Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

in general terms, these gentlemen did so inveigh against any such thing as treachery and baseness, and that which might be the occasion of shedding much blood—that he said he durst not, for the awe and respect which he had for Selden and the rest, communicate any particulars to them, but was almost disheartened himself to proceed in it."

Selden, when accused, denied the charge upon oath: it appears that he was, at this time, not inclined to enter into all the violent measures of his party; for though he voted against the king's commission of array, yet he strenuously supported the royal prerogative as to the militia : by this, it appears, that he was well disposed toward the just claims of the king, though determined not to shrink from his duty; and, above all, not to serve him separately from the parliament.

In 1643, he was chosen one of the lay members of the presbyterian clergy, and it is reported that he could not conceal his disgust at the ignorance and fanaticism of some of its members : two stories are current respecting his conduct in this assembly, but neither of them are worth recording. He soon after subscribed to the famous" solemn league and covenant,” and was appointed keeper of the records in the Tower. In 1645, he became one of the commissioners of the Admiralty, and the next year five thousand pounds were publicly voted him in consideration of his services and sufferings in the public cause, but with true magnanimity he declined accepting it. “ While the great mass of his political compeers had been swayed by ambition, vanity, resentment, or avarice, patriotism had been the motive, and the law of the land the index of his conduct."-" In his political opinions, he seems to have entertained a high respect for the sacredness of the social contract; and he justified the resistance to the Stuarts, on the ground that they had infringed and violated this compact between the prince and the people.” Thus far he had been active in promoting what he deemed a necessary reform in the state; but from the scenes of anarchy and confusion which followed, he retired with a clear conscience, and returned to the prosecution of his beloved studies with eagerness. At this period, he commenced a work of stupendous erudition, which he published in parts, entitled, "De Synedris et Prefecturis veterum Hebræorum;' he lived but to finish three books. Shortly before his death, he wrote also a preface to the “ Decem Scriptores Anglicanæ,' a Collection of Monkish Historians, published by sir R. Twysden ; and a vindication of his " Mare Clausum,' which contains some particulars of his own history. Of his works, which are very numerous, a list may be found in the Biographia Britannica: they were collected and published in six volumes, folio, by the learned Dr. Wilkins, in 1726.

“ At length,” says Wood, “ after this great light of our nation had lived to about the age of man, it was extinguished on the last of November, 1654.” He died of a gradual decline at the Carmelite, or Friary House, in White Friars, which he possessed, with other property, to a very considerable amount, by the bequest of Elizabeth, countess dowager of Kent, with whom he had lived in the strictest amity, as he had also done with the earl in his life-time. He died very rich, having lived a bachelor, in the exercise of a lucrative profession, with no disposition to expense, beyond the formation of a most extensive and valuable library, which he had once bequeathed to the University of Oxford, but revoked the legacy on account of some disgust taken at being required to give a bond as security for the loan of a manuscript : it was therefore left at the disposal of his executors, but he directed it not to be sold. They had intended bestowing it on the society of the Inner Temple, and it actually remained for five years in chambers hiredfor the purpose; but no preparations being made for building a room to contain it, the executors placed it at length in the Bodleian Library, where it remains, with his other collections.

He was buried, by his own direction, in the Temple church, on the south side of the round walk: his funeral was splendid, and attended by all the judges, benchers, and great officers, with a concourse of the most distinguished persons of the time.

To lord Clarendon's delineation of his character may be added what Whitelocke says of him; “ that his mind was as great as his learning, being very generous and hospitable, and a good companion, especially where he liked.” Dr. Wilkins says, “ he was naturally of a serious temper, which was somewhat soured by his sufferings ; so that he was free only with a few."

His parliamentary character has been recently most ably sketched by an anonymous writer in a periodical paper. “ Selden was a member of the long parliament, and took an active and useful part in many important discussions and transactions. He appears to have been regarded somewhat in the light of a valuable piece of national property, like a museum, or great public library, resorted to, as a matter of course, and a matter of right, in all the numerous cases in which assistance was wanted from any part of the whole compass of legal and historical learning. He appeared in the national council, not so much the representative of the contemporary inhabitants of a particular city, as of all the people of all past ages; concerning whom, and whose institutions, he was deemed to know whatever was to be known, and to be able to furnish whatever, within so vast a retrospect, was of a nature to give light and authority in the decision of questions arising in a doubtful and hazardous state of the national affairs."

After all," says one of his biographers, “ the most endearing part of Mr. Selden's character is elegantly touched by himself in the choice of his motto :"

Περι παντος την ελευθεριαν. .









MOST WORTHY GENTLEMEN, Were you not executors to that person, who, while he lived, was the glory of the nation ; yet am I confident, any thing of his would find acceptance with you ; and truly the sense and notion here is wholly his, and most of the words. I had the opportunity to hear his discourse twenty years together; and lest all those excellent things that usually fell from him might be lost, some of them from time to time I faithfully committed to writing, which, here digested into this method, I humbly present to your hands : -you will quickly perceive them to be his, by the fami. liar illustrations wherewith they are set off, and in which you know he was so happy, that, with a marvellous delight to those that heard him, he would presently convey the highest points of religion, and the most important affairs of state, to an ordinary apprehension.

In reading, be pleased to distinguish times, and in your fancy carry along with you the when and the why, many of these things were spoken; this will give them the more life, and the smarter relish. It is possible, the entertainment you find in them, may render you the more inclinable to pardon the presumption of

Your most obliged, and

Most humble servant,


« AnteriorContinuar »