Lives of the fellows

John Clement

b.? d.1 July 1572
MD FRCP(1528)

John Clement, M.D. - Of the birth-place, parentage, or early education of this learned and conscientious physician but little is known. There are grounds to believe that he was born in Yorkshire. [He was one of the earliest scholars of St. Paul's School during the time of William Liby - the first headmaster. Vide p.19 of Gardiner's Register of St. Paul's School. Lond. 1884.] He was certainly educated at Oxford, but in what house is not known. It was his good fortune at an early period to make the acquaintance of Sir Thomas More, who took him into his family, made him tutor of his children, and treated him with a kindness almost paternal.

About the year 1519 he was again at Oxford, and settled in Corpus Christi College, having been constituted Cardinal Wolsey's rhetoric reader in the university, and soon afterwards professor of Greek. These offices he filled with a success and reputation unequalled in the schools on any former occasion. His friend and patron, Sir Thomas More, writes of him thus: "Clemens meus Oxonii profitetur, auditorio tanto quanto non ante quisquam. Mirum est quàm placeat et deametur universis. Quibus bonæ literæ propemodum sunt invisæ tamen illum charum habent, audiunt, et paulatim mitescunt. Linacer, qui neminem ut scis temerè probat, tamen illius epistolas sic effert atque admiratur ut ego quoque, qui unicè homini faveo, propemodum tamen tam cumulatis laudibus ad illo viro congestis invideam." (1)

It does not appear that up to this period his studies had been directed to any particular profession, but he now devoted himself entirely to the pursuit of medical knowledge. Thus More, in one of his epistles (anno 1521 or 1522), mentioning Lupset as professor of languages at Oxford, says, "Successit enim Joanni Clementi meo, nam is se toto addixit rei medicæ."

On the 1st February, 1528, Clement was admitted a Fellow of the College of Physicians. On the 16th of April following he was admitted an Elect "in loco Ric. Halsewell demortui;" and he was one of the physicians sent by Henry VIII to Wolsey, when he lay languishing at Esher, in 1529. He was Consiliarius in 1529, 1530, 1531, and 1547. In 1544 he was elected President.

Sincere and constant in his attachment to the Church of Rome, in whose communion he had been born and nurtured, he left his native country soon after the accession of Edward VI., and retired to Louvaine. In the Annals, anno 1551, is the following entry: "Postridie Divi Thomæ Apost. electus est in numerum Electorum Tho. Huys, vice doctissimi viri Joannis Clementis doctoris, Lovanii peregrinantis religionis gratiâ." Some circumstances must have rendered him peculiarly obnoxious to the Court, as he was, with some others, exempted from a general pardon granted by Edward in 1552. It was, Wood thinks, during his continuance abroad on this occasion, that he took the degree of doctor, a supposition clearly inadmissible, for I find him as early as the 16th April, 1528, mentioned in the Annals as then a doctor of medicine.

The death of Edward and the accession of Mary led him once more to England, and his return is thus recorded: - "19 Mart. 1554 - Quo tempore in comitiis, primo post reditum Louvanio, apparuit Joannes Clemens, doctor et elector, cujus reditu fortuna effectum est, ut sint electores novem." Age and infirmities now overtook him, and, notwithstanding he was elected Censor in 1555, and Consiliarius again in 1556, 1557, 1558, the College, at the comitia majora, held 20th May, 1555, accorded to him the following exemption:- "Jo. Clementi Doctori data facultas est, ut pro arbitrio accedat ad Collegium, tum propter senectutem tum propter adversam valetudinem, nisi cum electio Præsidentis aut gravis aliqua causa aut honor Collegii postulat."

On the accession of Queen Elizabeth he again left England and retired to Mechlin, where he lived and practised for many years. Dying 1st July, 1572, at his residence in the Blocstrate, in St. John's parish, Mechlin, he was buried the following day in the cathedral church of St. Rumbold in that city.

Dr. Clement married, about the year 1526, a lady named Margaret Giggs, who had been educated among Sir Thomas More's children, and in great part by Clement himself. Pits calls her "Margaritam illam quam inter filias suas, tanquam filiam, educari fecerat Morus." She was in truth a very accomplished scholar, with little inferior to her husband in a knowledge of the learned languages, and she gave him considerable assistance in his translations from the Greek. She shared his joys and troubles for more than forty-four years, and died in July, 1570. In an epitaph which Dr. Clement wrote for her monument, among other subjects of praise, he mentions her teaching her sons and daughters Latin and Greek.

Dr. Clement was the author of Carmina et Epigrammata, lib. i. and of Translations of the Epistles of St. Gregory Nazienzen, of the Homilies of Nicephorus Calixtus, and of the Epistles of Pope Celestin to Cyrillus, bishop of Alexandria.

William Munk

[(1) Tres. Thomæ, auctore Th. Stapleton, 12mo. Colon. Agipp. 1612, in Vitâ Thomæ More.]

[See also an article 'John Clement and his Books' by A. W. Reed in Transactions of the Bibliographical Society. New ser. vol.6, no.4, March 1926, p.329]

[See also a book on Clement by Ernest Wenckeback. in Studiem z.Gesch.d.Med.1925]

[See 'Notes and Queries' vol.6. No.7 July-Aug. 1959 for scattered references to Dr. Clement in article on The Heredity and Childhood of John Doone]

(Volume I, page 25)

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