Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hartlib, Samuel
HARTLIB, SAMUEL (d. 1670?), friend of Milton, was born towards the close of the sixteenth century, probably in Elbing. In a letter which he wrote in 1660 to Dr. John Worthington, the master of Jesus College, Cambridge, he says that his father was a Polish merchant, of a family originally settled in Lithuania, who was a protestant and emigrated to Prussia to escape the persecution of the jesuits. The first and second wives of his father were ‘Polonian gentlewomen,’ but the third, the mother of Samuel, appears to have been the daughter of a wealthy English merchant of Dantzig. His own statements show that he came to this country about 1628, and became nominally a merchant, ‘but in reality a man of various hobbies, and conducting a general news agency.’ Such was his life in 1637, but even then he probably engaged in educational plans also. He introduced the writings of Comenius, and his charity to poor scholars was so profuse that it brought him into actual want. In 1644 Milton addressed to him his treatise on education; the pamphlet is full of praise of Hartlib. In the same year he was summoned as a witness on an unimportant point against Laud (Laud, Works, iv. 314). He published a great number of pamphlets at this time upon education and industrial matters. In 1646 a pension of 100l. a year was conferred upon him by the parliament for his valuable works upon husbandry. Evelyn describes a visit to him in 1655 (Diary, ed. Bray, i. 310), and says: ‘This gentleman was master of innumerable curiosities and very communicative.’ A letter to Boyle (13 May 1658) mentions his ‘very great straits, to say nothing of the continual (almost daily) disbursement for others.’ All the time he was carrying on an extensive correspondence with literary men, both at home and abroad. He was living at one time in Axe Yard, where, no doubt, he became acquainted with Pepys, who several times mentions him, his son, and his daughter Nan. His letters to Boyle indicate that he was in bodily suffering, and Worthington's diary, where he is frequently mentioned, shows that money was forwarded to him from his friends. The parliament paid his pension irregularly.
In the first year of the Restoration, Hartlib wrote to Lord Herbert, son of the Marquis of Worcester, about his ‘most distressed and forsaken condition.’ He petitioned the government for aid, but his relations with the republican party probably prevented his recognition. He appears to have resided at Oxford during the latter part of his life, and to have been intimately acquainted with the small group out of which grew the Royal Society.
In a letter to Worthington dated 14 Feb. 1661-2 he speaks of his continual bodily pains, and prognosticates that this will be the last time he will be able to write. A document in the state paper office, dated 9 April 1662, addressed by Samuel Hartlib to Secretary Nicholas, was (as Althaus shows) written by his son, also Samuel, who had some employment in the board of trade. But Andrew Marvell seems to refer to the elder Hartlib when he wrote, apparently about 1670, in an undated news-letter, that Hartlib had fled from his creditors to Holland, ‘with no intention of returning’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. ii. p. 447).
Hartlib was an indefatigable writer, a man of honourable and benevolent character, and highly esteemed by the most illustrious of his contemporaries. His ingenious works, chiefly pamphlets on education and husbandry, illustrate the economic and social condition of his English contemporaries. The abridged titles are: 1.‘Conatuum Comenianorum Præludia ex Bibliotheca S. H. Oxoniæ,’ 1637. 2. ‘Reverendi et Clarissimi Viri Johannis Amos Comenii Pansophiæ Prodromus,’ 1639. 3. ‘A Briefe Relation of that which hath been lately attempted to procure Ecclesiasticall Peace among Protestants,’ 1641, 4to. 4. ‘A Description of the famous Kingdom of Macaria,’ &c., 1641, 4to; a pamphlet after the manner of More's ‘Utopia.’ 5. ‘A Reformation of Schooles, designed in two excellent Treatises,’ &c.; a translation from the Latin of Comenius, 1642, 4to. 6. ‘A Short Letter . . . intreating a Friend's Judgement upon Mr. Edwards his Booke,’ &c., 1644, 4to. Hartlib merely introduces the answer of Hezekiah Woodward. 7. ‘The Necessity of some nearer Conjunction . . . amongst Evangelicall Protestants,’ 1644, 4to. 8. ‘Considerations tending to the happy accomplishment of England's Reformation in Church and State’ [1647 ?], 4to. 9. ‘A Continuation of Mr. John-Amos-Comenius School Endeavours’ . 10. ‘London's Charity enlarged, stilling the Orphan's Cry . . .’ &c., 1650, 4to. 11. ‘Clavis Apocalyptica, or A Prophetical Key by which the great Mysteries in the Revelation of St. John and the Prophet Daniel are opened,’ &c., 1651, 8vo. 12. ‘An Invention of Engines of Motion lately brought to Perfection,’ &c. 13. ‘An Essay for Advancement of Husbandry Leaning, or Propositions for the errecting a Colledge of Husbandry,’ 1651, 4to. 14. ‘The Informed Husband-Man, or a brief Treatise of the Errors, Defects, and Inconveniences of our English Husbandry in Ploughing and sowing for Corn,’ &c., 1651, 4to. 15. ‘Samuel Hartlib, his Legacie, or an Enlargement of the Discourse of Husbandry used in Brabant and Flaunders,’ &c., 1651, 4to. 16. ‘Cornu Copia; a Miscellanium of Lucriferous and most Fructiferous Experiments, Observations, and Discoveries immethodically distributed,’ &c. [1652 ?], 4to. 17. ‘A Rare and New Discovery of a speedy way and easie means found out by a young Lady in England for the Feeding of Silk-worms in the Woods, on the Mulberry-tree leaves in Virginia,’ &c., 1652, 4to, arguing that it is more lucrative to produce silk than tobacco. 18. ‘The Reformed Spirituall Husband-man,’ &c., 1652, 4to. 19. ‘A Discoverie for Division or Setting out of Land as to the Best Form,’ &c. (by Hartlib and Cressy Dymock), 1653, 4to. 20. ‘The True and Readie Way to Learne the Latine Tongue,’ &c., 1654, 4to. 21. ‘The Compleat Husband-man, or a Discourse of the whole Art of Husbandry, both Forraign and Domestick,’ &c., 2pts. 1659, 4to. The title-page to pt. 2 is dated 1652. Letters from him to Evelyn are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 15948, and a transcript of his correspondence with Worthington (1655-1662) is in Addit. MS. 32498. Hartlib issued in 1650, and again in 1652, ‘Discours of Husbandrie,’ by Sir Richard Weston (1591-1652) [q. v.]
[H. Dircks's Biographical Memoir of Samuel Hartlib, 1865; Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington, edited by J. Crossley and R. C. Christie, 1847-86 (Chetham Soc.); Masson's Life of Milton, iii. 193 n.; Fr. Althaus, Samuel Hartlib, ein deutschenglisches Charakterbild, Historisches Taschenbuch, 1884; Brit. Mus. Cat.]