A Brief Life of Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679
►→ see also ►→THOMAS HOBBES (1588-1679)
►→THE LEVIATHAN, by Thomas Hobbes
A Brief Life of Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679
by John Aubrey
The writers of the lives of the ancient philosophers used to, in the first place, to speak of their linage; and they tell us that in process of time several illustrious great families accounted it their glory to he branched from such or such a Sapiens. Why now should that method be omitted in this Historiola of our Malmesbury philosopher? Who though but of plebeian descent, his renown has and will give brightness to his name and family, which hereafter may arise glorious and flourish in riches and may justly take it an honour to be of kin to this worthy person, so famous, for his learning, both at home and abroad.
Thomas Hobbes, then, whose life I write, was second son of Mr Thomas Hobbes, vicar of Charlton and Westport next to Malmesbury, who married Middleton of Brokenborough (a yeomanly family), by whom he had two sons and one daughter. Thomas, the father, was one of the ignorant ‘Sir Johns, of Queen Elizabeth’s time; could only read the prayers of the church and the homilies; and disesteemed learning (his son Edmund told me so), as not knowing the sweetness of it. As to his father’s ignorance and clownery, it was as good metal in the ore, which wants excoriating and refining. A wit requires much cultivation, much pains, and art and good conversation to perfect a man.
His father had an elder brother whose name was Francis, a wealthy man, and had been alderman of the borough; by profession a glover, which is a great trade here, and in times past much greater. Having no child, he contributed much to or rather altogether maintained his nephew Thomas at Magdalen Hall in Oxford; and when he died gave him a mowing ground called the Gasten ground, lying near to the horse-fair, worth £16 or £18 per annum; the rest of his lands he gave to his nephew Edmund.
Edmund was near two years older than his brother Thomas, and something resembled him in aspect, not so tall, but fell much short of him in his intellect, though he was a good plain understanding countryman. He had been bred at school with his brother; and could have made theme, and verse, and understood a little Greek to his dying day. This Edmund had only one son named Francis, and two daughters married to countrymen in the neighbourhood. This Francis pretty well resembled his uncle Thomas, especially about the eye; and probably had he had good education might have been ingenious; but be drowned his wit in ale.
Westport is the parish without the west gate (which is now demolished), which gate stood on the neck of land that joins Malmesbury to Westport. Here was before the late wars a very pretty church, consisting of a nave and two aisles, dedicated to St Mary; and a fair spire-steeple, with five tuneable bells, which, when the town was taken (about 1644) by Sir W. Waller, were converted into ordnance, and the church pulled down to the ground, that the enemy might not shelter themselves against the garrison. The steeple was higher than that now standing in the borough, which much adorned the prospect. The windows were well painted, and in them were inscriptions that declared much antiquity; now is here rebuilt a church like a stable.
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, philosopher, was born at his father’s house in Westport, being that extreme house that points into, or faces, the Horse-Fair; the farthest house on the left hand as you go to Tedbury, leaving the church on your right. To prevent mistakes, and that hereafter may rise no doubt what house was famous for this famous man’s birth, I do here testify that in April 1639, his brother Edmund went with me into this house, and into the chamber where he was born. Now things begin to be antiquated, and I have heard some guess it might be at the house where his brother Edmund lived and died. But this is so, as I here deliver it. This house was given by Thomas, the vicar to his daughter, whose daughter or granddaughter possessed it when I was there. It is a firm house, stone-built, and tiled, of one room (besides a buttery, or the like, within) below, and two chambers above. It was in the innermost where he first drew breath.
The day of his birth was 5 April 1588, on a Friday morning, which that year was Good Friday. His mother fell in labour with him upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards.
