WYCLIFFE (or WYCLIF) , JOHN (c. 1320-1384) , English reformer, was born, according to John Leland, at Ipreswel (evi dently Hipswell), in Yorkshire'. The Wycliffes were connected 'The form of spelling of the name Wycliffe adopted in this article is that of the village Wycliffe-on-Tees, from which Leland says that he "drew his origin" (Collectanea ii. 329) ; it is also preferred by the editors of the Wycliffe Bible, by Milman and by Stubbs. "Wyclif" has the support of Shirley, of T. Arnold and of the Wyclif Society ; while "Wiclif" is the popular form in Germany.
with Balliol College, Oxford, which had been founded by their neighbours, the Balliols of Barnard Castle; John Wycliffe went there, and some time after 1356 was elected master. Confusion with contemporaries makes it not easy to trace his Oxford life; it has been said that he was a fellow of Merton College in 1356. In 1361 he accepted the living of Fillingham in Lincolnshire. In the same year a "John de Wyclif of the diocese of York, M.A." was a suppliant to the Roman Curia for a provision to a prebend, canonry and dignity at York (Cal. of Entries in the Papal Regis tries, ed. Bliss, Petitions, i. 39o). This was not granted, but Wycliffe received instead the prebend of Aust in the collegiate church of Westbury-on-Trym. In 1365 one "John de Wyclif" was appointed by Simon Islip, archbishop of Canterbury, to the wardership of Canterbury Hall, which the archbishop founded for a mixed body of monks and secular clergy, and then filled exclusively with the latter. In 1367, his successor, Simon Lang ham, replaced the intruded seculars by monks. The displaced warden and fellows appealed to Rome, and in 1371 judgment was given against them. The question of the identity of the warden of Canterbury Hall with the reformer is still a matter of dispute. It may have been referred to by Wycliffe himself (De ecclesia, cap. xvi. pp. 37o sq.), and was assumed by the contemporary monk of St. Albans (C/iron. Angl. "Rolls" ser. p. 115) and by Wycliffe's opponent William Woodford (Fasc. Zizan. p. 517), who found in Wycliffe's resentment at this treatment the motive for his attacks on the religious orders ; it has likewise been assumed by a series of modern scholars, including Loserth (Realencyklo piidie, 1908 ed., vol. xxi. p. 228, § 35), who only denies the deduc tions that Woodford drew from it. Dr. Rashdall, following Shir
ley, brings evidence to show that the Wycliffe of Canterbury Hall was the same person as the fellow of Merton, this being the strongest argument against the identification of the latter with the reformer.
Long before Wycliffe had become a power outside Oxford his fame was established in the university. He was acknowledged supreme in the philosophical disputations of the schools, and his lectures were crowded, but it was not until he was drawn into the arena of the politico-ecclesiastical conflicts of the day that Wycliffe became of world-importance. It has been assumed that this happened first in 1366, and that Wycliffe published his Determinatio quaedam de dominio supporting parliament in refus ing the tribute demanded by Pope Urban V. ; but Loserth has shown that this work must be assigned to a date some eight years later. Wycliffe, in fact, for some years to come had the reputation of a good "curialist." Had it been otherwise, the pope would scarcely have granted him (January 1373) a license to keep his Westbury prebend even after he should have obtained one at Lincoln (Cal. Papal Letters, ed. Bliss and Twemlow, iv. 193). Moreover, it is uniformly asserted that Wycliffe fell into heresy after his admission to the degree of doctor (Fasc. Ziz. p. 2), and the papal document above quoted shows that he had only just become a doctor of theology, that is in 1372.
But Wycliffe's tendencies may already have called attention to him in high places as a possibly useful instrument for the anti papal policy of John of Gaunt and his party. On the 7th of April 1374, he was presented by the crown to the rectory of Lutter worth in Leicestershire, which he held until his death; and on the 26th of July he was nominated one of the royal envoys to Bruges to confer with the papal representatives on the long vexed ques tion of "provisions" (q.v.). He may have been attached to this mission as theologian—a proof that he was not yet considered a persona ingrata at the Curia. His name stands second, next after that of the bishop of Bangor, and he was paid at the princely rate of twenty shillings a day. The commission was appointed because of repeated complaints from the Commons; but the king was interested in keeping up the papal system of provisions and reser vations, and the negotiations were practically fruitless.