Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Selden, John
SELDEN, JOHN (1584–1654), jurist, was born on 16 Dec. 1584 at Salvington in the parish of West Tarring, Sussex, and was baptised there on 30 Dec. 1584. His father, John Selden, is described by Selden himself as 'ex familia quæ tunc ibi viguit honesta;' by Aubrey as 'an yeomanly man of about 40l. per annum,' and in the baptismal register of his son as 'the minstrell,' an office which appears from the parish accounts to have involved attendance at the church ales. Selden's mother was Margaret, only daughter of Thomas Baker of Rushington, of a knightly family in Kent. She is said to have been won by the musical talents of her husband, and to have brought him a pretty good estate. The house in which Selden was born is still standing, and has on the door a Latin inscription, perhaps of his composition. After being educated at Chichester free school under Hugh Barker [q. v.], he was sent to Hart Hall, Oxford, and matriculated on 24 Oct. 1600; he was committed to the tuition of Anthony Barker, but left without graduating. In 1602 he was entered at Clifford Inn, and in May 1604 was admitted to the Inner Temple, and called to the bar on 14 June 1612.
Selden practised the law in the Temple, occupying chambers at the top of Paper Buildings looking towards the garden. It is probable that he never had any large or general business in the courts, though he appeared with distinction in a few great cases involving special learning; it is probable also that he gave opinions and practised as a conveyancer. In 1624 Selden was fined and disabled from holding any office in his inn for refusing to act as reader; in 1632 he was relieved from disability, and in 1633 elected a bencher. From an early period he acted as steward to Henry Grey, ninth earl of Kent [q. v.], with whom his relations were always close; but study was always his main occupation.
Selden's studies were, even in his early days in London, not confined to the law. As early as 1605 he had made the acquaintance of Ben Jonson, Camden, and probably of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton [q. v.] the antiquary, who soon offered Selden the hospitality of his house in Palace Yard, and made him free of his invaluable library. Probably no event was so important in determining the course of Selden's studies. Selden and Camden were in 1605 among the guests entertained by Jonson on his release from prison, to which he and Chapman had been committed for insulting Scotsmen in their 'Eastward Hoe.' When Jonson's 'Volpone' was published in 1607, Selden contributed a prefatory 'carmen protrepticon' (cf. Jonson, Conversations with Drummond, Shaksp. Soc. pp. 10, 20, 36). In 1607, too, he completed a work entitled Analecton Anglo-Britannicon, which is an attempt to give a summary of the history of the inhabitants of this island from the earliest times down to the Norman invasion. The work, which first saw the light in 1615 at Frankfurt in an incorrect and mutilated form, was dedicated to Sir Robert Bruce Cotton. In 1610 he published 'Jani Anglorum Facies altera,' in which he discussed with great learning, but in a somewhat indigested form, the traces of the laws and customs of the Britons, the Saxons, and the Norsemen. A lack of decision in drawing the line between the successive inhabitants of this island injures the work, which was dedicated to Robert, earl of Salisbury, the lord high treasurer. In the same year (1610) appeared 'England's Epinomis,' which is to some extent an English version of the 'Janus;' but the 'Janus' contains passages not in the 'Epinomis,' while on the other hand the latter tract contains a discussion with regard to the laws of Richard I and John not to be found in the Latin. In this same year (1610) appeared the tract entitled 'The Duello or Single Combat: from Antiquity derived into this Kingdom of England, with several kinds and ceremonious forms thereof, from good authority described.' The result of Selden's investigations into the origin of this mode of trial led him to attribute it to the Normans, a conclusion in which he is supported by the best modern authorities (Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, ii. 597).
The publication of three such works in one year by a student of an Inn of Court of two years' standing was a remarkable evidence of industry and learning. Selden's next two publications show him associated with the poets of his day. In 1612 he wrote (at the request of Michael Drayton, then poet-laureate) notes on the first eighteen cantos of his 'Polyolbion,' and in 1613 he wrote commendatory verses in Greek, Latin, and English to William Browne's 'Britannia's Pastorals.'
In 1614 Selden published his 'Titles of Honour,' dedicated to his friend and chamber-fellow, Edward Heyward. In the first part he deals with the titles and dignities of emperors, kings, and other rulers, beginning with the inquiry whether there were kings before the flood. In the second part he deals with inferior titles, commencing with those of heirs-apparent to thrones; and finally discusses feminine titles, honorary attributes such as 'clarissimus' and 'illustris,' and the laws of precedence.
In 1616 Selden edited the treatise of Sir John Fortescue (1394?–1476?) [q. v.], 'De Laudibus Legum Angliæ,' and in 1617 he wrote a 'Treatise on the Jews in England' for Purchas; this appeared in Purchas's work in a mutilated form, a circumstance which is said to have led to a quarrel between the two authors.
In the same year (1617) appeared Selden's treatise 'De Diis Syris,' the first of his oriental studies (see pp. 219–20 below). In the same year also was written 'A brief Discourse touching the Office of Lord Chancellor of England,' which was presented by Selden to Sir Francis Bacon on his appointment as lord keeper. A fourth and still more important book appeared in the same year (1617), the 'History of Tythes,' the best known of all Selden's productions, except his 'Table Talk.' It was dedicated to Sir Robert Cotton. Selden begins the history of tithes with the gift of Abraham to Melchizedek, and then discusses them as they existed among the Jews. He next considers what traces there are of them among the Greeks and Romans; then, arriving at the Christian era, he divides the history into periods—from the birth of Christ to A.D. 400, from A.D. 400 to 800, from A.D. 800 to 1200, from A.D. 1200 to his own day—dealing in fullest detail with their origin and development in England.
In more than one passage of this essay Selden handles the question whether tithes are payable jure divino. In the sixth chapter (section 6), he first approaches the subject; he does not deny that they are payable by what he calls 'ecclesiastical or positive law,' but he denies that they are payable by what he calls 'the divine moral law or the divine natural law, which should bind all men and ever;' and he endeavours to show that the practices of the early church were consistent only with this view. In the seventh chapter he again reverts to the subject, and states the chief question in debate among divines in these terms: 'whether by God's immediate moral law the evangelical priesthood have a right to tythes in equal degree as the layman hath to his nine, or if they have them only as by human positive law and so given them for their spiritual labour.' It obviously follows that if tithes are of divine law, both as to their existence and their quota, they cannot be affected by human law; and here Selden's love of the common law comes into play, and he urges the fact that 'the practised common law … hath never given way herein to the canons, but hath allowed customs and made them subject to all civil titles, infeodations, discharges, compositions, and the like.' It is not perhaps difficult to guess in which direction the mind of Selden leaned on this crucial question between the canon and the common law, but it is difficult to find in the treatise any direct expression of his private judgment.
