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Title: The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies Vol 8 of 12

Date of first publication: 1846

Editor: Knight, Charles (1791-1873)

Date first posted: September 30 2012

Date last updated: September 30 2012

Faded Page eBook #20120942

This eBook was produced by: Marcia Brooks, L. Harrison & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

(This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)














London: Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.


[Pg 5]



A view of a large, stone home



Matthew Hale was born on the 1st of November, 1609, at Alderley, a small village situated in Gloucestershire, about two miles from Wotton-under-Edge. His father, Robert Hale, was a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and his mother, whose maiden name was Poyntz, belonged to an ancient and respectable family which had resided for several generations at Iron Acton. Hale's father is represented to have been a man of such scrupulous delicacy of conscience, that he abandoned his profession, because he thought that some things, of ordinary practice in the law, were inconsistent with [Pg 6] that literal and precise observance of truth which he conceived to be the duty of a Christian. "He gave over his practice," says Burnet, in his Life of Hale, "because he could not understand the reason of giving colour in pleadings, which, as he thought, was to tell a lie."

Hale had the misfortune to lose both his parents very early in life, his mother dying before he was three years old, and his father before he had attained his fifth year. Under the direction of his father's will he was committed to the care of a near relation, Anthony Kingscote, Esq., of Kingscote, in Gloucestershire. This gentleman, being inclined to the religious doctrines and discipline of the Puritans, placed him in a school belonging to that party; and, intending to educate him for a clergyman, entered him in 1626 at Magdalen Hall in Oxford. The strictness and formality of his early education seem to have inclined him to run into the opposite extreme at the university, when he became to a certain extent his own master. He is said to have been very fond at this time of theatrical amusements, and of fencing, and other martial exercises; and giving up the design of becoming a divine, he at one time determined to pass over into the Netherlands, and to enlist as a volunteer in the army of the Prince of Orange. An accidental circumstance diverted him from this resolution. He became involved in a lawsuit with a gentleman in Gloucestershire, who laid claim to part of his paternal estate; and his guardian, being a man of retired habits, was unwilling to undertake the task of personally superintending the proceedings on his behalf. It became necessary therefore that Hale, though then only twenty years old, should leave the university and repair to London for the purpose of arranging his defence. His professional adviser on this occasion was Serjeant Glanville, a learned and distinguished lawyer; who, being struck by the clearness of his young client's understanding, and by his peculiar aptitude of mind for the study of the law, prevailed upon him to abandon his military project, and to enter himself at one of the Inns of Court [Pg 7] with the view of being called to the bar. He accordingly became a member of the society of Lincoln's Inn in Michaelmas term 1629, and immediately applied himself with unusual assiduity to professional studies. At this period of his life, he is said to have read for several years at the rate of sixteen hours a day.

During his residence as a student in Lincoln's Inn, an incident occurred which recalled a certain seriousness of demeanour, for which he had been remarkable as a boy, and gave birth to that profound piety which in after-life was a marked feature in his character. Being engaged with several other young students at a tavern in the neighbourhood of London, one of his companions drank to such excess that he fell suddenly from his chair in a kind of fit, and for some time seemed to be dead. After assisting the rest of the party to restore the young man to his senses, in which they at length succeeded, though he still remained in a state of great danger, Hale, who was deeply impressed with the circumstance, retired into another room, and falling upon his knees prayed earnestly to God that his friend's life might be spared; and solemnly vowed that he would never again be a party to similar excess, nor encourage intemperance by drinking a health again as long as he lived. His companion recovered, and to the end of life Hale scrupulously kept his vow. This was afterwards a source of much inconvenience to him, when the reign of licentiousness commenced, upon the restoration of Charles II.; and drinking the King's health to intoxication was considered as one of the tests of loyalty in politics, and of orthodoxy in religion.

His rapid proficiency in legal studies not only justified and confirmed the good opinion which had been formed of him by his early friend and patron, Serjeant Glanville, but also introduced him to the favourable notice of several of the most distinguished lawyers of that day. Noy, the Attorney-General, who some years afterwards devised the odious scheme of ship-money, and who, while he is called by Lord Clarendon "a morose and proud man," is also represented by him as an "able and learned [Pg 8] lawyer," took particular notice of Hale, and advised and assisted him in his studies. At this time also he became intimate with Selden, who, though much older than himself, honoured him with his patronage and friendship. He was induced by the advice and example of this great man to extend his reading beyond the contracted sphere of his professional studies, to enlarge and strengthen his reasoning powers by philosophical inquiries, and to store his mind with a variety of general knowledge. The variety of his pursuits at this period of life was remarkable: anatomy, physiology, and divinity formed part only of his extensive course of reading; and by his subsequent writings it is made manifest that his knowledge of these subjects was by no means superficial.

The exact period at which Hale was called to the bar is not given by any of his biographers; and in consequence of the non-arrangement of the earlier records at Lincoln's Inn, it cannot be readily ascertained. It is probable, however, that he commenced the actual practice of his profession about the year 1636. It is plain that he very soon attained considerable reputation in it, from his having been employed in most of the celebrated trials arising out of the troubles consequent on the meeting of parliament in 1640. His prudence and political moderation, together with his great legal and constitutional knowledge, pointed him out as a valuable advocate for such of the court party as were brought to public trial. Bishop Burnet says that he was assigned as counsel for Lord Strafford, in 1640. This does not appear from the reports of that trial, nor is it on record that he was expressly assigned as Strafford's counsel by the House of Lords: but he may have been privately retained by that nobleman to assist in preparing his defence. In 1643, however, he was expressly appointed by both Houses of Parliament as counsel for Archbishop Laud: and the argument of Mr. Herne, the senior counsel, an elaborate and lucid piece of legal reasoning, is said, but on no certain authority, to have been drawn up by Hale. In 1647 he was appointed one of the counsel for the Eleven members: and he is said to have been afterwards [Pg 9] retained for the defence of Charles I. in the High Court of Justice; but as the King refused to own the jurisdiction of the tribunal, his counsel took no public part in the proceedings. He was also retained after the King's death by the Duke of Hamilton, when brought to trial for treason, in taking up arms against the parliament. Burnet mentions other instances, but these are enough to prove his high reputation for fidelity and courage, as well as learning.

In the year 1643 Hale took the Covenant as prescribed by the parliament, and appeared more than once with other laymen in the assembly of divines. In 1651 he took the "Engagement to be faithful and true to the Commonwealth without a King and House of Lords," which, as Mr. Justice Foster observes, "in the sense of those who imposed it, was plainly an engagement for abolishing kingly government, or at least for supporting the abolition of it." In consequence of his compliance in this respect, he was allowed to practise at the bar, and was shortly afterwards appointed a member of the commission for considering of the reformation of the law. The precise part taken by Hale in the deliberations of that body cannot now be ascertained; and indeed there are no records of the mode in which they conducted their inquiries, and, with a few exceptions, no details of the specific measures of reform introduced by them. A comparison, however, of the machinery of courts of justice during the reign of Charles I., and their practice and general conduct during the Commonwealth, and immediately after the Restoration, will afford convincing proofs that, during the interregnum improvements of great importance were effected,—improvements which must have been devised, matured, and carried into execution by minds of no common wisdom, devoted to the subject with extraordinary industry and reflection.

It was unquestionably with the view of restoring a respect for the administration of justice, which had been wholly lost during the reign of Charles I., and giving popularity and moral strength to his own government, that Cromwell determined to place such men as Hale [Pg 10] on the benches of the different courts. Hale, however, had at first many scruples concerning the propriety of acting under a commission from an usurper; and it was not without much hesitation, that he at length yielded to the importunity of Cromwell, and the urgent advice and entreaties of his friends; who, thinking it no small security to the nation to have a man of his integrity and high character on the bench, spared no pains to satisfy his conscientious scruples. He was made a serjeant, and raised to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas in January, 1653–4.

Soon after he became a judge he was returned to Cromwell's first parliament of five months, as one of the knights of the shire for the county of Gloucester; but he does not appear to have taken a very active part in the proceedings of that assembly. Burnet says that "he, with a great many others, came to parliaments, more out of a design to hinder mischief than to do much good." On one occasion, however, he did a service to his country, for which all subsequent generations have reason to be grateful, by opposing the proposition of a party of frantic enthusiasts to destroy the records in the Tower and other depositories, as remnants of feudality and barbarism. Hale displayed the folly, injustice, and mischief of this proposition with such authority and clearness of argument, that he carried the opinions of all reasonable members with him; and in the end those who had introduced the measure were well satisfied to withdraw it. That his political opinions at this time were not republican, is evident from a motion introduced by him, that the legislative authority should be affirmed to be in the parliament, and an individual with powers limited by the parliament; but that the military power should for the present remain with the Protector. He had no seat in the second parliament of the Protectorate, called in 1656; but when a new parliament was summoned upon the death of Cromwell, in January, 1658–9, he represented the University of Oxford.

His judicial conduct, during the Commonwealth, is represented by contemporaries of all parties as scrupulously [Pg 11] just, and nobly independent. Several instances are related of his resolute refusal to submit the free administration of the law to the arbitrary dictation of the Protector. On one occasion of this kind, which occurred on the circuit, a jury had been packed by express directions from Cromwell. Hale discharged the jury on discovering this circumstance, and refused to try the cause. When he returned to London, the Protector severely reprimanded him, telling him that "he was not fit to be a judge;" to which Hale only replied that "it was very true."

It appears that at this period, he, in common with several other judges, had strong objections to being employed by Cromwell as commissioners on the trial of persons taken in open resistance to his authority. After the suppression of the feeble and ineffectual rebellion in 1655, in which the unfortunate Colonel Penruddock, with many other gentlemen of rank and distinction, appeared in arms for the King, in the western counties, a special commission issued for the trial of the offenders at Exeter, in which Hale's name was inserted. He happened to be spending the Lent vacation at his house at Alderley, to which place an express was sent to require his attendance; but he plainly refused to go, excusing himself on the ground that four terms and two circuits in the year were a sufficient devotion of his time to his judicial duties, and that the intervals were already too small for the arrangement of his private affairs; "but," says Burnet, "if he had been urged to it, he would not have been afraid of speaking more clearly."

He continued to occupy his place as a judge of the Common Pleas until the death of the Protector; but when a new commission from Richard Cromwell was offered to him, he declined to receive it; and, though strongly urged by other judges, as well as his personal friends, to accept the office on patriotic grounds, he firmly adhered to his first resolution, saying that "he could act no longer under such authority."

In the year 1660 Hale was again returned by his native county of Gloucester to serve in the Parliament, [Pg 12] or Convention, by which Charles II. was recalled. On the discussion of the means by which this event should be brought about, Hale proposed that a committee should be appointed to look into the propositions and concessions offered by Charles I. during the war, particularly at the treaty of Newport, from whence they might form reasonable conditions to be sent over to the king. The motion was successfully opposed by Monk, who urged the danger which might arise, in the present state of the army and the nation, if any delay should occur in the immediate settlement of the government. "This," says Burnet, "was echoed with such a shout over the house, that the motion was no longer insisted on." It can hardly be doubted that most of the destructive errors of the reign of Charles II. would have been spared, if express restrictions had been imposed upon him before he was permitted to assume the reins of government. On the other hand, it has been justly said, that the time was critical; that at that precise moment, the army and the nation, equally weary of the scenes of confusion and misrule which had succeeded to Richard Cromwell's abdication, agreed upon the proposed scheme; but that if delay had been interposed, and if debates had arisen in parliament, the dormant spirit of party would in all probability have been awakened, the opportunity would have been lost, and the Restoration might after all have been prevented. These arguments, when urged by Monk to those who were suffering under a pressing evil, and had only a prospective and contingent danger before them, were plausible and convincing; but to those in after times who have marked the actual consequences of recalling the king without expressly limiting and defining his authority, as displayed in the miserable and disgraceful events of his "wicked, turbulent, and sanguinary reign," and in the necessary occurrence of another revolution within thirty years from the Restoration, it will probably appear that our ancestors paid rather too dearly on that occasion for the advantages of an immediate settlement of the nation.

Immediately after the restoration of the king in May, [Pg 13] 1660, Lord Clarendon, being appointed Lord Chancellor, sought to give strength and stability to the new government, by carefully providing for the due administration of justice. With this view, he placed men distinguished for their learning and high judicial character upon the benches of the different courts. Amongst other eminent lawyers, who had forsaken their profession during the latter period of the Commonwealth, he determined to recall Hale from his retirement, and offered him the appointment of Lord Chief Baron. But it was not without great difficulty that Hale was induced to return to the labours of public life. A curious original paper, containing his "reasons why he desired to be spared from any place of public employment," was published some years ago by Mr. Hargrave, in the preface to his collection of law tracts. Amongst these reasons, which were stated with the characteristic simplicity of this great man, he urged "the smallness of his estate, being not above 500l. per annum, six children unprovided for, and a debt of 1000l. lying upon him; that he was not so well able to endure travel and pains as formerly; that his constitution of body required some ease and relaxation; and that he had of late time declined the study of the law, and principally applied himself to other studies, now more easy, grateful, and seasonable for him." He alludes also to two "infirmities, which make him unfit for that employment, first, an aversion to the pomp and grandeur necessarily incident to it; and secondly, too much pity, clemency, and tenderness in cases of life, which might prove an unserviceable temper." "But if," he concludes, "after all this, there must be a necessity of undertaking an employment, I desire that it may be in such a court and way as may be most suitable to my course of studies and education, and that it may be the lowest place that may be, to avoid envy. One of his Majesty's counsel in ordinary, or at most, the place of a puisne judge in the Common Pleas would suit me best." His scrupasi were, however, eventually overcome, and on the 7th of November, 1660, he accepted the appointment of Lord Chief Baron; Lord Clarendon saying, as [Pg 14] he delivered his commission to him, that "if the King could have found an honester and fitter man for that employment he would not have advanced him to it; and that he had therefore preferred him, because he knew no other who deserved it so well." Shortly afterwards he reluctantly received the honour of knighthood.

The trials of the regicides took place in the October immediately preceding his appointment, and his name appears among the commissioners on that occasion. There is however no reason to suppose that he was actually present; his name is not mentioned in any of the reports, either as interfering in the proceedings themselves, or assisting at the previous consultations of the judges; and it can hardly be doubted but that, if he had taken a part in the trials, he would have been included with Sir Orlando Bridgman and several others in the bitter remarks made by Ludlow on their conduct in this respect. It has been the invariable practice from very early times to the present day, to include the twelve judges in all commissions of Oyer and Terminer for London and Middlesex; and as, at the time of the trials in question, only eight judges had been appointed, it is probable that Hale and the other three judges elect were named in the commission, though their patents were not made out till the following term, in order to preserve as nearly as possible the ancient form.

Sir Matthew Hale held the office of Lord Chief Baron till the year 1671, and during that period greatly raised the character of the court in which he presided, by his unwearied patience and industry, the mildness of his manners, and the inflexible integrity of his judicial conduct. His impartiality in deciding cases in the Exchequer where the interests of the Crown were concerned, is admitted even by Roger North, who elsewhere charges him with holding "demagogical principles," and with the "foible of leaning towards the popular." "I have heard Lord Guildford say," says this agreeable but partial writer, "that while Hale was Chief Baron of the Exchequer, by means of his great learning, even against his inclination, he did the Crown more justice in that [Pg 15] court, than any others in his place had done with all their good-will and less knowledge."

Whilst he was Chief Baron he was called upon to preside at the trial of two unhappy women who were indicted at the assizes at Bury St. Edmunds, in the year 1665, for the crime of witchcraft. The Chief Baron is reported to have told the jury that "he made no doubt at all that there were such creatures as witches," and the women were found guilty and afterwards executed. The conduct of Hale on this occasion has been the subject of much sarcastic animadversion. It might be said in reply, that the report of the case in the State Trials is of no authority whatever; but supposing it to be accurate, it would be unjust and unreasonable to impute to Sir Matthew Hale as personal superstition or prejudice, a mere participation in the prevailing and almost universal belief of the times in which he lived. The majority of his contemporaries, even among persons of education and refinement, were firm believers in witchcraft; and though Lord Guildford rejected this belief, Roger North admits that he dared not to avow his infidelity in this respect in public, as it would have exposed him to the imputation of irreligion. Numerous instances might be given to show the general prevalence at that time of this stupid and ignorant superstition; and therefore the opinion of Hale on this subject does not appear to be a proof of peculiar weakness or credulity.

On the occurrence of the great fire of London in 1666, an act of parliament passed containing directions and arrangements for rebuilding the city. By a clause in this statute, the judges were authorised to sit singly to decide on the amount of compensation due to persons whose premises were taken by the corporation in furtherance of the intended improvements. Sir Matthew Hale applied himself with his usual diligence and patience to the discharge of this laborious and extra-judicial duty. "He was," says Baxter, "the great instrument for rebuilding London; for it was he that was the constant judge, who for nothing followed the work, and by his prudence and justice removed a multitude of great impediments."

[Pg 16] In the year 1671, upon the death of Sir John Kelyng, Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, Sir Matthew Hale was removed from the Exchequer to succeed him. The particular circumstances which caused his elevation to this laborious and responsible situation at a time when his growing infirmities induced him to seek a total retirement from public life, are not recorded by any of his biographers. For four years after he became Chief Justice he regularly attended to the duties of his court, and his name appears in all the reported cases in the Court of King's Bench, until the close of the year 1675. About that time he was attacked by an inflammation of the diaphragm, a painful and languishing disease, from which he constantly predicted that he should not recover. It produced so entire a prostration of strength, that he was unable to walk up Westminster Hall to his court without being supported by his servants. "He resolved," says Baxter, "that the place should not be a burden to him, nor he to it," and therefore made an earnest application to the Lord Keeper Finch for his dismission. This being delayed for some time, and finding himself totally unequal to the toil of business, he at length, in February 1676, tendered the surrender of his patent personally to the King, who received it graciously and kindly, and promised to continue his pension during his life.

On his retirement from office, he occupied at first a house at Acton, which he had taken from Richard Baxter, who says "it was one of the meanest houses he had ever lived in: in that house," he adds, "he lived contentedly, without any pomp, and without costly or troublesome retinue of visitors, but not without charity to the poor; he continueth the study of mathematics and physics still as his great delight. It is not the least of my pleasure that I have lived some years in his more than ordinary love and friendship, and that we are now waiting which shall be first in heaven; whither he saith he is going with full content and acquiescence in the will of a gracious God, and doubts not but we shall shortly live together." Not long before his death he [Pg 17] removed from Acton to his own house at Alderley, intending to die there; and having a few days before gone to the parish churchyard and chosen his grave, he sunk under a united attack of asthma and dropsy, on Christmas-day, 1676.

The judicial character of Sir Matthew Hale was without reproach. His profound knowledge of the law rendered him an object of universal respect to the profession; whilst his patience, conciliatory manners, and rigid impartiality engaged the good opinion of all classes of men. As a proof of this, it is said that as he successively removed from the Court of Common Pleas to the Exchequer, and from thence to the King's Bench, the mass of business always followed him; so that the court in which he presided was constantly the favourite one with counsel, attorneys, and parties. Perhaps indeed no judge has ever been so generally and unobjectionably popular. His address was copious and impressive, but at times slow and embarrassed: Baxter says "he was a man of no quick utterance, and often hesitant; but spake with great reason." This account of his mode of speaking is confirmed by Roger North, who adds, however, that "his stop for a word by the produce always paid for the delay; and on some occasions he would utter sentences heroic." His reputation as a legal and constitutional writer is in no degree inferior to his character as a judge. From the time it was published to the present day, his history of the Pleas of the Crown has always been considered as a book of the highest authority, and is referred to in courts of justice with as great confidence and respect as the formal records of judicial opinions. His Treatises on the Jurisdiction of the Lords' House of Parliament, and on Maritime Law, which were first published by Mr. Hargrave more than a century after Sir Matthew Hale's death, are works of first-rate excellence as legal arguments, and are invaluable as repositories of the learning of centuries, which the industry and research of the author had collected.

After his retirement from public life, he wrote his great work called 'The primitive Origination of Mankind, [Pg 18] considered and examined according to the light of Nature.' Various opinions have been formed upon the merits of this treatise. Roger North depreciates the substance of the book, but commends its style; while Bishop Burnet and Dr. Birch greatly praise its learning and force of reasoning.

Sir Matthew Hale was twice married. By his first wife, who was a daughter of Sir Henry Moore, of Fawley in Berkshire, he had ten children, most of whom turned out ill. His second wife, according to Roger North, was "his own servant-maid;" and Baxter says, "some made it a scandal, but his wisdom chose it for his convenience, that in his age he married a woman of no estate, to be to him as a nurse." Hale gives her a high character in his will, as "a most dutiful, faithful, and loving wife," making her one of his executors, and intrusting her with the education of his grand-children. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts, which he says had cost him much industry and expense, to the Society of Lincoln's Inn, in whose library they are carefully preserved.

The published biographies of Hale are extremely imperfect, none of them containing a particular account of his personal history and character. Bishop Burnet's Life is the most generally known, and, though far too panegyrical and partial, is perhaps the most complete; it has been closely followed by most of his subsequent biographers. In Baxter's Appendix to the Life of Hale, and in his account of his own Life, the reader will find some interesting details respecting his domestic and personal habits; and Roger North's Life of Lord Guildford contains many amusing, though ill-natured and sarcastic anecdotes of this admirable judge.

[Pg 19]


Discussion between a
        man and a boy and another man



A few beautiful verses, an acquaintanceship with the immortal Milton, and a traditional reputation for great political honesty in a most corrupt age, have given Marvell a permanent and honourable place among the worthies of his country. His public life was never illustrated by any great or very conspicuous deed, and of his private life very little, with any certainty, is known. Yet is his name familiar to every Englishman that loves his country and his country's literature, and that reveres the associations of genius.

Andrew Marvell was born in the city of Hull, on the 15th of November, 1620; towards the close of the reign of James I., when religious and political differences already announced the convulsion which took place under Charles I., twenty years later. His father was Andrew Marvell, a native of Cambridge, and M. A. of Emanuel College, then a recent foundation, and strongly imbued with Puritanism. Having taken orders, this Andrew, [Pg 20] the father, was elected Master of the Grammar School at Hull; which place he occupied when his son was born. Some four years after the birth of young Andrew, he became lecturer of Trinity Church, Hull. He was reputed both a learned and pious man. His puritanism did not sour his temper or extinguish his wit or humour. Echard the historian calls him "the facetious Calvinistical minister of Hull." The son inherited this facetious humour. Fuller, the wittiest of divines, thus records some of the virtues of the elder Marvell:—"He was a most excellent preacher, who, like a good husband, never broached what he had new-brewed, but preached what he had studied some competent time before: insomuch that he was wont to say that he would cross the common proverb, which called Saturday the working-day, and Monday the holiday of preachers." [1] Like his son, he was a man of courage and fortitude, and was not to be driven from his duty by any sense of danger. In the year 1637, when the plague was desolating Hull, and when all who could fled into the country, the worthy lecturer of Trinity church remained in the town, and scrupulously and zealously performed all his clerical duties, as if there had been no pest, or peril of any kind.

This high-minded father probably educated his promising boy himself, for no school is named as having been honoured by the boy that was destined to be the companion and friend of the author of 'Paradise Lost,' and the advocate of honesty and patriotism at the period when they were all but lost. Whoever instructed young Andrew, the boy must have been well taught. At the early age of fifteen, he was admitted of Trinity College, Cambridge, with an exhibition belonging to Hull, his native place. Here his progress on learning is said to have been very rapid. But he had not been long up at Cambridge, ere he was dazzled and ensnared by some Jesuits, who, in disguise, haunted the University, and applied themselves more especially to the conversion or perversion of inexperienced, ingenuous youths. As Andrew [Pg 21] Marvell's best biographer remarks, [2] these Romanists pretended a zeal for civil liberty, a scorn of the assumed divine right of kings, and a respect for the doctrine of the lawfulness of popular resistance to the kingly power whenever that power was abused. They had other esoteric doctrines of a sort highly captivating to generous and enthusiastic dispositions; and their learning, their general refinement of taste and of personal manners, rendered them the most prevailing of missionaries among the educated classes, the most formidable of propagandists. Like Chillingworth, and others of riper years, the youthful Andrew Marvell was induced by these disciples of Loyola to quit his college and follow them up to London. But the boy was not long hoodwinked. "His excellent father pursued him to the metropolis and restored him to sanity and his studies." [3] On the 13th of December, 1638, as appears from his own hand-writing, Master Andrew was again received at Trinity College. It appears that he steadily pursued his studies, until the autumn or winter of 1640, when the sudden and most unexpected loss of his father again withdrew him from Cambridge. The narrations—for there are more than one, and they slightly differ—of the circumstances attending the catastrophe of "the facetious Calvinistical minister of Hull," embalm his memory, and give a beauty to his sudden death. The most received account runs thus—"On that shore of the Humber opposite Kingston, [4] lived a lady whose virtue and good sense recommended her to the esteem of Mr. Marvell, as his piety and understanding caused her to take particular notice of him. From this mutual approbation arose an intimate acquaintance, which was soon improved into a strict friendship. This lady had an only daughter, whose duty, devotion, and [Pg 22] exemplary behaviour had endeared her to all who knew her, and rendered her the darling of her mother, whose fondness for her arose to such a height that she could scarcely bear her temporary absence. Mr. Marvell, desiring to perpetuate the friendship between the families, requested the lady to allow her daughter to come over to Kingston, to stand godmother to a child of his; to which, out of her great regard for him, she consented, though depriving herself of her daughter's company for a longer space of time than she would have agreed to on any other consideration. The young lady went over to Kingston accordingly, and the ceremony was performed. The next day, when she came down to the river side, in order to return home, it being extremely rough, so as to render the passage dangerous, the watermen earnestly dissuaded her from any attempt to cross the river that day. But she, who had never wilfully given her mother a moment's uneasiness, and knowing how miserable she would be, insisted on going, notwithstanding all that could be urged by the watermen, or by Mr. Marvell, who earnestly entreated her to return to his house, and wait for better weather. Finding her resolutely bent to venture her life rather than to disappoint a fond parent, he told her, as she had brought herself into that perilous situation on his account, he thought himself obliged, both in honour and conscience, to share the danger with her; and having, with difficulty, persuaded some watermen to attempt the passage, they got into the boat. Just as they put off, Mr. Marvell threw his gold-headed cane on shore, to some of his friends, who attended at the water-side, telling them, that as he could not suffer the young lady to go alone, and as he apprehended the consequence might be fatal, if he perished he desired them to give that cane to his son, and bid him remember his father. Thus armed with innocence, and his fair charge with filial duty, they set forward to meet their inevitable fate. The boat was upset, and they were both lost."

