Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Glanvill, Joseph
GLANVILL, JOSEPH (1636–1680), divine, third son of Nicholas Glanvill of Halwell, Whitchurch, Devonshire, was born at Plymouth in 1636, and entered Exeter College, Oxford, 2 April 1652. He took his B.A. degree 11 Oct. 1655; moved to Lincoln College in 1656, and graduated thence as M.A. in 1658. He became chaplain to Francis Rous [q. v.], one of Cromwell's lords and provost of Eton. On Rous's death in 1659 Glanvill returned to Oxford. He travelled from Oxford to Kidderminster to hear Baxter preach, but was not able to obtain a personal interview. He mentions this in an enthusiastic letter, dated 3 Sept. 1661, sent with his first treatise to Baxter. This was the ‘Vanity of Dogmatizing,’ in which he attacks the scholastic philosophy dominant at Oxford. He used, according to Wood, to lament that he had not been at Cambridge, where the new philosophy was in more esteem. He became an admirer of the Cambridge platonists, especially Henry More, and a friend of the founders of the Royal Society, of which (14 Dec. 1664) he was elected a fellow. He conformed upon the Restoration, and in 1660 received the rectory of Wimbish, Essex, from his brother Benjamin, a London merchant. In November 1662 he was presented to the vicarage of Frome Selwood, Somersetshire, by Sir James Thynne in place of John Humphrey, expelled for nonconformity. He exchanged this in 1672 for the rectory of Streat and Walton in the same county. On 23 June 1666 he was inducted rector of the Abbey Church at Bath. He became chaplain in ordinary to Charles II in 1672, and in 1678 received a prebend at Worcester through the influence of his wife's relation, the Marquis of Worcester. Some letters cited by Mr. Glanville Richards show that he was much troubled by the fanatics of Bath, who seemed to have gone back in spirit to 1643. During the excitement of the Popish plot he wrote a tract called ‘The Zealous and Impartial Protestant,’ in which he attacks the various nonconformist sects with great vivacity, and argues that the best preservative against popery is the maintenance of the privileges and discipline of the church of England. Baxter, for whom he makes a complimentary exception, protested against this intolerance in his ‘Second Defence of the Nonconformists,’ 1681. He says that Glanvill's principles were opposed to persecution, and prints the admiring letter already cited. Glanvill, he says, was a man ‘of more than ordinary ingeny’ whose death he regrets. Baxter says elsewhere (Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, i. 378) that Glanvill admired him ‘far above my desert,’ and offered to defend him when he was silenced. Glanvill died at Bath 4 Nov. 1680. He was buried in the Abbey Church, in the north aisle of which is an inscription to his memory. By his first wife, Mary Stocker, he had two children, of whom Maurice became rector of Wimbish in 1681. By his second, Margaret Selwyn, he had three children, Sophia, Henry, and Mary.
Glanvill was a voluminous author. His style is often admirable, not unfrequently recalling that of Sir Thomas Browne. His intellect was versatile, active, and sympathetic, but he is rather rhetorical than logical. In his dislike to the scholastic philosophy he followed Bacon and the founders of the Royal Society. Though he was in this direction a thorough-going sceptic, he was opposed to the materialism of Hobbes. His defence of witchcraft was the natural result of an attempt to find an empirical ground for a belief in the supernatural, and he formed with Henry More a virtual association for ‘psychical research.’ Glanvill himself visited the house of Mr. Mompesson at Tedworth, Wiltshire, and heard drummings and saw strange phenomena, caused by a vagabond drummer who had been turned out of the house, and revenged himself by witchcraft. The story oddly resembles that told by Wesley and by modern ‘spirit-rappers.’ It suggested Addison's ‘Drummer.’ Although Glanvill accepted More's theory of a pre-existence of souls, and he admired the ‘Platonists,’ he does not appear to have gone deeply into their philosophical system. His works are: 1. ‘The Vanity of Dogmatizing,’ 1661. It contains (p. 196) the story of the ‘Scholar Gipsy,’ which suggested one of Matthew Arnold's finest poems, and (pp. 182, 203) some very curious anticipations of the electric telegraph (‘to confer at the distance of the Indies by sympathetick contrivances may be as natural to future times as to us is a litterary correspondence’) and other inventions. A passage at p. 189 is quoted by G. H. Lewes to show that Glanvill anticipated Hume's theory of causation. 