1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Peter Heylyn

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 2:275-85.



PETER HEYLIN, Son of Henry Heylin, descended from an ancient Family of his Name living a Pentrie-Heylin in Mountgomeryshire, was born in a Market Town called Burford in Oxfordshire, on the 29th of Nov. 1599, educated in Grammar learning in the Free-school there under Mr. Thom. North first, and after under Mr. Edw. Davys, where profiting in Trivials to a Miracle, especially in Poetry, (in which he gave several ingenious Specimens as occasion offer'd) was in the Year 1613 plac'd by his Father in Hart Hall under the tuition successively of two Tutors, viz. Mr. Joseph Hill, and Mr. Walt. Newbury a zealous Puritan. The next Year he stood to be Demy of Magd. Coll. but being then put by, was the Year following elected; by which time he had made a considerable progress in Academical Literature. After he had taken the Degree of Bach. of Arts, which was in Oct. 1617, he read every long vacation, till he was Master, Cosmography Lectures in the common Refectory of the said College, of which the first being performed in the latter end of July 1618, it was so well approved, that for that and his other Learning, he was chose Probationer, and the Year following perpetual Fellow of the said House. On the 22d of Feb. 1619, he began the composing of his Geography according to the hint which he had taken the Year before in his Cosmography Lectures, and finished it on the 29th of Apr. following. In Nov. the same Year it was printed, and being dedicated to Prince Charles, he presented him (being then at Theobalds) with a Copy of it, which was very graciously received. In 1623 he was made Deacon and Priest by Dr. Howson Bishop of Oxon in S. Aldate's Church, and the Year after having augmented and corrected his Geography, 'twas printed again and presented to the Prince, the Author being then introduced by Henry Lord Danvers, who then spake very affectionately in his commendation. About the time Dr. John Young Dean of Winchester presenting a Copy of it to the King, he approved of it, but unfortunately falling on a Passage therein, whereby the Author gave Precedency to France before England, became so much offended, that he gave order to the Lord Keeper to call in the Book: whereupon the Author, then at Oxon, being advised to repair to the Court and make use of the Prince to salve that sore, he gave such satisfaction concerning it in writing sent to the said Dean, that the King perusing it rested very well contented with the matter. In 1624 he went into France, where spending about six Weeks in several places, wrote the Particulars of the said Journey in a Book, the Original of which he presented to the said Lord Danvers (30 Years after or thereabouts) he publish'd to correct a false Copy that had crept abroad. On the 24th of April 1627, he answer'd pro forma on these Questions. (1.) An Ecclesia unquam fuerit invisibilis? (2.) An Ecclesia possit errare? Both which he determined negatively, contrary to the Mind and Judgment of Prideaux the King's Professor of Divinity in his Lecture De Visibilitate Ecclesiae, who therefore fell foul upon him, calling him Bellarminian, Pontifician, and I know not what, and did his best to beat him from his Grounds, but he held his own. This raised great clamour for the present, which Prideaux increased the Monday after when Heylin opposed Mr. Will. Haies of Magd. Hall, at which time he was once again proclaimed a Papist by him in the public school of Divinity, which might have done him more mischief among his Friends, but that (as he saith) God stood with him. On the 5th of Aug. following, being Sunday, Mr. Edw. Reynolds preaching to the University in the Chappel of Mert. Coll. (of which he was Fellow) touched upon the Passages which had happened between Prideaux and Heylin, impertinently to his Text, but pertinently enough unto his purpose, which was to expose Heylin to disgrace and censure. But so it was, that tho' he was then present, yet it did little trouble to him, as he himself acknowledgeth. In Feb. 1627 he was, by the Letters of the Lord Danvers, then Earl of Danby, commenced to Dr. Laud B. of Bath and Wells for his Advancement in the Church: By virtue of which, he was received by him; (as our Author Heylin tells you at large in the Life of the said Bishop published in 1668) at which time having several private Discourses together, Laud fell upon the business at Oxon between Prideaux and him, adding withal, that he had read his Supposition when he answered pro forma; (a Copy of which Heylin had given to him) and found therein that it was so strongly grounded, that all the Prideauxes were not able to overthrow it in a fair way; that also he would not have him discouraged by noise and clamours, telling him farther, that he himself had in his younger days maintained the same Positions in a Disputation in S. John's Coll. for which he was much clamoured at by Dr. Abbot then Vice-chancellor, (afterwards Archbp of Cant.) and made a by-word and reproach in the University; but he thanked God he had overcome that difficulty and got the better of his Adversaries, and so might he. Finally he admonished him, to hold in that moderate course he found him in, and to apply his Study to the making up of breaches in the Walls