At four years old he went to school in Westport Church, till eight; by that time he could read well, and number four figures. Afterwards he went to school to Malmesbury, to Mr Evans, the minister of the town; and afterwards to Mr Robert Latimer, a young man of about nineteenth or twenty, newly come from the University, who then kept a private school in Westport, where the broad place is, next door north from the smith’s shop, opposite to the Three Cups (as I take it). He was a bachelor and delighted in his scholar’s company, and used to instruct him, and two or three ingenious youths more, in the evening till nine o’clock. Here T.H. so well profited in his learning, that at fourteen years of age, he went away a good school-scholar to Magdalen Hall in Oxford. It is not to be forgotten that before he went to the University, he had turned Euripides’ Medea out of Greek into Latin iambics, which he presented to his master. Mr H. told me he would fain have had them, to have seen how he did grow; and twenty odd years ago I searched all old Mr Latimer’s papers, but could not find them; the oven (pies) had devoured them. I have heard his brother Edmund and Mr Wayte (his schoolfellow) say that when he was a boy he was playsome enough, but withal he had even then a contemplative melancholiness; he would get himself into a corner, and learn his lesson by heart presently. This Mr Latimer was a good Graecian, and the first that came into our parts hereabout since the Reformation. He was afterwards minister of Malmesbury, and from thence preferred to a better living of £100 per annum or more, at Leigh Delamere within this hundred.
At Oxford Mr T.H. used, in the summer time especially, to rise very. early in the morning, and would tie the leaden counters (which they used in those days at Christmas at ‘post and pair’) with packthreads, which he did besmear with birdlime, and bait them with parings of cheese, and the jackdaws would spy them a vast distance up in the air, and as far off as Osney Abbey, and strike at the bait, and so be harled in the string, which the weight of the counter would make cling about their wings. He did not much care for logic, yet he learned it, and thought himself a good disputant. He took great delight there to go to the bookbinders’ shops and lie gaping on maps.
After he had taken his bachelor of arts degree, the then principal of Magdalen Hall (Sir James Hussey) recommended him to his young lord when he left Oxford, who did believe that he should profit more in his learning if he had a scholar of his own age to wait on him than if he had the information of a grave doctor. He was his lordship’s page, and rode a-hunting and hawking with him, and kept his privy purse. By this way of life he had almost forgotten his Latin. He therefore bought him books of an Amsterdam print that he might carry in his pocket (particularly Caesar’s Commentaries), which he did read in the lobby, or ante-chamber, whilst his lord was making his visits.
Before Thucydides, he spent two years in reading romances and plays, which he has often repented and said that these two years were lost of him-wherein perhaps he was mistaken too, for it might furnish him with copy of words.
The Lord Chancellor Bacon loved to converse with him. He assisted his lordship in translating several of his essays into Latin, one, I well remember, is that Of the Greatness of Cities. The rest I have forgotten. His lordship was a very contemplative person, and was wont to contemplate in his delicious walks at Gorhambury, and dictate to Mr Thomas Bushell, or some other of his gentlemen, that attended him with ink and paper ready to set down presently his thoughts. His lordship would often say that he better liked Mr Hobbes’s taking his thoughts, than any of the others, because he understood what he wrote, which the others not understanding, my lord would many times have a hard task to make sense of what they wrote.
It is to be remembered that about these times, Mr T.H. was much addicted to music, and practised on the bass viol.
1634: this summer I remember it was in venison season (July or August) – Mr T.H. came into his native country to visit his friends, and amongst others he came then to see his old schoolmaster, Mr Robert Latimer, at Leigh Delamere, where I was then at school in the church, newly entered in my grammar by him: here was the first place and time that ever I had the honour to see this worthy, learned man, who was then pleased to take notice of me, and the next day visited my relations. He was then a proper man, brisk, and in very good habit. His hair was then quite black. He stayed at Malmesbury and in the neighbourhood a week or better; ’twas the last time that ever he was in Wiltshire.
He was forty years old before he looked on geometry; which happened accidentally. Being in a gentleman’s library Euclid’s Elements lay open, and ’twas the forty-seventh proposition in the first book. He read the proposition. ‘By G ,’ said he, ‘this is impossible!’ So he reads the demonstration of it, which referred him back to such a proof; which referred him back to another, which he also read. Et sic deinceps, that at last he was demonstratively convinced of that truth. This made him in love with geometry. I have heard Sir Jonas Moore (and others) say that it was a great pity he had not begun the study of the mathematics sooner, for such a working head would have made great advancement in it. So had he done he would not have lain so open to his learned mathematical antagonists. But one may say of him, as one says of Jos. Scaliger, that where he errs, he errs so ingeniously, that one had rather err with him than hit the mark with Clavius. I have heard Mr Hobbes say that he was wont to draw lines on his thigh and on the sheets, abed, and also multiply and divide. He would often complain that algebra (though of great use) was too much admired, and so followed after, that it made men not contemplate and consider so much the nature and power of lines, which was a great hindrance to the growth of geometry; for that though algebra did rarely well and quickly in right lines, yet it would not bite in solid geometry.
