« PreviousContinue »
acquainted themselves with the writings of his opponents) must have been the result of strong principle, and unwearied self-control. Again, Walton or his informants appear to have considered him as almost childishly ignorant of human nature and of the ordinary business of life: whereas his writings throughout betray uncommon shrewdness and quickness of observation, and a vein of the keenest humour runs through them; the last quality we should look for, if we judged only by reading the Life. In these respects it may seem probable that if the biographer had been personally acquainted with his subject, the picture would have been somewhat modified : in no others is there any reason, either from his writings or from contemporary evidence, to doubt the accuracy of his report.”1 Mr. Keble, again, speaks favourably of Walton's “veracity, industry, and judgment.” 2 This being so, and taking into consideration Isaac Walton's exquisite skill and beautiful style as a biographer, it would be mere affectation on the part of any writer, attempting to give the outlines of the life of Richard Hooker, not to avail himself of Isaac Walton's work. In fact there is no alternative but to consult and quote Walton freely as occasion requires : and this the present writer 1 Hooker's Works, Vol. I. Editor's Preface, $ 1.
has done in the following brief account of Richard Hooker's life, preparatory to an appreciation of his influence and some description of his writings.
Isaac Walton was in early life intimately acquainted with George Cranmer-grandnephew of Archbishop Cranmer, and Richard Hooker's pupil and friend, from whom he derived much of the information recorded in his Life of Hooker. He also consulted Archbishop Ussher, Dr. Morton, bishop of Durham, and John Hales of Eton, who, it is said, “ loved the very name of Mr. Hooker.” 1 Isaac Walton's Life of Hooker was dedicated to his friend George Morley, an ecclesiastic distinguished by his unshaken loyalty and devotion to King Charles I., and who, at the Restoration, was first made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and later Bishop of Winchester. Though nominated as one of the Westminster Assembly of Divines in 1643, • he never did them the honour, nor himself the injury, to sit among them.' Bishop Morley was a member of the Savoy Conference of 1661, which gave the final form to our present Book of Common Prayer. Walton wrote his Life of Hooker under Bishop Morley's roof, as he states in his dedication.
i Vide Mr. Sidney Lee's article on Richard Hooker, in The Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXVII. p. 295.
Little has been discovered concerning Hooker's life since Walton wrote his famous biography. Dr. Fowler, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in his History of that college, gives a few facts which were either inaccessible to Walton, or omitted or imperfectly described by him: to these reference will be made later.
Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity has, as was to be expected, been reprinted many times, and has had many editors. A descriptive list of these is given by Dr. Paget in Appendix V. of his invaluable Introduction to the Fifth Book of Hooker's Treatise, published by the Clarendon Press in the year 1899, a work which no student of Hooker can afford to neglect. Of Hooker's editors we will content ourselves with referring to the more prominent in later times.
Of the labours of John Keble, covering a period of six years, in editing the Life and Works of Richard Hooker, it is as difficult to speak without presumption, as it is to express adequately appreciation of his elaborate and scholarly Preface to his edition of Hooker's Works.1 That this task should have fallen to the lot of Mr. Keble is an event singularly appropriate and happy, for reasons not a few. The saintly author of The Christian Year, and the author of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, were alike scholars of the same college, Corpus Christi College, Oxford ; entering alike at fifteen years of age. They share in common the honour of having given to the English Church rare literary treasures of quite extraordinary importance and usefulness. It is not too much to say that The Ecclesiastical Polity of Richard Hooker, and The Christian Year of John Keble, are books which have influenced religious thought in the Anglican Communion in a way, and to an extent, in which no other similar books have done. And what is more, their influence is permanent: they are preeminently English classics. The mental and spiritual endowments and attainments of the two men, if varying in degree, were very similar : the characteristics of profound learning, personal holiness, love of retirement, were common to both. And the parallel is strikingly continued in the way that both, amongst the very greatest men of the Church of their day, were passed over, their moral worth and intellectual greatness, at the best, inadequately recognized and rewarded. The good things of the Established Church—its dignities, its honours, its emoluments—were not for them: they sought them not. As Dr. Spencer, one of Hooker's friends, and an editor of his Books, said: “He neither enjoyed nor expected any the least dignity in our Church.”2 Richard Hooker and John Keble alike finished their lives on earth as humble parish priests, spending their latter days in faithful service in the obscurity of quiet country benefices. Thus of them it may be said, they were “ lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided." 3
i Clarendon Press, 1893. 2 See Sir John Coleridge's Memoir of John Keble.
1 The Works of that learned and judicious divine Mr. Richard Hooker, with an account of his life and death by Isaac Waiton, arranged by the Rev. John Keble, M.A., late fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1836.
The lamentable failure of the English Church to honour her most brilliant and distinguished sons is singularly exemplified in the cases of Hooker and Keble. The honour
1 In making this comparison it is only fair to say that whilst John Keble suffered obloquy and suspicion, and was made the object of charges of disloyalty to the English Church, Richard Hooker enjoyed some slight recognition at the hands of Archbishop Whitgift. At the most we may say that whilst Keble was misrepresented and deliberately passed over, Hooker was quite inadequately rewarded. Possibly Hooker's death about six years after the publication of Books I.-IV. of The Ecclesiastical Polity, may account somewhat for the lack of recognition.
2 Cited in Hooker's Works, Vol. I. p. 122. 3 2 Sam. i. 23.