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Richard Hooker

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Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker
Born March 1554
Heavitree, Exeter, Devon
Died 3 November 1600 (age 46)
Bishopsbourne, Kent
Education Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Spouse(s) Jean Churchman
Church Church of England
Ordained 14 August 1579
Offices held
Subdean, Rector
Arms of Hooker alias Vowell, of Exeter: Or, a fess vair between two lions passant guardant sable[1]

Richard Hooker (March 1554 – 3 November 1600) was an English priest in the Church of England and an influential theologian.[2] He was one of the most important English theologians of the sixteenth century.[3] His defence of the role of redeemed reason informed the theology of the seventeenth century Caroline divines and later provided many members of the Church of England reason with a theological method which combined the claims of revelation, reason and tradition.[3] Scholars disagree regarding Hooker's relationship with what would be called "Anglicanism" and the Reformed theological tradition. Traditionally, he has been regarded as the originator of the Anglican via media between Protestantism and Catholicism.[4]:1 However, a growing number of scholars have argued that he should be positioned in the mainstream Reformed theology of his time, and only sought to oppose extremist Puritans rather than moving the Church of England away from Protestantism.[4]:4


  • Youth (1554–1581) 1
  • London and marriage (1581–1595) 2
  • Last years (1595–1600) 3
  • Works 4
    • Learned Discourse of Justification 4.1
    • Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie 4.2
      • Scholastic thought in a latitudinarian manner 4.2.1
  • Legacy 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Youth (1554–1581)

Details of Hooker's life come chiefly from Izaak Walton’s biography of him. Hooker was born in the village of Heavitree in Exeter, Devon sometime around Easter Sunday (March) 1554.[5] He attended Exeter Grammar School until 1569. Richard came from a good family, but one that was neither noble nor wealthy. His uncle John Hooker was a success and served as the chamberlain of Exeter.

Hooker's uncle was able to obtain for Richard the help of another Devon native, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. In 1580 he was deprived of his fellowship for "contentiousness" having campaigned for the losing candidate (Rainoldes, a lifelong friend who would become a leader of puritan party and participate in the Hampton Court Conference of 1604) in a contested election to the presidency of the college. However, he recovered it when Rainoldes finally assumed the post".[6]

London and marriage (1581–1595)

In 1581, Hooker was appointed to preach at

  1. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.479
  2. ^ a b c d e The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F. L. Cross (Editor), E. A. Livingstone (Editor) Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition p.789 (March 13, 1997)
  3. ^ a b Breward, Ian. "Hooker, Richard" in J.D. Douglas. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church Exeter: The Paternoster Press (1974)
  4. ^ a b Brydon, Michael (2006). The Evolving Reputation of Richard Hooker: An Examination of Responses, 1600–1714. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  – via Questia (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c d e Philip B., Secor. "Richard Hooker Prophet of Anglicanism". Exeter Cathedral. Exeter Cathedral. Retrieved August 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Booty, John E. (1982), "Richard Hooker", in Wolf, William J., The Spirit of Anglicanism, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, pp. 3–8 
  7. ^ , p.13Lives of John Donne, Henry Wotton, Rich'd Hooker, George Herbert, &c, Volume 2Walton, Isaac.
  8. ^ a b Introduction to the Everyman Edition of "Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, p.v-vi. (1958 reprint)
  9. ^ Procter, Francis & Frere, Walter Howard. A New History of the Book of Common Prayer MacMillan (1902), p.111
  10. ^ Booty, John E. (1979), "Richard Hooker", in Wolf, William J., The Spirit of Anglicanism, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, p. 13ff 
  11. ^ Booty, John E. (1979), "Richard Hooker", in Wolf, William J., The Spirit of Anglicanism, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, p. 14 
  12. ^ McAdoo, Henry (1992), "Richard Hooker", in Rowell, Geoffrey, The English Teligious Tradition and the Genius of Anglicanism, Wantage(UK): IKON, p. 111 
  13. ^ Marshall, John S. (1963), Hooker and the Anglican Tradition, London, p. 66. 
  14. ^ Lewis, C.S. (1954), English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama, p. 459 
  15. ^ Neill, Stephen (1960), Anglicanism, London: Pelican, p. 122 
  16. ^ *Walton, Izaac, The Life of Mr Rich. Hooker. In Walton's Lives. Edited by John Keble, Oxford, 1836; Revised by R. W. Church and F. Paget, Oxford, 1888. Reprint by Burt Franklin, 1970 and by Via Media Publications.
  17. Hughes, Phillip Edgecumbe (1982), Faith and Works: Cranmer and Hooker on Justification (1982). ISBN 0-8192-1315-2
  18. Kirby, W.J.T. (1998). "Richard Hooker's Discourse On Natural Law in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation".  
  19. A. C. McGrade, ed., Richard Hooker and the Construction of Christian community (1997)
  20. Munz, Peter, The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought (1952, repr. 1971).
  22. External links

