John Fell (bishop) - Career

Career

After the Restoration, Fell was made prebendary of Chichester, canon of Christ Church (27 July 1660), dean (30 November), master of St Oswald's hospital, Worcester, chaplain to the king, and D.D. (see Doctor of Divinity). He filled the office of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1666 to 1669, and was consecrated bishop of Oxford, in 1676, retaining his deanery in commendam. Some years later, he declined the primacy of Ireland.

Fell showed himself a capable administrator. He restored good order in the university by the archbishop, which during the Commonwealth had given place to a general disregard of authority. He ejected the intruders from his college or else "fixed them in loyal principles." "He was the most zealous man of his time for the Church of England," says Anthony Wood, "and none that I yet know of did go beyond him in the performance of the rules belonging thereunto." He attended chapel four times a day, restored to the services, not without some opposition, the organ and surplice, and insisted on the proper academic dress which had fallen into disuse. He was active in recovering church property, and by his directions a children's catechism was drawn up by Thomas Marshall for use in his diocese. "As he was among the first of our clergy," says Thomas Burnet, "that apprehended the design of bringing in popery, so he was one of the most zealous against it."

He made many converts from the Roman Catholics and Nonconformists. On the other hand, he successfully opposed the incorporation of Titus Oates as D.D. in the university in October 1679; and according to the testimony of William Nichols, his secretary, he disapproved of the Exclusion Bill. He excluded the undergraduates, whose presence had been irregularly permitted, from convocation. He obliged students to attend lectures, instituted reforms in the performances of the public exercises in the schools, kept the examiners up to their duties, was present in person at examinations. He encouraged the students to act plays. He entirely suppressed "coursing," i.e. disputations in which the rival parties "ran down opponents in arguments," and which commonly ended in blows and disturbances.

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