(Bishop of Lincoln and Winchester)
Born: ABT 1517
Died: 29 Apr 1594, Winchester House, Southwark, England
Married: Amy ?
Born ABT 1517 at Oxford, the son of an impoverished tailor who owned a worltshop in Cat Street. Despite his humble origins, Cooper was educated as a chorister at Magdalen College School and, after graduating, became both a fellow and a master there.
In 1545, he began an ambitious project to complete a history of the world, which had been left unfinished after the death of the chronicler Thomas Lacquet that same year. Lacquet had covered the period from the Creation to 17AD, and it took Cooper until 1549 to complete the remaining 1.530 years. When The Chronicle of the World was published in 1549 it was attributed to Cooper, who had written at least three-quarters of it and, when it reappeared in 1565, it was even entitled Cooper's Chronicle. In 1565 appeared the first edition of his greatest work, Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae, and this was followed by three other editions.
Cooper was an ardent Protestant, and he hoped to become a minister in the Church of England. However, the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary I. in 1553, forced him to set his ambition aside and. instead, he qualified and practised as a physician in Oxford. When Mary died in 1558, Cooper was ordained and quickly gained a reputation as a fiery preacher. However, he still exercised his literary talent and, around this time, he began to compile his greatest work, a Latin and English Dictionary, which was first published in 1565 and had been reprinted three times by 1584.
Unfortunately, Cooper's marriage to his wife, Amy, was desperately unhappy. According to the diarist John Aubrey, she once became so infuriated by the long hours her husband spent working on his dictionary that "when he had half-done it... she threw it into the fire and burnt it". Cooper, placid as ever, began work again, while his wife embarked upon a series of affairs. Despite being offered a divorce by the authorities of Oxford University, Cooper continued to forgive her.
William Shakespeare is believed to have used Cooper's Thesaurus in the creation of his many poems and plays. (Evidence of this comes from a close statistical inspection of Shakespeare's word usage.) Cooper's academic career was largely unaffected by his troubled home life and he rose steadily up the Church hierarchy. Elizabeth I was greatly pleased with the Thesaurus, generally known as Cooper's Dictionary; and its author, who had been ordained about 1559, was made dean of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1567. Two years later he became dean of Gloucester, in 1571 Bishop of Lincoln and in 1584 Bishop of Winchester.
Cooper was a stout controversialist; he defended the practice and precept of the Church of England against the Roman Catholics on the one hand and against the Martin Marprelate writings and the Puritans on the other. He took some part, the exact extent of which is disputed, in the persecution of religious recusants in his diocese.
He died at Winchester on the 29 Apr 1594, and a Latin inscription engraved on his memorial plaque describes him as a man "most munificent, most learned, most vigilant and benign".
Cooper's Admonition against Martin Marprelate was reprinted in 1847, and his Answer in Defence of the Truth against the Apology of Private Mass in 1850.
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