Thursday, August 16, 2012

6: John Bale (1495-1563), ‘bilious’ bishop and playwright

John Bale ... spent only six months in Ireland as Bishop of Ossory in 1553

Patrick Comerford

John Bale (1495-1563) was an English theologian, historian, controversialist, playwright, literary historian and Bishop of Ossory, whose unhappy disposition and habit of quarrelling earned him the nickname “bilious Bale.”

He was born in the village of Cove, near Dunwich in Suffolk, on 21 November 1495, into a family of humble origins. He was one of several children of Henry and Margaret Bale.

At the age of 12 he was sent to the Convent of Carmelite Friars in Norwich, where he received his schooling. The convent contained an extensive library which Bale later described as “noble and fair.” From Norwich, he moved to the house of Holme, which may be the Benedictine house at Hulme in Norfolk or the Carmelite Priory at Holn Abbey, near Alnwick in Northumberland.

Jesus College, Cambridge ... Bale claimed he was a student here but there is no university record of any degrees conferred on him (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Later, it has been said, Bale entered Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1514. The best-known of the Reformers associated with Jesus College was Thomas Cranmer, later Archbishop of Canterbury. It is presumed Bale took the degrees BA (Bachelor of Arts), and then MA (Master of Arts) in 1519. Bale says he also spent time abroad, studying in Toulouse and Louvain, before returning to Cambridge. It is has been accepted widely that he received the degree BD (Bachelor of Divinity) in 1528 or 1529, and some accounts also say he later received the degree DD (Doctor of Divinity) in either 1531 or 1551.

Although Bale is listed by Venn and others, there is no university record of any degrees conferred on him, and Richard Rex in a recent study has pointed out that there is no evidence that Bale was ever at Jesus College. Bale says he spent 15 years at Cambridge, but Rex says the traditional account of his time at Jesus College arises from a misinterpretation by the Stuart antiquary Thomas Fuller of Bale's own recollections.

A plaque at Chetwynd Court, King’s College, Cambridge, marking the site of the White House Tavern where Matthew Parker joined those who discussed Reformation ideas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At first, Bale was an opponent of the new learning and a zealous Roman Catholic. But in Cambridge he came into close contact with Reformed-minded thinkers who were discussing Luther’s writings at the White Horse Inn, which came to be called “Little Germany.” Those who met there from 1521 on included Thomas Cranmer, future Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Barnes, Prior of the Austin Friars in Cambridge and a future martyr, Hugh Latimer, later one of the Oxford martyrs, Thomas Bilney, who changed Latimer’s views about the Reformation, Stephen Gardiner, later Bishop of Winchester, Miles Coverdale, translator of the Bible and future Bishop of Exeter, Matthew Parker, later Archbishop of Canterbury, William Tyndale, Bible translator, and Nicholas Shaxton, later Bishop of Salisbury, as well as John Bale.

Many of the group in the White Horse had been influenced by a new translation of the New Testament by Erasmus and by the ideas of Luther. Many of them also preached at the Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr, close to King’s College, Cambridge.

After leaving Cambridge, with or without a degree, Bale seems to have gone to the Carmelite community in Maldon as Prior. By 1530, he had been transferred to the Carmelite Convent in Doncaster, where he was Prior.

In 1533, he was elected Prior of the Carmelite Friary (Whitefirars) in Ipswich. In the past, the Carmelite friars at Ipswich included John Kynyngham, who was the confessor of John of Gaunt and debated frequently at Oxford with John Wycliffe; Nicholas Kenton, the historian, poet, philosopher, theologian and orator, who became the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1445; and Thomas Lavenham, author of a Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics and one of the first fellows of All Souls’ College, Oxford in 1447.

At Ipswich, Bale wrote a number of works and made an intensive survey of the writers of Britain whose works were preserved in the monastic libraries of his time. But he was the last Prior, and before the Dissolution of the Monasteries he laid aside his monastic habit, renounced his vows, and caused great scandal by marrying, saying, “that I might never more serve so execrable a beast, I took to wife the faithful Dorothy, listening attentively to this divine saying: let him who cannot be content seek a wife.” Earlier, he had stated that it was better to marry than “to burn.”

