Walton, Brian (DNB00)
|←Waltheof (d.1159)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
WALTON, BRIAN or BRYAN (1600?–1661), bishop of Chester and editor of the ‘English Polyglot Bible,’ was born about 1600 in the district of Cleveland in the North Riding of Yorkshire, either at Hilton or the adjoining parish of Seamer or Seymour. He was matriculated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, on 4 July 1614, becoming sizar in 1617, but two years afterwards migrated to Peterhouse, where he also became sizar, graduating B.A. in 1619–20, M.A. in 1623, and D.D. in 1639. After his ordination (1623) he obtained some clerical and educational work in the county of Suffolk, where he made the acquaintance of his first wife Anne Claxton (1597?–1640), whose family name occurs at Chedesdon and Livermere. Shortly after his marriage he went to London, where he became assistant to Richard Stock, rector of All Hallows, Bread Street. At the death of Stock, Walton was on 1 Oct. 1628 presented to the living of St. Martin's Orgar in Cannon Street, which he retained until the troubles of 1641 (Hennessy, Nov. Rep. Eccl. 1898, p. 131). While in London he made an elaborate study of the history of the tithe as paid to the London clergy, a subject which from 1604 had engaged public attention [cf. art. Selden, John]. The clergy complained in particular of the practice whereby the citizens of London, by designating the larger portion of their rent as fine, mulcted the clergy of the greater part of the tithe which was paid on the rent; and Walton calculated that all the aldermen and two hundred common council men ‘payed not as much as six farmers in the country.’ Actions for non-payment of tithe, as the law then stood, could not be brought in the ecclesiastical courts, but had to come before the mayor, with the right of a costly appeal to the court of chancery. After some abortive attempts at legislation, a petition was presented by the London clergy to Charles I in 1634, which was referred to Archbishop Laud, the lord keeper, the earl marshal, the bishop of London, Lord Cottington, and Chief-justice Richardson, who all declared against the practice of the city. It was then arranged that some committees might meet on each side to treat of accommodation, three persons being named by the court of aldermen, and three by the bishop of London; and of the bishop's nominees Walton was one. The proceedings of the committees, however, came to nothing, and the matter being again brought before the lords referees was by them referred to the king in council on 5 Nov. 1634, and on 3 Dec. the king himself was made arbiter. A book drawn up by Walton, containing an account of the true value of all the livings in London, was then, by the advice of the bishop of London, put into the hands of the king, who, however, was prevented from settling the business owing to his attention being distracted by matters of greater urgency; and after an unsuccessful order that meetings of arrangement should be held in each parish, leave was given to the clergy towards the end of 1638 to sue in the ecclesiastical courts. Walton's treatise is said to have been entitled a ‘Copy of a Moderate Valuation’ and to have remained in manuscript at Lambeth; but the only work by Walton mentioned by Todd (Cat. MSS. Lambeth, p. 38) is No. 273, which is entitled ‘A Treatise concerning the Payment of Tythes and Oblations in London,’ and was published in 1752 in the ‘Collectanea Ecclesiastica’ of Samuel Brewster. Owing to the fact that some of the documents used by Walton perished in the fire of London, his treatise is still of importance.
Walton's services to the clergy were rewarded by a series of preferments: on 15 Jan. 1635–6 he was presented by the king to the two livings of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, and Sandon, Essex, the former of which he would seem to have resigned at once (Hennessy, p. 173); he was also made, it is said, chaplain to the king, though no record of such an appointment occurs in the state papers at this time. In ecclesiastical matters he was a follower of Laud, and incurred the displeasure of his parishioners at St. Martin's Orgar by moving the communion table from the centre of the church to the east window, as well as by bringing actions for tithe. In connection with this dispute Walton and his wife were on 5 May 1636 summoned as witnesses against some parishioners of St. Martin's Orgar before the court of high commission (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–6, p. 502; Laud, Works, iv. 256–7). Hence a petition was presented to parliament in 1641 for his deprivation, containing these and other more odious charges, and in the same year was published ‘The articles and charge prov'd in Parliament against Dr. Walton, Minister of St. Martins Orgars in Cannon Street, wherein his subtile Tricks and popish innovations are discovered … as also his impudence in defaming the … House of Commons,’ London, 4to (cf. Commons' Journals, ii. 394, 396). He was in consequence dispossessed of his London living, and also that of Sandon, whither he had gone for refuge, and where he is said to have been at one time in peril of his life. In 1642 he was sent to prison for a time as a delinquent. When released he went to Oxford, then the headquarters of the royalist party, where he was incorporated D.D. in 1645. His first wife had died on 25 May 1640 (being buried in Sandon church), probably leaving him sufficient property for his maintenance. On 17 Oct. 1646 he petitioned to be allowed to compound on the Oxford articles for ‘the small remainder of his estate, his library and other goods to the value of 1,000l. having been sold and his livings disposed of to others.’ He stated that he had attended the king as one of his chaplains, and was afterwards appointed to wait upon the Duke of York, in whose service he continued at Oxford until its surrender. His petition was granted on 7 Jan. 1646–7, and he was fined 35l. 10s., being a tenth of his estate (Cal. Comm. for Compounding, p. 1544).
