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Siudying, writing, and living chiefly in the Inner Temple.
1600. Mich. term. By the care and advice of his schoolmaster, Selder
æt. 15. enters Hart Hall, Oxford : and is committed to the
tuition of Mr. Anthony Barker, one of the Fellows,' brother to his schoolmaster, by whom he was instructea in logic and philosophy for about three years, which with great facility he conquered. Wood. idem.
'Sir Giles Mompessen told me, that he was then of that house, and that Selden was a long scabby-pol'd boy but a good student.' Aubrey MSS. quoted in Bliss's
Edition of Wood'; ut supra. 11602. .
Becomes a member of Clifford's Inn. 1603. Mar. 24. James #. succeeds to the English crown. 1604. May. Removes to the Inner Temple. “His chamber was æt. 19. in the Paper buildings which looke towards the garden,
staire-case, uppermost story, where he had a little gallery to walke in. He was quickly taken notice of for his learning."-Aubrey MSS., idem.
After he had continued there a sedulous student for some time, he did by the help of a strong body and vast memory, not only run through the whole body of the law, but became a prodigy in most parts of learning, especially in those which were not common, or little frequented, or regarded by the generality of students of his time. So that in few years his name was wonderfully advanced, not only at home, but in forreign countries, and was usually stiled the great dictator of learning of the English nation.
He seldom or never appeared publickly at the bar, (tho' a bencher) but gave sometimes chamber-counsel, and was good at conveyance.
He had a very choice library of books, as well MSS. as printed, in the beginning of all or most of which he wrote either in the title, or leaf before it, afpi mavtos an edevtepiav: ABOVE ALL, LIBERTY ; to shew, that he would examine things, and not take them upon trust. Wood. Idem.
(Dr. Bliss, on this, says, I shall take leave to render the words ABOVE EVERY THING, LIBERTY! That is, liberty is dearer to me and more desirable than every other blessing; even than life itself: a sentiment worthy not only of Selden, but of every one who calls himself an Englishman."—Wood. Idem.),
He was solicitor and steward for the Earle of Kent.
Aubrey MSS. idem. 1607. æt. 22. Hepublishes his first work Analecton Anglo-Britannicon. 1612.
He furnishes Drayton with notes to the first 18 Chap
ters of his Polyolbion published the next year. 1614. æt. 29.
He publishes Titles of Honour, ‘his largest English, and in the opinion of Usher, his best work-Johnson,
He publishes De Diis Syris, Syntagmata duo: a
history of the Idol deities of the Old Testament. 1618. at. 33
(Preface dated Apr. 4.] Selden publishes The Historie of Tithes, that is, The practice of payment of them. The positive laws made for them. The opinions touching the right of them. Whereupon a needless ecclesiastical uproar arises. Selden tells us “Having at length composed it, I committed it to the censure of one that had the power of licensing it for the press. I left it with him, and to his own time, and without so much as any further request from me to him. He sent it to me licensed,
with ita est, and subscription of his name.
Then was it printed, and until it was wholly printed, I never had the least expression of any dislike to it from any man that had any authority or power of command, either in
the state, or in the church.-Omna opera, iii. 1456. Dec.
The king, who had no knowledge of Selden but through the misrepresentations of his courtiers, summoned him by his secretary, Sir Robert Naunton, to appear, with his work, at the Palace of Theobalds. 'I,' says Selden,
being then entirely a stranger to the court, and known personally there to a very few, was unwilling to thither unaccompanied,'and consequently he obtained the attendance of his old friend and fellow-templar, Edward Heyward, of Reepham, in Norfolk, and of Ben Jonson, 'princeps poetarum,' to introduce him to the king. . Selden had two conferences with King James at Theobald's, and one at Whitehall, and bears testimony in several parts of his after-writings to the ability and
In trouble about his Historie of Tithes,
courtesy of his Majesty. Johnson, pg: 64, 67. 1619. Jan. 28. Selden however is cited before the High Commission
æt. 34. Court at Lambeth Palace. One of his opponents, Dr.
Richard Tillesley, Archdeacon of Rochester, in his Animadversions upon Mr. Selden's History of Tythes and his Review thereof, 2nd Edition, 1621, triumphantly quotes the following:
His submission because he denieth to haue beene in the High Commission Court, and for that in my Answere to his Pamphlet it is not so perfitly related, may it please thee Reader, here to reade it whole out of the Registry of that Court.
Vicesimo octauo die Mensis Ianuarij, Anno Domini iuxta Computationem Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ 1618. Coram Reuerendissimo in Christo patre, Domino Georgio, prouidentia diuina Cantuariensi Archiepiscopo, totius Anglia Primate et Metropolitano, Iohanne London, Lancelot Winton, et Iohanne Roffen, eadem prouidentia respectiuè Episcopis : Iohanne Bennet, Willielmo Bird et Georgio Newman, Militibus, in Manerio Archiepiscopali apud Lambenith in Comitatu Surrey, iudicialiter sedentibus : presente Thoma Mottershed.