of Christendom, &c. In the latter end of 1628 he went as Chaplain to the E. of Danby before-mention'd into the Isle of Guernsey, of which the said Earl was Governor, where continuing about 3 Weeks, returned into England, drew up a Discourse of that Voyage, and in the Month of June in the Year following, did present it to Laud then Bishop of London, to whose Patronage, as it seems, he had committed it. The same Year also (1629) he was admitted to me reading of the Sentences, and nominated one of his Maj. Chaplains in Jan. the same Year, by means of his Patron the Earl of Danby. So that being Shipped and in hopes of a good Wind, he thought it did concern him to do somewhat to be known at Court, especially by the great Ones there. Whereupon he fell into a Resolution to effect the History of S. George, Patron of the most noble Order of the Garter; the studying and writing whereof took up all the spring time of 1630. He found it full of difficulties, the whole World being against him, and no Path to follow, but at length he overcame it. Upon Act Sunday the same Year he preached the University Sermon at S. Mary's on this Text, But while Men slept, the Enemy came and sowed Tares among the Wheat and went away, Matth. 13. 25. In which Sermon he discovered the great Mystery of Iniquity, which lay hid under the specious Project of the Feoffees for buying in of Impropriations, and was the first who ever gave public notice of the danger of it, to the undeceiving of the People. It made much noise, and brought to him more envy, as he is pleased so say (if I mistake not) in his History of the Life of Dr. Laud. The same Year also on S. Mar. Magd. day he resigned his Fellowship, having been married almost two Years before. In Oct. 1631 he was made Rector of Henningford in Huntingdonshire by the procurement of Dr. Laud, and on the first of Nov. following the K. gave him a Prebendship of Westminster, void by the Death of Dr. George Darrell sometime Fellow of All-s Coll. Which matter, so soon as it came to the knowledge of Dr. Williams B. of Linc. and then Dean of Westminster, it put him to extreme vexation, because this our Author (Heylin) was beloved of Dr. Laud, (between which Bishops there was never a right understanding) and that also there was likely to follow great discord between them, because of several affronts that Williams had before given him for his forwardness, high conceit of himself, and confidence. The next Year the K. bestowed on him the rich Parsonage of Houghton in the Spring within the Bishopric of Durham, void by the Preferment of Dr. Aug. Lindsell to the Bishoprick of Peterborough; which, for his own convenience, the King gave way that he should change it with Dr. Marshall for the Rectory of Ailresford in Hampshire. In 1633 he proceeded D. of D. and in the Vespers then held had these three Questions following to answer to. (1.) An Ecclesia habeat authoritatem in determinandis fidei controversiis? Aff. (2.) An Eccles. habeat authoritatem decernendi ritus & ceremonias? Aff. (3.) An Eccles. habeat authoritatem interpretandi Scripturas sacras? Aff. All which, tho' taken Verbatim out of the 20th Article of the Church of England, were so displeasing to Prideaux the Professor, that he fell into very great Heats and Passion, in which he let fall certain matters very unworthy of the place where utter'd, as also distastful to many of the Auditory, (among whom were James du Perron the Queen's Almoner, afterwards Bishop of Angoulisme in France) which after drew some censure on him. The Particulars were these. (1.) Ecclesia est mera chimera. (2.) Ecclesia nihil docet nec determinat. (3.) Controversiae omnes melius ad Academiam terminat. (4.) Docti homines in Academiis possunt determinare omnes controversias, etiam sepositis Episcopis, &c. Upon occasion also of mentioning the absolute Decree, he brake into a great and long Discourse, that his Mouth was shut up by Authority, else he would maintain that truth contra omnes qui sunt in vivis, which fetch'd a great hum from the Country Ministers then present. What therefore followed upon this, you may see in Hist. & Antiq. Univ. Oxon. lib. 2 p. 440 a. But so nettled was Prideaux, that the K. by Heylin's means should take cognizance of that matter, that when he put in his Protestation against the utterance of those things alleged against him, into the hands of the Chancellor of the University in Aug. following, he did at the same time (the King being then at Woodstock) cause a Paper to be spread about the Court, touching the business of the Vespers in the last Act, very much tending to Heylin's disgrace. Heylin therefore being not able to brook it, (for he was of an high and audacious spirit) it so fell out, that when in Oct. following came out his Maj. Declaration concerning lawful Sports, which raised much clamour for the appeasing it, fell upon a course of translating Prideaux his Lecture upon the Sabbath, and putting a Preface to the same; which being published in print in Hilary Term, an. 1633, conduced much to his Majesty's Proceedings in what he had done, and also took off much of that opinion which Prideaux had among the Puritans. In 1638 he became Rector of South Warnborough in Hampshire, by exchange with Mr. Tho. Atkinson of St. John's Coll. for Islip near Oxon, and the same Year he was put into Commission for