Joseph Hall

Joseph Hall (1574 - 1656)

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Bishop Joseph Hall
Born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married in Englandmap
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Father of
Died in Heigham, Norwich, Norfolk, Englandmap
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Categories: Anglican Bishops | England, Hall Name Study | 16th Century, Hall Name Study.

This profile is part of the Hall Name Study.



Joseph Hall (1 July 1574 – 8 September 1656) was an English bishop, satirist and moralist. His contemporaries knew him as a devotional writer, and a high-profile controversialist of the early 1640s. In church politics, he tended in fact to a middle way.

Name and Titles

Joseph Hall (bishop)

Bishop of Norwich, England

Diocese of Norwich Appointed 1641 Term ended 1656 Predecessor Richard Montagu

1574 Birth

Joseph Hall was born at Prestop Park, Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. his parents were Joseph Hall and Winifred Bambridge who had a large family of twelve children.[1]

Hall was born at Bristow Park, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, 1 July 1574. His father, John Hall, was employed under Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, president of the north, and was his deputy at Ashby. His mother was Winifred Bambridge, a strict puritan,(Perry 1890, p. 75)[a] whom her son compared to St Monica.[3]


Aged 15, Joseph Hall entered Emanuel College, Cambridge, becoming a Fellow in 1595, and taking his Masters Degree in 1597. [1]


He took Holy Orders and was appointed Rector of Halstead, Suffolk, and later at Waltham Holy Cross in Essex. He became Chaplain to Prince Henry and prebendary to the Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton. He became a prolific writer and pamphleteer.[1]

In 1616 he took his Doctor's Degree and in 1616 was appointed Dean Of Worcester Cathedral.[1]

Having taken holy orders, Hall was offered the mastership of Blundell's School, Tiverton, but he refused it in favour of the living of Hawstead, Suffolk, to which he was presented (1601) by Sir Robert Drury. The appointment was not wholly satisfactory: in his parish Hall had an opponent in a Mr Lilly, whom he describes as a "witty and bold atheist",[3] he had to find money to make his house habitable, and he felt that his patron Sir Robert underpaid him. Nevertheless, in 1603, he married Elizabeth Wynniff of Brettenham, Suffolk.[3]


Joseph Hall married Elizabeth, the daughter of George Winiffe of Brettenham, Suffolk.[2]

In 1603, Hall married Elizabeth (died 27 August 1652), daughter of George Winiffe of Brettenham, Suffolk. They had six sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Robert , D.D. (1605–1667), became canon of Exeter in 1629, and archdeacon of Cornwall in 1633. Joseph, the second son (1607–1669), was registrar of Exeter Cathedral. George, the third son (1612–1668), became bishop of Chester. Samuel, the fourth son (1616–1674), was sub-dean of Exeter.[25]

1605 Travel Abroad

In 1605, Hall travelled abroad for the first time when he accompanied Sir Edmund Bacon on an embassy to Spa, with the special aim, he says, of acquainting himself with the state and practice of the Roman Catholic Church. At Brussels, he disputed at the Jesuit college on the authenticity of modern miracles, until his patron at length asked him to stop.[3]

Hall's devotional writings had attracted the notice of Henry, Prince of Wales, who made him one of his chaplains (1608).[3] Hall preached officially on the tenth anniversary of King James's accession in 1613, with an assessment in An Holy Panegyrick of the Church of England flattering to the king.[5]

1612 Curate of Waltham - Holy Cross

In 1612, Edward Denny gave Hall the curacy of Waltham-Holy-Cross, Essex, and, in the same year, he received the degree of D.D..

Later he received the prebend of Willenhall in St Peter's, the collegiate church of Wolverhampton, and, in 1616, he accompanied James Hay, Lord Doncaster to France, where he was sent to congratulate Louis XIII on his marriage, but Hall was compelled by illness to return.[3] In his absence, the king nominated him Dean of Worcester, and, in 1617, he accompanied James to Scotland, where he defended the Five Articles of Perth, five points of ceremonial which the king desired to impose upon the Scots.[3][6]

1618 Arminian Controversy

In the next year Hall was chosen as one of the English deputies at the Synod of Dort.[3] However he fell ill, and was replaced by Thomas Goad.[7] At the time (1621–1622) when Marco Antonio de Dominis announced his intention to return to Rome, after a stay in England, Hall wrote to try to dissuade him, without success. In a long-unpublished reply (printed 1666) De Dominis justified himself in a comprehensive statement of his mission against schism and its limited results, hampered by Dort and a lack of freedom under James I.[8]

In 1618 Joseph Hall attended the Synod of Dordrecht, an international Synod held by the Dutch Reformed Church to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. [2]

He preached a sermon in Latin before the Assembly, and was presented with a Golden Medal, now in the collection of Emanuel College. [1]