Memorandum: after he began to reflect on the interest of the King of England as touching his affairs between him and the parliament, for ten years together his thoughts were much, or almost altogether, unhinged from the mathematics; but chiefly intent on his De Cive and after that On his Leviathan.. which was a great putback to his mathematical improvement, which N.B. – for in ten years’ (or better) discontinuance of that study (especially) one’s mathematics will become very rubiginous.
Memorandum: he told me that Bishop Manwaring (of St David’s) preached his doctrine: for which, among others, he was sent prisoner to the Tower. Then thought Mr Hobbes, it is time now for me to shift for myself, and so withdrew into France, and resided at Paris. As I remember, there were others likewise did preach his doctrine. This little MS treatise grew to he his book De Cive, and at last grew there to be the so formidable Leviathan; the manner of writing of which book (he told me) was thus. He walked much and contemplated, and he had in the head of his cane a pen and ink-horn, carried always a note-book in his pocket, and as soon as a thought darted, he presently entered it into his book, or otherwise he might perhaps have lost it. He had drawn the design of the book into chapters etc so he knew whereabout it would come in. Thus that book was made.
During his stay at Paris he went through a course of chemistry with Dr Davison; and he there also studied Vesalius’ Anatomy. This I am sure was before 1648; for that Sir William Petty (then Dr Petty, physician) studied and dissected with him.
In 1650 or 1651 he returned into England, and lived most part in London, in Fetter Lane, where he wrote, or finished his book De Corpore, in Latin and then in English; and wrote his lessons against the two Savilian professors at Oxford.
He was much in London till the restoration of his majesty, having here convenience not only of books, but of learned conversation, as Mr John Selden, Dr William Harvey, John Vaughan etc. I have heard him say, that at his lord’s house in the country there was a good library, and that his lordship stored the library with what books he thought fit to be bought; but he said, the want of learned conversation was a very great inconvenience, and that though he conceived he could order his thinking as well perhaps as another man, yet he found a great defect.
Amongst other of his acquaintance I must not forget our common friend, Mr Samuel Cowper, the prince of limners of this last age, who drew his picture as like as art could afford, and one of the best pieces that ever he did; which his majesty, at his return, bought of him, and conserves as one of his great rarities in his closet at Whitehall.
1659. In 1659, his lord was and some years before-at Little Salisbury House (now turned to the Middle Exchange), where he wrote, among other things, a poem in Latin hexameter and pentameter, of the encroachment of the clergy (both Roman and reformed) on the civil power. I remember I saw then over five hundred verses (for he numbered every tenth as he wrote). I remember he did read Cluverius’s Historia universalis, and made up his poem from this.
His manner of thinking: – His place of meditation was then in the portico in the garden. He said that he sometimes would set his thoughts upon researching and contemplating, always with this rule that he very much and deeply considered one thing at a time (scilicet, a week or sometimes a fortnight).
There was a report (and surely true) that in parliament, not long after the king was settled, some of the bishops made a motion to have the good old gentleman burnt for a heretic. Which he hearing, feared that his papers might be searched by their order, and he told me he had burnt part of them.
1660. The winter-time of 1659 he spent in Derbyshire. In March following was the dawning of the coming in of our gracious sovereign, and in April the Aurora. I then sent a letter to him in the country to advertise him of the advent of his master the king and desired him by all means to be in London before his arrival; and knowing his majesty was a great lover of good painting I must needs presume he could not but suddenly see Mr Cooper’s curious pieces of whose fame he had so much heard abroad and seen some of his work, and likewise that he would sit to him for his picture, at which place and time he would have the best opportunity of renewing his majesty’s graces to him. He returned me thanks for my friendly intimation and came to London in May following.
