Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Digby, Everard (fl.1590)

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416839Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15 — Digby, Everard (fl.1590)1888Sidney Lee

DIGBY, EVERARD (fl. 1590), divine and author, was nearly related to the Rutland family of that name. He is said to have been great-grandson of Everard Digby, sheriff of Rutlandshire, a Lancastrian who was killed at Towton in 1461. It is also usually stated that his father was Kenelm Digbv of Stoke Dry, Rutland, and his mother Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Cope [q. v.] Everard was undoubtedly the name of their eldest son, who married Maria, daughter of Francis Neale of Keythorpe, Leicestershire; was the father of Sir Everard Digby [q. v.], the conspirator in the Gunpowder plot; and died 24 Jan. 1592. But the inquisitio post mortem expressly styles this Everard Digby as an 'esquire,' which makes it plain that he is not identical with the divine and author, who, as a fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, must have been unmarried at the time of Sir Everard's birth in 1578. The divine's parentage cannot be precisely stated. Born about 1550, he matriculated as a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, 25 Oct. 1567; was admitted a scholar 9 Nov. 1570; proceeded B. A. 1570-1, M.A. 1574, and B.D. 1581; and became a Lady Margaret fellow on 12 March 1572-3, and senior fellow 10 July 1585. He was principal lecturer in 1584. Digby took part m the college performance of Dr. Legge's 'Richardus Tertius ' in 1580. He petitioned Lord Burghley for the rectory of Tinwell, Rutlandshire, 26 Jan. 1581-2 (Lansd. MS. 34, art. 12), but the request does not seem to have been granted, and before the end of 1587 he was deprived of his fellowship. In a letter to Burghley, William Whitaker, master of St. John's College (4 April 1588), explained that this step had been rendered necessary by Digby's arrears with the college steward. He added that Digby had preached voluntary poverty, a 'popish position,' at St. Mary's; had attacked Calvinists as schismatics; was in the habit of blowing a horn and hallooing in the college during the daytime, and repeatedly spoke of the master to the scholars with the greatest disrespect. Burghley and Whitgift ordered Digby's restitution; but Whitaker stood firm, and with Leicester's aid obtained confirmation of the expulsion.

Digby's best known book is a treatise on swimming, the earliest published in England. The title runs: 'De Arte Natandi libri duo, quorum prior regulas ipsius artis, posterior vero praxin demonstrationemque continet,' Lond. 1587, dedicated to Richard Nourtley. It is illustrated with plates, and was translated into English by Christopher Middleton in 1595. Digby also wrote 'De Duplici methodo libri duo, unicam P. Rami methodum refutantes: in quibus via plana, expedita & exacta., secundum optimos autores, ad scientiarum cognitionem elucidatur,' London, Henry Bynneman, 1580; 'Theoria analytica viam ad monarchiam scientiarum demonstrans . . . totius Philosophiae & reliquarum scientiarum,' dedicated to Sir Christopher Hatton, 1579. William Temple of King's College, afterwards provost of Trinity College, Dublin, wrote, under the pseudonym of Franciscus Mildapettus, an attack on Digby's criticism of Ramus, to which Digby replied in 1580. Temple replied again in 1581. As the productions of a predecessor of Bacon, Digby's two philosophical books are notable. Although clumsy in expression and overlaid with scholastic subtleties, Digby tried in his 'Theoria Analytica ' to classify the sciences, and elsewhere ventures on a theory of perception based on the notion of the active correspondence of mind and matter. M. de Remusat sees in Digby's theory an adumbration of Leibnitz's intellectus ipse and a reflection of the Platonic idea. Otherwise Digby is a disciple of Aristotle. Digby was also author of 'Everard Digbie, his Dissuasive from taking away the Lyvings and Goods of the Church,' with 'Celsus of Verona, his Dissuasive, translated into English,' London, 1589, dedicated to Sir Christopher Hatton. The British Museum possesses a copy of 'Articuli ad narrationes nouas pertiñ formati' (Berthelet, 1530) which belonged to Digby. It contains his autograph and many notes in his handwriting.

[Biog. Brit. (Kippis) s.n. 'Sir Everard Digby;' Coopers Athenae Cantab. ii. 146, 646; Baker's Hist. of St. John's College (Mayor), pp. 167, 599, 600; Strype's Annals; Strype's Whitgift. i. 520; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Heywood and Wright's Camb. Univ. Transactions, i. 506-23; Rémusat's Philosophie Anglaise depuis Bacon jusqu'à Locke, i. 110-16, where Digby's philosophical position is fully expounded.]

S. L. L.