His marriage angered the clergy of Ipswich, but he soon left Ipswich and became the Vicar of Thorndon in Suffolk.At an early stage in East Anglia, he enjoyed the patronage of Thomas, 1st Lord Wentworth, to whom he later attributed his conversion.

In 1534, he was called before the Archbishop of York to answer for a sermon he had preached at Doncaster, attacking the invocation of saints. Later he was called before John Stokesley, Bishop of London, but he avoided imprisonment through the powerful protection of Thomas Cromwell. Bale is said to have attracted Cromwell’s attention by his dramas, which were morality plays, or scriptural plays setting forth the reformed opinions.

In these plays, Bale denounced the monastic system and its supporters in unrestrained language and coarse imagery. The prayer of Infidelitas, which opens the second act of his Three Laws is an example of his profane parody. These brutal productions were intended to impress popular feeling, and Cromwell found in him an invaluable instrument.

When Cromwell fell from favour in 1540, Bale fled with his wife and children to Flanders and then to Germany, where he continued his controversial writings. His works there included collections of martyrologies of the supporters of Wycliffe, A brief Chronicle concerning the Examination and Death of Sir John Oldcastle, collected by John Bale out of the books and writings of those Popish Prelates which were present, which was published in 1544.

In 1546, he published an attack on the monastic system, The Actes of Englyshe Votaryes. In Marburg in 1547, he published three lives The Examinations of Lord Cobham, William Thorpe and Anne Askewe, &c. In Germany he also published the Pageant of Popes.

Bale returned to England on the accession of King Edward VI in 1547, and shared in the triumph of the more radical reformers. He received the living of Bishopstoke, near Eastleigh in Hampshire.

In 1550, while he was the Rector of Bishopstoke, he published in London The Image of bothe Churches after the most wonderfull and heavenlie Revelacion of Sainct John, written while he was in exile. This is the best example of Bale’s polemical abilities, showing his learning, his rude vigour of expression, and his want of good taste and moderation.

The Image of Both Churches is a thorough commentary on the Book of Revelation. Bale proceeded by taking short passages and following with a detailed paraphrase to explain the meaning and significance of such things as the opening of the seven seals, the first beast, the second beast with two horns, the blowing of the trumpets, and the going forth of the horsemen.

Bale’s primary concern was the identification of Antichrist. His understanding of the Book of Revelation differs markedly from the current popular view. For example, he knows nothing of a future Antichrist, a charming wonder-working man who will rise up at the very end of the age. This concept was taught by the Roman Catholic Church, but was refuted by Reformers, including William Tyndale and Martin Luther. Bale, however, says Antichrist is with us now, in the image of a Church. The opening of the seals describes what happens when God’s word is brought forth into the light. He believed that he was living in the time of the opening of the sixth seal, the Reformation, a time of great upheaval when the Scriptures were being freed from the grip of Rome. He understood the time of the seventh seal was when God’s word would go forth more freely and peacefully: the final season of God’s word while the present world stands.

Bale’s central thesis is that the Book of Revelation is a prophecy of how God’s word and those who love it (the “saints”) would fare at the hands of a false Church during the last age, between the Ascension of Christ and the end of the world.

Bale identified two types of churches. First there was, and would be until the end of the age, a false church, or Church of Antichrist, which persecutes those who do not bow to its dictates. He also speaks critically of Islam as the Church of Mohammed (“Mahomet”): its tyranny over the people (the “Turks”) and persecution of the saints. Bale’s view is that persecutions reflect the image of Antichrist’s Church. By contrast, the true Church loves and teaches God’s word truly.

The Image of Both Churches reflects clearly by the tenor and terror of the time. When Edmund Becke republished the Matthew Bible, revising many of the original 1537 notes and commentaries, he included Bale’s commentaries on the Book of Revelation and referred his readers to The Image of Both Churches.

In 1551, Bale was appointed Vicar of Swaffham in Norfolk, but he does not appear to have lived there. When Edward VI met Bale when he visited Southampton in August 1552, and on 22 October the king nominated Bale as Bishop of Ossory, a diocese vacant since the death of Milo Baron two years earlier in 1550.

