Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Heylyn, Peter
HEYLYN, PETER (1600–1662), theologian and historian, born at Burford, Oxfordshire, in 1600, was second son of Henry Heylyn by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Clampard of Wrentham, Kent, and was grandnephew of Rowland Heylyn [q. v.] His father seems to have been a small country gentleman. Heylyn was educated at the school of Burford, and made such rapid progress in learning that at the age of fourteen he was sent to Hart Hall, in the university of Oxford, and in 1615 was elected demy of Magdalen College, on the strength of a copy of Latin verses describing a journey to Woodstock (cf. Oxf. Univ. Reg. , Oxf. Hist. Soc. II. ii. 347). He was made 'impositor of the hall,' with the duty of seeing that no one dined at each table save those entitled to their commons, and showed such diligence in that office that his comrades dubbed him 'the perpetual dictator.' He took the degree of B.A. on 17 Oct. 1617, and began to lecture on historical geography with such success that he was elected a fellow of Magdalen in 1618, and to celebrate his election wrote a Latin drama, called 'Theomachia.' In 1620 he proceeded to the degree of M.A., and in 1624 he took hold orders; he proceeded B.D. on 13 June 1629 and D.D. on 13 April 1633 (ib. II. iii. 357}. He published his 'Geography' in 1621, and presented a copy to the Prince of Wales; the book fell into the hands of James I, who took offence at a passage which said that 'France is the greater and more famous kingdom' than England. Heylyn explained that 'is' was a misprint for 'was,' and that the passage referred to the time of Edward III; but the clause was omitted from subsequent editions. This misadventure led him in 1625 to make a journey through France, after which he wrote a satirical journal to show that he had no French proclivities. This journal circulated in manuscript, and was published without Heylyn's consent in 1656 under the title of 'France Painted to the Life, by a Learned and Impartial Hand.' On this Heylyn issued the original work, 'A Survey of France.'
Heylyn now felt himself to be man of mark, and resolved to enter upon his career as a theologian in such a way as to attract notice. In 1627 he chose as the subjects for disputation in the divinity school at Oxford the two burning questions of the visibility and infallibility of the church; he maintained against Dr. Prideaux, the regius professor of divinity, that the visible Church of England came from the church of Rome,and not from the Waldenses', Wycliffites, and Hussites; and further inclined Prideaux's wrath by speaking approvingly of Bellarmine. This audacity raised a good deal of comment, and introduced Heylyn to the notice of Laud, then bishop of Bath and Wells. Heylyn now felt sure of promotion, and in 1628 took the somewhat rash step of marrying. His wife was Laetitia, daughter of Thomas Highgate, or Heygate, of Hayes, Middlesex, and his brother had already married her elder sister. He was married in his college chapel, and continued to hold his fellowship for a year afterwards. He was accused later of having contracted a clandestine marriage, and deceived his college. It would seem that the greater part of the society were ignorant of it, and regarded the rumours about it as a joke, and that Heylyn did not act quite honourably in not immediately resigning his fellowship. He had a small inheritance from his father, but was looking out for preferment, and went as chaplain to the Earl of Danby, who was governor of Guernsey and Jersey. There Heylyn wrote a description of those islands, which he appended to his 'Survey of France.' Danby commended him to Laud, and in 1630 he was made one of the king's chaplains. He showed his gratitude to Danby by writing in 1631 a 'History of St. George of Cappadocia,' the patron saint of the order of the Garter. In this book Heylyn proved to his own satisfaction both the historical reality and the holiness of the martyr St. George. This book won him the presentation from a private patron of the benefice of Meysey Hampton in Gloucestershire; but the patron's right was disputed, and Bishop Goodman decided against him. Soon afterwards the king presented him to the rectory of Hemingford, Huntingdonshire, but Bishop Williams, who did not wish to have a partisan of Laud's in his diocese, claimed the presentation himself, and refused to institute Heylyn. The king retaliated by appointing Heylyn to a prebend of Westminster Cathedral (1631), of which Williams was dean. From that time forward it was one of Heylyn's occupations to annoy Williams, who was in disgrace at court, and make himself an instrument of the royal vengeance. In 1633 he made himself useful by preparing for Noy the case against Prynne for the publication of the 'Histriomastix.' He further prepared a memorandum for Noy on the subject of the feoffees for impropriations, a body of trustees who bought tithes for the purpose of endowing puritan lectureships. Heylyn had already preached against them at Oxford on 11 July 1630, probably at Laud's instigation; they were now proceeded against in the exchequer chamber, and were dissolved (Gardiner, History from 1603 to 1642, vii. 258–9).
