Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ward, Seth
WARD, SETH (1617–1689), successively bishop of Exeter and Salisbury, baptised at St. Mary, Aspenden, in Hertfordshire, on 5 April 1617, was the second son of John Ward (d. 1656), an attorney of that town, by his wife, Martha Dalton (d. 1646), an accomplished and pious woman. He was taught ‘grammar learning and arithmetic in the school at Buntingford,’ and on 1 Dec. 1632 was admitted to Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, under the tutorship of Charles Pendrith, as servitor to the master, Samuel Ward (d. 1643) [q. v.] He was not related to Samuel, but was recommended to his notice by the vicar of Buntingford, Alexander Strange. He soon after became a scholar, graduating B.A. in 1636–7, and M.A. on 27 July 1640. In the same year he was elected a fellow of Sidney-Sussex College, and at commemoration was chosen prævaricator, or official jester, by the vice-chancellor, John Cosin [q. v.] In this office his freedom of speech displeased Cosin so much that he suspended Ward from his degree, restoring him, however, on the following day.
While at Cambridge Ward devoted much attention to the study of mathematics, which he commenced spontaneously without any instructor, and in 1643 was chosen mathematical lecturer in the university. He shared his enthusiasm with (Sir) Charles Scarburgh [q. v.] Together they perused the ‘Clavis Mathematicæ,’ and, finding some parts of it obscure, they visited the author, William Oughtred [q. v.], at his house at Albury in Surrey. Oughtred treated them with much cordiality, and on their return they introduced the ‘Clavis’ as a text-book in the university, commenting on it in their lectures. Ward also suggested several corrections and additions to the treatise, and persuaded Oughtred to publish a third edition in 1652. His fame as a mathematician extended beyond England, and he corresponded with foreign savants. Two letters to Johann Hevelius on astronomical subjects, written in 1654 and 1655, are printed in ‘Excerpta ex Literis ad Hevelium’ (Danzig, 1683, 4to). A third letter, dated 2 Feb. 1662–3, is preserved in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 28104, f. 10.
After the outbreak of the civil war Cambridge early suffered for its loyalty. In 1643 Samuel Ward was imprisoned in St. John's College, and Seth assiduously attended him until his death on 7 Sept. Seth was a staunch churchman, and, with Peter Gunning [q. v.], John Barwick [q. v.], and Isaac Barrow (1614–1680) [q. v.], he assisted in compiling ‘Certain Disquisitions and Considerations representing to the Conscience the Unlawfulness of the … Solemn League and Covenant.’ The first edition was immediately seized and burned by the puritans, and the earliest extant is that which appeared at Oxford in 1644. Deprived of his fellowship by the committee of visitors in August 1644 for refusing the covenant, he took refuge with Samuel Ward's relatives in and around London, and afterwards with Oughtred at Albury. While with him he improved his knowledge of mathematics, and on leaving his house took up his abode with his friend Ralph Freeman at Aspenden, his birthplace, acting as tutor to Freeman's sons. There he remained till 1649, when he paid a visit of some months' duration to Lord Wenman [see Wenman, Thomas, second Viscount] at Thame in Oxfordshire. In 1647 the visitation of Oxford University began. Among those ejected in 1648 was John Greaves [q. v.], Savilian professor of astronomy. On Greaves's recommendation, with the support of Scarburgh and Sir John Trevor, Ward was appointed his successor in 1649. He had by this time sufficiently mastered his scruples to take the oath to the English Commonwealth, and turned his attention to reviving the interest in the astronomical lectures, which had fallen into neglect and almost into disuse. He also gained fame as a preacher, though as a Savilian professor he was exempted from any obligation to the university to deliver discourses from the pulpit.
