Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 24.djvu/45

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

his faculty for 'putting or clearing of a doubt,' and his decisive judgment. Both Dryden and Howe tell a story of his being present when Ben Jonson descanted on Shakespeare's lack of learning. Hales sat silent, but at length said that if Shakespeare 'had not read the ancients he had likewise not stolen anything from them,' and undertook to find something on any topic treated by them at least as well treated by Shakespeare. He had formed a remarkably fine collection of books, and his learning was always under his command. Wood calls him 'a walking library.' Clarendon speaks of him as having a better memory for books than any man except Falkland, and equal to him. Heylyn, no very friendly judge, says he was 'as communicative of his knowledge as the celestial bodies of their light and influences.' He is said to have been backward in the utterance of some of his broader views, from a feeling of tenderness for weak consciences; but in his writings there is no reserve. The charge of Socinianism alleged against him is disproved by his brief paper on the doctrine of the Trinity (see, for a statement of difficulties regarding the atonement, his letter of December 1638, in Works, 1765, vol. i.) He had adopted liberal views of toleration, possibly with some assistance from Socinian writers (cf. Suckling's 'Leave Socinus and the Schoolmen'). Hence, on the appearance (in 1628 and 1633) of two anonymous irenical tracts belonging to that school, he was 'in common speech' accredited with their authorship, an error perpetuated by Wood.

The great contribution made by Hales to irenical literature is the tract on 'Schism and Schismaticks,' which appears to have been written about 1636. Hales describes it as 'a letter,' and 'for the use of a private friend,' in all probability Chillingworth, who was then engaged on his 'Religion of Protestants' (1637). It was circulated in manuscript, and a copy fell into the hands of Laud. Hearing that the paper had given offence to the archbishop, Hales vindicated himself in a letter to Laud, which is a model of firmness and good humour. Neither Heylyn nor Clarendon mentions this letter. It appears that Hales had 'once already ' found Laud 'extraordinary liberal' of his patience, and there is no doubt that Laud now sent for Hales, though the accounts of what passed at the interview are not very trustworthy. Des Maizeaux mentions the story that Hales assisted Laud in the second edition (1639) of his 'Conference' with Fisher. Laud certainly made him one of his chaplains, and obtained for him a canonry at Windsor, into which he was installed on 27 June 1639 (royal patent dated 23 May). Clarendon says that Laud had difficulty in persuading him to accept this preferment; he would never take the cure of souls.

His tract on 'Schism' was not printed till 1642, when three editions appeared without his name, and apparently without his sanction. In the same year he was ejected from his stall by the parliamentary committee. Though he was not immediately turned out of his fellowship at Eton (Walker is in error here), it seems that in 1644 'both armies had sequestered the college rents.' Hales hid himself for nine weeks in a private lodging in Eton with 'the college writings and keys,' living on brown bread and beer at a cost of sixpence a week. On his refusal to take the 'engagement' of 16 April 1649 he was formally dispossessed of his fellowship. Penwarden, who was put into his place, offered him half the emolument (501. a year, including the bursarship), but this he declined, refusing also a position in the Sedley family, of Kent, with a salary of 100l. a year. He preferred a retreat to Richings Lodge, near Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire, the residence of Mrs. Salter, sister to Brian Duppa, bishop of Salisbury, accepting a small salary as tutor to her son William, who proved 'blockish,' according to Wood. Hales, in his will, calls his pupil his 'most deservedly beloved friend.' To this house Henry King, bishop of Chichester, also retreated, with some members of his family, and 'made a sort of a college,' Hales acting as chaplain and using the liturgy. On the issue of the order against harbouring malignants, he left Mrs. Salter against her wish, and lodged in Eton, 'next to the Christopher inn,' with Hannah Dickenson, widow of his old servant. The greater part of his books (which had cost 2,500l.) he sold for 700l, to Christopher Bee, a London bookseller. Always a liberal giver, he parted by degrees with all his ready money in charity to deprived clergy and scholars, till Farindon, whovisited him daily for some months before his death, found him with no more than a few shillings in hand. But his will shows that he had property to dispose of.

Hales died at Eton on 19 May 1656. Depression of spirits, caused by 'the black and dismal aspect of the times,' probably injured his health; for though he had entered his seventy-third year his constitution was still robust, and he was free from ailment. To Farindon he gave directions for his funeral, repeated in his will, that he should be buried in the churchyard, 'as near as may be to the body of my little godson, Jack Dickenson the elder.' There was to be no sermon or bell-ringing or calling the people together, nor