    • Hooker's works online (in 10-page pdfs)
    • )LawsHooker's works online (in HTML, Kindle, facsimile PDF, including all 8 books of the
    • Biography and articles about Hooker
    • Cambridge History of English and American LiteratureEntry on Hooker in
    • Hooker Works by Richard Hooker at Post-Reformation Digital Library
    • Biographical sketch
    • The LawsArchbishop Rowan Williams' lecture on
    • Exeter cathedral page
    • Hooker at the Temple Church
    • Hooker at Bishopsbourne Church including summary of his dates and writings
    • Richard Hooker in Dictionary of British Philosophers
    • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the  


King James I is quoted by Izaak Walton, Hooker's biographer, as saying, "I observe there is in Mr. Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil."[16] Hooker's emphasis on Scripture, reason, and tradition considerably influenced the development of Anglicanism, as well as many political philosophers, including John Locke.[2] Locke quotes Hooker numerous times in the Second Treatise of Civil Government. In the Church of England he is celebrated with a Lesser Festival on 3 November and the same day is also observed in the Calendars of other parts of the Anglican Communion.


Hooker worked from Holy Spirit. Notably, Hooker affirmed that the power and propriety of bishops need not be in every case absolute.

Statue of Hooker in front of Exeter Cathedral

Scholastic thought in a latitudinarian manner

The Laws is remembered not only for its stature as a monumental work of Anglican thought, but also for its influence in the development of theology, political theory, and English prose (being one of the first major works of theology written in English).

were to be followed to its extreme with government by the Elect, then having the monarch as the governor of the church was intolerable. On the other side, if the monarch were appointed by God to be the governor of the church, then local parishes going their own ways on doctrine were similarly intolerable. priesthood of all believers's argument for the Martin Luther of the Church. If doctrine were not to be settled by authorities, and if Supreme Governor as the Queen Elizabeth I What was at stake behind the theology was the position of the [2] It is a massive work, with its principal subject is the proper governance of the churches ("

Quoting C. S. Lewis,[14] Stephen Neill underlines its positive side in the following terms: Hitherto, in England, "controversy had involved only tactics; Hooker added strategy. Long before the close fighting in Book III begins, the puritan position has been rendered desperate by the great flanking movements in Books I and II. ... Thus the refutation of the enemy comes in the end to seem a very small thing, a by-product."[15]

Of the Lawes is far more than a negative rebuttal of the puritan claims: it is (here McAdoo quotes John S. Marshall) 'a continuous and coherent whole presenting a philosophy and theology congenial to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the traditional aspects of the Elizabethan Settlement ... Anglicanism ...has become a coherent theology'.[13]

  1. Scripture alone is the rule of all things which may be done by men;
  2. Scripture prescribes an unalterable form of Church government;
  3. The English Church is corrupted by popish orders, rites etc.
  4. The law is corrupt in not allowing lay elders;
  5. 'There ought not to be in the Church Bishops'.[12]

Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie is Hooker's best-known work, with the first four books being published in 1594. The fifth was published in 1597, while the final three were published posthumously,[2] and indeed may not all be his own work. Structurally, the work is a carefully worked out reply to the general principles of Puritanism as found in The Admonition and Cartwright's follow-up writings, more specifically:

Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie

This sermon from 1585 was one of those that triggered Travers attack and appeal to the Privy Council. Travers accused Hooker of preaching doctrine favourable to the Church of Rome when in fact he had just described their differences emphasising that Rome attributed to works "a power of satisfying God for sin;..." For Hooker, works were a necessary expression of thanksgiving for unmerited justification by a merciful God.[11] Hooker defended his belief in the doctrine of Justification by faith, but argued that even those who did not understand or accept this could be saved by God.

Title page of Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie.

Learned Discourse of Justification

Apart from the Lawes, Hooker's lesser writings, which are few in number, fall into three groups: those related to the Temple Controversy with Travers (including three sermons); those connected with the last writing of the last books of the Laws; and other miscellaneous sermons (four complete plus three fragments).[10]


In 1595, Hooker became Rector of the parishes of St. Mary the Virgin in Bishopsbourne and St. John the Baptist Barham in Kent and left London to continue his writing. He published the fifth book of "Of the Laws" in 1597. It is longer than the first four taken together. He died 3 November 1600 at his Rectory Bishopsbourne.[5] and was buried in the chancel of the church being survived by his wife and four daughters. His will includes the following provision: "Item, I give and bequeth three pounds of lawful English money towards the building and making of a newer and sufficient pulpitt in the p'sh of Bishopsbourne." The pulpit can still be seen in Bishopsbourne church, along with a statue of him, and currently an exhibition about his contribution to the Church of England. Subsequently a monument was erected there by William Cowper in 1632 which described him as "judicious".[8]

Last years (1595–1600)

In 1591, Hooker left the Temple and was presented to the living of St. Andrew's Boscomb in Wiltshire to support him while he wrote.[5] He seems to have lived mainly in London but apparently did spend time in Salisbury where he was Subdean of Salisbury Cathedral and made use of the Cathedral Library. The first four volumes of the major work were published in 1593 with a subsidy from Edwin Sandys and apparently the last four were held back for further revision by the author.[6]

Hooker became rector of St. Mary's Drayton Beauchamp, Buckinghamshire, in 1584, but probably never lived there.[5] The following year, he was appointed Master (i.e. rector) of the Temple Church in London by the Queen (possibly as a compromise candidate to those proposed by Lord Burleigh and Whitgift).[6] There, Hooker soon came into public conflict with Walter Travers, a leading Puritan and Reader(Lecturer) at the Temple, partly because of the sermon at Paul's Cross four years before, but mainly because Hooker argued that salvation was possible for some Roman Catholics.[2] The controversy abruptly ended when Travers was silenced by Archbishop in March 1586 and the Privy Council strongly supported the decision. About this time Hooker began to write his major work Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, a critique of the Puritans and their attacks on the Church of England and particularly the Book of Common Prayer.[9]

Portrait of an unknown man, formerly known as Richard Hooker

[6] and both he and John Booty give the date of the marriage as 1588. Hooker sems to have lived on and off with the Churchmans until 1595 and, according to Booty, he "seems to have been well treated and considerably assisted by John Churchman and his wife".[8]" However, Walton is described by Christopher Morris as an "unreliable gossip" who "generally moulded his subjects to fit a ready-made pattern."There is a wheel within a wheel; a secret sacred wheel of Providence (most visible in marriages), guided by His hand that allows not the race to the swift nor bread to the wise, nor good wives to good men: and He that can bring good out of evil (for mortals are blind to this reason) only knows why this blessing was denied to patient Job, to meek Moses, and to our as meek and patient Mr Hooker. "[7] He was also introduced to John Churchman, a distinguished London merchant who became Master of the Merchant Taylors Company. It was at this time, according to his first biographer Walton, that Hooker made the "fatal mistake" of marrying his landlady’s daughter, Jean Churchman. As Walton put it:[6]

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