1769 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Peter Heylyn

James Granger, in Biographical History of England (1769; 1824) 5:39-41.



Peter Heylin was educated at Magdalen College, in Oxford, where he applied himself early to the study of cosmography, and read a course of lectures in that science, from which he in a great measure composed his Microcosm, or little Description of the great World; which was twice printed in small quarto in the reign of James I. This book, which was afterward enlarged, was the foundation of his fame as an author, and the work to which he put his last hand, when his eyes failed him. It has been often reprinted, and has more merit than any of his compilations. His History of St. George, recommended him to Charles I. who, soon after he presented it to him, preferred him to a prebend of Westminster, and to the rectory of Houghton in the bishopric of Durham. He was ejected from his prebend and other preferments in the time of the civil war. He, like James Howel, supported himself by his pen; and he appears, by the number and bulk of his books, to have kept pace at least with that author in writing. He even continued to publish when he could no longer see to write; and retained an amanuensis to the time of his death. He was much in favour with Archbishop Laud, and distinguished himself in the controversy between that prelate and Archbishop Williams, concerning the placing of the altar. It appears, from the inscription on his monument in Westminster Abbey, that he was sub-dean to that church; which was the highest preferment he enjoyed, though he strongly expected a bishopric. His knowledge of history and divinity was extensive; but he wrote with more ease than elegance; and his memory, which was very extraordinary, was better than his judgment. He is not free from the leaven and acrimony of party-prejudice. The generality of his writings are in no great esteem at present; but his Help to History, which is a work of great utility, deserves particular commendation. Some of the best of his pieces are in the collection of historical and miscellaneous tracts above-mentioned. Ob. 8 May, 1662.