In 1633 Heylyn was presented by the king to the benefice of Houghton in the bishopric of Durham, which he immediately exchanged for Alresford, Hampshire, that he might be nearer London. At Alresford Heylyn beautified the church and introduced the Laudian ritual; he also built a chapel for his parsonage, enlarged the house, and laid out his grounds, saying 'that he loved the noise of the workman's hammer.' He similarly improved his house at Westminster, and was a model of æsthetic munificence. In 1633, in his disputation for the degree of D.D., he again had a controversy with Prideaux about the authority of the church; Prideaux's arguments were laid before the king by Laud, and Heylyn was accused of having acted as an informer (Examen Historicum, ii. 211–18; Sanderson, Peter Pursued, pp. 6–9). In 1635 Heylyn headed a complaint of the prebendaries of Westminster against their dean, Bishop Williams, which was referred to a body of commissioners. The points raised were trivial, and after many sessions the commissioners could not agree, so that Heylyn only gained the character of a malicious busybody (Hacket, Life of Williams, ii. 90–9). In 1636 Heylyn was ordered by the king to write a 'History of the Sabbath,' as an answer to the scruples raised by the puritans. The book was written and printed in four months. At the same time Heylyn enjoyed a malicious triumph over his old antagonist Prideaux by translating from the Latin a discourse on the sabbath which had been read at Oxford in 1622, and took a broader view of the matter than was agreeable to the puritans, who regarded Prideaux as one of their champions. This, however, was only an episode in Heylyn's pursuit of Bishop Williams, whom Charles I and Laud were desirous to discredit. Heylyn brought to light a letter of Williams to the vicar of Grantham, written in 1627, in which the bishop ruled that the communion-table should stand, 'not altar-wise, but table-wise,' and supported his ruling from Elizabeth's injunctions. This letter Heylyn pulled to pieces in a pamphlet, 'A Coal from the Altar' (licensed 5 May 1636). To this Williams replied by a book, 'The Holy Table, Name and Thing,' which professed to be written by a Lincolnshire clergyman, and only to be licensed by the bishop (licensed for his own diocese 30 Nov. 1636). Heylyn quickly retorted by 'Antidotum Lincolnense, an Answer to the Bishop of Lincoln's Book,' and certainly had the best of it in smartness and point (ib. ii. 101–10; Gardiner, Hist. Engl. viii. 253). Williams was suspended by the Star-chamber 24 July 1637, and controversy with him became needless.
