1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Heylyn, Peter
HEYLYN (or Heylin), PETER (1600–1662), English historian and controversialist, was born at Burford in Oxfordshire. Having made great progress in his studies, he entered Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1613, afterwards joining Magdalen College; and in 1618 he began to lecture on cosmography, being made fellow of Magdalen in the same year. His lectures, under the title of Μικρόκοσμος, were published in 1621, and many editions of this useful book, each somewhat enlarged, subsequently appeared. Having been ordained in 1624 Heylyn attracted the notice of William Laud, then bishop of Bath and Wells; and in 1628 he married Laetitia, daughter of Thomas Highgate, or Heygate, of Hayes, Middlesex; but he appears to have kept his marriage secret and did not resign his fellowship. After serving as chaplain to Danby in the Channel Islands, he became chaplain to Charles I. in 1630, and was appointed by the king to the rectory of Hemingford, Huntingdonshire. John Williams, bishop of Lincoln, however, refused to institute Heylyn to this living, owing to his friendship with Laud; and in return Charles appointed him a prebendary of Westminster, where he made himself very objectionable to Williams, who held the deanery in commendam. In 1633 he became rector of Alresford, soon afterwards vicar of South Warnborough, and he became treasurer of Westminster Abbey in 1637; but before this date he was widely known as one of the most prominent and able controversialists among the high-church party. Entering with great ardour into the religious controversies of the time he disputed with John Prideaux, regius professor of divinity at Oxford, replied to the arguments of Williams in his pamphlets, “A Coal from the Altar” and “Antidotum Lincolnense,” and was hostile to the Puritan element both within and without the Church of England. He assisted William Noy to prepare the case against Prynne for the publication of his Histriomastix, and made himself useful to the Royalist party in other ways. However, when the Long Parliament met he was allowed to retire to Alresford, where he remained until he was disturbed by Sir William Waller’s army in 1642, when he joined the king at Oxford. At Oxford Heylyn edited Mercurius Aulicus, a vivacious but virulent news-sheet, which greatly annoyed the Parliamentarians; and consequently his house at Alresford was plundered and his library dispersed. Subsequently he led for some years a wandering life of poverty, afterwards settling at Winchester and then at Minster Lovel in Oxfordshire; and he refers to his hardships in his pamphlet “Extraneus Vapulans,” the cleverest of his controversial writings, which was written in answer to Hamon l’Estrange. In 1653 he settled at Lacy’s Court, Abingdon, where he resided undisturbed by the government of the Commonwealth, and where he wrote several books and pamphlets, both against those of his own communion, like Thomas Fuller, whose opinions were less unyielding than his own, and against the Presbyterians and others, like Richard Baxter.
His works, all of which are marred by political or theological rancour, number over fifty. Among the most important are: a legendary and learned History of St. George of Cappadocia, written in 1631; Cyprianus Anglicus, or the history of the Life and Death of William Laud, a defence of Laud and a valuable authority for his life; Ecclesia restaurata, or the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1661; ed. J. C. Robertson, Cambridge, 1849); Ecclesia vindicata, or the Church of England justified; Aërius redivivus, or History of the Presbyterians; and Help to English History, an edition of which, with additions by P. Wright, was published in 1773. In 1636 he wrote a History of the Sabbath, by order of Charles I. to answer the Puritans; and in consequence of a journey through France in 1625 he wrote A Survey of France, a work, frequently reprinted, which was termed by Southey “one of the liveliest books of travel in its lighter parts, and one of the wisest and most replete with information that was ever written by a young man.” Some verses of merit also came from his active pen, and his poetical memorial of William of Waynflete was published by the Caxton Society in 1851.
Heylyn was a diligent writer and investigator, a good ecclesiastical lawyer, and had always learning at his command. His principles, to which he was honestly attached, were defended with ability; but his efforts to uphold the church passed unrecognized at the Restoration, probably owing to his physical infirmities. His sight had been very bad for several years; yet he rejoiced that his “bad old eyes” had seen the king’s return, and upon this event he preached before a large audience in Westminster Abbey on the 29th of May 1661. He died on the 8th of May 1662 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where he had been sub-dean for some years.
Lives of Heylyn were written by his son-in-law Dr John Barnard or Bernard, and by George Vernon (1682). Bernard’s work was reprinted with Robertson’s edition of Heylyn’s History of the Reformation in 1849.