Page images


stilling principles of a dangerous tendency. Immediately after the appearance of this book, Des Cartes 'said of it to a friend, " I am of opinion that the author of the book. De Cive,' is the same person who wrote the third objection against my · Meditations. I think him a much greater master of morality, than of metaphysics or natural philosophy; though I can by no means approve of his principles or maxiins, which are very bad and extremely dangerous, because they suppose all men to be wicked, or give them occasion to be so. His whole design is to write in favour of monarchy, which might be done to more advantage than be has done, upon maxims more virtuous and solid. He has wrote likewise greatly to the disadvantage of the church and the Roman catholic religion, so that if he is not particularly supported by some powerful interest, I do not see how he can escape having his book censured." The learned Conringius censures him very severely for boasting, in regard to this performance, “ that though physics were a new science, yet civil philosophy was still newer, since it could not be styled older than his book · De Cive;' where, as,” says Conringius, “ there is nothing good in that work of his that was not always known." But vanity was throughout life a prevailing foible with Hobbes.

Among many illustrious persons who upon the shipwreck of the royal cause retired to France for safety, was sir Charles Cavendisb, brother to the duke of Newcastle, who, being skilled in every branch of mathematics, proved a constant friend and patron to Hobbes : and Hobbes himself, by embarking, in 16+5, in a controversy about the quadrature of the circle, became so celebrated, although certainly undeservedly as a mathematician, that, in 1647, he was recommended to instruct Charles prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. in that branch of study. His care in the discharge of this office gained him the esteem of that prince in a very great degree: and though he afterwards withdrew his public favour from Hobbes on account of his writings, yet he always retained a sense of the services he had done him, shewed him various marks of his favour after he was restored to his dominions, and, as some say, had his picture hanging in his closet. This year also was printed in Holland, by the care of M. Sorbiere, a second and more complete edition of bis book “De Cive,” to which are prefixed two Latin letters to the editor, one by Gassendi, the other by Mersenne, in commendation of it. While Hobbes was thus employed at Paris, he was attacked by a violent fit of illness, which brought him so low that his friends began to despair of his recovery. Among those who visited him in this weak condition was his friend Mersenne, who, taking this for a favourable opportunity, began, afier a few general compliments of condolence, to mention the power of the church of Rome to forgive sins; but Hobbes immediately replied, “ Father, all these matters I have debated with myself long ago. Such kind of business would be troublesome to me now; and you can entertain me on subjects more agreeable; when did you see Mr. Gassendi ?" Mersenne easily understood his meaning, and, without troubling him any farther, suífered the conversation to turn upon general topics. Yet some days afterwards, when Dr. Cosin, afterwards bishop of Durham, came to pray with him, he very readily accepted the proposal, and received the sacrament at his hands, according to the forms appointed by the church of England.

In 1650 was published at London a small treatise by Hobbes entitled “ Human Nature," and another, “ De corpore politico, or, of the Elements of the Law.” The latter was presented to Gassendi, and read by him a few months before his death; who is said first to have kissed it, and then to have delivered his opinion of it in these words: “ This treatise is indeed small in bulk, but in my judgment the very marrow of science." All this time Hobbes had been digesting with great pains his religious, political, and moral principles into a complete system, which he called the ". Leviathan," and which was printed in English at London in that and the year following. He caused a copy of it, very fairly written on vellum *, to be presented to Charles II ; but after that monarch was informed that the English divines considered it as a book tending to subvert both religion and civil government, he is said to have withdrawn bis countenance from the author, and by the marquis of Ormond to have forbidden bim to come into his presence. After the publication of his “ Leviathan,” Hobbes returned to England, and passed the summer commonly at his patron the earl of Devonsbire's seat in Derbyshire, and his winters in town; where he had for his intimate friends some of the greatest men of the age; such as Dr. Harvey, Selden, Cowley, &c. In 1654, he published his “ Letter upon Liberty and Necessity,” which occasioned a long controversy between him and Bramhall, bishop of Londonderry. About this time he began the controversy with Wallis, the mathematical professor at Oxford, which lasted as long as Hobbes lived, and in which he had the misfortune to have all the mathematicians against him. It is indeed said, that he came too late to this study to excel in it; and that though for a time he maintained his credit, while he was content to proceed in the same track with others, and to reason in the accustomed manner from the established principles of the science, yet when he began to digress into new paths, and set up for a reformer, inventor, and improver of geometry, he lost himself extremely. But notwithstanding these debates took up much of his time, yet he published several philosophical treatises in Latin.

* This copy appears to be now in How it came there has not been dis. the library of the late earl of Macart- covered. The library is now in the dey, at Lissanoure in Ireland, if the possession of a lady, the late earl's reone very accurately described by the presentative, who probably knew little Rev. W. H. Pratt, in the Gentleman's of its history. Magazine for January 1813, p. 30.

