Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 09.djvu/254

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versity, looked like the university itself, by the company that was always found there. There was Dr. Sheldon, Dr. Morley, Dr. Hammond, Dr. Earles,’ i.e. Earle, ‘Mr. Challingworth, and indeed all men of eminent parts and faculties in Oxford, besides those who resorted thither from London, who all found their lodgings there, as ready as in the colleges; nor did the lord of the house know of their coming or going, nor who was in his house, till he came to dinner, or supper, where all still met; otherwise, there was no troublesome ceremony or constraint to forbid men to come to the house, or to make them weary of staying there, so that many came thither to study in a better air, finding all the books they could desire in his library, and all the persons together, whose company they could wish, and not find in any other society.’

That the persons who resorted from London—the poets and the wits—took up a larger part in Falkland's mind than Clarendon acknowledges is evident from Suckling's ‘Session of the Poets.’ Yet the lines which Suckling devotes to Falkland draw, in the main, the same picture as that of the historian:—

Hales set by himself most gravely did smile
To see them about nothing keep such a coil;
Apollo had spied him, but, knowing his mind,
Past by, and called Falkland that sat just behind.
But he was of late so gone with divinity,
That he had almost forgot his poetry,
Though to say the truth, and Apollo did know it,
He might have been both his priest and his poet.

We here get Falkland's modesty combined with intellectual activity, which no doubt constituted the main charm of his character as a host. We get too the impression which he made of being a man who could do much more than he actually did, an impression which has kept its hold upon subsequent generations, and which is at the bottom of most of the misconceptions of Falkland's life which have since prevailed.

Fortunately we are able to bring this conception of Falkland to the test. During this period of his life he wrote some poetry, and he also wrote something, if not much, on a theological subject. In his poetry (ed. Grosart in Fuller Worthies Miscellany, vol. iii.) there is much that is pleasing, but there is no trace of imaginative power. The same is true of his religious writings. In the ‘Discourse of Infallibility’ (published in 1651 by Dr. Triplet), which was not printed till after his death, and in the answer to the letter in which Walter Montague announced his conversion to his father, written in the end of 1635 or the beginning of 1636, there is ability without originality. His thought on the subject bears the distinct impress of Chillingworth's mind, in a way which the writings of Hales do not. Yet it would be a grave mistake to speak of Falkland's personality as unimportant in the historical development of religious thought. Because he was not himself a cutter of new paths, he was all the more a representative man, and he stands forth as the central figure of a special phase of progress. In his large wisdom, his gentle tolerance, his sweet reasonableness, even in his very impetuosity, there was more of ‘human nature's daily food’ than was to be found in men intellectually so superior to him as Chillingworth and Hales.

During the years of retirement at Great Tew, Falkland gave but little attention to questions of state. In 1637, in some lines written by him on Ben Jonson's death, he went out of the way to compliment the king on his claim to the sovereignty of the seas, though in the same year his name appears on the list of defaulters in respect of ship-money for one of his estates (‘Arrears for Hertfordshire,’ State Papers, Dom. ccclxxv. 106). As, however, we hear nothing of his omission to pay ship-money in Oxfordshire, it may perhaps be concluded that he had no deliberate intention to oppose the court. The same conclusion must be drawn from the fact that he applied for the command of a troop of horse in the expedition against the Scots in 1639, and that, upon receiving a refusal, he ‘went as a volunteer with the Earl of Essex’ (Clarendon, Hist. vii. 230).

Cowley, in the lines which he addressed to Falkland on this occasion, felt that there was something incongruous in the appearance as a soldier of ‘this great prince of knowledge,’ while paying tribute to that utter fearlessness which Clarendon ascribes to him. No one, however, suggested that there was anything out of place in Falkland, who was one of the least puritanical of human beings, taking part in a campaign against the puritan Scots.

In the year after his return he sat in the Short parliament for Newport in the Isle of Wight. ‘From the debates,’ Clarendon says (Hist. vii. 222), ‘he contracted such a reverence to parliaments, that he thought it really impossible that they could ever produce mischief or inconvenience to the kingdom, or that the kingdom could be tolerably happy in the intermission of them; and from the unhappy and unseasonable intermission of that convention, he harboured, it may be, some jealousy and prejudice of the court, towards which he was not before immoderately inclined.’ The statement is pro-