Selden, John

, one of the most learned men of the seventeenth century, wasthe son of John Selden, a yeoman, by Margaret his wife, only daughter of Mr. Thomas Baker of Rushington, descended from the family of th Bakers in Kent. He was born Dec, 16, 1584, at a house called the Lacies at Salvinton, near Terring in Sussex, and educated at the free-school at Chichester, where he made a very early progress in learning. In 159$, at fourteen years of age, as some say, but according to Wood, in 1600, he was entered of Hart-hall, Oxford, where under the tuition of Mr. Anthony Barker (brother to his schoolmaster at Chichester) and Mr. John Young, both of that hall, he studied about three years, and then removed to Clifford’s Inn, London, for the study of the law, and about two years afterwards exchanged that situation for the Inner Temple. Here he soon attained a great reputation for learning, and acquired the friendship of sir Robert Cotton, sir Henry Spelman, Camden, and Usher. In 1606, when only twentytwo years of age, he wrote a treatise on the civil government of Britain, before the coming in of the Normans, which was esteemed a very extraordinary performance for his years. It was not printed, however, until 1615, and then very incorrectly, at Francfort, under the title “Analects Anglo-Britannicwv Hbri duo, de civile administratione Britanniae Magnae usque ad Normanni adventum,” 4to. Nicolson is of opinion that these “Analecta” do not so | clearly account for the religion, government, and revolutions of state among our Saxon ancestors, as they are reported to do. It was an excellent specimen, however, of what might be expected from a youth of such talents and application.

In 1610 he printed at London, his “Jani Anglorum facies altera,” 8vo, reprinted in 1681, and likewise translated into English by Dr. Adam Littleton, under his family name of Redman Westcot, 1683, fol. It consists of all that is met with in history concerning the common and statute law of English Britany to the death of Henry II. Selden had laid the foundation in a discourse which he published the same year and in the same form, entitled “England’s Epinomis” and this is also in Dr. Littleton’s volume, along with two other tracts, “The Original of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Testaments,” and “The Disposition or administration of Intestate goods,” both afterwards the production of Selden’s pen. In the same year, 1610, he published his “Duello, or single combat;” and in 1612, notes and illustrations on Drayton’s “Poly-Olbion,” folio. He seems to have been esteemed for his learning by the poets of that time; and although he had no great poetical turn himself, yet in 1613 he wrote Greek, Latin, and English verses on Browne’s “Britannia’s Pastorals,” and contributed other efforts of the kind to the works of several authors, which appear to have induced Suckling to introduce him in his “Session of the Poets,” as sitting “close by the chair of Apollo.

In 1614 he published a work which has always been praised for utility, his “Titles of Honour,” Lond. 4to, with an encomiastic poem by his friend Ben Jonson. It was reprinted with additions in 1631, fol. and again in 1671, and translated into Latin by Simon John Arnold, Francfort, 1696, Nicolson remarks that a as to what concerns our nobility and gentry, all that come within either of those lists will allow, that Mr. Selden’s Titles of Honour ought first to be perused, for the gaining of a general notion of the distinction of a degree from an emperor down to a country gentleman.“In 1616 appeared his notes on sir John Fortescue’s work sc De laudibus legum Anglise,” and sir Ralph’s Hengham’s “Sums,” Lond. 8vo. In 1617 he drew up a dissertation upon the state of the Jews formerly living in England, for the use of Purchas, who printed it, although, as Selden complained, very defectively, in hi* | Pilgrimage.” In the same year he published his very learned work, “De Diis Syriis syntagmata duo.” This is not only a treatise on the idolatry of the ancient Syrians, but affords a commentary on all the passages in the Old Testament, where mention is made of any of the heathen deities. This first edition (Lond, 8vo.) being out of print, Ludovicus de Dieu printed an edition at Leyden in 1629, which was revised and enlarged by Selden. Andrew Beyer afterwards published two editions at Leipsic, in 1668 and 1672, with some additions, but, according to Le Clerc, of little importance. Le Clerc offers also some objections to the work itself, which, if just, imply that Selden had not always been judicious in his choice of his authorities, nor in the mode of treating the subject. It contributed, however, to enlarge the reputation which he already enjoyed both at home and abroad.