Ward is chiefly remembered as an astronomer by his theory of planetary motion. In 1645 Ismael Boulliau, in his ‘Astronomia Philolaica,’ enunciated an astronomical system in which for the first time the elliptical nature of the planetary orbits was taken into account. In 1653 Ward published a treatise entitled ‘In Ismaelis Bullialdi Astronomiæ Philolaicæ Fundamenta Inquisitio Brevis’ (Oxford, 4to), in which he advanced a theory of planetary motion at once simpler and more accurate than that of the French astronomer, and in 1656 he issued his ‘Astronomia Geometrica; ubi Methodus proponitur qua Primariorum Planetarum Astronomia sive Elliptica sive Circularis possit Geometrice absolvi,’ in which he propounded it in a more elaborate and finished form. According to his hypothesis the line drawn from a planet to the superior focus of its elliptical orbit turns with a uniform angular velocity round that point. In orbits of small eccentricity this is nearly true, and in such cases the result almost coincides with that obtained by applying Kepler's principle of the uniform description of areas. Ward, however, regarded his theorem as universally true, guided by the belief that a centre of uniform motion must necessarily exist. His was the last system involving such an assumption which had any vogue, and it was abandoned as simpler methods were found for resolving Kepler's problem. Boulliau replied to him in ‘Ismaelis Bullialdi Astronomiæ Philolaicæ Fundamenta clarius explicata et asserta,’ printed in his ‘Exercitationes Geometricæ tres’ (1657), acknowledging some errors of his own and pointing out some inaccuracies in Ward's theory.
On 23 Oct. 1649 Ward was incorporated M.A. at Oxford, and he entered himself as a fellow-commoner on 29 April 1650 at Wadham College from regard for the warden, John Wilkins [q. v.], famous for his learning. During his residence in Oxford he lived at Wadham, in the chamber over the gate. At that time Oxford was the home of many illustrious men of science, among others of Robert Boyle [q. v.], Thomas Willis (1621–1675) [q. v.], Jonathan Goddard [q. v.], John Wallis (1618–1673) [q. v.], Ralph Bathurst [q. v.], and Lawrence Rooke [q. v.] These men constituted a brilliant intellectual society, and vastly assisted the progress of science in England. In 1645 Wallis, Goddard, Theodore Haak [q. v.], and others, then in London, held weekly meetings to discuss mathematics and physical science. About 1649, when most of them had removed to Oxford, they formed ‘The Philosophical Society of Oxford,’ of which Ward became a member. There still remained a remnant of the parent society, however, in London, meeting generally in Gresham College, and from these two associations the Royal Society afterwards sprang. It was incorporated by charter on 15 July 1662, and received a more ample constitution on 22 April 1663. Ward, who by that time had removed to London, was one of the original members.
During his residence at Oxford Ward became involved in a mathematical and philosophical controversy with Hobbes, in which, however, Wallis, the Savilian professor of geometry, took the chief share. In 1654 Ward, replying in his ‘Vindiciæ Academiarum’ to several attacks on the universities, and especially to ‘Academiarum Examen,’ 1654, by John Webster (1610–1682) [q. v.], referred to Hobbes's disparaging criticisms in the ‘Leviathan,’ and retorted that, so far from the universities being what they had been in Hobbes's youth, he would find his geometrical pieces, when they appeared, better understood than he should like. This was said in reference to the boasts Hobbes freely made that he had squared the circle and performed other geometric feats. In his ‘De Corpore,’ which appeared in the following year, Hobbes renewed the strife by giving his solutions to the world. It was arranged that Wallis, the Savilian professor of geometry, should criticise the mathematical part of the book, while Ward occupied himself with the philosophical and physical sections. Ward performed his share of the task in his treatise ‘In Thomæ Hobbii Philosophiam Exercitatio Epistolica,’ Oxford, 1656, 8vo, addressed to John Wilkins, the warden of Wadham. In it he also exposed the philosopher's faulty mathematical reasoning, leaving the subject to be further pursued by Wallis (cf. Hobbes, English Works, ed. Molesworth, 1839–45, iv. 435, v. 454, vii. passim).