Bale arrived in Bristol on 29 December 1552, but did not set sail for Ireland until 21 January 1553, and he arrived in Waterford after two days and two nights at sea. He set out for Dublin on horse the next day and stayed overnight in Knocktopher, Co Kilkenny, at the house of Adam Walsh, his commissary for the Diocese of Ossory.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... Bale insisted on Archbishop George Browne using the 1552 Prayer Book, which had not been authorised for use in the Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From the beginning, Bale showed himself an uncompromising upholder of Reformation principles. When he was being ordained bishop in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 2 February 1553, he refused to be consecrated by the traditional rites used in the Church of Ireland., insisting that he was sworn to obey the laws of England.

The Irish bishops had not yet accepted the new ‘Form of Consecrating Bishops’ adopted by the English parliament, and it had not received the sanction of the Irish Parliament. Bale refused to be ordained by the old ritual, and despite opposition from the Archbishop of Dublin, George Browne, and the Lord Chancellor, Thomas Cusack, Bale won his point. However, as Browne and the two assisting bishops, Thomas of Kildare and “Urbane of Duno,” were about to lay their hands on Bale the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Thomas Lockwood, publicly protested at the use of the new Prayer Book. Two days later, Bale fell seriously ill and wondered whether he had been poisoned.

Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, where Bale’s zeal for the Reformation was never tempered by discretion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bale’s account of his time in Ossory, Vocacyon of John Bale to the Byshopperycke of Ossorie, shows how his zeal for the Reformation was never tempered by discretion.

The sandstone Romanesque doorway in Saint Lachtain’s Church, Freshford, Co Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As Bishop of Ossory, Bale had some of his plays acted by boys at the Market Cross in Kilkenny on Sunday afternoons, and he preached every Sunday and every holy day in Lent. After Easter, he moved to the bishop’s residence at Upper Court Manor, near Freshford, five miles outside Kilkenny. Hugh Mapleton, Bishop of Ossory, built the episcopal palace at Upper Court Manor in Freshford ( Achadh Úr, Aghour) in 1225, and this remained the favoured residence of the Bishop of Ossory until the 1550s.

However, Bale quarrelled bitterly with the aged and respected judge, Thomas St Leger, who visited Kilkenny to urge the people to reject his innovations. He failed to get the clergy of his diocese to introduce The Book of Common Prayer, and when he tried to remove what he called “idolatries” he was met with “angers, slaunders, conspiracies, and in the end slaughters of men.” He angered the priests by denouncing their superstitions and advising them to marry. Everywhere, his proposed measures aroused opposition.

His strident views alienated Lord Mountgarret from the Edwardian government and he allied himself with his neighbour, Fitzpatrick of Upper Ossory, to drive out the bishop.

Edward VI died on 6 July 1553. When the king’s death was announced in Kilkenny, Bale had doubts about recognising Lady Jane Grey as queen. But the Catholic party felt victory was at hand. Thomas Rothe, a magistrate and supporter of Viscount Mountgarret, demanded the Mass should be celebrated in Saint Canice’s Cathedral on 26 July 1553 to mark Saint Anne’s Day, although Bale had prohibited the celebration of the Holy Communion on any day other than Sunday.

The Market Cross in High Street, Kilkenny, where Bale had three of his plays performed on the day of Queen Mary’s coronation

When Mary Tudor’s accession was proclaimed to great celebration in Kilkenny on 20 August, there was a Catholic procession through the streets. Bale managed to preach in Kilkenny that day on Romans 13 and on the duty of obedience and, remarkably, three of his 25 plays were performed at the Market Cross in Kilkenny on the day of Queen Mary’s coronation.

On Saint Bartholomew’s Day, he preached on the text: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” That evening, he dined with Robert Shee, the Mayor of Kilkenny.

By 31 August, the old services and rituals had been revived throughout the Diocese of Ossory. A week later, when Bale sent five of his workers into his fields to make hay on Friday 8 September 1553, regarded as a holy day, they were attacked and killed, including three Englishmen and a 16-year-old girl, and the bishop’s horse was stolen.

Upper Court Manor, Freshford, Co Kilkenny ... Bale fled the bishop’s palace in September 1553, never to return (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Mayor of Kilkenny, Robert Shee, came to Bale’s rescue, and gave him an armed escort from Upper Court to Kilkenny. There he refused a request from his clergy to celebrate a Requiem Mass for Edward VI. Within a week, Bale fled, never to return to Kilkenny. In Dublin, an unsympathetic Archbishop George Browne refused him permission to preach in Christ Church Cathedral.