It was not only passages touching 'the divine right' of tithes which gave offence to the clergy. The preface appears to have been written after the work had made some noise, owing doubtless to the circulation of the manuscript among Selden's friends. In this preface he with more than usual spirit turns on his critics; he energetically protests that his book is 'not written to prove that tythes are not due by the law of God; not written to prove that the laity may detain them; not to prove that lay hands may still enjoy appropriations; in sum, not at all against the maintenance of the clergy; neither is it anything else but itself—that is, a mere narrative of the History of Tythes.' With increased heat he pointed to the opposition which the clergy offered in past times to the progress of true knowledge and to the suspicions with which they had viewed 'the noble studies' of Roger Bacon, Reuchlin, Budæus, and Erasmus. When published the book aroused a fierce storm. The author was summoned to answer for his opinions before some of the lords of the court of high commission and some of the privy council, and he acknowledged his error in a few lines in writing. The submission contained, as Selden contended, no confession of mistakes in the book, and expressed no change of opinion, but merely regret at the publication of the work. The form of the submission was probably a matter of arrangement between himself and those of his judges who seemed to favour him. The book itself was suppressed by public authority, and by some command, probably of the king, he was forbidden to print any reply to his numerous antagonists, a restraint of which he bitterly complained to the Marquis of Buckingham in May 1620.
On three occasions King James sent for Selden, twice at Theobalds and once at Whitehall, and discoursed with him on his 'History of Tythes' and on other learned questions. Three tracts—only the last seems to have been separately published—were the result of the king's commands given at these interviews: one on the passage in the Revelation of St. John touching the number 666; another on a passage of Calvin in reference to this book; a third on the birthday of our Saviour (London, 1661, 8vo). To these was added a paper on his purpose in writing the 'History of Tythes.'
Selden had thus become a man of mark before he entered upon his political career, which opened in 1621. The object of the legislation of the period was to secure the liberty of the subject and the right of the House of Commons to free debate by declaring rather than by altering the existing law, and the great debates in which Selden, Coke, and Eliot took part often seem rather to have resembled arguments in a court of law than debates in a legislative assembly. The ancient records both of the courts and of the house were often produced and read, and were the subjects of lively though learned discussion.
Selden had acquired vast knowledge of constitutional law and of the records of the law courts and of parliament, and was often consulted on these subjects before he was returned to the commons. In the preparation of the famous protestation of the commons of 18 Dec. 1621, Selden, although not a member of the house, took an active part in the way of seeking precedents. His action gave umbrage to the king, and he was, with others, by the king's orders committed to the custody of Sir Robert Ducie, sheriff of London, who treated him courteously. After the prisoners had been brought before certain peers and privy councillors, presided over by Lancelot Andrewes [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, all were liberated. Again, in 1622, before Selden entered the house, Bacon consulted him on the question of the validity of the judgments given in the House of Lords during the late parliament (see Bacon's letter of 14 Feb. 1621–2 in Spedding's Life and Letters of Bacon, vi. 332–3).
In 1623 Selden was returned to the fourth and last parliament of James as a burgess for Lancaster. In the first parliament of Charles I he does not seem to have sat, but in 1626 he was returned to the second parliament of Charles I as member for Great Bedwin, Wiltshire. He then took an active part with Wentworth and Noy in the attack on Buckingham, and was sent to the lords as one of the chief managers in the impeachment of the favourite. To him was assigned the presentation of the argument in favour of the fourth article which charged the duke with neglecting to guard the seas and protect the merchants; and of the fifth article, which charged the duke with confiscating a French ship, the St. Peter, worth 40,000l., with detaining her after an order by the king for her restoration to the owner, and with taking several things out of her. Selden was also nominated one of a secret committee of twelve to prepare the proofs of the charges against Buckingham. In June 1626 the house was dissolved, and the matter dropped, but on 17 June Heath, the attorney-general, invited the twelve members of the secret committee to attend him at his chambers. The meeting took place, and Eliot, who was authorised to draw up a reply on behalf of the committee, was at once arrested. Selden spent the ensuing long vacation under the hospitable roof of the Earl of Kent at Wrest, Bedfordshire, pursuing antiquarian and historical study.
While the sitting of parliament was suspended, the political strife was transferred to the courts of law. In 1627 several persons were committed to prison by order of the privy council for refusing to lend money to the king on his sole demand. Of these prisoners, Sir Edmund Hampden sued out a habeas corpus in the king's bench, and in November the question of the legality of their detention on a warrant, which did not specify the offences, was argued before the court. Selden appeared as counsel for Hampden. The argument of the counsel for the prisoners excited great and unwonted sympathy, and their speeches are said to have been received with wonderful applause. But the court refused to bail the prisoners. In March 1628, four days before the opening of Charles's third parliament, to which Selden was returned as member for Ludgershall, Wiltshire, he and other liberal leaders met to concert their plan of action at Sir Robert Cotton's house in Palace Yard. Selden and Coke argued that the reassertion of the ancient laws of the country by which the liberty of the subject was secured must take the first place, and that until this was accomplished no progress could be made in the redress of grievances. This opinion prevailed.
Accordingly, when parliament met, Selden took a prominent part in the debates which arose on the question of habeas corpus; he was the chairman of the committee appointed to consider the precedents as to imprisonment without cause assigned. On 2 April 1628 he addressed the house on the question. On 7 April he, together with Coke and Littleton, laid before the House of Lords the resolutions of the commons on the subject, and delivered before the lords a speech in assertion of the liberty of the subject. These speeches of Selden, together with copies of the records cited, were ordered by the house to be entered on the journals, and liberty was given to the clerk to give out copies. They formed probably a kind of manual from which less learned members of the party might prepare speeches.
The records with which Selden had fortified his speech before the lords became the occasion of an angry controversy. Lord Suffolk was reported to have charged Selden with tampering with one of the documents cited, and to have added that Selden deserved to be hanged. These words were brought before the House of Commons, which on 17 April 1628 presented to the lords two charges against the earl. In the upper house Suffolk declared that he had never used the words. In the commons Sir John Strangways declared on his honour that the earl had used the words. On 8 April 1628 (the day following his speech before the lords) Selden spoke on the question of the billeting of soldiers, and on 11 April on the question of martial law. Numerous notes have been preserved of speeches against the pretensions of the crown made by him on later days in the session. On 5 June the king sent the house a message that it would be adjourned on 11 June, and in the angry debate which followed Selden spoke in favour of naming Buckingham. On 18 June he opposed the king's claim to the personal estate of a deceased bastard, and next day (19 June) he spoke on a bill for the restitution to his rights of Carew, son of Sir Walter Ralegh. On 26 June the house was prorogued.
