Thomas Lydiat

Thomas Lydiat, A.M.—This celebrated scholar was born at Alkrington, or Okerton, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire, early in the year 1572, and educated first at Winchester school, then at New College, Oxford, where he was chosen fellow. A disposition to learning distinguished him from childhood, in consequence of which his parents, who lived in wealthy circumstances, designed him for a scholar, and placed him at the university under the tuition of Dr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Marten. He signalized himself by intense application to his studies, and became almost a prodigy in good literature, especially in logic, mathematics, astronomy, the learned languages, and divinity. His desire to enter upon the ministerial function was opposed by a defective memory and an imperfection of utterance; and, as the statutes of the college required him, after a certain time, to enter upon those studies more immediately connected with the clerical profession, or resign his fellowship, he chose the latter, and retired to a small patrimonial property at his native place. He there, during seven years, employed himself in completing literary designs which he had formed while resident at the university; and he first made himself known to the learned world by publishing, in 1605, a work entitled, " Tractatus de variis Annorum Formis." Of this he published a defence, in 1607, against the arrogant censures of Joseph Scaliger; and he ventured directly to attack that proud dictator of literature in his " Emendatio Temporum ab Initio Mundi hue usque Compendio facta, contra Scaligerum et alios," 1609- This learned work was dedicated to Henry, Prince of Wales, who appointed him his chronologer and cosmographer, and would no doubt have been a liberal patron to him, as he was to men of science in general, had not his auspicious commencements been cut short by an untimely death.

* Flavel's Worki, vol. iv. p. 399. Edit. 1797. + Ibid. vol. t. p. 470. $ Palmer's Noncon. Mem. vol. iii. p. 30. $ Discourse op Preaching, p. 62,83.

At the above period, Dr. Usher, afterwards the celebrated archbishop, being on a visit to England, became acquainted with Mr. Lydiat, whom he persuaded to accompany him to Ireland, where he procured him apartments in Dublin college. A community of studies was doubtless the principal inducement for Usher to desire his company; and it is highly probable that he derived assistance from him in his own chronological labours.* Mr. Lydiat is said to have continued about two years in Ireland, though the time cannot be exactly ascertained. It appears, however, from letters in Parr's Collection, that he was in Ireland in 1610, and that he was returned to England in August, Hill. From the same authority we also learn, that there had been a desiga of settling him in the public school at Armagh. lie had many friends, among whom were the lord deputy, and the chancellor of Ireland, who jointly promised to do great things for him; but were prevented by his coming to England, and returning no more to that country. +

There is a circumstance connected with Mr. Lydiat's visit to Ireland which is involved in considerable obscurity. It is asserted in the notes to the life of Usher,J that soon after his return he entered into the conjugal connexion, and married Usher's sister; for which fact the only authority given is, the alleged subscription of " your loving brother-in-law" to some of Usher's letters. In reality, however, these letters are only signed " your loving friend and brother," which last appellation Usher bestows upon others of his correspondents: nor is there found, either in the letters between them, or in the several lives of the primate, the least hint of such connexion. Indeed, it is not apparent from any recorded incidents of Mr. Lydiat's life that he was married at all. Yet, on the other hand, Mr. Henry Briggs, in a letter to Usher, dated in 1610, says, " I pray you salute from me your brother, Mr. Lvdiat,' which expression can scarcely imply any thing else than a real relationship, for he was not then a clergyman. In that case, however, he must have been married before his return to England.*

* Aikin's Lives of Selden and Usher, p. 402.

+ Wood'iAtheocOxon.toi. ii. p.46. J Biog. Briton, vol. ti. p. 4067.