In his next, and one of his most memorable performances, he did not earn th*e fame of it without some danger. This was his “Treatise of Tythes,” the object of which was to prove that tithes were not due by divine right under Christianity, although the clergy are entitled to them by the laws of the land. This book was attacked by sir James Sempill in the Appendix to his treatise entitled “Sacrilege sacredly handled,London, 1619, and by Dr. Richard Tillesley, archdeacon of Rochester, in his “Animadversions upon Mr. Selden’s History of Tithes,London, 1621, 4to. Selden wrote an answer to Dr. Tillesley, which being dispersed in manuscript, the doctor published it with remarks in the second edition of his “Animadversions,London, 1621, 4to, under this title, “Animadversions upon Mr. Selden’s History of Tithes, and his Review thereof. Before which (in lieu of the two first chapters purposely praetermitted) is premised a catalogue of 72 authors before the yeare 1215, maintaining the Jus divinum of Tythes, or more, to be paid to the Priesthood under the Gospell.” Selden’s book was likewise answered by Dr. Richard Montague in his “Diatribe,London, 1621, 4to; by Stephen Nettles, B. D. in his “Answer to the Jewish Part of Mr. Selden’s History of Tythes,Oxford, 1625; and by William Sclater in his “Arguments about Tithes,London, 1623, in 4to. Selden’s work having been reprinted in 1680, 4to, with the old date put to it, Dr. Thomas Comber answered it in a treatise entitled, “An Historical Vindication of the Divine Right of Tithes, &c.London, 1G&1, in 4to. | This work also excited the displeasure of the court, and the author was called before some of the lords of the high commission, Jan. 28, 1618, and obliged to make a publicsubmission, which he did in these words: “My good Lords, I most humbly acknowledge my errour, which 1 have committed in publishing the ‘ History of Tithes,’ and especially in that I have at all, by shewing any interpretation of Holy Scriptures, by meddling with Councils, Fathers, or Canons, or by what else soever occures in it, offered any occasion of argument against any right of maintenance ‘ Juredivino* of the Ministers of the Gospell; beseeching your Lordships to receive this ingenuous and humble acknowledgment, together with the unfeined protestation of my griefe, for that through it I have so incurred both his Majestie’s and your Lordships’ displeasure conceix-ed against mee in behalfe of the Church of England.” We give this literally, because some of Mr. Selden’s admirers have asserted that he never recanted any thing in his book. The above is at least the language of recantation; yet he says himself in his answer to Dr. Tillesley, “I confesse, that I did most willingly acknowledge, not only before some Lords of the High Commission (not in the High Commission Court) but also to the Lords of his Majesty’s Privy Council, that I was most sorry for the publishing of that History, because it had offended. And his Majesty’s most gracious favour towards me received that satisfaction of the fault in so untimely printing it; and I profess still to all the world, that I am sorry for it. And so should I have been, if I had published a most orthodox Catechism, that had offended. But what is that to the doctrinal consequences of it, which the Doctor talks of? Is there a syllable of it of less truth, because I was sorry for the publishing of it Indeed, perhaps by the Doctor’s logic there is; and just so might he prove, that there is the more truth in his animadversions, because he was so glad of the printing them. And because he hopes, as he says, that my submission hath cleared my judgment touching the right of tithes: what dream made him hope so? There is not a word of tithes in that submission more than in mentioning the title; neither was my judgment at all in question, but my publishing it; and this the Doctor knows too, as I am assured.” Selden, therefore, if this means any thing, was not sorry for what he had written, but because he had published it, and he was sorry he had published it, because it gave offence to the court and to the clergy. | In 1621, king James having, in his speech to the parliament, asserted that their privileges were originally grants from the crown^ Selden was consulted by the House of Lords on that question, and gave his opinion in favour of parliament; which being dissolved soon after, he was committed to the custody of the sheriff of London, as a principal promoter of the famous protest of the House of Commons, previous to its dissolution. From this confinement, which lasted only five weeks, he was released by the interest of Dr. Andrews, bishop of Winchester, and returned to his studies, the first fruits of which were> a learned epistle prefixed to Vincent’s “Discovery of errors in two editions of the Catalogue of Nobility by Ralph Brooke,” Lond. 1622, and the year following his “Spicilegium in Eadmeri sex libros Historiarum,” fol.

