Jewel by G.W. Bromiley
would not be out of order to examine with more care and in greater
detail the character of this great Reformation leader. Jewell
was one of the most attractive of the leading men of his age.
Although he played his part worthily in the great affairs of
the time, he was the scholar and the recluse rather than the
man of action. He had the strength of quietness rather than the
robustness which goes with the man of affairs. In many respects
his temperament resembled that of Cranmer, but he was not called
to a position of so great and exacting responsibility, and he
found better opportunity for the quiet exercise of his peculiar
talents. Jewell might well be regarded as a strong candidate
for the title of the scholar-saint of the Anglican Reformation.
a scholar he certainly excelled. He had great natural aptitude;
he also had indefatigable industry. His memory was good, so that
with limited library resources - although he himself had a good
private library - he was able to draw constantly upon an almost
illimitable store of learning. Naturally he made mistakes. This
was inevitable when he could only know many writers at second-hand.
But he had the integrity of the true scholar. He never willingly
or wittingly misquoted. He took the utmost pains to check his
references, and was always willing to admit a fault where an
opponent caught him in error. The remarkable thing is that over
so wide a field, and with equipment comparatively so slight,
Jewell made so few mistakes of real consequence.
Like his great
predecessor, Cranmer, Jewell made extensive use of common-place
books, into which he entered everything which served his purpose.
So great did his collection become that he found it necessary
to make a private index. In order that no relevant texts should
be neglected, he kept a diary of passages to be consulted.
Much of his scholarship he owed to his methodical habits, but
the bulk of it he owed to his habit of hard work. The astonishing,
and indeed excessive, hours which he kept in his Oxford days
have already been noted. Even during his busy life as a diocesan
bishop and as the champion of Reformed Anglicanism, Jewell
did not neglect his books. He still rose early in the morning,
and spent some time in writing and study before breakfast. During
meals he normally had readings either of Scripture or of literary
disputations, in order that time should not be lost in idle
and unprofitable talk. By 1660 the back of his task as a student
had been broken, and he already felt competent to issue his
famous challenge. He was now able to make use of the learning
acquired rather than to amass new learning. So omniscient did
Jewell appear that some opponents attributed his knowledge to
Yet with all his learning he remained honest, kindly, and humble
in disputation. He wrote forcibly and strongly where he felt
that he had a solid grounding, but he took no pride in his
own superior attainments, and treated his adversaries with
fairness. It was the custom of the controversialists of the
time to write of their opponents with a vigour which is too
strong for modern tastes. Jewell wrote strongly enough and
he did not mince his words, but he wrote with comparative mildness,
and without excessive bias. He stated facts and convictions
plainly in his controversial writings, but he was always the
scholar first. Occasionally he treated important themes in
perhaps too light a manner, and the criticism has been levelled
against him that he did not always choose the most felicitous
or cautions language. These blemishes do not, however, affect the fundamental
soundness of his learning and understanding.
In his personal life as a diocesan bishop, Jewell attained a very high standard
at a time when many bishops abused their office either by non-attendance
to their business, or by diverting their revenues to personal ends. Of
the returned exiles Aylmer was soon to be notorious for his shady transactions,
especially in the matters of the drapers' wool and the Fulham elms to which
the Marprelate tracts drew attention. Few bishops entered upon their temporalities
without a lawsuit for the recovery of large sums in dilapidations from
their predecessors or their heirs and executors. Jewell was not without his
difficulties, but he kept dear of scandals and conducted himself blamelessly.
He had no desire for personal gain and no taste for luxury. He was hospitable,
as a bishop was expected to be, but his table, although plentiful, was plain.
He himself ate sparingly and lived ascetically. In later life he presented
an emaciated appearance.
Jewell took his responsibilities as a bishop seriously. He aimed particularly
to improve the standard of parochial life, in order that pure religion
might be promoted amongst the people. The state of decay of the universities
and the lack of trained men made his task difficult and indeed well-nigh
impossible. Jewell himself preached a good deal. He always took pains with
his sermons, writing them out and memorizing the heads. Each day he devoted
the afternoon to the business of the diocese. He made a conscientious attempt
to preserve uniformity in his diocese in accordance with the Settlement,
and although he himself had slight Puritan leanings, he maintained the
basic loyalty to the work of the Edwardian Reformers which he had already
displayed at Frankfurt. Of a kindly and even indulgent disposition, Jewell
proved charitable to the poor and to prisoners.
In order to maintain
the tradition of sound scholarship he made it a practice to help
and encourage promising young scholars who were brought to his
notice. It was in this way that the illustrious Hooker gained
his support. As Jewell established the Anglican position against
Romanist attacks, so his pupil and protege was later to establish
it against the Puritans and Separatists. To say that Hooker owed
everything to Jewell would be an exaggeration. Genius has the
power of making its own way. Jewell, however, certainly helped
forward the development of Hooker at a time when adverse conditions
might have checked it. Hooker at many points went beyond his
patron, not always to the best advantage of Anglican theology.
Fundamentally, however, he went forward along the general lines
already laid down by Jewell.
In private life Jewell maintained the
practice of private devotion. He normally breakfasted at eight,
the earlier hours being divided between study and devotion. He
was interested as a good bishop to rule well his own household,
taking a kindly but firm interest in the moral and spiritual
welfare of his servants. Prayers were held at the close of the
day, and Jewell made a habit of enquiring into his servants'
conduct, bestowing praise or calling for amendment as occasion
required. The more personal and patriarchal manner of life
of the sixteenth century made this possible. Although Jewell
was ascetic in many respects, he was not a severe disciplinarian.
He had the saintly graces of kindliness and even jocularity,
and a distinctive humility. Many of the Elizabethan Bishops -
Whitgift, Aylmer, and Bancroft for example - had excellent qualities
and qualifications of their own, but they fell far short of that
saintliness of life and conduct which so well becomes the
episcopal office. Perhaps Matthew Parker, another quiet and
peaceable student, thrust like Cranmer into an office beyond
his powers or ambitions, resembled Jewell most closely in
this respect. Even the bitterest opponent of Jewell could
hardly deny him these eminent qualities of Christian life.
At one point only did Jewell fail badly. During the Marian
persecution he attempted to take the scholar's course, continuing
his academic life irrespective of ecclesiastical change.
Such a course was impossible for a Cranmer, but Jewell had
better hope. Did not Matthew Parker live out the period in
quiet obscurity? Jewell, however, was too much in the centre
of reaction, and his convictions were too well known. He
also had too many envious rivals. The crisis caught him unprepared,
as it caught Cranmer, and even the incorruptible and incomparable
Cheke. In a moment of weakness he renounced his most cherished
It is easy for those who have not to face the stake to accuse
Jewell of cowardice. Perhaps it is true that there was a strain
of pliability and weakness in his character. But Jewell did not
go the whole length and actively espouse the cause of Romanism
for the sake of self-protection and self- advancement. He was
no turncoat like Harding, or like the contemptible Perne, who
in Elizabeth's day re-found his Protestantism. Jewell himself
knew and bitterly repented of his weakness. Those who admire
him for the Christian graces which he did display would do well
to extend to him the judgment of humility and charity, seeking
to emulate him in saintly living, and praying that in a like
emergency they would be granted the fortitude to confess and
to endure for the truth's sake.