1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Peter Heylyn

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 3 (1821) 22-31.



We were pondering on the learned labours and unquiet life of Dr. Heylin, when this train of reflection presented itself. — "Ensuing times" have not had the curiosity to inquire how this geographer, divine, poet, and historian, employed his hours. With which of his thirty-seven publications is the world acquainted? The book-worm alone travels over, and is skilled in his elaborate pages, from his Cosmography to the History of St. George, from his Sermons to his Polemical Pamphlets. The fine-spun threads of his wit are entangled in the subtle web of the spider. The student no longer

From breakfast reads, till twelve o'clock,
Burnet and Heylin, Hobbes and Locke.

His Cosmography, although a book of great industry and research, may now be bought by the weight or for the worth of the paper to the cheesemonger. The housekeeper may purchase food for the body, and have food for the mind into the bargain; he may chance to get the Kingdom of Italy with a piece of Parmasanne, or one of the Seven Provinces with a pound of butter. He may, without any miraculous luck, buy the best Rochelle wrapped up in the attic salt of the doctor, a strange and heterogeneous combination!

Dr. Heylin was born in 1599, and is represented as having exhibited an extraordinary precocity of intellect. At the age of seventeen he wrote an English tragedy, called Spurius — at nineteen he read his Cosmographical Lectures at Oxford, where he drew the whole society into a profound admiration of his learning and abilities — in the same year he produced a Latin comedy, called Theomachia, which he composed in a fortnight — at twenty-one he proceeded Master of Arts, and in the following year published his geography, which was afterwards enlarged, and re-published under the title of Cosmography, and has gone through seven editions. We do not mention this as any proof of its value — Chamberlaine's State of Great Britain has passed through between thirty and forty!

Our author afterwards took orders and was made chaplain to Charles the First, and, on the restoration, to Charles the Second. Being a zealous churchman and royalist, he became obnoxious to the presbyterians, who deprived him of his little all, not even excepting his library.

It was Dr. Heylin to whom the king committed the Histriomastix of Prynne, to select such passages as were scandalous or dangerous to the monarch or the state, a task which he performed with great expedition, and delivered them, together with his inferences, to the attorney-general. Prynne, on his release from prison, attempted to revenge himself, by bringing the doctor before the committee for the courts of justice, on a charge which did not succeed.