At Oxford, where oriental studies were flourishing, Walton would seem to have acquired some knowledge of the languages in which there are ancient versions of the Bible, as well as of the Hebrew text. It is generally assumed that it was during his residence there that he formed the project of the ‘Polyglot Bible,’ with which his name has ever since been associated. No fewer than three polyglot bibles had appeared in Europe prior to Walton's, the Paris polyglot as late as 1645; but the extreme costliness of these works rendered a new edition desirable, and on this fact Walton dwells in the circular published in 1652, as well as on the advanced state of oriental learning, which rendered an improved edition possible. Much thought must have been bestowed on the preparation of the work before this circular was issued, and in the meantime, the parliament having taken possession of Oxford, Walton had migrated to London, where he lived in the house of Dr. William Fuller (1580?–1659) [q. v.], who had been ejected from his living of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, but retained a house in the neighbourhood, and whose daughter Jane was Walton's second wife. The plan of the work conceived by Walton received the approbation of Selden and Ussher, the acknowledged leaders of Eastern learning in the British Isles, and the services of many eminent scholars at both universities were retained for the correction of the sheets. The specimen sheet issued with the prospectus (of which a copy is preserved in the library of Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge) promised indeed little for the success of the work, as the types are bad and the printing incorrect, facts which did not escape the notice of contemporary critics. Walton, however, promised that these defects should be remedied. A committee of persons of known credit was formed to receive the subscriptions which were solicited in the prospectus, with the promise of a complete copy of the work for every 10l. subscribed; and these began to flow in with extraordinary rapidity, no less than 8,000l. being contributed in a few months; considerable sacrifices were made at both the universities to provide these funds. In the dedication to Charles II added to the work after the Restoration, Walton asserts that he had taken the opinion of the king during his exile, and received the royal reply that were it not for his banishment he would himself bear the expense; in the same dedication there are somewhat dark allusions to an endeavour on the part of Cromwell to suppress the work at the outset unless it were dedicated to himself, which probably imply no more than that the Protector's government gave the editor no pecuniary support beyond allowing him to have paper duty free; for this service Cromwell is personally thanked in the preface of the republican copies, but after the Restoration a reprinted preface was substituted, in which the allusion to the Protector is cancelled. On 11 July 1652 the council of state passed a resolution ‘to inform Dr. Brian Walton that, on considering his petition offering an edition of the Bible in several tongues, council are of opinion that the work propounded by him is very honourable and deserving encouragement, but find that the matter of his desires is more proper for the consideration of parliament than council’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, p. 328). The council also lent Walton books from government libraries to facilitate his work (ib. 1653–4, p. 58). The printing of the work began in 1653, two presses being kept employed, and between 1654 and 1657 all six volumes appeared—vols. i.–iv. containing the Old Testament and Apocrypha, vol. v. the New Testament, and vol. vi. various critical appendices. Nine languages are represented in the work, but no single book of the Bible appears in more than eight versions. The correcting committee consisted of Stokes, Wheelock, Thorndike, Pocock, Greaves, Vicars, and Thomas Smith; on the death of Wheelock in 1653, Hyde was substituted for him. Lightfoot, the still famous author of the ‘Horæ Hebraicæ,’ was invited to take part in the work of correcting, but declined; much was done by Castell, whose ‘Heptaglot Lexicon’ afterwards formed a valuable supplement to the Polyglot, and who, though given an honorarium by Walton, complained that his services had not been adequately acknowledged. Several other scholars had a hand in the work (cf. letter from Thorndike to Williamson giving an account of the undertaking in Cal. State Papers, 1655–6, pp. 285–6, also