On the removal of Williams, Heylyn was made treasurer for the chapter of Westminster, and did good service in repairing the abbey. He was presented by the chapter to the living of Islip, Oxfordshire, which he at once exchanged for South Warnborough, Hampshire, so as to have his benefices nearer together. About this time Heylyn's eyesight began to fail him, and in 1638 he and his family were attacked by a dangerous fever at Alresford. On his recovery, undeterred by the fact that he had to depend on an uneducated amanuensis, he returned to his studies, and began to collect materials for his 'History of the Reformation of the Church of England.' But his literary pursuits were soon interrupted. When the Short parliament met in 1640, Heylyn in convocation proposed a conference with the commons about religious matters. He saw the need of some compromise, and was astounded when he heard of the dissolution. However, he showed his loyalty by suggesting to Laud a precedent of Elizabeth's reign for continuing convocation after parliament had ceased to sit, and by this means the clergy made a money grant to the king (Observations, p. 197). He is further said to have had the chief part in passing seventeen new canons which asserted the divine right of kings. The canons, however, were not efficacious against the Scottish arms, and Charles had to summon the Long parliament. Heylyn hastened from Alresford to London, when it was proposed that the bishops should take no part in Strafford's trial, as being a 'causa sanguinis.' Heylyn wrote a pamphlet, 'De jure paritatis episcoporum,' in which he asserted their right to take part in any matter brought before the House of Lords. But the tide had turned against Heylyn, and his enemies repaid him in kind. Prynne brought him before a committee of the commons to answer for his share in the condemnation of the 'Histriomastix.' Williams emerged from the Tower, and interrupted Heylyn's sermon in Westminster Abbey by knocking with his staff and exclaiming, 'No more of that point, Peter.' Heylyn soon found that between Williams and the committee of parliament life in London was impossible, and he was allowed to retire to Alresford. There for a time he was permitted to live in peace, but when war broke out, Sir William Waller in 1642 sent a troop of soldiers with orders to bring him prisoner to Portsmouth. He contrived, however, to escape and join the king at Oxford, where he was ordered to chronicle current events in the 'Mercurius Aulicus,' and to act as historian of the war, in which capacity he wrote several 'relations.' The news of this literary activity soon reached London, and led to his being declared a delinquent by the parliamentary committee, whereupon his house at Alresford was stripped of its contents, and his library dispersed, to his great grief. He was now reduced to destitution, and had to send his wife to London to live with her friends, while he wandered in disguise from house to house where he could find entertainment. His wife succeeded in raising some money, and joined her husband at Winchester, where they lived peaceably till the town was taken by the parliamentary forces in 1646. Heylyn had great difficulty in escaping, and again was condemned to wander in various disguises till in 1648 he settled at Minster Lovel, Oxfordshire, the seat of his elder brother, who rented it from his nephew, and farmed it himself. Though he was deprived of his ecclesiastical possessions, he compounded for his sequestered estate, and so obtained a little money. He was able again to return to his studies, and enlarged his 'Geography' into a 'Cosmography,' remembering, as he says in his preface, the advice given him by a bystander when he was examined before the commons' committee, 'Geography is better than divinity.' He was able to live quietly at Minster Lovel, where he entertained some of his old friends, who were less fortunate than himself. In 1653 he bought a house called Lacy's Court, near Abingdon, that he might be able to use the library at Oxford. Here he built a little chapel, and no man hindered him from daily using the liturgy of the church. His parishioners at Alresford showed their affection for him by restoring the chief articles of his furniture, which had been bought by them, and which quieter times allowed them to bring him as a present.
A quiet life, however, did not suit Heylyn. In 1656 he published anonymously 'Observations on Mr. Hamon L'Estrange's Life of Charles I,' in which he dissented from L'Estrange's views of the legality of the proceedings of the Laudian clergy. To this L'Estrange, who easily guessed the authorship, replied by a savage attack on Heylyn, who answered in 'Extraneus Vapulans, or the Observator rescued from the violent but vain attacks of Hamon L'Estrange, Esq.;' the smartest and most telling of Heylyn's controversial writings, abounding in sarcasm, and clothing a good deal of learning with a light garb of witty repartee. Encouraged by the reception of this book, he ventured next year to publish 'Ecclesia Vindicata, or the Church of England justified.' It is a sign of Cromwell's toleration that such a book was allowed to circulate; but though opinions were winked at, they had to be paid for, and Heylyn's estate was decimated by the major-general. Heylyn, however, was able to exercise his love of contention by struggling manfully to prevent a scheme for pulling down the church of St. Nicholas, Abingdon, a struggle in which he was practically successful. But he found a more important subject for controversy with Nicholas Bernard [q. v.], to some of whose remarks, made in a funeral sermon on Archbishop Ussher, he had already replied in 'Extraneus Vapulans.' Bernard in 1657 published a book, 'The Judgement of the late Primate of Ireland of the extent of Christ's Death and Sacrifice, of the Sabbath and observance of the Lord's Day,' &c., to which Heylyn in 1658 made answer in 'Respondet Petrus, or the Answer of Peter Heylyn, D.D., to Dr. Bernard's book, with an Appendix in answer to certain passages in Mr. Sanderson's "History of the Life and Reign of King Charles."' In this Heylyn returned to the examination of the puritan view of the sabbath, and passed on to the relations between Ussher and Strafford. Bernard was said to have applied to Cromwell that Heylyn's book as directed against the sabbath should be burned. The question was committed by the lord mayor of London to a committee of divines, and Heylyn, who heard of this on a visit to London, begged that this indignity should not be inflicted on him, and the matter was allowed to drop (Certamen Epistolare, or the Letter-combat managed with Mr. Baxter, Dr. Bernard, &c., pp. 118–31).