Whatever schemes might have been formed for his settlement in Ireland, they were rendered abortive by his acceptance, though not without much hesitation, of the rectory of Okerton, of which his father was patron. Though he entered upon the pastoral office with considerable reluctance, he sedulously performed its duties, and continued in this situation, with some mterruptions, to the end of his days. During the first twelve years, he wrote and preached more than six hundred sermons on the harmony of the Gospels. In the mean time he was also employed in several works of profound erudition, but which were probably limited to a few readers; for, instead of producing any pecuniar)' compensation to their author, they sunk all his patrimony in the expense of printing. Being, moreover, involved in the debts of a near relation for whom he had unadvisedly become a surety, he was arrested and thrown into prison at Oxford, whence he was removed to the King's-bench. The confinement of such a man was undoubtedly felt as a disgrace to letters; and by the contributions of Sir William Boswell, an eminent patron of learned men, of Usher, Laud, and some others, he at length obtained his liberation. The famous Selden, who frequently extended his bounty to literary merit in distress, absolutely refused to lend his aid on this occasion, in resentment of a slight offered him by Lydiat, who, in some annotations which he published on the Arundel Marbles, had mentioned him with no other epithet than that of " an industrious author." Whatever offence there might be in

this want of civility, Selden would certainly have shewn a greater and more pious mind in forgiving it.» .

Mr. Lydiat, soon after he was restored to liberty, presented a petition to King Charles, requesting his protection and patronage in an intended voyage to the East, for the purpose of collecting valuable manuscripts. The project displayed his zeal for the service of learning, but the ensuing political troubles prevented any attention being paid to his application. Though he was a man of low stature, and rather insignificant in appearance, he was a person of a

!;reat mind and of uncommon learning. He puzzled the earned Christopher Clavius, the whole college of mathematicians, and even that Goliah of literature, Joseph Scaliger himself; who, when he found himself outstripped, scornfully stigmatized Mr. Lydiat with being a beggarly, beardless priest. He was, nevertheless, highly esteemed by the most learned men at home and abroad. Sir Thomas Chaloner and other celebrated scholars, with those mentioned above, were among his familiar acquaintance. The virtuosi beyond sea were pleased to rank him with the celebrated Lord Bacon and Mr. Joseph Mede; and when they found that he had no higher preferment, they said that Englishmen did not deserve such great scholars, since they made so little of them. "Though they have wronged his memory," says Fuller, " who have represented him as an anabaptist; yet he was disaffected to the discipline and ceremonies of the church ;"• on which account he is, with justice, classed among the puritans.

* Mr. John Selden was sometimes styled " the great dictator of learning of the English nation," whom Grotins, his antagonist, calls " the glory of his country {"and Sir Matthew Hale, "a resolved and serious christian." He was a man of as extensive and prof on ml erudition as any of his time; and was thoroughly skilled in every thing relating to his own profession of the law; but the principal bent of his studies was to sacred and profane antiquity. The greater part of his works are on uncommon subjects. Like a man of genius, he was not content with walking in the beaten track of learning, but was concerned to strike out new paths, and enlarge the territories of science. Towards the close of life, he owned, that, out of the numberless volumes he had read and digested, nothing stuck so close to his heart, or gave him such solid satisfaction, as the single passage of Paul in his epistle to Titus, ii. 11—14. He died in the year 1654; when the celebrated Archbishop Usher preached his funeral sermon, and, without scruple, declared " that he himself was scarcely worthy to carry his bonks after him." Mr. Selden was author of many learned publications, among which was" The History of Tithes j" for which, in 1618, he was convened before the high commission, and required to subscribe a degrading recantation. Afterwards, at an audience of King James, at the time when Montague was preparing a confutation of this work, the worthless and arbitrary monarch sternly forbade him to make any reply, saying, " If you or any of your friends shall write against this confutation, I will throw you into prison." He was a valuable member of the long parliament, and one of the lay members who sate with the assembly of divines. In their debates he spoke admirably, and confuted divers of them in their own learning. Sometimes, when they cited a text of scripture to prove their assertion, he would tell them, " Perhaps in your little pocket Bibles with gilt leaves," which they would often pull out and read, " the translation may be thus, but the Greek or Hebrew signifies thus and thus;" and so would silence them.—Granger's Biog. Hist. vol. ii. p. 828.— Mkin's Lives of Selden and Usher, p. 86,287.—Eclectic Beviea, vol. viii. p.204.—rVhUlackt't Mem. p. 71. Edit. 1732.

