firm,
and that I should devote the whole of my
time to the business.

About two years and a half later our seven
years' partnership attained its term, and from
October 1st 1894 we have been working

By mutual arrangement, for our separation
was of a perfectly cordial character, the sign
of The Bodley Head was transferred to my
new offices opposite.



The very interesting copy of the Life on
which this reprint is modelled was presented
to me by Mr. Mathews.

To Mr. G. F. Bodley, A.R.A., the well-
known architect, a collateral descendant of
Sir Thomas, I owe the opportunity of em-
bellishing it with an engraving of the Bodley
Medal, struck from the design of Jean Warin,
of which only three copies are known to

To my friend Mr. Walter Blaikie, of the
firm of T. and A. Constable of Edinburgh,
I am grateful for the thought and care he
has bestowed on this modern reprint of the
original pamphlet, which, although larger in
size, is here reproduced page for page and
line for line, from type as befits the subject,
and not by any modern process.

For the photo-etchings of the medal and
portrait I have to thank the Swan Electric
Engraving Company, which has generously
presented them to the book.

I have not attempted to add anything fresh,




except the illustrations, though many interest-
ing facts might be gleaned; but although
later on occasion may present itself, here, it
appears to me, such additions would be out
of place.

                JOHN LANE.

    The Bodley Head,
        CHRISTMAS 1894.

THE LIFE OF Sr THOMAS BODLEY, THE HONOVRABLE FOVNDER OF                              THE PVBLIQVE LIBRARY in the VNIVERSITY of OXFORD VVritten by                                    HimSelfe.                        OXFORD, Printed by HENRY HALL Printer                              to the UNIVERSITIE. 1647.

To the READER.

WHEN the Great Reftorer of Learning,
our Munificent Benefactour,Sir
MAS BODLEY,made the happy Ex-
change of the troubles of this life,
with the Glories of a better; The Vni-
verfity, according to the greatneffe of his merits,
and their loffe, in folemne griefe and fadneffe,
attended at his Obfequies. But left the uncha-
ritable cenfure of the world fhould apprehend our
thankfulneffe buried in the fame grave with him, and
cold as his dead afhes, in that we pay no after tribute
to fo engaging a defert; VVe bring to the Altar of
Eternity that part of him which yet, and ever muft
furvive. A Monument freed from the lawes of time
and ruine; Supported with the vigour of that name,
which hath a feminall ftrength within it felfe, to
make whole volumes live. But left the judging and
feverer eye, viewing the nakedneffe of this relation,
may thence defpife the pooreneffe of our endeavour:
That I may fpeake the worke above all fcorne, above
all praife; it was his Owne. Nor durft we call that
draught in queftion, which felt the hand of fo exact
a Mafter; but with awe lookt on it, as on the fabrique
of an ancient Temple, where the ruine furthers our
Devotion; and gaudy ornaments doe but prophane the


To the READER.

fad religion of the place. 'Tis true, it favours not the
language of our age, that hath the Art to murther
with a smile, and fold a curfe within a prayer, but
fpeakes the Rhetoricke of that better world, where
vertue was the garbe, and truth the complement.
Thofe actions are of low and empty worth, that can
fhine onely when the varnifh of our words doth gild
them over. The true Diamond fparkles in its rocke,
and in defpight of darkeneffe makes a day. Here then
you shall behold Actions with the fame integrity fet
downe, as they were firft perform'd. A Hiftory de-
fcrib'd, as it was liv'd. A Councellour that admitted
ftill Religion to the Cabinet: and in his active aimes
had a defigne on Heaven. A fpirit of that height,
that happineffe, as in a private fortune to out-doe
the fam'd magnificence of mighty Princes: whil'ft his
fingle worke clouds the proud fame of the
Library; and fhames the tedious growth o'th weal-
Vatican. I know how hard a taske 'twill be to
perfwade any to copy out from this faire patterne; how-
ever we cannot yet fo farre defpaire of ingenuity, as
not to expect even from th'unconcern'd difintereffed
Reader, a cleare efteeme and juft refentment of it.
If we gaine but fhis, we fhall in part reft fatisfied: In
an age fo wholly lost to vice, conceiving it a great de-
gree of vertue to confeffe the luftre of that good which
our perverfe endeavours ftill avoyde.



