Clifford, Martin (DNB00)

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CLIFFORD, MARTIN (d. 1677), master of the Charterhouse, was probably connected with the family of Thomas, lord Clifford [q. v.], a member of the cabal administration. He was educated at Westminster, and in 1640 proceeded to Cambridge, taking his bachelor's degree as a member of Trinity College three years later (Cole MS. xlv. f. 265). What became of him during the civil war is not known with any certainty; Wood notes that 'one Martin Clifford was lieutenant in Thomas, earl of Ossory's regiment, 1660.' After the Restoration he hung about town, mainly supported by the dissolute noblemen of the court, among whom his licentious tastes and powers of buffoonery were especially acceptable. He was employed by the Duke of Buckingham, along with Samuel Butler and Thomas Sprat, in producing the famous 'Rehearsal.' Clifford's precise share in the composition is of course uncertain; the fact of his co-operation is noticed in the fourth stanza of the 'Session of Poets:'

Intelligence was brought, the Court being set,
    That a Play Tripartite was very near made;
Where malicious Matt Clifford and spiritual Spratt
    Were join'd with their Duke, a Peer of the Trade.

(Dryden, Miscellany Poems, 5th edit. pt. ii. p. 89.)

Clifford attacked Dryden in a series of letters, written at different periods and probably circulated by transcripts, for the only known edition was issued long after the author's death with the title ‘Notes upon Mr. Dryden's Poems in Four Letters, by M. Clifford, late master of the Charterhouse, London; to which are annexed some Reflections upon the Hind and Panther, by another hand’ (Thomas Brown), 4to, London, 1687. The style of these paltry effusions makes it difficult to believe that the writer had been a distinguished university man; the criticism is chiefly verbal. Dryden made no reply, much to Clifford's chagrin, for in the last letter dated from the Charterhouse, 1 July 1672, and signed with his name, he writes: ‘Since I cannot draw you to make a reply to me, assure your self that after this letter you shall hear no further from me.’

In 1671 Clifford was elected master of the Charterhouse, a post which he doubtless owed to the friendship of Buckingham. He died on 10 Dec. 1677, and was buried on the 13th in the chancel of St. Margaret's, Westminster, not, as Wood asserts, in the chapel of the Charterhouse. Buckingham intended to have erected a memorial to him, as he had already done to Cowley, their common friend, ‘but dying, it was turned upon the carver's hands.’ During the time of his mastership Clifford published anonymously ‘A Treatise of Humane Reason,’ 12mo, London, 1674, which was reprinted the following year, and again in 1691 with the author's name on the title-page. ‘One or two months after its publication the Bishop of Ely (Laney) was dining in Charterhouse with many “persons of quality,” and the conversation during dinner turned on that book. The bishop, no doubt unaware that he was in the presence of the writer of it, remarked that “'twas no matter if all the copies were burnt and the author with them,” “because it made every man's private fancy judge of religion.”’ The treatise was answered the year following its issue by ‘Observations upon a Treatise,’ attributed to the Rev. Edward Stephens, and by ‘Plain-Dealing. … By A. M., a Countrey Gentleman.’ The last-named tract was in turn dealt with by Albertus Warren, who, at the end of his ‘Apology,’ 1680, has left a curious description of Clifford's person and habits. To Clifford, Sprat addressed his ‘Life of Cowley.’ His portrait, engraved by Vandergucht, faces the ‘Life’ in the octavo editions of the poet's complete works.

In the ‘Nouvelle Biographie Générale’ (x. 862), Clifford is amusingly described as ‘théologien anglais, de l'ordre des Chartreux,’ who, it is added, ‘fut prieur de son ordre.’

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 999–1000, iv. 209, 728; Welch's Alumni Westmon. (1852), pp. 111, 115, 116, 532; Dryden's Works, ed. Scott, 2nd edit., i. 136, 154–5; W. Haig Brown's Charterhouse, Past and Present, pp. 121–2; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 2nd edit., iv. 96–7; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. G.