1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Rous the Elder

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 26:394-95.



FRANCIS ROUS, or ROUSE, a very conspicuous character during the republican state of England, descended from an ancient family in Devonshire, was the younger son of sir Anthony Rous, knight, by Elizabeth, his first wife, daughter of Thomas Southcote, gent. He was born at lialton, in Cornwall in 1579, and entered a commoner of Broadgate-hall, now Pembroke-college, Oxford, where he took a bachelor's degree in arts. He afterwards studied the law, and there is report that he took orders, and preached at Saltash; but for this there was probably no other foundation than what his works afforded, which would not have disgraced many of the divines of that period. It is evident that he had studied religious controversy with more attention than laymen usually bestow on such subjects. His destination, however, was to make a figure in political history. In the first parliament called by Charles I. he was returned for Truro in Cornwall, for Tregony in the third, and for Truro again in the 15th and 16th of that reign; in all which he proved one of the most zealous enemies to the established church, and a vehement declaimer against what he termed innovations and abuses both in church and state, and particularly against Arminianism, which was also the subject of some of his works. He was one of the few laymen appointed by the Commons to sit in the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. In the parliament called in 1653, he was one of the representatives for Devonshire, and at that time was first chosen chairman, and then speaker for a month; but continued, during the whole sitting, to forward Cromwell's plans. He procured a vote, that Cromwell, Lambert, Harrison, Disbrowe, and Tomlinson, should sit in that house as members; and afterwards proposed, that the parliament should resign the government into Cromwell's hands, with the title of Protector. His original intention was to form the English commonwealth after the model of the Jewish; but as a theocracy was rejected, he made the above proposal in favour of Cromwell, whom he affected to look upon as a compound of the characters of Moses and Joshua. In gratitude for this, he was declared one of his highness's privy-council. In 1656, he was returned one of the members for Cornwall; and in the year following was seated in the House of Lords. He had been made provost of Eton in 1643, and, bad a college-lease, which together were worth £1200 per annum. He died at Acton, near London, Jan. 7, 1659, and was buried with great pomp at Eton, and a standard-pennon, with other things relating to a baron, were erected over his grave, but these were taken away at the Restoration. We have omitted to notice, that he was principal trier and approver of public preachers, and a commissioner for the ejectment of "scandalous and ignorant ministers." He founded three fellowships in Pembroke college, and bequeathed other property to pious uses. Lord Clarendon and other contemporaries undervalue his abilities, which certainly did not appear to much advantage in parliament, where his speeches were rude, vulgar, and enthusiastic, both in style and sentiment, yet perhaps not the worse adapted to the understandings of his hearers. Wood has given a long catalogue of his writings, the principal of which relating to subjects of religious controversy, or general piety, were collected in a folio printed at London in 1657, under the title of "The Works of Francis Rous, esq. or treatises and meditations dedicated to the saints, and to the excellent throughout the three nations." This has Faithorne's fine print from the picture in Pembroke college. He published also, a tract, "The Lawfulness of obeying the present Government" 1649, 4to, and "Mella Patrum," a thick octavo, 1650, containing what may be termed the beauties of the fathers of the first three centuries; "Interiora regni Dei," 1665, 12mo, and a translation of the Psalms into English metre, printed in 1645, by order of the House of Commons. His son FRANCIS was a young physician of great talents, but died early in life in 1643. When at Merton college, he was distinguished for classical attainments, and published a work on Greek antiquities, "Archaeologiae Atticae tres," Oxon. 1637, which Wood says went through several impressions.