Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tyrrell, James (1642-1718)

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TYRRELL, JAMES (1642–1718), historical writer, born on 5 May 1642 in Great Queen Street in the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Middlesex, was the eldest son of Sir Timothy Tyrrell of Shotover, near Oxford, by his wife Elizabeth, sole daughter and heiress of James Usher (1580–1656) [q. v.], archbishop of Armagh. James Tyrrell was educated in the free school at Camberwell, Surrey, and was admitted a student at Gray's Inn on 7 Jan. 1655–6. On 15 Jan. 1657 he matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, and was created M.A. on 28 Sept. 1663. In 1666 he was called to the bar by the society of the Inner Temple, but, says Wood, ‘made no profession of the common law.’ He subsequently retired to his estate at Oakley, near Brill in Buckinghamshire, and became a deputy lieutenant and justice of the peace of that county, in which offices he continued until deprived by James II in 1687 for refusing to support the ‘declaration of indulgence.’ In 1681 Tyrrell, who was an intimate friend of John Locke, the philosopher, and who shared his political views, published a small volume entitled ‘Patriarcha non Monarcha, or the Patriarch unmonarched’ (London, 8vo), in which he advocated the principle of a limited monarchy, and controverted the doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance. It was intended primarily as a reply to Sir Robert Filmer's ‘Patriarcha, or the natural Power of Kings’ (London, 1680, 8vo), and was subscribed ‘Philalethes.’ Tyrrell's opinions were further elaborated by him in a series of fourteen political dialogues published between 1692 and 1702, in which, besides dealing with the more abstract subjects of parliamentary rights and regal prerogative, he examined minutely the constitutional questions raised during the reigns of the later Stuarts and at the time of the Revolution. The dialogues are conducted with some learning and much pedantry. They form a valuable résumé of the whig theory of the English constitution. They were collected into one volume folio in 1718, under the title ‘Bibliotheca Politica.’ A second edition appeared in 1827.

In later life Tyrrell resided chiefly at Shotover, in order to be near the libraries at Oxford. He was engaged upon a ‘General History of England, both Ecclesiastical and Civil,’ which he intended to bring down to the reign of William III. At the time of his death, however, he had issued only three volumes folio, which appeared between 1696 and 1704. These carried the work to the death of Richard II. The work was written with the view of confuting the monarchical opinions expressed by Robert Brady [q. v.] in his ‘Compleat History of England,’ and of establishing the historical continuity of the representation of the commons in the English legislature (Locke, Works, 1812, iii. 272–3). Like other works written in support of a theory, it was valuable only so long as its contentions were not admitted. It contains copious transcripts from the older historians and chroniclers, but it is cumbrous and ill-digested.

Tyrrell died at Shotover on 7 June 1718, and was buried in Oakley church. On 18 Jan. 1669–70 he married Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Michael Hutchinson of Fladbury in Worcestershire (Chester, London Marriage Licenses). By her he had a son, James Tyrrell, who, entering the army, attained the rank of lieutenant-general, and was member of parliament for Boroughbridge from 1722 till his death on 30 Aug. 1742. The Tyrrell estates then descended to his kinsman, Augustus Schutz. Besides the works mentioned, Tyrrell was the author of ‘A brief Disquisition on the Law of Nature,’ London, 1692, 8vo; 2nd edit. London, 1701, 8vo. This work was an abridgment of the treatise ‘De Legibus Naturæ Disquisitio Philosophica’ by Richard Cumberland (1631–1718) [q. v.], bishop of Peterborough, written in refutation of Hobbes's theories. He also wrote a dedication to Charles II for Usher's ‘Power communicated by God to the Prince,’ London, 1661, 4to; 2nd edit. London, 1683, 8vo; and in 1686 printed at the end of Parr's ‘Life of Archbishop Usher’ a vindication of his grandfather's opinions and actions from the aspersions thrown on them by Peter Heylyn in his pamphlet ‘Respondet Petrus,’ London, 1658, 8vo. The vindication was reprinted as an appendix in the first volume of Elrington's edition of Usher's works. Tyrrell translated ‘Toxaris, or a Dialogue of Friendship,’ for the translation of Lucian of Samosata, in four volumes, which appeared in 1711. To him have also been attributed: 1. ‘Mr. Milton's Character of the Long Parliament,’ London, 1681, 4to. 2. ‘His Majesty's Government vindicated,’ London, 1716, 8vo. Hearne says that he believes him to be the author of the life of Locke in the supplement to Jeremy Collier's translation of Moreri's ‘Great Historical Dictionary’ (1705). In 1707 Tyrrell presented six volumes of ‘Collectanea’ of Archbishop Usher's to the Bodleian Library. His own library was preserved at Shotover House until 20 Oct. 1855, when it was sold by public auction. Many of his books contained valuable annotations (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 490, 610). A volume of Locke's ‘Essay concerning the Human Understanding,’ with copious manuscript notes, is in the British Museum Library.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 520; Hearne's Collectanea, ed. Doble and Rannie, passim; Biographia Britannica, 1763; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Foster's Register of Admissions at Gray's Inn, p. 276.]

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