Although he had already been consulted by parliament on account of his knowledge of constitutional antiquities, he had not yet obtained a seat in that assembly; but in 1623 he was chosen a member for Lancaster, and in the parliament called in 1625, on the accession of Charles L he was chosen for Great Bed win in Wiltshire) and novr took an active p>rt in opposition to the measures of the court*. In 1626 he was chosen of the committee for

* In Trinity term, 1624, he was concerning him were respited until this chosen reader of Lyon’s-lnn, but re- term. Now this day being called agairt fused to perform that office. In the to the table, he doth absolutely refuse register of the Inner Temple is the fol- to read. The masters of the bench, lowing passage “Whereas an order taking into consideration his contempt was made at the Bench-Table this term, add offence, and for that it is without ince the last parliament, and entered precedent, that any man elect-d to into the buttery-book in these words; read in chancery has been discharged Jovtslldie Octobrls 1624. Memoran- in like case, much less has with such dum, that whereas John Selden, esq. wilfulness refused the same, have orone of the utter barristers of this house, dered, that he shall presently pay to *ras in Trinity term last, chosen reader the use of this house the sum of 20J. of Lyon’s-lnn by the gentlemen of the for his fine, and that he stand and be same house, according to the order of disabled ever to be called to the bench, their house, which he then refused to or to be a reader of this house. Now take upon him, and perform the same, at this parliament the said order is coriwithout some sufficient cause or good firmed; and it is further ordered, that reason, notwithstanding many ccwirte- if any of this house, which hereafter ous and fair persuasions and admoni- shall be chosen to read in chancery, tions by the masters of the bench made shall refuse to read, every such offender to him; forwhich cause he having been shall be fined, and be disabled to be twice convented before the masters of called to the bench, or to be a reader the bench, it was then ordered, that of this house.” However, in Michaelthere should be a nt reclpiatur entered mas term 1632, it was ordered, that upon his name, which was done accord- Mr. Seldea “shall stand enabled and ingly and in respect the beneh was be capable of any preferment in the not then full, the farther proceedings House, in such a manner as other | drawing up articles of impeachment against the duke of Buckingham, and was afterwards appointed one of the managers for the House of Commons on his trial. In 1627 he opposed the loan which the king endeavoured to raise, and although he seldom made his appearance at the har, pleaded in the court of King’s Bench for Hampden, who had been imprisoned for refusing to pay his quota of that loan. After the third parliament of Charles I. in which he sat for Lancaster, had been prorogued, he retired to Wrest in Bedfordshire, a seat belonging to the earl of Kent, where he finished his edition of the” Marmora Arundelliana," Loud. 1621), 4to, reprinted by Prideaux, with additions at Oxford, in 1676, folio, and by Maittaire, at London, 1732, in folio.

In the next session of parliament he continued his activity against the measures of the court, to which he had made himself so obnoxious, that after that parliament was dissolved, he was committed to the Tower by an order of the Privy-council, where he remained about eight months, and as he then refused to give security for his good behaviour, he was removed to the King’s Bench prison, but was allowed the rules. It was about this time that he wrote his piece “De successionibns in bona defuncti, secundum leges Hebraeorum,” Lond. 1634, 4to; and another, “De successione in pontificatum Hebracorum libri duo,” reprinted at Leyden, 1638, 8vo, and Francfort, by Beckman, 1673, 4to, with some additions by the author. In May 1630 he was removed to the Gate-house at Westminster; and in conseqaence of this removal, he found means to obtain so much indulgence, as to pass the long vacation in Bedfordshire; but when his habeas corpus was brought, as usual, in Michaelmas term ensuing, it was refused by the court, and the judges complaining of the illegality of his removal to the Gate-house, he was remanded to the King’sbench, where he continued till May 1631, when he was admitted to bail, and bailed from term to term, until he. petitioned the king, in July 1634, and was finally released Iby the favour of archbishop Laud and the lord treasurer. During his confinement, having been always much attached totli study of Jewish antiquities, he wrote his treatises, “De Jure naturali et gentium, juxta disciplinam Hebneorum,

