It seemed unlikely that the web would provide much information about a Sixteenth Century Rector of High Ham. To find him mentioned in a 2010 PhD thesis was a real surprise.
Katie M. Nelson’s doctoral thesis Thomas Whythorne and Tudor Musicians presents Schaell as someone who was probably hardly typical of the rural Somerset clergy of the time:
We know little of Whythorne’s ‘divers’ friends, besides a few names. Particular friends, ‘who were learned’, wrote sonnets in commemoration of Whythorne’s music, which he printed with his 1571 Songes: Thomas Covert, Thomas Barnum, Adrian Schaell, and Henry Thorne. The latter three (of the first we know virtually nothing) seem to have been active in their own literary pursuits.
Schaell, a German, came to England as a schoolmaster after studying at University in Leipzig, but soon found a career in the church. At age 68, after nearly thirty years (1570-
1599) as rector of a parish in Somerset, he decided to write a memoir of Higham Church. Though his wit was ‘now waxing dull and decayed with drowsiness’, he was equal to the task, and one cannot help but wonder if Whythorne had any influence on Schaell’s activities.
Adrian Schaell seems to have been a diligent priest with a deep familiarity with his parish and his people, but also found time to gather with Thomas Whythorne and his friends in London. Commenting on a work of Whythorne, Katie Nelson writes:
A printed fragment at the British Library adds another intriguing piece to the puzzle of Whythorne’s manuscript. It is a single piece of paper on which is printed Adrian Schaell’s Latin poem, ‘In libros Thomae Whithorni Octostichon’, in praise of Whythorne’s music. The fragment has been identified as John Day’s work and dated to 1571. It appears to be a page from the front of the bassus part book of Whythorne’s 1571 Songes. Strangely, though, the document does not match the one extant copy of the Songes. The decorative marks at top and bottom are not the same, and in one version Adrian Schaell’s initials are printed below his name while in the other they are not. This is curious indeed, a tantalizing hint that there remains a great deal we may never know about Whythorne and his publishing activities.
The publication of Schaell’s poem is a tantalizing hint that Adrian Schaell was a very unlikely person to be priest of our village. How did he come to be here? And what made him stay here for so long?