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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. vi. 445, Ed. ifo2.
1643. »t . $8. Whitelock in his Memorials, tells us: "Divers Members of both Houses, whereof I was one, were Members of the Assembly of Divines, and had the same Liberty with thft Divines to sit and debate, and give their Votes in any Matter which was in consideration amongst them: In which Debates Mr. Selden spake admirably, and confuted divers of them in their own Learning. And sometimes when they had cited a Text of Scripture to prove their Assertion, he would tell them, Perhaps in your little Pocket Bibles 'with gilt Leaves (which they would often pull out and read) the Translation may be thus, but the Greek or the Hebrew, signifies thus and thus; and so would totally silence them.—/. 7i. Bd.Tn$&: o he, ‘I never knew a wise man make a wise 1654. Nov. 30. aet. 69. John Selden dies at White Friars, of dropsy. Dec. 14. Is magnificently buried in the Temple . His executors ‘invited all the parliament men, all the benchers, and great officers. All the judges had mourning, as also an abundance of persons of quality.' Archbishop Usher preached his funeral sermon.
t643, Dec. 12. On the presentation of Philip, Count of Pembroke; Selden's amanuensis, Rev. Richard Milward, becomes Rector of Great Braxted, in Essex. He holds this living until his death. Newcourt Repertorium, \\. 92, Ed. t7t0.
t645. Apr. œt . 60. Is one of a joint commission of both houses to ad-1 minister the Admiralty. Aug. Is elected Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge: but
t647. J,an* 1l« The House of Commons votes those members imprisoned in t628 * for oppressing the illegalities of that time,* ;£5ooo each. Selden is believed to have only accepted one-half.
t65t. Dec. 3. The Countess Dowager of Kent dies in White Friars.
Rev. y. Granger. Biogr. Hist. ii. 375, Ed. t775. 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. A nbrey MSS.
t653, June tt. Selden makes his will [printed in Omnia Opera, I. liii. æt. 68. Ed. t726.] He leaves the bulk of his property, esti* - mated at ,£40,000, 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 haue 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 came 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,'
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 *...”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?assage 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 soirit 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 vndervaluing 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. Selden's Acquaintance from the Time He was very young; and held it with great Delight as long as The were suffered to continue together in London; and He was very o 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 Poio Abilities and Excellencies in the otherScale.”—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. 4o, 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 Hobbisi's 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 to depart from him, or drive him out of the Room.”
TABLE-TALK Of JOHN SELDEN.
IN TROD UCTION.
BOOK of Apothegms is an armoury of thoughts more or less felicitously expressed. Rightly read, it acts as a tonic on the mind. The subjects are so disconnected and follow the one the other so rapidly: the opinions and arguments are so incisively expressed, and are often so apparently contradictory and paradoxical : that the whole work becomes hard to read, and still harder to digest. Rapid reading of such condensed thought is unproductive; careful study, however, makes it hoth enjoyable and fruitful: and that in proportion to the activity of the reader's mind. It is clear, therefore, that Apothegms are rather subjects for consideration than articles for belief. They must be thoroughly examined. They must be, so to speak, unravelled and unfolded, that their inwrapped principles may be understood in their nature, applications, and consequences; in order that concinnated speech may not beguile us from truth, or aphorisms charm us into injustice and error.
It is further evident, that our final judgment of the opinions of the Author must be suspended until we thus possess his whole work. In particular, in the present instance, we should not forget that we have but stray fragments of talk, separated from the context of casual and unrestrained conversations; collected —probably without the Speaker's knowledge—one, two, or three at a time, over a period of twenty years; and claffifiedlong afterwards, as seemed best to their Preserver.
These Sayings were published thirty-five years after Selden's death, and nine years after their recorder— the Rev. Richard Milward, S.T.P., who died Canon of Windsor, Rector of Great Braxted, and Vicar of Isleworth—had passed away. While they are, therefore, thus doubly posthumous in publication, they must be long antedated in utterance. Table-Talk belongs chiefly, if not entirely, to 1634—1654, and therefore appertains to the first rather than the second half of the Seventeenth century.
These Discourses show somewhat of the mind, but not the whole mind of Selden, even in the subjects treated of. What must have been the fulness of information, the aptness of illustration, the love of truth, the justness of reasoning, when such fragments as these could be picked up by a casual hearer? Bacon's Effays are most carefully finished compositions: Selden's Table-Talk is the spontaneous incidental outpouring of an overflowing mind; and yet it may not unworthily compare with the former.
Passing by acute insight into human nature, and great antiquarian research, can we gather, however impersectly, from the present work, any idea as to what Selden's main opinions were? We think we may.
In this work, as elsewhere, John Selden is the Champion of Human Law. It fell to his lot to live in a time when the life of England was convulsed, for years together, beyond precedent; when men searched after the ultimate and essential conditions and frames of human society; when each strove fiercely for his rights, and then as dogmatically asserted them.
Amidst immense, preposterous, and inflated assumptions; through the horrid tyranny of the system of the Thorough; in the exciting debates of Parliament; in all the storm of the Civil War; in the still fiercer jarring of religious sects; amidst all the phenomena of that age; Selden clung to 'the Law of the Kingdom.' 'AU is as the State pleases.' He advocates the supremacy of Human Law against the so-called doctrine of Divine Right. He thrusts out the Civil Power against all Ecclesiastical pretensions, and raising it to be the highest authority in the State, denies the existence of any other co-ordinate power. So strongly does he assert the power of the Nation to do or not to do, that, for the purpose of his argument, he reduces Religion almost to a habit of thought, to be assumed or cast off, like a sashion in dress, at will. 'So Religion was brought into kingdoms, so it has been continued, and so it may be cast out, when the State pleases.' * 'The Clergy tell the Prince they have Physick good for his Soul, and good for the Souls of his People, upon that he admits them: but when he finds by Experience they both trouble him and his People, he will have no more to do with them, what is that to them or any body else if a King will not go to Heaven's 'The State still makes the Religion and receives into it, what will best agree with it.' §
Selden lodges the Civil Power of England, in the King and the Parliament . He shews that our English Constitution is but one great Contract between two equal Princes, the Sovereign and the People; and that if that Contract be broken, both parties are at parity again. That, by a like consent, the majority in England governs; the minority assenting to the judgement of the majority, and being involved in their decision. Finally, reducing all relationships to like mutual Agreements, he urges the keeping of Contracts, as the essential bond of Human society. 'Keep your Faith.'
The way these views are enforced, fully justifies Lord Clarendon's opinion of him, that'in his Conversation He was the most clear Discourses and had the best Faculty in making hard Things easy, and presenting them to the Understanding, of any Man that hath been known.' J
• P. J9. + P. 36. § P. t30. t P. 8.