Page images

ther in London. And he was very much troubled always when he heard him blamed, censured, and reproached for staying in London with the parliament, after they were in rebellion and the worst times, which his age obliged him to do: and how wicked soever the actions were which were every day done, he was confident he had not given his consent to them, but would have hindered them, if he could with his own safety, to which he was always enough indulgent. If he had some infirmities with other men, they were weighed down with wonderful and prodigious abilities and excellences in the other scale."

Whitlocke, likewise, pronounces “ his mind as large as his learning.” Another contemporary, however (and, what is still more observable, a compatriot) mentions him much less respectfully. Sir Simon D'Ewes in his Diary’remarks, that “ he was more learned than pious, being a man exceedingly puffed up with the apprehension of his own abilities.”

In his disposition he appears to have been cynical ; and though, as Dr. Wilkins informs us, extremely charitable (especially, to poor scholars) gifted with few of the qualities which constitute an amiable

He was quick in resentment, lofty in his sentiments, and very dogmatical in the delivery of them. One of the few men of literature, who have turned their talents to their worldly advantage, he seems generally to have pursued his own interest even at the expense of his private judgement; if it were not, that his pride restrained him from renouncing a course and a party, which he assuredly embraced with little cordiality. No wonder therefore that he died rich, as the part which he acted in the great drama of his day was far from being unfavourable to the accumulation of wealth.


He composed his own epitaph, which was inscribed on his monument in the Temple Church ; a proof, that the love of fame (that “ infirmity of noble minds ”) prevailed in him to the last.

As a writer, his excellences are great judgement, minute investigation, extensive reading, and logical precision: but his stile is mean, his sentences long and intricate, and even his latinity obscure and perplexed. His favourite motto was, lleps TAUTOS TAU shevTeplov, Liberty above all things;' on which it has been observed, that this little word, which has occasionally done both so much good and so much harm to mankind, was by him interpreted (agreeably. to Cicero's definition) to be the power of doing that which the laws permit.'

The following eulogium, written by his friend Langbaine, was placed under his portrait :

Talem se ore tulit, quem gens non barbara quævis

Quantovis pretio mallet habere suum.
Qualis ab ingenio, vel quantus ab arte, loquentur
Dique ipsi et Lapides,* si taceant homines.

Lo! such was Selden; and his learned fame
All polish'd nations would be proud to claim.
The Gods, nay e'en the Stones, their voice would raise,
Should men by silence dare withhold their praise.

His works † were collected by Dr. David Wilkins,

* Alluding to his works on the Syrian Gods, and the Arundel Marbles.

+ The following list of them is given in the order of their publication:

A. D. Analecta Anglo-Britannica

1606 England's Epinomis

1610 Jani Anglorum Facies Altera (translated by Dr. Adam

Littleton in 1689.) De Duello ...

[ocr errors]

and printed at London in three volumes folio, in 1726. The two first volumes contain his Latin works; and the third, his English. To the whole, the editor has prefixed a long Life of the author.

A. D. Notes on Drayton...

1612 Titles of Honour

1614 Notæ in Fortescue De Laud. Leg. Angliæ, et in Summ. Radulphi de Hengham

1616 De Dís Syris...

1617 Of the Jews in England History of Tithes

1618 Privilege of the Baronage.

1621 Notæ in Eadmerum

1622 Letter to Mr. Vincent Commentaries on the Arundelian Marbles

1627 De Successionibus in Bona Defuncti, sec. Leges Hebræorum 1629 De Jure Naturali et Gentium.

about 1634 Mare Clausum. ...

1636 De Anno Civili et Calendario Judaico..

1644 Uxor Hebraica

1646 Dissertatio ad Fletam.

.. 1647 De Synedriis et Præfecturis Hebræorum ... 1650, and 1653 Judicium de X Scriptoribus Anglicanis

1652 Vindicie de Scriptione Maris Clausi

1653 Posthumous Works; A Review of the History of Tithes..

1661 Birth-day of our Saviour Office of Lord Chancellor...

1671 Judicature in Parliament (MS, lost)...

1681 Original of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Parliaments .. 1683 (written about 1628.)

1689 (By Richard Melward, who had been his amanuensis. It was

condemned, however, at first as spurious by the Leipsic Acta Eruditorum, Wilkins, &c.)

Published by Dr. Wilkins ; Under answers to Sir James Sempill and Dr. Tillesley, Of the. Number 666; Of Calvin's Judgement of the Revelation; Of his purpose in writing the History of Tithes;' Letter to the Marquis of Buckingham; Argument concerning the Barony of Grey and Ruthin; Speeches, and Letters and Poems.

[ocr errors]




On the Birth-day of our Saviour.

• In the review of the fourth chapter having oc casion to speak of the authority of the Clementines, the eighth book of Constitutions attributed to the Apostles, in which an express constitution is, that the birth-day of our Saviour should be celebrated on the twenty fifth of December (or of the ninth month, as it is there called, being accounted from April as the first) I noted that Constitution for one character of that volume's being supposititious; in regard that in the Eastern Church (where those Constitutions, being in Greek, must by all probability have been in most use) the celebration of that day was not received on the twenty fifth of December, till the ancient tradition of it was learned from the Western about four hundred years after Christ: and some touch, also, I have there of the opinion of them, that think that day not to be the true time of his birth. This passage hath been so conceived, as if I had purposely called in question the celebration of that sacred day (which is gj TW καλων απαντων, as St. Chrysostom stiles it, ακροπολις, η πηγη και ριζα παρα ημων αγαθων) that is, “ as the main fort of all happiness, and the fountain and root of all good that we enjoy ;' and to call it in question, as if I supposed it were observed at that time without sufficient ground, and as if I were too inclining to the part of the hot-brained and disturbing Puritans, which impiously deny the keeping of a day as an anniversary feast consecrated to the birth of our

blessed Saviour; from which my conscience was ever, and is, most clearly free. For I knew, first, both from sacred and profane story, that the anniversary days, not only of princes, but of some private men also were with frequency ever observed, and the beginning of cities under that name yearly celebrated: and even among the heathen, those that professed such philosophy as was nearest to true divinity, that is, the Platonists, were most religious in keepina tradition to be the same with Apollo's, that is, the seventh day of the Attic month Thargelion (which answers to our April); and this was still observed until the time of Plotinus and Porphyry, who lived about two hundred and twenty years after our Saviour's birth; and, after the discontinuance of it for many ages, it was revived in the days of our grandfathers with much solemnity in the duchy of Florence by Lorenzo di Medici. But he misplaced it in the year, while he and his guests being better Platonists than chronologers, took the seventh of Thargelion to be the seventh of November. As also the old trifling astrologers committed a like fault, while in the scheme of his nativity they place the sun in Pisces, which must denote our February, or the Attic Anthesterion. But, however, an anniversary day was observed for his birth. So was there, anciently, for the birth of some false gods; for they had their certain days for the births of Mars, Apollo, Diana, Minerva, the Muses, Hercules, and others, and carefully observed them; and for princes and private persons, even to this day, a celebration is in use at the yearly returning of their birth-days. To deny therefore, with that wayward sect, such an anniversary honour to

« PreviousContinue »