After some days or weeks in Dublin, Bale tried to escape to Scotland, but on the voyage he was taken prisoner by a Flemish crew that took him to Waterford. There he was handed over to the captain of a Dutch man-of-war, which was driven by the weather to St Ives in Cornwall. Bale was apprehended on a charge of high treason, but was soon released. From St Ives, he made his way to Dover, where he was arrested once again, but escaped one more time.

When he arrived in Holland he was again imprisoned, and only escaped in November by paying £300. From Holland, he made his way to Basel, and also spent some time in Frankfurt.

Bale was one of the signatories of a letter from the English congregation in Frankfurt on 24 September 1554, inviting John Knox to become their minister. Knox accepted the call, but the congregation soon split into two factions, one led by Richard Cox, former tutor to Edward VI and former Chancellor of Oxford University, who favoured using The Book of Common Prayer, and the other led by Knox and his supporters who favoured more radical forms of worship. Bales sided with Cox, and with John Jewel and other English exiles they accused Knox of high treason. The former English radical had now turned against his former Puritan allies, accusing them of “fierce despisings and cursed speaking.”

Knox eventually fled to Geneva, and Bale returned to Basel in August 1555, where he continued his writing. This second exile gave him time to carry on his work, and two editions of his catalogue of British writers were published in Basel in 1557-1559. This work owes much to the Collectanea and Commentarii of John Leland, but is disfigured by misrepresentations and inaccuracies.

Queen Mary died on 17 November 1558, and following the accession of Elizabeth I Bale returned to England in 1559, while Knox returned to Scotland. But by then Bale was an old and worn-out man, and he did not feel himself equal to the task of returning to the Diocese of Ossory. He was one of the bishops, along with Barlow, Scory and Coverdale, appointed by Queen Elizabeth in 1559 to consecrate Matthew Parker as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, but failed to present himself for the ceremony.

Subsequently, Bale was nominated on 1 January 1560 as canon of the eleventh prebend of Canterbury Cathedral, an appointment which he told Parker he regarded as a due acknowledgment of his past sufferings: “I have been rewarded of my contraye for my paynes, the Lord wele knoweth.”

In Canterbury, he continued his distasteful attacks on those he disagreed with, asking for the cardinal’s hat and heraldic arms to be removed from Cardinal Reginald Pole’s memorial, saying it was “neither decent nor tolerable, but abominable and not to be suffered.”

He may have divided his final years between Canterbury and Ipswich, where he had once been the Carmelite prior. He had revised his play King Johan several times over his lifetime, and revised in for the last time between September 1560 and his death three years later. The 22 lines of praise for Queen Elizabeth that he added at the end of the play have become associated with her visit to Ipswich in August 1561 because the single surviving copy was found among some old papers, probably once belonging to the Corporation of Ipswich.

Bale never realised his plans to write a history of England. He died in Canterbury in November 1563 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. After his death, his collected papers and books passed to Archbishop Matthew Parker.

Bale’s literary contributions

John Bale’s lasting reputation rests on his literary works rather than his theological writings

Bale was an indefatigable collector and worker, and examined many of the valuable libraries of the Augustinian and Carmelite houses before their dissolution. Bale expressed indignation and dismay at the destruction of libraries as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries, saying: “To destroye all without consyderacyon, is and wyll be unto Englande for ever, a most horrible infamy amongst the grave senyors of other nacyons.”

His work contains much information that would otherwise have been lost. His autograph note-book in the Bodleian Library in Oxford contains the materials collected for his two published catalogues arranged.

Bale is a figure of literary importance as the author of Kynge Johan (ca 1538), a play that marks the transition between the old morality plays and the English historical drama. In the list of his works he mentions a play De Joanne Anglorum Rege (Of King John of the English), written in idiomate materno (in the mother tongue).

The play is a mixture of history and allegory, the events of the reign of King John being transferred to the struggles of the writer’s own day, so that Kynge Johan is a polemic against the Roman Catholic Church, in which King John is presented as the champion of the Church of England while the Roman Catholic Church keeps the English people remained in bondage.

