Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hickeringill, Edmund

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HICKERINGILL or HICKHORNGILL, EDMUND (1631–1708), eccentric divine and pamphleteer, son of Edmund Hickhorngill, was born at Aberford, near Leeds, and baptised on 19 Sept. 1631. He became a pensioner at St. John's College, Cambridge, on 17 June 1647 (Mayor, Admissions, p. 85). From Lady day 1651 to Midsummer 1652 he was junior fellow of Gonville and Caius College (cf. Works, ii. 467, iii. 29), where the views on baptism of the master, William Dell [q. v.], seem to have influenced him. In 1652 we find him at Hexham, Northumberland, where ‘Edmund Hickhorngill’ on 24 Aug., having received adult baptism, was admitted into the baptist church formed in that year by Thomas Tillam of Colchester. On 20 Dec. ‘the church, with prayer, fasting, and imposition of hands of the minister, ordained brother Hickhorngill a minister, and their messenger into Scotland.’ He reached Dalkeith on 30 Dec.; on 8 Jan. 1653 he began a series of letters to his Hexham friends, signing himself (if the transcript is correct) ‘Edward Hickhorngill.’ Monck handed him over to Lilburne, who made him chaplain in his own regiment of horse. In March he joined a baptist church at Leith; but his opinions rapidly changed; in May he was excommunicated, and became a quaker. On 12 July he returned to Dalkeith ‘in a swaggering garb,’ having renounced quakerism and become a deist, owning ‘no other rule to himself but his reason.’ His old friends regarded him as ‘a desperate atheist.’ In September he wrote to Hexham a penitent letter from St. Johnstons (i.e. Perth), where Lilburne had given him a place in the garrison as lieutenant to Captain Gascoigne in Colonel Daniell's regiment. The baptists do not appear to have received him again. By his own account he remained in Scotland ‘above three years,’ being stationed as ‘governor and deputy governor’ at Finlarig and Meikleour castles, Perthshire; he was ‘one of the first and last justices of the peace that ever was in Scotland’ (ib. iii. 29). His next move was to foreign service; he ‘was a soldier and captain (by sea and land) under Carolus Gustavus, king of Swedes’ (ib. p. 56). He visited Spain and Portugal, returned to England as Swedish envoy, and then became a captain in Fleetwood's regiment. Some appointment was found for him in the West Indies, and he made a stay in Jamaica. The Restoration brought him back to London towards the end of 1660; he drew up an account of Jamaica, dedicating it to Charles II. In this, his first publication, his name appears as Hickeringill. It is a clever description of the island, its products and people, interspersed with rude verses in coarse taste. Charles gave him a post of 1,000l. a year (ib. iii. 200) as secretary to Lord Windsor, ‘then going governour to Jamaica.’ But Hickeringill once more changed his mind, and was ordained (1661) by Robert Sanderson, bishop of Lincoln, who, he says, ‘was nick-nam'd the presbyterian bishop’ (ib. ii. 379). On 30 Jan. 1662 he preached a loyal sermon, comparing Charles I to Naboth. His first preferment seems to have been the vicarage of St. Peter's, Colchester, Essex; on 25 Aug. 1662 he signs the baptismal register as ‘Edward Hickeringill, vicar.’ This living he did not hold long; on 21 Oct. 1662 he was admitted to the rectory of All Saints, Colchester, a benefice which he retained till his death. From 22 Oct. 1662 till 1664 he was vicar of Boxted, Essex.

At All Saints Hickeringill succeeded an ejected nonconformist. He at first avoided ceremonies likely to be obnoxious to his congregation, and his extemporaneous vivacity as a preacher made him popular with the multitude. He came out as a pamphleteer in 1673, with a criticism of Marvell's ‘Re- hearsal Transpros'd;’ his ideas of religion are condensed (p. 262) in the rhymes:

By the liturgy learn to pray;
So pray and praise God every day.
The Apostles' Creed believe also;
Do as you would be done unto.
Sacraments take as well as you can;
This is the whole duty of man.

