A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of

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Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of (1608-1674).—Lawyer, statesman, and historian, s. of a country gentleman of good estate in Wiltshire, was b. at Dinton in that county, and ed. at Oxf. Destined originally for the Church, circumstances led to his being sent to London to study law, which he did under his uncle, Sir Nicholas H., Chief Justice of the King's Bench. In early life he was the friend of all the leading men of the day. Entering Parliament in 1640 he at first supported popular measures, but, on the outbreak of the Civil War, attached himself to the King, and was the author of many of his state papers. From 1648 until the Restoration C. was engaged in various embassies and as a counsellor of Charles II., who made him in 1658 his Lord Chancellor, an office in which he was confirmed at the Restoration, when he also became Chancellor of the Univ. of Oxf., and was likewise raised to the peerage. His power and influence came to an end, however, in 1667, when he was dismissed from all his offices, was impeached, and had to fly to France. The causes of his fall were partly the miscarriage of the war with Holland, and the sale of Dunkirk, and partly the jealousy of rivals and the intrigues of place hunters, whose claims he had withstood. In his enforced retirement he engaged himself in completing his great historic work, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, which he had begun in 1641, and which was not pub. until 1702-4. C.'s style is easy, flowing, diffuse, and remarkably modern, with an occasional want of clearness owing to his long and involved sentences. His great strength is in character-painting, in which he is almost unrivalled. The History was followed by a supplementary History of the Civil War in Ireland (1721). C. also wrote an autobiography, The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon (1759), a reply to the Leviathan of Hobbes, and An Essay on the Active and Contemplative Life, in which the superiority of the former is maintained. C. d. at Rouen. He was a man of high personal character, and great intellect and sagacity, but lacking in the firmness and energy necessary for the troublous times in which he lived. His dau. Anne married the Duke of York, afterwards James II., a connection which involved him in much trouble and humiliation.