Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Corbet, John (1603-1641)

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CORBET, JOHN (1603–1641), minister of Bonhill, anti-presbyterian author, son of William Corbet, a 'portioner' of Glasgow, was born about 1603. He graduated at the university of Glasgow in 1623, and after acting for some time as schoolmaster at Renfrew was ordained minister of Bonhill in 1637. According to Robert Baillie (Letters and Journals, i. 189), 'upon some rashness of the presbytery of Dumbarton' he was put 'to some subjection of the assembly's declaration,' and 'not being willing to do so fled to Ireland.' This is in direct contradiction of the statement of Burnet (Life of Bedell, 140) that it was for writing a book called 'Lysimachus Nicanor' he was 'forced to flee his country.' The book, however, was published in 1640, while Corbet was already deposed by the assembly 16 April 1639. The full title is 'The Epistle Congratulatorie of Lysimachus Nicanor of the Societie of Jesu to the Covenanters in Scotland, wherein is paralleled our Sweet Harmony and Correspondence in Doctrine and Practice.' By Baillie (Letters and Journals, i. 243) it is erroneously ascribed to Bishop Lesley. It was answered by Baillie in his 'Ladensium Aὐτοκατάκρισις, the Canterbvrians self-conviction, &c., with a postscript to the personat Jesuite Lysimachus Nicanor,' Amsterdam, 1640; and a metrical answer to it, ascribed to Sir William Moore, was also published in the same year under the title 'A Covnter Bvff to Lysimachus Nicanor, calling himself a Jesuite.' Previous to the appearance of 'Lysimachus Nicanor,' Corbet had published at Dublin in 1639 'The Ungirding of the Scottish Armour, or an Answer to the Informations for Defensive Armes against the King's Majestie which were drawn up at Edinburg by the common help and industrie of the three Tables of the rigid Covenanters,' described by Baillie as 'one of the most venemous and bitter pamphlets against us all that could come from the hand of our most furious and enraged enemie.' Corbet had been recommended to Adair, archbishop of Killala, for a living in his gift, and, according to Baillie, the archbishop, playing upon his name Corbet, 'which means crow in Scotland,' declined to patronise him on the ground that 'it was an ill bird that defiles its own nest.' He, however, obtained the living of Killaban and Ballintubride in 1640, but during the rebellion of 1641 was 'hewn in pieces by two swineherds in the very arms of his poor wife.'

[Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals, i. 162, 189, 243; Ware's Hibernia, i. 652, ii. 340-1; Irving's Scottish Writers, ii. 65, 123; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot. ii. 346.]

T. F. H.