Joseph Hall became Bishop of Exeter. He was appointed Bishop of Norwich in 1641, and soon found himself, along with 12 other bishops, consigned to the Tower of London, for protesting against laws recently passed by Parliament. He was released, only to see the property of Norwich Cathedral and Bishops' Palace sequestered in 1643 and the place sacked by soldiers and the local puritan iconoclasts. Bishop Hall and his family were forced to leave the Bishop's Palace during the Civil War in 1647, and took up residence in the Dolphin Inn, Heigham, on the outskirts of Norwich.[1]

In a sermon Columba Noæ of February 1624 (1623 Old Style) to Convocation, he gave a list or personal panorama of leading theologians of the Church of England.[9] In the same year he also refused the see of Gloucester: at the time English delegates to Dort were receiving preferment, since King James approved of the outcome. Hall was then involved as a mediator, taking an active part in the Arminian and Calvinist controversy in the English church, and trying to get other clergy to accept Dort. In 1627, he became Bishop of Exeter.[10]

In spite of his Calvinistic opinions, he maintained that to acknowledge the errors which had arisen in the Catholic Church did not necessarily imply disbelief in her catholicity, and that the Church of England having repudiated these errors should not deny the claims of the Roman Catholic Church on that account. This view commended itself to Charles I and his episcopal advisers; even if Hall, with John Davenant and Thomas Morton, was considered a likely die-hard by Richard Montagu if it ever came to reunification with the Catholic Church.[11] At the same time, Archbishop Laud sent spies into Hall's diocese to report on the Calvinistic tendencies of the bishop and his lenience to the Puritan and low church clergy.[1] Hall gradually took up an anti-Laudian, but also anti-Presbyterian position, while remaining a Protestant eirenicist in co-operation with John Dury and concerned with continental Europe.[12]

In 1641 Hall was translated to the See of Norwich, and in the same year sat on the Lords' Committee on religion.

1641 Treason

On 30 December, he was, with other bishops, brought before the bar of the House of Lords to answer a charge of high treason of which the Commons had voted them guilty. They were finally convicted of an offence against the Statute of Praemunire, and condemned to forfeit their estates, receiving a small maintenance from the parliament. They were immured in the Tower of London from New Year to Whitsuntide, when they were released on finding bail.[1]

1656 Death

Died 8 September 1656 (aged 82) Heigham, Norfolk Buried Norwich Cathedral

When he died in 1656 he was buried at St Bartholomew’s, Heigham. He was later re-buried at Norwich Cathedral.


The Dolphin Inn, Norwich, in the building where Bishop Hall had his palace from 1643 to 1647.

On his release, Hall proceeded to his new diocese at Norwich, the revenues of which he seems for a time to have received, but in 1643, when the property of the "malignants" was sequestrated, Hall was mentioned by name. Mrs Hall had difficulty in securing a fifth of the maintenance (£400) assigned to the bishop by the parliament; they were eventually ejected from the palace, and the cathedral was dismantled.[1]

Desecration of Cathedral

Hall describes its desecration in Hard Measures:

Lord, what work was here! what clattering of glasses and beating down of walls! what tearing up of monuments! what pulling down of seats! what wrestling down of irons and brass from the windows and walls...[citation needed] He goes on to describe vividly the triumphal procession of the puritan iconoclasts as they carried vestments, service books and singing books to be burned in the nearby market place, while soldiers lounged in the despoiled cathedral drinking and smoking their pipes.[citation needed]

Hall retired to the hamlet of Heigham, now a suburb of Norwich, where he spent his last thirteen years preaching and writing until "he was first forbidden by man, and at last disabled by God".[1] He bore his many troubles and the additional burden of much bodily suffering with sweetness and patience, dying on 8 September 1656.[1] In his old age, Hall was attended upon by the doctor Thomas Browne, who wrote of him:

A person of singular humility, patience and piety: his own works are the best monument, and character of himself, which was also very lively drawn in his excellent funeral sermon preached by my learned and faithful friend Mr. John Whitefoot,


They had six sons and two daughters [2]

  1. Robert Hall, D.D. (1605–1667), became canon of Exeter in 1629, and archdeacon of Cornwall in 1633. [2]
  2. Joseph Hall, the second son (1607–1669), was registrar of Exeter Cathedral. [2]
  3. George Hall, the third son (1612–1668), became bishop of Chester [2](accidentally killed at Wigan when he fell in his garden, stabbed by an open knife he was carrying in his pocket.) [1]
  4. Samuel, the fourth son (1616–1674), was sub-dean of Exeter.[2]


Hall's earliest published verse appeared in a collection of elegies on the death of Dr. William Whitaker, to which he contributed the only English poem (1596). A line in Marston's Pigmalion's Image (1598) indicates that Hall wrote pastoral poems, but none of these have survived.[15] He also wrote:

The King's Prophecie; or Weeping Joy (1603), a gratulatory poem on the accession of James I

Epistles, both the first and second volumes of which appeared in 1608 and a third in 1611

Characters of Virtues and Vices (1608), versified by Nahum Tate (1691) Solomon's Divine Arts (1609)

Hall gave up verse satires and lighter forms of literature when he was ordained a minister in the Church of England.

