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Penry, John

Penry, John (1563–93). Puritan writer. A de facto clergyman though never taking holy orders, and regarded by some as pioneering Welsh nonconformity, Penry's concern about the lack of preaching ministers in his native Wales so displeased Archbishop Whitgift that he was briefly imprisoned and the offending Treatise seized (1587). As his attacks on the established church coincided with appearance of the Marprelate tracts, he was ineluctably drawn into the controversy; friendship with Udall and Job Throckmorton, and close association with Robert Waldegrave's secret printing press, made him a prime suspect for ‘Martin Marprelate’, though he was merely sympathetic collaborator and co-ordinator rather than author. He fled to Edinburgh (1589) but returned to London in 1592, allying himself to Henry Barrow and the separatists, only to be captured the following March and imprisoned. Despite slender evidence when tried at the Queen's Bench, he was indicted, convicted, and hanged.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Penry, John

John Penry, 1559–93, British Puritan author, an instigator of the Marprelate controversy, b. Wales, grad. Cambridge and Oxford. While at college he became an ardent Puritan. In 1587 his pamphlet assailing the spiritual destitution of the Welsh clergy was seized and burned, and he was briefly imprisoned. Puritans were aroused, and Penry and several associates were helped to set up a hidden printing press from which emerged (1588–89) seven pamphlets attacking alleged evils of the Church of England and its clergy. They appeared under the pseudonym Martin Marprelate; Penry was perhaps the chief author. When his associate John Udall was arrested (1590), Penry fled to Scotland; he returned secretly in 1592. He was arrested, tried on the doubtful charge of writing with intent to excite rebellion, and hanged.

See his Notebook (ed. by A. Peel, 1944); D. J. McGinn, John Penry and the Marprelate Controversy (1966).

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