According to another version there was no dissuasion of watermen, and no rough weather to cause it, or create [Pg 23] any alarm; the winds were hushed, and the waters of the estuary as smooth as glass, when the good man and gentle maid took boat;—

"The air was calm, and on the level brine
Sleek Panope with all her sisters played;"

yet, nevertheless, he had a mysterious presentiment of his fate, and, as he stepped into the boat, he exclaimed—"Ho for Heaven!" and throwing his staff ashore, as a memorial to his friends, left it to Providence to fulfil the awful warning he had received.

When the elder Marvell was drowned in the Humber, he was in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He was lamented by his friends, and by the people of Hull in general, who had long witnessed his virtues, and, who inclined, like himself, to the more puritanical part of the Church. Many years after his decease, his son Andrew wrote of him:—"He died before the War broke out, having lived with some reputation both for piety and learning; and was, moreover, a conformist to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, though, I confess, none of the most overrunning or eager in them." When the old lady, whose daughter had perished, recovered from her first agony of grief, she called young Andrew Marvell to her from Cambridge; and afterwards she behaved to him as a fond mother, and at her death she bequeathed him her whole fortune. Whether after this visit to his native place he returned to Cambridge or not, is rather uncertain. If he returned, he could not have stayed long. Within a year after the time of his father's watery exit from this world, he, with four other young men, was conditionally expelled from Trinity College. The offences of all the five are lumped together, and do not involve any serious moral dereliction. As Andrew Marvell never had a wife, we may pretty safely assume that the charge of being married was not levelled at him. In the Conclusion Book of the college, under date of the 24th of September 1641 appears the following entry:—

[Pg 24] "It is agreed by the Masters and Seniors, that Mr. Carter, Dominus Wakefield, Dominus Marvell, Dominus Waterhouse, and Dominus Maye, in regard that some of them are reported to be married, and the others look not after their days nor acts, shall receive no more benefit of the College, and shall be out of their places, unless they show just cause to the College for the contrary, in three months."

There was another of the expelled five, besides Andrew Marvell, who afterwards attained to distinction: the Dominus Maye of the Conclusion Book was Thomas Maye, who translated Lucan, and wrote a spirited history of the Long Parliament and the greater part of the War between Charles I. and the Parliamentarians. Neither Marvell nor Maye ever gave the explanation or made the submission required of them by the authorities of Trinity College. As all men were agitated by the momentous political questions of the day, and as the great struggle, called by Clarendon "The Great Rebellion," had, in a manner, begun some months before the date of the entry in the Conclusion Book, it might very well be supposed that two ardent young men like Maye and Marvell had been kept away from their Alma Mater by a desire to watch events, or even to take an active part on the side of the Parliamentarians. Yet, a short time after his expulsion from Trinity College, we find Andrew Marvell quietly travelling on the continent.

He went through France into Italy. At Rome, where he resided some considerable time, he became the intimate associate of John Milton. It is believed that it was at Rome they first met. Milton had quitted Cambridge before Marvell went up to the university, leaving behind him a brilliant reputation and the young mulberry-tree he had planted in the garden of his college, (Christ's,) where the time-honoured tree still flourishes. Two such minds could scarcely have met in a more fit place than the Eternal City. "Not even in the proudest days of her republic," says Hartley Coleridge, "had Rome to boast two nobler youths than Milton and Marvell! . . . . D'Israeli has written a book upon the [Pg 25] 'Quarrels of Authors;' why does not he, or somebody else, write one about the 'Friendships of Authors?' Why is it that the little good that has been on earth has never found an historian? Whether Marvell ever went the full length of Milton's opinions in church and state, is not very evident; probably not, for he seems to have been a much more cautious man." The friendship, however, first contracted in the midst of the grand ruins and grander recollections of ancient Rome, and in youth and health, lasted till old age and death; it was interrupted by no difference of political or religious opinion; and when Milton—immeasurably the greater man of the two—fell upon "evil tongues and evil days," when the "drop serene" had quenched his sight, and when his triumphant foes threatened him with imprisonment, chains, exile, or death, it was the happiness, the honour, the glory—the imperishable glory—of Andrew Marvell to shield him from his enemies and alleviate his many sufferings.

Marvell returned to England between 1642 and 1643. While at Paris, on his way homeward, he exercised his satirical wit and his scholarship on a certain French abbé, hight Lancelot Joseph de Maniban, who pretended to judge of men's characters, dispositions, and present and future fortunes merely by inspecting their hand-writing. Marvell lashed the abbé in a Latin poem.

When he reached his native country, the civil war was raging in nearly all parts of it. What did he during the stern contest which lasted six years? It appears that the question cannot be answered, and that there is hardly any information extant respecting Marvell from his return in 1642 until the year 1652, except that, towards the latter part of that interval of ten years, he resided with my Lord General Fairfax, and was there "intrusted to give some instructions in the languages to the lady his daughter." This last and very interesting fact is derived from a letter addressed by Milton to President Bradshaw, and dated the 21st of February, 1652. The object of this letter was to obtain a state employment for Marvell. Milton, who was at this time [Pg 26] Latin secretary, and quasi secretary of State for foreign affairs to Oliver Cromwell, was oppressed by an enormous quantity of work and afflicted by a rapid decay of his sight: he wanted an assistant; and he could think of none more worthy of confidence, or more competent to the duties of the office, than his accomplished friend Andrew Marvell. He told President Bradshaw that his friend had spent altogether four years abroad, "in Holland, France, Italy, and Spain, to very good purpose;" that he knew the languages of those four countries, and "was besides a scholar, and well read in the Latin and Greek authors." "If," continues Milton, in this same letter to President Bradshaw, "upon the death of Mr. Weckherlyn, the Council should think that I shall need any assistance in the performance of my place (though for my part I find no encumbrances of that which belongs to me, except it be in point of attendance at conferences with ambassadors, which I must confess, in my condition, I am not fit for), it would be hard for them to find a man so fit every way for that purpose as this gentleman; one who, I believe, in a short time, would be able to do them as much service as Mr. Ascan. This, my Lord, I write sincerely, without any other end than to perform my duty to the public in helping them to an humble servant; laying aside those jealousies and that emulation which mine own condition might suggest to me by bringing in such a coadjutor."

This warm application failed. In the summer of the following year, 1653, Marvell, who had taught languages to my Lord General Fairfax's daughter, was appointed by Cromwell to take charge of the education of his nephew, a young Mr. Dutton. It has been said of a letter which honest Andrew wrote to the "magnanimous usurper," shortly after getting this appointment, that it is "rather more respectful than would please either a Royalist or a determined Republican;" [5] but Marvell was never either a decided Royalist or a determined Republican; he, apparently, never indulged in [Pg 27] abstract political speculation; his mind, on that side, being wholly of a practical, ready-working kind; he would have loved a free constitutional monarchy if any such could have been established, and if Church had been separated from State; but, as matters stood, after the terrible intestine war, he, in common with some of the honestest hearts and brightest intellects that ever did honour to this land, rallied round the almost kingly Protector as the only barrier to mad, intolerant fanaticism, anarchy, and dead-levelling, on the one side; and to the unconditional restoration of a vicious and faithless prince, and of a tyrannical church supremacy, on the other. Marvell's sober nature could not be intoxicated by the effusions of an orator and enthusiastic Republican like Sir Harry Vane; still less could his eyes be dazzled by the visions of ordinary Fifth-monarchy men, who would have no king or ruler but King Jesus, and who would divide the whole world and the fulness thereof, in mathematically-equal portions, among the saints—i. e. among themselves. He knew that the English people were not—and were not likely soon to become—fit for Republican institutions; of war and its horrors he had seen enough; he dreaded a renewal of the war, he dreaded anarchy, he dreaded an unconditional restoration; and therefore he clung to the Protector, whose entire ecclesiastical polity, however unseemly and odious to others, conciliated his respect and admiration; and this son of the Low-Church lecturer of Hull seems always to have dreaded the "Prelates' rage" more than the tyranny of kings or of any other lay-rulers. But a greater man than Andrew Marvell, and one quite as honest, might, without any moral abasement or sacrifice of principle, have written the respectful letter he wrote to the great Cromwell. If the pupil was such as the tutor describes him,—and we have no good reason to doubt that he was not, as, generally, the kith and kin of Oliver were eminent for their virtues if not for their acquirements—there is not a word of flattery in it. We will quote the epistle, which is otherwise interesting, and the reader will judge for himself:—

[Pg 28]

"May it please your Excellence,

"It might perhaps seem fit for me to seek out words to give your Excellence thanks for myself. But, indeed, the only civility which it is proper for me to practise with so eminent a person, is to obey you, and to perform honestly the work that you have set me about. Therefore I shall use the time that your Lordship is pleased to allow me for writing, only for that purpose for which you have given me it; that is, to render you an account of Mr. Dutton. I have taken care to examine him several times in the presence of Mr. Oxenbridge; as those who weigh and tell over money before some witness ere they take charge of it; for I thought that there might be possibly some lightness in the coin, or error in the telling, which hereafter I should be bound to make good. Therefore, Mr. Oxenbridge is the best to make your Excellency an impartial relation thereof: I shall only say, that I shall strive according to my best understanding (that is, according to those rules your Lordship hath given me) to increase whatsoever talents he may have already. Truly, he is of gentle and waxen disposition; and, God be praised, I cannot say he hath brought with him any evil impression; and I shall hope to set nothing into his spirit but what may be of a good sculpture. He hath in him two things that make youth most easy to be managed,—modesty, which is the bridle to vice; and emulation, which is the spur to virtue. And the care which your Excellence is pleased to take of him is no small encouragement, and shall be so represented to him; but, above all, I shall labour to make him sensible of his duty to God; for then we begin to serve faithfully, when we consider he is our master. And in this, both he and I owe infinitely to your Lordship, for having placed us in so godly a family as that of Mr. Oxenbridge, whose doctrine and example are like a book and a map, not only instructing the ear, but demonstrating to the eye, which way we ought to travel; and Mrs. Oxenbridge has looked so well to him, that he hath already much mended his complexion; and now she is ordering his chamber that he may delight to be in it as often as his studies require. For the rest, most of this time hath been spent in acquainting ourselves with him; and truly he is cheerful, and I hope thinks us to be good company. I shall, upon occasion, henceforward inform your Excellence of any particularities in our little affairs, for so I esteem it to be my duty. I have no more at present but to give thanks [Pg 29] to God for your Lordship, and to beg grace of him that I may approve myself,

Your Excellency's
Most humble and faithful servant,
Andrew Marvell."
Windsor, July 28th, 1653.

"Mr. Dutton presents his most humble service to your Excellence."

In 1654, when Milton brought out his 'Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano,' he commissioned Marvell to present a copy of it to the Protector. In a letter, dated Eton, the 2nd of June, 1654, and addressed, 'For my most honoured friend, John Milton, Esq., Secretary for Foreign Affairs, at his house in Petty France, Westminster,' Marvell gave an account of his interview with Cromwell, and complimented the great poet on his complete victory over Salmasius and Morus. Together with the book, he had handed the Protector a letter from the author of it. The following passage helps one to judge of the character of Cromwell, and of the pains Milton at this time took to serve his friend Marvell.—"But my lord read not the letter while I was with him; which I attributed to our despatch, and some other business tending thereto, which I therefore wished ill to, so far as it hindered an affair much better, and of greater importance—I mean that of reading your letter. And to tell you truly mine own imagination, I thought that he would not open it while I was there, because he might suspect that I, delivering it just upon my departure, might have brought in it some second proposition, like to that which you had before made to him, by your letter to my advantage. However, I assure myself that he has since read it with much satisfaction." Towards the close of this epistle to Milton, Marvell shows the kindliness of his nature, by expressing the "affectionate curiosity" he had to know what was becoming of the business of his old acquaintance Colonel Overton, who, after being parliamentarian governor of Hull, had incurred trouble by taking up the doctrines, and imitating the turbulent practices, of the Fifth-Monarchy men.

[Pg 30] In 1657 Marvell was appointed assistant Latin secretary to Milton, a post for which he was admirably qualified, but which he did not occupy many months. The Protector died in September, 1658; when it became evident that the system of government he had created could not long survive him. What part Andrew Marvell took in the conflict of parties under the weak but amiable Richard Cromwell is not recorded; but we may safely assume that he was transported neither with the frenzy and despair of the Republicans, nor by the mad joy and utter recklessness of the Royalists; but that, seeing the inevitableness of the return of Charles II., he was only desirous of some securities for civil and religious liberty. Early in 1660 he was elected by his native town of Hull to that Parliament which voted the restoration of Royalty. [6] The Houses met on the 25th of April, and then Marvell made his first public appearance as a statesman. But for the patriotism and forethought of a few men like himself, and the jealousies and fears of the Presbyterian leaders, this parliament, which gave far too much, would have denied absolutely nothing that the king or his courtiers could have asked. We have no reports of Marvell's parliamentary speeches; but when he had been a few months in the House he began to correspond regularly with his constituents; and from these letters may be gathered what was his conduct, and what were his opinions on the great state questions of that most critical time, when the vast majority of the nation seemed anxious to make a renunciation of liberty. Marvell's parliamentary conduct was cautious, circumspect, calm, and persevering. For a long time his aim and hope was rather to prevent or diminish evil than to do good. He always considered things practically, never theoretically or speculatively, or angrily, except, perhaps, the one question of church government, with the re-establishment of episcopacy. [Pg 31] The great Protector being gone, Marvell could be no Cromwellite; and so far was he from being a disappointed, soured, and intolerant Republican, that in the earlier of his letters to his Hull friends, he spoke respectfully, and even favourably, of Charles II. and the rest of the restored royal family. Of the execution of the king's unhappy father he had sung in the Cromwellian days, and in an ode addressed to Cromwell himself—

While round the armed bands
Did clasp their bloody hands,
He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon the memorable scene;
But with his keener eye,
The axe's edge did trye,
Nor call'd the Gods, with vulgar spight,
To vindicate his helpless right:
But bow'd his comely head
Down, as upon a bed.

Marvell, too, is said to have written a most pathetic letter, in prose, on the execution of King Charles. It seems, therefore, quite certain that he did not sympathise with the anti-monarchical prejudices of Milton, and that he could have lived not only tranquilly but happily under the government of Charles II. if he had not found it rapidly degenerating into a despotism, and a source and centre of national demoralization. For some few years, though unable to give it his full approbation and confidence, Marvell did live happily under this government, and found pleasure in serving it. And this, his moderation of political temper being well known, enabled him to serve his friend Milton at the hour of need. The fanatic Royalists would have excepted the great poet out of the Bill of Indemnity, but Andrew Marvell, uniting with Sir William Davenant, Sir Thomas Clarges, Mr. Secretary Morrice, and other friends of literature prevented this useless piece of vengeance and barbarity. True, Marvell had held office under Cromwell as well as Milton; but it was not for his having been Latin secretary to the Protector, but for his having written the Eiconoclastes and the two Defences of the trial and execution [Pg 32] of Charles I., that Milton was so obnoxious to the Royalists. Marvell, on the contrary, though he had been tutor to Cromwell's nephew, and under-secretary to Milton, had shed tears over the Whitehall tragedy, and had given in a few verses the most graceful, pathetic, yet noble picture of that royal execution: Marvell, therefore, may very well be supposed to have possessed some influence at court at the time when the Bill of Indemnity was being voted; and he certainly enjoyed favour and influence at court about three years after this period when he was appointed to accompany an embassy. Marvell, to use again the words of Mr. Coleridge, "seems to have entertained hopes of a just and equal government, a true and comprehensive amnesty of all past offences between prince and subject, between all sects and parties, between each man and his neighbour . . . . Andrew was never so much absorbed by politics as to forget business. He paid sedulous attention to the interests of his borough, and to each of his constituents, and watched narrowly the progress of private bills." The good people of Hull rewarded him and his partner or colleague in parliament, with presents of right good ale. These casks seem to have come up rather frequently. On one occasion he writes to his constituents in his own name and in that of his colleague—"We are now both met together, and shall strive to do you the best service we are able. We must first give you thanks for the kind present you have pleased to send us, which will give us occasion to remember you often; but the quantity is so great that it might make sober men forgetful." The Convention or healing Parliament was dissolved in December, 1660. Marvell was re-elected by the burgesses of Hull without opposition. He thus acknowledges his election, which had passed without his appearing on the hustings, or even leaving London:—"I perceive you have again made choice of me, now the third time, to serve you in parliament; which, as I cannot attribute to anything but your constancy, so, God willing, as in gratitude obliged, with no less constancy and vigour, I shall continue to execute your commands, and study your service." [Pg 33] The temper of the New Parliament, which met on the 8th of May, 1661, was much less moderate than that of the Convention which had restored the king; and much of the business which came before this Parliament, as the Bill of Conformity, the restoration of the Bishops to their seats in the House of Lords, &c., &c., was highly distasteful to Marvell, who, at one time, absented himself from the House of Commons for so long a period, that his townsmen were called upon to fill up his place. In June, 1663, he was appointed to accompany Lord Carlisle on an embassy to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. He then told the corporation of Hull, that it was no new thing for members of the House of Commons to be dispensed with, for the service of the king and the nation, in foreign parts; that his constituents might be sure he would not stir without special leave of the House, so that they might be freed from any possibility of being importuned or tempted to make any other choice in his absence. And, a short time after, as he was on the point of embarking at Gravesend, he addressed another letter to the corporation of Hull, recommending them to be patient and peaceable, and to put good trust in his colleague, Colonel Gilby, who would remain at his post. "I undertake this voyage," said he, in the same letter, "with the order and good liking of his majesty, and by leave given me from the House, and entered on the journal; and having received, moreover, your approbation, I go, therefore, with more ease and satisfaction of mind, and augurate to myself the happier success in all my proceedings." Nothing further is recorded of his northern tour, which could not have been otherwise than interesting: none of his notes or letters relating to his travels have been preserved.

Marvell returned to his duties as member of the House of Commons in the summer of 1665, when, on account of the plague which was raging in London and Westminster, parliament was sitting at Oxford. Little that had been done in England, during his absence, by the king and government, or done or said in parliament, was of a sort that he could either have praised or prevented; [Pg 34] nor did the aspect of affairs at all improve after his return. The Great Fire of London succeeded to the plague; the war with the Dutch, into which Charles had rushed to please Louis XIV., who pensioned him, was miserably conducted; and, while our fleets were laid up in ordinary that the king, his extravagant mistresses, and dissolute courtiers might spend in revelry the money which parliament voted for the war, the Dutch fleet destroyed our men-of-war at Chatham, menaced London itself, and rode, for whole weeks, in triumph in the estuary of the Thames. At the same time legislative encroachments were made upon liberty by a majority in parliament, which was far more eager to enslave the nation than the indolent king was to have it enslaved. But, in the very worst of times, an intelligent and thoroughly honest representative of the people, provided he do not despair of his country, and of himself, may always do some little good, or prevent some evil by remaining at his post and showing that he is there. This, Andrew Marvell now did, although it is evident from his own cautious correspondence, that there were seasons when he was all but overcome with disgust and despair. On one occasion he writes—"Parliament was never so embarrassed beyond recovery! We are all venal cowards except some few." It is to be lamented that this parliamentary correspondence, which extends uninterruptedly over the years 1667, 1668, 1669, 1670, should afford so very few private details: many of the letters are valuable in an historical light, but hardly any of them have a biographical or auto-biographical interest.

Marvell seems rather to have joined in, than to have disapproved of, the prosecution of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, whose offences, though urged on to his ruin by far worse men, and incomparably more dishonest statesmen than himself, were rather serious in character and in amount. Marvell continued to vote honestly, if not always wisely, and to receive the grateful acknowledgments of his constituents, in the shape of annual casks of good ale. In political economy, he does not appear to have been one step in advance of his time; but no [Pg 35] man could go beyond him in attending to the interests of trade as they were then understood, or in forwarding the views of the merchants of Hull, or in watching over the affairs of his constituents generally. In this way nothing seems to have been too minute for his attention.

Busy as he was in parliament, he found time to devote to friendship and to poetry. In the year 1667, "a great epoch in the history of the human mind," [7] because Milton then first gave to the world his 'Paradise Lost,' Marvell took up his pen to serve his friend, writing some English couplets, which were inserted among the commendatory verses prefixed, as usual, to the epic. To a lover of literary history these commendatory verses, which come thick upon us in most old books, are very interesting, even though the quality of the rhyme should not be first-rate. But Andrew Marvell's couplets on the first appearance of 'Paradise Lost' offer many good lines. He thus judiciously calls the public attention to Milton's blindness, and to the sublimity and awfulness of his subject:—

When I beheld the poet blind yet bold,
In slender book his vast design unfold,
Messiah crown'd, God's reconcil'd decree,
Rebelling angels, the forbidden tree,
Heav'n, hell, earth, chaos, all; the argument
Held me a while misdoubting his intent,
That he would ruin (for I saw him strong)
The sacred truths to fable and old song;
So Sampson grop'd the temple's posts in spite,
The world o'erwhelming to revenge his sight.

He thus defends the great poet's preference of blank verse to rhyme.

Well might'st thou scorn thy readers to allure
With tinkling rhyme, of thy own sense secure;
While the Town-Bayes writes all the while and spells,
And, like a pack-horse, tires without his bells.
Their fancies like our bushy points appear:
[Pg 36] The poets tag them; we for fashion wear.
I, too, transported by the mode, commend,
And while I meant to praise thee, must offend.
Thy verse, created like thy theme sublime,
In number, weight, and measure, needs not rhyme.

About five years after the appearance of 'Paradise Lost,' Marvell again stood forth as the champion of Milton. One Doctor Samuel Parker, who had gone through most of the changes in politics and religion, having been royalist, republican, fifth-monarchy man, conventicler, and now royalist and high-churchman over again, published, in 1670, in a book called 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' the most violent invectives against Nonconformists and Commonwealth-men like Milton, against all who favoured and protected them, and against every approach to liberty of conscience. In speaking of the different sects Parker laid it down as golden rules for King Charles, that to show tenderness and indulgence to such men, "was to nourish vipers in his bowels,"—that princes might, "with less hazard, give liberty to men's vices, than to their consciences." Doctor Owen replied to Parker in his 'Liberty and Truth vindicated.' Parker made rejoinder next year, in 'A Defence and Continuation of Ecclesiastical Polity,' against Doctor Owen; and in 1672 renewed the attack in a preface to a posthumous work of Bishop Bramhall. In this preface Parker affected to pour not only abuse, but also contempt, upon the whole body of his old companions, the Nonconformists. Of Milton he spoke in a manner calculated to hound all the enemies of the poet upon him, and to put him again in extreme danger. Marvell instantly took up the pen; and soon there came forth, to the amusement of court and town, his first brilliant prose satire, entitled 'The Rehearsal Transprosed; or, Animadversions on a late Book entitled a Preface, showing what Grounds and Apprehensions there are of Popery. London: printed by A. B., for the Assignees of John Calvin and Theodore Beza, at the Sign of the King's Indulgence, on the south Side of the Lake Lemane, 1672.' This production over-ran with wit and irony; while here and there the writer's wrath was as majestic as that [Pg 37] of Juvenal. Of the invention of printing he writes with this finished irony:—"The press (that villainous engine), invented much about the same time with the Reformation, hath done more mischief to the discipline of our church than the doctrine can make amends for. It was a happy time when all learning was in manuscript, and some little officer, like our author, did keep the keys of the library. When the clergy needed no more knowledge than to read the liturgy, and the laity no more clerkship than to save them from hanging. But now, since printing came into the world, such is the mischief, that a man cannot write a book, but presently he is answered. Could the press but at once be conjured to obey only an imprimatur, our author might not disdain, perhaps, to be one of its most zealous patrons. There have been ways found out to banish ministers, to fine not only the people, but even the grounds and fields where they assembled in conventicles; but no art yet could prevent these seditious meetings of letters. Two or three brawny fellows in a corner, with mere ink and elbow-grease, do more harm than a hundred systematical divines, with their sweaty preaching. And, what is a strange thing, the very spunges, which one would think should rather deface and blot out the whole book, and were anciently used for that purpose, are become now the instruments to make them legible. Their ugly printing letters look but like so many rotten teeth-drawers; and yet these rascally operators of the press have got a trick to fasten them again in a few minutes, that they grow as firm a set, and as biting and talkative as ever. O, printing! how hast thou disturbed the peace of mankind!—that lead when moulded into bullets is not so mortal as when formed into letters! There was a mistake, sure, in the story of Cadmus; and the serpent's teeth which he sowed were nothing else but the letters which he invented."

Besides much more wit of the same kind, there is in the 'Rehearsal Transprosed' much solemn and most energetic writing—Marvell pleads for toleration in language which seems inspired. Parker, as deficient in [Pg 38] modesty as in wit, attempted a reply, under the title of "A Reproof of the 'Rehearsal Transprosed,' with a mild Exhortation to the Magistrate, to crush with the Secular Arm, the pestilent Wit, the Servant of Cromwell, and the Friend of Milton." But this turn-coat politician and unmannerly polemic, who very probably knew that Charles II., whose keen relish for wit of all kinds has passed into a proverb, had declared Marvell to be the best prose satirist of the age, much doubted whether the vengeance of the secular arm could be made to fall upon his adversary, and therefore had recourse to other threats. An anonymous epistle, "short as a blunderbuss," was pitched into honest Andrew's very humble lodging. No doubt it was written by or for the Doctor, and thus was it worded:—"If thou darest to print any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the eternal God I will cut thy throat." The pestilent wit, Marvell, adopted the words as a motto, and printed them on the title-page of his 'Second Part of the Rehearsal Transprosed,' which was published in 1673. However dull and obtuse he may have been to the sense of shame, this second pamphlet must have brought some blushes to the cheek of Parker. Milton, though blind, poor, and otherwise afflicted, was still alive, and it was easy for his witty friend to expose the monstrosity of attempting to make still more wretched the last hours of such a man. Marvell also exposed, in his happiest manner, the baseness and interested changeableness of the poet's assailant, telling the world how Parker, in former times, used to pride himself on the friendship of Milton, much frequenting his house in Moorfields, and there predicting to Marvell himself the speedy death of Charles II. and the consequent restoration of the Commonwealth and the Cromwellian order of things.

"J. M.," says Andrew, "was, and is, a man of as great learning and sharpness of wit as any man. It was his misfortune, living in a tumultuous time, to be tossed on the wrong side, and he writ, flagrante bello, certain dangerous treatises of no other nature than that which I mentioned to you writ by your own father, only with this difference, [Pg 39] that your father's, which I have by me, was written with the same design, but with much less wit or judgment. At his Majesty's happy return, J. M. did partake, even as you yourself did, of his royal clemency, and has ever since lived in a most retired silence. It was after that, I well remember it, that being one day at his house, I there first met you accidentally. But there it was when you, as I told you, wandered up and down Moorfields, astrologising on the duration of his Majesty's government, that you frequented J. M. incessantly, and haunted his house day by day. What discourses you there used he is too generous to remember."

