Shirwood, John

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Bishop of Durham; b. York, England; d. Rome, Jan. 14, 1493. He received degrees from Cambridge University and a doctorate in theology from Oxford (by 1460). Proficiency in Latin letters helped him win the favor of George Neville, Bishop of Exeter, later Archbishop of York. This association existed in 1460, when Shirwood became chancellor of Exeter cathedral. In 1484 he received the bishopric of durham by papal provision. His preferment to high Church office reflects the favor not only of Neville but also of King Edward IV. Beginning in 1477, he served as king's advocate at the Curia. He enjoyed also the favor of King Richard III. His career suffered from the victory of King Henry VII (1485), but eventually he won the new ruler's confidence, again becoming advocate at Rome in 1492. Shirwood first attracted Neville's attention through his humanistic scholarship (see humanism). He was one of the first English humanists to master Greek. His Latin poetry is lost, but his Liber de ludo arithmomachia, describing a board game, was printed in 1482. He made an important collection of manuscripts and printed books, emphasizing the Greek and Latin classics.

Bibliography: a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the Scholars of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 195759) 3:169293. e. i. carlyle, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 18:146. r. weiss, Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century (2d ed. Oxford 1957). p. s. allen, "Bishop Shirwood of Durham and His Library," English Historical Review 25 (1910) 445456. b. behrens, "Origins of the Office of English Resident Ambassador in Rome," English Historical Review 49 (1934) 640656.

[c. g. nauert, jr.]