ib. 1656–7, p. 322). Walton, however, claimed responsibility for the whole, and provided it with prolegomena giving a critical history of the texts and some account of the languages which they represent. It was entitled ‘Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, complectentia Textus Originales Hebræum (cum Pentateucho Samaritano), Chaldaicum, Græcum, Versionumque Antiquarum, Samaritanæ, Græcæ lxii. Interp., Chaldaicæ, Syriacæ, Arabicæ, Æthiopicæ, Persicæ, Vulg. Latin. quidquid comparari poterat. Cum Textuum et Versionum Orientalium Translationibus Latinis. Cum Apparatu, Appendicibus, Tabulis, variis Lectionibus, Annotationibus, Indicibus …’ London, 1657, folio. The prolegomena were reprinted both in Germany and England more than a century after their original appearance (Leipzig, 1777, ed. J. A. Dathe; Canterbury, 1828, ed. Francis Wrangham [q. v.]). Walton also published in 1655 a brief ‘Introductio in Lectionem Linguarum Orientalium,’ containing the alphabets and grammatical paradigms of all the languages printed in the Polyglot as well as of some others. These works bear out the judgment of some of Walton's contemporaries, who regarded him as a man who, without profound learning, was capable of acquiring with little trouble a tolerable acquaintance with a subject.
While the Polyglot was justly regarded at the time of its appearance as an honourable monument of the vitality of the church of England at a period of extreme depression, and, from its practical arrangement, has been of the greatest use to biblical students, with whom, having never been superseded, it still commands a high price, it would also seem to have been a most successful commercial speculation. Though not absolutely the first book printed by subscription in England, it was one of the earliest, and, as has been seen, liberal support was given the undertaking from the commencement; and whereas the price paid by subscription was 10l., other purchasers probably paid far more; in a letter to John Buxtorf the younger, at Basle, Walton puts the price at 50l.
The Polyglot was put on the ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’ at Rome, and in England was attacked by Dr. John Owen in a volume of ‘Considerations,’ which Walton answered in a work called ‘The Considerator Considered’ (1659). Owen's criticisms were directed rather against the study of the versions themselves than against the scholarship of the editors of the ‘Polyglot,’ and Walton may be considered to have dealt with them satisfactorily.
In 1657, when a sub-committee of the ‘Grand Committee of Religion’ was appointed to consider the desirability of a revision of the English Bible, the opinion of Walton among others was taken; but he received no further marks of recognition until the Restoration, when, on his petition (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 235), he was reinstated in his benefices and made chaplain in ordinary to the king. On 14 Aug. 1660 he was given the prebend of Wenlakesbarn in St. Paul's Cathedral. Late in 1660 he was made bishop of Chester, being consecrated in Westminster Abbey on 2 Dec., and in March of the following year he became a member of the Savoy conference. He also petitioned for and received other livings to hold in commendam with his bishopric (ib. Dom. 1661, pp. 49, 69). Visiting his diocese in September 1661, he was received with great pomp by the inhabitants. He did not survive his appointment long, for, returning to London shortly after the reception that has been mentioned, he died in his house in Aldersgate Street (29 Nov.), and on the following 5 Dec. his remains received public burial at St. Paul's, where a monument, which afterwards perished in the fire of London, recorded his virtues and services (it is printed in the Biogr. Britannica, vii. 4147). A ‘fine head,’ engraved by Lombart, is prefixed to the ‘Polyglott Bible,’ 1657. By his second wife he was the father of one son.Todd's Memoirs of Bishop Walton, 1822; Cal. State Papers, Dom. passim; Baxter's Reliquiæ; Lloyd's Worthies; Newcourt's Rep. Eccl.; Masson's Milton, passim; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy; Anthony Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Bodleian MSS.; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iii. 29; Biogr. Britannica; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. ed. Hardy; Parr's Life of Ussher; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Hennessy's Novum Rep. Eccl. 1898, pp. 54, 131, 173; notes kindly supplied by A. G. Peskett, esq., Magdalene College, Cambridge.]