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John Fell


FELL, JOHN (1625-1686), English divine, son of Samuel Fell, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, was born at Longworth, Berkshire. In 1636 he obtained a studentship at Christ Church, and took holy orders (deacon 1647, priest 1649). During the Civil War he bore arms for the king and held a commission as ensign. In 1648 he was deprived of his studentship by the parlia mentary visitors, and during the next few years he resided chiefly at Oxford with his brother-in-law, Dr. T. Willis, at whose house opposite Merton College he and his friends Allestree and Dolben kept up the service of the Church of England through the Com monwealth.

At the Restoration Fell was made prebendary of Chichester, canon of Christ Church (July 27, 166o), dean (Nov. 3o), mas ter of St. Oswald's hospital, Worcester, chaplain to the king, and D.D. He filled the office of vice-chancellor from 1666 to 1669, and was consecrated bishop of Oxford in 1676, retaining his deanery in commendam. Some years later he declined the pri macy of Ireland. Fell restored in the university the good order instituted by Archbishop Laud, which in the Commonwealth had given place to anarchy and a general disregard of authority. He obliged the students to attend lectures, instituted reforms in the performances of the public exercises in the schools, kept the examiners up to their duties, and himself attended the examina tions. He encouraged the students to act plays. He entirely sup pressed "coursing," i.e., disputations in which the rival parties "ran down opponents in arguments," and which commonly ended in blows and disturbances. Torn Brown, author of the Dialogues of the Dead, about to be expelled from Oxford for some offence, was pardoned by Fell on the condition of his translating extempore the 33rd epigram from Martial:— Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare; Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.

To which he immediately replied with the lines I do not love thee, Doctor Fell, The reason why I cannot tell ; But this alone I know full well, I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.' Fell's building operations were numerous. In his own college he completed in 1665 the north side of Wolsey's great quadrangle, already begun by his father but abandoned during the Common wealth; he rebuilt in 1672 the east side of the Chaplain's quad rangle "with a straight passage under it leading from the cloister into the field," occupied now by the new Meadow Buildings; the lodgings of the canon of the 3rd stall in the passage uniting the Tom and Peckwater quadrangles (c. 1674) ; a long building join ing the Chaplain's quadrangle on the east side in 1677-1678; and lastly the great tower gate, begun in June 1681 on the foundation laid by Wolsey and finished in November 1682, to which the bell "great Tom," after being recast, was transferred from the cathe dral in 1683. In 167o he planted and laid out the Broad Walk. He spent large sums of his own on these works, gave £500 for the restoration of Banbury church, erected a church at St. Oswald's, Worcester, and the parsonage house at Woodstock at his own expense, and rebuilt Cuddesdon palace. Fell disapproved of the use of St. Mary's church for secular purposes, and promoted the building of the Sheldonian theatre by Archbishop Sheldon. He was treasurer during its construction, presided at the formal open ing on July 9, 1669, and was nominated with Wren curator in July 167o. In the theatre was placed the University Press, which now engaged a large share of Fell's energy and attention, and which as curator he practically controlled. He published annually one work, generally a classical author annotated by himself, which he distributed to all the students of his college on New Year's day. On one occasion he surprised the Press in printing surreptitiously Aretino's Postures, when he seized and destroyed the plates and impressions. In 1675 he published the Elzevir text 'J. T. Browne, Works (9th ed. by J. Drake), iv. 99-10o; T. Forde, Virtus rediviva (1661), 1o6.

of the Bible, and also gave assistance to John Mill in his critical edition of the New Testament (17o7).

Fell himself bore a high reputation as a Grecian, a Latinist and a philologist, and he found time, in spite of his great public em ployments, to bring out with the collaboration of others his great edition of St. Cyprian in 1682, an English translation of The Unity of the Church in 1681, editions of Nemesius of Emesa (1671), of Aratus and of Eratosthenes (1672), Theocritus (1676), Alcin ous on Plato (1677), St. Clement's Epistles to the Corinthians (1677), Athenagoras (1682), Clemens Alexandrinus (1683) , St. Theophilus of Antioch (1684), Grammatica rationis sive institu tiones logicae (1673 and 1685), and a critical edition of the New Testament in 1675. The first volumes of Rerum Anglicarum scriptores and of Historiae Britannicae, etc., were compiled under his patronage in 1684. He had the mss. of St. Augustine in the Bodleian and other libraries at Oxford generously collated for the use of the Benedictines at Paris, then preparing a new edition of the father.

In Nov. 1684, at the command of the king, Fell deprived Locke (q.v.), who had incurred the royal displeasure by his friendship with Shaftesbury, and was suspected as the author of certain seditious pamphlets, of his studentship at Christ Church, summarily and without hearing his defence. Fell afterwards ex pressed his regret for the step which he was now compelled to take.

Fell, who had never married, died on July io, 1,686, and was buried in the divinity chapel in the cathedral.

Fell probably had some share in the composition of The Whole Duty of Man, and in the subsequent works published under the name of the author of The Whole Duty, which included Reasons of the Decay of Christian Piety, The Ladies' Calling, The Gentle man's Calling, The Government of the Tongue, The Art of Con tentment and The Lively Oracles given us, all of which were published in one volume with notes and a preface by Fell in 1684.


Athenae Oxonienses and Fasti (ed. Bliss) ; Bibliography.-Wood's Athenae Oxonienses and Fasti (ed. Bliss) ; Wood's Life and Times, ed. by A. Clark ; Burnet's Hist. of His Own Time, ed. 1833 ; J. Welch, Alumni Westmonasterienses; Thomas Hearne, Collections, ed. by C. E. Doble and others; History of the Univ. of Oxford (1814) ; Christ Church, by Rev. H. L. Thompson; Fortnightly Review, lix. 689 (May 1896) ; Macmillan's Magazine (Aug. 1875) ; A Specimen of the several sorts of Letter given to the University by Dr. J. F(ell) (1695) ; Notes and Queries, ser. vi. 2, and ser. vii. 166; Calendars of State Papers, Dom. Series Fell's books and papers were bequeathed by his nephew Henry Jones to the Bodleian library. A few of his letters are to be found in Add. MSS. Brit. Mus. 11046, and some are printed in Life of James II., by Ch. J. Fox, Appendix; Gent. Mag. 77, p. 633 ; Academy, 8, p. 141 ; Athenaeum for 1887 (2), p. 311 ; J. Gutch, Collectanea Curiosa, i. 269; and in Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Series. Specimens of Books printed at Oxford, with types given to the University by John Fell, Oxford Univ. press (1925).

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