utter barristers of this House are to all standing-; and accordingly he was called intents and purposes, any former act to the beach Michaelmas following.“of parliament to the contrary | notwithand his” lixor Hebraica,“on the marriages, divorces, &c. of the ancient Hebrews. In 1633 he was one of the committee appointed for preparing the mask exhibited by the gentlemen of the Inns of Court, before the king and queen on Candlemas night, in order to show their disapprobation, of Prynne’s book against stage-plays, called” Histriomastix:" so various were Selden’s pursuits, that he could even, superintend mummery of this kind, while apparently under the displeasure of the court. His next publication, however, effectually reconciled the court and ministers.

During king James’s reign, Selden had been ordered by his majesty to make such collections as might shew the right of the crown of England to the dominion of the sea, and he had undertaken the work, but, in resentment for being imprisoned by James, declined the publication. An occasion offered now in which it might appear to advantage. In 1634, a dispute having arisen between the English and Dutch concerning the herring -fishery upon the British coast, to which the Dutch laid claim, and had their claims supported by Grotius, who, in his “Mare liberum” contended that fishing on the seas was a matter of common right, Selden now published his celebrated treatise of “Mare Clausum,” Lond. 1635, foL In this he effectually demonstrated, from the law of nature and nations, that a dominion over the sea may be acquired: and from the most authentic histories, that such a dominion has been claimed and enjoyed by several nations, and submitted to by others, for their common benefit; that this in fact was the case of the inhabitants of this island, who, at all times, and under every kind of government, had claimed, exercised, and constantly enjoyed such a dominion, which had been confessed by their neighbours frequently, and in the most solemn manner. This treatise, in the publication of which Selden is said to have been encouraged by archbishop Laud, greatly recommended him to the court, and was considered as so decisive on the question, that a copy of it was placed among the records of the crown, in the exchequer, and in the court of admiralty. This work was reprinted in 1636, 8vo. An edition also appeared in Holland, 12mo, with the title of London, but was prohibited by the king, because of some additions, and a preface by Boxhornius. It was jtranslated into English, by the noted Marchamont Needham, 1652, foL with some additional evidence and discourses, by special | command, and a dedication of eighteen pages, addressed to “The supreme authoritie of the nation and parliament of the Commonwealth of England,” which is of course not prefixed to the translation by J. H. Gent published after the restoration in 1663. Nicolson observes, that when Selden wrote this book, he was not such an inveterate enemy to the prerogative doctrine of ship-money, as afterwards: for he professedly asserts, that in the defence of their sovereignty at sea, our kings constantly practised the levying great sums on their subjects without the concurrence of their parliaments. The work having been attacked by Peter Baptista Burgus, Selden published in 1653, 4to, a treatise in its defence, with rather a harsh title, “Vindicise secundum integritatem existimationis suae per eonvitium de scriptione Maris Clausi petulantissimum et mendacissimum Maris Liberi, &c.