With equal gusto he soon ridiculed the high church party and his old friends the nonconformists. A violent quarrel with his bishop, Henry Compton (1632–1713) [q. v.], followed. The tithes of St. Botolph's, Colchester, had (since 1544) been enjoyed by the rectors of All Saints; Compton set aside this arrangement in favour of another clergyman. Hickeringill made himself obnoxious by researches into ecclesiastical law, enabling him to teach his neighbours to resist the exactions of the spiritual courts. On 9 May 1680 he preached before the lord mayor, Sir Robert Clayton [q. v.], at the Guildhall Chapel, London, hurling the curse of Meroz on all who, like Compton, slighted the law by allowing latitude to dissenters. In this pungent discourse Hickeringill asserts that civil authority is supreme in all matters, and shows much knowledge of constitutional history.

His subsequent life was a series of battles in the courts and in the press. On 3 March 1681 he was tried at Chelmsford assizes before Judge Weston on an indictment of twenty-four counts for barratry; his former general, Monck, now duke of Albemarle, sat on the bench. He conducted his own case, and proved a match for Sir George Jeffreys, the leading counsel against him. The prosecution broke down (ib. ii. 189 sq.), though it was reported in Nat. Thompson's weekly ‘Loyal Protestant’ that he had been convicted of perjury (ib. i. 394). He was next cited to Doctors' Commons for performing marriages without banns or license, and for proceedings in connection with the tithes of St. Botolph's and other parishes. He appeared before Sir Robert Wiseman on 8 June 1681, kept on his hat, and replied to all remonstrances in Greek, till Wiseman ordered an appearance in Greek to be registered as a non-appearance, when he threatened to prosecute Wiseman according to statute for citing him out of his proper diocese (ib. pp. 176 sq.). He appeared again on 21 Nov., and put in pleas, which on 25 Nov. were allowed (ib. pp. 53 sq., 115 sq.) An admirer, Sol. Shawe of Monmouth, addressed to him (2 Feb. 1682) an eulogistic poem. On 8 Feb. 1682 articles of good behaviour were exhibited against him in the king's bench (cf. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 162), and on 8 March, at the Chelmsford assizes, Compton prosecuted him for slander, ‘scandalum magnatum,’ under the statute 2 Ric. II, c. 5. At the Easter election of parish officers for St. Botolph's (4 April 1681) he had publicly spoken of Compton as ‘a bold, daring, impudent man,’ as ‘very ignorant,’ and ‘concerned in the damnable plot.’ This was understood of the Popish plot, but Hickeringill meant a plot against himself (ib. p. 150). Jeffreys was again counsel against him, and got a verdict for the plaintiff, with 2,000l. damages, which Compton proposed to give towards the building of St. Paul's. Hickeringill wrote a long letter to Compton which he proposed to send by the hands of Thomas Firmin [q. v.], whom he never saw, offering to pay the costs of the old suit, on condition that there should be a new trial (Scand. Mag. passim). For celebrating marriages irregularly he was suspended for three years. He was restored and excused the fine, on publicly recanting in the court of arches (27 June 1684) the ‘scandalous, erroneous, and seditious principles’ contained in his publications numbered 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 18 below (cf. Luttrell, i. 312). Meanwhile ‘that unhappy verdict’ had lost him a fortune of 20,000l., his uncle, Dr. Troutbeck, having altered the disposal of his estate, ‘lest any of the lawn-sleeves should lay their fingers on't’ (Works, iii. 117).