Mundus alter et idem[edit]

Hall wrote, according to current scholarly consensus, the dystopian Mundus alter et idem sive Terra Australis antehac semper incognita; Longis itineribus peregrini Academici nuperrime illustrata (1605? and 1607), by "Mercurius Britannicus." Mundus alter is an excuse for a satirical description of London, with some criticism of the Roman Catholic Church, and is said to have furnished Jonathan Swift with hints for Gulliver's Travels. It is classified as a Menippean satire, and was almost contemporary with another such satire by John Barclay, Euphormionis Satyricon, with which it shares the features of being written in Latin (Hall generally wrote in English), and a concern for religious commentary.[16]

The narrator takes a voyage in the ship Fantasia, in the southern seas, visiting the lands of Crapulia, Viraginia, Moronia and Lavernia (populated by gluttons, nags, fools and thieves respectively). Moronia parodies Roman Catholic customs; in its province Variana is found an antique coin parodying Justus Lipsius, a target for Hall's satire ad hominem (here the personal attack goes beyond the Menippean model).[17]

Hall wrote it for private circulation, and its publication was not intended by him.[18] The book was published at the hands of William Knight, who wrote a Latin preface, he being only tentatively identified by scholars (there are several candidate clergymen of that name, the one with dates (c.1573–1617?) being singled out).[19] It was reprinted in 1643, with Civitas Solis by Tommaso Campanella, and New Atlantis by Francis Bacon.[20] It was not clearly ascribed to Hall by name until 1674, when Thomas Hyde, the librarian of the Bodleian, identified "Mercurius Britannicus" with Joseph Hall, as is now accepted.[d] On the other hand, Hall's authorship was an open secret, and in 1642 John Milton used it to attack Hall (during the Smectymnuus controversy) by employing the argument that Utopia and New Atlantis had a constructive approach lacking in Mundus Alter.[21]

The Mundus alter was translated into English by John Healey (1608–9) as The Discovery of a New World or A Description of the South Indies by an English Mercury. This was a free and necessarily unauthorised translation, and involved Hall in controversy. Andrea McCrea describes Hall's interactions with Robert Dallington, and then Healey, against the background of a few years of the pace-setting culture of the court of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. Dallington advocated travel, indeed the Grand Tour, while Hall was minatory about its effects; Dallington wrote aphorisms following Lipsius and Guicciardini, while Hall had moved away from the Tacitist strand in humanist thought to the more conservative Senecan tendency with which he was permanently to be associated. Healey embroidered political details into the Mundus alter translation, and outed Hall as author at least as far as his initials, the emphasis on politics again being a Tacitist one. Healey had noble patronage, and Hall's position with respect to the princely court culture was revealed as close to that of the king, placing him as an outsider rather than in the new group of movers and shakers.[22] On the death of Prince Henry, his patron, Hall did preach the funeral sermon to his household.[23]


Hall's initial work of religious controversy was against Protestant separatists. In 1608 he had written a letter of remonstrance to John Robinson and John Smyth. Robinson, who had been a beneficed clergyman near Yarmouth, had replied in An Answer to a Censorious Epistle; and Hall published (1610) A Common Apology against the Brownists, a lengthy treatise answering Robinson paragraph by paragraph. It set a style, tight but rich using animadversion, for Hall's theological writings. Hall criticised Robinson, the future pastor of the Mayflower congregation, alongside Richard Bernard and John Murton.[24]

He did his best in his Via media, The Way of Peace (1619), to persuade the two parties (Calvinist and Arminian) to accept a compromise. His later defence of the English Church, and episcopacy as Biblical, entitled Episcopacy by Divine Right (1640), was twice revised at Laud's dictation.

This was followed by An Humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament (1640 and 1641), an eloquent and forceful defence of his order, which produced a retort from the syndicate of Puritan divines, who wrote under the name of Smectymnuus. This was followed by a long controversy to which John Milton contributed five pamphlets, virulently attacking Hall and his early satires.