Marvell's generous and tender care of the author of 'Paradise Lost,' began with his troubles at the Restoration, and never ceased until the poet's death. Edward Phillips, the nephew of Milton, states that "Marvell, with other friends, frequently visited the poet when secreted on account of the threats of Government."

In the tyrannous temper of the times it was necessary to use caution, not only in writings destined for the press, but even in private letters, the privacy of which was but too often invaded. Before this time, however, Marvell had given up the good hopes he once entertained of the restored monarch; and the vices of the court and the corruption of nearly all public men had converted him into an habitual political satirist. He frequently used the medium of verse, but prose was more natural to him. His first prose satire, 'Letter to a Friend in Persia,' appears to have been written in 1671, though not published until some years after. The following extract from it, which contains not a word that is not more than borne out by other historical evidence, may convince the reader that there was enough of guilt, and shame, and national dishonour, to sour the temper of any amiable man who loved his country:—

"The King having, upon pretence of the great preparations of his neighbours, demanded 300,000l. for his navy (though in conclusion he hath not sent out any), and that the Parliament should pay his debts, which the ministers would never particularise to the House of [Pg 40] Commons, our house gave several bills. You see how far things were stretched beyond reason, there being no satisfaction how those debts were contracted, and all men foreseeing that what was given would not be applied to discharge the debts, which I hear are at this day risen to four millions. Nevertheless, such was the number of the constant courtiers, increased by the apostate patriots, who were bought off for that turn, some at six, others at ten, one at fifteen thousand pounds, in money; besides which, offices, lands, and reversions to others, that it is a mercy they gave not away the whole land and liberty of England. The Duke of Buckingham is again 140,000l. in debt, and, by this prorogation, his creditors have time to tear all his lands in pieces. The House of Commons have run almost to the end of their time, and are grown extremely chargeable to the king, and odious to the people. They have signed and sealed 10,000l. C more to the Duchess of Cleveland, who has likewise near 10,000l. out of the excise of beer and ale; 5,000l. a year out of the post-office; and, they say, the reversion of all the king's leases, the reversion of all places in the Custom-house, and, indeed, what not? All promotions, spiritual and temporal, pass under her cognizance."

It was seldom that Andrew Marvell could make common cause with a bishop: he had imbibed from his father, a decided low-church man, a dislike of the hierarchy; and the general conduct of the restored king's bench of bishops was certainly not calculated to conciliate him: yet, on one occasion, he found a prelate into whose views he could heartily enter. In 1675, Dr. Herbert Croft, bishop of Hereford, published a short treatise, entitled 'The naked Truth, or the true State of the Primitive Church. By an humble Moderator.' In this work, the worthy bishop demonstrated the danger of imposing more upon men's consciences than is necessary, and proceeded through all the great points then in dispute between the Church of England and the Dissenters; labouring throughout to prove, that Protestants differ in nothing truly essential to religion; and that, for the sake of union, compliances would be more becoming and [Pg 41] effectual than in enforcing uniformity by penalties and persecution. The whole was written with great plainness and piety, as well as with much force of argument and learning. It was assailed with fury by several of the high-church party; but no one was so vituperative as Dr. Francis Turner, Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, a very fashionable but very shallow and affected divine. To Turner's pamphlet, called 'Animadversions on the naked Truth,' Marvell replied with great vivacity in a brochure, entitled 'Mr. Smirke, or the Divine in Mode.' A part of honest Andrew's wit lay in a peculiarly happy knack of calling names, or in appropriating a ludicrous character in some popular comedy, and dubbing his adversary with it. In this spirit, he ridiculed Dr. Turner, by giving him the name of a chaplain in Etherege's comedy of 'The Man of Mode,' and thus, by the mere application of a name, conveyed the idea which he wished to convey, of 'a neat, starched, formal, and forward divine.' [8] In the same way, he had taken the name or character of Bayes out of Buckingham's 'Rehearsal,' and had applied it to his older adversary, Dr. Parker. But in combating for the wisely tolerant bishop of Hereford, Marvell did a good deal more than bestow a nick-name. He dwelt eloquently upon the great principles which that prelate had ventured to promulgate in his modest essay.

"It is a treatise," said he, "which, if not for its opposer, needs no commendation; being writ with that evidence and demonstration of truth, that all sober men cannot but give their assent and consent to it unasked. It is a book of that kind, that no Christian can peruse it without wishing himself to have been the author, and almost imagining that he is so: the conceptions therein being of so eternal idea, that every man finds it to be but a copy of the original in his own mind."

The bishop entered into a friendly correspondence with [Pg 42] his ardent admirer; and Marvell shortly afterwards produced his 'Historical Essay concerning general Councils, Creeds, and Impositions in Matters of Religion,' which is a continuation or extension of his defence of the bishop's 'Naked Truth.' This historical essay has many truly admirable passages; but we can afford room only for one, in which Andrew expresses his hope of more charitable days, and his readiness to die for a holy cause.

"I trust in the Almighty, that with us contentions are now at the highest float, and that the day will come (for what cause is there of despair?) when the possessions of former enmity being allayed, men shall with ten times redoubled tokens of unfeignedly reconciled love, show themselves each to other the same which Joseph and the brethren of Joseph were at the time of their interview in Egypt. And upon this condition, let my book also (yea, myself, if it were needful) be burnt by the hands of those enemies to the peace and tranquillity of the religion of England."

Besides the works already enumerated, Marvell, who wrote more as the times grew worse and parliament more and more corrupt, published many other essays, of which some were entirely upon the politics of the day, and, for his own safety's sake, strictly anonymous. In 1676 he put forth 'A seasonable Question and an useful Answer between a Parliament Man in Cornwall and a Bencher in the Temple;' and shortly after appeared, 'A seasonable Argument to the Grand Juries of England to petition for a new Parliament, or a List of the principal Labourers in the Design of Popery and arbitrary Power who have betrayed their Country.' He gave an admirable parody on the opening speeches which Charles II. was wont to deliver to parliament—a piece of satire which hit more ways than one. The last work of Marvell's, published before his death, was, 'An Account of the Growth of Popery and arbitrary Government in England.' It was printed in 1678, the year made memorable in history by the production of the so-called Popish Plot; and it was reprinted in the State Trials soon after the Revolution of 1688. In this work the [Pg 43] principles of our constitution, or rather what ought to be its principles (for our constitution was not practically established until after the expulsion of the Stuarts), are clearly laid down; the legal authority of the kings of England is nicely ascertained and defined; and the glory of the monarch, and the happiness of the people, are proved equally to depend upon a veneration of the laws, and a strict observance of their respective obligations. He gives the consoling proof that the constitutional monarch of a free country may, and indeed must be, more glorious and far more happy than the absolute monarch of an enslaved people. He says, in his happiest manner—

"The kings of England are in nothing inferior to other princes, save in being more abridged from injuring their own subjects; but have as large a field as any, of external felicity, wherein to exercise their own virtue, and to reward and encourage it in others. In short, there is nothing that comes nearer the divine perfection than where the monarch, as with us, enjoys a capacity of doing all the good imaginable to mankind, under a disability to do all that is evil."

He likewise drew a striking contrast of the miseries of a nation living under a degrading Popish administration, and the blessings enjoyed under a liberal Protestant government. The king, or the ministers of the day, were so irritated that a large reward was offered for the discovery to one of the secretaries of state of the printer, publisher, author, or hander to the press of either of those two libels—'An Account of the Growth of Popery,' &c., and 'A seasonable Argument to the Grand Juries,' &c.; and the better to encourage informers, a promise was given that their names should be kept secret. [9] We gather from a private letter which Marvell wrote to a friend on the 10th of June, 1678, that still larger rewards were offered in private, that he was shrewdly suspected by government to be the author, and that his [Pg 44] mind was not at all disturbed by this suspicion, or by the danger to which it exposed him. To his friend, who was probably in the secret, he says pleasantly—"Three or four books, printed since, have described, as near as it was proper to go, the man, Mr. Marvell, a member of parliament, as the author; but if he were, surely he would not have escaped being questioned in parliament, or some other place."

No prosecution was attempted; but Marvell had now rendered himself so obnoxious to the heir-presumptive, James Duke of York, and his bigoted party; to the king's mistresses; and to others who united the greatest dissoluteness of life to a devotion to the Roman Church, that he was beset on all sides by powerful enemies, who threatened to beat and maim him (as they had done by others), if not to take his very life. It is said that in his latter days he could not venture into the streets by night; that he was obliged to conceal himself in obscure lodgings, and to change his abode frequently. Yet, within a few weeks of his death, he attended a public court in the Town Hall of Hull; for, in the books there kept, is the following entry:—"This day (29th July, 1678), the court being met, Andrew Marvell, esquire, one of the burgesses of parliament for this borough, came into court, and several discourses were held about the town affairs."

He returned to London, and, with scarcely any previous illness, or visible decay of constitution, died there on the 16th of August. From the suddenness of his death some of the enemies of the court surmised that he had been poisoned; and the dark suspicion has been kept alive by biographers and warm political writers. There appears, however, to be no foundation for it; and without very strong presumptive evidence, such foul reports, which were once so common that hardly any prince or public man would have been supposed to die a natural death, ought surely to be discarded.

As soon as the death of Marvell was known in his native town, which he had so long and so faithfully represented in parliament, the Corporation of Hull assembled [Pg 45] in Common Hall and unanimously voted fifty pounds towards defraying the expenses of his funeral; and in the year 1688, when the Revolution gave them liberty to express their sentiments, the inhabitants of Hull subscribed a sum of money for the purpose of raising a monument to his memory in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, where his remains were interred. The epitaph was written, and the monument prepared; but the majority of the clergy of the Established Church were already dissatisfied with the revolution they had helped to make, and were in no humour to honour an enemy to the divine right of kings, a friend to the Dissenters, and a thorough Whig like Marvell; and the rector of St. Giles's would not suffer the monument to be placed in his church. Yet was the epitaph far from being offensive, or obnoxious to any prejudice: it was a manly composition; it praised the wit, learning, judgment, virtuous life, incorruptible honesty, and courageous patriotism of the man, without saying one word of his opinions in church matters. The citizens of Hull ought to place the inscription on a golden tablet in their Town Hall.

Honest Andrew was in his fifty-eighth year when he died. Aubrey, who was personally acquainted with him, says, "He was of a middling stature, pretty strong set, roundish faced, cherry-cheeked, hazel eyed, brown haired. In his conversation he was modest, and of very few words. He was wont to say, he would not drink high or freely with any one with whom he would not trust his life." From other authorities we learn that he was always very temperate and of a healthful constitution to the last; that he was altogether a handsome man with an expressive countenance; very strong and very active; of a reserved disposition among strangers, but easy, lively, facetious, and instructive with his friends. There is an original portrait of him in the British Museum presented by his grand-nephew, Mr. Nettleton; and a copy of his picture adorns the Council Chamber of the Trinity House at Hull, together with a very bombastical and indiscreet inscription, wherein it is confidently asserted that he fell [Pg 46] a victim to the jesuitical machinations of the state; "for what vice and bribery could not influence was perpetrated by poison."

It appears probable that the patriot's poverty has been somewhat exaggerated. As the son of a poor schoolmaster and clergyman, who had other children, it is not likely that he inherited anything from his father except his principles and virtuous example; but the good old lady who lived "on that shore of the Humber opposite to Kingston," and whose daughter perished with the worthy lecturer of Trinity Church, appears to have been at least in easy circumstances, and whatever she had at her death she bequeathed to Master Andrew. Moreover, the old custom of members of parliament receiving a stipend from their constituents, was not, as yet, altogether obsolete; and it should seem that Andrew occasionally received other things from Hull than casks of good ale. Mr. Hartley Coleridge remarks, "It has been said, that Marvell was the last member that received wages from his constituents. Others, however, his contemporaries, maintained the right, and suffered their arrears to accumulate, as a cheap resource at the next election. More than once in the course of Marvell's correspondence, he speaks of members threatening to sue their boroughs for their pay." The good people of Hull could scarcely have made a better use of their superfluous cash than in sending a little of it to their honest and indefatigable representative. No doubt Andrew Marvell was but a poor man compared with the majority of those who sat in Parliament with him, and whose palms were ever open for money from France, or from Holland, or from the ministry; but such evidence as we have to this point seems to establish the fact that he was never reduced to any serious straits or pecuniary difficulties: he had neither the pleasures nor the expenses of a family, for he was never married; and with his contented cheerful nature, he was the man to—

"Say in his heart (what poets do but sing),
That a glad poverty's an honest thing." [10]

[Pg 47] His mode of living was simple and frugal, but not sordid. His company was long sought by the great as well as the witty. In spite of his politics he was admitted into the company of Charles II., before that merry monarch turned the despot that he was in the latter part of his reign. Prince Rupert, whose pride and impetuosity had been moderated by time and a severe experience, and who concluded a life which had been begun in war and blood, in the quiet pursuits of experimental philosophy and of the fine arts, was Marvell's frequent visitant. So much was this the case, that when Rupert dissented from any court measure, it was usual for the courtiers to say that he had been with his tutor Marvell. No doubt can be entertained that efforts were made to corrupt the patriot, and that all these efforts failed. The dramatic example commonly cited may be incorrect in detail, and there seems to be no contemporary authority for it; but it neatly embodies the traditionary reputation for integrity which Marvell left behind him, and, indisputably, the essence of it is a truth.

"At all events," says Mr. Coleridge, "a Life of Andrew Marvell would be as imperfect without it as a History of King Alfred without the neat-herd's cottage and the burnt cakes." It is related with various circumstances, but we shall follow the narrative of a pamphlet printed in Ireland, A. D. 1754:—"The borough of Hull, in the reign of Charles II., chose Andrew Marvell, a young gentleman of little or no fortune, and maintained him in London for the service of the public. His understanding, integrity, and spirit, were dreadful to the then infamous administration. Persuaded that he would be theirs for properly asking, they sent his old schoolfellow, the lord treasurer Danby, to renew acquaintance with him in his garret. At parting, the lord treasurer, out of pure affection, slipped into his hand an order upon the Treasury for 1000l., and then went to his chariot. Marvell, looking at the paper, calls after the treasurer, 'My Lord, I request another moment.' They went up again to the garret, and Jack, the servant boy, was called. 'Jack, child, what had I for dinner yesterday?' [Pg 48] 'Don't you remember, Sir? you had the little shoulder of mutton that you ordered me to bring from a woman in the market.' 'Very right, child. What have I for dinner to-day?' 'Don't you know, Sir, that you bid me lay by the blade-bone to broil.' ''Tis so; very right, child, go away.' 'My lord, do you hear that? Andrew Marvell's dinner is provided; there is your piece of paper. I want it not. I know the sort of kindness you intended. I live here to serve my constituents: the ministry may seek men for their purpose; I am not one.'"

Although his poetry is inferior to his prose, and only a few of his verses are of transcendant grace and beauty, Marvell can have been excluded from an honourable post among our minor poets only by political prejudice and a want of taste and feeling. Nearly all the poems which can be proved to be his were juvenile productions. We quote one of them which, though well known, has not been so universally read as it deserves to be.


Where the remote Bermudas ride
In th' ocean's bosom unespy'd;
From a small boat that row'd along
The list'ning winds receiv'd this song.
"What should we do but sing his praise,
That led us through the wat'ry maze,
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own.
Where He the huge sea-monsters racks,
That lift the deep upon their backs;
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms, and prelates' rage.
He gave us this eternal spring,
Which here enamels every thing;
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air.
He hangs in shades the orange bright,
[Pg 49] Like golden lamps in a green night;
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
He makes the figs our mouths to meet,
And throws the melons at our feet;
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars chosen by his hand,
From Lebanon, He stores the land.
And makes the hollow seas, that roar,
Proclaim the ambergrease on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel's pearl upon our coast,
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound his name.
Oh! let our voice his praise exalt,
'Till it arrive at heav'n's vault;
Which thence, perhaps, rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexique bay."
Thus sung they in the English boat,
An holy and a cheerful note;
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.

Among the satirical poems attributed to him, there are some so flat and dull and so offensively coarse, that we cannot for our lives believe that they were ever written by the friend and bosom companion of Milton. Marvell, as we have said, put forth a good many of his productions anonymously. On the title-page of other pieces he placed some fictitious fanciful name, which other writers of the day, according to a prevalent practice, may have assumed after him for their frouzy trash. He has been very unfortunate in his editor, Captain Edward Thompson, who collected and published his works in 1776, in three vols. 4to. This captain, who wrote the bombastical inscription for the portrait, to which we have alluded, had much zeal and reverence for his author, but no taste, no critical discrimination, nor any other qualification for the task he undertook. He challenges for Marvell the authorship of two very sweet poems which were written long after Marvell's time, the one by Addison, [Pg 50] and the other by Mallet. [11] This is decisive as to his authority in such matters. From his utter want of taste and literary information he was not competent to select and decide upon the anonymous productions of his author; and he certainly swelled his volumes by printing much which Marvell had not written.

Bishop Burnet, who vilifies Marvell by calling him the "liveliest droll of the age," assures us, that "his books were the delight of all classes, from the king to the tradesman"—a sentence which, as Mr. Hartley Coleridge has remarked, accidentally points out the limits of reading in those days. As a senator honest Andrew's character does indeed appear to have been unimpeachable. He was above corruption when nearly all were corrupt: his untiring attention to the interests of his constituents, and to parliamentary business in general, might make him a model for parliamentary men, now that gross and direct corruption at least has ceased.


[1] Worthies.

[2] Hartley Coleridge.—"Biographia Borealis, or Lives of Distinguished Northerns."—Leeds and London, 1833.

[3] Hartley Coleridge.

[4] The old, full name of Hull, where the elder Marvell resided, was "Kingston-upon-Hull." For brevity it was frequently called Kingston, in those days.

[5] H. Coleridge.

[6] He had been elected by his townsmen in the short parliament of 1658–9, during the brief Protectorate of Richard Cromwell; but this parliament had been so suddenly upset to make room for the old Rump, that Marvell and many others never took their seats in it.

[7] Hartley Coleridge.

[8] The Life of Andrew Marvell, the celebrated Patriot with Extracts and Selections from his Prose and Poetical Works, by John Dove. London, 1832.

[9] Extract from the Gazette, as given in 'Life of Marvell' by John Dove.

[10] William Stewart Rose, Epistle to John Hookham Frere.

[11] Addison's Ode 'The spacious firmament on high,' &c.; and Mallet's ballad of 'William and Margaret.'

[Pg 51]


Books in a stack



The materials for the personal life of Barrow may be found in the 'Biographia Britannica,' with full references to authorities, particularly to Ward's 'Lives of the Gresham Professors,' also in Martin's 'Biographia Philosophica,' the 'Biographie Universelle,' and the life by Abraham Hill, prefixed to Tillotson's edition of Barrow's works. In this part we have followed the first-mentioned work in the facts and anecdotes cited.

Isaac Barrow was the eldest son of Thomas Barrow, linendraper to Charles I., and descended of a respectable Suffolk family. His father's brother, named also Isaac Barrow, was fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, and ejected from thence by the Presbyterians about 1644. After the Restoration he was successively bishop of Man and St. Asaph, and died in 1680. Isaac Barrow, the nephew, is supposed to have been born in October, 1630, but this has been disputed on the strength of an expression of his own, reported by a friend, implying [Pg 52] that he was born on the 29th of February. However this may be, he was placed first at the Charterhouse, and afterwards at Felstead school in Essex. In the first he gave but little promise of excellence, his principal delight being in fighting, and his general habits negligent; so that his father is reported to have wished, that if it pleased God to take any of his children, it might be Isaac. At the second school he formed a good character, and in December, 1643, he was entered at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, under his uncle above-mentioned. But by the time (February, 1645) the nephew began his residence at the university the uncle had been ejected, and the nephew accordingly removed to Trinity College. His father, in the meanwhile, had suffered losses for his adherence to the cause of Charles I., and it is said that young Barrow was indebted for his support to the well-known Dr. Hammond. He was scholar of his college in 1647; B.A. in 1648; fellow in 1649; and M.A. in 1652; ad eundem at Oxford, 1653; B.D. 1661; D.D. (by mandate), 1670. These testimonies to his merit (the two last excepted) were the more remarkable, as he was, and always continued, a staunch Royalist.

Barrow was led to his mathematical studies instead of beginning by them. He had at first intended to practise physic, and had studied accordingly, but on his accession to a fellowship he began to study theology, as required by the statutes of the college. He found by his own wants that a divine must be a chronologist, a chronologist an astronomer, and an astronomer a geometer. To the mathematics he therefore applied himself; he had in the meanwhile, as all his writings show, closely studied the learned languages, so that on the resignation of the Greek professor he was recommended to that chair. This he did not gain, being suspected of Arminianism; and the disappointment, together with the unfavourable character of public events to his views, induced him to go abroad. He travelled (1655–1659) through France and Italy to Smyrna and Constantinople, thence again to Venice, and through Germany and Holland [Pg 53] home. After his return he was episcopally ordained, a little before the Restoration. The neglect with which he was treated after that event, and the distich in which he celebrated it,

'Te magis optavit rediturum, Carole, nemo,
Et nemo sensit te rediise minus'— [12]

are well known; but in 1660 he was chosen Greek professor at Cambridge, and 1662 Gresham professor of geometry. But this last he resigned in 1664, holding its duties to be incompatible with those of the Lucasian professorship, to which he was appointed by Mr. Lucas at the institution of that chair in 1663; and this again he resigned in 1669 in favour of a pupil, a young man whom he considered as of the highest promise, aged 27, and named Isaac Newton; indeed his whole history is one of resignations of profit upon principle. He had previously been offered a good living upon condition of instructing the son of the donor; he rejected the offer as simoniacal. His uncle gave him a small living in Wales, and Dr. Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, made him one of the prebendaries of that cathedral. He applied the revenues of both preferments to charitable purposes, and resigned them when Charles II., in 1672, appointed him master of Trinity College. In this capacity he exerted himself to form a library, the want of which had been long felt. His letters to various individuals to induce them to subscribe to the undertaking are preserved in the edifice which they were, through his energy, and the influence of his high character, the means of erecting, and which is one of the most beautiful works of art in the university. He likewise remitted to the college several expenses which statute or custom might have compelled them to incur for the maintenance of his office. He died very young, considering his reputation, May 4, 1677, aged about 47, and was buried in Westminster Abbey: he left his manuscripts [Pg 54] to Tillotson (afterwards archbishop), and Abraham Hill, his biographer.

On the moral and personal character of Barrow there does not seem a shade which can enable any one to deny him the highest degree of human excellence. His energy of mind is sufficiently attested by the quantity of his writings—by the successful variety of his studies—by the extraordinary opinion of him formed by his associates, when compared with the degree of interest his writings present to posterity; which is always, in our opinion, proof of a lustre cast upon writings by personal character—and by the erection of Trinity College Library above-mentioned. The quarrelsome disposition of his boyhood subsided into rational and even reasoning courage, under the discipline to which he subjected his mind. It is related of him, that being once attacked by a large dog which was kept chained all day, but let loose at night for the security of the house (in which he was a visitor, and in the garden of which he was wandering early in the morning), "he catched him by the throat, threw him, and lay upon him, and whilst he kept him down, considered what he should do in that exigent: once he had a mind to kill him, but he quite altered his resolution, judging that it would be an unjust action, for the dog did his duty, and he himself was in fault for rambling out of his lodgings before it was light. At length he called out so loud that he was heard." Being attacked by Algerines during his voyage to Smyrna, "he betook himself to his arms, stayed upon the deck, cheerfully and vigorously fighting, till the pirate, perceiving the stout defence the ship made, sheered off and left her. I asked him why he did not go down into the hold, and leave the defence of the ship to those to whom it did belong. He replied, 'It concerned no man more than myself: I would rather have lost my life than have fallen into the hands of those merciless infidels.'"

The preceding quotations are from Dr. Pope, who was personally intimate with him, as cited in the 'Biogr. Britann.' The following (from the same source) is the testimony of the same and other friends:—"As to his [Pg 55] person, he was low of stature, lean, and of a pale complexion, and negligent of his dress to a fault." Being invited to preach for Dr. Wilkins (afterwards bishop of Chester, author of the 'Mathematical Magic,' &c.) in a parish church in London, his appearance, which was that of an apprentice, drove the whole of the congregation away, except a few persons, among whom was Mr. Baxter, the Nonconformist, who declared afterwards that he could have sat all day to hear him, much to the confusion of the congregation, who had complained to their rector of his substitute. An apprentice, when he came down from the pulpit, said to him, "Sir, be not dismayed, for I assure you it was a good sermon." On being asked what he thought of this person, he said, "I take him to be a very civil person, and if I could meet with him I'd present him with a bottle of wine." "He was of extraordinary strength, a thin skin, and very sensible of cold; his eyes grey, clear, and somewhat short-sighted; his hair a light brown, very fine, and curling. He was of a healthy constitution, very fond of tobacco, which he used to call his panpharmacon, or universal medicine, and imagined it helped to compose and regulate his thoughts. If he was guilty of any intemperance, it seemed to be in the love of fruit, being of opinion, that if it kills hundreds in autumn, it preserves thousands. He slept little, generally rising in the winter months before day."

Dr. Barrow never married: his fellowship prevented his doing so in earlier life, and on his appointment to the mastership he had the permission rescinded, which was granted in the patent. Mr. Hill says he judged it contrary to the college statutes. Dr. Pope gives a curious reason, and says that Barrow would not expose himself to the civilities which a good match might perhaps receive. Such things do happen in our days, but Dr. Pope talks of "sieges, batteries, and importunities which he foresaw that honourable and profitable preferment would expose him to."

His sermons were excessively long. Preaching once in Westminster Abbey, at which time it was usual to [Pg 56] show the curiosities of the place between the sermons to the common people at a low rate, he detained his impatient audience so long that they caused the organ to play "till they had blowed him down." A sermon on charity, which he delivered before the mayor and aldermen, lasted three hours and a half; and another from the text "He that uttereth a slander is a liar," of which he was prevailed upon to preach only the half relating to slander, leaving out that which treated on lies, lasted an hour and an half. These anecdotes illustrate his writings, as we shall see.

The works which Dr. Barrow published during his life are as follows, in which a few words of the Latin titles only are retained:—1. 'Euclidis Elementa,' Cambridge, 1655, contains all the books of Euclid; translated, London, 1660. 2. 'Euclidis Data,' Cambridge, 1657, afterwards appended to the preceding. 3. 'Lectiones Opticæ XVIII.,' London, 1669; his celebrated lectures on optics; they were revised and augmented by Newton before their appearance. 4. 'Lectiones Geometricæ XII.,' London, 1670; containing his method of tangents. Afterwards, 1672 and 1674, printed with the optics. 5. Edition of Archimedes, Apollonius, and Theodorus, London, 1675.