Officium Dominorum contra Iohannem Selden dó Interiori Templo London, Armigerum.
This day appeared personally Iohn Selden Esquire, and made his submission all vnder his owne hand writing, touching the publication of his Booke entituled The His tory of Tithes, Sub tenore verborum sequente.
‘My good Lords, I most humbly acknowledge my errour, which I haue committed in publishing the History of Tithes, and especially, in that I have at all by shewing any interpretation of holy Scriptures, by medling with Councels, Fathers, or Canons, or by what elsesoeuer occurres in it, offered any occasion of Argument against any right of Maintenance Iure Diuino of the Ministers of the Gospell : Beseeching your Lordships to receiue this ingenuous and humble acknowledgement, together with the vnfeigned protestation of my griefe, for that through it I haue so incurred both his Maiesties and your Lordships displeasure conceiued against mee in the behalfe of the Chu of England.-lohn Selden."
The High Commission Court suppress his book.
In Parliament: afterwards imprisoned.
never after affect the bishops and clergy, or cordially approve their calling, tho' many ways were tried to gain
him to the church's interest.'- Wood, idem. 1619. .
Selden's father dies. About this time finishes his work on the Sovereignty of the sea, Mare Clausum, seu de Dominio Maris in answer to Grotius' Mare liberum. Not published till
1635. For history of this book, see Johnson, pp. 207-210. 1621. .
Dr. Richard Mountagu-afterwards Bp. in succession of Chichester and Norwich-publishes his Diatriba vpon the first part of the late History of Tythes. King James tells Selden ‘If you or your friends write anything against his [Dr. M's] confutation, I will throw you into
prison.'—Mare Clausun. See Opera Omnia, ii. 1423. 1624. Feb. 12--- King James' last Parliament. Selden first appearance May 29. æt. 39. in the House, as M.P. for Lancaster. See John Forster's
admirable Life of Sir John Eliot, London 1864, for the
best account of Selden's early Parliamentary career. Trinity Selden is chosen Reader of Lyon's Inn. He refuses
the office thrice. Oct. 21. The Benchers' displeasure is thus recorded in their
Register. “The masters of the bench, taking into consideration his contempt and offence, and for that it is without precedent that any man elected to read in chancery has been discharged in the like case, much less has with such wilfulness refused to read the same, have ordered that he shall presently pay to the use of this house the sum of twenty pounds for his fine, and that he stand and be disabled ever to be called to the
bench, or to be Reader of this house.”—Johnson, p. 111.
1625. Mar. 27. Charles I. becomes king. 1626. Feb.6-June King Charles' second Parliament. Selden is returned 15. æt. 41. for Great Bedwin in Wilts. During the session is en
trusted with the 4th and 5th articles of the Impeachment
of the Duke of Buckingham: 1628. Mar. 17. King Charles' third Parliament. Selden is member
for Ludgershal. Takes part in the preparation of 'The
Petition of Right.' (1629. Mar. 1o. He and others are imprisoned for several months. 1632. æt. 47 The Benchers of Inner Temple rescind their order of
1624. Michs. Term. Selden is elected a Bencher of their Inn. 1639.
The Earl (of Kent) died in 1639, without issue, and from that time Selden appears to have made the family mansions at Wrest in Bedfordshire, and White Friars in London, his places of residence. Aubrey says he married the Countess Dowager, and that he never owned the marriage with the Countess of Kent till after her death, upon some lawe account. He never kept any servant peculiar, but my ladie's were all of his command; he lived with her in Edibus Carmeliticis (White Fryers) which was, before the conflagration, a noble dwelling. He kept a plentifull table, and was never
without learned company'Aubrey MSS. 1640. Nov. 3. The Long Parliament assembles. Selden sits for
æt. 55. Oxford University. For his share in public transactions,
see John Forster's two works published in London 1860. The Grand Remonstrance and The Arrest of the Five
Members. 1642. May. The King being half-minded to dismiss the Lord
æt. 57. Keeper Littleton, commands Hyde and Lord Falkland
In the Civil War, both parties seek him ; he inclines to the Parliament
to report whether Selden should be offered the Great Seal. Their report was: “They did not doubt of Mr. Selden's Affection to the King, but withal they knew him so well, that they concluded, he would absolutely refuse the place, if it were offer'd to him. He was in years, and of a tender constitution; he had for many years enjoyed his ease, which he loved; was rich; and would not have made a Journey to York, or have layn out of his own bed, for any Preferment, which he had never affected.”—Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion. Bk.