Heylyn, however, could not long restrain his pen from criticism, nor abandon his function of setting all men right. In 1658–9 he published 'Examen Historicum, or a Discovery and Examination of the Mistakes, Falsities, and Defects in some Modern Histories.' In this book he first attacked Fuller's 'Church History,' and had no difficulty in pointing out a number of errors in matters of detail; but he further criticised the general method and spirit of the book, and exposed with sharpness its puritan tendencies. The second part of the 'Examen' was devoted to William Sanderson's 'History of Charles I from the Cradle to the Grave.' Sanderson replied in 'Post-haste,' a reply to which Heylyn added as an appendix in his second edition. Fuller also replied in 'The Appeal of Injured Innocence,' which was not so much a justification of himself as a witty apology. He sent a copy of this to Heylyn with a characteristically genial letter (Certamen Epistolare, pp. 312–14), which, however, did not mollify Heylyn's temper at the time, though a little while afterwards Fuller paid him a visit at Abingdon, which led to a friendship between the two men. Before this took place, however, Heylyn added to the number of his controversies by attacking Baxter for some passages in the preface of 'The Grotian Religion,' which reflected on himself. He now joined his various controversies together in 'Certamen Epistolare, or the Letter-combat managed with Mr. Baxter, Dr. Bernard, Mr. Hickman, and J. H. [John Harrington], Esq., with an Examination of Fuller's Appeal of Injured Innocence' (1659).
Controversy, however, was laid aside in the rapid changes of events which brought about the restoration of Charles II, on which Heylyn returned to his house at Westminster. He was present as sub-dean at the king's coronation on 23 April 1661, and urged upon Clarendon in a letter the desirability of calling convocation together when parliament met. His advice was adopted, and when convocation assembled in May, his house at Westminster, which he lost no time in repairing, was the meeting-place of his clerical friends, who came to him for counsel (Kennett, Register of Convocation, pp. 450–451). In the proceedings of the ecclesiastical restoration he was consulted with respect, and would probably have been made a bishop but for his physical infirmity, which increased so that he rarely left his house except to go to church. His last years were entirely devoted to study; but he was afflicted with a quartan ague and gradually wasted away. He died on 8 May 1662, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where an epitaph was put up in his honour composed by Dean Earle. He was the father of eleven children, and his widow survived him.
In personal appearance Heylyn was short and spare; Wood says that he was 'of very mean port and presence;' in later years he grew so spare that he 'looked like a skeleton.' There is a portrait of him by R. White in a frontispiece to his 'Historical and Miscellaneous Tracts' (1681). His temper was nervous and irritable, and his manner was restless. Though he subdued his temper in his ordinary dealings with others, it was increased in his writings by the intensity of a student's concentration on his subject. Heylyn was above all things a critical student of the academic type, a man of wide reading and tenacious memory, with an instinct for discovering mistakes in detail, and a contempt for ignorance, which blinded him to the good points of those from whom he differed. Though personally kindly, he was an acrimonious controversialist. Hacket calls him 'a bluster-master,' and Anthony à Wood expresses the opinion of many contemporaries when he characterises him as 'very conceited and pragmatical.' Heylyn was, however, a man who never shrank from expressing his opinions to the full. He was also a devoted student, and deserves admiration for his resolute struggle against the disadvantage of blindness. After 1651 he was entirely unable to read or write himself, and for some years before his sight had gradually been failing. It is remarkable that in spite of this he should have undertaken many controversies, which required many quotations and turned upon minute points of detailed knowledge. That he should have been able to do this was owing to his accurate memory, of which he says that he 'always thought that tenure in capite was a nobler and more honourable tenure than to hold by copy' (Extraneus Vapulans, p. 132).