I WAS borne at Exeter in De-
the fecond of March,
1544. defcended both by
Father and Mother of wor-
fhipfull parentage. By my Fa-
thers fide, from an antient
Family of Bodley, or Bodleigh of Dunfcombe by
Crediton; and by my Mother, from Robert Hone Efquire, of Otterey Saint Mary, nine miles
from Exeter; my Father in the time of Queen
Mary, being noted and knowne to be an ene-
my to Popery, was fo cruelly threatned, and
fo narrowly obferved, by thofe that maliced
his Religion, that for the fafeguard of him-
felfe and my Mother, who was wholly affe-
cted as my Father, he knew no way fo fecure,
as to fly into Germany: where after a while


2 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

he found meanes to call over my Mother,
with all his children and family, whom he
fetled for a time at VVefell in Cleveland, (for
there, as then, were many Englifh, which had
left their Country for their confcience, and
with quietneffe enjoyed their meetings and
preachings;) and from thence we removed to
the Towne of Franckfort, where was in like
fort another Englifh Congregation. How-
beit we made no long tarriance in either of
thofe two Townes, for that my Father had
refolved to fixe his abode in the City of Gene-
, where, as farre as I remember, the Englifh
Church confifted of fome hundred perfons.
I was at that time of twelve yeares age, but
through my Fathers coft and care, fufficiently
inftructed to become an Auditour of Cheva-
in Hebrew, of Berealdus in Greeke, of
Calvin and Beza in Divinity, and of fome o-
ther Profeffours in that Vniverfity, (which
was newly then erected) befides my dome-
fticall teachers, in the houfe of Philibertus Sa-
, a famous Phyfitian in that City, with
whom I was boarded: where Robertus Con-
, that made the Greeke Lexicon, read
Homer unto me. Thus I remained there two


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 3

yeares' and more, untill fuch time as our Nati-
on was advertifed of the death of Queene Ma-
, & fuccefsion of Elizabeth, with the change
of Religion, which caufed my Father to ha-
ften into England, where he came with my
Mother, and with all their family, within the
firft of the Queene, and fetled their dwelling
in the City of London. It was not long after,
that I was fent away from thence to the Vni-
verfity of Oxford, recommended to the teach-
ing and tuition of Doctour Humfrey, who
was fhortly after chofen the chiefe Reader in
Divinity, and Prefident of Magdalen Col-
ledge; there I followed my ftudies till I tooke
the degree of Batchelour of Arts, which was
in the yeare, 1563. within which yeare I was
alfo chosen Probationer of Merton Colledge,
and the next yeare enfuing admitted Fellow.
Afterwards, to wit in the yeare, 1565. by fpe-
ciall perfwafion of fome of my fellowes, and
for my private exercife, I undertooke the pub-
lique reading of a Greeke lecture, in the fame
Colledge Hall, without requiring or expe-
cting any ftipend for it; Nevertheleffe it plea-
fed the Fellowfhip of their owne accord to
allow me foone after foure markes by the



4 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

yeare, and ever fince to continue that Lecture
to the Colledge. In the yeare of our Lord
1566. I proceeded Mafter of Arts, and read
for that yeare in the Schoole-ftreets Naturall
Philofophy; after which time, within leffe
then three yeares fpace, I was wonne by in-
treaty of my beft affected friends, to ftand for
the Proctourfhip, to which I and my Col-
league, Mafter Bearblocke of Exeter Colledge,
were quietly elected in the yeare 1569. with-
out any competion or counterfuite of any o-
ther. After this for a long time, I fupplyed the
office of the Vniverfity Oratour, and beftow-
ed my time in the ftudy of fundry faculties,
without any inclination to profeffe any one a-
boue the reft, infomuch as at laft I waxed de-
firous to travell beyond the Seas, for attaining
to the knowledge of fome fpeciall moderne
tongues, and for the encreafe of my experi-
ence in the managing of affaires, being
wholly then addicted to employ my felfe, and
all my cares, in the publique fervice of the
State. My refolution fully taken I departed out
of England Anno 1576. and continued very
neare foure yeares abroad, and that in fundry
parts of Italy, France, and Germany. A good


