“Other news we have none notable, but that one Frith, which was in the Tower in prison, was appointed by the King’s Grace to be examined before me, my Lord of London, my Lord of Winchester, my Lord of Suffolk, my Lord Chancellor, and my Lord of Wiltshire; whose opinion was so notably erroneous that we could not dispatch him, but were fain to leave him to the determination of his ordinary, which is the Bishop of London. His said opinion is of such nature, that he thought it not necessary to be believed as an article of our faith that there is the very corporeal presence of Christ within the host and sacrament of the altar; and holdeth on this point much after the opinion of Oecolampadius.
“And surely I myself sent for him three or four times to persuade him to leave that imagination. But for all that we could do therein, he would not apply to any counsel. Notwithstanding now he is at a final end with all examinations; for my Lord of London hath given sentence, and delivered him to the secular power when he looketh every day to go unto the fire. And there is also condemned with him one Andrew a tailor for the self-same opinion; and thus fare you well."
These victims went as they were sentenced, dismissed to their martyr’s crowns at Smithfield, as Queen Anne Boleyn but a few days before had received her golden crown at the altar of Westminster Abbey. Twenty years later another fire was blazing under the walls of Oxford; and the hand which was now writing these light lines was blackening in the flames of it, paying there the penalty of the same “imagination” for which Frith and the poor London tailor were with such cool indifference condemned. It is affecting to know that Frith’s writings were the instruments of Cranmer’s conversion; and the fathers of the Anglican church have left a monument of their sorrow for the shedding of this innocent blood in the Order of the Communion service, which closes with the very words on which the primate, with his brother bishops, had sate in judgment.
Where changes are about to take place of great and enduring moment, a kind of prologue, on a small scale, sometimes anticipates the true opening of the drama; like the first drops which give notice of the coming storm, or as if the shadows of the reality were projected forwards into the future, and imitated in dumb show the movements of the real actors in the story.