Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 58.djvu/78

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Ussher
Ussher
70

last time at Hammersmith at Michaelmas 1655.

On 13 Feb. 1655–6 he took leave of his London friends, and retired to Lady Peterborough's house at Reigate. He was still intent on his studies, and thought of engaging an amanuensis. On 20 March he was seized with pleurisy at night, and quickly sank; his last words referred to his ‘sins of omission.’ He died on 21 March 1656. His body was embalmed, and was to have been buried in the Peterborough vault at Reigate. Cromwell ordered a public funeral in Westminster Abbey, making for the purpose a treasury grant (2 April) of 200l. (a fourth of the actual cost). The interment took place on 17 April in St. Erasmus's Chapel, next to the tomb of Ussher's first master, Sir James Fullerton. Bernard preached the funeral sermon to an immense concourse; the Anglican service was used at the grave. Payne Fisher [q. v.], Cromwell's poet laureate, is said to have recited on the same day a worthless Latin elegy in the hall of Christ Church, Oxford; as published (1658, fol.) it purports to be a commemoration of the anniversary of the funeral. There is no monument to Ussher. The best likeness of him, according to Parr, was the portrait by Lely, at Shotover, engraved (1738) by Vertue; the Bodleian has a portrait dated 1644; Trinity College, Dublin, has a portrait dated 1654; the National Portrait Gallery has a portrait (in surplice) ascribed to Lely and dated about 1655; an anonymous portrait is at Armagh (Cat. Third Loan Exhib. No. 570). Engravings are very numerous; that by Vaughan (1647) was done at the expense of Oxford University. All represent him in plain skull-cap and large ruff. He was of middle height, erect and well made, of fresh complexion, and wore moustache and short beard.

Ussher married in 1614 Phœbe (d. 1654), only daughter of Luke Challoner, D.D. (her portrait, formerly at Shotover, was exhibited in the National Portrait Exhibition, 1866), and had issue an only child, Elizabeth. She was baptised on 19 Sept. 1619 at St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, and married in 1641 Sir Timothy Tyrrell (d. 23 Oct. 1701, aged 83) of Oakley, Buckinghamshire, afterwards of Shotover, Oxfordshire. She died in 1693, and was buried at Oakley (Wright's copy of her epitaph is incorrect); James Tyrrell (1642–1718) [q. v.] was the eldest of her twelve children; her sixth daughter, Eleanor, was the wife of Charles Blount [q. v.], the deist.

Burnet's eulogy of Ussher is warm and discriminating: ‘No man had a better soul.’ ‘Love of the world seemed not … in his nature.’ ‘He had a way of gaining people's hearts and of touching their consciences that look'd like somewhat of the apostolical age reviv'd.’ Burnet adds that ‘he was not made for the governing part of his function,’ having ‘too gentle a soul’ for the ‘rough work of reforming abuses;’ hence ‘he left things as he found them.’ He had nothing of Bramhall's statesmanlike grasp of affairs, and his measures of ecclesiastical legislation were academic. The blunder of the Irish articles was not retrieved by the opposite blunder of the Irish canons. His reduction of episcopacy took no account of the real difficulty, the lay demand for a voice in church affairs. His Augustinian theology commended him to the puritans, his veneration for antiquity to the high churchmen; no royalist surpassed him in his deference to the divine right of kings. All parties had confidence in his character, and marvelled at his learning.

Selden calls him ‘learned to a miracle’ (‘ad miraculum doctus’). To estimate his labours aright would be the work of a company of experts. His learning was for use; and his topics were suggested by the controversies of his age, which he was resolved to probe to their roots in the ground of history. He told Evelyn (21 Aug. 1655) ‘how great the loss of time was to study much the eastern languages; that, excepting Hebrew, there was little fruit to be gathered of exceeding labour … the Arabic itself had little considerable.’ His genius as a scholar was shown in his eye for original sources, and this on all subjects that he touched. He worked from manuscripts hitherto neglected, and brought to light the materials he needed by personal research, and by correspondence with continental scholars and with agents in the east. Younger scholars, like Francis Quarles [q. v.], were employed as his aids and amanuenses. As a writer, his passion for exactness (which made him extremely sensitive on the subject of unauthorised publication) exhibits itself in his use of materials. He lets his sources tell their story in their own words, incorporating them into his text with clear but sparing comment. Few faults have been found with his accuracy; his conclusions have been mended by further application of his own methods. His merits as an investigator of early Irish history are acknowledged by his countrymen of all parties; his contributions to the history of the creed and to the treatment of the Ignatian problem are recognised by modern scholars as of primary value; his chronology is still the standard adopted in editions of the English Bible.