In 164-0$ Selden published another of those works which were the fruit of his researches into Jewish antiquities, already noticed under the title “De Jure Naturali et Gentium juxta disciplinam Hebraeorum,” folio. PuiTendorff applauds this work highly; but his translator Barbeyrac observes, that “besides the extreme disorder and obscurity which are justly to be censured in his manner of writing, he does not derive his principles of nature from the pure light of reasoiij but merely from the seven precepts given to Noah j and frequently contents himself with citing the decisions of the Rabbin^ without giving himself the trouble to examine whether they be just or not.” Le Clerc says, that in this book Selden “has only copied the Rabbins, and scarcely ever reasons at all. His rabbinical principles are founded upon an uncertain Jewish tradition, namely, that God gave to Noah seven precepts, to be observed by all mankind; which, if it should be denied, the Jevys would find a difficulty to prove! besides, his ideas are very imperfect and embarrassed.” There is certainly somQ foundation for this; and what is said of his style may be jnore or less applied to all he wrote. He had a vast jnemory and prodigious learning; which impeded the use of his reasoning faculty, perplexed and embarrassed his ideas, and crowded his writings with citations and authori* ties, to supply the place of argument.

In this same year, 1640, Selden was chosen member for the university of Oxford, and that year and the following continued Jo oppose the measures of the court, but his. | coneliiet may to some appear unsteady. In truth, he attempted what in those days was impossible, to steer a middle course. He supported the republican party in the measures preparatory to the sacrifice of the earl of Strafford, but was not one of their Committee for managing the impeachment, and his name was even inserted in a list of members, posted up in Old Palace Yard by some party zealots, and branded with the appellation of " enemies of justice.*’ On the subject of church-government, although he seems to have entertained some predilection for the establishment, yet he made no effort to prevent its fall, at all commensurate to his knowledge and credit. In the debates on the question whether bishops sat in parliament as barons and peers of the realm, or as prelates, he gave it as his opinion that they sat as neither, but as representatives of the clergy; and this led to the expulsion of them from parliament. Afterwards we find him concurring with other members of the House of Commons in a protestation that they would maintain the protestant religion according to the doctrine of the church of England, and would defend the person and authority of the king, the privileges of parliament, and the rights of the subject. In the prosecution of archbishop Laud, Selden was among those who were appointed to draw up articles of impeachment against him, an office which must have produced a severe contest between his private feelings and his public duties.

Notwithstanding all this, the royalists were unwilling to believe that a man so learned and so well informed as Selden could be seriously hostile, and there were even some thoughts of taking the great seal from the lord keeper Littleton, and giving it to him. Clarendon tells us, that lord Falkland and himself, to whom his majesty referred the consideration of this measure, “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 offered to him. He was in years, and of a tender constitution be had for many years enjoyed his ease, which he loved was rich, and would not have made a journey to York, or have lain out of his own bed, for any preferment, which he had never affected.” But in all probability his majesty’s advisers savy that his want of iirmness, and his love of safety, were the real impediments. When the king found him opposing in parliament the commission of array, he desired lord | Falkhad to write to Selden on the subject, who vindicated his conduct on that point, but declared his intention to-be equally hostile to the ordinance for the militia, which was moved by the factious party, and which he justly declared to be without any shadow of law, or pretence of precedent, and most destructive to the government of the kingdom. Accordingly he performed his promise, but tins remarkable difference attended his efforts, that his opposition to the commission of array did the king great injury among many of his subjects, while the ordinance which armed the parliamentary leaders against the crown was carried: and, according to Whitelocke, Selden himself was made a deputy -lieutenant under it. There was an equally remarkable difference in the treatment he received for this double opposition. The king and his friends, convinced that he acted honestly, bore no resentment against him; but the popular leaders, most characteristically, inferred from this, that he must be hostile to their cause, and made vain endeavours to induce Waller to implicate him in the plot which he disclosed in 1643. Nor was his exculpation sufficient: for he was obliged, by an oath, to testify his hostility against the traitorous and horrible plot for the subversion of the parliament and state,

In 1643, he was appointed one of the lay-members to. sk in the assembly of divines at Westminster, in which, his admirers tell us, he frequently perplexed those divines with his vast learning; and, as Whitelocke relates, *‘ 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 Greel^ and the Hebrew signify thus and thus and so would totally silence them." This anecdote, which has often been repeated to Selden’s praise, may afford a proof of his wit, such as it was; but as a reflection on the divines of that assembly, it can do him no credit, many of them certainly understanding the original languages of the Bible as well as himself. It was in truth, as an able critic has observed, a piece of wanton insolence.

