Hall, Arthur (DNB00)

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HALL, ARTHUR (fl. 1563–1604), translator and member of parliament, born at Grantham about 1540, was son of John Hall of Grantham, Lincolnshire, who was surveyor of Calais. On his father's death in his early youth, he became a ward of Sir William Cecil, and was brought up in Cecil's house with Cecil's son Thomas, afterwards earl of Exeter. He seems to have studied for a short time at St. John's College, Cambridge, but took no degree. Roger (whom he miscalls Richard) Ascham encouraged him in his studies, and he became proficient in classics. About 1563 he began a translation of Homer into English, but did not complete it for many years. Subsequently he travelled in Italy and southeastern Europe. In January 1568-9 he returned to England from Constantinople.

Hall seems to have been a well-to-do country gentleman, and in 1582 inherited much property, on the death of a kinsman at Grantham, but he apparently lived in London,, and gained notoriety by his excesses (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-90, p. 46). On 2 April 1571 he was elected M.P. for Grantham, and on 8 May 1572 was returned again for the same constituency to the parliament which sat till 1583. Nine days after his second election the House of Commons ordered him to answer at the bar of the house a charge of having made 'sundry lewd speeches' both within and without the house. Witnesses were directed to meet at Westminster, and deliver their testimony to the speaker in writing. On 19 May Hall was brought by the serjeant-at-arms to the bar. He apologised for his conduct, and was discharged after the speaker had severely reprimanded him. In the following year he was in more serious trouble. He was playing cards in an ordinary in Lothbury (16 Dec. 1573), when he quarrelled over the game with one of his companions, Melchisedech Mallory, whom he seems to have charged with cheating. A temporary truce was patched up, but the quarrel soon broke out with renewed violence. Hall, according to Mallory, declined to fight him; but on 30 June 1574} a serious affray between the disputants and their followers took place at a tavern near Fleet Bridge, and in November Edward Smalley, and other of Hall's servants, attacked and wounded Mallory in St. Paul's Churchyard. Mallory obtained a verdict for 100l. in a civil action against Smalley, and Hall began a libel suit against Mallory. But while the suit was pending, and before Smalley had paid the damages, Mallory died on 18 Sept. 1575. Mallory's executor failing to receive the 100l. from Smalley caused him to be arrested. As the servant of a member of parliament, he claimed immunity from arrest, and the House of Commons ordered his discharge, at the same time directing the serjeant-at-arms to rearrest him, on the ground that he was fraudulently seeking to avoid the payment of a just debt. Much feeling was excited by the controversy, and both inside and outside the House of Commons Hall and his allies were condemned. A bill was introduced, but was soon dropped, providing that Hall should pay the 100l., and be disabled for ever from sitting in parliament. Finally, Smalley, and one Matthew Kirtleton, described as 'schoolmaster to Mr. Hall,' were committed to the Tower for a month by order of the house, and thenceforward until Smalley gave security for the payment of the 100l. Hall endeavoured to improve his position by printing a long account of the quarrel with Mallory, in the form of a letter dated from London, 19 May 1576, from 'one F. A. . . .to his very friend L. B., being in Italy.' Henry Bynneman [q. v.] printed about a hundred copies, but Hall only distributed fourteen. Hall was here especially severe on the action of Sir Robert Bell, the speaker, and other members of parliament. Parliament was in recess at the date of the publication, and did not resume its sittings till January 1580-1. In 1580 the privy council summoned Hall before it, and he apologised for the tone of his book, but still kept a few copies in circulation. On 16 Jan. 1580-1 Thomas Norton, M.P., at the opening of the new session of parliament, brought the offensive work to the notice of the house. A committee was appointed to examine Hall, Bynneman, and others, but Hall's answers to the committee proved unsatisfactory, and on 14 Feb. 1580-1 he was for a second time summoned to the bar of the house. He declined to comment on the subject-matter of the book, but in general terms acknowledged his error, and asked for pardon. By a unanimous vote he was committed to the Tower for six months, or until he should make a satisfactory retractation; was ordered to pay a fine to the queen of five hundred marks, and was expelled from the house for the present parliament. Bacon, referring to the case in a speech delivered in the House of Commons in 1601, asserted that Hall was committed 'for that he said the Lower House was a new person in the Trinity, and because these words tended to the derogation of the state of the house, and giving absolute power to the other' (Spedding, Bacon, iii. 37; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581-90, p. 5). A new writ was issued for Grantham, and the book was condemned by a resolution of the house as a slanderous libel. The session closed on 18 March, but Hall does not appear to have been released till the dissolution of parliament, 9 April 1583. On 23 July 1582 he begged Lord Burghley to obtain permission for him to study in a foreign university.