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 5

while after my returne, to wit, in the yeare
1585. I was employed by the Queene to Fre-
Father to the prefent King of Den-
, to Iulius Duke of Brunfwicke, to VVilli-
am Lantgrave
of Heffe, and other German
Princes: the effect of my meffage was, to
draw them to joine their forces with hers,
for giving affiftance to the King of Navarre
now Henry the fourth King of France. my
next employment was to Henry the third, at
fuch time as he was forced by the Duke of
Guife to fly out of Paris; which I performed in
fuch fort, as I had in charge with extraordi-
nary fecrecy: not being accompanied with a-
ny one fervant (for fo much I was command-
ed) nor with any other Letters, then fuch as
were written with the Queenes owne hand,
to the King, and fome felected perfons about
him; the effect of that meffage it is fit I fhould
conceale. But it tended greatly to the advan-
tage, not onely of the King, but of all the Pro-
teftants in France, & to the Dukes apparent o-
verthrow, which alfo followed foon upon it.
It fo befell after this, in the year 88. that for the
better conduct of her Highneffe affaires in the
Provinces united, I was thought a fit perfon


6 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

to refide in thofe parts, and was fent thereup-
on to the Hague in Holland, where according
to the contract that had formerly paft, be-
tweene her Highneffe and the States, I was
admitted for one of their Councell of Eftate,
taking place in their Affemblies next to Count
Maurice, and yeilding my fuffrage in all that
was propofed. During all that time what ap-
probation was given of my painefull endea-
vours by the Queene, Lords in England, by
the States of the Country there, and by all the
Englifh Souldiery, I referre it to be notified
by fome others relation; fith it was not un-
knowne to any of any calling, that then were
acquainted with the State of that govern-
ment. For at my firft comming thither, the
people of that Country ftood in dangerous
termes of difcontentment, partly for fome
courfes that were held in England, as they
thought, to their fingular prejudice, but moft
of all in refpect of the infolent demeanour of
fome of her Highneffe Minifters, which one-
ly refpected their private emolument, little
weighing in their dealing what the Queene
had contracted with the States of the Coun-
try; whereupon was conceived a mighty feare


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 7

on every fide, that both a prefent diffolution of
the Contract would enfue, and a downright
breach of amity betweene us and them. Now
what meanes I fet a foot for redreffe of thofe
perils, and by what degrees the ftate of things
was reduced into order, it would require a
long treatife to report it exactly; but this I may
averre with modefty and truth, and the
Country did alwaies acknowledge it with
gratitude, that had I not of my felfe, without
any direction from my Superiours, proceed-
ed in my charge with extreame circumfpecti-
on, as well in all my fpeeches and propofalls
to the States, as in the tenour of my letters
that I writ into England, fome fuddaine a-
larme had beene given, to the utter fubverfi-
on and ruine of the State of thofe Provinces:
which in proceffe of time muft needs have
wrought in all probability, the felf-fame ef-
fect in the ftate of this Realme. Of this my di-
ligence and care in the managing of my bufi-
nes, there was, as I have fignified, very fpeci-
all notice taken by the Queene and State at
home, for which I received from her Majefty
many comfortable Letters of her gracious ac-
ceptance: as withall from that time forward


8 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

I did never receive allmoft any fet inftructi-
ons how to governe my proceedings in her
Majefties occafions, but the carriage in a man-
ner of all her affaires was left to mee and my
direction. Through this my long abfence
out of England, which wanted very little of
five whole yeares, my private eftate did
greatly require my fpeedy returne, which
when I had obtained by interceffion of
friends, and a tedious fuite, I could enjoy but a
while, being fhortly after enjoyned to repaire
to the Hague againe. Nevertheleffe upon a
certaine occafion to deliver unto her fome fe-
cret overtures, and of performing thereupon
an extraordinary fervice, I came againe home
within leffe then a Twelve-moneth: and I
was no fooner come, but, her Highneffe em-
bracing the fruit of my difcoveries, I was pre-
fently commanded to returne to the States
with charge to purfue thofe affaires to perfor-
mance, which I had fecretly propofed; and
according to the project which I had concei-
ved, and imparted unto her, all things were
concluded and brought to that iffue that was
inftantly defired, whereupon I procured my
laft revocation. Now here I can not choofe