2. ‘Lux Orientalis’ (a defence of More's doctrine of ‘Præexistence of Souls;’ it was reprinted in 1682 with George Rust's [q. v.] ‘Discourse of Truth,’ in ‘two short and useful treatises,’ with annotations [by Henry More]), 1662. 3. ‘Scepsis Scientifica,’ 1665 (the ‘Vanity of Dogmatizing’ recast, the gipsy and other passages omitted, reprinted in 1885 with preface by the Rev. John Owen). With the ‘Scepsis’ appeared 4. ‘Reply to the exceptions of Thomas Albius; or scire/i tuum nihil est’ (Albius or Thomas White [q. v.] had replied to the ‘Vanity of Dogmatizing’ in a treatise called ‘Sciri, sive sceptices et scepticorum à jure disputationis exclusio,’ 1663), defending the scholastic philosophy, 1665, and 5. ‘Letter to a friend concerning Aristotle’ (this and the last with the ‘Scepsis’). 6. ‘Philosophical considerations touching Witches and Witchcraft,’ 1666; most of the impressions having been destroyed in the fire, this was reissued in 1667. The fourth edition (1668) is entitled ‘A Blow at modern Sadducism, in some philosophical considerations about Witchcraft,’ &c. With it appeared 7. ‘An Account of the famed disturbance by the drummer at the house of Mr. Mompesson,’ and 8. ‘A Whip for the Droll; Fidler for the Atheist,’ a letter to H. More occasioned by the drummer of Tedworth. The ‘Sadducismus Triumphatus,’ 1681, is a reprint of the ‘Blow,’ with a translation from More's ‘Enchiridion Metaphysicum’ and a ‘Collection of Relations.’ The third edition (of 1689) includes also the ‘Whip for the Droll.’ 9. ‘Plus Ultra, or the Progress and Advancement of Knowledge since the days of Aristotle,’ 1668 (presented to the Royal Society 18 June 1668). This book was partly the result of an interview with Robert Crosse [q. v.], who had got the best of an argument about Aristotle, Glanvill being unprepared. Crosse retorted in privately circulated ballads and letters. 10. Sermons in 1667, 1669, 1670. 11. ‘The Way of Happiness, or its Difficulties and Encouragements,’ 1670 (also, as a ‘Discourse concerning Difficulties,’ &c.). 12. ‘ΛOΓOΥ ΘΡHΣKEIA, or a Seasonable Recommendation and Defence of Reason in affairs of Religion against Infidelity,’ &c., 1670 (a ‘statement of fundamentals’ resembling that of Herbert of Cherbury). 13. ‘Philosophia Pia; a Discourse of the Religious Temper of the Experimental Philosophy professed by the Royal Society,’ 1671. 14. ‘A Prefatory Answer to Mr. Henry Stubbe … in his animadversions on “Plus Ultra”’ (Henry Stubbe [q. v.] had attacked Glanvill in ‘Legends no Histories, or Specimens of Animadversions on the History of the Royal Society’); the second part, also separately, being called the ‘Plus Ultra reduced to a non plus,’ 1670. He replied to the ‘Prefatory Answer’ in two prefaces to Ecebolius Glanvil, in a tract upon ‘Lord Bacon's relation of the Sweating Sickness,’ and a ‘reply to a letter of Dr. Henry More,’ both in 1671. 15. ‘A further discovery of Mr. Henry Stubbe,’ 1671 (at the end is ‘Ad clerum Somersetensem προσφώνησις’). 16. ‘An Earnest Invitation to the Lord's Supper,’ 1673, 1674; 10th edit. 1720. 17. ‘Seasonable Reflections’ (four sermons). 18. ‘Essays on several Important Subjects,’ 1676 (seven essays, of which the first six are restatements of his previous arguments. The best and most remarkable is an essay on ‘Anti-fanatical Religion and Free Philosophy,’ in continuation of Bacon's ‘New Atlantis.’ James Crossley [q. v.] had a manuscript entitled ‘Bensalem,’ from which he says that this is an extract, Worthington, Diaries, i. 300). 19. ‘An Essay concerning Preaching’ (with ‘A Seasonable Defence of Preaching’), 1678. 20. ‘Some Discourses, Sermons and Remains,’ with portrait and preface by A. Horneck, 1681. 21. ‘The Zealous and Impartial Protestant,’ 1681. Glanvill contributed some notices of Bath to the ‘Transactions of the Royal Society’ (Nos. 28, 39, 49), and has a poem in the ‘Letters and Poems in honour of … the Duchess of Newcastle,’ 1676.[Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 1244; Life prefixed to fourth edition of Sadducismus Triumphatus, 1726; Prince's Worthies of Devon, 1810, p. 431; Glanville Richards's Records of the Anglo-Norman House of Glanville, pp. 76–80, 162; Birch's Royal Society, ii. 297; Biographia Brit.; Worthington's Diaries (Chetham Soc.), i. 214, 299, 300; Boase's Register of Exeter Coll., xxxi, lxxii; Boyle's Works, 1744, v. 627–9 (five letters from Glanvill). For criticisms of Glanvill's Works, see Hallam's Literature of Europe, iii. 358–62; Retrospective Review, 1853, i. 105–18; Pyrrhonism of Joseph Glanvill (article by W. Barnes, the Dorsetshire poet); Lecky's Rationalism in Europe, i. 120–8; Tulloch's Rational Theology, ii. 443–55; Preface to John Owen's edition of the Scepsis Scientifica, 1885; G. C. Robertson's Hobbes, p. 217; Rémusat's Philos. Angl. 1875, ii. 184–201.]