The eldest son of Thomas Fuller, rector of Aldwinkle St Peterâ€™s, Northamptonshire, he was born at his fatherâ€™s rectory and was baptized on 19 June 1608. Dr John Davenant, bishop of Salisbury, was his uncle and godfather. According to John Aubrey, Fuller was “a boy of pregnant wit.” At thirteen he was admitted to Queensâ€™ College, Cambridge, then presided over by John Davenant. His cousin, Edward Davenant, was a tutor there. He did well academically; and in Lent 1624-1625 he became B.A. and in July 1628, M.A. After being overlooked in an election of fellows of his college, he moved to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in November 1628. In 1630 he received from Corpus Christi College the curacy of St Benetâ€™s, Cambridge.
Fullerâ€™s oratory soon attracted attention. In June 1631 his uncle gave him a prebend in Salisbury, where his father, who died in the following year, already held a canonry. The rectory of Broadwindsor, Dorset, then in the diocese of Bristol, was his next preferment (1634); and on 11 June 1635 he proceeded B.D. In 1640, he was elected proctor for Bristol in the memorable convocation of Canterbury, which assembled with the Short Parliament. On the sudden dissolution of the latter he joined those who urged that convocation should likewise dissolve. That opinion was overruled; and the assembly continued to sit by royal writ. Fuller left, in his Church History, a valuable account of the proceedings of this synod, for sitting in which he was fined Â£200.
In 1631, he published a poem on the subject of David and Bathsheba, entitled Davidâ€™s Heinous Sinne, Heartie Repentance, Heavie Punishment. At Broadwindsor he compiled The Historie of the Holy Warre (1639), a history of the crusades, and The Holy State and the Prophane State (1642). This work describes the holy state as existing in the family and in public life, gives rules of conduct, model “characters” for the various professions and profane biographies. It was perhaps the most popular of all his writings. His first published volume of sermons appeared in 1640 under the title of Josephâ€™s party-colored Coat.
Engraved title page the third edition of Historie of the Holy Warre by Thomas Fuller, 1647.Lionel Cranfield, 3rd Earl of Middlesex, who lived at Copt Hall, near Waltham, gave him what remained of the books of the lord treasurer his father; and through the good offices of the marchioness of Hertford, part of his own pillaged library was restored to him. Fuller was thus able to prosecute his literary labours, producing successively his descriptive geography of the Holy Land, called A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine (1650), and his Church-History of Britain (1655), from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year 1648.
With the Church-History was printed The History of the University of Cambridge since the Conquest and The History of Waltham Abbey. These works were furthered by his connection with Sion College, London, where he had a room. The Church History was angrily attacked from the high-church side by Peter Heylin. At the Oxford Act of 1657, Robert South, who was Terrae filius, lampooned Fuller, whom he described in this Oratio as living in London, ever scribbling and each year bringing forth new folia like a tree. At length, continues South, the Church-History came forth with its 166 dedications to wealthy and noble friends; and with this huge volume under one arm, and his wife (said to be little of stature) on the other, he ran up and down the streets of London, seeking at the houses of his patrons invitations to dinner, to be repaid by his dull jests at table. His last and best patron was George Berkeley, 1st Earl Berkeley (1628-1698), of Cranford House, Middlesex, whose chaplain he was, and who gave him Cranford rectory (1658). To this noble-man Fullerâ€™s reply to Heylynâ€™s Examen Historicum, called The Appeal of Injured Innocence (1659), was inscribed. In An Alarum to the Counties of England and Wales (1660) Fuller argued for a free and full parliamentâ€“free from force, as he expressed it, as well as from abjurations or previous engagements. Mixt Contemplations in Better Times (1660), dedicated to Lady Monk, tendered advice in the spirit of its motto, “Let your moderation be known to all men: the Lord is at hand.”
His sense of humor kept him from extremes. “By his particular temper and management,” said Laurence Echard in his History of England, “he weathered the late great storm with more success than many other great men.” He was known as “a perfect walking library.” Antithetic and axiomatic sentences abound in his pages.. “Wit,” wrote Coleridge after reading the Church History, “was the stuff and substance of Fullerâ€™s intellect”. Charles Lamb made some selections from Fuller, and admired his “golden works.”
Other famous quotes by Thomas Fuller include:
‘Tis not every question that deserves an answer.
All things are difficult before they are easy.
An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.
He does not believe, that does not live according to his belief.
Learning makes a man fit company for himself.
Many would be cowards if they had courage enough.
No good workman without good tools.
One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.
Zeal without knowledge is fire without light.