Heylyn's most important books were finished during the last years of his life, and were intended to furnish a complete survey of the ecclesiastical questions of his time. They are valuable as an exposition of the historical views of the Laudian school, and show both the basis of sound knowledge and the one-sided application of it to current questions which mark Laud's policy. In Heylyn's works we find the literary justification of Laud's conduct, especially in 'Ecclesia Restaurata,' 'Cyprianus Anglicus,' and 'Aerius Redivivus.' 'Ecclesia Restaurata, or the History of the Reformation,' was published in London in 1661, and went rapidly through two other editions, 1670, 1674; the last edition has emendations, apparently by the author; it was edited in 1849 by the Rev. J. C. Robertson for the Ecclesiastical History Society. The history extends from the accession of Edward to the completion of the Elizabethan settlement in 1566. Heylyn has not brought to light any new facts, but he is the first writer who has attempted to estimate the losses as well as the gains of the religious convulsion of the sixteenth century. He dwells upon the irregularities and disorders as a justification of Laud's attempt to restore ecclesiastical order. 'Cyprianus Anglicus, or the History of the Life and Death of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury' (1668, 1671, 1719), is a defence of Laud against Prynne's 'Canterburies Doom,' and is the chief authority for Laud's personal character and private life. 'Aerius Redivivus, or the History of Presbyterianism' (1670, 1672), traces the origin of the English troubles to the spirit of the puritans, by showing that their party, from the days of Calvin, had been the source of civil discord. Besides these was published in 1681 'Kειμήλια ἐκκλησιαστικά, or Historical and Miscellaneous Tracts,' containing (1) 'Ecclesia Vindicata, or the Church of England justified,' originally published in 1657, which incorporated several other works, such as 'The History of Episcopacy' (1642), 'The History of Liturgies,' 'Parliament's Power in Laws for Religion' (1645), and 'The Undeceiving of the People in the Point of Tithes' (1648); (2) 'The History of the Sabbath,' 1635; (3) 'Historia Quinquarticularis, or a Historical Declaration on the Five Controverted Points reproached in the name of Arminianism,' originally published in 1660; (4) 'The Stumbling-block of Disobedience and Rebellion,' originally published in 1658; (5) 'De Jure Paritatis Episcoporum.' A full list of Heylyn's writings is in Wood's 'Athenæ,' iii. 557–67.
[There are two Lives of Heylyn by contemporaries, and it would seem that Heylyn's controversial spirit affected even his biographers. When the tracts were preparing for publication in 1681 the publisher applied to Heylyn's son for a biographical introduction. The commission was given to George Vernon, rector of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, but when the manuscript was delivered the publisher was disappointed to find that it was not from the pen of Heylyn's son-in-law, John Barnard or Bernard [q. v.] , rector of Waddington, Lincoln, who had been set aside owing to family differences. The publisher sent Vernon's manuscript to Barnard who made great alterations, which were submitted by the publisher to Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, who corrected unsparingly the result of the previous revision (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iv. 606). This is the origin of the Life prefixed to the Tracts. Its appearance in this mutilated form excited the wrath of Vernon and Barnard alike, and in 1682 Vernon published his Life of Dr. Peter Heylyn, with a preface that seemed to reflect on Barnard. This provoked Barnard to publish in 1683 Theologo-Historicus, or the True Life of the most reverend Divine and excellent Historian, Peter Heylyn, D.D., with a long preface directed against Vernon (see Disraeli, Curiosities of Literature, ed. 1849, iii. 238). The statements contained in these competing biographies do not materially differ. Barnard's Life has been printed by Robertson in his edition of the Ecclesia Restaurata, incorporating from Vernon any additional information. See also Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 552–569; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 90; Lloyd's Memoirs of the Lives of Excellent Personages who suffered for Protestantism, pp. 525–8.]