It is now necessary to revert to his publications, which were seldom long interrupted by his political engagements. In 1642, he published “A brief discourse concerning the power of peers and commons in parliament in point of judicature/’ 4to, which some have, however, ascribed t | sir Simonds D’Ewes. It was followed byA discourse concerning the rights and privileges of the subjects, in a conference desired by the lords in 1628,“Lond. 1642, 4to” Privileges of the Baronage of England, when they sit in parliament,“ibid. 1642, and 1681, 8vo and an edition of Eutychius’s” Origines,“with a translation and notes, Lond. 4to, under this title,” Eutychii Ægyptii, Patriarchs orthodoxorum Alexandrini, Ecclesia* sine origines ex ejusdem Arabico, nunc primum edidit ac versione et commentario auxit Joannes Seldenus." Pocock (see Pocock, Vol. XXV. p. 91) inserted this work in his edition of the annals of Eutychius, which he translated at the desire of Mr. Selden, at whose expence they were printed at Oxford, in 1656, 4to. Mr. Selden’s book has been animadverted upon by several writers, particularly Abraham Ecchellensis, John Morin, and Eusebius Renaudot.

In 1643, he afforded every proof of his adherence to the republican party, by taking the covenant; and the same year, was by the parliament appointed keeper of the records in the Tower. In 1644, he was elected one of the twelve commissioners of the admiralty and nominated to the mastership of Trinity- college, in Cambridge, which he did not think proper to accept. In this year, he published his treatise “De Anno civili et Calendario Judaico,” 4to. In 1646, the parliament was so sensible of his services that they voted him the sum of 5000l. in consideration of his sufferings. What these were we have already related. In 1647, he published his learned “Dissertation annexed to (a book called) Fleta,” which he discovered in the Cottonian library. A second edition was published in 1685, but in both are said to be many typographical errors. In 1771, R. Kelham Esq. published a translation with notes. This work contains many curious particulars relating to those ancient authors on the laws of England, Bracton, Britton, Fleta, and Thornton, and shews what use was made of the imperial law in England, whilst the Romans governed here, at what time it was introduced into this nation, what use our ancestors made of it, how long it continued, and when the use of it totally ceased in the king’s courts at Westminster.

Selden continued to sit in Parliament after the murder of the king, and was the means of doing some good to learning, by his own reputation and influence in that reipect. He preserved archbishop Usher’s library from | being sold, and rendered considerable services to the university of Oxford, taking all occasions, as in the cases of Pocock and Greaves, to moderate the tyranny of the parliamentary visitors, and often affording a generous protection to other eminent men who were about to be ejected for their adherence to the king. He also was instrumental in preserving the books and medals at St. James’s, by persuading his friend Whitelocke to accept the charge of them. Of his conduct while the death of the king was pending, we have no account at that critical period, he retired, it is said, as far as he could and it is certain that he refused to gratify Cromwell by writing an answer to the Eikoti Basilike. In 1650, he published his first book, “De Synedriis et prcefecturis Hebraeorum,” 4to; the second appeared in 1653, and the third after his death, in 1655. Many passages in this work have been animadverted upon by several eminent writers, especially what relates to excommunication. Dr. Hammond, in particular, has examined Selden’s notion concerning the power of binding and loosing, in his treatise concerning “The power of the Keys.” In 1652, he contributed a preface to the “Decem Scriptores Historic Anglicanae,” printed at London that year, in folio.