The recess of 1628 was passed by Selden at Wrest, and there he occupied himself with his work on the Arundel marbles. In January 1629 parliament again assembled; on 22 Jan. Selden brought before it the case of Savage, who had been sentenced by the Star-chamber to lose his ears. On 12 Feb. he supported the petition of the printers and booksellers against Laud's interference with their trade. In the same month he took an active part in the discussion of the bill for tonnage and poundage. In the violent scene of 2 March with which that session ended, Selden addressed the speaker in words of grave warning.
On 4 March 1629, in consequence of the house's proceedings, nine members, among whom were Selden and Eliot, were conducted to the privy council sitting at Whitehall, and, without hearing, were committed to the custody of Sir Alan Apsley, the keeper of the Tower ('vir humanissimus,' as Selden describes him), for imprisonment during the king's pleasure. At the same time, under an order from the king and council, seals were placed on the papers of Selden, Eliot, and Holles. On 10 March the parliament was dissolved by the king. On 17 March the prisoners were examined, in the presence of certain privy councillors, by Sir Robert Heath, the attorney-general. Selden's account of his answers is somewhat vague, but they seem to have consisted of an unblushing denial of the real facts as to the part he had played in parliament (cf. Gardiner, History, vii. 80). During his imprisonment Selden was at first denied the use of books and papers—a deprivation very bitter to his studious nature. Subsequently, on his petition, this prohibition was relaxed, but not without vexatious conditions. On 6 May and 5 June the cases of Selden and some of his fellow-prisoners were brought before the court of king's bench on applications for a habeas corpus and for bail respectively, Selden, Valentine, and Holles sitting in court by their counsel, Littleton, the substance of whose argument had been prepared by Selden. In the result the prisoners were remitted to prison, to be produced in court after the long vacation. Their detention had, according to the evil practice of that age, been a subject of conference and of correspondence between the king and the judges. In a letter from the king to the judges of his bench (24 June 1629) Charles says, in evident reference to their appearance in court during the argument of their case, that he had heard that the prisoners 'had carried themselves unmannerly towards the king and their lordships;' and he intimates a desire that they should be kept in prison indefinitely. At first Charles was inclined to assent to a more lenient treatment in the case of Selden and Valentine, but on more mature deliberation he directed that all the prisoners should be treated alike. In October efforts were made to induce the prisoners to accept liberty on the terms of entering into security for their good behaviour, and the king wrote to Hyde, the lord chief justice, urging him to force them to submission. This demand for security was resented by Selden as a gross indignity to men of position and honour and members of the late parliament. Irate at the strong position taken by the prisoners, the court seems to have increased in the following month the harshness of their imprisonment. They were deprived of the liberty of moving about within the precincts of their prison and of seeing their friends. Selden's place of imprisonment was frequently changed, and he passed in turn from the Tower to the Marshalsea (at Southwark) and the Gate House at Westminster (cf. Rushworth, ii. 73–4).
At last, in May 1631, Selden was liberated at the instance of the earls of Arundel and Pembroke, who were anxious to have his assistance in some litigation in which he had special knowledge. He was set free on giving security to appear before the court on the first day of the next term, and this procedure was repeated till February 1635, when, as the result of a somewhat abject petition to the king presented in October 1634, he was unconditionally discharged.
During these harassing and intricate proceedings, viz. in 1630, another prosecution was begun against Selden in the Star-chamber for circulating copies of a squib written in the preceding reign by Sir Robert Dudley [q. v.] , and called 'A Proposition for his Majesty's service to bridle the impertinency of Parliament.' The prosecution was allowed to drop on the birth of a prince of Wales.
The court's hostility seems to have excited little or no resentment in the mind of Selden. In 1631 it was rumoured that he had gone over to the royalist side; in 1633 Selden actively helped to organise the masque which the four inns of court prepared at once to give expression to their loyalty, and to show their dissent from Prynne's 'Histrio-mastix' (Whitelocke, pp. 19–22).
In the Short parliament of 1640 Selden does not appear to have sat; but to the Long parliament he was returned by his university of Oxford. His colleague, Sir Thomas Roe [q. v.], died in 1644, and, as the vacancy was not filled up, Selden alone represented the university during the rest of the Long parliament. He was appointed one of the committee to examine the papers of Lord Strafford, but opposed the proceedings of the house against him. On 10 Nov. 1640 he was placed on the committee on the state of the kingdom; on 23 Nov. he led the attack on the court of the marshal; on 27 Nov. he opposed the crown on the great question of ship-money; on 31 Jan. and 9 March 1641 he spoke on the question of episcopacy, opposing its abolition. On 3 May he signed the declaration of adherence to the church of England; and on 5 June he was placed on the committee to draw articles of impeachment against Archbishop Laud. On 6 July the house resolved that the sealing of the papers of Selden and other members was a violation of the privileges of parliament. On 17 Jan. 1642 he was one of a committee of twenty-two appointed to examine Charles I's violation of the privileges of parliament, and to petition the king for the payment of damages to Pym, Hampden, and others unjustly accused of treason. In the following month (4 Feb. 1642) an order was made that Selden and certain other members should attend on Wednesday next, and continue their service in the house, an indication perhaps that Selden was somewhat withdrawing from his parliamentary labours, and of a suspicion that he was inclining towards the king's side.
In 1642 the king entertained the notion of entrusting the great seal either to Lord-chief-justice Banks or to Selden. But Lord Falkland and Hyde, who were consulted on the point, felt so positive that the offer would be refused by Selden that the matter went no further (Clarendon, Hist. v. 209). Another attempt, made by the king through the Marquis of Hertford, to induce him to leave London and join the court at York was met by Selden's alleging, and probably with truth, that he could be of more service to the king in London than in York. 'He was in years,' says Clarendon, 'and of a tender constitution; he had for many years enjoyed his ease which he loved; was rich, and would not have made a journey to York or have lain out of his own bed for any preferment.' When, in this same year (1642), there arose between the king and commons the great question as to the control of the military force of the kingdom, Selden took up a position which appears to have expressed his real and unbiased opinion: he regarded the commission of array issued by the king as entirely illegal, and spoke strongly against it in the house; but he also regarded the ordinance of the militia as 'without any shadow of law or pretence of precedent,' and stood against it accordingly. To these opinions he adhered when Lord Falkland, with the knowledge of the king, addressed him on the subject. In the same year arose the question as to the power of parliament to nominate lords lieutenant in the absence of the king with the army. It was a matter which divided the party of progress. But Selden went with the advanced guard, and accepted a commission as deputy lieutenant under a lord lieutenant appointed by parliament.
