Carpenter, Richard (d.1670?) (DNB00)


CARPENTER, RICHARD (d. 1670?), ‘theological mountebank,’ was educated at Eton, and in 1622 elected to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge. From the account of him in the ‘Biographia Dramatica’ it is to be inferred that he left the university without taking his degree. In his work, ‘Experience, Historie, and Divinitie,’ he says that he, ‘being first a scholar of Eaton College and afterwards a student in Cambridge, forsook the university and immediately travelled.’ In the same work he affirms that he was converted to Roman catholicism by an English monk in London, that he studied in Flanders, Artois, France, Spain, and Italy, and that he was subsequently ordained a priest by the hands of the pope's substitute in Rome. Having been a Benedictine monk at Douay for some time, he was sent as a missionary to England, where, after about a year, he returned to the protestant religion, was ordained, and, through the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Abbot), was presented to the small living of Poling, near Arundel, in 1635 (Dallaway, Sussex, ii. (pt. i.) 60). During his incumbency he was much annoyed by the Roman catholics in Arundel, who lost no opportunity of slandering him or holding him up to ridicule before his parishioners. In his ‘Experience,’ &c., he gives a high-flown account of his reasons for becoming a protestant, but his enemies affirmed that his change of creed was in ‘order to gain a wife,’ and that ‘he had run away with the wife of the man with whom he lodged.’ There is no reason to suppose that he was married at this time. At the outbreak of the civil war he threw up his living and became an itinerant preacher, his chief aim seeming to be to widen the breach between the king and the parliament as much as possible. Disappointed by his lack of success, he quitted this way of life, and going over to Paris he again became reconciled to the Romish church, and made it his business to rail at protestantism. Returning to England, he joined the independents, and Dodd's ‘Church History’ records that ‘he played his pulpit pranks according to the humour of the time, and became a mere mountebank of religion. He shortly afterwards married and settled at Aylesbury, where he had relations, and used to preach in a very fantastical manner, to the great mirth of his auditors.’ Towards the latter part of his life he became very serious, and, in company with his wife, embraced catholicism for a third time, which religion he is supposed to have professed at the time of his death. He is known to have been alive in 1670, but is believed to have died during that year. Wood, who was intimately acquainted with him, says ‘that he was a fantastical man that changed his mind with his cloths, and that for his juggles and tricks in matters of religion he was esteemed a theological mountebank.’ Dodd affirms that ‘he wanted neither wit nor learning, which, notwithstanding, lay under a frightful management through the iniquity of the times and his own inconstant temper.’ His chief work was: 1. ‘Experience, Historie, and Divinitie,’ &c. 1640; republished with additions in 1648 as ‘The Downfall of Antichrist,’ a queer mixture of autobiography and religion, full of classical quotations and absurd stories. After the Restoration he wrote a comedy called: 2. ‘The Pragmatical Jesuit,’ of which Langbaine speaks with some commendation. Prefixed to this play is his portrait in a long habit; a previous one, however, exhibits him as a formal cleric with a sad and mortified countenance. He also wrote: 3. ‘The Anabaptist washt and washt, and shrunk in the Washing,’ 1653. 4. ‘The perfect Law of God, being a Sermon and no Sermon, preached and yet not preached,’ 1652 (published while he was an independent). 5. ‘Astrology proved harmless, useful, pious,’ 1653. 6. ‘The Last and Highest Appeal; or an Appeal to God against the new Religion Makers, Dressers, Menders, and Vendors amongst us,’ &c. 7. ‘The Jesuit and the Monk; or the Serpent and the Dragon,’ 1656. 8. ‘Rome and her Jesuits,’ 1663.

A Richard Carpenter is mentioned by Elias Ashmole, who prints in his ‘Theatrum Chimicum Britannicum,’ 1651, an English poem, detailing various alchemical prescriptions, under the title of ‘The Worke of Richard Carpenter.’ This is from the ‘Sloane MS.’ 288, No. 8, where the piece is entitled The ‘Prologue of R. C. of the Philosopher's Stone,’ and described as the opening lines of a lost work by Thomas Charnock (1524?–1581) [q. v.], doubtless Carpenter's contemporary (Tanner, Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.)

[Biographia Britannica; Athenæ Oxon. vol. ii. 419, 420, ed. Bliss; Harwood's Alumni Eton. p. 223; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, iii. 345, 3rd edit.; Dodd's Church History, 1737; Langbaine's Account of the Dramatic Poets, 1691; Baker's Biog. Dramatica, vol. i. pt. i. p. 88.]

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