It happened about two or three days after his majesty’s return, that, as he was passing in his coach through the Strand, Mr Hobbes was standing at Little Salisbury House gate (where his lord then lived). The king espied him, put off his hat very kindly to him, and asked him how he did. About a week after he had oral conference with his majesty at Mr S. Cowper’s, where, as he sat for his picture, he was diverted by Mr Hobbes, pleasant discourse. Here his majesty’s favours were redintegrated to him, and order was given that he should have free access to his majesty, who always much delighted in his wit and smart repartees.
The wits at court were wont to bait him, but he feared none of them, and would make his part good. The king would call him the bear: ‘here comes the bear to be baited.’
Repartees. He was marvellous happy and ready in his replies, and that without rancour (except provoked) but now I speak of his readiness in replies as to wit and drollery. He would say that he did not care to give, neither was he adroit at, a present answer to a serious query: he had as lief they should have expected an extemporary solution to an arithmetical problem, for he turned and winded and compounded in philosophy, politics, etc, as if he had been at analytical work. He always avoided, as much as he could, to conclude hastily.
Memorandum: from 1660 till the time he last went into Derbyshire, he spent most of his time in London at his lord’s (viz at Little Salisbury House; then, Queen Street; lastly, Newport House), following his contemplation and study. He contemplated and invented (set down a hint with a pencil or so) in the morning, hut compiled in the afternoon.
I desponded, for his reasons, that he should make any tentamen towards this design; but afterwards, it seems, in the country, he wrote his treatise De Legibus (unprinted) of which Sir John Vaughan, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, had a transcript, and I do affirm that he much admired it.
1665. This year he told me that he was willing to do some good to the town where he was born; that his majesty loved him well, and if I could find out something in our country that was in his gift, he did believe he could beg it of his majesty, and seeing he was bred a scholar, he thought it most proper to endow a free school there; which is wanting now (for, before the Reformation, all monasteries had great schools appendant to them; e.g. Magdalen School and New College School). After enquiry I found out a piece of land in Braydon forest (of about £25 per annum value) that was in his majesty’s gift, which he hoped to have obtained of his majesty for a salary for a schoolmaster. but the queen’s priests smelling out the design and being his enemies hindered this public and charitable intention.
1675, he left London cum animo nunquam revertendi and spent the remainder of his days in Derbyshire, with the Earl of Devonshire at Chatsworth and Hardwick in contemplation and study.
Then his sickness, death, burial and place, and epitaph, which send for.
From a letter to John Aubrey from James Wheldon, 16 January 1679.
‘He fell sick about the middle of October last. His disease was the strangury, and the physicians judged it incurable by reason of his great age and natural decay. About the 20th of November, my lord being about to remove from Chatsworth to Hardwick, Mr Hobbes would not be left behind; and therefore with a feather bed laid into the coach; upon which he lay warm clad, he was conveyed safely, and was in appearance as well after that little journey as before it. But seven or eight days after, his whole right side was taken with the dead palsy, and at the same time he was made speechless. He lived after this seven days, taking very little nourishment, slept well, and by intervals endeavoured to speak, but could not. In the whole time of his sickness he was free from fever. He seemed therefore to die rather for want of the fuel of life (which was spent in him) and mere weakness and decay, than by power of his disease, which was thought to be only an effect of his age and weakness… He was put into a woollen shroud and coffin, which was covered with a white sheet, and upon that a black hearse cloth, and so carried upon men’s shoulders, a little mile to church. The company, consisting of the family and neighbours that came to his funeral, and attended him to his grave, were very handsomely entertained with wine, burned and raw, cake, biscuit, etc… His complexion. In his youth he was unhealthy, and of an ill complexion (yellowish).
His lord, who was a waster, sent him up and down to borrow money, and to get gentlemen to be bound for him, being ashamed to speak himself: he took colds, being wet in his feet (then were no hackney coaches to stand in the streets), and trod both his shoes aside the same way. Notwithstanding, he was well-beloved: they loved his company for his pleasant facetiousness and good nature. From forty, or better, he grew healthier, and then he had a fresh, ruddy complexion. He was sanguineo-melancholicus; which the physiologers say is the most ingenious complexion. He would say that ‘there might be good wits of all complexions; but good-natured, impossible’.
