MULCASTER, Richard (1532-1611), of London.
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Family and Education
Headmaster, Merchant Taylors’ 1561-86; vicar of Cranbrook, Kent 1590-1; prebendary of Yatesbury 1594; high master, St. Paul’s 1596-1608, rector of Stanford Rivers, Essex 1598-d.
Richard Mulcaster, ‘by ancient parentage and lineal descent an esquire born’, was a native of Carlisle and presumably owed his return to the influence there of his father, though his own distinction and the fact that he was living in London at the time must have been additional recommendations. After leaving Oxford, where he had gained a reputation for his knowledge of Greek, Latin and Hebrew, he had established himself as a teacher in the capital and been commissioned to write ‘the book containing and declaring the histories set forth in and by the City’s pageants’ when the Queen passed through London before her coronation, ‘which book was given unto the Queen’s grace’. His membership of the first Parliament of the reign was but an interlude in a scholastic career. Chosen in 1561 to be the first headmaster of the Merchant Taylors’ new school, he was found ‘worthy of great commendation’ when the school’s visitors reported in the following year. They did, however, criticize the children’s indistinct pronunciation, ascribing it to the ushers, most of whom being ‘northern men born’ did not speak as clearly as men brought up in the schools of the south. Apparently the fault, such as it was, was corrected, for the boys of the school on a number of occasions performed plays at court.1
The First Part of the Elementarie, published in 1582, Mulcaster dedicated to his ‘very good lord’ the Earl of Leicester. ‘I do not see’, he wrote,
that there is any one about her Majesty (without offence be it spoken, either to your honour, if you desire not to hear it, or to any other person which deserves well that way) which either justly can or unjustly will compare with your honour, either for the encouraging of students to the attainment of learning, or for helping the learned to advancement of living. Which two points I take to be most evident proofs of general patronage to all learning, to nourish it being green, to cherish it being grown ... I do find myself exceedingly indebted unto your honour for your special goodness and most favourable countenance these many years, whereby I am bound to declare the vow of my service unto your honour.
Mulcaster’s association with Leicester makes it likely that he was, as has been suggested, responsible for part of the entertainment at Kenilworth in 1575, and suggests also that he shared his patron’s sympathy with radical religious attitudes. Indeed it may have been for this reason, as well as for his learning, that he first commended himself to Richard Hills, the moving spirit in the foundation of the Merchant Taylors’ school, who had kept in close contact throughout Mary’s reign with the religious émigrés on the Continent.2
Disputes with the Merchant Taylors, in which his dissatisfaction with his salary was a recurring theme, led Mulcaster eventually to resign the headmastership that he had held for 25 years. Taking a house in the country, he attempted to set up a school for the sons of noblemen and borrowed money from London merchants for its furnishings, in one instance pledging plate worth £300. The venture failed. In June 1589 the Privy Council asked the lord mayor to obtain for him some respite from his creditors. His debts had grown, wrote the Council, by ‘casualty and mishap’ to one who deserved well of the city because of his ‘travail and pains’ as a schoolmaster. Receiving the vicarage of Cranbrook in the following year he resigned shortly afterwards and, after applying to Puckering, received the modest Salisbury prebend of Yatesbury. In 1591 he was appointed high master of St. Paul’s—apparently he had for a time kept a school in Milk Street attended by some of Paul’s boys during the dispute between the governors and his predecessor—and two years later