Page images
PDF
EPUB

Amid all the disturbance of civil broils Selden did not neglect his literary pursuits. In 1640 appeared one of his most learned productions, entitled De jure naturali et gentium, juxta disciplinam Ebræorum, libri septem, containing a full discourse on the civil and religious polity of the Jews. In 1642 he published a version into Latin of a tract of the Patriarch Eutychius in the Ara bic language, illustrating certain controverted points in ecclesiastical antiquities. This work was reprinted in 1656, under the superintendence of the learned Pococke, at the expense of Selden. In the year 1644 appeared a new work by this indefatigable scholar, De anno civili veteris ecclesiæ, seu reipublicæ Judaicæ dissertatio; which, in 1646, was followed by his Uxor Hebraica, seu de nuptiis et divortiis, ex jure civili, id est, divino et Talmudico, veterum Ebræorum, libri tres. In the following year he resumed the study of English antiquities, and employed himself upon an edition of Fleta, to which he prefixed a learned dissertation. In 1650 he sent to the press his great work, De Synedris et præfecturis Juridicis veterum Hebræorum ; which, with the Pindiciæ Maris clausi, published in 1653, closes the long catalogue of his literary labours. In the latter work may be found much information relative to the biography of the author.

When the party to which Selden had principally attached himself rose into power, he made use of this circumstance for the protection, on various occasions, of the interests of literature. In particular, he exerted himself in favour of the university of Oxford, where he had received his education, sheltering it from the attacks of the more zealous members of his party. He extended the same fostering care to the university of Cambridge ; and, in 1645, had the honcur conferred upon him of being unanimously elected master of Trinity-hall, an office which he thought proper to decline.

At length, in the year 1654, the constitution of Selden began to give way, and a frame never remarkably robust yielded to the pressure of age and infirmities. Conscious of the change which was approaching, he suinmoned to his side his friends, the primate Usher and Dr. Langbaine, to whom he expressed his confidence in the consolations of religion. He said, “ that he had his study full of books and papers of most subjects in the world ; yet at that time he could not recollect any passage wherein he could rest his soul, save out of the Holy Scriptures, wherein the most remarkable passage that lay most upon his spirit was Titus ii. 11, 12, 13, 14.” Soon afterwards he sent for his friend Whitelocke, to advise with him on the subject of his temporal affairs, but was prevented from entering into them by increasing debility. He died (unmarried) on the last day of November, 1654, and on the 14th of December was interred in the Temple church, where a mural monument was raised to his memory. [Note 16.] He left considerable wealth, chiefly acquired, as it appears, by means of his connection with the family of the Earl of Kent. His library, which was of great extent and value, he had originally designed to bequeath to the Bodleian ; but being offended by the refusal of the loan of a MS. from that library,without the usual pledge, for its safe restitution, he bequeathed his books to his executors, Edward Hayward, John Vaughan, and Matthew Hale; who, regarding themselves “ as the executors, not of his anger, but of his will,” carried their testator's original intentions into effect, and deposited his valuable collection in the Bodleian. [Note 17.1 A collection of ancient marbles, the property of Selden, was also deposited at Oxford. [Note 18.] · The character of Selden has been drawn by one who knew and admired him. “ He was a person whom no character can flatter, or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit and virtue. He was of so stupendous a learning in all kinds, and in all languages (as may appear in his excellent and transcendent writings), that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant amongst books, and had never spent an hour but in reading and writing ; yet his humanity, courtesy, and affability were such, that he would have been thought to have

bécn bred in the best courts, but that his good-nature, charity, and delight in doing good, exceeded that breeding. His style in all his writings seems harsh, and sometimes obscure, which is not wholly to be imputed to the abstruse subjects of which he commonly treated, out of the paths trod by other men, but to a little undervaluing the beauty of style, and too much propensity to the language of antiquity ; but in his conversation he was the most clear discourser, and had the best faculty of making hard things easy and presenting them to the understanding that hath ever been known. Mr. Hyde was wont to say, that he valued himself upon nothing more than upon having had Mr. Selden's acquaintance from the time he was very young; and held it with great delight as long as they were suffered to continue together in London; and he was much troubled always when he heard him blamed, censured, and réproached for staying in London, and in the parliament, after they were in rebellion, and in 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 excellencies in the other scale.” *

