Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Scholars and Scholarship, 1600–60 > Isaac Casaubon
  Baronius’s Annales The spread of patristic learning in England  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XIII. Scholars and Scholarship, 1600–60.

§ 6. Isaac Casaubon.

Next to Joseph Scaliger in Leyden, who died in 1609, Isaac Casaubon was regarded as the most learned scholar in Europe, and his residence in London from 1610 to 1614 proved the attractiveness to his scholarly mind of the theological attitude of men like Lancelot Andrewes. Casaubon’s residence in England was an incalculable stimulus to the industry and research of the new “Anglican” school that was rising over the heads of the puritan groups.   10
  Whilst Casaubon was admired by the protestant world for his classical and patriotic scholarship, there was not a little misgiving that he lost his opportunity in his Exercitationes of refuting the doctrinal theology of Baronius, and it was feared that he had failed to return the undermining attacks of Jesuits on protestant bulwarks. But Casaubon was not a gladiator like Scioppius. He had gone through fiery torments of indecision in taking the one side rather than the other. In the inner sanctity of his conscience, the cause of truth was enshrined. The older ideal of imitation, both in form and in substance, of the great classical writers of antiquity had now passed. It was essential for those engaged in theological conflict on an intellectual plane to know. But knowledge, which goes to the root of matters, must use both a trained judgment and the results of independent enquiries into the ideas and thoughts as well as the surroundings of the ancient world, if it is to represent a solid basis for the thought of the present. To the keenest scholars of the seventeenth century, among whom Casaubon was conspicuously the first, the foundations of theological truth necessarily had to be sought in the earlier centuries of the Christian era. Casaubon had devoted his faculties, heightened and refined by almost incredible application, unparalleled even in that age of classical scholars, to critical work in respect of the writings of Strabo, Athenaeus, Persius and Polybius. On all these, he brought to bear a knowledge of classical antiquity which seemed at once universal in its comprehensiveness and selective in its adequacy for the point in hand, so much so that his commentary on Strabo has not been superseded.   11
  Casaubon only lived to complete the first half of the first volume of his criticism of Baronius’s mighty tomes. Much of the 800 folio pages is occupied with a re-tracing of Baronius’s tracks, correcting and rebutting, point by point. Constructive work indeed, there was, in the form of dissertations. But the essential significance of the history of seventeenth century scholarship is the object-lesson which its productions furnish, providing students in the Bible studies, in patristic learning and in church history with a standard of research, intellectual persistency, scholarly apparatus and equipment.   12
  The dissatisfaction of English controversialists with Casaubon’s method of critical correction rather than of concentration on doctrinal disputation was made manifest in the effort of Richard Mountague, who, in his Analecta Exercitationum ecclesiasticarum, 1622, “went over the same ground again, to show how Casaubon ought to have done it but could not.” Mountague and the Greek professor of Cambridge, Andrew Downes, had been among the coadjutors of Sir Henry Savile in the production of the wonderful eight volume Eton edition of St. Chrysostom’s works (1612). Savile had collected MSS. of Chrysostom, and, with Casaubon’s aid, he had had the MSS. in the Royal library of Paris collated, and had organised the revision of the text by the most learned Greek scholars in England, himself defraying the cost of production, computed at £8000. No edition of a Greek author, in England or in Europe, in the first part of the seventeenth century, could vie with this work in the splendour of its production. Casaubon and Savile, though not on good terms personally, were united by the publication in England of two of the greatest works of scholarship of the age, and in the inauguration on the highest plane of that patristic study which constituted the chief feature of English scholarship in the period 1600–60.   13
  Throughout the period, works of learned men, whether divines or laymen, abound in allusions disclosing a knowledge of the Fathers, the councils and ecclesiastical history. Calamy, a member of the Westminster assembly, is said to have read through St.Augustine’s works five times, and to have thoroughly mastered the Summa of Aquinas. Thomas Holland, the Oxford professor of divinity, was familiar with the Fathers “as if he himself were a Father and in the schoolmen as if he had been a seraphical doctor.” Henry Jackson, a country rector in Gloucestershire, collected several of the works of Abelard from ancient MSS., and revised and collated them; but, in 1642, his collection was scattered by parliamentary soldiers. Archbishop Ussher, at 20 years of age, resolved to go through all the Fathers by himself and “to trust no eyes but his own.” He took eighteen years over the task, “strictly confining himself to read so much in a day and suffering no occasion whatever” to divert him from it. Laymen as well as divines were close students; physicians, lawyers, schoolmasters knew the Fathers, at least for the purpose of embellishing their writings. In the directions which James I issued to the universities in 1616, students in divinity were
to be incited to bestow their times in the Fathers and Councils, Schoolmen, Histories and Controversies, and not to insist so long upon Compendiums and abbreviations as the grounds of their study in Divinity.

  Baronius’s Annales The spread of patristic learning in England  

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