Head. In his old age he was very bald (which claimed a veneration). yet within door, he used to study, and sit, bareheaded, and said he never took cold in his head, but that the greatest trouble was to keep off the flies from pitching on the baldness.
Skin. His skin was soft and of that kind which my Lord Bacon in his History of Life and Death calls a goose-skin, i.e. of a wide texture:
Crassa cutis, crassum cerebrum, crassum ingenium
Face not very great; ample forehead; whiskers yellowish-reddish, which naturally turned up which is a sign of a brisk wit. Below he was shaved close, except a little tip under his lip. Not but that nature could have afforded a venerable beard, but being naturally of a cheerful and pleasant humour, he affected not at all austerity and gravity and to look severe. He desired not the reputation of his wisdom to be taken from the cut of his beard, but from his reason Barba non facit philosophium. ‘Il consiste tout en la pointe de sa barbe et en ses deux moustaches; et par consequence, pour le diffaire, il ne faut que trois coups de ciseau.’ – Balzac, Lettres.
Eye. He had a good eye, and that of a hazel colour, which was full of life and spirit, even to the last. When he was earnest in discourse, there shone (as it were) a bright live-coal within it. He had two kinds of looks: when he laughed, was witty, and in a merry humour, one could scarce see his eyes; by and by, when he was serious and positive, he opened his eyes round (i.e. his eyelids). He had middling eyes, not very big, nor very little.
Stature. He was six foot high, and something better, and went indifferently erect, or rather, considering his great age, very erect.
Sight; wit. His sight and wit continued to the last. He had a curious sharp sight, as he had a sharp wit, which was also so sure and steady (and contrary to that men call broad-wittedness) that I have heard him oftentimes say that in multiplying and dividing he never mistook a figure: and so in other things. He thought much, and with excellent method and steadiness, which made him seldom make a false step.
Though he left his native country at fourteen, and lived so long, yet sometimes one might find a little touch of our pronunciation. Old Sir Thomas Malet, one of our judges of the King’s Bench, knew Sir W alter Raleigh, and said that, notwithstanding his great travels, conversation, learning, etc., yet he spoke broad Devonshire to his dying day.
His books. He had very few books. I never saw (nor Sir William Petty) above half a dozen about him in his chamber. Homer and Virgil were commonly on his table; sometimes Xenophon, or some probable history, and Greek Testament, or so.
Reading. He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation was much more than his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men, he should have known no more than other men.
His physic. He seldom used any physic. What it was I have forgotten, but will enquire of Mr Shelbrooke his apothecary at the Black Spread Eagle in the Strand. He was wont to say that he had rather have the advice or take physic from an experienced old woman, that had been at many sick people’s bedsides, than from the learned but unexperienced physician.
Temperance and diet. He was, even in his youth, (generally) temperate, both as to wine and women. I have heard him say that he did believe he had been in excess in his life, a hundred times; which, considering his great age, did not amount to above once a year: when he did drink, he would drink to excess to have the benefit of vomiting, which he did easily; by which benefit neither his wit was disturbed (longer than he was spewing) nor his stomach oppressed; but he never was, nor could not endure to be, habitually a good fellow, i.e. to drink every day wine with company, which, though not to drunkenness, spoils the brain.
For his last thirty or more years, his diet, etc, was very moderate and regular. After sixty he drank no wine, his stomach grew weak, and he did eat most fish, especially whitings, for he said he digested fish better than flesh. He rose about seven, had his breakfast of bread and butter; and took his walk, meditating till ten; then he did put down the minutes of his thoughts.
He had an inch thick board about sixteen inches square, whereon paper was pasted. On this board he drew his lines (schemes). When a line came into his head, he would, as he was walking, take a rude memorandum of it, to preserve it in his memory till he came to his chamber. He was never idle; his thoughts were always working.
His dinner was provided for him exactly by eleven, for he could not now stay till his lord’s hour-that is, about two: that his stomach could not bear.
After dinner he took a pipe of tobacco, and then threw himself immediately on his hed, with his band off, and slept (took a nap of about half an hour).
In the afternoon he penned his morning thoughts.