Mr. Lydiat, though opposed to the ecclesiastical discipline and ceremomes, was a man of loyal principles, and discovered his zeal in the royal cause; for which, upon the commencement of the civil war, he was a considerable sufferer from the parliament's army. His own statement to Sir William Compton, governor of Banbury castle, affirms that his rectory was four times pillaged, and himself reduced to so great a want of common necessaries, that he could not change his linen for a quarter of a year, without borrowing a shirt. He was also twice carried away to prison, and was cruelly used by the soldiers for refusing their demands of money, for defending his books and papers, and for his bold speeches in favour of the royal cause. From this and other circumstances, it appears that his manners were not conciliating, and that, to a scholar's ignorance of the world, he joined the bluntness of an independent character. Of his confident and sanguine disposition, a judgment may be formed from a passage in one of his letters to Usher. After expressing a hope that his learned friend would in the end assent to the truth of what he had delivered concerning the beginning and conclusion of Daniel's seventy weeks, and all the dependencies thereon, he says, " For certainly, how weak soever I, the restorer and publisher thereof, am, yet it is strong and will prevail; and, notwithstanding mine obscure estate, in due time the clouds and mists of errors being dispersed and vanished, it will shine forth as bright as the clear sun at noon-tide."+

This learned man finished his painful life, and died in indigence and obscurity at Okerton, April 3, 1646, aged seventy-four years.J Though he obtained considerable reputation among learned men at home and abroad; yet his fame is so far obliterated, even in his own country, that it is probable few English readers have known to whom Dr. Johnson refers in his "Vanity of Human Wishes,"

• Fuller's Worthies, part ii. p. 338.

+ Ailtin'i Lives of Selden and Usher, p. 40T.

J Wood's Athenae Oxoo. vol. ii. p. 46—18.

where, as a warning against the enthusiastical expectations of the young scholar, he says,#

If dreams jet flatter, once again attend;
Hear Lydiat's life, and Galiiio's end.

Wood says, " he was a man possessed of some excellencies; yet he set too high a value on his own performances, and for many years spent an idle and obscure life."+ Echard denominates him " a man of a great soul and incomparable learning, particularly in mathematics, antiquities, languages and divinity;" and adds, "that he was admired by the greatest scholars of the age."f Kennet styles him "that master of astronomy and mathematics, who, besides his admired works in print, left twenty-two volumes of manuscripts, as rarities, in the hands of Dr. John Lamphire."$ Mr. Lydiat's remains were interred by the side of his father and mother in the chancel of Okerton church, where a monumental inscription was afterwards erected, of which the following is a translation :||

Sacred to the Memory

of Thomas Lydiat, rector of Okerton,

an accomplished divine and mathematician,

whose tomb was erected

at the expense of New College, Oxford,

it) memory of so great a scholar.

He was born in 1572,

and died in 1646.

His Works.—1. Tractatus de variis annornm fbrmis, 1605.— 2. Prelectio Astronomica de natura caeli & conditionihus elementarum, 1605.—3. Disquisitio physiologica de origine fontium, 1605.— 4. Defentio tractatus de variis anuorum formis contra Joseph! Scaligeri objectionem, 1607.—5. Examen Canonum Chronologies Isagogicorum, 1607.—16. Explicatio temporam ad initio mundi hnc usque, compendio facta, contra Sraligerum & alios. 1609.—7. Explicatio & additamentum argumentorum in libcllo rmendatinnis temponim compendio factae, de nativitate Chrinti & ministerio in terris, 1613.—8. Solis 8c Lnnae pcriodus, seu annus magnus, 1620.—9. D© anni Solaris mensura Epistola Astronomica, ad lien. Savilimn, 1620.—10. Numorus aureus melioribus lapillis insigiiitiis factusq; Gemmeus, &c., 1621.—11. Canones Chronologici, nee non series summornm magistratuum & triumphorum Komanorum, 1675.— 12. Letters to Archbishop Usher, printed in his Life, 1686.

• Aikin'i Lives, p. 408.

+ Wood's Hist, et Antiq. 1. ii. p. 149.

?r.chard's Hist, of Eng. vol. ii. p. 565.
Kennel's Chronicle, p. 764.
| Wood'i Hist, ct Antiq. I. ii. p. 149.

California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information  California - CCPA Notice