King James Bible Translators
Personal and Family Life
Roger Fenton was likely born about 1565 at Crimble, Bamford, near Heywood and Rochdale in Lancashire. Crimble remained a family seat of the Fentons for many generations. Little is known of his immediate family. He left Lancashire for Cambridge in 1585 and remained there for at least fifteen years. He eventually accepted positions in London where he gained the friendship of such men as Lancelot Andrewes and Nicholas Felton who would be his colleagues in the Bible translation.
Roger Fenton died before he turned fifty on 16 January 1615 and was buried under the communion table in the chancel of St. Stephen Walbrook, London. The church was later destroyed in the Great Fire, but was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.
Fenton was a beloved preacher and minister who was greatly mourned at his passing. His fellow members at Gray's Inn sorrowed to the point that they reported, their "hearts bled through their eyes when they saw him dead".
One recent biographer of Roger Fenton noted that while he published a treatise on the evils of usury, yet as a theologian "he placed primacy on the Holy Ghost in Christianity, and in each person coming to an understanding of the Spirit's work through his own vernacular language. Fenton He believed that "the true Christian must intensify the experiences of misery, search diligently to find specks of sin, and be very active in repentance" (KNAFLA, ODNB).
As to his religious views, "he was a discreet presser of conformity".
Roger Fenton entered Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1585. Thomas Fuller, a near contemporary and noted biographer observed of Fenton, "Never a more learned hath Pembroke Hall brought forth with one exception". The exception was likely his friend Lancelot Andrewes. Fenton graduated B.A. in 1589, proceeded M.A. in 1592, B.D. in 1602, and D.D. in 1613.
Roger Fenton became a fellow of Pembroke College in 1590 shortly after obtaining his B.A. He held this teaching and administrative office at least until 1600 when he became chaplain to Sir Thomas Egerton in Cheshire and London. He had previously been admitted as a preacher at Gray's Inn, London in 1598. His first pastoral position was as a curate of Bury, Lancashire near to his likely birthplace, Crimble.
In 1601 Fenton was appointed rector of St. Stephen Walbrook and in 1603 was given the rectory of St. Benet Sherehog, London. He resigned St. Benet's in 1606 to accept the same position at Chigwell, Essex. He retained the rectories at St. Stephen's and Chigwell for the rest of his life.
In 1609 he took Lancelot Andrewes' place as prebendary and director of St. Paul's, London. It is recorded that he preached before King James I on at least three occasions.
He His published works include A Perfume Against Naysome Pestilence (1603), published during the plague, and a collection of sermons under the title A Sermon Preached at St. Mary Spittle (1606). His sermons before the king at Paul's Cross were published after his death.
Roger Fenton and the Translation
Roger Fenton was a member of the Second Westminster Company which had responsibility for translating the Epistles of the New Testament. His company was led by William Barlow, and some of the greatest scholars of his time were colleagues.
His own writings were described as combining "naked innocence without [show], and natural majesty of the style, like a master bee without a sting".
Undoubtedly, some of the majestic language of the Epistles is due to the talent of Roger Fenton.
One of the great friendships among the Translators was between Roger Fenton and Nicholas Felton. The two were rectors of parishes (St. Stephen's, Walbrook and St. Antholin's) which adjoined each other.
The following reminiscence was related by Thomas Fuller, Sr., father of the biographer who related the story.
Once my own father gave Dr. Fenton a visit, who excused himself from entertaining him any longer. Mr. Fuller, said he, hear how the passing bell tolls at this very instant for my dear friend Dr. Felton now a dying. I must to my study, it being mutually agreed upon betwixt us in our healths, that the survivor of us should preach the other's funeral sermon.
Apparently the bells were not tolling for Dr. Felton who recovered from his illness, outliving Roger Fenton by ten years. As agreed, Nicholas Felton preached Fenton's funeral sermon. Roger Fenton's life was as physically inactive as it was mentally engaged. His sedentary habits resulted in considerable bodily afflictions. When Nicholas Felton sought to comfort him, telling Fenton his weakness and disease were given him as trials of his patience and faith, Fenton told his friend, "Oh no, he answered "they are not trials but corrections" thus demonstrating the good man's humble assessment of his own spiritual status.
In 1819 another Roger Fenton, of the Translator's family, was born at tiny Crimble. This Roger Fenton ultimately took up photography and went to the Crimean War as the first official war photographer. As a result of Fenton's groundbreaking photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photojournalism.