Wilson, Arthur

, an English historian, was the son of Richard Wilson, of Yarmouth, in the county of Norfolk, gentleman; and was born in that county, 1596. In 1609 he went to France, where he continued almost two years; and upon his return to England was placed with sir Henry Spiller, to be one of his clerks in the exchequer office; in whose family he resided till having written some satirical verses upon one of the maid-servants, he was dismissed at lady Spiller’s instigation. In 1613 he took a lodging in Holborn, where he applied himself to reading and poetry for some time; and, the year after, was taken into the family of Robert earl of Essex, whom he attended into the Palatinate in 1620; to the siege of Dornick, in Holland, in 1621 to that of Rees in 1622 to Arnheim, in 1623 to the siege of Breda in 1624 and in the expedition to Cadiz in 1625. In 1630 he was discharged the earl’s service, at the importunity of his lady, who had conceived an aversion to him, because she had supposed him to have been against the earl’s marrying her. He tells us, in his own life, that this lady’s name, before she marrie,d the earl, was Elizabeth Paulet; that “she appeared to the eye a beauty, full of harmless sweetness; that her conversation was affable and gentle; and, as he was firmly persuaded, that it was not forced, but natural. But the height of her marriage and greatness being an accident, altered her very nature; for,” he says, “she was the true image of Pandora’s box,” nor was he much mistaken, for this lady was divorced for adultery two years after her marriage. In 1631 he retired to Oxford, and became gentlman commoner of Trinity college, where he stayed almost two years, and was punctual in his compliance with the laws of the university. Then he was sent for to be steward to the earl of Warwick, whom he attended in 1637 to the siege of Breda. He died in 1652, at Felstead, in Essex, and his will was proved in October of that year. The earl | and countess of Warwick received from him the whole of his library, and 50l. to be laid out in purchasing a piece of gold plate, as a memorial, particularly applying to the Jatter, “in testimony,” as he adds, “of my humble duty and gratitude for all her noble and 1 undeserved favours to me.” Gratitude seems to have been a strong principle with Wilson, as appears from his life, written by himself, and printed in Peck’s “Desiderata.” Wood’s account of him is, that “he had little skill in the Latin tongue, less in the Greek, a good readiness in the French, and some smattering in the Dutch. He was well seen in the mathematics and poetry, and sometimes in the common law of the nation. He had composed some comedies, which were acted at the Black Friars, in London, by the king’s players, and in the act-time at Oxford, with good applause, himself being- present; but whether they are printed I cannot yet tell; sure lam, that I have several specimens of his poetry printed in divers books. His carriage was very courteous and obliging, and such as did become a wellbred gentleman. He also had a great command of the English tongue, as well in writing as speaking; and, had he bestowed his endeavours on any other subject than that of history, they would without doubt have seemed better. For, in those things which he hath done, are wanting the principal matters conducing to the completion of that” faculty, viz. matter from record, exact time, name, and place, which, by his endeavouring too much to set out his bare collections in an affected and bombastic style, are much neglected.“The history here alluded to by Wood, is” The Life and Reign of king James I.“printed in London in 1653, folio; that is, the year after his death and reprinted in the 2d volume of” -The complete History of England,“in 1706, folio. This history has been severely treated by many writers. Mr. William Sanderson says, that,” to give Wilson his due, we may find truth and falsehood finely put together in it.“Heylin, in the-general preface to his” Examen,“styles Wilson’s history” a most famous pasquil of the reign of king James; in which it is not easy to judge whether the matter be more false, or the style more reproachful to all parts thereof.“Mr. Thomas Fuller, in his” Appeal of injured Innocence,“observes, how Robert earl of Warwick told him at Beddington, that, whenWilson’s book in manuscript was brought to him, his lordship expunged more than an hundred offensive passages: to which | Mr. Fuller replied,” My lord, you have done well; and you had done better if you had put out a hundred more.“Mr. Wood’s sentence is,” that, in our author’s history, may easily be discerned a partial presbyterian vein, that constantly goes through the whole work: and it being the genius of those people to pry more than they should into the courts and comportments of princes, they do take occasion thereupon to traduce and bespatter them. Further also, our author, having endeavoured in many things to make the world believe that king James and his son after him were inclined to Popery, and to bring that religion into England, hath made him subject to many errors and misrepresentations.“On the other band, archdeacon Echard tells us, that” Wilson’s History of the life and reign of king James, though written not without some prejudices and rancour in respect to some persons, and too much with the air of a romance, is thought to be the best of that kind extant:“and the writer of the notes on the edition of it in the” Complete History of Englandremarks, that, as to the style of our author’s history,” it is harsh and broken, the periods often obscure, and sometimes without connection; faults, that were common in most writers of that time. Though he finished that history in the year 1652, a little before his death, when both the monarchy and hierarchy were overturned, it does not appear he was an enemy to either, but only to the corruptions of them; as he intimates in the picture he draws of himself before that hook."

The plays mentioned by Wood were “The Switzer,” < c The Corporal,“and the” Inconstant Lady,“all which were entered in Stationers’ -hall in 1646 and 1653, but it does not appear that they were printed.” The Inconstant Lady," however, was lately printed at Oxford in 1814, 4to, from a manuscript bequeathed in 1755 to the Bodleian library by Dr. Rawlinson, with curious notes by the editor, and many circumstances of Wilson’s life and character. 1

1 Life by himself in Peck. —Ath. Ox, vol. II.