Hall, John (1627-1656) (DNB00)

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HALL, JOHN (1627–1656), of Durham, poet and pamphleteer, son of Michael Hall, ‘gent.,’ born at Durham in August 1627, was educated at Durham school, and was admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge, on 26 Feb. 1645–6 (Mayor, Admissions, p. 76). At the age of nineteen he published ‘Horæ Vacivæ, or Essays. Some occasional Considerations,’ 1646, 12mo, which he dedicated to the master of his college, John Arrowsmith. Commendatory verses in English were prefixed by Thomas Stanley, William Hammond, James Shirley, &c.; Dr. Henry More contributed Greek elegiacs; and Hall's tutor, John Pawson, supplied a preface, dated from St. John's College, 12 June 1646. A portrait of the author by Marshall adorns the little volume. In a biographical notice before Hall's posthumous ‘Hierocles,’ 1657, his friend John Davies of Kidwelly (1627?–1693) [q. v.] declares that these youthful essays ‘amazed not only the University but the more serious part of men in the three nations,’ and that ‘they travelled over into France and were by no ordinary person clad in the language of that country,’ Hall sent a copy to James Howell, whose letter of acknowledgment is printed in part ii. of ‘Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ.’ The essays were followed by a small collection of not uninteresting ‘Poems,’ published at Cambridge in January 1646–7; reprinted by Sir S. Egerton Brydges in 1816. Commendatory verses by Henry More and others were prefixed, and the volume was dedicated to Thomas Stanley. The general title-page is dated 1646, but ‘The Second Book of Divine Poems’ has a new title-page dated 1647. Some of the divine poems were afterwards included in ‘Emblems with Elegant Figures newly published. By J. H., esquire’ [1648], 12mo, 2 parts, which was dedicated by the publisher to Mrs. Stanley (wife of Thomas Stanley), and has a commendatory preface by John Quarles. Hall remained at Cambridge till May 1647, cherishing a grievance against the college authorities ‘for denying those honorary advancements which are as it were the indulgence of the university when there is an excess of merit’ (Davies). He was afterwards entered at Gray's Inn.

In 1648 he published ‘A Satire against Presbytery,’ and in 1649 ‘An Humble Motion to the Parliament of England concerning the Advancement of Learning and Reformation of the Universities,’ 4to, a well-written tract in which he complains that the revenues of the universities are misspent and the course of study is too restricted, advocating that the number of fellowships should be reduced and more professorships endowed. By command of the council of state he accompanied Cromwell in 1650 to Scotland, where he drew up ‘The Grounds and Reasons of Monarchy,’ with an appendix of ‘An Epitome of Scottish Affairs,’ printed at Edinburgh and reprinted at London. Other political pamphlets were ‘A Gagg to Love's Advocate, or an Assertion of the Justice of the Parliament in the Execution of Mr. Love,’ 1651, 4to; ‘Answer to the Grand Politick Informer,’ 1653; ‘A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country,’ &c., 1653. He also put forth a new edition, dedicated to Cromwell, of ‘A Treatise discovering the horrid Cruelties of the Dutch upon our People at Amboyna,’ 1651, which had originally appeared in 1624. The Dutch ambassador complained about the book, but no notice was taken of his complaint. Davies states that Hall was awarded a pension of 100l. per annum by Cromwell and the council for his pamphleteering services.

Hall's non-political writings, in addition to ‘Horæ Vacivæ’ and the poems, are: 1. ‘Paradoxes,’ 1650, 8vo, of which a second and enlarged edition appeared in 1653. 2. A translation of ‘Longinus of the Height of Eloquence,’ 1652, 8vo. 3. ‘Lusus Serius, or Serious Passe-Time. A Philosophicall Discourse concerning the Superiority of Creatures under Man,’ 1654, 8vo, translated from the Latin of Michael Mayerus. 4. ‘Hierocles upon the Golden Verses of Pythagoras; Teaching a Vertuous and Worthy Life,’ posthumously published in 1657, with commendatory verses by Richard Lovelace and others. The ‘Paradoxes’ and ‘Lusus Serius’ were published under the disguised name ‘J. de La Salle.’ In 1647 Hall edited Robert Hegge's [q. v.] ‘In aliquot Sacræ Paginæ loca Lectiones.’

Hall died on 1 Aug. 1656, leaving several unpublished works. At the time of his death he was engaged upon a translation of Procopius. He wrote very rapidly, and is reported to have had a marvellous memory. Hobbes, who frequently visited him, had a high opinion of his abilities; another of his friends was Samuel Hartlib [q. v.] According to Davies, he greatly objected to taking exercise, so much so that in 1650 and 1651, ‘being inclined to pursinesse & fatnesse, rather than he would use any great motion, he thought fitter to prevent it by frequent swallowing down of pebble-stones, which proved effectuall.’ Wood observes that, ‘had not his debauchery and intemperance diverted him from the more serious studies, he had made an extraordinary person, for no man had ever done so great things at his age. So was the opinion of the great philosopher of Malmesbury.’

[Memoir by John Davies of Kidwelly prefixed to Hall's Hierocles upon the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, 1657; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 457–60; Brydges's preface to Hall's Poems, 1816.]

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