In 1643 Waller formed a royalist plot for overpowering the city militia and dissolving the parliament. One evening he went to Selden's study, where he found him, Pierrepoint, and Whitelocke, with the intention of imparting the plot to them; but after he spoke of the project in general terms Selden and his friends so inveighed against any such thing 'as treachery and baseness, and that might be the occasion of shedding much blood, that he durst not for the awe and respect which he had for Selden and the rest communicate any of the particulars to them, but was almost disheartened himself to proceed in it.' After the discovery of the plot, and Waller's arrest, Waller was examined as to whether Selden was in any way privy to his proceedings.
In the same year Selden, with some other members of both houses, sat in the assembly of divines at Westminster. In the debates of this body (says Whitelocke) 'Mr. Selden spake admirably, and confuted divers of them in their own learning. And sometimes when they had cited a text of scripture to prove their assertion, he would tell them, "Perhaps in your little pocket-bibles with gilt leaves" (which they would often pull out and read) "the translation may be thus, but the Greek or the Hebrew signifies thus and thus," and so would totally silence them.' Selden proved a thorn in the sides of the Westminster divines, for he liked the claims of presbytery no better than those of episcopacy; and, according to Fuller (Church Hist. bk. xi. sect. ix. par. 54), he used his talents rather 'to perplex than inform' his auditors, his interests being 'to humble the jure-divinoship of presbytery.'
On 27 Oct. 1643 the House of Commons resolved that the office of clerk and keeper of the records of the Tower should be sequestered into the hands of Selden, and that he should receive the profits of the place. Proceedings of the council of state in 1650 (17 Oct. and 20 Dec.) seem to show that Selden had then ceased to derive any benefit from the office, but was willing to continue in it without reward. In April 1645 he was appointed one of twelve commoners who, together with six lords, constituted a committee to manage the admiralty. In August Selden declined the mastership of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, which he was offered by the direction of the House of Commons. In September he opposed in a speech, the substance of which has been preserved, the petition of the assembly of divines that in every presbytery the pastors and ruling elders should have the power of excommunication and of suspending from the sacrament. On 24 Feb. 1646 he spoke in favour of the abolition of the court of wards.
On 18 Jan. 1647 the house resolved that Selden should have 5,000l. 'for his damages, losses, imprisonments, and sufferings sustained and undergone by him for his services done to the Commonwealth in the parliament of Tertio Caroli.' It is doubtful whether Selden received this sum; a report was current that he 'could not out of conscience take it' (Wood, Athenæ Oxon.). His conduct in a suit relating to a Mrs. Fisher's will (S. P. C. 1631, pp. 233, 371), and in relation to the office of keeper of the records, seems to show that this report is probably true. On 23 Feb. 1649 a committee was appointed by the council of state to consider the dignity and precedence of ambassadors, and Selden and Challenor were directed to assist them.
Selden took no further part in public affairs. During the trial and execution of the king and the rise of Cromwell, Selden abstained from any expression of his views. 'The wisest way for men in these times is to say nothing' was a maxim of his, on which he seems to have rigorously acted (Table Talk, Peace).
But Selden was able to protect the cause of learning during these troubled times. He procured the delivery to the university of Cambridge of Archbishop Bancroft's library; and to the university of Oxford he rendered more important services. In 1646 the vice-chancellor appealed to him to 'relieve his declining undon mother;' and when in May 1647 an ordinance of the lords and commons was made for the visitation and reform of the university, Selden was appointed one of the committee to hear appeals from the visitors. In numerous sittings of that body Selden took an active part, and was able to temper the somewhat unfair treatment to which the university was in danger of being subjected.
In spite of the pressure of his public duties, Selden's literary work had progressed steadily. From the treasures of Sir Robert Cotton's library he had edited the six books of Eadmer [q. v.], giving an account of the courts of the first two Williams and of the first Henry. To the text he appended 'Notæ et Spicilegium,' and published the work in 1623. In 1629 appeared a yet more important work, the 'Marmora Arundelliana, an account of the ancient works of art collected by Thomas Howard, second earl of Arundel [q. v.] The work was begun in 1627 with the aid of Patrick Junius and Richard James, and was completed in the long vacation of 1628 at Lord Kent's mansion at Wrest. When published in 1629 it had a great and rapid sale. Its most important contents included a chronicle known as the 'Parian Chronicle' (deciphered from the Marmor Parium, the upper half of which has since disappeared), and documents relative to the treaty between the peoples of Smyrna and Magnes, followed by versions in ordinary modern Greek and in Latin. A few Latin and Hebrew inscriptions are also discussed. This work, though it did not escape the censure of Bentley (Dissertation on Phalaris), is one of the highest value; it marks 'a sort of æra,' says Hallam, 'in lapidary learning.' Boeckh, who closely followed Selden, testifies not only to the accuracy of his transcriptions, but to the excellence of his commentary.
At the command, it appears, of James I, Selden had in 1618 composed an essay in support of the English claim to the dominion of the seas. Already in 1609 Grotius had in 'Mare Liberum' maintained, in accordance with the present theory of international law, that the high seas were open to all. Three or four years later some English vessels took from Dutch vessels laden with the spoil of twenty-two walruses, taken in the Greenland waters, all the results and all the instruments of capture, on the ground that the Dutchmen lacked the English king's license to fish in Greenland waters. Holland complained to England, and in 1618 a conference between commissioners of the two powers took place in England, at which Grotius was one of the representatives of Holland. It was on this occasion that Selden prepared his treatise, but at the time the king declined to authorise the publication from a fear that some passages might displease the king of Denmark, to whom James was deep in debt. In 1635 Selden, at the command of Charles I, again took the work up; Laud acted as intermediary, not without the hope that this gleam of court favour would win Selden to the royal side. In this project Laud failed; but it led to an intimacy between him and Selden, who became 'both a frequent and a welcome guest at Lambeth House, where he was grown into such esteem with the archbishop that he might have chose his own preferment in the court (as it was then generally believed), had he not undervalued all other employments in respect of his studies' (Heylyn, Life of Laud, ed. 1671, p. 303).