Elsewhere, King John is called a Lollard and accused of “heretycall langage,” and he is finally poisoned by a monk of Swinesead. Allegorical characters are mixed with the real persons. Ynglonde vidua (Widow England) represents the nation, and humour is provided by Sedwyson (sedition), occupying the role of Vice in a pure morality play. One actor was expected to play many parts, for the stage directions include: “Go out Ynglond, and dress for Clargy.”

The original manuscript of Kynge Johan was found in the 1830s among the Corporation Papers at Ipswich, and the text was edited by John Payne Collier for the Camden Society in 1838.

Bale’s plays are doggerel, and are totally wanting in decorum. Only five of his mysteries and miracle plays have survived, although the titles of the others, quoted by Bale in his own Catalogus, show that they were animated by the same political and religious aims. The Three Laws of Nature, Moses and Christ, corrupted by the Sodomytes, Pharisees and Papystes most wicked, produced in 1538 and again in 1562, was a morality play.

The direction for the dressing of the parts is instructive: “Let Idolatry be decked like an old witch, Sodomy like a monk of all sects, Ambition like a bishop, Covetousness like a Pharisee or spiritual lawyer, False Doctrine like a popish doctor, and Hypocrisy like a gray friar.”

The title of his earliest play, written in 1538, indicates its purpose: A Brefe Comedy or Enterlude of Johan Baptystes Preachynge in the Wyldernesse; openynge the craftye Assaults of the Hypocrytes (i.e. the friars) with the glorious Baptysme of the Lord Jesus Christ. A Tragedye; or enterlude manifesting the chief promyses of God unto Man and The Temptacyon of our Lorde were also written in 1538.

Bale’s most important work is his history of English literature, Illustrium Majoris Britanniae Scriptorum, hoc est, Angliae, Cambriae, ac Scotiae Summarium in quinque centurias divisum (A Summary of the Famous Writers of Great Britain, that is, of England, Wales and Scotland, through five centuies) published in Ipswich and Wesel for John Overton in 1548 and 1549. It is a valuable catalogue of the writings of British authors through five centuries arranged chronologically.

A second edition, almost entirely rewritten and surveying 14 centuries, was printed at Basel in 1557-1559 with the title Scriptorum illustrium majoris Britanniae Catalogus (Catalogue of the Famous Writers of Great Britain). This chronological catalogue of British authors and their works was partly founded on John Leland’s De uiris illustribus.

Bale’s theological legacy

John Bale was one of the most vocal and most radical reformers of the first generation in England and Ireland. He had a quarrelsome disposition and attacked his enemies with vehemence and scurrility. Much of this was directed strongly and forcibly against the Roman Catholic Church and its writers. A century later, the antiquarian Anthony Wood described him as “foul-mouthed Bale.”

Bale would have been a remarkable man in any age, possessed as he was of exceptional energy, courage, and determination. He was also a man of great theological and historical learning, and of an active mind. But he is probably best remembered for his prolific anti-Roman Catholic propaganda.

MacCulloch describes him as “a connoisseur of evangelicals who was not inclined to suffer hypocrites gladly, however highly placed.” He was a coarse and bitter controversialist and awakened equal bitterness amongst his opponents. Dickens characterises Bale as “one of the stranger human creatures of early academic Protestantism.”

Bale’s obsession in his writings with the homosexuality of the traditionalist clergy is notorious, and MacCulloch argues that this was no doubt fuelled by some unhappy experience in early life. Bale’s own words suggest that he may have been abused as a child by Carmelite friars, athough there is no evidence that he himself had homosexual leanings.

Bale popularised the genre of martyrology for an English audience, later taken to its logical conclusion in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But none of the Reformation writers in England equalled Bale in acerbity, so that he was known as ‘Bilious Bale.’ He indulged a lifelong state of righteous indignation, and his controversial spirit was a hindrance to his learning, and his prejudices led him into frequent misstatements.

Phillpott points out that historians who look at Bale find themselves trapped in a web of fiction and myth-making, partly created by the man himself. In his autobiographical accounts in his Vocacyon and his catalogue of English writers, Bale exaggerates or twists the facts and his role in events to make a point. In his Vocacyon, Bale’s intent was to write a polemical account of his escape from Ireland as a parallel to Saint Paul. In his Catalogus, he wishes to present himself as one link in a chain of English writers preserving the true faith against the heresies of antichrist. Although both accounts are filled with accurate facts about Bale’s life and career, neither can be taken as entirely true.