In the beginning of 1654 his health began to decline, and he began to see the emptiness of all human learning; and owned, that out of the numberless volumes he had read and digested, nothing stuck so close to his heart, or gave him such solid satisfaction as a single passage out of St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus, ii. 11, 12, 13, *14. On Nov. lOof that year, he sent to his friend Bulstrode Whitelocke, in order to make some alterations in his will, but when he came he found Selden’s weakness to be so much increased, that he was not able to perform his intention .*

*

His letter may be subjoined, as the last memorial of this great man. “My Lord, White-Friers, Nov. 10, 1654. I am a most humble suitor to your Lordship, that you will be pleased, that I might have your presence for a little time to-morrow or next day. Thus much wearies the most weak hand and body of Your Lordship’s “Most humble Servant, J. Selden. “I went to him,“says Mr. Whitelocke, ”and was advised with about settling his estate, and altering his will, and to be one of his executors; but his weakness so increased, that his intentions were prevented."

He died Nov. 30, in the seventieth year of his age, in White Friars, at the house of Elizabeth, countess of Kent, with whom he had lived some years in such intimacy, that they were | reported to be man and wife,*
*

Aubrey says he married the courttes when a widow, but we know of no other authority for this. Aubrey says also that be never would own the marriage until after her death, and then upon some law account.

and Dr. Wilkins supposes, that the wealth, which he left at his death, was chiefly owing to the generosity of that countess: but there is no good reason for either of these surmises. He was buried in the Temple church, where a monument was erected to him; and abp. Usher preached his funeral sermon. He left a most valuable and curious library to his executors, Matthew Hale, John Vaughan, and Rowland Jewks, esqs. which they generously would have bestowed on the society of the Inner Temple, if a proper place should be provided to receive it: but, this being neglected, they gave it to the university of Oxford. Selden, himself, had originally intended it for Oxford, and had left it so in his will ,

In Mr. Nichols’s * Literary Anecdotes,“it is said that ”Selden had sent his library to Oxford in his life-time, but hearing that they had lent out a book without a sufficient caution, he sent for it back again. After his death, it continued some time at the Temple, where it suffered some diminution: at last the executors, &c. &c, sent the whole to Oxford.“We know not on what authority this report is given, but it is contradictory to every other evidence. The account in the text appears to be the true one. See the terms on which Selden’s library was sent to Oxford in a note on A. Wood’s Life, 1772, p. 131. Wood and Barlow assisted in ranging the books, in opening some of which, Wood tells us, they found several pairs of spectacles, ” and, Mr. Thomas Barlow gave A. W. a pair, which he kept in memorie of Selden to his last day."

but was offended because when he applied for a manuscript in the Bodleian library, they asked, according to usual custom, a bond of 1OOO/. for its restitution. This made him declare, with some passion, that they should never have his collection. The executors, however, considered that they were executors of his will and not of his passion, and therefore destined the books, amounting to 8000 volumes, for Oxford, where a noble room was added to the library for their reception, Bumet says, this collection was valued at some thousands of pounds, and was believed to be one of the most curious in Europe. It is supposed that sir Matthew Hale gave some of Selden’s Mss respecting law to Lincoln’s-Inn library, as there is nothing of that kind among what were sent to the Bodleian; and a few Mr. Selden gave to the library of the college of physicians.

Selden was a man of extensive learning, and had as much skill in the Hebrew and Oriental languages as perhaps any man of his time, Pocock excepted. Grotius, over whom he triumphed in his “Mare clausum,” styles him “the glory

| of the English nation.” He was knowing in all laws, human and divine, yet did not greatly trouble himself with the practice of law: he seldom appeared at the bar, but sometimes gave counsel in his chamber. “His mind also,” says Whitelocke, “was as great as his learning; he was as hospitable and generous as any man, and as good company to those he liked.” Wilkins relates, that he was a man of uncommon gravity and greatness of soul, averse to flattery, liberal to scholars, charitable to the poor; and that, though he had a great latitude in his principles with regard to ecclesiastical power, yet he had a sincere regard for the church of England. Baxter remarks, that “he was a resolved se-> rious Christian, a great adversary, particularly, to Hobbes’s errors;” and that sir Matthew Hale affirmed, “how he had seen Selden openly oppose Hobbes so earnestly, as either to depart from him, or drive him out of the room.” But the noblest testimony in his favour is that of his intimate friend the earl of Clarendon, who thus describes him in all parts of his character: “Mr. Selden was a person,” says he, “whom no character can flatter, or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit and virtue. He was of such stupendous learning in all kinds and in all languages, as may appear from his excellent and transcendant writings, that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant among books, and had never spent an hour but in reading or 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 style in all his writings seems harsh, and sometimes obscure; which is not wholly to be imputed to the abstruse subjects of which he commonly treated, out of the paths trod by other men, but to a little undervaluing the beauty of a style *, 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 present to the understanding, of any man that hath been known.” His lordship also used 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
*