In 1636 the work was published under the title of 'Mare Clausum, seu de Dominio Maris libri duo.' It is, like all the works of Selden, replete with learning; but in this case the propositions in support of which that learning is used are so directly at variance with the most elementary rights of men, that the learning was wasted. The first book argues that by the law of nature or nations the sea is not common to all men, but is as much as the land the subject of private property. In the second book he maintains that the lordship of the circumambient ocean belongs to the crown of Great Britain as an indivisible and perpetual appendage. This claim has long since been abandoned. Charles I was so pleased by Selden's performance that, by an order of the privy council, it was directed that one copy should be kept in the archives of the council, another in the court of exchequer, and a third in the court of the admiralty. Meanwhile, in obedience to a command of the House of Lords, Selden prepared his treatise on the 'Privilege of the Baronage of England,' and on 6 Dec. 1641 delivered his work into the hands of the sub-committee for privileges of the house (Introd. ad fin.). The first part relates to privileges enjoyed by the baronage of England, 'as they are one estate together in the upper house,' as e.g. the privilege of voting by proxies; the second relates to privileges enjoyed by them, 'as every one of them is privately a single baron,' as e.g. their right of substituting a protestation upon honour for an oath, and their benefit of clergy though unable to read.
In 1647 Selden published his edition of 'Fleta,' an early English law treatise (based on Bracton), of which a unique manuscript belonged to Cotton [see Fleta]. To this treatise Selden prefixed a dissertation of great and varied learning, travelling over a wide range of subjects (Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, i. 188). He mainly deals with the influence of Roman law on English jurisprudence, and discusses the place of the civil law in the courts martial and the courts of the admiralty, not without a reference to the almost obstinate love of the English people for their common law. Such a work appears an ample justification of the founders (in 1887) of the Selden Society for their selection of Selden as their eponymous hero.
In 1653 Selden assisted Sir Roger Twysden in editing ten works on English history which had not hitherto been printed. This work was published in 1653 as 'Decem Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores.' Selden, by way of preface, composed and published his 'Judicium de Decem Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptoribus.' A discussion on the Culdees occurs in the section on Simeon of Durham, as well as observations on the 'Scotichronicon.' In other cases Selden confined himself more strictly to stating what was known about the author in question.
In 1652 Graswinckel, a Dutch jurist, published at The Hague 'Maris Liberi Vindiciæ adversus Petrum Baptistam Burgum Ligustici maritimi dominii assertorem.' Under colour of attacking Burgus and the question about the dominion of the Italian waters, the writer attacked Selden and the claim of Britain to dominion over the adjacent ocean; and he asserted that Selden had written his 'Mare Clausum' for the purpose of getting out of prison. To such allegations Selden replied in his latest book, 'Vindiciæ' (1653), in which he gave a full account of his imprisonments and of the writing and the publication of the 'Mare Clausum.' This book, like others in which Selden engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with some antagonist, contrasts favourably as regards the directness and simplicity of its style with his more learned treatises.
Meanwhile, from his earliest years Selden had found time to combine with his legal studies voluminous researches in oriental learning. For use in his oriental studies Selden made a collection of manuscripts and printed books, most of which passed at his death into the Bodleian Library; he also had access to the manuscripts which Laud was procuring at great trouble and expense, and which were stored at Lambeth or presented to the university of Oxford. Selden's own collection is rich in Hebrew and Arabic works (some of the latter rare and unprinted to this day); the Persian, Turkish, and Chinese languages are also represented in it, besides western idioms. He first won fame in Europe as an orientalist by his treatise 'De Diis Syris,' published in London in 1617, but, according to the preface, finished twelve years before; parts of this subject had been already handled by the Toulouse professor, Peter Faber, in the third volume of his 'Semestria' (Leyden, 1595). The charge, however, levelled against Selden by his enemies of having plagiarised from Faber was unfounded. Selden's book attracted attention on the continent, and was reprinted in 1629 at Leyden by L. de Dieu, afterwards celebrated as a Semitic scholar, at the instance of Daniel Heinsius, to whom the edition was dedicated by Selden; in 1668 it was reprinted at Leipzig; use was also made of it by Vossius in his great treatise on idolatry. The material for a satisfactory treatment of Syrian mythology had not then come to light, and Selden's reasoning was vitiated by the prejudice current in his time (and long after) in favour of the antiquity of the Hebrew language and the traditional dates of the biblical books; but the book displays much philological acumen as well as erudition. Most of Selden's work as an orientalist consisted in the exposition of Jewish, or rather rabbinical, law. He published in 1631 'De Successionibus in bona defunctorum ad leges Ebræorum,' re-edited in 1636 with another treatise 'De Successione in Pontificatum Ebræorum,' and dedicated to Laud; in 1640 'De Jure Naturali et Gentium juxta Disciplinam Ebræorum;' in 1644 'De Anno Civili et Calendario Veteris Ecclesiæ seu Reipublicæ Judaicæ;' in 1646 'Uxor Ebraica seu de Nuptiis et Divortiis Veterum Ebræorum libri tres;' in 1650 'De Synedriis Veterum Ebræorum,' a work of which the second part appeared in 1653, and the unfinished third part posthumously. All these works were reprinted during the author's lifetime (except the last) at Leyden or Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and the treatise 'De Jure Naturali et Gentium' contained much that was interesting to others besides specialists in Hebrew law, although its defects, lucidly pointed out by Hallam, did not escape Selden's contemporaries. The acquaintance with the original of the Old Testament and the ancient versions and commentaries which all these works display is very great. Their author's familiarity with rabbinical literature was such as has been acquired by few non-Israelite scholars; and many details of oriental civilisation and antiquities were certainly brought to the knowledge of Europeans for the first time in them. We may instance the Copto-Arabic system of notation (in the calendar reproduced in the third volume of the 'De Synedriis'), and the distinction between the tenets of the Rabbanite and Karaite Jews (in the treatise 'De Anno Civili'). Their extraordinary erudition won much praise, and, as Selden rarely if ever attacked other writers, they offended few susceptibilities; but severe critics complained with justice of their discursiveness and occasional obscurity, and still more of the uncritical use made by Selden of documents of very unequal value; and indeed Selden's statements about Jewish law are more often based on comparatively modern compilations than on the original sources, to some of which perhaps he had not access; and in accepting the rabbinical tradition as a faithful account of the Israelitish state, he was behind the best criticism of his time. A question of more general interest than rabbinical law was approached in his edition of a fragment of the history of Eutychius ('Eutychii Ægyptii, patriarchæ orthodoxorum Alexandrini, Ecclesiæ suæ origines,' 1642). The purpose of this work was to adduce fresh evidence in favour of the view of the original relations between the episcopate and the presbytery advocated by Salmasius and impugned by Petavius. It was attacked with bitterness by Roman catholic writers, and answered in a bulky work by the Maronite Abraham Ecchellensis seven years after Selden's death. The charge of inaccurate scholarship brought against Selden's translation of the Arabic seems unjust, and indeed Selden's acquaintance with the Arabic language, though not profound, was equal to that of any of the European scholars who preceded Edward Pococke [q. v.] It was urged with greater justice that the authority of so late a writer as Eutychius (876–940) was insufficient for Selden's purpose. Nevertheless Selden proceeded to prepare an edition of the whole of Eutychius's chronicle, and left instructions in his will that it should be completed by Pococke.