Peter Happé claims that Bale’s autobiography “reads like a piece of fiction,” and says Bale presents himself with a “self-dramatizing tendency.” Leslie P. Fairfield goes even further, dismissing Bale as the “Mythmaker for the English Reformation.”

He aroused such opposition that when he left Kilkenny it was a more staunchly Catholic place than it had been before his arrival.

Yet Bale might better be remembered for his contribution to 16th century life because of his contribution to English literature, as the author of the oldest-known historical verse drama in English, and for his extensive listing of the works of British authors just as the monastic libraries were being dispersed. He helped to preserve England’s manuscript heritage in part through his cataloguing of ancient English writers and texts and in part through his influence on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, who became a great patron of ancient manuscripts.

An Irish afterword

The base of the Shee cross on the village green in Freshford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

After Bale’s hurried departure from Kilkenny, the Shee family took over the former episcopal manor and lived in Uppercourt for 100 years. When Lucas Shee of Uppercourt died in 1622, his wife, Ellen Butler, erected a cross in his memory at the back entrance to Uppercourt. The street to that entrance is still called Buncrusha or Bohercrussia Street, from the Irish Bun na Croise or Bothar na Croise, meaning “Base of the Cross” or “Road of the Cross.”

In 1653, the Cromwellian Captain Sir George Askew was given Uppercourt and the Shee family was forced to leave.

The present house at Upper Court was built around 1790 by Sir William Morris. The Eyre family came in 1879 and stayed until 1918, when the Maher brothers bought it. The Mill Hill Fathers bought the house in 1932 and it became a secondary school. In 1989, the house was sold and used for the storage and restoration of antique furniture. It is now at the centre of a well-known stud farm. The house has some fine Italian plasterwork ceilings.

The village green in Freshford, Co Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Select Bibliography:

‘Bale, John,’ Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911).
Richard Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse. Sixteenth-Century Apocalypticism, Millennarianism and the English Reformation: From John Bale to John Foxe and Thomas Brightman (Abingdon, 1978, Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics 8).
(Revd) Henry Christmas, Select Works of Bale, DD, Bishop of Ossory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849, for the Parker Society).
Geoffrey Dickens The English Reformation (London, 1964, 2nd ed 1989. David Edwards, The Ormond Lordship in County Kilkenny 1515-1642 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003).
Steven G Ellis, ‘John Bale, Bishop of Ossory, 1552-3,’ Journal of the Butler Society, vol 2, no 3 (1984), pp 283-293.
Leslie P. Fairfield, John Bale: Myth Maker for the English Reformation (West Lafayette, IN, 1976).
William Haller, The Elect Nation: the Meaning and Relevance of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (New York, 1963).
Peter Happé, The Complete Plays of John Bale, vol 1 (Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2011).
Peter Happé and John N. King (eds) John Bale, The vocacyon of Johan Bale (New York, 1990).
Jesse W. Harris, The Life and Works of John Bale, 1495-1563 (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1935).
Jesse W. Harris, John Bale, a Study in the Minor Literature of the Reformation (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1940). This is Volume 25, Issue 4 of Illinois studies in language and literature.
John N. King, ‘Bale, John (1495–1563),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), vol 3, pp 482-486.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Tudor Church Militant, Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (London: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1999).
JHP Pafford (ed), King Johan by John Bale (Oxford: The Malone Society, 1931).
Matt Phillpott, review of The many lives of John Bale, (review no. 1175), URL:, date accessed: 22 July 2012.
Alfred W. Pollard (ed.), English Miracle Plays, Moralities and Interludes (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1914), pp 218-219.
Richard Rex, ‘John Bale, Geoffrey Downes and Jesus College,’ The Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 49/03, pp 486-493.

John Bale is also the subject of John Arden’s novel, The Books of Bale (London: Methuen, 1989).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.


  1. Hello,
    Who were the contemporaries of John Bale and are there any books written by the Romantic Catholics against his play "King John"? :)

  2. Hello,

    John Bale was my 13th Great Grandfather. I'd love to know more about him, anything additional that you can share or direct me to would be greatly appreciated.

    Mike Kohn, Wisconsin