Exercises. Besides his daily walking, he did twice or thrice a year play at tennis (at about 75 he did, it); then went to bed there and was well rubbed. This he did believe would make him live two or three years the longer. In the country, for want of a tennis court, he would walk up hill and down hill in the park, till he was in a great sweat, and then give the servant some money to rub him.
Prudence. He gave to his amanuensis, James Wheldon (the Earl of Devonshire’s baker; who writes a delicate hand), his pension at Leicester, yearly, to wait on him, and take a care of him, which he did perform to him living and dying, with great respect and diligence: for which consideration he made him his executor.
Habit. In cold weather he commonly wore a black velvet coat, lined with fur,. if not, some other coat so lined. But all the year he wore a kind of buskins of Spanish leather, laced or tied along the sides with black ribbons.
Singing. He had always books of prick-song lying on his table – e.g. of H. Lawes’, etc, Songs – which at night, when he was abed, and the doors made fast, and was sure nobody heard him, he sang aloud (not that he had a very good voice, but for his health’s sake); he did believe it did his lungs good and conduced much to prolong his life.
Shaking palsy. He had the shaking palsy in his hands; which began in France before the year 1650, and has grown upon him by degrees, ever since, so that he has not been able to write very legibly since 1665 or 1666, as I find by some of his letters to me.
Charity. His brotherly love to his kindred has already been spoken of. He was very charitable pro suo modulo to those that were true objects of his bounty. One time, I remember, going into the Strand, a poor and infirm old man craved his alms. He beholding him with eyes of pity and compassion, put his hands in his pocket, and gave him 6d. Said a divine (that is Dr Jasper Mayne) that stood by – ‘Would you have done this, if it had not been Christ’s command?’ ‘Yes,’ said he. ‘Why?’ said the other. ‘Because,’ said he, ‘I was in pain to consider the miserable condition of the old man; and now my alms, giving him some relief, doth also ease me.’
His goodness of nature and willingness to instruct anyone that was willing to be informed and modestly desired it, which I am a witness of as to my own part and also to others.
Aspersions and envy. His work was attended with envy, which threw several aspersions and false reports on him. For instance, one (common) was that he was afraid to lie alone at night in his chamber, (I have often heard him say that he was not afraid of.sprites, but afraid of being knocked on the head for five or ten pounds, which rogues might think he had in his chamber); and several other tales, as untrue.
I have heard some positively affirm that he had a yearly pension from the King of France – possibly for having asserted such a monarchy as the King of France exercises, but for what other grounds I know not, unless it be for that the present King of France is reputed an encourager of choice and able men in all faculties who can contribute to his greatness. I never heard him speak of any such thing; and, since his death, I have enquired of his most intimate friends in Derbyshire, who write to me they never heard of any such thing. Had it, and it had it been so, he, nor they, ought to have been ashamed of been becoming the munificence of so great a prince to have done it.
Atheism. For his being branded with atheism, his writings and virtuous life testify against it. And that he was a Christian, it is clear, for he received the sacrament of Dr Pierson, and in his confession to Dr John Cosins, on his (as he thought) death-bed, declared that he liked the religion of the Church of England best of all other.
He would have the worship of God performed with music (he told me). It is of custom in the lives of wise men to put down their sayings. Now if truth (uncommon) delivered clearly and wittily may go for a saying, his common discourse was full of them, and which for the most part were sharp and significant.
He said that if it were not for the gallows, some men are of so cruel a nature as to take a delight in killing men more than I should to kill a bird. I have heard him inveigh much against the cruelty of Moses for putting so many thousands to the sword for bowing to the golden calf.
I have heard him say that Aristotle was the worst teacher that ever was, the worst politician and ethic – a country fellow that could live in the world as good; but his rhetoric and discourse of animals was rare.
When Mr T. Hobbes was sick in France, the divines came to him, and tormented him (both Roman Catholic, Church of England and Geneva. Said he to them ‘Let me alone, or else I will detect all your cheats from Aaron to yourselves!’ I think I have heard him speak something to this purpose.
Insert the love verses he made not long before his death.