Such were his occupations till 1660, when upon the king's restoration he quitted the country, and came up to London. He was at Salisbury-house with his patron, when the king passing by one day accidentally saw him. He sent for him, gave him his hand to kiss, inquired kindly after his health and circumstances; and some time after directed Cooper, the celebrated miniature-painter, to take his portrait. His majesty likewise afforded him another private audience, spoke to him very kindly, assured bim of his protection, and settled a pension upon him of 100l. per annum out of his privy purse. Yet this did not render him entirely safe ; for, in 1666, his “ Leviathan," and treatise “ De Cive,” were censured by parliament, which alarmed him much; as did also the bringing of a bill into the House of commons to punish atheism and profaneness. When this storm was a little blown over, he began to think of procuring a beautiful edition of his pieces that were in Latin ; but finding this impracticable in England, he cansed it to be undertaken abroad, where they were published in 1668, 4to, from the press of John Bleau. In 1669, he was visited by Cosmo de Medicis, then prince, afterwards duke of Tuscany, who gave him ample marks of his esteem; and having received his picture, and a complete collection of his writings, caused them to be deposited, the former among his curiosities, the latter in his library at Florence. Similar visits he received from several foreign ambassadors, and other strangers of distinction ; who were curious to see a person, whose singular opinions and numerous writings had made so much noise all over Europe. In 1672, he wrote his own Life in Latin verse, when, as he observes, he had completed his eighty-fourth year: and, in 1674, he published in English verse four books of Homer's " Odyssey," which were so well received, that it encouraged him to undertake the whole “ Iliad” and “ Odyssey," which he likewise performed, and published in 1675. These were not the first specimens of his poetic genius which he had given to the public: he had published many years before, about 1637, a Latin poem, entitled “ De Mirabilibus Pecci, or, Of the Wonders of the Peak.” But his poetry is below criticism, and has been long exploded *. In 1674, he took his leave of London, and went to spend the remainder of his days in Derbyshire; where, however, he did not remain inactive, notwithstanding his advanced age, but published from time to time several pieces to be found in the collection of bis works, namely, in 1676, his “ Dispute with Laney bishop of Ely, concerning Liberty and Necessity;" in 1678, his “ Decameron Physiologicum, or, Ten Dialogues of Natural Philosophy;" to which he added a book, entitled “A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Law of England." June 1679, he sent another book, entitled “Behemoth, or, A History of the Civil Wars from 1640 to 1660,” to an eminent bookseller, with a letter setting forth the reasons for his communication of it, as well as for the request he then made, that he would not publish it vill a proper occasion offered. The book, however, was published as soon as he was dead, and the letter along with it; of which we shall give a curious extract :-"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,

*" Hobbes could construe a Greek gance, or energy of style, he had no author; but his skill in words must manner of conception. And hence have been all derived from the dictio- that work, though called a translation nary; for he seems not to bave known, of Homer, does not even deserve the that any one articulate sound could name of poem ; because it is in every be more agreeable, or any one phrase respect unpleasing, being nothing more more diguified, than any other. la than a fictitious narrative delivered in bis Iliad aud Odyssey, even when he mean prose, with the additional meanhits the author's sense (which is not ness of harsh rhime, and untuneable always the case), he proves by his measure.” Beattie's Essay on Poetry choice of words, ihat of harmony, ele. and Music.


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; and therefore I dare not venture to appear in the business, lest I 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 prioting, I would be content to lose twenty times the value of what you can expect to gain by it. 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 am, &c.”

However he did not live to send his bookseller any thing more, this being his last piece. It is in dialogue, and full of paradoxes, like all his other writings. More philosophical, political, says Warburton, or any thing rather than historical, yet full of shrewd observations. In October following, he was afflicted with a suppression of urine; and his physician plainly told him, that he had little hopes of curing him. In November, the earl of Devonshire removing from Chatsworth to another seat called Hardwick, Hobbes obstinately persisted in desiring that he might be carried too, though this could no way be done but by laying him upon a feather-bed. He was not much discomposed with his journey, yet within a week after lost, by a stroke of the palsy, the use of his speech, and of his right side entirely ; in which condition he remained for some days, taking little nourishment, and sleeping much, sometimes endeavouring to speak, but not being able. He died Dec. 4, 1679, in his ninety-second year. Wood tells us, that after his physician gave him no hopes of a cure, he said, “ Then I shall be glad to find a hole to creep out of the world at.” He observes also, that his not desiring a minister, to receive the sacrament before he died, ought in charity to be imputed to his being so suddenly seized, and afterwards deprived of his senses; the rather, because the earl of Devonshire's chaplain declared, that within the two last years of his life he had often received the sacrament from his hands with seeming devotion.

His character and manners are thus described by Dr. White Kennet, in his “ Memoirs of the Cavendish Family:"

« PreviousContinue »