iv. 445, Ed. 1702. 1643. eot. 58. Whitelock in his Memorials, tells us : “Divers Mem
bers of both Houses, whereof I was one, were Members of the Assembly of Divines, and had the same Liberty with the Divines to sit and debate, and give their Votes in any Matter which was in consideration amongst them: In which Debates Mr. Selden spake admirably, and confuted divers of them in their own Learning. And sometimes when they had cited a Text of Scripture to prove their Assertion, he would tell them, Perhaps in your little Pocket Bibles with gilt Leaves (which they would often pull out and read) the Translation may be thus, but the Greek or the Hebrew, signifies thus and
thus; and so would totally silence them.”—p.71. Ed.1732. 1643. Dec. 12. On the presentation of Philip, Count of Pembroke :
Selden's ainanuensis, Rev. Richard Milward, becomes
until his death. Newcourt Repertorium, ii. 92, Ed.1710. 1645. Apr. æt. 6o. Is one of a joint commission of both houses to 'ad
minister the Admiralty. Aug. Is elected Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge: but
declines it. 1647. Jan. II. The House of Commons votes those members im
prisoned in 1628 ‘for oppressing the illegalities of that time,' £5000 each. Selden is believed to have only
accepted one-half. (1651. Dec. 3. The Countess Dowager of Kent dies in White Friars.
Rev. 7. Granger. Biogr. Hist. ii. 375, Ed. 1775. She appointed Selden her executor, and bequeathed to him the Friary House, in White Friars. Johnson, idem. The opinion that he then and thus attained his chief riches is contradicted by the fact that he was reputed a rich man in 1642.
He would tell his intimate friends, Sir Bennet Hoskyns, &c., that he had nobody to make his heire, except it were a milk-mayd, and that such people did
not know what to doe with a great estate. Aubrey MSS. 1653. June 11. Selden makes his will [printed in Omnia Opera, I. liii. æt. 68. Ed. 1726.) He leaves the bulk of his property, esti
mated at £10,000, to his four executors ; Edward Heyward, Esq., Matthew Hale (afterwards Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench), John Vaughan (afterwards Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas), and Rowland Jewks the elder. Aubrey says : “ He intended to hauc given his owne library to the Vniversity of Oxford, but received disobligation from them, for that they would not lend him some MSS. wherefore by his will he left it to the disposall of his executors, who gave it to the Bodleian library at Oxon
He would write sometimes, when notions caine into his head, to preserve them, under his barber's hands. When he dyed, his barber sayd he had a great mind to know his will,' For,'
Last years, prepares for death.
sayd he, I never knew a wise man make a wise
will.' 1654. Nov. 30. æt. 69. John Selden dies at White Friars, of dropsy.
Is magnificently buried in the Temple church. His executors 'invited all the parliament men, all the benchers, and great officers. All the judges had mourn. ing, as also an abundance of persons of quality.' Arch
bishop Usher preached his funeral sermon. Wood, idem. We may adduce the testimony of three contemporaries :
1. G. Berkeley, Earl of Berkeley, in his Historical Applications and occasional Meditations upon several subjects. Written by a Person of Honour. London 1670, p. 12. gives us the following
Our Learned Selden, before he dyed, sent for the most Reverend Arch-Bishop Vsher, and the Rev. Dr. Langbaine, and discoursed to them of this purpose; That he had suruey'd most part of the Learning that was among the Sons of Men; 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 out of infinite Books and Manuscripts he was Master of, 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:
2. E.Hyde, Lord Clarendon, in his Autobiography, written about 20 years after Selden's death, gives the following character of him, in which may be traced admiration for his character and abilities ; and regret, it may be sneering resentment, at his choosing the side of the Parliament in the Civil War.
“Mr. SELDEN was a Person, whom no Character can flatter, or transmit in any Expressions equal to his Merit and Virtue; He was of so stupendous 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 was such, that He would have been thought to have been bred in the best Courts, but that his good Nature, Charity, and Delight in doing good, and in communicating all He knew, exceeded that Breeding : His Stile in all his Writings seems harsh and sometimes obscure ; which is not wholly to be imputed to the abtruse Subjects of which He commonly treated, out of the Paths trod by other Men; but to a little undervaluing the Beauty of a Stile, and too much Propensity to the Language of Antiquity; but in his Conversation He was the most clear Discourser, and had the best Faculty in making hard Things easy, and presenting them to the Understanding, of any
Man that hath been known. "Mr. Hyde was wont to say, that He valued himself upon nothing more than upon having had Mr. Sélden'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 very much troubled always when He heard him blamed, censured, and reproached, 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."-Life,p. 16. Ed.1759.
3. Rev. Richard Baxter, in his Additional Notes on the Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale. Kt. London 1682. p. 40, thus writes :
“I know you are acquainted, how greatly he (Sir M. Hale) 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 Hobbs, I desired him (Sir M. Hale] 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 Hobbs his errors; and that he had seen him openly oppose him so earnestly, as either depart from or drive him out of the Room."