Selden doubtless derived part of his ample means from his employment as steward of the Earl of Kent and from the liberality of the countess. At their country seat at Wrest in Bedfordshire he invariably spent his vacations. After the earl died, in 1639, Selden continued to manage the estate of the dowager countess. By a deed of 6 July 1648 she gave to Selden (in the event of her dying without issue, which happened) an interest for his life and twenty-one years after in her estates in the counties of Leicester and Warwick, and by her will in 1649 she gave to him all her personal estate, including leaseholds. At some date not ascertained he took up his residence in her town mansion, a large house with a garden, called the Carmelite or White Friars, situate a short distance east of the Temple. Aubrey repeats a story, which is probably false, that Selden married the countess, but never acknowledged the fact till after her death, which took place in 1651. Her mansion he speaks of, not without pride, as 'Museum meum Carmeliticum' (De Synedr. lib. iii. c. 14, s. 9). It contained his Greek marbles, his Chinese map and compass, his curiosities in crystal, marble, and pearl, his cabinets and cases, all indicated by letters, and, above all, his incomparable library. Selden lived in considerable style (he leaves legacies to four men described as his servants); he was never without learned company, and, though personally temperate, he kept a liberal table.
On 10 Nov. 1654 Whitelocke advised with Selden as to alterations in his will which increasing weakness prevented. He died at Carmelite House on 30 Nov. 1654. Of his deathbed several narratives have been preserved, though none of them seem to be first-hand accounts. One given by Aubrey represents him as refusing to see a clergyman through the persuasion of Hobbes; another, found in the Rawlinson MSS. at the Bodleian, as refusing to receive Hobbes, confessing his sins, and receiving absolution from Archbishop Ussher, and as expressing the wish that he had rather executed the office of a justice of the peace than spent his time in what the world calls learning (Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, 2nd edit. p. 110 n.). According to 'Historical Applications and Occasional Meditations, by a Person of Honour' (1670), he was attended by his friends Archbishop Ussher and Dr. Langbaine, and told them that 'at that time he could not recollect any passage out of infinite books and manuscripts he was master of wherein he could rest his soul, save out of the holy scriptures, wherein the most remarkable passage that lay upon his spirit was Titus ii. 11–14.' Selden was buried in the Temple Church 'magnificently' (says Wood), in the presence of all the judges and of other persons of distinction.
He appears to have died possessed of considerable property both real and personal, a small part only of which he bequeathed to relatives. By a codicil to his will he left some of his books to the university of Oxford (for so it seems to have been construed, notwithstanding an apparent defect), and others to the College of Physicians; the residue of his library he bequeathed to his executors, of whom Sir Matthew Hale was one, but with a gentle protest against its being sold. These books were offered by the executors to the Inner Temple on terms which were refused, and were subsequently given by them to the Bodleian at Oxford. According to Ayliffe (State of the University of Oxford, 1714, i. 462), eight chests, containing the registers of abbeys and other manuscripts relating to the history of England, were, after Selden's death, destroyed by fire in the Temple. Nevertheless, about eight thousand volumes, including many manuscripts and a few unique books, and many of much value, reached the Bodleian Library. Selden also bequeathed to the university of Oxford his Greek marble inscriptions about his house in Whitefriars, and his heads and statues of Greek workmanship. In Prideaux's 'Marmora Oxoniensia' published in 1676, nine marbles are identified as forming part of Selden's bequest (Preface). One, if not all, of these sculptures came from Asia Minor ('e Græcia Asiatica,' De Synedriis, lib. iv. c. 14, s. 9). These marbles, like the Arundel marbles and some given by Sir George Wheeler, were originally exposed in the open air within the enclosure of the schools; in 1714 they were removed into the picture gallery; in 1749 into one of the rooms of the ground floor, and in 1888 to the university galleries. They seem to have suffered considerably while in the care of the university (Macray, pp. 190–1).
The story that Selden on his death-bed caused his papers to be destroyed (told by an anonymous writer in a Bodleian scrap-book) appears to be plainly erroneous, for there exist in the library of Lincoln's Inn five volumes of Selden's manuscripts which are partly in his handwriting and partly in that of various amanuenses. They no doubt came to Sir Matthew Hale as executor of Selden, and they were, together with other manuscripts, bequeathed by him to Lincoln's Inn; they appear to have been bound after they came into the hands of the society. They consist of copies and extracts from registers and documents of all kinds, of rough notes, of papers relative to cases in which Selden was professionally engaged, and of a single sheet of autobiography. A catalogue of these manuscripts was prepared by the Rev. Joseph Hunter for the record commissioners, and reprinted by the society (1838). One paper in these manuscripts is interesting as the only trace of Selden's interest in natural history. It is a catalogue in his handwriting of some sixty-four birds.
It was not till 1689, when the revolution had given freedom to the press, that the 'Table Talk of Selden, the book by which he is generally known to fame, was first printed. This work was composed by Richard Milward [q. v.], a secretary of Selden, and contains reports of Selden's utterances from time to time during the last twenty years of his life. Its authenticity was doubted by Dr. Wilkins, but for reasons which have not satisfied the world; and the work may safely be accepted as the most vivid picture extant of the habits of thought and the modes of expression of the great Erastian lawyer. The conversations cover a great range of subjects relative to human life and history; but Selden was never metaphysical and rarely philosophical. The book exhibits him with a great and varied knowledge of life; as a man of strong and somewhat scornful intellect; as delighting to illustrate his discourse by similitudes; as solving all questions in church and state by a reference to one or two simple principles—the sovereignty of the state, and the contract between the sovereign and his people. 'All is as the state pleases;' 'every law is a contract between the king and the people, and therefore to be kept'—are two sentences characteristic of Selden's habitual thought. Such principles are destructive of the claims to jus divinum alike of kings, bishops, and presbyters; and they exclude those theories of natural right to which ardent reformers are wont to have recourse. A comparison of the style of his 'Table Talk' with that of his speeches and written works supports the statement of Clarendon that he was far more direct, simple, and effective as a speaker than as a writer.
Selden's early friend, Ben Jonson, described him as 'living on his own, the law-book of the judges of England, the bravest man in all languages.' To him Jonson addressed a poetical epistle, in which he wrote
You that have been
Ever at home, yet have all countries seen,
And, like a compass, keeping one foot still
Upon your centre, do your circle fill
Of general knowledge; watched men, manners too,
Heard what times past have said, seen what ours do.