On 31 May 1654 Ward proceeded D.D. at Oxford, Wallis taking his degree at the same time. When they came to be presented a dispute for precedency arose, which was at first determined in favour of Ward, but Wallis eventually carried the day by going out grand compounder. In 1657, on the resignation of Michael Roberts, Ward was elected principal of Jesus College, Oxford, through the influence of Francis Mansell [q. v.], who had been ejected from the office by the parliamentary visitors. Cromwell, however, put in Francis Howell [q. v.], with a promise of compensation to Ward, which he failed to make good. On 18 March 1658–9 Ward was incorporated D.D. at Cambridge, and on 14 Sept. 1659 he was chosen president of Trinity College, Oxford. He possessed none of the statutory qualifications for the office, however, and in August 1660 was compelled to resign it to the former president, Hannibal Potter. After this final disappointment he resigned his professorship, retired to London, and was compensated by Charles II with the vicarage of St. Lawrence Jewry, to which he was admitted on 19 Jan. 1660–1, and with the rectory of Uplowman in Devonshire. In 1662 he was rector of St. Breock in Cornwall. Already, in 1656, he had been appointed precentor of Exeter by Ralph Brownrig [q. v.], the exiled bishop, to whom he had acted as chaplain during his residence at Sunning in Berkshire. In spite of ridicule, he had punctually paid the bishop's secretary the fees, and at the Restoration he reaped the reward of his forethought, receiving the confirmation of his appointment by patent on 25 July 1660. On 10 Sept. he was made a prebendary, and on 26 Dec. 1661 was elected dean. On 20 July 1662 he was consecrated bishop in succession to John Gauden [q. v.], translated to Worcester. While dean he expelled the presbyterians and independents from the cathedral which they had shared with the episcopalians, demolished certain shops and stalls which had been profanely erected under its roof, and restored and beautified the edifice out of the church revenues at an expense of 25,000l. During his tenure of the see he repaired the episcopal palace, augmented the value of the poorer benefices, increased the revenues of the prebends, and procured the union of the deanery of Burien with the bishopric. On 5 Sept. 1667 he was translated to the see of Salisbury in succession to Alexander Hyde [q. v.], and on 25 Nov. 1671 was made chancellor of the order of the Garter. He was the first protestant bishop to hold this office, procuring its restoration to the see of Salisbury after it had been in lay hands since 1539. Ward's first care after his advancement to Salisbury was to beautify his cathedral and palace. In 1669 Christopher Wren on his invitation made a survey of ‘our lady church at Salisbury,’ of which a manuscript copy is in possession of the Royal Society (Britton, Memoir of Aubrey, 1845, p. 97). About 1672 Ward gave a large sum towards making the river navigable from Salisbury to the sea. He was long a friend of the Duke of Albemarle, attended his last moments in January 1669–70, and preached his funeral sermon, which was published with the title ‘The Christian's Victory over Death’ (London, 1670, 8vo). In 1672, on the death of John Cosin, he declined the bishopric of Durham, not liking the conditions attached to the offer.
Although Ward was in favour of rendering the English church more comprehensive by modifying the professions required from conformists, he was distinguished for his activity against dissenters. He gave strenuous support to the conventicle and five-miles acts, and afterwards, stimulated, it is suggested, by letters from court, he so harried the nonconformists that in 1669 they unsuccessfully petitioned the privy council against him, pleading that by his persecutions he was ruining the cloth trade at Salisbury. He entirely suppressed conventicles in the town, and acted with such severity that when James began his policy of toleration he particularly enjoined him through Colonel Blood to moderate his zeal. But though thus harsh in his general conduct, he tempered his sternness with many individual acts of kindness, and sometimes showed that he could appreciate piety and learning even when disjoined from orthodoxy (cf. Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, iii. 84, 86; Calamy, Account, 1713, pp. 227, 237, 245, 761; Calamy, Continuation of the Account, 1727, pp. 218, 303, 315, 336, 339; Clarke, Lives of Eminent Divines, 1683, ii. 61).
In his later years Ward's intellect became much weakened. A violent controversy with his dean, Thomas Pierce [q. v.], gave him much distress. Pierce, having been disappointed in his request for a prebend for his nephew, disputed the bishop's right of nomination, which he claimed for the crown. Both sides submitted a manuscript summary of their position to the ecclesiastical commissioners, and in 1683 Pierce published a treatise in support of his contention, entitled ‘A Vindication of the King's Sovereign Right.’ It was suppressed, but has been reprinted as an appendix to Curll's ‘History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church at Salisbury,’ 1719. Ward remained victorious, but when the excitement of the controversy had passed, he sank into complete senility. In May 1688 he subscribed the bishops' peti- tion against reading James's declaration in favour of liberty of conscience, but with no intelligent knowledge of his action. He died, unmarried, at Knightsbridge on 6 Jan. 1688–9, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral, in the south aisle of the choir, where a monument was erected to his memory by his nephew, Seth Ward (see Hist. and Antiq. of the Cathedral Church at Salisbury, 1723, pp. 118–22).