On 27 Nov. 1585 Hall is said to have been elected for a third time M.P. for Grantham; but on 12 Dec. notice was given to the House of Commons that he had not attended during the session, and orders were sent him to present himself on the following Monday (D'Ewes, Journal, pp. 338, 339). To the parliament returned in October 1586 he was not re-elected, but he brought an action against the borough of Grantham for arrears of wages due to him as member in an earlier parliament. On 2 Dec. 1586 Hall's claim was referred to a committee of the House of Commons, and he agreed to forego the demand on 21 March 1586-7 (ib. p. 417).

Hall was in trouble again in 1588. He was imprisoned in the Fleet as early as June, and in October he wrote to Burghley from prison regretting that he had left Burghley's service, and that the queen was incensed against him. He intended (he said) to remove himself by habeas corpus to the King's Bench prison (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581-90, p. 554). He submitted to the council in November, and was thereupon released from prison. Early in 1591 he mentions, in further letters to Burghley, his 'trouble in the matter of the Countess of Sussex,' the injuries he sustained by his long confinement in the Tower, and the anxieties caused him by the enmity of one Richard More, who claimed his lands. Hall added that he had served the queen for twenty-six or twenty-seven years without reward (ib. 1591-4, pp. 11, 12). On 22 Nov. 1591 he recommended Burghley to prohibit the exportation of corn and beer as a precaution against the prevailing dearth. In 1597 Lord Burghley interceded with the barons of the exchequer, who pressed him for payment of 400l. which he owed the crown. On 28 Nov. 1604 he pointed out, in a letter to James I, the corruptions prevalent in the elections to the newly summoned parliament, and advised an immediate dissolution (ib. 1603-10, p. 102). Nothing is known of Hall at a later date. He was married, and his son Cecil married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Griffin Markham.

Hall's chief literary work was 'Ten Books of Homer's Iliades, translated out of French,' dedicated to Sir Thomas Cecil, knight, London, by Ralph Newberie, 1581, 4to. In the dedication he mentions with approval the labours of Googe, Jasper Heywood, Arthur Golding, Lord Buckhurst, and George Gascoigne, and writes with ill-judged enthusiasm of Phaer's translation of 'Virgil.' An imperfect copy is in the British Museum. This is the first attempt to render Homer into English. Hall closely follows the French verse translation of the first ten books by Hugues Salel (Paris, 1555), but occasionally examined some Latin version. Hall's copy of Salel's translation is in the British Museum, with his autograph on the title-page and the date 1556 affixed. His lines, each of fourteen syllables, rhyme throughout, and the rendering is very clumsy and inaccurate, but it held its own till superseded by George Chapman's translation. A copy of Hall's very rare 'Letter sent by F. A., touching the proceedings in a private quarrell and unkindnesse between Arthur Hall and Melchisidech Mallerie, gentleman, to his very friend L. B., being in Italy,' 4to, n.d., is in the Grenville collection at the British Museum. It is dedicated to Sir Henry Knevet, and was probably printed in 1576. F. A. dates his letter from London 19 May of that year. At the close is 'An admonition by the Father of F. A. to him, being a burgesse of the Parliament, for his better behaviour,' an elaborate disquisition on the history and constitution of parliament. A reprint was issued in 1815 by Robert Triphook in 'Miscellanea Antiqua Anglicana,' vol. i. (London, 1810, 4to). Some unpublished verses sent by Hall, apparently to Cecil, on 1 Jan. 1558-9, are in the Public Record Office (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-80, p. 120), and an imprinted 'Treatise of Transportable Commodities, the advantages thereof, Statutes relating thereto, &c.,' is in Brit. Mus. MS., Royal, 18 A. 75.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantab, ii. 397-9; Hallam's Const. Hist.; Collier's Reg. Stationers' Company ((Shakespeare Soc.), ii. 132; D'Ewes's Journals; Corser's Collectanea, pt. vii. p. 105 seq.; Ritson's Biogr. Poetica; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, iii. 356; Official Return of Members of Parliament; Brydges's Restituta, iii. 512; Watt's Bibl. Brit., where, by the repetition of an error of Ames, Hall's name is given as Hill.]

S. L. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.145
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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56 i l.l. Hall, Arthur: for John Hall read Francis Hall