Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Broughton, Hugh
BROUGHTON, HUGH (1549–1612), divine and rabbinical scholar, was born in 1549 at Owlbury, a mansion in the parish of Bishop's Castle, Shropshire. In the immediate vicinity are two farmlands, called Upper and Lower Broughton. His ancestry was old and of large estate (the family bore owls as their coat of arms); he had a brother a judge. He calls himself a Cambrian, and it is probable that he had a good deal of Welsh blood in his veins. His preparation for the university he got from Bernard Gilpin, at Houghton-le-Spring. Gilpin's biographers say that he picked up Broughton while the lad was making his way on foot to Oxford, trained him, and sent him to Cambridge. They accuse Broughton of base ingratitude in endeavouring, at a subsequent period, to supplant Gilpin in his living. Although this story must be received with caution, the later relations between Broughton and his earliest benefactor were probably somewhat strained. Gilpin's will (he died on 4 March 1584) shows that Broughton had borrowed some of his books, and adds: 'I trust he will withhold none of them.' Broughton was entered at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1569. The foundation of his Hebrew learning was laid, in his first year at Cambridge, by his attendance on the lectures of the French scholar, Antoine Rodolphe Chevallier [q. v.], of whom he gives a particular account, without mentioning his name. He graduated B.A. in 1570, and became fellow of St. John's and afterwards of Christ's. He had no lack of patronage at the university; Sir Walter Mildmay made him an allowance for a private lectureship in Greek, and the Earl of Huntingdon still more liberally supplied him with means for study. He was elected one of the taxers of the university, and obtained a prebend and a readership in divinity at Durham. On the ground of his holding a prebend, he was deprived of his fellowship in 1579, but was reinstated in 1581, at the instance of Lord Burghley, the chancellor, who, moved by the representations of the Bishop of Durham (Richard Barnes) and the Earls of Huntingdon and Essex, overcame the opposition of Hatcher, the vice-chancellor, and Hawford, master of Christ's. He resigned the office of taxer, and does not seem to have returned to the university. He came to London, where he spent from twelve to sixteen hours a day in study, and distinguished himself as a preacher of puritan sentiments in theology. He is said to have predicted, in one of his sermons (1588), the scattering of the armada. He found friends among the citizens, especially in the family of the Cottons, with whom he lived, and whom he taught to be enthusiastic Hebrew scholars. In 1588 appeared his first work, 'A Concent of Scripture,' dedicated to the queen. John Speed, the historian, saw the book through the press. In this 'little book of great pains,' as Broughton himself calls it, he attempts to settle the scripture chronology, and to correct profane writers by it. The work is interesting, written in a lively style, full of learning and ingenuity, but removing all difficulties with a quaint oracular dogmatism, which entertains rather than convinces. He holds the absolute incorruptness of the text of both testaments, including the Hebrew points. Indeed, he goes so far in a later work as to maintain, respecting the k'thibh and the q'ri, that 'both of them are of God, and of equal authority.' The 'Concent' was attacked in their public prelections by John Rainolds at Oxford, and Edward Lively at Cambridge. Broughton appealed to the queen (to whom he presented a special copy of the book on 17 Nov. 1589), to Whitgift, and to Aylmer, bishop of London, asking to have the points in dispute between Rainolds and himself determined by the authority of the archbishops and the two universities. He began weekly lectures in his own defence to an audience of between 80 and 100 scholars, using the 'Concent' as a text-book. The privy council allowed him to deliver his lectures (as Chevallier had done before) at the east end of St. Paul's, until some of the bishops complained of his audiences as 'dangerous conventicles.' He then removed his lecture to a room in Cheapside, and thence to Mark Lane, and elsewhere. It is said that he was in fear of the high commission, and therefore anxious to leave the country. It is probable that he left for Germany at the end of 1589 or beginning of 1590, taking with him a pupil, Alexander Top, a young country gentleman. Broughton on his travels was a valiant disputant against popery (even at the table of his fast friend, the Archbishop of Maintz), and engaged in religious discussion with several Jews. At Frankfort, early in 1590, he disputed in the synagogue with Rabbi Elias. He was at Worms in 1590, and returned next year