Two other friends have left sketches of Selden's character. 'His mind,' says Whitelocke, 'was as great as his learning; he was as hospitable and generous as any man; and as good company to those whom he liked.' 'Mr. Selden,' says Lord Clarendon (Life, pt. i. p. 16), 'was a person whom no character can flatter, or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit and virtue. He was of so stupendous learning in all kinds and in all languages (as may appear in his excellent and transcendent writings) that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant amongst books, and had never spent an hour but in reading and writing; yet his humanity, courtesy, and affability was such that he would have been thought to have been bred in the best courts but that his good nature, charity, and delight in doing good, and in communicating all he knew, exceeded that breeding. His style in all his writings seems harsh and sometimes obscure, which is not wholly to be imputed to the abstruse subjects of which he commonly treated, out of the paths trod by other men, but to a little undervaluing the beauty of a style, and too much propensity to the language of antiquity; but in his conversation he was the most clear discourser, and had the best faculty in making hard things easy, and presenting them to the understanding of any man that hath been known. Mr. Hyde was wont to say that he valued himself upon nothing more than upon having had Mr. Selden's acquaintance from the time he was very young, and held it with great delight as long as they were suffered to continue together in London; and he was very much troubled always when he heard him blamed, censured, and reproached for staying in London and in the parliament after they were in rebellion, and in the worst times, which his age obliged him to do; and how wicked soever the actions were which were every day done, he was confident he had not given his consent to them, but would have hindered them if he could with his own safety, to which he was always enough indulgent. If he had some infirmities with other men, they were weighed down with wonderful and prodigious abilities and excellencies in the other scale.'
The tone adopted by him in his discussion of ecclesiastical questions, the devout language of his last will, and the circumstances of his deathbed, all seem to show that he was a genuine believer in Christianity as a religion having a divine origin, though he thought far otherwise of the particular modes of government and of the ceremonies of the church. His latitudinarian views, coupled probably with a cynical mode of speaking on the questions which were so keenly debated in his time, together with the fact that Selden was on friendly terms as well with Hobbes as with Archbishop Ussher, are probably the source of the rumour that Selden 'was at the heart an infidel and inclined to the opinions of Hobbs.' Sir Matthew Hale, says Richard Baxter, 'oft professed to me that Mr. Selden was a resolved, serious Christian, and that he was a great adversary to Hobbs's errors, and that he had seen him openly oppose him so earnestly as either to depart from him or drive him out of the room' (Baxter's App. to the 'Life and Death of Hale,' Hale's Works, 1805, i. 112).
In politics, if Selden did not exhibit the character of a hero, a martyr, or a saint, he played the part of an honest man. The fact that he was consulted alike by the commons on their rights and by the lords on their privileges is a remarkable testimony not only to his learning, but to his freedom from party bias. He seems in all cases to have maintained what he believed to be the right, and to have been diverted from this course neither by the hope of popular applause nor by the favour of the court, nor by resentment for wrongs by which many men would have been soured. His desire was for an ordered liberty, and that he thought was to be found in the ancient constitution of the country. He had no democratic feeling, and no admiration for the great mass of mankind. 'So generous,' he says, 'so ingenuous, so proportioned to good, such fosterers of virtue, so industrious, of such mold are the few; so inhuman, so blind, so dissembling, so vain, so justly nothing but what's ill disposition are the most' (Dedication to Titles of Honour). Nor did he cherish the sanguine belief which characterises the zealous reformer, that all change is for the better and that all movement is forward. On the contrary, he had perhaps to a degree unusual even with Englishmen the love of precedent; he felt that in the records of the race was to be found the only remedy for the shortness of the life of the individual. 'The neglect or only vulgar regard,' he says, 'of the fruitful and precious part of it [antiquity] which gives necessary light to the present in matter of state, law, history, and the understanding of good authors, is but preferring that kind of ignorance which our short life alone allows us before the many ages of former experience and observation, which may so accumulate years to us as if we had lived even from the beginning of time' (Dedication to History of Tythes).
Selden from first to last reserved to himself that leisure which is needful for the life of a student. But, while jealous of his studious leisure, he carried on a considerable correspondence with friends. Ben Jonson, Archbishop Ussher, Lord Conway, the universal correspondent Peiresc, Dr. Langbaine, Whitelocke, and Gerard Vossius were among his correspondents. The fragments which have survived of his correspondence with Eliot exhibit Selden in the pleasing light of a man to whom his friends turned with the certainty that his time, his trouble, and his learning would willingly be given to aid them, or even their friends. 'His mind,' says Wood, 'was as great as his learning—full of generosity, and harbouring nothing that seemed base.' So, too, in money matters Selden, though he died rich, appears to have been neither greedy in acquiring nor stingy in the spending of money, and he appears to have been liberal in his assistance to literary enterprises, such as the publication of the 'Septuagint.'
In person Selden is described by Aubrey as 'very tall—I guess six foot high—sharp, oval face, head not very big, long nose inclining to one side, full popping eie' (i.e. grey eyes). The following are the chief known portraits: In oils: an anonymous one in the National Portrait Gallery; one in the Bodleian Gallery, attributed to Mytens; one in the Bodleian Library attributed to the same artist; and a second in the same library which is probably the portrait referred to by Hearne as having been placed in the library on 18 May 1708, and also, by Granger, who mentions a portrait by Vandyck as in the Bodleian Library. Among engraved portraits are that prefixed to Pococke's 'Eutychius,' fol. 1658; engraved by J. Chantry, prefixed to the 'Nativity of Christ,' 1661, 8vo; by Van Hove, 1677, 12mo; prefixed to the 'Janus Anglorum,' 1682, fol., engraved by R. White; by Faber after Vandyck, 1713, 4to; by Virtue after Lely prefixed to Selden's works, edited by Wilkins, 1726; by J. Sturt after Faithorne; by Burghers, prefixed to the catalogue of the Bodleian Library; one in Lodge's 'Portraits,' after a Mytens in the Bodleian (see Bromley, Catalogue of Portraits, 1795; Granger's, Biographical History, s.v. 'Selden;' Hearne, Remarks and Collections, under date 19 May 1708).
