Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carpenter, Nathanael

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CARPENTER, NATHANAEL (1589–1628?), author and philosopher, son of John Carpenter (d. 1591) [q. v.], rector of Northleigh, Devonshire, was born there on 7 Feb. 1588-9. He matriculated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, on 7 June 1605; but was elected, on a recommendatory letter of James I, a Devonshire fellow of Exeter College on 30 June 1607. A second Devonshire candidate, Michael Jermyn, obtained an equal number of votes, whereupon the vice-chancellor gave his decision m favour of Carpenter. The dates of Carpenter's degrees were B.A. 5 July 1610, M. A. 1618, B.D. 11 May 1620, D.D. 1626. During his residence at Oxford he is said to have become, 'by a virtuous emulation and industry, a noted philosopher, poet, mathematician, and geographer.' One of his pupils at the university was Sir William Morice, secretary of state 1660-8, a politician with religious views inclined to presbyterianism, which were probably inspired by his tutor's Calvinism. Carpenter's attainments attracted the notice of the chief divines of the age. Sutcliffe, dean of Exeter, nominated him a member of his new college at Chelsea, and Archbishop Ussher tempted him into Ireland, where he was appointed schoolmaster of the king's wards in Dublin, the wards being minors of property whose parents were Roman catholics. Carpenter's death is said to have occurred at Dublin in the beginning of 1628, and his funeral sermon was preached by Robert Ussher, a brother of the archbishop. On his deathbed he regretted that he had 'so much courted the maid instead of the mistress,' meaning that he had spent his chief time in philosophy and mathematics and had neglected divinity.

His writings were numerous. The earliest of them, 'Philosophia libera triplici exercitationum decade proposita,' an attack on the Aristotelian system of philosophy, appeared at Frankfort in 1621, under the disguise of N. C. Cosmopolitanus. Later editions were issued under his name in 1622, 1636, and 1675. His treatise of 'Geography delineated forth in two books,' published in 1625, and republished in 1685, contains many eloquent passages, especially a digression (p. 260 et seq.) in praise of the illustrious natives of 'our mountainous provinces of Devon and Cornwall.' Embodied in it are some pages of poetry, in which his 'Mother Oxford' recounts the advantages which he had derived from association with her, and reproaches him for his partiality to his native county. Three sermons entitled 'Achitophel, or the Picture of a Wicked Politician,' preached to the university of Oxford and dedicated to Ussher, are stated to have appeared in 1627, 1628, 1629, 1638, 1638, and 1642. The first edition was called in, and the passages against Arminianism were expunged. After his death there appeared (1633 and 1640) a sermon, 'Chorazin and Bethsaida's Woe,' which he had preached at St. Mary's, Oxford. The dedication by N. H. to Dean Winniffe asserts that but for 'a kinsman's (Jo. Ca.) friendly hand' the manuscript might have 'perished on the Netherland shores,' as Carpenter's labours in optics did in the Irish Sea. A charisterium to Carpenter by Degory Wheare appears in the appendix to the latter's 'Pietas erga benefactores,' 1628. A manuscript by Carpenter entitled 'Encomia Varia' belongs to Trinity College, Dublin (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. app. p. 590).

[Wood's Athenae Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 421-2, Fasti, i. 337, 393; Prince's Worthies (1810), 173-5, 603; Boase's Reg. of Exeter Coll. pp. 55, 56, 211.]

W. P. C.