1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. John Hacket

Isaac Reed in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782; 1812) 1:305-07.



DR. JOHN HACKET (miscalled LACKET in the former edition), an English prelate, descended from an ancient family, and born in London, Sept. 1, 1592. He was admitted very young into Westminster school; and, in 1608, elected thence to Trinity College, in Cambridge. His uncommon parts and learning recommended him to particular notice; so that, after taking the proper degrees, he was chosen fellow of his college, and became a tutor of great repute. One month in the long vacation, retiring from his pupil, afterwards Lord Byron, into Nottinghamshire, he there composed a Latin Comedy, which was twice acted before James I. entitled Loyola. Printed in 12mo. 1648.

He took orders in 1618, and had singular kindness shown to him by Bishop Andrews, and several great men: but, above all others, he was regarded by Dr. Williams, Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Lincoln, who, being appointed lord-keeper of the great seal in 1621, chose Hacket for his chaplain. In 1623, he was made chaplain to James I. and also a prebendary of Lincoln; and the year following, upon the lord-keeper's recommendation, rector of St. Andrew's, Holborn, in London. His patron also procured him the same year the rectory of Cheam, in Surrey; telling him, that he intended Holborn for wealth, and Cheam for health.

In 1625, he was named by the King himself, to attend an ambassador into Germany; yet was dissuaded from the journey, by being told that, on account of is severe resentment of the Jesuits in his Loyola, he would never be able to go safe, though in an ambassador's train. In 1628, he commenced D.D.; and, in 1631, was made archdeacon of Bedford. His church of St. Andrew being old and decayed, he undertook to rebuild it, and for that purpose got together a great sum of money in stock and subscriptions; but, upon the breaking out of the civil war, this was seized by Parliament, as well as what had been gathered for the repair of St. Paul's cathedral. March 1642, he was presented to a residentiary's place in St. Paul's, London; but the troubles coming on, he had no enjoyment of it, nor of his rectory of St. Andrew's. Besides, some of his parishioners there having articled against him, at the committee of plunderers, his friend Selden told him it was in vain to make any defence, and advised him to retire to Cheam, where he would endeavour to prevent his being molested. He was disturbed here by the Earl of Essex's army, who, marching that way, took him prisoner along with them; but he was soon after dismissed, and from that time lay hid in his retirement at Cheam, where we hear no more of him, except that, in 1648-49, he attended in his last moments Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, who was beheaded for attempting the relief of Colchester.

After the restoration of Charles II. he recovered all his preferments, and was offered the bishopric of Gloucester, which he refused; but he accepted that of Litchfield and Coventry, and was consecrated Dec. 22, 1661. The spring following he repaired to Litchfield, where, finding the cathedral almost battered to the ground, he set up in eight years a complete church again, better than ever it was before, at the expense of 20,000 of which he had 1000 from the dean and chapter: and the rest was of his own charge, and procured from benefactors. He laid out 1000 upon a prebendal house, which he was forced to live in, his palaces at Litchfield and Eccleshall having been demolished during the civil war. He added to Trinity College, Cambridge, a building called Bishop's Hostel, which cost him 1200 ordering that the rents of the chambers should be laid out in books for the college-library. Besides these acts of munificence, he left several benefactions by will; as 50 to Clare Hall; 50 to St. John's College; and all his books, which cost him about 1500 to the university library. He died at Litchfield, October 21, 1670, and was buried in the cathedral, under a handsome tomb, erected by his eldest son, Sir Andrew Hacket, a master in chancery; for he was twice married, and had several children by both his wives.

He published only the comedy of Loyola above mentioned, and A Sermon preached before the King, March 22, 1660; but, after his decease, A Century of Sermons upon several remarkable Subjects was published by Thomas Plume, D.D. in 1675, folio; and, in 1693, The Life of Archbishop Williams, folio, of which an improved abridgement was published in 1700, 8vo. by Ambrose Philips. He intended to have written the Life of James I. and for that purpose the lord-keeper Williams had given him Camden's MS. notes or annuals of that King's reign; but, these being lost in the confusion of the times, he was disabled from doing it. He was a man of great acuteness, and applied himself to all parts of learning, but could never make himself master of the oriental languages. He was deeply versed in ecclesiastical history, especially as to what concerned our own church. In the university, when young, he was much addicted to school-learning; but grew afterwards weary of it, as being full of shadows without substance, and containing horrid and barbarous terms, more fit, he would say, for incantation than divinity. He was a man of exemplary conduct, and as remarkable for virtue and piety as for parts and learning.

A writer in The Gentleman's Magazine (Feb. 1783) relates the following anecdote of our author's ecclesiastical intrepidity:

"Amidst all the tyrannies, sequestrations, and pillages, made upon the church of England, Dr. John Hacket showed himself its adherent and hero, and offered his body even to martyrdom, rather than disobey its ordinances. He was, at the beginning of the civil war, rector of St. Andrews, Holborn; and when the Parliament, as the Commons alone called themselves, had voted down the liturgy of the church of England, and forbidden the use of it under the severest penalties, Dr. Hacket continued to read, as before, the daily service; and, though a serjeant with a trooper rushed into the church, commanding him with threats to desist, he, with a steady voice and intrepid countenance, continued; on which the murderous bigot thrust his pistol to his head, threatening him with instant death: the undaunted priest calmly replied, 'Soldier, I am doing my duty, do you do yours;' and with a still more exalted voice read on. The soldier, abashed, left the church."