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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (1609–1674)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE STATESMAN first known as Mr. Hyde of the Inner Temple, then as Sir Edward Hyde, and finally as the Earl of Clarendon, belongs to the small but most valuable and eminent band who have both made and written history; a group which includes among others Cæsar, Procopius, Sully, and Baber, and on a smaller scale of active importance, Ammianus and Finlay. Born in Dinton, Wiltshire, 1609, he was graduated at Oxford in 1626, and had attained a high standing in his profession when the civil troubles began, and he determined to devote all his energies to his public duties in Parliament. During the momentous period of the Long Parliament he was strongly on the side of the people until the old abuses had been swept away; but he would not go with them in paralyzing the royal authority from distrust of Charles, and when the civil war broke out he took the royal side, accompanying the King to Oxford, and remaining his ablest adviser and loyal friend.  1
  He was the guardian of Charles II. in exile; and in 1661, after the Restoration, was made Lord Chancellor and chief minister. Lord Macaulay says of him:—“He was well fitted for his great place. No man wrote abler state papers. No man spoke with more weight and dignity in council and Parliament. No man was better acquainted with general maxims of statecraft. No man observed the varieties of character with a more discriminating eye. It must be added that he had a strong sense of moral and religious obligation, a sincere reverence for the laws of his country, and a conscientious regard for the honor and interest of the Crown.” But his faults were conspicuous. One of his critics insists that “his temper was arbitrary and vehement. His arrogance was immeasurable. His gravity assumed the character of censoriousness.”  2
  He took part in important and dangerous negotiations, and eventually alienated four parties at once: the royalists by his Bill of Indemnity; the low-churchmen and dissenters by his Uniformity act; the many who suffered the legal fine for private assemblages for religious worship; and the whole nation by selling Dunkirk to France. By the court he was hated because he censured the extravagance and looseness of the life led there; and finally Charles, who had long resented his sermons, deprived him of the great seal, accused him of high treason, and doomed him to perpetual banishment. Thus, after being the confidential friend of two kings (and the future grandfather of two sovereigns, Mary and Anne), he was driven out of England, to die in poverty and neglect at Rouen in 1674. But these last days were perhaps the happiest and most useful of his life. He now indulged his master passion for literature, and revised his ‘History of the Rebellion,’ which he had begun while a fugitive from the rebels in the Isle of Jersey. In this masterpiece, “one of the greatest ornaments of the historical literature of England,” he has described not only the events in which he participated, but noted people of the time whom he had personally known. The book is written in a style of sober and stately dignity, with great acuteness of insight and weightiness of comment; it incorporates part of an autobiography afterwards published separately, and is rather out of proportion. His other works are ‘The Essay on an Active and Contemplative Life’; ‘The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon’; ‘Dialogues on Education and the Want of Respect Paid to Age’; ‘Miscellaneous Essays,’ and ‘Contemplation of the Psalms of David.’  3
 
 
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