to England. His letter of 27 March 1590 (probably 1591) to Lord Burghley asks permission to go abroad, with a special view to make use of King Casimir's library. But he remained in London, where he met Rainolds, and agreed with him to refer their differing views about the harmony of scripture chronology to the arbitration of Whitgift and Aylmer. Broughton's letter to these prelates is dated 4 Nov. 1591. Nothing came of the reference, and though Whitgift acknowledged the industry and dexterity which Broughton had displayed in the 'Concent,' the archbishop was his enemy with Elizabeth. In 1592 we find Broughton again in Germany, and, according to Lightfoot, he probably remained abroad till the death of Elizabeth. But Brook prints (from Baker's copy, Harl. MS. 7031, p. 94) a letter from Broughton to Lord Burghley, dated 'London, May 16, 1595,' in which he applies for the archbishopric of Tomon (Tuam), 'worth not above 200l.,' and asks for a meeting to be arranged between him and Rainolds. On the continent he made the acquaintance of many learned men, including Scaliger, who calls him 'furiosus et maledicus.' It is said that he was tempted with the offer of a cardinal's hat; catholic scholars treated him with more respect than foreign protestants. He wrote against Beza in his fiercest Greek. Puritanical as he was in his theology, he held the episcopal polity to be apostolic. His dispute with Rabbi Elias brought him, in 1596, a letter from Rabbi Abraham Reuben, written at Constantinople. This was addressed to him in London, but in a cursive Hebrew character, which puzzled 'divers scholars,' till Top managed to make out whom it was intended for, and sent it off to Germany. Broughton was sanguine as to the good effects of his discussions with Jews in their mother tongue,, and often speaks of his disputations with one Rabbi David Farrar. While at Middleburg he printed 'An Epistle to the learned Nobilitie of England, touching translating the Bible from the Original,' 1597, 4to. The project of assisting in a better version of the Bible was one which he had long cherished, and he had already addressed the queen on the subject. His plan, as given in a letter dated 21 June 1593 (though addressed to 'Sir William Cecil,' who became Lord Burghley in 1571), was to do the work in conjunction with five other scholars. Only necessary changes were to be made, but the principle of harmonising the scripture was to prevail, and there were to be short notes. Though his scheme was backed up by 'sundry lords, and amongst them some bishops,' his application for the means of carrying it out was unsuccessful. In a letter to Burghley, of 11 June 1597, he blames Whitgift for hindering his proposed new translation. In 1599 he printed his 'Explication' of the article respecting Christ's descent into hell. It was a topic he had touched upon before, maintaining with his usual vigour (against the Augustinian view, espoused by most Anglican divines) that hades never meant the place of torment, but the state of departed souls. A philology more ingenious than accurate enabled him to parallel 'hell' with sheol as 'that which haleth all hence.' With this discussion, which he first brought prominently forward among English scholars, his name is chiefly associated at the present day. He returned to England, to the surprise of his friends, at a moment when London was afflicted with the plague, of which he showed no fear. In 1603 he preached before Prince Henry, at Oatlands, on the Lord's Prayer. He soon returned to Middleburg, and became preacher there to the English congregation. Brook prints (here corrected from Harl. MS. 787, pp. 94, 96) the following tart petition, addressed, without effect, to James I: ' Most gracious soveraigne, your majesty's most humble subject, Hugh Broughton, having suffered many years danger for publishing of your right and Gods truth, by your unlearned bishops that spent two impressions of libells to disgrace the Scottish mist: which libells now the stacioners deny that ever they sold. He requesteth your majesty's favour for a pension fitt for his age, studye, and trauells past, bearing allwayes a most dutifull heart unto your majesty. From Middleburgh, Aug.1604. Your majesty's most humble subject, H. Broughton.' This was written in the month following the king's letter (22 July) appointing fifty-four learned men for the revision of the translation of the Bible. Broughton's old adversary, Rainolds, had been more successful than he in pressing upon the authorities the need of a revision, and when the translators were appointed, Broughton, to his intense chagrin, was not included among them. Lightfoot considers his exclusion unjust. Subsequently he criticised the new translation unsparingly, after his manner; his corrections would have carried more weight if