Alike in his Latin and in his English works, the style of Selden is prolix and embarrassed. He seems to have possessed a vast memory, and as he thought and wrote this memory seems ever to have suggested to him some collateral subject, and thus painfully to have diverted him from the direct course of his statement or argument. He is perpetually overburdened with the weight of his learning. The following is a chronological list of his works: 1. 'Jani Facies,' London, 1610, 12mo; London, 1681, 12mo, englished by Redman Westcott (i.e. Adam Littleton), and published in 'Tracts,' London, 1683, fol. 2. ‘England's Epinomis,’ London, 1610, and in 'Tracts,' London, 1683, fol. 3. 'Duello,' London, 1610, 4to; London, 1771? 4to. 4. 'Notes on Drayton,' 1612, fol. and 1613, fol. 5. 'Titles of Honour,' London, 1614, 4to; London, 1631, fol.; London, 1672, fol.; translated into Latin by Arnold, Frankfurt, 1696, 4to. 6. 'Analecton,' Frankfurt, 1615, 4to; with the 'Metamorphosis,' 1653, and with the 'Janus,' 1653, 12mo. 7. 'Notes on Fortescue,' 1616, 8vo; 1672, 12mo; 1737, fol.; 1775, fol. 8. 'De Diis Syris,' London, 1617, 8vo; Leyden, 1629, 8vo; Leipzig, 1668, 8vo; Amsterdam, 1680, 8vo; in Ugolini's 'Thesaurus,' vol. xxiii., 1744, fol.; Venice, 1760, fol.; translated by Hanson, Philadelphia, 1881. 9. 'History of Tythes,' 1618, 4to; a second edition in the same year and form. 10. 'Eadmer,' 1623, fol. 11. 'Marmora Arundelliana,' London, 1624, 4to; 1628, 4to; London, 1629, 4to. 12. 'De Successionibus,' London, 1631, 4to; London, 1636, fol.; Leyden, 1638, 8vo, with 'Uxor Ebraica,' London, 1646, 4to. 13. 'Mare Clausum,' London, 1635, fol.; London, 1636, 8vo; Leyden, 1636, 4to; Amsterdam, 1636, 12mo; London, 1652, fol.; translated by Needham, London, 1663, fol., in 'Cocceii Anim. ad Grotium,' Breslau, 1752, fol. 14. 'De Successione in Pontificatum,' Leyden, 1638, 12mo, in vol. xii. of Ugolini's 'Thes.' Venice, 1651, fol. 15. 'De Jure Naturali,' London, 1640, fol.; Strasburg, 1665, 4to; Leipzig and Frankfurt, 1695, 4to; in vol. xxvii. of Ugolini's 'Thes.' Venice, 1763, fol. 16. 'Judicature in Parliament,' 1640, 4to. 17. 'Privileges of Baronage,' London, 1642, 8vo; 1689, 8vo. 18. 'Eutychius,' 1642, 4to. 19. 'De Anno Civili,' London, 1644, 4to; Leyden, 1683; in vol. xvii. of Ugolini's 'Thes.' Venice, 1755, fol. 20. 'Uxor Ebraica,' London, 1646, 4to, with the 'De Successionibus,' Frankfurt-on-Oder, 1673 and 1695, both 4to. 21. 'Fleta,' London, 1647, fol.; 1685, 4to; Leipzig, 1734, 4to; translated by Kelham, London, 1771, 8vo. 22. 'De Synedriis,' London, 1650–5, 4to; Amsterdam, 1679, 4to; Frankfurt, 1696, 4to; and epitomised by Bowyer, London, 1785, 4to. 23. 'Decem Scriptores,' London, 1653, fol. 24. 'Vindiciæ,' London, 1653, fol. 25. 'On the Nativity of Christ,' London, 1661, 8vo. 26. 'Of the Office of Lord Chancellor,' edited by W. Dugdale, London, 1671, fol.; 1672, fol.; and London, 1672, 8vo. 27. 'Table Talk,' London, 1689, 4to; London, 1696, 8vo; London, 1716, 12mo; Glasgow, 1755, 12mo; London, 1777, 8vo; London, 1786, 12mo; London, 1797, 16mo; Chiswick, 1818, 12mo; Edinburgh, 1819, 12mo (in 'British Prose-Writers'), 1821, 12mo; London, 1847, 8vo; London, 1856, 8vo; Edinburgh, 1854, 8vo (in Cassell's Library); reprinted by Arber, 1868; London, 1887, 8vo; Oxford, 1892, 8vo.
Selden's works were collected by Dr. David Wilkins, London, 1726, in three volumes, folio (each volume in two parts). In addition to the works collected by Wilkins, there have been attributed to Selden: An essay 'De Juramentis,' published in the twenty-sixth volume of Ugolini's 'Thesaurus,' Venice, 1768, fol.; a work called 'Metamorphosis Anglorum,' London, 1653, 8vo; 'A Brief Discourse concerning the Powers of Peers and Commons, by a Learned Antiquary,' 1640, 4to; and a treatise, 'De Nummis,' London, 1675, which was really the work of Alessandro Sardi.
A 'Discourse on the Laws and Government of England,' by Nathaniel Bacon, was said to be collected from some manuscript notes of Selden, and was published in 1649, and again in 1672, 1682, 1689, and 1760. In the advertisement to the edition of 1689 it is said that Lord Chief-justice Vaughan had owned that the groundwork of this book was Selden's.[For the life generally: the Vita by Wilkins, prefixed to his edition of the works; Wood's Athenæ, s. v. 'Selden;' Aubrey's notes in Bliss's edition of Wood. For early life: epitaph in Temple Church; manuscript fragment of autobiography in Selden MSS. in Lincoln's Inn Library, catalogued xii. (xiii.) No. 42; parish register and parish account-books of West Tarring. For his connection with Inner Temple: the entries in the parliament books under respective dates. For his History of Tythes and the attending circumstances: Selden's Treatises of the Purpose and End, &c.; reply to Tilsley; preface to the three tracts. For his political life: the Eliot Papers in Forster's John Eliot, 2nd edit.; Selden's speeches and arguments in Works; Rushworth, vols. i. ii. vi.; Journals of the House of Commons; the Calendars of State Papers; Whitelocke's Memorials; Clarendon's History, bk. v. For his imprisonments: Vindiciæ; the Eliot Papers, ubi supra; the Calendars, Rushworth, vol. ii. Whitelocke. For his pecuniary affairs: will of the Countess of Kent, in registry of probate division; will and codicil of Selden in Wilkins's Life. For his proceedings in reference to the university of Oxford: Wood's Annals of the University, vol. ii., and correspondence in Wilkins's Life (cf. Notes and Queries, 8th ser. xii. 344). For his sculptures: Prideaux's Marmora Oxoniensia; Chandler's edition of the same work; Michaelis's Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, and Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, 2nd edit. For his library: Macray's Annals. Professor Margoliouth has supplied the account of Selden's oriental learning on pp. 219–20.]