LILYE, or LILY, WILLIAM (c. 1468-1522), English scholar, was born at Odiham in Hampshire. He entered the university of Oxford in 1486, and after graduating in arts went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On his return he put in at Rhodes, which was still occupied by the knights of St John, under whose protection many Greeks had taken refuge after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. He then went on to Italy, where he attended the lectures of Sulpitius Verulanus and Pomponius Laetus at Rome, and of Egnatius at Venice. After his return he settled in London (where he became intimate with Thomas More) as a private teacher of grammar, and is believed to have been the first who taught Greek in that city. In 1510 Colet, dean of St Paul's, who was then founding the school which afterwards became famous, appointed Lilye the first high master. He died of the plague on the 25th of February 1522.
Lilye is famous not only as one of the pioneers of Greek learning, but as one of the joint-authors of a book, familiar to many generations of students during the 19th century, the old Eton Latin grammar. The Brevissima Institutio, a sketch by Colet, corrected by Erasmus and worked upon by Lilye, contains two portions, the author of which is indisputably Lilye. These are the lines on the genders of nouns, beginning Propria quae maribus, and those on the conjugation of verbs beginning As in praesenti. The Carmen de Moribus bears Lilye's name in the early editions; but Hearne asserts that it was written by Leland, who was one of his scholars, and that Lilye only adapted it. Besides the Brevissima Institutio, Lilye wrote a variety of Latin pieces both in prose and verse. Some of the latter are printed along with the Latin verses of Sir Thomas More in Progymnasmata Thomae Mori et Gulielmi Lylii Sodalium (1518). Another volume of Latin verse (Antibossicon ad Gulielmum Hormannum, 1521) is directed against a rival schoolmaster and grammarian, Robert Whittingtpn, who had " under the feigned name of Bossus, much provoked Lilye with scoffs and biting verses."
See the sketch of Lilye's life by his son George, canon of St Paul's, written for Paulus Jovius, who was collecting for his history the lives of the learned men of Great Britain; and the article by J. H. Lupton, formerly sur-master of St Paul's School, in the Dictionary of National Biography.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)