The works of Dr. Barrow, published after his death, were, 1. 'Lectio, in qua, &c.,' London, 1678. This is Archimedes on the sphere and cylinder, demonstrated by the indivisibles of Cavalerius. 2. 'Mathematicæ Lectiones, &c.' These are Lucasian lectures at Cambridge, and the preface is the preliminary oration delivered by Barrow. 3. 'Works, &c.,' edited by Dr. Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury, London, 1685, the preface being Mr. Hill's life of Barrow. (Last reprint 1741?) They contain his English theological works, being sermons, expositions, &c. 4. 'Opuscula,' containing Latin sermons, speeches, poems, &c. There is a list of MSS. in the 'Biographia Britannica,' and in Ward's 'Lives of the Gresham Professors.' The 'Lectiones Geometricæ' and 'Mathematicæ' have been translated, the first by Stone, 1735, the second by Kirkby, 1734.

[Pg 57] We are now to consider Dr. Barrow in two lights, as a mathematician and theologian. And in the first of these characters, without denying him high praise, we regret that the kind of language which has frequently been used concerning him should oblige us to differ from many great authorities. Without biasing the reader by the names of these, we shall quote some extracts from different writings:—

"He may be esteemed as having shown a compass of invention equal if not superior to any of the moderns, Sir Isaac Newton only excepted." This was written by one who knew Vieta, Wallis, Descartes, and Leibnitz. "He has been excelled only by his successor, Newton" (in geometry). "The same genius that seemed to be born only to bring hidden truths to light, &c., &c." This is quoted and agreed to by an encyclopædist of some authority in this country, who, however, does not state what these hidden truths were. "Barrow, scarcely an inferior name," that is, to Newton, is the unguarded expression of a contemporary of great note. We must dissent entirely from such an extent of praise, as having tendencies injurious to correct biography, and not allowable even as the hyperbole which writers on that subject usually employ. We shall now make some quotations from foreigners, and, as in the former case, without names. "The 'Lectiones Opticæ' is full of profound researches in the properties of curves." "His 'Lectiones Opticæ' are worthy to figure by the side of his 'Lectiones Geometricæ.' In this work, Barrow, quitting the route marked out by other opticians, applied himself principally to discuss questions which had not been treated at all, or which had not been sufficiently elucidated. Among other things he treats the theory of foci, which, except in a small number of cases, were then determined by experiment. Barrow gave a complete solution of all the cases of the problem, by an elegant formula. This book as well as the 'Lectiones Geometricæ' is a mine of curious and interesting propositions, to which geometry is always applied with particular elegance."

[Pg 58] The preceding is, in our opinion, the best description which could be given of Barrow's mathematical writings, in as few words; and we may, therefore, ask how the English accounts differ so much from it? Both cannot be true. The rival (almost) of Newton has been very unjustly treated in the second set of quotations, or if not, the first set is extravagant. There are two things to be considered.

Barrow produced in a geometrical form that prelude to the differential calculus which goes by the name of the method of tangents. It was, in point of fact, what was afterwards the fundamental notion of the differentials of Leibnitz, and, in Newton's language, asserted the ultimate equality of the ratio of the differences of two ordinates and abscissæ to that of the ordinate and subtangent. It was so like the previous method of Fermat that Montucla calls it Fermat's method simplified. It was no great step from the indivisibles of Cavalerius, which Barrow knew, as we have seen; and it was as like the method of Roberval as Newton's system is to that of Leibnitz. But even granting the originality of the invention, neither Fermat nor Roberval were ever extravagantly praised for their similar discoveries; and some think that Archimedes had already deprived them all of the merit of originality. When the dispute between Newton and Leibnitz occurred, which, to say the least of it, was not very fairly managed on the English side, perhaps not on either, our countrymen appear not to have sufficiently seized the strongest point of Newton's case. Instead of asserting, which we think they might have done, that Archimedes, Fermat, Wallis, Cavalerius, Roberval, Descartes, Barrow, Leibnitz, and a host of others, had all been in possession (under various lights) of a principle which Newton's fluxions also contained, but that all had wanted the essential instrument by which Newton made that principle available, namely, the general binomial theorem and its consequences; they all took issue (to use a legal phrase) upon the fluxional principle, as if that had given Newton the new powers which his method possessed. And [Pg 59] here they made of Barrow a sort of entrenched position, on which to fall back in case of defeat, affirming that if the method were not Newton's, it could not belong to Leibnitz, because Barrow had a claim of discovery prior to that of both. This gave a factitious importance to Barrow's interesting and elegant method, which had really presented the principle in a purer geometrical form.

In the second place, popular religious writers, endeavouring to impress on their readers the argument in favour of Christianity, arising out of the greatness of the minds which have received it, have frequently, not being well acquainted with the sciences, handled their subject unskilfully, and distorted the proper proportions of different reputations. Barrow, the eminent mathematician, and the most upright and consistent of men, one of the first theologians of his day, of varied and deep knowledge upon so many subjects, has often, in this way, had the splendour of all his different characters made to shine upon the only one in which he was viewed for the time, namely, that of a mathematician. The French Encyclopædists, whose bias lay in an exactly opposite direction, have fallen into a similar error, by representing him as an 'obscure' mathematician and theologian. The truth will lie between the two, though we can offer no opinion upon the exact point where. Barrow was neither an obscure mathematician, nor second only to Newton. In this point of view his merits are certainly not small. He was profoundly versed in geometry, acquainted with all its elegances as well as all its depth, and had a facility of application. 'Nihil quod tetigit non ornavit;' [13] and he carried his methods, as many others have done, into theorems, both curious and useful. More than this, he conquered his nature to such an extent, in pure geometry, that Montucla justly says, 'The merit of these works is a singular brevity (concision) which does not destroy their clearness.' He, one of the most verbose of men, is one of the first [Pg 60] writers who attempted, by throwing away circumlocutions and introduction of symbols, to distinguish between Euclidean rigour and unnecessary load of language. This seems to us no small merit; but where those discoveries lie which constitute this contemporary of Descartes second only to Newton, we must confess we do not know.

In the elucidation of principles Dr. Barrow is not so happy as in his application of them. The 'Mathematicæ Lectiones,' a commentary on the first principles of geometry and arithmetic, is a vast cloud of words, filled with ancient learning of every kind; and, though sound and logical, very difficult to understand, that is, to find out in which of the multiplied phrases the meaning lies. In an attempt to explain the doctrine of proportion according to Euclid, he seems to us to have very much increased the difficulty of his author. It is true he sometimes complains of his own prolixity, but this is a very poor compensation for so annoying a defect; and we frequently feel the force of the self-accusing terms in which he ends one of his geometrical lectures—'I think I hear you exclaim—ἄλλην δρῦν βαλάνιζε.' [14]

The character of Barrow as a theological writer has always stood high among the English divines. His sermons, as Le Clerc observes, are rather treatises and dissertations than harangues; and he wrote and re-wrote them three or four times. They are always cited as exact and comprehensive arguments, the produce of a grasp which could collect, and of a patience which could combine, all that was to be said upon the subject in question. But in addition to this, Barrow was an original thinker of no mean character: learning falls into his work, but a work there would have been if he had had no learning at all. The paragraph with which we conclude is a celebrated notion of his upon the Deity. Barrow, on his death-bed, looking forward to his future state, avowed that his principal idea of the happiness he [Pg 61] should receive consisted in his notion that he should be an intuitive geometer, seeing those things as self-evident which, as a man, he had been obliged to spend time in acquiring by demonstration. The following passage was written by him in his manuscript of 'Apollonius,' now in the library of the Royal Society, of which he was an early member.

Ὁ Θεὸς γεωμετρεῖ. Tu autem, Domine, quantus es geometra! Quum enim hæc scientia nullos terminos habeat; cum in sempiternum novorum theorematum inventioni locus relinquatur, etiam penes humanum ingenium; tu uno hæc omnia intuitu perspecta habes, absque catena consequentiarum, absque tædio demonstrationum. Ad cætera pœnè nihil facere potest intellectus noster; et tanquam Brutorum phantasia videtur non nisi incerta quædam somniare; unde in iis quot sunt homines, tot existunt ferè sententiæ. . . . . Te igitur vel ex hac re amare gaudeo, te suspicor, atque illum diem desidero suspiriis fortibus, in quo purgatâ mente et claro oculo non hæc solum omnia absque hac successiva et laboriosa imaginandi cura, verum multo plura et majora ex tuâ bonitate et immensissima sanctissimaque benignitate conspicere et scire concedetur. [15]


[12] No one, Charles, desired your return more than I did, and no one has felt it less.

[13] He touched nothing that he did not improve.

[14] Gather acorns from some other oak (i. e. you have completely exhausted the subject).

[15] But, Lord, how great a geometer art thou! For whilst this science has no limits, and opportunity is afforded, even to the human intellect, for the invention of new theorems to all eternity, thou beholdest all these things at a single glance, without the chain of deductions, without the tediousness of demonstration. In other things our intellect can do scarcely anything, and like the ideas of brutes, our thoughts seem little better than the uncertainties of a dream; hence, in such matters, there are almost as many opinions as there are men . . . . I exult therefore in the love of thee even from this cause; I look up to thee, and with deep sighings long for that day when with a purified mind and a clear eye, I shall be permitted, by thy goodness and infinite and holy benevolence, to see and to know not only these things, but many more and greater, without this continuous and laborious anxiety of thinking.

[Pg 62]





Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, as he delighted to call himself—in Latin, Thomas Hobbius, or sometimes Hobbesius—was born in that ancient town on the 5th of April, which happened to be Good Friday, in the year 1588. He came in a hurry into this breathing world, in which he was destined to live so long, and to fill so large a space in the eye both of his contemporaries and of posterity. A fright into which his mother was thrown by a rumour of the arrival of the Spanish Armada brought on a premature delivery. Her name was Middleton. His father, whose Christian name was the same with his own, was vicar of Charlton and Westport, a parish lying immediately beyond one of the gates of the town of Malmesbury; but he was far from being a learned theologian; the sum of his qualifications, it is recorded, amounting to being able to read the printed homilies to his congregation in a satisfactory enough way. Besides Thomas, the vicar and his wife had an elder son, [Pg 63] Edmund, and a daughter. Thomas, according to a narrative of his own life, in Latin hexameters and pentameters, which he addressed, in 1672, to his friend Hieronymus Verdusius, spent his first four years in learning to speak; his next four in learning to read, to cipher, and to write a little: he was then, at eight years of age, sent to the grammar-school of his native town, taught by Mr. Robert Latimer, under whom he made such considerable progress that, before leaving school, he had produced a version of the Medea of Euripides in Latin Iambics. Hobbes's grammar-school days, therefore, extended from 1596 to 1602. His master, Latimer, was at this time a young man of nineteen or twenty, fresh from college. John Aubrey, the antiquary, who was born in the neighbourhood of Malmesbury thirty-seven years after Hobbes, was educated by the same teacher, who had, by this time, however, become rector of the adjoining parish of Leigh-de-la-Mere. "I remember," says Aubrey, in his Life of Harvey, "my old schoolmaster, Mr. Latimer, at seventy, wore a dudgeon, with a knife and bodkin, as also my old grandfather Lyte, and Alderman Whitson, of Bristow, which, I suppose, was the common fashion in their young days." In his Life of Hobbes, Aubrey further writes as follows:—"This summer 1634, (I remember it was in venison season, July or August) Mr. T. H. [Thomas Hobbes] came into his native country to visit his friends, and amongst others he came to see his old schoolmaster, Mr. Robert Latimer, at Leigh-de-la-Mere, when I was then a little youth, at school in the church, newly entered into my grammar by him. Here was the first place and time that I ever had the honour to see this worthy learned man, who was then pleased to take notice of me, and the next day came and visited my relations. He was a proper man, brisk, and in very good equipage [equipment]; his hair was then quite black. He staid at Malmesbury and in the neighbourhood a week or better; 'twas the last time that ever he was in Wiltshire." Latimer, it appears, died in the beginning of November in this same year—so that Aubrey was one of his last scholars, as Hobbes had been one of [Pg 64] his first. The philosopher and the antiquary afterwards became great friends. [16]

In the beginning of the year 1603, Hobbes was sent to Oxford, and entered of Magdalen Hall. Here he remained for five years, taking his Bachelor's degree in 1607. He was supported, while at the university, by an uncle, Francis Hobbes, an elder brother of his father, who was a glover in Malmesbury, and held the office of Alderman, or chief magistrate of the town, and who afterwards left him in his will a little piece of landed property (modicum fundum), the same which, in his poetical autobiography he tells us that he gave away to his brother, and describes as small in extent but of good soil, and fitted to bear excellent crops of wheat. Aubrey says that it was worth sixteen or eighteen pounds a year.

In 1608, on the recommendation of Mr. John Wilkinson, the Principal of Magdalen Hall, he was taken into the family of William Lord Cavendish of Hardwick, who, ten years after this, was created Earl of Devonshire; the common accounts say as tutor to his son, the Hon. William Cavendish, afterwards second earl, who had also just left the university, and was of about the same age with Hobbes. In point of fact, as we learn from Aubrey's honest narrative, Hobbes was engaged as page to the young man, "and rode a hunting and hawking with him, and kept his privy purse." If it was ever intended that the one should direct the other's studies, that part of the arrangement would seem to have soon fallen into neglect. In the prose sketch of his life in Latin, which is understood to have been written by himself, it is stated that Hobbes spent almost the whole of the year 1609 with young Cavendish in the capital, and, at the end of it, found that he had lost the greater part both of his Greek and Latin. Aubrey's account is that, by the way of life he led, as page, pursekeeper, and companion in hunting and hawking, [Pg 65] he, after a time, found that he had almost forgotten his Latin: "he then," it is added, "bought him books of an Amsterdam print, that he might carry in his pocket (particularly Cæsar's Commentaries), which he did read in the lobby, or antechamber, whilst his lordship was making his visits." It is evident enough, from all this, what Hobbes's position at first really was; he may have been in a certain sense the companion of the young lord's out-of-doors amusements; but he was, notwithstanding, rather a servant than an associate. At the same time it is to be remembered that this sort of connexion with a nobleman or his heir did not then carry with it any of the degradation to an educated man which it now would. And it appears not to have been long before Hobbes emancipated himself from whatever there was of a menial character in his situation. In 1610, he and Cavendish made a tour together through France and Italy, in the course of which Hobbes acquired some knowledge of the languages of both these countries; and when he returned to England he resumed his classical studies, diligently reading over the ancient poets and historians, with the aid of the best grammatical commentaries; so that he made himself at length a tolerable scholar, and attained, as he says, to a Latin style, which, if not oratorical, was at least correct, and which expressed his thoughts both truly and perspicuously.

While thus employed, he continued to reside with the noble family to which he had attached himself, till first the old earl died, in 1625, and then his son and successor in 1628. Aubrey asserts that the latter, who was a waster or spendthrift, used to send Hobbes "up and down to borrow money, and to get gentlemen to be bound for him, being ashamed to speak himself." It appears that he was regarded as filling the office of secretary to this earl. In the latter years of this his first residence in the Devonshire family, he had begun to be known and appreciated in the best literary society, if he had not as yet distinctly come before the public as a man of letters. It was at this time of his life that he was intimate with Lord Bacon, who is said not only to have [Pg 66] greatly delighted in his intercourse with Hobbes, but to have employed him in translating some of his writings into Latin. Aubrey particularly mentions one of the Essays which was translated by Hobbes, that entitled 'Of the Greatness of Cities,'—meaning probably the Twenty-ninth, 'Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates;' and there were two others, he says, which he had forgotten. Speaking of Bacon's habit of dictating his compositions to his friends, Aubrey adds, "His lordship would often say that he liked better Mr. Hobbes taking his thoughts than any of the others, because he understood what he wrote, which the others not understanding, my lord would many times have a hard task to make sense of what they writ." [17] Bacon died in 1626. Others of Hobbes's intimate friends were, the famous Edward Herbert, who was in 1629 created Lord Herbert of Cherbury; and Sir Robert Ayton, one of the most distinguished among the minor poets of that day, and holding rank in the king's court as well as in that of Apollo. To Ayton and Ben Jonson, the renowned dramatist, whose friendship he also enjoyed, he is stated to have submitted the manuscript of his first work, a translation of Thucydides, which he published in 1629. It appeared with the title of 'Eight Books of the Peloponnesian war, written by Thucydides the son of Olorus; interpreted with Faith and Diligence, immediately out of the Greek, by Thomas Hobbes, Secretary to the late Earl of Devonshire.' The work is formally addressed to the third earl, as yet a boy; but the translator sets out by declaring that he must be understood to dedicate his labour, such as it is, not to the living, but to the dead. In the preface he states that the translation had already passed the censure (that is, the censorship) of some, whose judgments he very much esteemed. Both in his prose and in his metrical autobiography he tells us that his object in publishing it was to expose the evils of democracy. Thucydides, he says, in the poetical performance, [Pg 67] was the writer who above all others showed me what a foolish thing democracy is, and how greatly wiser one man is than an assembly of men; him therefore I made English, that he might warn my country-men, when desirous to take counsel, to shun rhetoricians. Hobbes, therefore, had already taken up at least the general principles of politics to which he adhered during his life. Notwithstanding the large mass of his writings, and the long space of years over which they extended, his speculations and conclusions, both in politics and morals, will be found to be from first to last almost perfectly consistent; a circumstance which must be attributed in part to the mature age at which he first appeared as an author, as well as to the peculiar character of his understanding, which, systematic and passionless, saw whatever it did see both distinctly and readily, and, although it might persist in what a larger philosophy would deem half views, was not apt even at the first glance of a subject to overlook any consideration which it would on longer deliberation have recognised as material. It was not only a most acute and original, but so far as its vision extended, a remarkably complete and ready understanding. At the same time this first proclamation of his opinions on government, if not their formation, can hardly be supposed not to have been somewhat influenced by the state of public affairs at the moment. When the translation of Thucydides came forth to enlighten the nation on the folly and mischief of a government swayed by popular assemblies and the power of oratory, Charles I. was in the midst of his contest with his third refractory parliament, which had just forced upon him the Petition of Right, and which in return he was now about to dismiss with the fixed determination of never calling another. It was at this crisis, when the new opinions, both in politics and religion, which had long been fermenting in the national mind, had at last begun actually to shake the ancient monarchical constitution, which on their next outbreak, as by an explosion of compressed air, they were to lay in ruins, that Hobbes advanced to rebuke and if possible to exorcise [Pg 68] the evil spirit with his version of the antidemocratic Greek historian, which the murmurs of the coming tempest in the preceding two or three years had probably first set him to prepare.

There is some indistinctness, however, in the various accounts we have both of the first publication of this work and of the history of this period of Hobbes's life altogether. In his poetical autobiography, apparently without attending to any chronological order, he enumerates as the most memorable incidents of his first ten years' connexion with the Devonshire family, his study of the ancient poets and historians, his publication of his translation of Thucydides, his visit to Germany, France, and Italy, and the death of his patron, who, he intimates, did not leave the world without leaving him the means of a modest philosophic independence. Then, he adds, finding himself neglected in the quiet house (as the words seem to mean), he went to Paris and remained there for eighteen months. In his prose life of himself he expressly says that he published his Thucydides about the year 1628, and that in 1629, the year after the death of the Earl of Devonshire, he accepted the invitation of Sir Gervase Clifton, to accompany his son to France. The same account is given in nearly the same words in Antony Wood's Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis, to which work, published in 1674, it was probably supplied by Hobbes himself. Nevertheless, in what is called the Vitæ Hobbianæ Auctarium (or supplementary account of the life of Hobbes) drawn up, as it is understood, by Dr. R. Blackbourne, from authentic materials, and published by him in 1681, within two years of Hobbes's death, his consenting to accompany young Clifton to France is attributed to his desire to divert the grief occasioned by the earl's death; and the publication of his Thucydides is mentioned as if it had taken place after his return from abroad. According to the Biographia Britannica, also, the date commonly found upon what is called the first edition of the translation is 1634, the dedication is dated in the same year, and another edition dated 1676 is called only the second edition. [Pg 69] But the work was certainly first published in 1629, nor has the dedication in that first edition any date; and it is most probable that the copies dated 1634 were merely an unsold portion of that impression, with a reprint of the title-page and the dedication.

All the accounts agree in stating that it was during this visit to France that Hobbes's attention was first drawn to the mathematics. His own statement, in the prose sketch of his life, is, that the Elements of Euclid, which he then first began to look into, greatly delighted him, and that he perused the work with the greatest eagerness. What he professes, however, to have been principally taken with was, not the theorems, or the truths demonstrated, but the method of the reasoning. Of course, mathematical demonstration must, as the only perfect logic, have greatly interested Hobbes, whose manner of writing is perhaps the most strictly logical that has ever been exemplified in moral exposition, or that is compatible with speculation out of the region of definite quantities. But, whether it was that he made his first acquaintance with the mathematics at too late a period of life, or from some natural inaptitude, it is certain that he never acquired a correct conception of the first principles of the science, and that although it became from this time a chief subject both of his studies and of his writings. It would seem as if, in his endeavours to bring moral exposition as near as possible to mathematical demonstration, he had been led to reduce somewhat the requisitions of the latter, even if he did not attempt an undue rigour in the former.

Hobbes remained in France till 1631, when he accepted the invitation of the dowager-countess to return to his old residence with the Devonshire family in quality of tutor to the young earl, now thirteen years old. The Auctarium, which seems to make his translation of Thucydides to have been first published after this, says that about the same time he gave to the world his Latin poem on the wonders of the Peak of Derby (De Mirabilibus Pecci). Sir William Molesworth, who in his edition of Hobbes's collected works has printed it from an edition [Pg 70] dated 1678, in which it is accompanied by a translation in English verse, stated to be "by a Person of Quality," points out a passage in it from which it appears that it must have been written, at least in part, in the interval between the death of the first and that of the second Earl of Devonshire, that is between the years 1625 and 1628. Anthony Wood says that the first edition came out in 1636; and there is said to have been an edition in 1666, as well as the one of 1678. The poem extends to between five and six hundred hexameter verses; but, like other performances of Hobbes in the same line, it is rather curious than very poetical.

In 1634 he proceeded with his pupil to France, whence, after some stay in Paris, he passed on to Italy, and did not return to England till 1637. It is stated to have been during this visit to Paris, where his principal associate was Father Mersenne, of the order of the Minorites, then in eminent reputation as a scientific man, that he began to study natural philosophy, and made what he always considered his great fundamental discovery both in physics and in the philosophy of mind, the origination of all phenomena in the agitation of matter by various kinds and degrees of motion. Occupied with such inquiries and speculations, when he afterwards went to Italy he sought out the illustrious Galileo at Pisa or Florence; and the friendship which their genius and their common studies tended to beget is supposed to have been warmed and made closer by the aversion and dread with which they both regarded the ecclesiastical power and the excesses of religious zeal. Galileo, released after his recantation from actual imprisonment, but still under surveillance, was now an old man approaching his seventieth year, and in 1636, which would be about the time that the English philosopher found him, had, blind and bowed down with afflictions, just completed his Dialogues on Motion, the very subject of which Hobbes's mind was at the moment full.

In his poetical autobiography, Hobbes says that upon leaving Italy they returned to Paris, where he communicated his new views about motion to Mersenne, from [Pg 71] which time he adds that he also was numbered among the philosophers; and then, he says, he got back to his native country after eight months; by which he must mean after eight months spent in Paris. He speaks as if it had been not till now that he had made the acquaintance of Mersenne (Hic ego Mersennum novi, &c.); and he says nothing about having made any lengthened stay in Paris on their way to Italy, or even of having then passed through that capital, for by the expression returning to Paris he may refer to his late residence there in 1629 and 1630. At any rate he and his pupil returned to England in 1637. But the earl was now nineteen, and no longer wanted a tutor; and Hobbes was besides alarmed by the aspect of public affairs. The Scots had risen and driven out or put down their bishops; and everything seemed to threaten the end of the long suspension of parliamentary government, and the revival of that contest between the monarchical and the popular principles which he could not doubt would, whatever might be its final result, involve the country in a temporary anarchy. He shuddered at the prospect, he tells us, and betook himself once more to his beloved Paris:—

"—— Horreo spectans;
Meque ad dilectam confero Lutetiam."

It appears, however, that he remained in England till a few days after the meeting of the Long Parliament in the beginning of November, 1640; and he drew up before he went abroad a treatise in support of the royal authority, of which many copies were taken in manuscript, and which afterwards formed the basis of his book De Cive and of his Leviathan. Of the former he printed a few copies in 4to. at Paris in 1642; but it was not published till 1647, when, after having been revised and augmented, it was brought out at Amsterdam by the Elzevirs, in 12mo., with the title of Elementa Philosophica de Cive. A French translation, executed by M. Samuel Sorbiere, appeared in 1649, and an English [Pg 72] one in 1651; and there were re-impressions of the original Latin in 1650, 1660, 1668, and 1669.

Meanwhile he passed his time, agreeably enough, in study and in intercourse with Mersenne, Gassendi, and other men of letters resident in the French metropolis. He also engaged in a correspondence with Descartes on the laws of motion and other questions of natural philosophy. In 1646 he was selected to be mathematical tutor to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II., who had recently come to Paris. He had, before receiving this appointment, made arrangements, by the advice of friends residing in that part of France, for transferring himself to Languedoc. What leisure he had he now, he tells us, employed in writing his Leviathan. Meanwhile, however, two or three of his shorter performances found their way to the press. In the beginning of 1650 Sir William Davenant published at Paris an elaborate Preface to his forthcoming poem of Gondibert, which he addressed "to his much honoured friend, Mr. Hobbes;" it is dated from the Louvre, the 2nd of January; and Hobbes's 'Answer,' which seems to have been printed along with the Preface, is dated Paris, January 10th. It comprehends both a disquisition upon poetry in general and a particular examination of Gondibert, his testimony in regard to which Hobbes winds up thus:—"I never yet saw poem that had so much shape of art, health of morality, and vigour and beauty of expression, as this of yours. And, but for the clamour of the multitude, that hide their envy of the present under a reverence of antiquity, I should say further, that it would last as long as either the Æneid or Iliad, but for one disadvantage; and the disadvantage is this—the languages of the Greeks and Romans, by their colonies and conquests, have put off flesh and blood, and are become immutable, which none of the modern tongues are like to be." The unerring verdict of time has not confirmed this judgment passed on Davenant's epic when it first appeared; and Hobbes has not gained any reputation for poetical taste by his criticism in this instance, any more than he has for poetical faculty by his own attempts in verse. As for his notion [Pg 73] about the disadvantage of writing in English as compared with writing in Greek or Latin, it was only what had been the nearly universal opinion down to that time. So we find Bacon declaring fifty years before that "these modern languages will at one time or other play the bankrupt with books," and resting for his sole chance with posterity upon getting his Essays and other works translated into Latin. Hobbes, it is curious, follows up this remark by another which is frequently repeated by Bacon:—"I honour antiquity; but that which is commonly called old time is young time. The glory of antiquity is due, not to the dead, but to the aged." The idea is also found elsewhere in Hobbes's writings.

