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Life, Works, and Times
Antiquary, Philologist, Heraldist, Linguist, Jurist, Statesman, &c.
* Probable or approximate dates.
A Life of Selden does not exist: to the great reproach of the Lawyers. All accounts of him are but sketches.
Few of Selden's many works have been mentioned here, for want of space. A list of them is given in Dr. Aikin's Life of Selden, pp. t97-9. Ed. t8t2.
1558- Hob. 17. EHjabetfi begins to reign. 'John Selden, the glory of the English nation, as
Hugo Grotius worthily stiles him. son of John Selden, by Margaret his wife, the only daughter of Thomas Baker of Rushington, (descended from the knightly family of the Bakers in Kent) was born in an obscure village called Salvington near to Terring a market town in Sussex. His father .... was a sufficient plebeian, and delighted much in music, by the exercising of which he obtained fas 'tis said) his wife, of whom our famous t584. Dec. t6. author Jo. Selden was born on the t6th of Decemb. t584. Wood, Ath. Oxon. iii. 366. Ed. t8t7.
The birthplace of John Selden is Salvington, a hamlet
of the parish of West Tarring, in the county of Sussex.
Tarring is about two miles from Worthing. . . . The
cottage in which he was born still remains. It was then
j2 known as Lacies, being the residence attached to a farm
tj of about eighty-one acres. The date of t60t is upon its
front . G. W. Johnson. Memoirs of John Selden,
_ PP- 33- 34- Ed. t835.
Dec. 2o. 't584—John, the sonne of John Selden, the minstrell,
Besides John there were two younger sons, who died
He was * instructed in grammar learning in the Free
On the inside of the lintel of his birthplace and home
"is carved a Latin distich, said to have been composed
t $9$. set t0. by Selden when only ten years old. . . . The following
literal copy made at the time of a personal inspection
[in August t834] is submitted to the reader's judgement.
Gratvs HonestejuiH' No clavDaR Initio Sedeb'
FVR ABE AS: NO SV FACTA SOLVTA TIBI.
The last character of the first line is somewhat imperfect.
t600. Mich. term. By the care and advice of his schoolmaster, Selden set. t5. 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 instructed 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.
t602. æt. t7. Becomes a member of Clifford's Inn.
1603. fSar. 24. James I. succeeds to tfte tfi-ngUsfi croton. t604. May. Removes to the Inner Temple. "His chamber was
æt. t9. 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 forhis 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 Teas before it, rcpi wavrot -rii* l\*-v0epiav: 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. t607. æt. 22. Ilepublisheshisfirstwork.AnalectonAng'lo-Brilannicon* t612. æt. 27. He furnishes Drayton with notes to the first t8 Chapters of his Polyolbion published the next year. t6t4. æt. 29. He publishes Titles of Honour, 'his largest English, and in the opinion of Usher, his best work.'—Johnson, idem.
t6t7. æt. 32. He publishes De Diis Syris. Syntagmata duo: a
history of the Idol deities of the Old Testament .
t6t8. æt. 33. [Preface dated Apr. 4.] Selden publishes The Historic
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 powei 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.—Omnia opera, iii. t456. 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 go 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 courtesy of his Majesty.—Johnson, pp. 64, 67. t619. 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 Tyihes and his Revieiv thereof 2nd Edition, 162t, triumphantly
? quotes the following:—
His submission because he denieth to haue beene in the High Commission Court, and for that in my Answers to his Pamphlet it is not so perntly related, may it please thee Reader, here to reade it whole out of the Registry
,5 of that Court.
*S Vicesimo octauo die Mensis lanuarij. Anno Domini
iuxta computationem EcclesiœA nglicana 1618. Coram Reuerendissimo in Christo patre, Domino Georgio, pro.uidentia diuina Cantuariensi A rchiepiscopo, totius Angtiœ Primate et Metropolitano, Iohanne London, Lancelot Winton, et Iohanne Roffen, eadem prouidentia respectiuh Episcopis: Iohanne Bennet, Willielmo Bird et Georgio Newman, Militibus, in Manerio Archiepiscopali apud Lambehith in Comitatu Surrey, iudicialiter sedentibus: prœsente Thoma Mottershed.
Officium Dominorum contra lohannem Selden de Interiori Templo London, Armigerum.
This day appeared personally lohn Selden Esquire, and made his submission all vnder his owne hand writing, touching the publication of his Booke entituled The History 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 lure 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 Church of England.—lohn Selden."
The High Commission Court suppress his book.
This ' usage sunk so deep into his stomach, that he did
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.
t6t9. Selden's father dies.
About this time finishes his work on the Sovereignty of the sea, Mare Clausum, sen de Dominio Marts in answer to Grotius' Mare liberum. Not published till t635. For history of this book, see Johnson, pp. 207-2io.
t62t. Dr. Richard Mountagu—afterwards Bp. in succession
of Chichester and Norwich—publishes his Diatribæ 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 Clausum. See Opera Omnia, li. t423.
t624. Feb. t2— King James' last Parliament. Selden first appearance May 29. œt. 39. in the House, as M.P. for Lancaster. See John Forster's admirable Life of Sir John Eliot, London t864, for the best account of Selden's early Parliamentary career. Trinity Selden is chosen Reader of Lyon's Inn. He refuses
term. the office thrice.
Register. "The masters of the bench, taking into con-
1625. fflar. 27. tttijarles I. becomes King. t626. Feb.6-June King Charles' second Parliament. Selden is returned 15. aet. 4t. for Great Bedwin in Wilts. During the session is entrusted with the 4th and 5th articles of the Impeachment of the Duke of Buckingham.
t628. Mar. t7. King Charles' third Parliament. Selden is member
for Ludgershal. Takes part in the preparation of ' The Petition of Right.'
1629. Mar. t0. He and others are after imprisoned for several months. t632. æt. 47. The Benchers of Inner Temple rescind their order of
t624. Michs. Term. Selden is elected a Bencher of their Inn.
t639. æt . 54. The Earl [of Kent] died in t639, 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 Œdibus Carmeliticis (White Fryers) which was, before the conflagration, a noble dwelling. He kept a plentifull table, and was never without learned company.'—Aubrey MSS.
t640. Nov. 3. The Long Parliament assembles. Selden sits for
œt. $$. Oxford University. For his share in public transactions,
see John Forster's two works published in London t860.
The Grand Remonstrance and The Arrest of the Five
t642. May. The King being half-minded to dismiss the Lord
æt. 57. Keeper Littleton, commands Hyde and Lord Falkland