Soon after the accession of James II Hickeringill (perhaps suspected of favouring Monmouth's enterprise) was peremptorily excluded from his living by royal mandate, and not recalled till 1688, ‘about a month before the Dutch landed’ (ib. ii. 380). In 1691 Tom Brown (1663–1704) [q. v.] assailed him in his ‘Novus Reformator Vapulans,’ where Hickeringill is introduced as taking part in a discussion with David Jones and the ghost of Prynne. In 1705 his ‘Survey of the Earth’—Luttrell calls the book ‘the Vileness of the Earth’—gave Compton a fresh occasion for bringing him into the spiritual court. In March 1706–7 he published a ‘Letter concerning Barretry, Forgery, and the Danger and Malignity of partial Judges and Jurymen’ (Bodleian Library). Later in the year he was charged with altering the rate-books brought to him as commissioner of taxes by the assessors for the parish of Wix, in which he was a landowner; was convicted of the ‘forgery’ in August, and was fined 400l. ‘He carried himself,’ writes Hearne, ‘with that indecency to the court that he was thought to be mad’ (Collections, ed. Doble Oxf. Hist. Soc. ii. 33, 412). He was now an old man; in his last year he occupied himself in editing collections of his writings. He died on 30 Nov. 1708, in his seventy-eighth year, and was buried in his church, where his gravestone in the chancel bears a long inscription in Latin, from which the title ‘Reverendus admodum Dominus’ and the following words were erased (according to Colchester tradition, by Compton's order): ‘tam Marti quam Mercurio clarus, quippe qui terra mariq. Militavit non sine gloria, Ingeniiq. vires scriptis multiplice argumento insignitis demonstravit; sacris tandem ordinibus initiatus.’ His portrait (1706), engraved by J. Nutting from a painting by J. Jull, is prefixed to his ‘Miscellaneous Tracts.’ After settling at Colchester he married, and had ‘many children … all well provided for’ (ib. iii. 47). Two sons, Thomas and Mathias, and four daughters survived him. His private character was never assailed.

Throughout his writings, highly spiced with a random jocularity which he excuses as being natural to him, Hickeringill is a tenacious advocate of Erastianism (cf. his ‘Lay Clergy’). In his ‘Priestcraft’ is a strong infusion of rationalism; he denies infallibility to the Bible, and defends his position with some critical research. Of his pamphlets there are two disorderly collections (indicated by M. T. and W. in the list below), viz. ‘Miscellaneous Tracts, Essays, Satyrs,’ &c., 1707, 4to (seven parts, with separate titles and paging, the first printed 1705, the rest undated); and ‘Works,’ 1709, 8vo, 3 vols. (printed in 1708, see i. 353; in vol. ii. p. 353 immediately follows p. 208; so in vol. iii. p. 145 follows p. 135); reissued with new title-pages 1716 and 1721. His chief separate publications are:

  1. ‘Jamaica View'd,’ &c., 1661, 12mo (map by Colonel Edward D'Oyley, commander of the forces in Jamaica, dedication to Charles II, commendatory verses ‘To my Honoured Friend, Capt. Edm. Hickeringill,’ signed ‘G. E. Med. D.’); 2nd edit. 1661, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1705, 8vo (new map; this edition forms the first part of M. T.)
  2. ‘An Apology for Distressed Innocence … Sermon [1 K. xxi. 12, 13] … 30 Jan. 1662,’ &c., 1662 (?); 1700, 4to; reprinted W. i. 270.
  3. ‘Gregory, Father Greybeard, with his Vizard off … a Letter to our old friend R. L. from E. H.,’ &c., 1673, 8vo (to L'Estrange; on Marvell; see above).
  4. ‘Curse Ye Meroz: or, the Fatal Doom … Sermon [Jud. v. 23],’ &c., 1680, 4to, four editions same year; reprinted W. i. 220, mispaged 120 (see above; answered in ‘The Plotter's Doom,’ 1680, 4to, and ‘Observations on a late Famous Sermon,’ 1680, 4to).
  5. ‘Reflections … By A. B.,’ &c., 1680, 4to (answer to ‘Observations,’ &c.; probably by Hickeringill).
  6. ‘The Naked Truth. The Second Part,’ &c., 1681, fol. (anon.); 2nd edit. same year (title suggested by ‘The Naked Truth,’ 1675, by Herbert Croft, D.D. (1603–1691) [q. v.], with which it has nothing in common, being an attack on the exactions of spiritual courts, with tables of just fees; Hickeringill avows the authorship in a letter, 20 Nov. 1680, printed in 2nd edit.; two other parts appeared, disclaimed by Hickeringill, Works, ii. 6).
  7. ‘A Vindication of The Naked Truth, the second part … By Phil. Hickeringill,’ &c., 1681, fol. (against ‘Leges Angliæ,’ by Dr. Francis Fullwood. Cf. Works, ii. 6).
  8. ‘News from Doctor's Commons … Mr. Hickeringill's appearance there, June 8, 1681,’ &c., 1681, fol., reprinted W. ii. 176 (has appended ‘Essay concerning Sequestrations’ and ‘Impartial Narrative’ of the trial for barratry).
  9. ‘The Horrid Sin of Man-Catching … Sermon upon Jer. 5, 25, 26 … at Colchester, 10 July 1681,’ &c., 1681, 4to; 2nd edit. same year; 4th edit. 1682, fol.; reprinted W. i. 171 (preached without notes, written out and sent to press next day).
  10. ‘News from Colchester … Letter to … an honest Whig,’ &c., 1681 (?) reprinted W. i. 394 (signed A. B., 17 Aug. 1681).
  11. ‘The Black Non-Conformist Discover'd in More Naked Truth,’ &c., 1682, fol., reprinted W. ii. 1 (dedicated, 4 Dec. 1681, to Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury; title insinuates that bishops are nonconformists, as practising illegal ceremonies, &c.).
  12. ‘Essays on Several Subjects, in Two Parts,’ reprinted M. T. (seven papers on excommunications, sacrilege, probate, &c. of uncertain dates).
  13. ‘The Mushroom … in answer to … The Meddal,’ &c., 1682, fol., reprinted W. ii. 353 (the poem, a scurrilous attack on Dryden, is dated London, 17 March 1681–2).
  14. ‘The Character of a Sham-plotter or Man-catcher,’ &c. 1682 (?); reprinted W. i. 212.
  15. ‘Scandalum Magnatum: or, The Great Trial at Chelmnesford … betwixt Henry, bishop of London … and E. Hickeringill,’ &c., 1682, fol.
  16. ‘The Test or Tryal … of Spiritual-Courts,’ &c., 1683, fol.; reprinted M. T. (dated 11 Jan. 1682–3).
  17. ‘The Trimmer … Debate with the Observator,’ &c., 1683 (?); reprinted W. i. 353 (dialogue; written early in 1683).
  18. ‘The History of Whiggism,’ &c., 1683 (?); reprinted W. i. 1 (dialogue between Tory, Whig, and Tantivee; two parts).
  19. ‘The Most Humble Confession and Recantation,’ &c., 1684, fol.
  20. ‘Modest Enquiries proposed to the Convention of Estates,’ &c., 1689, 4to.
  21. ‘A Speech without Doors,’ &c., 1689, 4to.
  22. ‘A Dialogue between Timothy and Titus about the Articles and Canons,’ &c., 1689 (Davids; not seen).
  23. ‘The Ceremony-Monger,’ &c., 1689, 4to; 2nd edit. same year; 3rd edit. [1696], 4to; reprinted W. ii. 377.
  24. ‘The Good Old Cause; or, The Divine Captain … Sermon preach'd in a Camp,’ &c., 1692, 4to; 1704, 4to; reprinted W. ii. 512.
  25. ‘The Lay-Clergy; or, the Lay Elder,’ &c., 1695, 4to; reprinted W. i. 318.
  26. ‘The Parliament Tacks … Account of the Tacking Affair,’ &c., 1703 (?); reprinted M. T.
  27. ‘Priestcraft; its Character and Consequences,’ 1705 (?); reprinted, 2nd edit. M. T. (new title, ‘A General History of Priestcraft’).
  28. ‘Priestcraft … Second Part,’ &c., 1705 (?); reprinted M. T.
  29. ‘The Vindication of Priestcraft,’ &c., 1706 (?); reprinted, 2nd edit. M. T. (Nos. 27, 28, and 29 form W. iii.; reissued 1721, with title, ‘The History of Priests and Priestcraft’).
  30. ‘The Survey of the Earth,’ &c., 1705 (?); reprinted, 2nd edit. M. T.
  31. ‘A Burlesque Poem in Praise of Ignorance,’ &c., 1708, 4to (dated, Pond-Hall in Essex, 15 Jan. 1707–8; chiefly written in 1650 at Cambridge; Hudibrastic metre).

[Works cited; Morant's Hist. of Colchester, 1748, app. p. 51; Chalmers's Dict.; Thoresby Correspondence, i. 447, ii. 8; Underhill's Records of the Churches … Hexham (Hanserd Knollys Society), 1854, pp. 290 sq.; Davids's Evang. Nonconf. Essex, 1863, pp. 304, 354, 373; information from the Rev. A. B. Lawrence, Aberford, R. F. Scott, esq., St. John's College, and Dr. J. S. Reid, Gonville and Caius College.]

A. G.