In this same year, 1650, there also appeared at London, first, his treatise, entitled 'Human Nature; or The Fundamental Elements of Policy,' which, from the date of the Dedication to William Earl of Newcastle, would appear to have been written ten years before; and then that entitled 'De Corpore Politico; or, The Elements of Law, Moral and Politic.' They were followed the next year by his great work, which also appeared in English and at London, with the title of 'Leviathan; or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil. By Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury.' It is a large treatise, consisting of forty-seven Chapters, divided into four Parts: the first entitled Of Man; the second, Of Commonwealth; the third, Of a Christian Commonwealth; the fourth, Of the Kingdom of Darkness. A few sentences from the Introduction will explain the meaning of the title:—"Nature, the art whereby God hath made and governs the world, is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For, seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within, why may we not say that all automata (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels, as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the heart but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as [Pg 74] was intended by the artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of nature, man. For by art is created that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth, or State, in Latin Civitas, which is but an artificial man; though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body: the magistrates, and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment, by which, fastened to the seat of sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty, are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members are the strength; salus populi, the people's safety, its business; counsellors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and law are artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the creation." The Leviathan is in fact a defence of the absolute sovereignty of one man as the only rational system of government. The principle from which the author deduces his conclusions is extremely simple, and may be stated with sufficient distinctness for our present purpose in the words of his own marginal summaries to the commencing paragraphs of the Second Part of the work;—"The end of Commonwealth, particular security; which is not to be had from the law of nature; nor from the conjunction of a few men or families; nor from a great multitude, unless directed by one judgment; and that continually." Perhaps the only way in which his reasoning can be effectually met is by disputing the first of these assertions, or denying that mere peace or security is the sole purpose of government. Hobbes's scheme of absolutism, it will be observed, stands upon altogether a different basis from that of the asserters of the jus divinum, or divine right, of kings. The Leviathan was [Pg 75] dissented from, accordingly, by Sir Robert Filmer and his adherents, maintaining what was called the Patriarchal scheme or system, as much as by the advocates of civil liberty as commonly understood. The only state of liberty, it is to be observed, which Hobbes recognises is that of men in a state of nature. Referring to that condition of things, he sets out by laying down the doctrine of the original liberty and equality of all men, in the same manner with the most extreme zealots of modern democracy, who indeed have probably taken the idea from him. To such opposite conclusions may speculators come, notwithstanding their having the same starting point.

But what raised the greatest and most general outcry against the Leviathan was the doctrine which it propounded upon the authority of the Scriptures, and also upon the proper position in a commonwealth of the church or ecclesiastical estate. In regard to both these matters Hobbes carries out his great fundamental principle of the absolute supremacy of the sovereign without mitigation or reserve. Holding that principle, he could hardly do otherwise than object to the independence of the church, or to a co-ordinate power in that or any other body; yet he thereby drew upon himself the opposition of the very portion of the clergy, those of the high-church party, who might otherwise have been counted upon as likely to support his general notions of government. His views with regard to the authority of the Scriptures at the same time excited the hostility of the generality of Christians of all classes, and especially of those inclined to what would now be called evangelical opinions, including all the Puritanical or Low Church party, and nearly all the various descriptions of Protestant nonconformists or dissenters. At the moment, indeed, when the Leviathan was first published, there was no recognised episcopal church in England, and consequently no High Church or Low Church party; the Presbyterians, Independents, and other sectaries possessed the land; but the work was reprinted, and continued to excite great attention, after [Pg 76] the Restoration. Its effect, and that of other publications by Hobbes in the same strain, has been to make him be popularly regarded as a disbeliever and enemy of Christianity down to the present day. Yet this is an opinion which certainly could only have been kept alive so long by the general neglect into which his writings had fallen, and the entire ignorance with regard to them of those who have been the eagerest and loudest in denouncing him. The only way in which it is possible to make out that Hobbes was an infidel is by deducing conclusions from his principles which he himself disavows, and with which he maintains they are not chargeable. His professions of sincere belief in the Christian Scriptures are earnest and unreserved; he adduces them as of conclusive authority on all occasions; his writing and reasoning is every where regulated or guarded by an attention to their requisitions, and is marked and coloured throughout its whole texture by what may be called a theological spirit. And certainly his doctrine with regard to what is called the authority of the Scriptures, whatever else that is unfounded or erroneous it may contain, implies nothing of infidelity, when fairly considered. It is stated in the Leviathan thus:—"It is a question much disputed between the divers sects of Christian religion, from whence the Scriptures derive their authority; which question is also propounded sometimes in other terms, as, How we know them to be the word of God, or, Why we believe them to be so: and the difficulty of resolving it ariseth chiefly from the improperness of the words wherein the question itself is couched. For it is believed on all hands that the first and original author of them is God; and consequently the question disputed is not that. Again, it is manifest that none can know they are God's word (though all true Christians believe it), but those to whom God himself hath revealed it supernaturally; and therefore the question is not rightly moved of our knowledge of it. Lastly, when the question is propounded of our belief; because some are moved to believe for one, and others for other reasons, there can be rendered no one general [Pg 77] answer for them all. The question truly stated is, By what authority they are made law. As far as they differ not from the laws of nature, there is no doubt but they are the law of God, and carry their authority with them, legible to all men that have the use of natural reason; but this is no other authority than that of all other moral doctrine consonant to reason; the dictates whereof are laws, not made, but eternal. If they be made law by God himself, they are of the nature of written laws, which are laws to them only to whom God hath so sufficiently published them as no man can excuse himself by saying he knew not they were his. He, then, to whom God hath not supernaturally revealed that they are his, nor that those that published them were sent by him, is not obliged to obey them by any authority but his whose commands have already the force of laws; that is to say, by any other authority than that of the commonwealth, residing in the sovereign, who only has the legislative power." What is asserted here is no more than that, whatever may be felt to be the authority or obligation of obeying the precepts of the Scriptures by those who believe them to have come from God, it is only the sovereign, or legislative power, that can give to them the force of law in any particular country or state. This God has himself ordained to be the case. It is simply the statement of a fact. In the empire of China, for example, the government has not established Christianity or made it any part of the law of the land; and therefore no Chinese subject is, as such, bound to yield obedience to the injunctions of that religion. That he may be bound to receive it as the true religion in some other capacity, and without reference to his obligations as a subject of the country in which he lives, is nothing to the purpose; the whole question, as Hobbes states, is, By what authority the Scriptures are anywhere made law. It is plain that they can only be made law by that authority which alone in any particular country has the power of making any thing law, that is to say, by the sovereign authority of the state, whether that may [Pg 78] have been placed in the hands of a single person, or in whatever other manner the said sovereign authority may be constituted. And of course the same reasons that make this true of the general authority of the Scriptures make it also true of the particular sense in which disputed passages are to be understood; that is to say, the right of interpretation of the Scriptures in any particular state, in so far as such interpretation is to affect the obedience of the subjects of the state, can only reside in the sovereign legislative power. For instance, the rule deduced from the Scriptures for the observance of the Sabbath, to which all the people of the state are to be held under an obligation in their quality of subjects to conform, can only be declared by the sovereign. But the truth is, that the position in reference to this subject which Hobbes was most anxious to refute was that of the disciples of the Roman Catholic faith, who insisted that, beside all temporal states and authorities, there existed another authority, that of the Universal Church, which, as founded upon the word of God, was superior to any and all of them, and entitled to interfere to any extent it chose with their regulations and arrangements. Accordingly, he finally states the question of the authority of the Scriptures as reduced to this:—"Whether Christian Kings, and the Sovereign assemblies in the Christian Commonwealths, be absolute in their own territories, immediately under God; or subject to one Vicar of Christ, constituted of the Universal Church; to be judged, condemned, deposed, and put to death, as he shall think expedient or necessary for the common good." A question not very interesting, perhaps, in our day; but one which still continued to agitate Christendom in that of Hobbes, as it had done for many preceding centuries.

As for the distinction which he draws between believing the Scriptures to be true and knowing them to be true, it must be looked at with a reference to what he specially understands by knowledge. He has already, in a previous part of the work, defined knowledge as being of two kinds; the first, absolute knowledge, which, says he, "is nothing else but sense and memory, as when we [Pg 79] see a fact doing, or remember it done;" the second, conditional knowledge, or science, "as when we know that if the figure shown be a circle, then any straight line through the centre shall divide it into two equal parts." The former, he observes, "is the knowledge required in a witness; the latter, the knowledge required in a philosopher." It will not be contended that a belief in the truth of Christianity can ever possibly have the character of either of these kinds of knowledge, except only to the individual to whom it has been supernaturally revealed. But Hobbes was far from contending that there are no truths except such as are the subjects of knowledge, or that convictions of belief, although different from those of absolute knowledge or science, might not be quite as strong. In his treatise entitled 'Human Nature,' where he has gone into this subject at greater length, he shows that both sorts of knowledge are but experience; "the former," as he puts it, "being the experience of the effects of things that work upon us from without; and the latter, experience that men have from the proper use of names in language:" and he afterwards observes, "Belief, which is the admitting of propositions upon trust, in many cases is no less free from doubt than perfect and manifest knowledge. . . . Now, there be many things which we receive from report of others, of which it is impossible to imagine any cause of doubt." But even persons who do not adhere so rigidly as Hobbes is accustomed to do to a particular sense of the words they employ would be regarded as expressing themselves oratorically, or passionately, rather than philosophically, if they were to talk of knowing Christianity to be true; the phrase in almost universal use is believing it. And this at least will be admitted on all hands, that the great mass of believers in Christianity, never having examined the evidences upon which it rests, cannot possibly possess what even the loosest writer or talker would call a knowledge of its truth. But, according to Hobbes's understanding of what knowledge means, the subject is not one which in ordinary circumstances lies within the province of knowledge. If he be wrong here, his error [Pg 80] lies in the misconception or improper use of a word; in which there is nothing more of either infidelity or heresy than there would be in bad grammar or bad spelling.

Hobbes relates, in the prose Life drawn up by himself, that during his residence in France, when he was living at St. Germain's, near Paris, he was attacked by an illness, from which it was thought that he would not recover; and one day, as he lay in bed, his friend Mersenne came to him, on the suggestion of another person to whom they were both known, to try to prevail upon him to see a Romish priest. Sitting down at his bedside, Mersenne began to speak about the power of the Romish church to remit sins. "Father," interrupted Hobbes, "I have debated all these matters with myself long ago; I have no inclination to enter into such disputes now. You have more agreeable subjects to talk to me about. When did you see Gassendi?" Mersenne on this allowed the conversation to turn to something else. In a few days, Hobbes or his biographer continues, Dr. John Cosins, who became Bishop of Durham after the Restoration, came and offered to pray with him; when he thanked him for his kindness, and at once replied, "Certainly, if you will use the offices appointed by our church." This, concludes the narrative, was a signal proof of reverence towards the episcopal discipline.

Hobbes returned to England in the latter part of the same year in which the Leviathan was published. His own account is, that certain English clergymen who were then in Paris raised such a cry against the book, as containing both some doctrines that were heretical and others that were opposed to the rights and interests of the royal cause, that he was forbidden to come into the presence of Prince, or, as he was now called, King Charles; and that, thus deprived of protection, he became alarmed for the effects of the resentment of the Romish clergy, against whose principles and ecclesiastical system the work had been chiefly directed. A somewhat different story is told by Lord Clarendon, in a treatise which he wrote in 1670, during his banishment, and which was printed at Oxford in 1676, entitled 'A [Pg 81] brief View of the dangerous and pernicious Errors to Church and State in Mr. Hobbes's Book entitled Leviathan.' Clarendon, who describes Hobbes as one of the most ancient acquaintance he has in the world, and as "a man who, besides his eminent parts of learning and knowledge, hath been always looked upon as a man of probity and a life free from scandal," affirms that, when the Leviathan was printing, Hobbes, who received every week from England a sheet to correct, used often to call upon him. When he had one day told him some things that were in the book, Clarendon asked him why he would publish such doctrine; on which, after some talk between jest and earnest, Hobbes is stated to have said in the end, "The truth is, I have a mind to go home." This would seem as likely to have been said in jest as anything else that passed; the wit probably intended to mystify his formal and, with all his talent, somewhat common-place acquaintance; but the remark seems to have put a theory of the book and its object into Clarendon's head of which he never got rid. It is in truth, he maintains, a sly address by Hobbes to Cromwell, "that, being then out of the kingdom, and so being neither conquered nor his subject, he might, by his return, submit to his government and be bound to obey it; which, being uncompelled by any necessity or want, but having as much to sustain him abroad as he had to live upon at home, could not but proceed from a sincere heart and uncorrupted." This, he conceives, was especially the design of the short summary, styled a 'Review and Conclusion,' at the end, which, he says, the author "made short enough to hope that Cromwell himself might read it, where he should not only receive the pawn of his new subject's allegiance, by declaring his own obligations and obedience, but by publishing such doctrine as, being diligently infused by such a master in the mystery of government, might secure the people of the kingdom (over whom he had no right to command) to acquiesce and submit to his brutal power." Hobbes has noticed this among other calumnies, which had been flying about the world many years before Clarendon [Pg 82] wrote, in a pamphlet which he published anonymously in 1662, with the title of 'Considerations upon the Reputation, Loyalty, Manners, and Religion of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, written by way of Letter to a Learned Person.' The learned person was Dr. John Wallis, the celebrated mathematician, whose long controversy with Hobbes we shall presently have to notice. He maintains that at the time when he wrote and published the Leviathan he "had neither encouragement nor desire to return into England;" and he observes that when he did return, Cromwell was as yet only General under the parliament, and did not become Protector till two or three years after; so that he must have had the gift of prophecy if he had written the work with the design attributed to him. The common story that Cromwell offered to make him his secretary seems to rest on no sufficient authority.

Clarendon further relates that on or before its publication Hobbes presented his book "engrossed in vellum, in a marvellous fair hand," to Charles II.; and Hobbes himself, as we have seen, admits in the sketch of his life, that the immediate effect was to make him lose his majesty's favour for the moment. "Truly," he says in this Letter to Wallis, "I believe he was displeased for a while, but not very long. They that complained of and misconstrued his (Hobbes's) writings were his majesty's good subjects, and reputed wise and learned men, and thereby obtained to have their misconstruction believed for some little time; but, the very next summer after his coming away, two honourable persons of the court, that came over into England, assured him that his majesty had a good opinion of him; and others since have told me, that his majesty said openly, that he thought Mr. Hobbes never meant him hurt."

Another of Clarendon's statements was, that Hobbes had "been compelled secretly to fly out of Paris, the justice having endeavoured to apprehend him;" to which others, it appears, had added the charge of deserting his royal master. In his Letter to Wallis, Hobbes says; "Nor did he desert his majesty, as you falsely accuse him, as his [Pg 83] majesty himself knows. . . . . It is true that Mr. Hobbes came home, but it was because he would not trust his safety with the French clergy." In his own sketch of his life he states that he was forced to fly (coactus sit refugere). In the Auctarium we are informed that he went off in the midst of winter, and that the fatigue of the journey brought on a serious illness.

When he first came over to England he took up his abode in London, establishing himself, Aubrey tells us, in Fetter-lane. Here, among other persons of eminence, whose society and friendship he enjoyed, were the illustrious Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation, now approaching the end of his long and honourable career, John Selden, and Abraham Cowley. One of Cowley's most eloquent Pindaric Odes is addressed to Hobbes. The concluding stanza is very fine:—

Nor can the snow which now cold age does shed
Upon thy reverend head
Quench or allay the noble fires within;
But all which thou hast been,
And all that youth can be, thou'rt yet;
So fully still dost thou
Enjoy the manhood and the bloom of wit,
And all the natural heat, but not the fever too.
So contraries on Ætna's top conspire;
Here hoary frosts, and by them breaks out fire.
A secure peace the faithful neighbours keep;
The emboldened snow next to the flame does sleep.
And, if we weigh, like thee,
Nature and causes, we shall see
That thus it needs must be:
To things immortal time can do no wrong;
And that which never is to die for ever must be young.

In 1653 Hobbes resumed his residence with the Devonshire family on the invitation of the earl, his late pupil; and he never again lost or relinquished that friendly shelter so long as he lived. He was now, as a literary man and a philosophic speculator, in full possession of a European celebrity; and for the remainder of his days no English writer attracted more notice either [Pg 84] in his own country or abroad. In 1654 he published a treatise, entitled 'Of Liberty and Necessity,' in answer to a work of Dr. Bramhall, then Bishop of Londonderry, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh. It is in the form of a letter to the Marquis of Newcastle, and is dated (in the first edition) from Rouen, 20th August, 1646. Without denying the freedom of human actions, if by that be meant (as he contends ought to be meant) that a man is in ordinary circumstances free to do what he wills, Hobbes asserts the dependence of the will in all cases upon causes or influences which it cannot itself control or resist, any more than the wheelwork of a watch can the action of the mainspring. He examines the subject theologically as well as philosophically; and his principles and conclusions are generally the same with those of Jonathan Edwards and other modern Scriptural necessitarians. This publication was followed in 1656 (the Dedication to the Earl of Devonshire is dated the 23rd of April in the preceding year) by his 'Elementorum Philosophiæ Sectio Prima; De Corpore;' which an English translation, stated to have undergone the author's revision and correction, and in some places varying considerably from the original Latin, appeared the next year, with the title of 'Elements of Philosophy, the First Section, concerning Body.' It consists of 30 chapters divided into four Parts; the first, entitled Logic; the second, The First Grounds of Philosophy (Philosophia Prima); the third, Of the Proportions of Motions and Magnitudes; the fourth, Of Physics, or the Phenomena of Nature. The following passage in the Dedication is remarkable, and worth quoting by way of throwing light upon a disputed part of Hobbes's system of opinions:—"The first Doctors of the Church, next the Apostles, born in those times, whilst they endeavoured to defend the Christian faith against the Gentiles by natural reason, began also to make use of philosophy, and with the decrees of Holy Scripture to mingle the sentences of heathen philosophers; and first some harmless ones of Plato, but afterwards also many foolish and false ones out of the physics and metaphysics of Aristotle; and, bringing in the enemies, betrayed unto [Pg 85] them the citadel of Christianity. From that time, instead of the worship of God, there entered a thing called School Divinity, walking on one foot firmly, which is the Holy Scripture, but halting on the other rotten foot, which the Apostle Paul called vain, and might have called pernicious philosophy; for it hath raised an infinite number of controversies in the Christian world concerning religion, and, from those controversies, wars. It is like that Empusa in the Athenian comic poet, which was taken in Athens for a ghost that changed shapes, having one brazen leg, but the other was the leg of an ass, and was sent, as was believed, by Hecate, as a sign of some approaching evil fortune. Against this Empusa I think there cannot be invented a better exorcism than to distinguish between the rules of religion, that is, the rules of honouring God, which we have from the laws, and the rules of philosophy, that is, the opinions of private men; and to yield what is due to religion to the Holy Scripture, and what is due to philosophy to natural reason." In the same volume with the English translation were printed 'Six Lessons to the Professors of the Mathematics, one of Geometry (Wallis), the other of Astronomy (Ward), in the University of Oxford.' Wallis and Ward had both attacked the 'Elements of Philosophy;' and the 'Six Lessons' were the commencement of a controversy, which raged for nearly twenty years, and in the course of which Hobbes published more than a dozen additional tracts. They may be found enumerated, along with those produced on the opposite side, in the Life of Hobbes printed in the Biographia Britannica; and Mr. D'Israeli has, in his 'Quarrels of Authors,' given a lively and amusing sketch of the satirical and personal recriminations of this paper war, which soon spread from mathematics, over the whole domain of physical science, and in the end left Hobbes standing alone against not only the two Oxford Professors, but the general body of the Royal Society, and, indeed, it may be said, of all the geometricians and natural philosophers in existence. His last rejoinder appeared in 1674. Hobbes's mathematical lucubrations, as already noticed, brought [Pg 86] him no honour in his own day; nor are they now of any interest or value, except as illustrating the peculiar character of his very remarkable mind, the preternatural growth of some of whose faculties would almost seem to have starved others. And at the same time that he was carrying on his war with the mathematicians about points, lines, curves, and other airy abstractions of that class, he and Bishop Bramhall, still engaged with their dispute about Liberty and Necessity,

—reasoned high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate,
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end in wandering mazes lost.

In 1658 appeared in Latin what Hobbes called the Second Section of his Elements of Philosophy (Elementorum Philosophiæ Sectio Secunda), his treatise 'De Homine' (On Man). It consists of fifteen chapters; and its general principles are the same with those of his English treatise entitled 'Human Nature,' published eighteen years before. The Elements are completed by the treatise 'De Cive,' forming Section Third; of which the English translation, published in 1651, has the title of "Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Society."

On the memorable Tuesday, the 29th of May, 1660, as the restored king was passing in triumph down the Strand, Hobbes, having come up from the country on purpose, was standing at the gate of Little Salisbury House, where the Earl of Devonshire then lived—its site is now occupied by Cecil-street—and was observed by his majesty, who immediately sent for him, and, having given him his hand to kiss, kindly inquired after his health and circumstances. This was of course their first meeting since Hobbes took his hasty departure from Paris, on being debarred the royal presence, about nine years before. Not long after, while the king was sitting to Cooper the painter for his picture, the philosopher was, through the intervention of the artist, admitted to a longer and more intimate conversation [Pg 87] with his former pupil; when Charles, a first-rate judge in such matters, was delighted with the wit and spirit of his talk, and he was ever after a welcome visitor at court. His portrait by Cooper hung in the king's closet, being the same from which the common engraved portraits have been copied. And, what was best of all, Charles settled upon him a pension of a hundred a year, which he enjoyed so long as he lived, although it appears from his will that the payments had fallen into arrears before he died, as was the case with most of the pensions bestowed by Charles. He had also an allowance of eighty pounds a year from the Devonshire family.

It was in the year 1664, when he was already seventy-six, that his attention was first particularly directed by his friend Aubrey to the study of the English Law; the consequence of which was the composition of his elaborate treatise entitled 'A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England,' first printed, after his death, in 1681. It displays considerable reading, as well as all his customary acuteness and other characteristic qualities. In the same volume was published another treatise entitled 'The Art of Rhetoric,' which is described in the booksellers Preface as "an abridgment containing the most useful part of Aristotle's Rhetoric," and as having been "written some thirty years since." Along with these two works may be mentioned one much more remarkable and of much greater value than either, which also was not published, at least in a complete and correct form, till after his death; his 'Behemoth; The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and of the Counsels and Artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1660.' Whatever may be thought of his principles and general views in politics, this sketch cannot be read without the highest admiration of its lucid comprehensiveness, and the writer's strong grasp and thorough mastery of his subject. The satire, too, though quiet, is often very pungent. Hobbes, it appears, had been desirous that this work should see the light in his lifetime. The circumstances [Pg 88] which prevented him from sending it to the press are detailed in a letter, curiously characteristic both of his principles and his temper, which he wrote from Chatsworth on the 19th of June, 1679, to his publisher, Mr. William Crooke, at the sign of the Green Dragon, without Temple Bar, and which is prefixed to the 'Considerations' upon his Reputation, Loyalty, &c., as reprinted by Crooke in 1680. He says:—"I would fain have published my Dialogue of the Civil Wars of England long ago; and to that end I presented it to his majesty; and some days after, when I thought he had read it, I humbly besought him to let me print it; but his majesty, though he heard me graciously, yet he flatly refused to have it published. Therefore I brought away the book and gave you leave to take a copy of it; which when you had done, I gave the original to an honourable and learned friend, who about a year after died. The king knows better, and is more concerned in publishing of books than I am; therefore I dare not venture to appear in the business, lest it should offend him. Therefore I pray you not to meddle in the business. Rather than to be thought any way to further or countenance the printing, I would be content to lose twenty times the value of what you can expect to get, &c. I pray do not take it ill; it may be I may live to send you somewhat else as vendible as that; and, without offence, I rest your very humble servant, Thomas Hobbes." It would appear nevertheless that the work was printed more than once from an imperfect manuscript by other booksellers before Crooke brought out his correct edition, which he did in 1682. In an advertisement prefixed to that edition Crooke says;—"I am compelled by the force of truth to declare, how much both the world and the memory of Mr. Hobbes have been abused by the several spurious editions of the History of the Civil Wars; wherein, by various and unskilful transcriptions, are committed above a thousand faults, and in above a hundred places whole lines left out, as I can make appear. I must confess Mr. Hobbes, upon some considerations, was averse to the publishing thereof; but since it is [Pg 89] impossible to suppress it, no book being more commonly sold by all booksellers, I hope I need not fear the offence of any man by doing right to the world and this work, which I now publish from the original manuscript, done by his own amanuensis, and given me by himself above twelve years since." In the same volume with the Behemoth Crooke gave a correct edition of one of the tracts in the Bramhall Controversy: 'An Answer to a book published by Dr. Bramhall, late Bishop of Derry, called The Catching of the Leviathan,' "to prevent," as he says, "the like prejudice which must certainly have fallen on it, there being so many false copies abroad, if not thus prevented;" and he also added a more correct copy than had as yet appeared of a shorter tract entitled, 'An Historical Narrative concerning Heresy and the Punishment thereof,' which appears to have been first printed in 1680; and one of his mathematical tracts entitled 'Seven Philosophical Problems, and Two Propositions of Geometry,' "as they were translated," says Crooke, "by himself, and presented to his majesty, with the Epistle prefixed, in the year 1662, at the same time they came forth in Latin." The Epistle is deserving of notice as containing what the author calls "an apology for himself and his writings," more especially for his Leviathan. Whatever is in that work of theology, he begins by observing, contrary to the general current of divines, is not put there as his own opinion, "but propounded with submission to those that have the power ecclesiastical." "But what," he concludes, "had I to do with matters of that nature, seeing religion is not philosophy but law? It was written in a time when the pretence of Christ's kingdom was made use of for the most horrid actions that can be imagined; and it was in just indignation of that that I desired to see the bottom of that doctrine of the kingdom of Christ which divers ministers then preached for a pretence to their rebellion; which may reasonably extenuate, though not excuse, the writing of it. There is therefore no ground for so great a calumny in my writing [as that he was an atheist, or man of no religion]. There is no sign of it in my life; [Pg 90] and, for my religion, when I was at the point of death at St. Germain's, the Bishop of Durham can bear witness of it if he be asked. Therefore I most humbly beseech your sacred majesty not to believe so ill of me upon reports, that proceed often, and may do so now, from the displeasure which commonly ariseth from difference in opinion; nor to think the worse of me, if, snatching up all the weapons to fight against your enemies, I lighted upon one that had a double edge." This was written, it is to be remembered, perhaps before, or, if not, immediately after Hobbes had been openly received again into the royal favour; and it looks almost as if it had been written at Charles's instigation, or concerted between him and Hobbes. It was evidently intended rather for the public than for his majesty.

