Remarks on Collier's Ecclesiastical History

Scope and Content

Notes by John Lewis on Jeremy Collier's Ecclesiastical History.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Lewis was born in Bristol in 1675, the eldest son of a wine cooper. Receiving a grammar school education, he was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford under the tuition of George Vernan. Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1697 he was ordained a deacon and a year later was made a curate of Acrise, Kent. His low-church views and support for the Whig political party often made him unpopular with the ecclesiastical hierarchy but made him a friend of Archbishop Thomas Tenison (1636-1715), whose views he shared and whose patronage he benefited from, with his appointment to various benefices in Kent. In 1712 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and after obtaining an MA focused his studies on writing biographies and antiquarian studies as well as continuing his polemical work. Even his best known biographies of Wicliffe, Caxton, Pecock, and Bishop Fisher, demonstrate his strong low-church and protestant bias and he frequently acted as an apologist for the movement in the Anglican Church. It was in his role as an apologist that he wrote in 1724 A Specimen of the Errors in the second volume of Collier's Ecclesiastical History, being a Vindication of Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation defending Gilbert Burnet's (1643-1715) establishment view of the history of the Anglican Church during and since the Reformation against the non-juror author and polemicist, Jeremy Collier.

Source: Scott Mandelbrote, 'Lewis, John (1675-1747)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), though an Anglican by conscience, was an ardent non-juror, one of those clergymen who refused to swear allegiance to William III and Mary after the Glorious Revolution in 1688. His persistent refusal to recognise William and Mary resulted eventually in his being declared an outlaw in 1696. However he stayed in the country and managed to escape persecution, being partially redeemed in the eyes of the public and Crown by his popular polemical attacks on London theatres. He wrote many moral, theological and political tracts during his lifetime, with the themes of non-consent and an independent Church dominating his subject matter. His two-volume An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain... to the end of the Reign of Charles II, published in 1708 and 1714, nonetheless attracted criticism from the established Church for its apparent Roman Catholic leanings, a claim the author strenuously objected to until his death in 1726.

Source: Eric Salmon, 'Collier, Jeremy (1650-1726)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, from John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910), in July 1892.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on John Lewis and Jeremy Collier.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 47).

Custodial History

The manuscript was formerly part of the Spencer Library at Althorp, Northamptonshire, which was largely assembled by George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834); then by descent to John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910).

Related Material

Rylands English MS 49, 'Theological Discourses by John Lewis', is another work by John Lewis (GB 133 Eng MS 49).