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 9

but in making report of the principall acci-
dents that have fallen unto me in the courfe
of my life, but record among the reft, that
from the very firft day I had no man more to
friend among the Lords of the Councell,
then was the Lord Treafurer Burleigh: for
when occafion had beene offered of decla-
ring his conceit as touching my fervice, he
would alwaies tell the Queen (which I recei-
ved from her felfe and fome other ear-witnef-
fes) that there was not any man in England fo
meet as my felfe to undergoe the office of the
Secretary. And fithence his fonne, the prefent
Lord Treafurer, hath fignified unto me in
private conference, that when his father firft
intended to advance him to that place, his
purpofe was withall to make me his Col-
league. But the cafe ftood thus in my behalf:
before fuch time as I returned from the Pro-
vinces united, which was in the yeare 1597.
and likewife after my returne, the then Earle
of Effex did ufe mee fo kindly both by letters
and meffages, and other great tokens of his
inward favours to me, that although I had
no meaning, but to fettle in my mind my
cheifeft defire and dependance upon the


10 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

Lord Burleigh, as one that I reputed to be
both the beft able, and therewithall the moft
willing to worke my advancement with the
Queene, yet I know not how, the Earle,
who fought by all devifes to divert her love
and liking both from the Father and the Son
(but from the Sonne in fpeciall) to withdraw
my affection from the one and the other, and
to winne mee altogether to depend upon
himfelfe, did fo often take occafion to enter-
taine the Queene with fome prodigall fpee-
ches of my fufficiency for a Secretary, which
were ever accompanied with words of dif-
grace against the prefent Lord Treafurer, as
neither fhe her felfe, of whofe favour before
I was throughly affured, tooke any great
pleafure to preferre me the fooner, (for fhe
hated his ambition, and would give little
countenance to any of his followers) and
both the Lord Burleigh and his Sonne waxed
jealous of my courfes, as if under hand I had
beene induced by the cunning and kindneffe
of the Earle of Effex, to oppofe my felfe a-
gainft their dealings. And though in very
truth they had no folid ground at all of the
leaft alteration in my difpofition towards ei-


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 11

ther of them both, (for I did greatly refpect
their perfons and places, with a fetled refolu-
tion to doe them any fervice, as alfo in my
heart I detefted to be held of any faction
whatfoever) yet the now Lord Treafurer,
upon occafion of fome talke, that I have fince
had with him, of the Earle and his actions,
hath freely confeffed of his owne accord un-
to me, that his daily provocations were fo bit-
ter and fharpe againft him, and his compari-
fons fo odious, when he put us in a ballance,
as he thought thereupon he had very great
reafon to ufe his beft meanes, to put any man
out of hope of raifing his fortune, whom the
Earle with fuch violence, to his extreame pre-
judice, had endeavoured to dignifie. And this,
as he affirmed, was all the motive he had to
fet himfelfe againft me, in whatfoever might
redound to the bettering of my eftate, or in-
creafing of my credit and countenance with
the Queene. When I had throughly now be-
thought me, firft in the Earle, of the flender
hold-faft that he had in the favour of the
Queene, of an endleffe oppofition of the chei-
feft of our Statef-men like ftill to waite upon
him, of his perillous, and feeble, and uncertain



12 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

advice, afwell in his owne, as in all the caufes
of his friends: and when moreover for my
felfe I had fully confidered how very unto-
wardly thefe two Counfellours were affected
unto me, (upon whom before in cogitation I
had framed all the fabrique of my future pro-
fperity) how ill it did concurre with my na-
turall difpofition, to become, or to be counted
either a ftickler or partaker in any publique
faction, how well I was able, by God's good
bleffing, to live of my felfe, if I could be con-
tent with a competent livelyhood; how fhort
time of further life I was then to expect by the
common courfe of nature: when I had, I fay,
in this manner reprefented to my thoughts
my particular eftate, together with the Earles,
I refolved thereupon to poffeffe my foule in
peace all the refidue of my daies, to take my
full farewell of State imployments, to fatisfie
my mind with that mediocrity of worldly li-
ving that I had of my owne, and fo to retire
me from the Court, which was the epilogue
and end of all my actions and endeavours of
any important note, till I came to the age of
fifty three. Now although after this, by her
Majeftie's direction, I was often called to the