1. Tho’ I am past ninety, and too old T’expect preferment in the court of Cupid, And many winters made me ev’n so cold I am become almost all over stupid, 2. Yet I can love and have a mistress too, As fair as can be and as wise as fair; And yet not proud, nor anything will do To make me of her favour to despair. 3. To tell you who she is were very bold; But if i’ th’ character your self you find Think not the man a fool tho’ he be old Who loves in body fair a fairer mind.
Catalogue of his learned familiar friends and acquaintances, besides those already mentioned, that I remember him to have.spoken of.
Mr Benjamin Jonson, poet-laureate, was his loving and familiar friend and acquaintance.
Aytoun, Scoto-Britannus, a good poet and critic and good scholar. He was nearly related to his lord’s lady (Bruce). And he desired Ben Jonson, and this gentleman, to give their judgement on his style in his translation of Thucydides.
Lucius Cary, Lord Falkland was his great friend and admirer and so was Sir William Petty; both which I have here enrolled amongst those friends I have heard him speak of, but Dr Blackburne left them both out (to my admiration). I asked him why he had done so. He answered, because they were both ignote to foreigners. His acquaintance with Sir William Petty began at Paris, 1648 or 1649, at which time Mr Hobbes studied Vesalius’ Anatomy, and Sir William with him. He then assisted Mr Hobbes in drawing his schemes for his book of optics, for he had a very fine hand in those days for drawing, which drafts Mr Hobbes did much commend. His excellency in this kind conciliated them the sooner to the familiarity of our common friend Mr S. Cowper.
When he was at Florence he contracted a friendship with the famous Galileo Galileo, whom he extremely venerated and magnified; and not only as he was a prodigious wit, but for his sweetness of nature and manners. They pretty well resembled one another, as to their countenances, as by their pictures doth appear; were both cheerful and melancholic-sanguine; and had both a consimility of fate, to be hated and persecuted by the ecclesiastics.
Descartes and he were acquainted and mutually respected one another. He would say that had he kept himself to geometry he had been the best geometer in the world but that his head did not lie for philosophy.
When his Leviathan came out he sent by his stationer’s (Andrew Crooke) man a copy of it, well-bound, to Mr John Selden in the Carmelite Buildings. Mr Selden told the servant, he did not know Mr Hobbes, but had heard much of his worth, and that he should be very glad to be acquainted with him. Whereupon Mr Hobbes waited on him. From which time there was a strict friendship between them to his dying day. He left by his will to Mr Hobbes, a legacy of ten pounds.
Sir Jonas Moore, mathematician, surveyor of his majesty’s ordnance, who had a great veneration for Mr Hobbes and was wont much to lament, he fell to the study of the mathematics so late.
Edmund Waller esquire of Beconsfield: ‘but what he was most to be commended for was that he being a private person threw down the strongholds of the Church, and let in light.’
Robert Stevens, serjeant at law, was wont to say of him, and that truly, that ‘no man had so much, so deeply, seriously and profoundly considered human nature as he’.
Memorandum: he hath no countryman living who hath known him so long (since 1634) as myself, or of his friends, who knows so much about him.
Now as he had these ingenious and learned friends, and many more, no question, that I know not or now escape my memory; so he had many enemies (though undeserved; for he would not provoke, but if provoked, he was sharp and bitter): and as a prophet is not esteemed in his own country, so he was more esteemed by foreigners than by his countrymen.
His chief antagonists were:
Seth Ward, DD, now Bishop of Salisbury, who wrote against him in his Vindicia Academiarum anonymously with whom though formerly he had some contest, for which he was sorry, yet Mr Hobbes had a great veneration for his worth, learning and goodness.
John Wallis, DD, a great mathematician, and that has deserved exceedingly of the commonwealth of learning for the great pains etc, was his great antagonist in mathematics. It was a pity, as is said before, that Mr Hobbes began so late, else he would not have lain so open.
To conclude, he had a high esteem for the Royal Society, having said that ‘Natural Philosophy was removed from the universities to Gresham College’, meaning the Royal Society that meets there; and the Royal Society (generally) had the like for him: and he would long since have been ascribed a member there, but for the sake of one or two persons, whom he took to be his enemies. In their meeting at Gresham College is his picture, drawn from the life, 1663, by a good hand, which they much esteem, and several copies have been taken.
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