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from pursuing his literary occupations with assiduity; and, at the early age of twenty-two, he had completed his . Dissertation on the Civil Government of Britain before the Norman Conquest.'
This work is an astonishing performance, considering the age at which it was composed. In 1610, we find him pursuing the same course of study, the fruits of which were given to the world, under the titles of • Jani Anglorum Facics Altera,' England's Epinomis,' and · The Duello, or Single Combat.' These publications were in a measure connected with the studies incident to his profession; but in 1012, was put forth his elaborate and interesting commentary on the first twelve books of the Polyolbion; he must, therefore, have been indefatigable in his pursuit of knowledge through every channel, and in all its various ramifications. His intense application appears to have very materially injured his health; for in the dedication of his • Titles of Honour,' published in 1614, to his friend, Mr. Edward Heyward, he says, “ Some year since it was finished, wanting only, in some parts, my last hand—which was then prevented by my dangerous and tedious sicknesse." From this attack he recovered, by the skill and care of Dr. Robert Floyd, returning to his studies with fresh zesi, and renewed vigour; « and thus," says he, “I employed the breathing times which, from the so different studies of my profession, were allowed me: nor hath the proverbial assertion, that the lady Common Law must lie alone,' ever wrought with me." His fame now rang through Europe, and his books were received and read with avidity. In the year 1617, was produced that extraordinary and profoundly erudite treatise on the Deities of the Ancient Syrians,* which he “ intended as a commentary on all the passages of the Old Testament relating to the idols of the heathens, and discussing, there
This was not published until 1615, when it was printed at Frankfort, under the title of Analectwn Anglo-Britannicwn.'
f.De Diis Syris, Syntagmata Duo. London, 1617.'
fore, not only the Syrian, but the Arabian, Egyptian, Per-, sian, African, and European idolatry.”
His . History of Tithes' was published in 1618, in which he seemed to combat the divine right of the church to them, and, consequently, gave great offence to the clergy, and incurred the displeasure of king James. He was admitted, at the intercession of his friend Ben Jonson, to explain himself to the king in person, and seemed to have conciliated him ; but in a very short time he was cited before the high commission court, his book was prohibited, he was enjoined to declare his contrition for having written it, and forbid to reply to any of those who might write against it, upon pain of imprisonment. The king pointed out to him many objectionable passages, particularly one which seemed to throw a doubt upon the day of the birth of Christ; he therefore composed a short treatise upon that subject, and presented it to the king on Christmas day.*
In the preface to his · History of Tithes,' he reproaches the clergy with ignorance and laziness, and upbraids them with having nothing to keep up their credit, but beard, title, and habit; and that their studies reached no farther than the breviary, the postills, and polyanthea: this was enough to draw down their indignation upon him, and he was consequently vehemently attacked. Wood says, that “the usage he met with sunk so deep into his stomach, that he did never after affect the bishops and clergy, or cordially approve their calling, though many ways were tried to gain him to the church's interest." He had certainly a great contempt for the ignorant and fanatic among the clergy of his day and did not scruple to express it openly: indeed it appears he was of opinion that the state should invariably keep a rein on
• This treatise does not appear to have been printed during Selden's life, but was published in 1661, under the following title, “OEANOP.2710g, or, God made Man ; proving the Nativity of our Saviour to be on the 25th of Deeember. London: printed by J. G. for Nathaniel Brooks, at the Angel, in Cornhill, 1661,' 8vo. with a wretched portrait of Selden prefixed, engraved by I. Chantry.
the church; yet he was partial to the episcopal form of worship. Though not orthodoxical in his opinions, he was “a resolved serious Christian," as sir Matthew Hale told Baxter, “ a great enemy to Hobbes's errors, and that he had seen him openly oppose Hobbes so earnestly as either to depart from him or drive him from the room.”
In the year 1621, James asserted, in one of his speeches, that the privileges of parliament were original grants from the crown. Upon this occasion, Selden was consulted both by the lords and the commons; and in the opinion which he delivered, though he wholly denied the point in question, yet with the strictest integrity he did ample justice to the prerogative of the crown.
The protest made by the commons, on this occasion, was attributed to him, and the vengeance of the court followed. He was imprisoned by an order in council of the 16th of June, which directed, “ that no person should be suffered to speak with him ; nor should word, message, or writing be received by him; and that a gentleman of trust should be appointed to remain with him." The letter which he addressed to sir George Calvert, one of the secretaries of state, upon this occasion, is remarkable for the cool firmness which it exhibits. After being kept in confinement for five weeks, he was liberated, at the intercession of lord keeper Williams. It was during this imprisonment that he prepared for the press the curious historical work of Eadıner, a Saxon monkish writer, and illustrated it with very learned notes: upon its publication, he dedicated it in grateful terms to the lord keeper, thanking him for having been the cause of his liberation.