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 13

Court, by the now Lord Treafurer, then Se-
cretary, as required by him, as alfo divers
times fince, by order from the King, to ferve as
Embaffadour in France; to goe a Commiffio-
ner from his Highneffe, for concluding the
truce betweene Spaine and the Provinces, and
to negotiate in other very honourable im-
ployments, yet I would not be removed from
my former finall refolution, infomuch as at
length, to induce me the fooner to returne to
the Court, I had an offer made me by the pre-
fent Lord Treafurer (for in proceffe of time
he faw, as he himfelfe was pleafed to tell me
more then once, that all my dealing was up-
right, faithfull, and direct) that in cafe I my
felfe were willing unto it, he would make me
his affociate in the Secretaries office; And to
the intent I might beleive that he intended it
Bonâ fide, he would get me out of hand to be
fworne of the Counfell. And for the better
enabling of my ftate to maintaine fuch a dig-
nity, whatfoever I would aske, that might be
fit for him to deale in, and for me to enjoy, he
would prefently follicite the King to give it
paffage. All which perfwafions notwith-
ftanding, albeit I was often affaulted by him,


14 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

in regard of my yeares, and for that I felt my
felfe fubject to many indifpofitions, befides
fome other private reafons which I referve un-
to my felfe, I have continued ftill at home, my
retired courfe of life, which is now methinks
to me as the greateft preferment that the State
can afford. Onely this I muft truly confeffe of
my felfe, that though I did never repent me
yet of thofe and fome other my often refufalls
of honourable offers, in refpect of enriching
my private eftate, yet fomewhat more of late I
have blamed my felfe, & my nicety that way,
for the love that I beare to my Reverend Mo-
ther the Vniverfity of Oxford, and to the ad-
vancement of her good, by fuch kind of means
as I have since undertaken. For thus I fell to di-
fcourfe and debate in my mind, that although
I might find it fitteft for me, to keep out of the
throng of Court contentions, & addreffe my
thoughts & deeds to fuch ends altogether, as I
my felfe could beft affect ; yet with all I was to
think, that my duty towards God, the expecta-
tion of the world, my naturall inclination, &
very morality, did require, that I fhould not
wholly fo hide thofe little abilities that I had,
put that in fome meafure, in one kind or other,


The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY. 15

I fhould doe the true part of a profitable mem-
ber in the State: whereupon examining exactly
for the reft of my life, what courfe I might take,
and having fought (as I thought, all the waies to
the wood) to felect the moft proper, I conclu-
ded at the laft to fet up my Staffe at the Library
doore in Oxford; being throughly perfwaded,
that in my folitude and furceafe from the Com-
mon-wealth affaires, I could not bufy my felfe
to better purpofe, then by reducing that place
(which then in every part lay ruined and waft)
to the publique ufe of Students; For the effecting
whereof, I found my felfe furnifhed in a
competent proportion, of fuch foure kindes of
aides, as unleffe I had them all, there was no
hope of good fucceffe. For without fome kinde
of knowledge, as well in the learned and mo-
derne tongues, as in fundry other forts of fcho-
lafticall literature, without fome purfe-ability
to goe through with the charge, without very
great ftore of honourable friends to further the
defigne,and without fpeciall good leifure to fol-
low fuch a worke, it could but have proved a
vaine attempt, and inconfiderate. But how well
I have fped in all my endeavours, and how full
provifion I have made for the benefit and eafe


16 The life of Sir THOMAS BODLEY.

of all frequenters of the Library, that which I
have already performed in fight, that befides
which I have given for the maintenance of it,
and that which hereafter I purpofe to adde, by
way of enlargement to that place (for the pro-
ject is caft, and whether I live or dye it fhall be,
God willing, put in full execution) will teftifie
fo truly and aboundantly for me, as I need not
be the publifher of the dignity and worth of
mine owne Inftitution. Written with my owne
1609. December the 15.


Thus farre our Noble Author of himfelfe. Who like to
the firft Pen-man if the facred hiftory, feemes to furvive his
grave, and to defcribe unto us his owne death. For having fi-
nifhed that great worke which future times fhall ever honour,
never equall, be yeilded to his fate. As being unwilling tbe glo-
ry if that deed fhould be deflour'd by the fucceffion if an act leffe
high then it. On the
29th of January, in the yeare, 1612. his
pure Soule attain'd tbe freedome of its owne divinity: leaving
his borrow'd earth, the fad remainder of innocence and frailty,
to be depofited in
Merton Colledge: Who had the happineffe to
call his Education hers, and to be intrufted with fo deare a
Pledge of immortality.



MLA citation: Bodley, Thomas.The Life of Sir Thomas Bodley Written By Himself. London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1894. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2012. Web. [Date of access].