Selden’s style is particularly laboured and uncouth, and from his Mss it appears that he was fastidious, and made many alterations and erasures before he could please himself.

| 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 staving 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 excellences in the other scale.“The political part of Selden’s life, is that which the majority of readers will contemplate with least pleasure; but on this it is unnecessary to dwell. The same flexibility of spirit, which made him. crouch before the reprehension of James I. disfigured the rest of his life, and deprived him of that dignity and importance which would have resulted from his standing erect in any place he might have chosen. Clarendon seems to have hit the true cause of all, in that anxiety for his own safety to which, as he says,” he was always indulgent enough."

Several other works of his were printed after his death, or left in manuscript. I. “God made man, A Tract proving the nativity of our Saviour to be on the 25th of December,” Lond. 1661, 8vo, with his portrait. This was answered in the first postscript to a treatise entitled tc A brief (but true) account of the certain Year, Month, Day, and Minute of the birth of Jesus Christ,“Lond. 1671, 8vo, by John Butler, B. D. chaplain to James duke of Ormonde, and rector of Litchborow, in the diocese of Peterboroup-h. 2.” Discourse of the office of Lord Chancellor of England,“London, 1671, in fol. printed with Dugdale’s catalogue of lord chancellors and lord keepers of England from the Norman conquest. 3, Several treatises, viz.England’s Epinomis;“already mentioned, published 1683, in fol. by Redman Westcot, alias Littleton, with the English translation of Selden’s” Jani Anglorum Facies altera.“4.” Ta. ble talk: being the discourses or his sense of various maU ters of weight and high consequence, relating especially to Religion and State,“London, 1689, 4to, published by Richard Mil ward, amanuensis to our author. Dr. Wilkins observes, that there are many things in this book inconsistent with Seiden’s great learning, principles, aud character. | It has, however, acquired popularity, and still continues to be printed, as an amusing and edifying manual. 5.” Letters to learned men;“among which several to archbishop Usher are printed in the collection of letters at the end of Parr’s life of that prelate; and two letters of his to Mr. Thomas Greaves were first published from the originals by Thomas Birch, M. A. and F. R. 8. in the life prefixed to Birch’s edition of the” Miscellaneous works of Mr. John Greaves,“Lond. 1737, in two volumes, 8vo. 6.” Speeches, Arguments, Debates, &c. in Par! lament.“7. He had a considerable hand in, and gave directions and advice towards, the edition ofPlutarch’s Lives,“printed in 1657, with an addition of the year of the world, and the year of our Lord, together with many chronological notes and explications. His works were collected by Dr. David Wiljvins, and printed at London in three volumes fol. 1726. The two first volumes contain his Latin works, and the third his English. The editor has prefixed a long life of the author, and added several pieces never published before, particularly letters, poems, &c. In 1675 there was printed at London in 4to,” Joannis Seldeni Angli Liber de Nummis, &c. Huic accedit Bibliotheca Nummaria.“But this superficial tract was not written by our author, but by Alexander Sardo of Ferrara, and written before Selden was born, being published at Mentz, 1575, in 4to. The” Bibliotheca Nummaria" subjoined to it was written by father Labbe the Jesuit. 1

1

Biog. Brit. Gen. Dict. Life by Wilkins. Usher’s Life and Letters. Letters of eminent Persons, 1813, 3 vols. 8vo. Twells’s Life of Pocock, p. 43 and 33. Aikin’s Lives of Sekfcn juwl Usber, Brit, Crit. vol, XLI.