Chappel, William

, a very learned and pious divine, bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, in Ireland, was descended, as he himself tells us, from parents in narrow circumstances, and was born at Lexington, in Nottinghamshire, Dec. 10, 1512. He was sent to a grammar-­school at Mansfield, in the same county; and thence, at the age of seventeen, removed to Christ’s-college, in Cambridge; of which, after having taken his degrees of B. and M. A. he was elected fellow in 1607. He became a very eminent tutor, and was also remarkable for his abilities as a disputant, concerning which the following anecdotes are recorded. In 1624 king James visited the university of Cambridge, lodged in Trinity-college, and was entertained with a philosophical act, and other academical performances. At these exercises Dr. Roberts of Trinity-­college was respondent at St. Mary’s, where Chappel as opponent pushed him so hard, that, finding himself unable to keep up the dispute, he fainted. Upon this, the king, who valued himself much upon his skill in such matters, undertook to maintain the question, but with no better success than the doctor; for Chappel was so much his superior at these logical weapons, that his majesty openly professed his joy to find a man of great talents so good a subject. Many years after this, sir William St. Leger riding to Cork with the popish titular dean of that city, Chappel, then dean of Cashel, and provost of Dublin, accidentally overtook them; upon which sir William, who was then president of Munster, proposed that the two deans should dispute, which, though Chappel was not forward to accept, yet he did not decline. But the popish dean, with great dexterity and address, extricated himself from this difficulty, saying, “Excuse me, sir; I don’t care to dispute with one who is wont to kill his man.

It is probable that he would have spent his days in college, if he had not received an unexpected offer from Laud, then bishop of London, of the deanery of Cashel, in Ireland; which preferment, though he was much disturbed at Cambridge by the calumnies of some who envied his reputation, he was yet very unwilling to accept. For | being a man of a quiet easy temper, he had no inclination to stir, nor was at all ambitious of dignities; but he determined at length to accept the offer, went over to Ireland accordingly, and was installed August 20, 1633. Soon after he was made provost of Trinity-college, Dublin, by Laud, then archbishop of Canterbury, and chancellor of the university of Dublin, who, desirous of giving a new form to the university, looked upon Chappel as the fittest person to settle the establishment that was proposed. Chappel took great pains to decline this charge, the burden of which he thought too heavy, and for this purpose returned to England in May 1634, but in vain. Upon this he went down to Cambridge, and resigned his fellowship; which to him, as himself says, was the sweetest of earthly preferments. He also visited his native country, and taking his last leave of his ancient and pious mother, he returned to Ireland in August. He was elected provost of Trinity-college, and had the care of it immediately committed to him; though he was not sworn into it till June 5, 1637, on account of the new statutes not being sooner settled and received. The exercises of the university were never more strictly looked to, nor the discipline better observed than in his time; only the lecture for teaching Irish was, after his admission, wholly waved. Yet, that he might mix something of the pleasant with the profitable, and that young minds might not be oppressed with too much severity, he instituted, as sir James Ware tells us, among the juniors, a Roman commonwealth, which continued during the Christmas vacation, and in which they had their dictators, consuls, censors, and other officers of state in great splendour. And this single circumstance may serve to give us a true idea of the man, who was remarkable for uniting in his disposition two very different qualities, sweetness of temper, and severity of manners.

In 1638 his patrons, the earl of Strafford, and the archbishop of Canterbury, preferred him to the bishoprics of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross; and he was consecrated at St. Patrick’s, Dublin, Nov. 11, though he had done all he could to avoid this honour. By the king’s command he continued in his provostship till July 20, 1640; before which time he had endeavoured to obtain a small bishopric in England, that he might return to his native country, as he tells us, and die in peace. But his endeavours were | fruitless; and he was left in Ireland to feel all the fury of the storm, which he had long foreseen. He was attacked in the house of commons with great bitterness by the puritan party, and obliged to come to Dublin from Cork, and to put in sureties for his appearance. June 1641, articles of impeachment were exhibited against him to the house of peers, consisting of fourteen, though the substance of them was reduced to two; the first, perjury, on a supposed breach of his oath as provost; the second, malice towards the Irish, founded on discontinuing the Irish lecture during the time of his being provost. The prosecution was urged with great violence, and, as is supposed, for no other reason but because he had enforced uniformity and strict church discipline in the college. This divine’s fate was somewhat peculiar, for although his conduct was consistent, he was abused at Cambridge for being a puritan, and in Ireland for being a papist. Yet as we find the name of archbishop Usher among his opponents in Ireland, there seems reason to think that there was some foundation for his unpopularity, independent of what was explicitly stated. While, however, he laboured under these troubles, he was exposed to still greater, by the breaking out of the rebellion in the latter end of that year. He was under a kind of confinement at Dublin, on account of the impeachment which was still depending; but at length obtained leave to embark for England, for the sake of returning thence to Cork, which, from Dublin, as things stood, he could not safely do. He embarked Dec. 26, 1641, and the next day landed at Milford-haven, after a double escape, as himself phrases it, from the Irish wolves and the Irish sea. He went from Milford-haven to Pembroke, and thence to Tenby, where information was made of him to the mayor, who committed him to gaol Jan. 25. After lying there seven weeks, he was set at liberty by the interest of sir Hugh Owen, a member of parliament, upon giving bond in 1000l. for his appearance; and March 16, set out for Bristol. Here he learnt that the ship bound from Cork to England, with a great part of his effects, was lost near Minehead; and by this, among other things, he lost his choice collection of books. After such a series of misfortunes, and the civil confusions increasing, he withdrew to his native soil, where he spent the remainder of his life in retirement and study; and died at Derby, where he had some time resided, upon Whitsunday, 1649. | He published the year before his death, “Methodus concionandi,” that is, the method of preaching, which for its usefulness was also translated into English. His “Use of Holy Scripture,” was printed afterwards in 1653. He left behind him also his own life, written by himself in Latin, which has been twice printed; first from a ms. in the hands of sir Philip Sydenham, bart. by Hearne, and a second time by Peck, from a ms. still preserved in Trinity-hall, Cambridge, for the author left two copies of it. Mr. Peck adds, by way of note upon his edition, the following extract of a letter from Mr. Beaupre Bell: “’Tis certain ‘The whole Duty of Man’ was written by one who suffered by the troubles in Ireland; and some lines in this piece give great grounds to conjecture that bishop Chappel was the author. March 3, 1734.” Thus we see this prelate, as well as many other great and good persons, comes in for part of the credit of that excellent book; yet there is no explicit evidence of his having been the author of it. It appears indeed to have been written before the death of Charles I. although it was not published till 1657, and the manner of it is agreeable enough to this prelate’s plain and easy way of writing; but then there can be no reason given why his name should be suppressed in the title-page, when a posthumous work of his was actually published with it but a few years before. 1


Biog. Brit.—Peck’s Desiderata.