they had not been generally accepted as the outpourings of a disappointed man. Of his own versions of the prophets it must be said that, while marked by all his peculiarities, they have a majesty of expression which entitles them to be better known than they are. His bitter pamphlet against Bancroft certainly did not improve his chances of obtaining due recognition of his merits as a scholar. Ben Jonson satirised him in 'Volpone' (1605), and especially in the 'Alchemist' (1610). He continued to write and publish assiduously. His translation of Job (1610) he dedicated to the king. But he now fell into a consumption, and he made his last voyage to England, arriving at Gravesend in November 1611. He told his friends he had come to die, and wished to die in Shropshire, where, it appears, his pupil, now Sir Rowland Cotton, had a seat. His strength, however, was not equal to the journey. He wintered in London, and in the spring removed to Tottenham. Here he lingered till autumn, in the house of Benet, a Cheapside linendraper. His death occurred on 4 Aug. 1612. He was buried in London, at St. Antholin's, on 7 Aug., James Speght preaching his funeral sermon. He had married a niece of his pupil, Alexander Top, named Lingen, a lady of good estate. Broughton's portrait is engraved by Van Hove. He is described as graceful and comely, and of a 'sweet, affable, and loving carriage' among his friends; at table he was bright and genial. His pupils almost adored him. His reputation for arrogance is not undeserved. He was sharp, but not scurrilous; had he stood with a party, his language would have seemed temperate enough according to the fashion of his day, but he always fought for his own hand. Thomas Morton, afterwards bishop of Durham, who was with him in Germany, took him in the right way: 'I pray you, whatsoever dolts and dullards I am to be called, call me so before we begin, that your discourse and mine attention be not interrupted thereby.' Broughton accepted the exhortation with perfect good-humour. He was easily provoked, and lamented on his death-bed his infirmities of temper. Some incidents in his life may give the impression that he was of a grasping nature. He expected his friends to do a great deal for him, and made warm and public acknowledgment of their willing kindness. It must be remembered that his pursuits and his publications involved considerable outlay. There is no evidence that he enriched himself; in 1590 he 'took a little soil' near Tuam, or somewhere else in Ireland; possibly this was his wife's property. Lightfoot allows that his style is 'curt and something harsh and obscure,' yet maintains that his writings 'do carry in them a kind of holy and happy fascination.'
Lightfoot collected his works under the strange title, 'The Works of the Great Albionean Divine, renowned in many Nations for Rare Skill in Salems and Athens Tongues, and Familiar Acquaintance with all Rabbinical Learning, Mr. Hugh Broughton,' 1662, fol. The volume is arranged in four sections or 'tomes;' prefixed is his life; Speght's funeral sermon is given in the fourth tome; appended is an elegy by W. Primrose, of which the finest passage, descriptive of the many languages known to Broughton, is borrowed (and not improved) from some noble lines in the comedy of 'Lingua,' printed in 1607, and very doubtfully assigned to Anthony Brewer [q. v.]. A few tracts are omitted from the collection. According to Bohn's 'Lowndes,' i. 285, the 'Concent' contains 'specimens, by W. Rogers, of the earliest copperplate-engraving in England.' Broughton's 'Sinai-Sight,' 1592, was wholly 'engraven in brass,' at an expense of about 100 marks. The genealogical tables, prefixed to old bibles, and assigned to Speed, were really (according to Lightfoot) Broughton's work, but 'the bishops would not endure to have Mr. Broughton's name' to them; his owl may, however, be seem upon them. Of Broughton's manuscripts the British Museum possesses a quarto volume (Sloane MS. 3088), containing thirty-five pieces, many referring to the new translation of the Bible; and his 'Harmonie of the Bible,' a chronological work (Harl. MS. 1525). Neither of these volumes is in autograph, with the exception of a small part of the ' Harmonie.' See also the ' Cat. of Lansdowne MSS.,' 1807, pp. 220, 331, 332.
[Life, by Lightfoot, prefixed to Works, 1662 (abridged in Clark's Lives, 1683, p. 1 seq., portrait); Bayle, art. 'Broughton, Hugues; ' Gilpin's Life of B. Gilpin, 1751, pp. 251, 271; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 604 seq.; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, ii. 215 seq.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 308 seq.; Hunt's Religious Thought in England, 1870, i. 126 seq.; Notes and Queries, 5th series, iv. 48; Cole's MS. Athenæ Cantab.; Baker MSS. iv. 93, 94.]