‘Ward,’ says Burnet, ‘was a man of great reach, went deep in mathematical studies, and was a very dexterous man, if not too dexterous, for his sincerity was much questioned. But the Lord Clarendon saw that most of the bishops were men of merit by their sufferings, but of no great capacity for business. So he brought in Ward, as a man fit to govern the church; and Ward, to get his former errors forgot, went into the high notions of a severe conformity, and became the most considerable man on the bishops' bench. He was a profound statesman, but a very indifferent clergyman.’ He was courtly in manner, much given to hospitality, and generous in private life. Among other benefactions he founded the college of matrons at Salisbury in 1682 for the support of widows of ministers in the dioceses of Salisbury and Exeter, and in 1684 established almshouses at his birthplace, Buntingford, and at Layston, in the neighbourhood, a hospital for the maintenance of well-to-do inhabitants who had fallen into poverty. He made surveys of his dioceses, containing particulars regarding the livings and clergy, to assist him in his schemes for improving their condition. Ward's portrait by John Greenhill is in the town-hall, Salisbury; another, drawn and engraved from the life in 1678 by David Loggan, was purchased by the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, London, in July 1881. A third portrait, by an unknown painter, is at Oriel College, Oxford (Cat. First Loan Exhib. No. 971). Some verses on him by Samuel Woodford are included in John Nichols's ‘Select Collection of Miscellaneous Poetry’ (1800, iv. 346).
Besides the works already mentioned and many sermons, Ward was the author of: 1. ‘A Philosophical Essay towards an Eviction of the Being and Attributes of God, the Immortality of the Souls of Men, and the Truth and Authority of Scripture,’ Oxford, 1652, 8vo; 5th ed., Oxford, 1677, 8vo. 2. ‘De Cometis, ubi de Cometarum Natura disseritur, nova Cometarum Theoria, et novissima Cometæ Historia proponitur,’ Oxford, 1653, 4to. 3. ‘Idea Trigonometriæ demonstratæ in Usum Juventutis Oxon.,’ Oxford, 1654, 4to. 4. ‘Seven Sermons,’ London, 1673, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1674. His ‘Sermon on the Final Judgment’ is included in Wesley's ‘Christian Library,’ 1827, xiv. 321. He edited Samuel Ward's ‘Dissertatio de Baptismatis Infantilis Vi et Efficacia,’ London, 1653, 8vo; and ‘Opera Nonnulla,’ London, 1658, fol., which included his ‘Determinationes Theologicæ,’ his ‘Tractatus de Justificatione,’ and his ‘Prælectiones de Peccato Originali.’ He was the author of the preface to Hobbes's ‘Humane Nature,’ 1650, which was signed ‘F. B.,’ the initials of Francis Bowman, the bookseller. He also composed an epigram for his friend Lawrence Rooke, and presented a pendulum clock to the Royal Society to commemorate him.[There is an excellent article on the materials for Ward's life by the Rev. J. E. B. Mayor in Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 269; Life of Ward, 1697, by Walter Pope [q. v.], who resided in Ward's house towards the close of his life (the life is in great part reprinted in Cassan's Lives of the Bishops of Sherborne and Salisbury, 1824); both Ward and Pope were attacked by Thomas Wood in An Appendix to Pope's Life of Ward, 1697; Some Particulars of the Life, Habits, and Pursuits of Seth Ward, Salisbury, 1879; Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, vol. i. p. clxx, iii. 588, 1209, iv. 246, 305, 512; Wood's Fasti Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 184; Biographia Britannica, 1766; Chauncy's Hist. of Hertfordshire, 1700, pp. 126, 127, 132; Clutterbuck's Hist. of Hertfordshire, 1827, iii. 356–9, 432, 437; Aubrey's Brief Lives, ed. Clark, 1898, ii. 183–90; Wood's Life and Times, passim, Oxford Hist. Soc.; Encyclopædia Brit. 8th ed. i. 611, 9th ed. xii. 36; Burnet's Hist. of his Own Time, 1823, i. 332, 391, iii. 136; Newcourt's Repert. Eccles. i. 387; Chandler's Hist. of Persecution, 1736, p. 384; Burnet's Letter to the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield about Anthony Harmer's Specimen, 1693, p. 10; Hutton's Phil. and Math. Dict. 1851; Warton's Life of Bathurst, 1761, p. 45; Robertson's Hobbes (Knight's Philosophical Classics), 1886, pp. 168–75; Oughtred's Clavis Mathematica, preface to 3rd ed.; D'Israeli's Quarrels of Authors, 1814, iii. 54, 96, 112, 307, 308; Pepys's Diary, ed. Braybrooke, iii. 429, iv. 155; Evelyn's Diary, ed. Bray, i. 290, ii. 176; Worthington's Life, ed. Crossley, passim; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 159; Gardiner's Registers of Wadham College, i. 182; European Mag. 1792, ii. 341; Clerk's De Plenitudine Mundi, 1660.]