Wikipedia Notes

[a]Jump up ^ Hall has left among his works two tracts ("Observations of some Specialties of Divine Providence in the Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich", and "Hard Measure"), which together form a useful and interesting autobiography (Perry 1890, p. 75). [b]Jump up ^ Extract from Browne's miscellaneous tract Repertorium[full citation needed]. [c]Jump up ^ "Virgidemiarum. Sixe Bookes. First three Bookes. Of Toothlesse Satyrs. (1) Poeticall, (2) Academicall, (3) Morall" (London: Thomas Creede, 1597), 12mo.(Perry 1890, p. 75) [d]Jump up ^ For another view on the question of the authorship of this pamphlet, and arguments in favour of the suggestion that it was written by Alberico Gentili, see Edward Augustus Petherick, Mundus alter et idem, reprinted from the Gentleman's Magazine (July 1896) as cited by Chisholm 1911, p. 848. [1]^ Jump up to: a b c d e f Chisholm 1911, p. 848. [2]Jump up ^ Chew 1950, pp. 1130–1145. [3]^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i Chisholm 1911, p. 847. [4]Jump up ^ Perry 1890, p. 75; ACAD & HL588J; and ACAD & GLBY582N. [5]Jump up ^ Barry 1981, pp. 232–235. [6]Jump up ^ Bremer & Webster 2006, p. 117. [7]Jump up ^ Bryant 2000. [8]Jump up ^ Patterson 1997, pp. 252–253. [9]Jump up ^ Norwich 1808, p. 145. [10]Jump up ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 847; Perry 1890, p. 77; and Patterson 1997, pp. 280–281. [11]Jump up ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 848; Sharpe 1992, p. 307. [12]Jump up ^ Trevor-Roper 1967, p. 256; Trevor-Roper 2000, pp. 264, 266; and Milton 2002. [13]Jump up ^ Papy 2004. [14]Jump up ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 847 cites Notes and Queries 3rd series, xii. 436. [15]Jump up ^ Perry 1890, p. 75. [16]Jump up ^ Salzman 2002, p. 39. [17]Jump up ^ McCrea 1997, p. 176. [18]Jump up ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 2008-11-05. [19]Jump up ^ Wright 2008. [20]Jump up ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-29. [21]Jump up ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 848;Hill 1979, p. 49. [22]Jump up ^ McCrea 1997, pp. 194–196. [23]Jump up ^ Perry 1890, p. 76. [24]Jump up ^ Perry 1890, p. 76; Bremer & Webster 2006, p. 216. [25]Jump up ^ Perry 1890, p. 79. [26]Jump up ^ online text


Barry, Graham (1981). The Golden Age Restor'd. pp. 232–235. Bremer, Francis J.; Webster, Tom (2006). Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia. p. 117. Bryant, Barry E. (2000). Mattei, Michael, ed. "Molina, Arminois, Plaifere, Goad, and Wesley on human free-will, divine omniscience, and middle knowledge". Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene University. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Chew, Audrey (December 1950). "Joseph Hall and Neo-Stoicism". PMLA. 65 (6): 1130–1145. "Hall, Joseph (HL588J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. "Gilbey, Nathaniel (GLBY582N)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. Hill, Christopher (1979). Milton and the English Revolution. p. 49. McCrea, Adriana (1997). Constant Minds: Political virtue and the Lipsian paradigm in England, 1584–1650. pp. 176, 194–196. Milton, Anthony (2002). Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600–1640. p. 398. Norwich, Joseph Hall, Bishop of (1808). The works of ... Joseph Hall, with some account of his life and sufferings, written by himself, arranged and revised by J. Pratt. p. 145. Papy, Jan (23 August 2004). "Justus Lipsius". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 5 February 2017. Patterson, W.B. (1997). King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom. pp. 252–253. Salzman, Paul (2002). "Narrative Contexts for Bacon's New Atlantis". In Price, Bronwen. Francis Bacon's New Atlantis: New interdisciplinary essays. p. 39. Sharpe, Kevin (1992). The Personal Rule of Charles I. p. 307. Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1967). Religion, the Reformation and Social Change. p. 256. Trevor-Roper, Hugh (2000). Archbishop Laud. pp. 264, 266. Wright, Stephen (January 2008). "Knight, William (d. 1615/16)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15739. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Attribution This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Perry, George Gresley (1890). "Hall, Joseph". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 24. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 75–80. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hall, Joseph". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 847–848. Further reading[edit] David A. Berwick, The Divine 'Delinquent' Bishop Hall of Norwich (2012) ISBN 978-0-9572591-0-2 Richard A. McCabe, Joseph Hall: A Study in Satire and Meditation (1982) McCabe, Richard A. (January 2008) [2004]. "Hall, Joseph (1574–1656)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11976. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) Pratt, Josiah, ed. (1808). The works of the Right Reverend Father in God, Joseph Hall, D.D., successively Bishop of Exeter and Norwich: Now first collected, with some account of his life and sufferings. 5. Williams and Smith.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 John Watkins. Universal Biographical Dictionary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Synod of Dort
  • The Divine Delinquent - Bishop Hall of Norwich by David Berwick pub: 2012
  • biography of Bishop Joseph Hall [1]

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Bishop Joseph Hall wearing the medal presented to him by the Synod of Dort in 1618
Bishop Joseph Hall wearing the medal presented to him by the Synod of Dort in 1618


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