It had not, however, the effect of putting down the clerical outcry. In 1666 he was greatly alarmed by his Leviathan and his treatise De Cive being formally censured by parliament. Aubrey mentions a report, which he believes to have been true, that soon after the Restoration a motion was made by some of the bishops in the House of Lords "to have the good old gentleman burned for a heretic;" "which," adds Aubrey, "he hearing, feared that his papers might be searched by their order, and he told me that he had burned part of them." Pepys has the following notice in his Diary, under date of September 3rd, 1668:—"To my bookselleres for Hobbes's Leviathan, which is now mightily called for; and what was heretofore sold for 8s. I now give 24s. at the second hand, and is sold for 30s., it being a book the bishops will not let be printed again." The Leviathan, with such of the author's other works as had either been originally written in Latin or had been translated into that language, were in this year, 1668, printed in a quarto volume at Amsterdam at the celebrated press of John Blaeu; to which, we are told in the Auctarium, Hobbes had been obliged to resort by finding himself unable to obtain a licence to have the volume printed either at London, Oxford, or Cambridge.

In 1673 Hobbes, now in his eighty-fifth or eighty-sixth [Pg 91] year, came out in a new literary character by the publication of a translation of the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Books of the Odyssey into English verse; and this was followed in 1676 by a similar translation of the whole Forty-eight Books of the two great Homeric poems. It was a work of Herculean labour, at any rate, and a wonderful demonstration of mental vigour at so advanced an age. The performance, too, appears to have been received with considerable applause; a second edition having been called for in 1677, and a third in 1686. Nor was it without merit of a certain kind. It was evident enough now, indeed, if it had not been before, that Hobbes's mind not only was not poetical, but was positively anti-poetical—was without taste for or comprehension of that which essentially constitutes poetry. In this translation of Homer, in fact, all the poetry of the original is left out. It is passed over, or rejected, deliberately and systematically. One consequence of this is, that the length of each poem is very considerably reduced. The number of short English lines in the translation is a good deal less than the number of long lines in the original Greek. This is effected by getting rid of all the adornment, all the colour of the original. Yet the mere narrative is all preserved, and is rendered throughout with great clearness. There is all Hobbes's uniform distinctness and frequent terseness of expression. And the metre of course adds some liveliness; his ready ingenuity enabled him to manage that easily enough in such a way as not much to interfere with the customary flow of his style. It is the rich wine of the old Greek poetry, to be sure, reduced to water; but the water, at least, is pure and pellucid. And there are no doubt many readers, intellectual teetotalists, who would prefer the Homeric and all other poetry with the alcohol thus extracted.

Hobbes lived till within a few months of the completion of his ninety-second year. About the middle of October, 1679, he was attacked by a painful functionary disorder, which his physicians gave him little hope of being able to do more than alleviate. He was at this [Pg 92] time at Chatsworth. On the 20th of November, when the family removed to Hardwicke, Hobbes insisted upon accompanying them; and he made out the journey apparently without being the worse for it; but six or seven days after a stroke of palsy suddenly deprived him of the power of speech, at the same time benumbing all his right side; and he remained in almost a state of insensibility till he expired on the 4th of December. His body was interred in the parish church of Hault-Hucknall, close to the burying-place of the Devonshire family.

Hobbes, his friend Aubrey tells us, was "six feet high and something better, and went indifferently erect, or rather, considering his great age, very erect." Though extremely temperate in the latter part of his life, he had not been so scrupulously abstinent when a young man. He was very fond of music, and to the last, we are informed by Aubrey, "had always books of quick-song lying on his table." In his early years he practised on the bass-viol, and even when an old man, though he had not a good voice, he used to sing, especially when lying awake in the night: he thought the exercise good for his health. He set much store, indeed, by bodily exercise of all kinds; and he was probably also aware of the value of habits of mental activity both in preventing the intellect from decaying and even in prolonging health and life. Some curious notices of Hobbes in his latter days have been preserved by his friend Monsieur Sorbiere, who visited England in 1663, and afterwards published an account of his journey. The first thing he did, Sorbiere tell us, as soon as he came to London, was to seek out Mr. Hobbes, whom he found, he says, much the same man as he had seen him fourteen years before, "and even in the same posture in his chamber as he was wont to be every afternoon, wherein he betook himself to his studies, after he had been walking about all the morning." We quote from the English translation, 8vo. Lond. 1709. When Sorbiere had known Hobbes fourteen years before, the latter must have been resident in Paris, where, it would appear from this account, his habits were the same as in [Pg 93] England. Aubrey also tells us that "he contemplated and invented in the morning, but penned in the afternoon." The exercise of walking he took, says Sorbiere, "for his health, of which he ought to have the greatest regard, he being at this time seventy-eight years of age." In point of fact he was only seventy-five. "Besides which," the Frenchman goes on, "he plays so long at tennis once a week till he is quite tired. I found very little alteration in his face, and none at all in the vigour of his mind, strength of memory, and cheerfulness of spirit; all which he perfectly retained." Another longer passage, which afterwards occurs, is principally interesting as confirming notices which we have from other quarters. The king showed Sorbiere a copper-cut of Hobbes's picture in his closet of natural and mechanical curiosities, and asked him if he knew the face, and what opinion he had of him. "I told him," continues Sorbiere, "what I thought best and most proper; and 'tis agreed on all hands that, if Mr. Hobbes were not so very dogmatical, he would be very useful and necessary to the Royal Society; for there are few people that can see farther into things than he, or have applied themselves so long to the study of natural philosophy: he is upon the matter the very remains of Bacon, to whom he was amanuensis in his youth; and, by what I could hear of him, or observe by his style, he hath retained very much of him; he has studied his manner of turning things, and readily runs his discourse into allegory; but he has naturally much of his good humour and agreeable mien. I know not how it comes to pass, the clergy are afraid of him; and so are the Oxford mathematicians, and their adherents; wherefore his majesty was pleased to make a very good comparison, when he told me he was like a bear, whom they baited with dogs to try him." This may be compared with Aubrey's account:—"The wits at court were wont to bait him; but he would make his part good, and feared none of them. The king would call him the Bear:—Here comes the Bear to be baited." The voluble French writer then runs into a disquisition about his friend's unfortunate prejudices against the true, [Pg 94] that is, the Roman Catholic Church, the consequence of his birth and bad education, which left him without any knowledge on the subject except what he had acquired from Protestant books of controversy; but that may be passed over. Sorbiere's account of his journey, when it was published, gave much offence in England, and drew forth an elaborate criticism, under the title of 'Observations, &c., written to Dr. Wren, Professor of Astronomy in Oxford [afterwards Sir Christopher], by Thomas Sprat, Fellow of the Royal Society' [afterwards Bishop of Rochester, and the writer of the History of the Society]. After some other remarks on what is said of Hobbes, Sprat affirms that Sorbiere evidently did not understand his friend's philosophy. Of this he gives as an unanswerable testimony the resemblance that he finds between Hobbes and Bacon, "between whom," says Sprat, "there is no more likeness than there was between St. George and the waggoner." "I scarce know two men in the world," he goes on, "that have more different colours of speech than these two great wits: the Lord Bacon short, allusive, and abounding with metaphors; Mr. Hobbes round, close, sparing of similitudes, but ever extraordinary decent in them. The one's way of reasoning proceeds on particular and pleasant images, only suggesting new ways of experimenting, without any pretence to the mathematics. The other's bold, resolved, settled upon general conclusions, and in them, if we will believe his friend, dogmatical."

A very interesting account of Hobbes's habits of life has been given by Bishop Kennet in his 'Memoirs of the Family of Cavendish,' though it is evidently coloured in some parts by the writer's clerical antipathies or prejudices. According to a tradition in the family, Kennet informs us, "his professed rule of health was to dedicate the morning to his exercise and the afternoon to his studies. And therefore at his first rising he walked out, and climbed any hill within his reach; or, if the weather was not dry, he fatigued himself within doors by some exercise or other, to be in a sweat, recommending that practice upon this opinion, that an old man had more [Pg 95] moisture than heat, and therefore by such motion heat was to be acquired and moisture expelled. After this he took a comfortable breakfast, and then went round the lodgings to wait upon the earl, the countess, and the children, and any considerable strangers, paying some short addresses to all of them. He kept these rounds till about twelve o'clock, when he had a little dinner provided for him, which he ate always by himself without ceremony. Soon after dinner he retired to his study, and had his candle, with ten or twelve pipes of tobacco, laid by him; then, shutting the door, he fell to smoking, thinking, and writing for several hours." Aubrey says, "He rose about seven, had his breakfast of bread and butter, and took his walk, meditating till ten; then he did put down the minutes of his thoughts. His dinner was provided for him exactly by eleven, for he could not stay till his lord's hour, scilicet about two. After dinner he took a pipe of tobacco, and then threw himself immediately on his bed, with his band off, and slept about half an hour: in the afternoon he penned his morning thoughts." "Towards the end of his life," Kennet adds, "he had very few books, and those he read but very little, thinking he was now able only to digest what formerly he had fed upon." A somewhat different account is given by others, who tell us that he never was a great reader or was surrounded by many books at any time of his life, and that he was wont to say that if he read as much as the generality of literary men, he should be as ignorant as they were. His favourite authors are said to have been Homer, Virgil, Thucydides, and Euclid. "He had very few books," says Aubrey: "I never saw above half a dozen about him in his chamber. Homer and Virgil were commonly on his table; sometimes Xenophon, or some probable history, Greek Testament, or so." "If company came to visit him," Kennet goes on, "he would be free in discourse till he was pressed or contradicted, and then he had the infirmities of being short and peevish, and referring to his writings for better satisfaction." Nearly the same thing is stated in the Latin prose sketch of his life, which is believed to have [Pg 96] been drawn up by Hobbes himself. "His friends," Kennet says, "who had the liberty of introducing strangers to him, made these terms with them before their admission, that they should not dispute with the old man, nor contradict him." "He could not," it is afterwards asserted, "bear any discourse of death, and seemed to cast off all thoughts of it: he delighted to reckon upon longer life. The winter before he died he made a warm coat, which he said must last him three years, and then he would have such another. In his last sickness his frequent questions were whether his disease was curable; and when intimations were given that he might have ease, but no remedy, he used this expression, 'I shall be glad, then, to find a hole to creep out of the world at,' which are reported to have been his last sensible words; and his lying some days following in a silent stupefaction did seem owing to his mind more than to his body. The only thought of death that he appeared to entertain in time of health was to take care of some inscription on his grave. He would suffer some friends to dictate an epitaph, among which he was best pleased with this humour:—This is the true Philosopher's Stone."

We have mentioned nearly all Hobbes's works, except his Ecclesiastical History in Latin elegiac verse—'Historia Ecclesiactisa, Carmine Elegiaco concinnata'—which was printed at London (Augusta Trinobantum) in May, 1668; with an anonymous commendatory preface, stated by Aubrey to be written by Mr. Thomas Rymer, of Gray's Inn (the compiler of the Foedera). It extends to 2242 lines. Its principal design is to expose the encroachments of the clerical power. Aubrey says that it was written immediately before the Restoration, at Little Salisbury House, where Hobbes then lived with the Earl of Devonshire, "He did read," we are told, "Cluverius's Historia Universalis, and made up his poem from thence. His place of meditation was then in the portico in the garden."

Hobbes, after having made more noise than any other English writer in his own day, and for some time after [Pg 97] his death, filling, it may be said, the whole of the latter half of the seventeenth century with alarm and contention, had fallen into general neglect, and remained to most readers only a mighty and somewhat mysterious name, till attention has been recalled to the extraordinary merits of his writings within the last few years. The public is greatly indebted to Sir William Molesworth for the first complete edition of the works of the Philosopher of Malmesbury, in 16 volumes 8vo., London, 1839–1845. Such a publication could not have been completed except at great pecuniary cost; and it affords an example of munificence and love of letters calling both for the imitation of other men of fortune and for the applause of all men.


[16] See "Letters from the Bodleian," 2 vols. 8vo. Lon. 1813; vol. ii. pp. 382, and 593–637; and Mr. Britton's interesting and valuable "Memoirs of John Aubrey," published by the Wiltshire Topographical Society, 4to. Lon. 1845; pp. 27, 28.

[17] Life of Hobbes, p. 603. See also his Life of Bacon, pp. 222, 223, and 234.

[Pg 98]


Two men in feet stocks



The materials for a life of Samuel Butler are very scanty, and in this respect he resembles Shakspere, and not in this respect only. Like him, in his particular line he excelled, not only all his contemporaries, but the whole world. Like him he occupied a conspicuous position in the public eye; but no one has thought it necessary to leave any record of his whereabout. Like him he has left no traces of the events of his life, of his private feelings, affections, or resentments, scattered in his works, the best memorials of many writers; though in both cases misplaced ingenuity has endeavoured to discover portraits of individuals where a class only has been intended, and the Justice Shallow of the one, and the Justice Hudibras of the other, have been tortured into fancied pasquinades dictated by a feeling of revenge. In both cases the ingenuity has been employed to lower identity to mere reality; to reduce the efforts of genius to that of the copyist; to narrow keen-sighted general observation of [Pg 99] the peculiarities of the human mind, to an ill-natured delineation of individual personalities.

Born of respectable parents, for his father was a large farmer, holding a farm of three hundred a year under a royalist landlord, Sir William Russell, and also possessing a freehold of ten pounds a year, Samuel Butler, according to Dr. Nash, was baptized in the parish church of Stremsham in Worcestershire, on the 8th of February, 1612, of which parish his father had been churchwarden in the previous year, and the entry in the parish register is in his father's hand-writing. He was consequently without doubt early initiated into the principles to which, as far as we know, he steadily adhered throughout his life, for his father appears to have been an active and intelligent man, busy in the affairs of the parish, and keeping its register; possessing the confidence of his landlord, who was so distinguished for his adherence to the royal cause that he was the only person exempted from the benefit of the agreement made with the parliament when Worcester was surrendered to the parliamentary forces in 1646. Samuel Butler was the fifth child, three daughters and one son were older than himself, and two sons were born subsequently; all were natives of the same parish, and the house of his father still exists, near the banks of the Avon, though now shorn of its respectability, and known only as Butler's cot. Descendants of some of the brothers and sisters are said to have been alive in the neighbourhood at a recent period, though none of the poet himself. With such a parent it is not likely that his domestic education was neglected; but at an early period he was sent to the college-school at Worcester, then conducted by Dr. Henry Bright, a teacher who did much to raise the character of his school, not only by his own learning, but by the attention he paid to his pupils, and who had thence made himself popular among the gentry of the county, who considered it a distinction to have their sons under his care. Butler, however, must have been soon deprived of this gentleman's tuition, as he died at the age of 64, in the year 1626, and is buried in Worcester cathedral, of which he was a Prebendary, [Pg 100] and where there is a mural monument to his memory.

How long Butler remained at the school is not known, nor where nor how he obtained the remainder of his education. He is said to have been at Cambridge, but never matriculated, and Anthony à Wood asserts that he was there six or seven years. Dr. Nash doubts the truth of the statement, and suspects he was at Oxford from the use of a term in his Hudibras, peculiar to that university—

As if the unreasonable fools
Had been a coursing in the schools.

"Coursing," he says, "is a term used in the university of Oxford, for some exercises preparatory to a master's degree. They were disputations in Lent, which were regulated by Dr. John Fell, for before his time the endeavours of one party to run down and compete another in disputations did commonly end in blows, and domestic quarrels, the refuge of the vanquished party. Wood's Athen. Oxon. vol. ii. p. 603. Hence, and from another passage or two, it has been thought that Mr. Butler had received an academical education." It may be thought that these are very slight foundations on which to erect such a conclusion; but from the enormous amount of learning he possesses, Butler must certainly have been a diligent scholar somewhere, and possessed facilities for acquiring knowledge, that it is difficult to suppose could be enjoyed at that period except at an university.

Dr. Nash also notices a statement that he studied the law, and was a member of Gray's Inn, during which time he belonged to a club of loyalists with Cleveland and other wits. That he was not a member of Gray's Inn, we have ascertained by searching the lists in the library of that Inn; but there can be no doubt of his being well read in the law, not only from the vast number and correct use of law terms in his works, but from the fact that Dr. Nash says, "If further evidence were wanting I can produce a MS. purchased of some of our poet's relations at the Hay in Brecknockshire. It appears to be a collection of legal cases and principles, regularly related from [Pg 101] Lord Coke's Commentary on Littleton's Tenures: the language is Norman, or low French, and, in general, an abridgment of the above-mentioned celebrated work: for the authorities in the margin of the MS. correspond exactly with those given on the same positions in the first institute; and the subject matter contained in each particular section of Butler's legal tract is to be found in the same numbered section of Coke upon Littleton: the first book of the MS. likewise ends with the 84th section, which same number of sections also terminate the first institute; and the second book of the MS. is entitled by Butler, 'Le second livre de primer part de l'institutes de ley d'Engleterre.' The titles of the respective chapters of the MS. also precisely agree with the titles of each chapter of Coke upon Littleton: it may therefore reasonably be presumed to have been compiled by Butler solely from Coke upon Littleton, with no other object than to impress strongly on his mind the sense of that author, and written in Norman to familiarise himself with the barbarous language in which the learning of the common law of England was at that period almost uniformly expressed. The MS. is imperfect; no title existing, some leaves being torn, and is continued only to the 193rd section, which is about the middle of Coke's second book of the first institute." Wherever acquired, it was probably about this period that Butler made his earliest acquaintance with the law, as the first established fact is his return to his native county, and becoming clerk to Thomas Jefferies, Esq., an active magistrate, taking a prominent part in the business of the county, who resided at Earl's Croome, in whose house he resided, and with whose family he was domesticated, and on terms of great confidence and friendship.

Such a situation must have necessarily required a considerable acquaintance with the law, and have extended the knowledge he already possessed. But all his attention was not devoted to that subject; he had probably much leisure, and he cultivated the arts of music and painting, though without any considerable success, at least in the latter, for Dr. Nash says he had seen some of his portraits, [Pg 102] "which did him no great honour as an artist." Among his portraits there is said to have been one of Oliver Cromwell, a curious fact, if true, especially if painted at this period, before Cromwell had attained any considerable degree of eminence.

Subsequent to his residence with Mr. Jefferies, but at what precise date is not known, he entered the service of Elizabeth, Countess of Kent, with whom, at her seat at Wrest, in Bedfordshire, he lived through the most troubled period of the civil war, and where, in addition to the advantage of a large library, he enjoyed the society and the friendship of the learned Selden, and as, on the death of the Countess, Selden was left her executor, it is possible that his employment did not entirely cease on her demise.

In the very short and unsatisfactory sketch of Butler's life, published with the edition of Hudibras, in 1710, which has been the basis for all succeeding accounts of him, it is stated, "our author lived some time also with Sir Samuel Luke, who was of an ancient family, residing at Cople Hoo, or Wood End, in Bedfordshire; but, to his dishonour, an eminent commander under the usurper Oliver Cromwell." If he did, it was probably about this time, and there would be no reason why he should not again have been the clerk to an active presbyterian magistrate, which Sir Samuel Luke was, though not an adherent of "the usurper Oliver Cromwell," by whom, indeed, himself and his father were "secluded" from the House of Commons, immediately prior to the king's trial and execution, probably on account of their known opposition to those measures; and, as little reason is there for any imputation of ingratitude against Butler, if he incorporated any of the features of the magistrate, the colonel in the parliamentary army, and the scout-master of the forces, in his portrait of Hudibras.

However occupied, nothing is known of the position or occupation of Butler, till upwards of two years after the Restoration. On the 11th of November, 1662, an imprimatur, signed J. Berkenhead, was granted him for printing the First Part of his Hudibras; and on November [Pg 103] 5, 1663, Sir Roger l'Estrange granted the imprimatur for printing the Second Part, which appeared early in 1664. The success was complete, and the first part was instantly pirated, for, in the Mercurius Aulicus of Jan. 1 to 8, 1662–3, an advertisement was inserted, stating that, "there is stolen abroad a most false and imperfect copy of a poem called Hudibras, without name either of printer or bookseller; the true and perfect edition, printed by the author's original, is sold by Richard Marriott, near St. Dunstan's Church, in Fleet Street; that other nameless impression is a cheat, and will but abuse the buyer, as well as the author, whose poem deserves to have fallen into better hands." He was now introduced at court, by the Earl of Dorset, and Charles the Second made him a present of 300l. exempted from the payment of fees, and is also said to have bestowed a pension of 100l. a year on him, but this is doubtful. It is, however, certain that he was appointed secretary to the Earl of Carbery, Lord President of the principality of Wales, and, in 1677, was made steward of Ludlow Castle.

Somewhere about this time, he married a lady of the name of Herbert. She was of a good family and of competent fortune, but the fortune was lost to the poet, as the biography of 1710 states, by being placed out "on ill securities;" and we learn nothing more of the lady, though we may presume that she died before him and without issue. He now also enjoyed the intimacy of many of the most eminent courtiers and wits of the day, particularly the Earl of Dorset, and, it is added, the Duke of Buckingham, to whom Wood says he was secretary when the duke was Chancellor of Cambridge. Of the Duke of Buckingham, however, a story is told of Butler having been introduced to him by Wycherley, who represented the merits and the wants of Butler. The duke readily acknowledged them, and undertook to promote his case with the king, but, being called away suddenly by some of his dissolute pleasures, Butler never derived any benefit from the promise. The story is told by Packe, in his life of Wycherley, and it is certain the Duke of Buckingham was no favourite with Butler, he [Pg 104] being one of the very few he has satirised so personally that there is no possibility of mistaking him, under the title of a Duke of Bucks, in his 'Characters.'

It appears from Butler's common-place book, which, with his other manuscripts, came into the possession of Mr. Longueville, that he visited France; at what time is not positively known, but it is likely to have been about this period. The impression he received was not at all favourable either to the country, to Paris, to the people, the language, or the monarch, on all of which he has left caustic and disparaging remarks; among other things, he says, "The French do nothing without ostentation, and the king himself is not behind with his triumphal arches consecrated to himself, and his impress of the sun, 'nec pluribus impar' (unmatched no more):" and "they talk so much, they have not time to think; and, if they had all the wit in the world, their tongues would run before it." A good Englishman, although he had so bitterly satirised the faults and foibles of his countrymen, it is clear he preferred even their defects to the qualities on which foreigners might pride themselves, the readiness to converse and the splendour of their public buildings.

In 1674, an heroical epistle from Hudibras to Sidrophel was published, and has been uniformly since inserted in all editions of Hudibras, after the third canto of the second part, descriptive of the adventure with the astrologer, although it has not the remotest connexion with the poem. The Sidrophel to whom the epistle is addressed is said to have been Sir Paul Neal, a member of the Royal Society, who had given offence by affirming that Butler was not the real author of Hudibras. It is not even written in the character of Hudibras, though his name is used as the writer, but is merely a sharp and bitter attack on a person represented as a conceited pretender to an acquaintance with science, and whose want of veracity was as remarkable as his want of knowledge. Though it bears the evident stamp of being dictated by personal feeling, it is remarkable that even here the exact identification is carefully avoided, so that some of his commentators deny that Neal was meant, but consider [Pg 105] that the portrait was intended for Lilly. We do not agree with this conjecture, for the Sidrophel of the poem and of the epistle have little in common; and if Lilly were the original of either, and to a considerable extent we believe he was, he must have been of the poem itself.

After another interval of four years, in 1678, the Third and last Part of Hudibras appeared, together with the Epistle to the Lady, and the Lady's Answer, fifteen years after the publication of the first part. In the meantime, several editions of the earlier parts had been issued, and, on the 10th of September, 1677, he had found it necessary to obtain and issue the following injunction, of which the original is in the British Museum, Bibl. Birch, No. 4293. "Charles R. Our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby strictly charge and command, that no printer, bookseller, stationer, or other person whatsoever, within our kingdom of England or Ireland, do print, reprint, utter, or sell, or cause to be printed, reprinted, uttered, or sold, a book or poem called Hudibras, or any part thereof, without the consent and approbation of Samuel Boteler, esq., or his assignees, as they and every of them will answer the contrary at their perils. Given at our court of Whitehall, the tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord God 1677, and in the 29th year of our reign. By his Majesty's command, Jo. Berkenhead."

Even the date of Butler's death is not exactly known, but it occurred some time in 1680. During the latter part of his life he had resided in Rose-street, Long Acre, retired and studious, but, apparently, neither misanthropical nor in distress. The biography of 1710 states, indeed, that "the integrity of his life, the acuteness of his wit, and easiness of his conversation, had rendered him most acceptable to all men; yet he prudently avoided multiplicity of acquaintance, and wisely chose such only whom his discerning judgment could distinguish (as Mr. Cowley expresseth it)

"from the great vulgar as the small;"

and having thus lived to a good old age, admired by all, though personally known to few, he departed this life in the year 1680."

[Pg 106] An endeavour was made by his executor, Mr. Wm. Longueville, of the Temple, to have him buried in Westminster Abbey; but, as he failed in raising a subscription sufficient for that purpose, a private funeral deposited the body of Butler in the churchyard of St. Paul's, Covent-Garden, without any memorial to mark the spot. But Butler was not forgotten. In 1721, Alderman John Barber, a printer of London, erected a monument to his memory, in Westminster Abbey, with the following inscription:—

M. S.
Samuelis Butler
Qui Strenshamiæ in agro Vigorn. natus 1612;
Obiit Lond. 1680.
Vir doctus imprimis, acer, integer,
Operibus ingenii non item præmiis felix.
Satyrici apud nos carminis artifex egregius,
Qui simulatæ religionis larvam detraxit
Et perduellium scelera liberrime exagitavit,
Scriptorum in suo genere primus et postremus.
Ne cui vivo deerant fere omnia
Deesset etiam mortuo tumulus
Hoc tandem posito marmore curavit
Johannes Barber, civis Londinensis, 1721. [18]

The latter part of the epitaph gave occasion to the following epigram by Mr. Samuel Wesley:

While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
No gen'rous patron would a dinner give;
See him, when starv'd to death, and turn'd to dust,
[Pg 107] Presented with a monumental bust.
The poet's fate is here in emblem shown,
He ask'd for bread, and he received a stone.

In 1786, when the church of St. Paul was repaired, a marble monument was erected by a subscription of some of the parishioners, which errs, however, in stating that he was buried "in the church," with the following inscription:

A few plain men, to pomp and state unknown,
O'er a poor bard have raised this humble stone,
Whose wants alone his genius could surpass,
Victim of zeal! the matchless Hudibras!
What, though fair freedom suffered in his page,
Reader, forgive the author for the age!
How few, alas! disdain to cringe and cant,
When 'tis the mode to play the sycophant!
But oh! let all be taught from Butler's fate,
Who hope to make their fortunes by the great,
That wit and pride are always dangerous things,
And little faith is due to courts and kings.