the Peace for Hampshire. On Ap. 10, an. 1640, he was chose Clerk of the Convocation for Westminster, and soon after brought into great trouble by his old Enemy Williams B. of Lincoln, W. Prynne, and certain of his Parishioners of Ailresford. By the first, because Heylin had been a favourite of Laud, and had continual contentions with him in the Coll. of Westminster about various matters relating to Religion and the Government of that College. By the second, because he had furnished the Lords of the Council with matter out of his Mistrio-Mastix to proceed against him in order to the losing of his Ears, &c. and by the last, because he had translated the Communion Table form the middle to the upper end of the Chancel of the Church at Ailresford, and brought in there certain Ornaments to be used in the celebration of the Divine Service. In the Year 1642, leaving his Preb. of Westminster, and his Rectories in Hampshire upon a foresight of Ruin to come, he followed the King to Oxon, where having little to live upon, did, by the King's Command, write the Weekly Intelligence called Mercurius Aulicus, which had been begun by John Birkenhead, who pleased the generality of Readers with his Waggeries and Buffooneries, far more than Heylin. In the beginning of the Year following (1643) he was voted a Delinquent in the H. of Commons sitting at Westm. because of his retirement to the King, and thereupon an order was sent to the Committee at Portsmouth to sequester his Estate, and seize upon his Goods. Which order being put in execution, his incomparable Library was taken away and carried to Portsmouth. In 1644 his singular good Lord and Patron Dr. Laud Archb. of Canterbury being beheaded, his hopes of rising higher in the Church were totally blasted: So that upon the loss of him and his spiritual Estate, he stuck to his temporal (for which he compounded in Goldsmith's Hall) and to the earning of Money by writing Books. In 1645 he left Oxon, and shifted from place to place, like the old Travels of the Patriarchs, and in pity to his necessity, some of his Friends of the Loyal Party entertained him. The same Year he settled for a time with his Wife and Children in Winchester, but that City with the Castle being treacherously delivered up to their Enemies, he left them in disguise, and being entertained by several Loyalists, removed at length to Minster-Lovel in Oxfordshire in 1647, where taking a Farm of his Nephew Col. Hen. Heylin in the Year following, lived there six Years or more exercising his Pen in writing of Books; the publishing of which (especially his Geography which he enlarged to a Folio) was a great relief to him. Thence he removed to Abingdon in Berks, where he bought an House and Land called Lacy's Court, which being but five Miles from Oxon, he was therefore furnished with Books at his pleasure, either from Shops, the Libraries of acquaintance there, (particularly Barlow of Qu. Coll.) or by his repair to Bodley's Library, and wrote several things in Defence of the Church of England, and the true genuine Sense thereof. Afterwards he suffer'd in his Estate by Decimation; which trick being brought up by Oliver, while Protector, many Families thereby (especially such that had before compounded) were thereby undone. In 1660, upon his Majesty's return to his Kingdoms, he was restored to his Spiritualities, but never rose higher than Subdean of Westminster, which was a wonder to many, and a great discontent to him and his; but the reason being manifest to those that well knew the temper of the Person, I shall forbear to make mention of that matter any farther. He was a Person endowed with singular gifts, of a sharp and pregnant Wit, solid and clear Judgment. In his younger Years he was accounted an excellent Poet, but very conceited and pragmatical, in his elder a better Historian, a noted Preacher, and a ready or extemporanean Speaker. He had a tenacious Memory to a Miracle, whereunto he added an incredible patience in study, in which he persisted when his Eye-sight failed him. He was a bold and undaunted Man among his Friends and Foes, (tho' of very mean port and presence) and therefore by some of them, he was accounted too high and proud for the Function he possessed. On all occasions he was a constant assertor of the Church's Right and the King's Prerogative, either in their afflicted or prosperous Estate, a severe and bigorous opposer of Rebels and Schismatics, a despiser of Envy, and in mind not at all discouraged. He writ many Books upon various Subjects, containing in them many things that are not vulgar, either for Stile or Argument, and wrote also History pleasant enough, but in some things he was too much a Party to be an Historian, and equally an Enemy to Popery and Puritanism. His works which are very many are these [list omitted]. At length after our Author Heylin had spent his time partly in prosperity and partly in adversity, he paid his debt to nature on Ascension day (May 8.) in sixteen hundred sixty and two. Whereupon his body being buried before the Sub-dean's Stall within the Choir of S. Peter's Church within the City of Westminster, had a Monument soon after set up for him on the North Wall of the Alley joining on the North-side of the said Choir; a Copy of the Inscription on which you may see in Hist. & Antiq. Univ. Oxon. lib. 2. page 205.