Some traits of Selden's personal character remain to be mentioned. His kindness to scholars in distress has been recorded in a letter from Merrick Casaubon to the primate Usher : “ I was with Mr. Selden after I had been with your grace, whom, upon some intimation of my present condition and necessities, I found so noble as that he did not only presently furnish me with a considerable sum, but was so free and forward in his expressions, as that I could not find in my heart to tell him much of my purpose of selling, lest it might sound as a further pressing upon him, of whom I had already received so much.” [Note 19.] Notwithstanding the

* Life of Clarendon.

courtesy and affability of which Lord Clarendon speaks, itappears that upon some occasions the habits of the scholar overcame the usual urbanity of Selden's disposition. We are told by Calomies, that when Isaac Vossius was sometimes ascending his staircase to pay him a visit, Selden, being engaged in some deep research, would call out to him from his study that he was not at leisure for conversation. Whitelocke, however, says that “ his mind was as great as his learning ; that he was as hospitable and generous as any man, and as good company to those whom he liked.”* As to his religious opinions, we have the testimony of Sir Matthew Hale. " I know,” says Baxter, in his additional notes on the life of Hale, “you are acquainted how greatly he valued Mr. Selden, being one of his executors, his books and picture being still near him. I think it meet, therefore, to remember that because many Hobbists do report that Mr. Selden was at the heart an infidel, and inclined to the opinions of Hobbes, I desired him to tell me the truth herein: and he oft professed to me that Mr. Selden was a resolved, serious Christian, and that he was a great adversary to Hobbes' errors, and that he had seen him openly oppose him so earnestly, as either to depart from him or drive him out of the room.” In another place, Baxter tells us that Selden would not have Hobbes in his chamber while he was dying, calling out “No atheists !" But, according to Mr. D’Israeli, it appears from Aubrey's papers that Hobbes stood by the side of his dying friend. +

After the death of Selden, a small volume of apophthegms was published by his amanuensis, Richard Milward, under the title of Selden's Table Talk. The authenticity of these apophthegms has been sometimes doubted, and especially by Dr. Wilkins, who considers many parts of the volume as derogatory to the character of Selden. Another of Selden's biographers I, however, is of opinion that the Table Talk has a great air of genuineness, and has accordingly extracted from it many passages as illus• Memor. p. 608.

+ Quarrels of Authors, vol. iii. p. 33. | Dr. Aikin.

trative of the sentiments and habits of Selden. « There are some of the thoughts and maxims recorded in Selden's Table Talk," observes that judicious writer, “ in which there appears a sufficient conformity with his conduct and writings to remove all suspicion that they were not his real sentiments. There are, besides, many of a lighter kind, and some, as has been hinted, more lax and worldly in their morality than might have been expected from a man of his honourable character, but which, perhaps, were advanced in conversation as plausible deductions from principles only assumed for the sake of argument.” (Note 20.]

A collected edition of the works of Selden was published in the year 1726, by Dr. David Wilkins, archdeacon of Suffolk, &c. in 3 vols. folio (usually bound in six), to which the editor has prefixed a life of the author.

Some specimens of Selden's poetical attempts remain * ; but they are not such as to induce any regret that he devoted so little of his time to the Muses. He is, however, introduced by Sir John Suckling, in his “ Session of the Poets.”

“ There was Selden, and he sat close by the chair."

MATTHEW HALE.

1609-1676. MATTHEW HALE was born on the 1st Nov. 1609, at Alderley, in the county of Gloucester. [Note 21.] His grandfather, Robert Hale, had acquired a considerable fortune in trade, which he divided amongst his five sons ; the second of whom, Robert, was educated for the bar, and married Joan, the daughter of Matthew Poyntz, esquire, of Alderley, a branch of the noble family of the Poyntzes of Acton. Matthew, the subject of this memoir, was the only issue of the marriage. His father

See his verses in Greek, Latin, and English, in Brown's Britannia's

Pastorals.

« PreviousContinue »