The assumption of Butler's poverty seems utterly unfounded. Though not wealthy, he seems, as far as we can judge, to have always lived in comfort, and we know from the statement of Mr. Longueville that he died out of debt. Butler was not one of those

Who hop'd to make their fortune by the great;

and though no doubt he might have felt he had not been rewarded according to his deserts by his party, he was not neglected. He had received a large share of popular applause, and was probably prouder of that, and of the power of castigating the follies and vices of mankind, even when displayed by those of his own party, than of being a more highly pensioned dependent of a court that his writings show he despised. He was no "needy wretch" in want of bread or a dinner. It will have been noticed that his earliest biography gives no hint of his distress; he enjoyed friends of his own selection, and the injunction designates him as "esquire," a title not altogether so indiscriminately applied as at the present time. It may be noticed also that the name there assumes the more aristocratic form of Boteler. The only [Pg 108] foundation for the assertion consists in his having copied twice, in his common-place book, a distich from the prologue to the tragedy of Constantine the Great, said to have been written by Otway, though the tragedy was not acted till 1684, four years after Butler's death. It is supposed he might have seen the MS., or perhaps only heard the thought, as his copies vary from each other and from the lines as they ultimately appeared.

To think how Spenser died, how Cowley mourn'd,
How Butler's faith and service were returned.

It was, however, long the fashion to complain of the scanty reward bestowed on literary pursuits, yet, we are inclined to think, though authors had then a less certain support in the patronage of a few than now when they appeal to a numerous public, that the improvidence of the individual was more to blame than the niggardliness of the patrons, and of this improvidence there does not appear to be the slightest ground for accusing Butler.

A few years after Butler's death, namely, in 1715, 1716, and 1717, three small volumes were published, purporting to be his posthumous remains. All were spurious except an ode to the highwayman Duval, which had been published in his lifetime. This was the only piece which so appeared, except his Hudibras, and an 'Epistle to the Hon. Edward Howard, upon his incomparable poem of the British Princes,' which having been given in Dryden's 'Miscellanies' under the name of Mr. Waller, has been since printed among his works, though there is no doubt of its being Butler's, as well from the style as from the MS. being found among his 'Remains.' These poems were collected into one edition in three volumes in 1732, and several editions have been issued. How things so utterly worthless on the whole could have deceived the world into a belief that they were Butler's is hard to imagine. But in 1759, a selection from the genuine papers, bequeathed by Butler to Mr. Longueville, was published by Mr. Thyer of Manchester, under the title of 'Remains,' and these well sustain the character of the author of Hudibras, though it is very remarkable, that in these, what we may call suppressed [Pg 109] writings, there is far more of personal satire than in his published poem. One of the two volumes issued by Mr. Thyer consists of a series of 'Characters' in prose, a species of composition in which he had been preceded by Bishop Earle, Sir Thomas Overbury, and Bruyère, and for wit and acuteness he fully equals if he does not exceed the best of them.

The admirable fecundity of wit, and the infinite variety of knowledge displayed in Hudibras, have been universally admitted. Dr. Johnson well expresses the general sense of all its readers when he says, "if inexhaustible wit could give perpetual pleasure, no eye would ever leave half read the work of Butler; for what poet has ever brought so many remote images so happily together? It is scarcely possible to peruse a page without finding some association of images that was never found before. By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment; but astonishment is a toilsome pleasure; he is soon weary of wondering, and longs to be diverted." And he adds "Imagination is useless without knowledge; nature gives in vain the power of combination, unless study and observation supply materials to be combined. Butler's treasures of knowledge appear proportioned to his experience: whatever topic employs his mind, he shows himself qualified to expand and illustrate it with all the accessaries that books can furnish: he is found not only to have travelled the beaten road, but the bye-paths of literature; not only to have taken general surveys, but to have examined particulars with minute inspection." It is true he finds fault with the plot and the diction, while Dryden condemns the versification. That is, in fact, that Butler might have written something else; for it is to be considered that the poem is a burlesque; that plot, in an artistic sense, it has none; merely a few scenes to introduce the characters, whose colloquies would have buried any plot if he had taken the trouble to have formed one; the diction was necessarily familiar in a burlesque poem, and the age led him to the use of a few coarsenesses, fewer and less offensive than probably [Pg 110] any other poet of his day; and the versification is of its kind so excellent as never to have been equalled by any writer, while a change to the heroic couplet, as Dryden would probably have recommended, would utterly have destroyed its life and character, as may partly be seen by his version in that measure of his 'Elephant in the Moon' from the shorter Hudibrastic verse in which it was first written.

Notwithstanding the high merits of the poem, there has never been a work that is so familiarly quoted and so little read as Hudibras. It is taken up occasionally it is true, a few pages are run through, the wit dazzles, the learning confuses, and the allusions to transitory circumstances distract all but the few who come properly prepared for the reading of a work that requires no common share of attention and knowledge to comprehend and relish. To a large proportion it will at first seem a violent attack on a party to whom, with all their defects, England owes much of its present liberty and character. This view has also been fostered by writers of each party: the royalist and churchman have claimed him as a partizan, and this is done by his chief editor Dr. Zachary Grey; while the dissenter has deemed him a prejudiced and virulent adversary. Neither, we presume to think, have done him justice. By birth, education, and principle, Butler was no doubt a churchman and a royalist: but his ken was too wide, his knowledge of human nature too exact, his observation too acute, to suffer him to lower himself to mere party advocacy or personal satire. His objects were faults and vices: for these he certainly looked in preference to the party opposed to him, and who shall say that he did not find them? who, even of that party, can object that, having been found, they should be scourged? his own party are not spared whenever these defects are fairly brought before him, and except one panegyric on their loyalty there is no laudation. A thorough hatred of hypocrisy, affectation, and pretence, seems to have been the actuating feeling of Butler's mind, and he strips the mask with a bold and fearless hand wherever it is presented. [Pg 111] No absurdity escapes the shafts of his ridicule—Don Quixote and Davenant's Gondibert, the Iliad and the Eneid, Lilly and Empedocles, Pythagoras and Bishop Wilkins, Plato and Selden, are all treated in the same manner; yet it must be evident that a man of Butler's learning and taste must have enjoyed what was good in each with as great a zest as he would laugh at the idea which appeared to him carried to a ridiculous excess. But considering that his vehicle was ridicule, which is necessarily one-sided, it is remarkable how careful he has been to avoid and even to confound identification. He makes one of his characters, who bears a great resemblance to Lilburn, speak and act at the dissolution of the rump, at which time he was dead; as was also the case with Henderson, whom he describes as arguing with Charles the First in the Isle of Wight. With the spurious edition of his posthumous works was published a 'Key to Hudibras,' by Sir Roger l'Estrange, which it was said, and the opinion is adopted by Dr. Gray, would greatly add to the interest with which the poem was read. In this Hudibras is said to be Sir Samuel Luke; Ralph, one Isaac Robinson, a butcher in Moorfields; Crowdero, one Jackson, a milliner; Orsin, one Joshua Goslin, a bear-keeper, &c.; but we think no one who reads the poem can for a moment assent to such a proposition. They are clearly not individuals but representatives; and though some peculiarities which may have attached to Sir Samuel Luke may perhaps be reproduced in Hudibras, yet far more we venture to think might be found in almost any disputatious polemic of the day, and this not confined to the presbyterian sect; while it is absolute nonsense to suppose that Butler had no higher object than the personal ridicule of obscure milliners, bearwards, or butchers; or that he could attribute the downfall of the monarchy and the ruin of his favourite party to such paltry instruments.

Another cause of the comparative neglect of Hudibras has arisen from the theological character of many of the long dialogues between Hudibras and Ralph. We can scarcely embody to ourselves the deep interest which was felt in, and the vast excitement occasioned by, the discussion [Pg 112] of the metaphysical questions, during the period of the civil wars, in which these two personages engage: the recollection was still vivid when the poem first appeared; but fortunately, however, the acrimony has ceased: the subjects may still occasionally employ the thoughts of a few studious individuals, but the wildness and extravagance of the doctrines propounded have practically vanished, and are so far forgotten as to require an effort to recall, or a difficulty to believe in their being seriously entertained. In these controversies, however, Butler has invented nothing. Though it may not be logically fair to attribute to a sect the extreme opinions of an individual, there is nothing advanced which was not to be found in the writings of the time, however wicked or absurd the application or induction might be rendered. In his 'Remains' we have a more serious and charitable statement of his opinions on these matters than the nature of his poem would admit of:—"All reformations of religion seldom extend further than the mere opinions of men. The amendment of their lives and conversations are equally unregarded by all churches, how much soever they differ in doctrine and discipline. And though all the reformation our Saviour preached to the world was only repentance and amendment of life, without taking any notice at all of men's opinions and judgments; yet all the Christian churches take the contrary course, and believe religion more concerned in our erroneous opinions than in all the most inhuman and impious actions in the world." The Roman Catholic Church itself was reformed by Luther's Reformation; and we may well believe that dissent was sobered and bettered by the ridicule of Butler.

A third cause may possibly be found in the occasional coarsenesses to which we have already alluded. There are such, it is true; but it is highly to his credit that in an age when, as he himself says, men

Now bring their crimes into the open sun
For all mankind to gaze their worst upon,

It is only in the expression that he fails, and in the later editions of the first two Parts he corrected many of these [Pg 113] before his death. The reader will find in him no incentives to vice, no tampering with crime, no leniency towards faults or foibles because found on his own side; no tenderness for hypocrisy on account of rank or station; no sparing of pretence or assumption even among men with whom he must have associated, and very likely esteemed, except for that particular defect. [19] He unfalteringly lays human nature bare: it is not a pleasing picture—it is sometimes harsh and severe—but it is inflexibly honest.

A confirmation of this view is afforded by Butler's Miscellaneous Works, in which he has taken a greater latitude than was afforded him by the nature of his work in his Hudibras: the vices of the court and the faults and foibles of the courtiers, as well as the various defects into which the fashions of the age precipitated men of literature and men of science, are all unsparingly castigated, though, as they contain many personalities, it is probable his good feeling prevented their being published during his life; for, though not ill-natured, he may have been aware that his laugh could not have been pleasant to those with whom he associated, and he was contented to conceal the smile he could not altogether repress.

It has been remarked, also, that Butler's life was not in unison with the principles he professed; that so warm a partisan as he appears in his works should not have lived in quiet submission to what he at least considered an unjust usurpation, or have consented to hold even a subordinate office under such a government. How he was to have served the cause he approved of we do not know: he was no soldier, indeed he seems to have had no very high opinion of fighting or fighters; he had no public influence, nor were his writings, supposing they had been of the character of Hudibras, likely to acquire him any. He may have considered he did his duty best in his humble capacity by contributing his aid to the [Pg 114] preservation of social order as far as he could; and, like many others, submitted quietly to what he could not prevent, however he might lament. He has also shown a strong disgust to the busy interference of unqualified persons in political matters which they could not understand, and has strongly satirised the mobs of 'prentice boys who besieged and influenced the divisions of the House of Commons; the women who presented petitions and remonstrances, and "the oyster women," who—

"Lock'd their fish up,
And trudg'd away to cry, 'No Bishop!'"

He may have been, we think he was, wrong in his estimate of the utility of general political discussion and feeling, and the wisdom residing in the "vox populi;" we are more inclined to believe that no people deserve their freedom who are not eager to understand and willing to maintain it. At a period of great excitement the mass of the people must follow leaders, and the leaders of what for want of a better name was called the Puritan party, were worthy of the cause they supported, however it may have been disgraced or disfigured by some of its adherents. But this acknowledgment should not lead us to the injustice of insisting upon the same conviction in Butler, or to deny to him the right of triumphing when his side was successful, or to blind us to the spirit with which he has seized upon and depicted the errors of his adversaries, or to deny the truth of much of the vice and hypocrisy he has castigated. It would be worse than folly—it would be a crime—to imagine that such a man was actuated by any other than honest, even though in some degree mistaken, motives. He is, indeed, a man of whom his country may be justly proud; and his reputation, though his works scarcely admit of translation, has been acknowledged throughout Europe.


[18] Sacred to the memory of Samuel Butler, who was born at Strensham, in Worcestershire, in 1612, and died in London, in 1680,—a man of the greatest learning, acuteness, and integrity; happy in the productions of his intellect, not so in the remuneration of them; a supereminent master of satirical poetry, by which he took away the mask from hypocrisy, and boldly exposed the crimes of faction. As a writer, he was the first and last in his peculiar style. John Barber, a citizen of London, in 1721, by at length erecting this marble, took care that he who, when living, was destitute of almost everything, might not also want a tomb when dead.

[19] We allude to his repeated attacks on the members of the Royal Society, who it must be acknowledged were very unlucky at their commencement; and it was only the pretence to superior knowledge that he ridiculed.

[Pg 115]


People on their
        knees before a woman and a man

WM Lord Russell


Some men are rather more indebted for their fame to the iniquities of their enemies, than to their own virtues and eminent abilities; and, after all that has been said and written about him, and with due consideration paid to his domestic worthiness, we cannot but be of opinion that such is the case with the much-famed subject of the present memoir.

Mr., or—by courtesy—Lord William Russell, was born in September, 1639, three years before the commencement of the war between Charles I. and his Parliament. His father was William, Fifth Earl of Bedford, who, however, did not succeed to the title and family estates until 1641; his mother was Lady Anne Carr, or Ker, daughter of the infamous Countess of Somerset, formerly Countess of Essex, who had instigated the foul murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower. But crime is not hereditary; and Lady Anne, like other persons descended from a bad stock, was a [Pg 116] gentle, virtuous, and very religious woman. According to a touching tradition, she was brought up in entire ignorance of the guilt of her parent, and her mother's sad history was mercifully and so carefully concealed from her, that she knew nothing whatever of it until she was well advanced in years, and the mother of a family. She had issue three daughters and seven sons, of whom Lord William was the third. At the first breaking out of the civil war, her husband, the Earl of Bedford, took the field against the king: he was appointed General of the Parliament's horse, and in the battle of Edge-Hill, fought on the 23rd of October, 1642, he commanded the body of reserve—"with great conduct and prowess"—say eulogistic biographers, as a matter of course, and without bearing in mind that the Parliament's reserve was not engaged on that day, the victory of Edge-Hill having been gained by the right wing, under Sir William Balfour, and the centre, or main body of the Parliamentarians, under the Earl of Essex (the first ill-used husband of the mother of the Earl of Bedford's wife, the good Lady Anne), who this day took vengeance on the court of Charles I. for many intolerable wrongs he had received from the court and minions of James I. But our Lord William's father, the Earl of Bedford, soon changed sides: he joined the king at Oxford in 1643, attended him to his very unfortunate siege of Gloucester, was afterwards present at the battle of Newbury, and then went again to Oxford. Neither as Parliamentarian, nor as Royalist, could the Earl of Bedford occupy a foremost place. He soon withdrew altogether from the actual contest, and lived retired and unnoticed. Like the great body, not only of the displaced Peers, but of the whole nation, the Earl heartily concurred in the restoration of Charles II., but this could give him no particular claim on royal gratitude; and Charles's gratitude appears at all times to have been an "absolute minimum" of that "infinitely little." Yet, in 1672, twelve years after the Restoration, when the king was wholly in the hands of the Cabal ministry, Lord Bedford was gratified with the order of the Garter. In the [Pg 117] meanwhile his son William had become a conspicuous member of the Lower House, though it was not until a little later, when the country was convulsed and driven mad by the so-called "Popish Plot," that his name was much bruited out of doors.

Lord William had been educated at Cambridge: he had afterwards resided at Augsburg, and had then spent a considerable time in foreign travel, or in residing in different Protestant States of the Continent, where his hatred and fear of Popery were notably increased. At the first general election after the Restoration in 1660, he had been returned for Tavistock. In 1669 he had married Rachel Wriothesly, second daughter of the Earl of Southampton—commonly called the virtuous Earl—and widow of Lord Vaughan, eldest son of Lord Carbery, "a woman," says a recent writer, "distinguished for ardent and tender affection, pious, reflecting, firm, and courageous; alike exemplary in prosperity and adversity, when observed by multitudes or hidden in retirement." [20]

With this excellent mate Lord William passed much of his time in that domestic retirement for which he seems, by nature, to have been best fitted: for his virtues were mostly of the quiet, fire-side sort; he was not a man of action, and, though he had many amiable, he had no brilliant or commanding qualities. All this is made sufficiently apparent by his political conduct throughout, and by his behaviour on his trial, in the Tower, and on the scaffold; and nearly as much as this is admitted by his contemporary admirers and biographers. Indeed, intellectual mediocrity appears to have been the badge of all the Russells, for a good many generations: it is only in our own day that a member of that otherwise favoured family has really occupied a post at the head of a party or in the van of a ministry. Of Lord William, Bishop Burnet says—"He quickly got out of some of the disorders into which the court had drawn him; and ever after that his life was unblemished in all [Pg 118] respects. He had from his first education an inclination to favour the nonconformists, and wished the laws could have been made easier to them, or they more pliant to the law. He was a slow man and of little discourse; but he had a true judgment when he considered things at his own leisure. His understanding was not defective; but his virtues were so eminent that they would have more than balanced real defects, if any had been found in the other."

The principal men of the party with whom Lord William acted in the House of Commons were, Lord Cavendish, Sir William Coventry, Colonel Birch, Mr. Powle, and Mr. Littleton, who were all eager to close Charles's second Dutch war, (which had been begun from no higher motive than that of gratifying France, whose pensioner our king then was;) to check the high-flying papistry of James Duke of York, and to put limits to the wasteful extravagance and daring licentiousness of the court. By steady, persevering attacks, and by their constant appeals to that strongest passion of the people, the dread of Popery, they carried the Test Act, which drove the Duke of York from his post of Lord High Admiral, and disqualified all Catholics for State employments, or service in army or navy; they stopped the supplies for the unpopular Dutch war; they forced the king to perjure his soul by vows and declarations that he had no secret treaties with Louis XIV., and that he was anxious, above all things, for the preservation of the Protestant Church; and, finally, towards the close of the year 1673, they drove the Cabal ministry from power, enlisting, shortly afterwards, in their own opposition ranks, the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shaftesbury, who had formed the main strength and had been the real heads of the Cabal. From this moment the versatile, plotting, unscrupulous, and indefatigable Shaftesbury led the opposition—and rugged and most foul, filthy and foul with human blood, were many of the roads and by-paths into which he conducted them. The Danby cabinet, which immediately succeeded the Cabal, was, in many respects, more infamous than its predecessor. After seeing the flag of England shamefully humbled at sea, [Pg 119] these new ministers made a hurried and hollow peace with the Dutch, at the same time engaging to seize the earliest opportunity for playing into the hands of Louis XIV., who was aiming at the conquest of Holland, and taking earnest-money from him, for the use of their spendthrift master. Shaftesbury, Buckingham, and the whole phalanx of opposition (of whom not a few are said to have been animated by timely donations of Dutch money), grew loud in their denunciations of this Danby ministry: and as Shaftesbury conceived that the nation could be roused from its indifference or lethargy only by its religious fears, ominous hints were let drop of Popish conspiracies and designs more desperate than the Gunpowder Plot; days of fasting and prayer were called for in Parliament, and, out of doors, recourse was had to nearly every possible means for creating a panic and an irresistible popular fury. Some of the parts had been distributed, and some of the instruments tuned before; but this—in the year 1674—was the real overture to the horrible drama of the 'Popish Plot' which began to be played in 1678, and which did not finish until 1681. Nothing more certain than that the fear and fanaticism of the popular masses were thoroughly sincere, and based on an entire conviction that the Catholics were plotting the destruction of their religion, laws, liberties, lives: nothing more probable than that even but few members of the opposition, though acting with him, and being frequently closeted with him, were admitted into the Machiavellian arcana of the subtle Shaftesbury, or were induced to believe or even to suspect that he had invented and created the stupendous bugbear merely for political, if not for mere party, purposes. No doubt the great majority of those men who voted away lives in Parliament, or on juries, shared in the popular terror and the general conviction. When the monster was fully established in his pride of place, erect, on a broad and lofty pedestal, which had its roots in the very hearts of the people, there was disgrace, there was danger in questioning whence he came, and what was his real nature. The king, who was never for a single moment deceived by its grim and bloody aspect, durst not, [Pg 120] for years, express his disbelief, or interpose his prerogative of mercy to save the victims offered up to the idol. Yet, assuredly, many men of eminent stations, who had the advantages of education and a knowledge of the world; who were about court, and city, and parliament; who had the means of knowing the infamous characters of the witnesses; and who saw and heard with their own eyes and ears the contradictory and monstrously absurd evidence that was brought in, and altered from day to day, to substantiate the plot or plots, might, at an early stage of the proceedings, have moderated their zeal, and have come to the same conclusion as the king. With every allowance made for times and circumstances, and the contagious nature of suspicions, and fears, and panics, it yet seems to us that the zealots of this last class can be relieved from the imputations of wilfulness and hardness of heart, only at the expense of their wit and understanding. In the front line of these men, from first to last, stood William Lord Russell, of whose sincerity no doubt can be rationally entertained. At the beginning of the session of 1678, when Charles II., who by the advice of his Parliament had concluded a treaty offensive and defensive with the Dutch, asked for the supplies necessary for fitting out a fleet and army, his lordship inveighed in the House of Commons against the dangers of Popery and a standing army, and declared that the nation was in danger from the secret machinations of the Papists. In the autumn of that same year Dr. Tonge, the execrable Titus Oates, and other plot-fabricators, entered upon the stage, and completed the blindness and madness of the people. Then closely followed the mysterious murder of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey;—and then, all Protestants, clergy or laity, conformists or nonconformists, royalists or republicans, of the court party or of the country party, considered their lives in imminent danger. Parliament called before them Titus Oates, who never appeared without making copious additions to his original tale; they arbitrarily committed the Catholic Lords Stafford, Powis, Petre, Arundel, and Bellasis to the Tower; they crammed the common prisons with Papists; [Pg 121] they carried consternation, grief, agony, despair, into every family that professed or were suspected of leaning to the old religion; they declared "that there hath been, and still is, a damnable and hellish plot, contrived and carried on by the Popish recusants, for assassinating the king, for subverting the government, and for rooting out and destroying the Protestant religion;" they proclaimed the great Titus the Saver of the Nation, and obtained for him a pension of 1200l. a year, and a lodging in the palace of Whitehall. There has been many a Reign of Terror, besides the Robespierrian: this was one for the Catholics of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

The wondrous success of Titus Oates roused the envy of many, and brought upon the stage a still more exquisite villain, in the person of William Bedloe, a regular gaol-bird, a swindler, and a convicted thief, who had only recently been liberated from Newgate. This man's character was notorious, the depositions he made were contradictory, and altogether incredible to dispassionate minds; yet whatever he swore was received as Gospel truth. Upon such evidence ultra-Protestant juries returned rapid verdicts of guilty,—Scroggs, the brutal chief justice, told the jurors that they had "done like very good subjects, and very good Christians, that is to say, like very good Protestants,"—and the victims were hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. Some of the impious wits about court, like Tom Killigrew, made jokes on the reigning credulity and terror; but no effort was made on the side of humanity and justice; not a hand was put forth to save the lives which were so scandalously sacrificed. Unwilling witnesses were put to the torture; every imaginable foul trick was resorted to, in order to procure evidence, or to make it agree with the concerted depositions of Oates and Bedloe. Both Houses of Parliament urged on the proceedings, and congratulated Scroggs on his rapid despatch of the treason trials. "A strong faith in the plot was the test of all political merit; not to believe was to be a political reprobate; and according to the zeal was the cruelty of the times. The terror excited by the plot had caused such a thirst [Pg 122] of revenge that nothing but blood could satiate; every supposed criminal was pre-condemned; and, no sooner did the victim appear, but the people called out for the sacrifice: pity was looked upon not only as impertinent, but almost as criminal; and even the great prerogative of mercy lodged in the crown was of no use." [21] After the sacrifice of obscurer victims, the Commons turned to the five Catholic Lords who were imprisoned in the Tower; and the aged Lord Stafford, one of the number, was brought to trial before his peers. The witnesses against him were Oates, Dugdale, and Tuberville. Stafford made an excellent defence, and produced witnesses who proved discrepancies, flat contradictions, and palpable perjury in the evidence of his accusers; yet the Lords found him guilty by a majority of 55 to 31. The king, who had been present at the trial, and who was thoroughly convinced that Stafford was as innocent of the imputed treason as an unborn child, yet signed the death-warrant, with no other mitigation than that he should be simply beheaded. The ultra-Whig sheriffs of London (Bethell and Cornish) questioned, among other things, whether the king had the power to alter the sentence of the Lords, which included or implied all the horrid formalities of hanging, bowelling, drawing, quartering, &c.; and they applied to the two Houses. In the Commons many declared that, though the royal prerogative included the power of granting respite or pardon, it did not include the lesser power of mitigating the pains of death; and that, as the Earl of Stafford had been sentenced to die as a traitor, he must suffer the manner of death which the law provided in such cases. Lord William Russell entertained these opinions. But the king was firm; and the Lords assured the sheriffs that their scruples were unnecessary, and that the king's warrant ought to be obeyed. And, accordingly, the aged nobleman was simply decapitated upon Tower Hill.

While these events were in progress the Whig party set up the young, profligate, heartless, and headless Duke [Pg 123] of Monmouth, the eldest of Charles's many illegitimate children, as a head of their party, as a hero and champion for civil and religious liberty; impelled him to the very verge of insurrection and rebellion, and moved for the exclusion from the succession, and for the banishment from England, of James Duke of York. On the 26th of October, 1680, Lord William Russell carried a motion "that the House should take into consideration how to suppress Popery, and prevent a Popish successor;" on the 2nd of November, the Exclusion Bill against the Duke of York was introduced; and it was reported on the 8th. The king, who however would have sold his brother for an immediate grant of 600,000l., tried to divert the storm; but the bill passed the Commons on the 11th of November, and on the 15th Lord Russell, escorted by the Exclusionists, carried it to the Upper House. There the king was present at the debate, and personally solicited the peers, who threw out the bill by a majority of 63 to 30. The House of Commons then withheld the supplies, and assailed the embarrassed and beggared court with various bills, for banishing "the most considerable Papists;" for getting up a Protestant Association against Popery and a Popish Successor, &c. These bills were followed up by a remonstrance, in which the Commons required his majesty's unconditional assent to the exclusion of his brother. On the 7th of January, 1681, Charles, by message, told the Commons that he never could consent to the Bill of Exclusion, and that immediate supplies were indispensable. This message threw the House into a fury. Lord Russell, his relative Lord Cavendish, Mr. Montague, Sir Henry Capel, Mr. Hampden, Colonel Titus, and others, moved and carried, in a series of votes, that no supply should be granted without the bill for excluding the Duke of York; that the Earl of Halifax and other ministers were promoters of Popery, &c.; and that whosoever should lend the king money on security of the revenues of the state, or accept or buy any tally in anticipation, should be held guilty of hindering the sitting of parliament, and be made responsible for the same in parliament. [Pg 124] That very night Charles made up his mind to dissolve this parliament; and, to take the Commons by surprise, he stole into the House of Lords at an early hour on the following morning. But the Commons got notice, and in one short quarter of an hour they tumultuously voted that those who attempted to defeat the Exclusion Bill were traitors sold to France; that the Papists were the authors of the great Fire of London; that the Duke of Monmouth had been deprived of his offices through the Duke of York, and ought to be restored to them; that the city of London had merited the thanks of the House; that the infliction of the penal laws upon Protestant dissenters was giving encouragement to Popery. Charles prorogued the parliament, and a few days after dissolved it by proclamation, appointing the new parliament to meet not at Westminster, but in the very loyal city of Oxford. Both Whigs and Tories went to Oxford as if they were going to a battle; the king was surrounded by his guards of horse and foot, and the Exclusionists by hosts of friends, servants, and armed retainers. In the Lower House the Whigs had the better of the Tories, and this parliament was more refractory than the old "pensioned parliament," which had been dissolved, urging with increasing violence for the Exclusion Bill, and for the banishment of all the leading Papists. When it had sat a week at Oxford Charles dissolved it, and resolved never more to call another.