From this time he seems to have taken a more active part in the great political events of the period. In 1623 he was returned member for Lancaster, and in the first two years of the reign of Charles I. for Great Bedwin, in Wiltshire. He was one of the committee for forming articles of impeachment against the duke of Buckingham, and was appointed one of the managers at his proposed trial. He was one of the firmest and most distinguished opposers of the unconstitutional measure of levying money on the authority of the prerogative; and pleaded for Hampden, who had been imprisoned for refusing to pay the ship-money. It was now that his opposition to the corruptions of the government took a decided form; and, on all important discussions in parliament, he was looked up to, and listened to, with the greatest reverence. In consequence of the weight of his opinion with the house, and the influence of his speeches on their decisions, the government found it expedient to take measures to prevent his attendance ; and, in consequence, a charge of having uttered seditious expressions was preferred against him, and he was committed to the Tower in March, 1628. When he had been imprisoned some months, it was proposed that he should be discharged, on giving security for his future good conduct; but this he would not accede to, and was therefore removed to the King's Bench prison. A prosecution in the star chamber was soon after commenced against him for the publication of an alleged libel: this was & work written by sir Robert Dudley, in the reign of James, under the title of “A Proposition for his Majesty's Service, to bridle the impertinence of Parliaments.' By the favour of some powerful friends, his imprisonment was commuted for a nominal confinement in the Gatehouse, Westminster, which enabled him to retire into the country for about three months; he was then again committed to the King's Bench, and remained there until May, 1631, when he was admitted to bail, and continued to be bailed, from term to term, till July, 1634, when he was finally discharged with. out trial, having repeatedly pressed for a writ of Habeas Corpus without effect. During this period, the fruits of his literary occupations were four very learned treatises on An. cient Jewish Law.
The writers of the opposite party, though they do not dare openly attack a character like that of Selden, which is invulnerable to the stings of malice, yet they insinuate that he was a rebel, and that he for some time suppressed his invaluable and celebrated treatise, • Mare Clausum, seu de Dominio Maris,' out of pique for the affronts and persecutions he had suffered at the hands of government. There does not appear to be any foundation for this assertion; as, • before he was discharged, he took an active part in the management of the masque presented by the inns of court before the king and queen on Candlemas night, 1633; thus paying an agreeable compliment to them, and countenancing
the king against the calumnies of the fanatical Prynne, who had fulminated, in his Histriomastix, against all dramatic representations, and had particularly inveighed against court masques and revelry: this was the more marked, as Prynne was a great favourite with his party. In the year 1635, he published, at the king's express desire, his . Mare Clausum,' written many years before in answer to Grotius, who, in his " Mare Liberum,' had contended for the right of the Dutch to trade to the Indies, and to fish in the British
So important was the work esteemed to the interests of the kingdom, that " Sir William Beecher, one of the clerks of the council, was sent with a copy of it to the barons of the exchequer, in the open court, that it might be by them laid up as a most inestimable jewel among the choice records which concerned the crown." The court now looked upon him, “ as a person worth the gaining;" he was, from this time, a frequent and welcome guest at Lambeth-house; and it was then generally believed that he might have chosen his owri preferment in the state, had not his political opinions and practice remained inflexibly unchanged.
In the parliaments of 1610-1, he represented the University of Cxford, and was among the most distinguished of those in opposition to the court: he joined in the measures for the prosecution of the earl of Strafford and archbishop Laud. For this last part of his conduct he has been censured by some of his biographers, as disdaining the ties of private gratitude: it is true, he had been in habits of intimacy with the prelate; but what were the obligations he had received from him, that should make him forget what he considered his duty to his country, we are not told.
In 16+2, Charles wished to have made Selden lord chancellor, but he declined it upon the plea of ill health. This overture created a suspicion that he might be tampering with the royal party, and he was even accused of being privy to the design of Waller the poet, to deliver London into the hands of the king. But Waller being questioned, “whether Selden, Pierpoint, Whitelocke, and others, were acquainted with that plot, he answered that they were not ; but that he came one evening to Selden's study, where Pierpoint and Whitelocke then were with Selden, on purpose to impart it to them all; and, speaking of such a thing