From this moment the Constitution was in abeyance, and the king governed despotically. The Duke of York, whose nature was incapable of forgiveness, nourished a deadly hatred to Lord Russell for the part he had taken in the Exclusion Bill; and he bided his time for the opportunity of a sanguinary vengeance. Shaftesbury was committed to the Tower upon a charge of instigating insurrection; and two Londoners, who had great influence among the poorer class of citizens,—Stephen College, a joiner, commonly called from his zeal against Popery, "the Protestant joiner;" and John Rouse, described as "a Wapping follower of my Lord Shaftesbury,"—were made fast. The Court expected to get evidence from [Pg 125] these poor men against the "great driver;" but they were disappointed. Among the witnesses against the two prisoners were the infamous Dugdale and others, who had been believed when they swore away the lives of Papists, but who now found no credit before Protestant and Whiggish juries. The grand jury threw out the bills of indictment. Rouse escaped; but as College was charged with treasons committed in Oxfordshire as well as in Middlesex, he was sent down to trial at the assizes in Oxford, "because the inhabitants of that city were more in the interest of the Court." And there, upon evidence which the grand jury at London had rejected, the poor "Protestant joiner" was condemned and executed as a traitor, for having accused the king of tyranny and popery, and conspired to seize his person during the sitting of the late parliament at Oxford. The gowned men of that university, who were all for the Divine Right of Kings, and for the Duke of York's inalienable claim to the succession, had scarcely done shouting for the sentence and bloody execution of Rouse, when the Londoners raised a louder and longer shout of joy for the acquittal of the Earl of Shaftesbury. In spite of hired Irish witnesses, and of all the resources of the Court, the grand jury ignored the Bill, and Shaftesbury once more stepped out of the Tower a free man.

Charles now entertained the most violent animosity against popular Whig Sheriffs, who could always return popular juries; and he began to mature his project for depriving the City of London of its charter, being aided and driven on by the Duke of York. With the concurrence of his political friends, Shaftesbury drew closer the Whig alliance with the Duke of Monmouth; and that rash and incompetent young man returned from Holland in defiance of his father's orders. The Protestant Duke was received in triumph, and was induced to make a progress through the kingdom in royal state. He was followed by a retinue of a hundred or more persons all armed. In many places he was treated like a king or heir-apparent; and the whigs now maintained that he was in fact the king's lawfully begotten son, forasmuch [Pg 126] as there had been a marriage-contract between his mother, Lucy Walters, and Charles. Lord Russell, Lord Macclesfield, Lord Grey, and many others of the Whig nobility and gentry, met Monmouth at the head of their tenants; and, as the ancient manners of England were not yet laid aside, most of those who came to meet him were armed. Few things short of insurrection could well look more like one. At Liverpool, Monmouth even ventured to touch for the king's evil. The bells were rung, bonfires made, and volleys of fire-arms discharged wherever he went. At last he was arrested at Strafford, and brought up to London. But as soon as he reached the capital he was admitted to bail. His bail were Lords Russell, Grey, and others of that party. The king and the Court had long complained that they could have no chance at law so long as the city was allowed to appoint Whig sheriffs. Emboldened by passive obedience addresses which came up in shoals from the universities, counties, and Tory boroughs, and by the evident disagreement, consternation, and despondency of the Whigs, and encouraged by the supple character of Sir John Moore, the then Lord Mayor, they resolved to get these important appointments, with the selection of juries, into their own hands. And this was speedily done: the king named two determined Tories, Dudley North, and Rich; and in spite of remonstrances they were illegally thrust into the offices of Sheriffs of London and Middlesex. After this the Court had no reason to complain of not getting verdicts in its favour: the Tory sheriffs packed Tory juries; and no Whig or Exclusionist could any longer have a chance of an impartial trial any more than the Papists had had in the time of Whig sheriffs and Whig juries. The tables were reversed: one standing and glaring injustice succeeded to another; but the Whigs had upheld the abstract principles of a free Constitution, and the Tories now seemed bent upon uprooting the Constitution altogether, in order to lay the country prostrate at the feet of an unprincipled, faithless sensualist, and a narrow-minded bigot. Shaftesbury now felt that his neck was in danger, and that nothing less was intended than the [Pg 127] gradual but entire destruction of the leaders of the Whig party. He withdrew to his house in Aldersgate-street, and called around him all the disaffected and desperate people in the city, still hoping to make good the boast he had made years ago, "that he would walk the king leisurely out of his dominions, and make the Duke of York a vagabond upon the earth like Cain;" [22]—or, failing in this, at least, to manage matters in such a way that he and his party should not perish without a blow. He concerted measures with Lord Russell, Russell's infamous kinsman Lord Howard, the equally infamous Ford Lord Grey, Lord Essex, Mr. Hampden, and the enthusiastic Algernon Sidney. But these men neither agreed as to their ultimate end, nor as to the means by which the end was to be brought about; and it seems at the least probable that Shaftesbury concealed the most daring part of his projects from some of them. The extremes were represented by Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney: Russell was for gentle remedies—for a correction of the constitutional monarchy by lawful means; for the utter extirpation of Popery, and for the establishment of one national church, which, if not Presbyterian, would have been very like it. Sidney was undisguisedly for the entire destruction of royalty; for the re-establishment of his darling Commonwealth, and for the widest and most perfect toleration, to include the Catholics and all sects and denominations of men, without any state church or privileged clergy whatsoever.

Some of those admitted into the conclave in Aldersgate Street, or in more secret parts of the city, though military men by long training and profession, shrunk from the notion of a recourse to arms, even while they admitted that there was no hope to be put in the law, and that the Papistry and tyranny of the court justified an armed resistance. Shaftesbury, though no fighting man, had more boldness and resoluteness than any of them, or than all of them put together: he laughed to scorn the doctrines of passive obedience to the King, of Divine Right, which the universities and the whole [Pg 128] body of the established church were then laboriously preaching; and he still spoke confidently of "the ten thousand brisk boys" to be raised in the City and Tower Hamlets. Doubts may very rationally be entertained whether half of those who deliberated with him were prepared to go the lengths he proposed; but no doubt can exist that he and some of his friends contemplated an immediate armed insurrection, any more than that his bold intent was over-ruled and no overt act of treason committed.

Some of those engaged with him, so soon as they could do so with safety, openly proclaimed that their intention had been to destroy a Papistical and tyrannical government and dynasty by force of arms. At last Shaftesbury, disappointed in his expectations, despairing at the want of concert and spirit among his friends, and dreading to be betrayed either purposely or by imbecility into the hands of his enemies, threw up the game as lost, fled to Holland, and, about six weeks after his flight, died, at Amsterdam, with rage in his heart and gout in his stomach. His flight and death left his party without heart or intellect—left the chiefs of it to be led like sheep to the shambles. The classical republicanism of Algernon Sidney was out of time and place, and impracticable; and the great caution and respect for laws and formulas of Lord Russell could neither carry on a revolution nor protect a party who had engaged so far in revolutionary measures. Generally, the loss of the veteran Whig carried despair to the hearts of his party: many resigned themselves to what seemed a destiny; while some few, perhaps, rushed into mad and sanguinary schemes of their own devising. That the respectable Lord Russell had ever any connexion or correspondence with plebeians, salters, maltsters, joiners, pettifoggers, and desperadoes, is wholly incredible; but the Duke of York thirsted for his blood, and he had been so closely connected with or dependent upon Shaftesbury, whose flight was interpreted into a confession of treasonable guilt, that he himself stood convicted in the eyes of the king and of the whole Tory party. In 1679, when the [Pg 129] House of Commons forced upon Charles what was to be a permanent council of thirty members—fifteen, the chief officers of state and of the household, ten other members of the House of Lords, and five selected from the House of Commons—Shaftesbury was made its president, and Shaftesbury brought in Lord Russell and his relation Lord Cavendish; and when Shaftesbury was dismissed from his office of president, an event which soon took place, Lord Russell and Lord Cavendish resigned, by his (Shaftesbury's) advice. In the Popish plot Russell had even gone beyond Shaftesbury, the "great driver." In secret consultations with ambassadors and non-accredited envoys from France, and from Holland (these consultations having for their object the direct or indirect assistance of foreign powers to the Whig party), Russell had been, at the least, as forward and active as Shaftesbury. In short, though the private characters and some of the views of these two noblemen were very different, there had been throughout the closest political union between them; and Lord Russell's enemies, out of malice, and partly, perhaps, out of inward conviction, held his conduct to be identical with that of the fugitive earl. The Duke of York hated him with a most rancorous hatred; and the king and his vicious court both disliked and feared him,—the dislike arising from his religious virtuous life, the fear from the great strength he gave to the popular cause, and from the influence he possessed in the country. Bishop Burnet says,—"I never knew any man have so entire credit with the nation as he had." In these abominable times no triumphant party that could reward perjury or treachery had far to seek for false witnesses or informers. On the 12th of June, 1683, about six months after Shaftesbury's evasion, Josiah Keyling, a salter, and formerly a flaming Whig, waited upon the Duke of York's favourite, Lord Dartmouth, and informed him that there was a terrible plot on foot against the King's life. Being told that a second witness would be necessary, Keyling went away and made a witness of his brother. Other evidence was procured, as it was asked for; and [Pg 130] in a short time the plot, so well known in history by the name of "The Rye-house Plot," was disclosed to the half wondering and half incredulous world. It seems undeniable that there had been many meetings of disaffected persons of the middling or poorer classes, and that Rumbold, a maltster, Hone, a joiner, Helby, a carver, West, a poor attorney, and a few others, had occasionally discussed desperate projects, involving the death of the king. Charles Fox, who was disposed to take the least unfavourable view of the matter, says,—"Of this plot it may be said, much more truly than of the Popish, that there was in it some truth mixed with much falsehood; and, though many circumstances in Keyling's account are nearly as absurd and ridiculous as those in Oates's, it seems probable that there was among some of those accused, a notion of assassinating the king; but whether this notion was ever ripened into what may be called a design, and much more, whether it was ever evinced by such an overt act as the law requires for conviction, is very doubtful. In regard to the conspirators of higher ranks, from whom all suspicion of participation has been long done away, there is unquestionably reason to believe that they had often met and consulted, as well for the purpose of ascertaining the means they actually possessed, as for that of devising others for delivering their country from the dreadful servitude into which it had fallen; and thus far their conduct appears clearly to have been laudable."

On the 26th of June warrants were issued for the apprehension of the Duke of Monmouth, Lord Russell, Ford Lord Grey, Sir Thomas Armstrong, and others. The contemptible Monmouth, although he had already betrayed many of the secrets of the Exclusionists in order to screen himself, was either alarmed at the proclamation or warned by the king to get out of the way; he immediately absconded, thus displaying, as in all other crises, an ungenerous disregard for the fate of his friends. Russell was the first of the noblemen that was secured; he was arrested by a messenger, while sitting tranquilly in his study. As soon as he was in custody he gave up [Pg 131] all hopes of life, knowing how obnoxious he was to the Duke of York. In the first instance, he was carried before the Privy Council, where many ensnaring questions were put to him, in order that his answers might be cited on his trial as evidence against him. This iniquitous procedure was common in those days; and the Whigs had resorted to it while driving on the Popish plot. According to the Tories, Lord Russell's behaviour before the king and council was weak, confused, and undignified; [23] according to the Whigs, it was not very firm, but still generous and high-minded with regard to his friends; and there is good evidence to establish the honourable fact that he refused to answer anything that might affect others. After this examination he was committed to the Tower. He said that "he was sworn against, and they would have his life." His faithful servant hoped that matters were not so desperate; but his lordship rejoined, "Yes! the devil has broke loose." Lord Grey, when at the very gate of the Tower, effected his escape from the messenger or serjeant who had him in charge, and fled into Holland. In consequence of some fresh depositions, or rather, as is shrewdly suspected, in consequence of the conviction entertained by government that that unprincipled base man would offer evidence against his relative Lord Russell, and the other noble prisoners, Lord Howard of Escrick, who had captivated Algernon Sidney with enthusiastic professions of republicanism, was arrested at Knightsbridge, and carried before the council, where he offered to confess in private to the king and the Duke of York. The private audience was granted to the caitiff, and then he not only inculpated Russell, but made revelations against others; for, immediately after the audience, warrants were issued for the arrest of the Earl of Essex, Algernon Sidney, and Hampden. Lord Essex was seized by a party of horse at his pleasant house at Cassiobury, was brought up to London and safely lodged in the dismal state prison. Algernon Sidney, and Hampden, the grandson [Pg 132] of the patriot who had perished in the late civil war, were secured with equal ease. Three of "the conspirators of the lower form," as Evelyn calls them, were forthwith tried and convicted by a well-chosen Tory jury; but they were not executed until the day before the execution of Lord Russell. That fore-doomed nobleman was brought to trial at the Old Bailey, on the 13th of July, for conspiring the death of the king, and consulting how to levy war against him. His lordship desired the postponement of his trial until the afternoon, or the next day, because some of his witnesses had not had time to arrive in town, and some mistake had been committed in furnishing the list of the jurymen. "You," cried the attorney-general, Sir Robert Sawyer, "would not have given the king an hour's notice for saving his life—the trial must proceed." Russell asked for the use of pen, ink, and paper, and for permission to use such papers as he had with him; and these requests being granted, he, wishing to have notes of the evidence taken, asked whether he might have somebody to write for him, to help his memory. The attorney-general replied, "Yes, a servant;" and the chief justice, Pemberton, added, "Any of your servants shall assist you in writing anything you please for you." "My lord," said Russell, "my wife is here to do it." And when the spectators beheld the devoted lady, the daughter of the virtuous Earl of Southampton, rising up to assist her lord in this, his uttermost distress, a thrill of admiration and anguish ran through the assembly. The trial went on with indecent rapidity; and Lady Russell sat, with the pen in her hand, now writing what he wished to have written, and now looking wistfully at her beloved husband. Mr. Serjeant Jeffreys, whose bold, uncompromising villany and indisputable energy and ability were carrying him swiftly along the high tide of promotion and court favour, behaved discourteously to the noble prisoner, and displayed great skill in examining, and cross-examining, and ensnaring some of the witnesses. As for the ignoble Howard of Escrick, who was brought in as one of the witnesses, he stood in need [Pg 133] of no prompter, nor was it necessary to make any attempt at ensnaring him; for he had his pre-concerted story by heart, and was quite ready to swear away, in a consistent manner, the life of his relation. The attorney-general, after Lord Howard had been sworn, said to him, "Pray, will your lordship give an account to the court, what you know of a rising, designed before my Lord Shaftesbury went away, and afterwards how it was continued on?" Howard assented, but he had not proceeded far in his narrative when his voice faltered so much that the jury could not hear, and the lord chief-justice said, "Pray, my lord, raise your voice, else your evidence will pass for nothing." Then Howard, probably with sincere emotion, announced a horrible fact. "There is," said he, "an unhappy accident which hath sunk my voice: I was but just now acquainted with the fate of my Lord of Essex." Instantly a murmur ran through the court that the noble Essex had committed suicide in the Tower. According to the Tories, the news of the awful catastrophe came into court as the air at the doors, and neither direct nor indirect use was made of it to affect the prisoner at the bar: but the Whigs maintained that the news was studiously brought in at a fixed moment, and the report of the trial, even as it was published by government, unquestionably proves that the lawyers for the crown made all the use they could of the incident to the prejudice of the prisoner. "My Lord Russell," said the attorney-general, "was one of the council for carrying on the plot with the Earl of Essex, who hath this morning prevented the hand of justice upon himself:" and Jeffreys brutally said, "Who should think that the Earl of Essex, who had been so much advanced in his estate and honour, should be guilty of such desperate things; which, had he not been conscious of, he would scarce have brought himself to this untimely end to avoid the methods of public justice." Whether Essex really destroyed himself, in one of his habitual fits of despondency, or was murdered in his dungeon, is still considered by many as an historical doubt. We cannot enter into that discussion; [Pg 134] nor can we, in a brief memoir like the present, go into any further details of the trial of Lord Russell. The sample of it which we have given, with the preceding remarks upon the character and temper of juries, will have sufficiently convinced the reader that nothing like an approach to impartial justice was to be expected. The evidence against his lordship, after all the pains and the unfair processes which had been employed upon it, was contradictory and insufficient. Even taking the most serious parts of the evidence as truth, they proved little more than this—that his lordship had attended a meeting in the city, before Shaftesbury's flight, where a general rising was spoken of, and where there was some discourse of the feasableness of surprising and seizing the king's guard at Whitehall. It was not shown that he consented to either of these schemes, which, certainly, were never carried into effect, or even followed by any overt act whatsoever. An illegal construction was put on the 25th of Edward III., the statute under which he was indicted. But, in the nomination of the panel, the sheriffs, who were the creatures of the court, had fully secured his conviction. He was found guilty of high treason, and the atrocious sentence provided in such cases was pronounced by the Recorder of London, Treby, who had formerly been an Exclusionist himself, and deeply engaged with Lord Shaftesbury in his city cabals and plots,—"That you be carried back again to the place from whence you came, and from thence be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, where you shall be hanged up by the neck, but cut down alive, your entrails and privy members cut off from your body, and burned in your sight, your head to be then severed from your body, and your body divided into four parts, and disposed at the king's pleasure. And the Lord have mercy upon your soul."

Many and strenuous efforts were made to save the condemned life. On the trial the old Earl of Anglesey, Lord Cavendish, Lord Clifford, the Duke of Somerset, Dr. Tillotson, Dr. Burnet, and others, had borne testimony to the excellence of Russell's private character, to [Pg 135] his great worth and probity, to his quiet, virtuous, sober life, and consequently to the improbability of his having ever been engaged in assassination plots; but his good character had been turned against him by the king's counsel, who said, there could not be any more dangerous enemies to the state than such as came sober to endeavour its destruction. The same reasoning obtained, after sentence, at Whitehall. If Russell had been less virtuous, less sober and exemplary in private life, less popular thereby, and less the idol of his party—if he had been a discredited, vicious man, like Howard of Escrick, who had turned king's evidence, or like the Lord Grey, who had escaped, his life would have been made a means of enriching a court prostitute, and a pardon would have been sold. His father, the Earl of Bedford, offered 100,000l. to the king, through his French mistress, the Duchess of Portsmouth; but Charles (it is said by the advice of his brother James) refused the tempting offer. The earl, then, in a more direct and public manner, told his sovereign, in an affecting petition, that he should think himself and wife and children much happier to be left but with bread and water, than to lose his dearest son William for so foul a crime as treason; and he prayed God to incline his majesty's heart to the prayers of an afflicted old father, and not bring his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. But, after resisting the earl's money, Charles was not likely to be moved by his prayers. It appears indeed quite certain that the king was afraid of his condemned captive. When Lord Dartmouth represented to him that some regard was due to Lord Southampton's daughter and her children,—that to pardon Lord Russell would lay an eternal obligation on a very great family, while the taking of his life would never be forgiven,—Charles replied, "All that is true; but it is as true that if I do not take his life he will soon have mine." At the prayer of his sad old father and loving wife, Lord Russell himself petitioned the king, solemnly disclaiming the least thought against his majesty's life, or the least design to change the monarchical constitution; and offering, if his life were spared, [Pg 136] to spend the remainder of it wherever his majesty might appoint, far from public life and politics, with which he would never meddle more. At the intreaties of his wife he even wrote a letter to the Duke of York, who had never yet been known to pardon an injury. He assured his royal highness that he had never entertained any personal malice against him; that in voting for the Bill of Exclusion he had followed the imperative dictates of his conscience; but that, if the duke would interfere on his behalf, he would engage never more to oppose him. The letter was presented to the Duchess of York by Lady Russell herself; but it produced not the least effect. Certain divines flattered Lord Russell that he might still save his life if he would disavow his political principles, and acknowledge in writing that he believed the subject had in no case any right to resist the sovereign by divine right on the throne. He replied—"I can have no conception of a people under a limited monarchy who have not a right to defend their own limitations: my conscience will not permit me to say otherwise to the king. Upon your hypothesis, I do not see a difference between a legal government and a Turkish despotism. After the total subversion of liberty it is too late to resist." Dr. Burnet, however, who was not then so thoroughly a Whig as he became after the Revolution of 1688, when it was both safe and profitable to be so, undertook to convert his lordship to the creed of passive obedience. The doctor even flattered himself that he had made a convert of him; and, with his usual bustling self-confidence, he imparted his fancied success to Dr. Tillotson, then dean of Canterbury. The dean hastened to communicate with Lord Halifax, and Lord Halifax with the king; but when he waited upon Lord Russell he found that Burnet had misled him, that his lordship was still firm in his Whig principles, and that the most he could extract from him was, that he hoped he should be pardoned in another world, if he was in error, in this, as to political matters. Dr. Tillotson, apparently with some reluctance, administered the sacrament to him, but the evening before his execution this churchman wrote, and himself delivered [Pg 137] to his lordship, a remarkable letter, which in after times he must have wished the world to forget, reasserting that resistance to kingly authority was contrary to the general doctrine of Protestants, and warning Russell that he was about leaving the world in a delusive and false peace, to the hindrance of his eternal happiness. "In a churchman of the church of Rome," says a recent writer, "this would be called priestcraft;" [24] and with all our respect for the good conduct which he displayed after the Revolution, we cannot away with the thought that at this moment Tillotson was thinking more of fortifying the prevailing dogma of the high church than of saving the life of Lord Russell, or of comforting him in his death.

On the evening of the 20th of July, Russell took leave of his young children and of his high-minded wife; and when he had so done, he said, "Now the bitterness of death is passed." On the morning of the morrow, the 21st of July, 1683, he was led to the scaffold, which was erected in Lincoln's Inn Fields, "in order that the citizens might be humbled by the spectacle of their once triumphant leader carried in his coach to death through the city." [25] The king had ordered that he should be simply decapitated, remarking, with a retrospective and vindictive sneer, that Lord Russell should see that it was in his prerogative and power to mitigate the treason sentence, although he had doubted it in the case of Lord Stafford. On the scaffold Russell was attended by Tillotson and Burnet, and, while Tillotson prayed, Burnet held the pen to record his lordship's last words. It took two or three clumsy strokes of the executioner to sever his head; but he died with great meekness and piety; and the shedding of his blood contributed in no slight degree to forward the revolution of 1688, with the expulsion of James and of the whole unworthy dynasty of the Stuarts.

We have mentioned that Lord Russell, like Shaftesbury [Pg 138] and the rest of the Whig party, sought assistance from the French as well as from the Dutch. The Whigs, in fact, treated with the envoys of either of these two powers, now with the one and now with the other, according to the changes in political affairs, or to the caprices and shifting policy of Charles II. It must always be nationally dishonouring, and it may often be dangerous, for patriots to enter into such negotiations; but the glorious revolution of 1688, as it is still called, was not undertaken without an armed foreign aid; and for an armed interference Lord Russell and his friends never asked. It should appear, however, that some of them received money from the Dutch and French alternately, partly for their own use, and in part for influencing the votes of members of that pensioned Parliament, which was so thoroughly corrupt and selfish, that little could be done in it, either for good or for evil, without bribery. M. de Rouvigny, a French Huguenot or Protestant nobleman, who conducted some of the negotiations with the English Whigs for Louis XIV., was maternal uncle to Lady Russell; and through this relationship he seems first to have opened his projects to Lord William. The scheme was simply this. The Whigs in 1678 were to prevent Charles from declaring war against Louis by stopping supplies; and Louis was to furnish the Whigs with money in order that they might secure a steady majority. Yet when de Rouvigny opened his plan to his lordship, Russell is said to have replied, "I should be very sorry to have any commerce with persons capable of being gained by money." And M. Barillon, who continued the negotiations, and who charged the French court with large disbursements to the English patriots, is said to have declared that he never durst speak of money to Lord Russell. In spite of the papers discovered by Sir John Dalrymple, in the archives at Versailles, these secret transactions, or the now generally received accounts of them, are still open to doubt and rational controversy. Lord Russell's character was never mean or mercenary, nor did his fortune stand in need of occasional donations of 300 or 400 [Pg 139] French louis d'or; and although we would not venture to say so much of some of the public men who are set down by Barillon as having received money from him, we are inclined to believe that if Algernon Sidney and Mr. Hampden touched the French money it was not for their own use.

When William and Mary were put upon the British throne the house of Russell was rewarded by high employments and an augmentation of honours; the Earl of Bedford became duke, and the act for annulling Lord William's attainder recited that "he was by undue and illegal return of jurors, having been refused his lawful challenge to the said jurors, and by partial and unjust construction of law, wrongfully convicted, attainted, and executed for high treason."

Those of our readers who would fully examine this subject may be referred to the life of his ancestor written by the present Lord John Russell; to Benjamin Wiffen's History of the House of Russell; to Mr. Fox's Introduction to his unfinished History of the Revolution of 1688; to Sir John Dalrymple's Memoirs; to Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time; and Lord Dartmouth's Notes upon that History; to Evelyn's Letters and Diary; and (not to make this list too long) to Ralph's History of England during the reigns of Charles II., James II., King William, &c.


[20] Penny Cyclopædia. Art., Russell, Lord William.

[21] Ralph.

[22] Pictorial History of England.

[23] Roger North.

[24] Wallace. Continuation of Sir James Mackintosh's Hist. Eng.

[25] Dalrymple.




London: Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.

Transcriber's Note

[The end of The Cabinet Portrait Gallery of British Worthies Vol 8 of 12 edited by Charles Knight]