Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hall, Joseph
HALL, JOSEPH (1574–1656), bishop of Norwich, was born at Bristow Park, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, 1 July 1574. His father, John Hall, was employed under the Earl of Huntingdon, president of the north, and was his deputy at Ashby. His mother was Winifred Bambridge, a strict puritan. Hall has left among his works two tracts (‘Observations of some Specialties of Divine Providence in the Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich,’ and ‘Hard Measure’), which together form a useful and interesting autobiography. The first part of his education was received at the grammar school at Ashby. When he was of the age of fifteen Mr. Pelset, lecturer at Leicester, a divine of puritan views, offered to take him ‘under indentures’ and educate him for the ministry. Just before this arrangement was completed, it came to the knowledge of Nathaniel Gilby, son of Anthony Gilby [q. v.], and a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who was a friend of the family. Gilby induced Hall's father to send his son to Emmanuel College in 1589. The expense of his education at the university was partly borne by his uncle, Edmund Sleigh. He was elected scholar and afterwards fellow of Emmanuel College (1595), graduating B.A. in 1592 and M.A. in 1596 (B.D. 1603 and D.D. 1612). Fuller, nearly a contemporary, says that Hall ‘passed all his degrees with great applause.’ He obtained a high reputation in the university for scholarship, and read the public rhetoric lecture in the schools for two years with much credit.
Hall's earliest published verse appeared in a collection of elegies on the death of Dr. William Whitaker, to which he contributed the only English poem (1596). A line in John Marston's ‘Pigmalion's Image’ (1598) proves that Hall also wrote pastoral poems at an early age, but none of these have survived. He first made a reputation as a writer by his pungent satires, published in 1597 under the title of ‘Virgidemiarum, Sixe Bookes. First three bookes of Toothlesse Satyrs’ (Lond. by Thomas Creede), 12mo. A second volume, with the same general title, containing ‘three last bookes of byting Satyres,’ followed in 1598. New editions appeared in 1599 and 1602. They have been frequently republished and illustrated by Warton, Singer, Ellis, and Dr. Grosart (1879). These satires are formed on the model of the Latin satirists. Their diction is sometimes rough, and the allusions obscure, while some passages border closely upon scurrility; but Hall's verses are generally vigorous and witty. Hall calls himself the ‘first English satirist,’ which must be interpreted as the first formal writer of satires after the Latin models since Wyatt, Gascoigne, Lodge, and others had preceded him as satirists. His claims of priority seem to have specially excited the wrath of Marston, whose satires, issued in 1598, attack Hall with much bitterness. On 1 June 1599 an order signed by Whitgift, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bancroft, bishop of London, directed the Stationers' Company to burn Hall's satires, together with books by Marston, Marlowe, and others, on the ground of their licentiousness. But a few days later Hall's satires with Cutwode's ‘Caltha Poetarum’ were ‘staied,’ i.e. reprieved (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xii. 436). In 1600 Hall wrote an elegy and epitaph, both in verse, on Sir Horatio Pallavicino, which were published in ‘An Italian's dead Bodie stucke with English Flowers,’ Lond. 1600 (a copy is in the Lambeth Library).
Towards the end of the century Hall took holy orders, and in 1601 had the offer of the mastership of Blundell's school at Tiverton [see Blundell, Peter]. He was on the point of accepting this when the offer of the living of Halsted in Suffolk came from Lady Drury, and he decided to take the benefice. In the early part of his residence here Hall composed and published the first book of his meditations, ‘Meditatiunculæ Subitaneæ,’ containing a hundred religious aphorisms and reflections, many of them very striking. His active labours at Halsted were much opposed by a Mr. Lilly, whom he calls ‘a witty and bold atheist,’ and whose identity has not been ascertained. He was also treated in the matter of his stipend with great meanness by Sir Robert Drury, who had obtained the grant of the tithes of the parish on condition of providing a vicar. In 1603 Hall married, and in the same year published his final volume of verse, a congratulatory volume on James I's accession, entitled ‘The King's Prophecie or Weeping Joy.’ The only perfect copy of this tract now known belonged to J. E. T. Loveday, Esq., of Williamscote, Oxfordshire, and it was reprinted by the Roxburghe Club under the editorship of the Rev. W. E. Buckley in 1882. An imperfect copy, the only other known, is in the British Museum. In 1605 he accompanied Sir Edmund Bacon to Spa. Of this journey he has left us some curious details. He travelled dressed as a layman, and seems to have courted disputations with the priests and jesuits whom he encountered, who were much surprised by his theological knowledge and superior Latin. During his residence at Spa, Hall wrote a second century of his ‘Meditations.’ Returning to Halsted, and finding no probability of an increase in his stipend from Sir Robert Drury, Hall began to look out for a more lucrative post. His ‘Meditations’ had attracted considerable attention, and been read by Henry, prince of Wales, who expressed a wish to hear the author preach. The sermon, he tells us, was ‘not so well given as taken,’ and the prince appointed him one of his chaplains (1608). The Earl of Norwich now offered him the donative of Waltham, Essex, which he gladly accepted. About this time he interfered with good effect to induce Thomas Sutton to persevere in spite of obstacles in his scheme for the foundation of the Charterhouse. Before commencing his residence at Waltham, Hall had appeared again in the character of a satirist, but now in prose. In 1605 was published at Frankfort in four books a Latin tract called ‘Mundus alter et idem,’ dedicated to the Earl of Huntingdon (republished at Hanau in 1607). The manuscript had been entrusted some years before to a friend named Knight, who was responsible for the publication. An English translation by John Healey, entitled ‘The Discovery of a New World,’ appeared in London about 1608. This strange composition, sometimes erroneously described as a ‘political romance,’ to which it bears no resemblance whatever, is a moral satire in prose, with a strong undercurrent of bitter gibes at the Romish church and its eccentricities, which sufficiently betray the author's main purpose in writing it. It shows considerable imagination, wit, and skill in latinity, but it has not enough of verisimilitude to make it an effective satire, and does not always avoid scurrility. Other popular books written by Hall about this time were ‘Holy Obseruations. Lib. I. Also some fewe of David's Psalmes Metaphrased for a Taste of the Rest,’ Lond. 1607 (Brit. Mus.) and 1609; two volumes of ‘Epistles’ each containing ‘two decades,’ (1608); ‘Characters of Vices and Vertues,’ 1608 (French transl. 1st ed. 1610; versified by Nahum Tate 1691); ‘Solomon's Divine Arts,’ a digest of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, with paraphrase of the Song of Songs (1609); and ‘Quo Vadis? a Iust Censure of Travell as it is commonly undertaken by the Gentlemen of our nation’ (1617), dedicated to Edward, Lord Denny, of Waltham.
Hall's earliest controversial work was with the Brownists. In 1608 he had written a letter of remonstrance to John Robinson and John Smith, who had joined this sect. Robinson, who had been a beneficed clergyman near Yarmouth, had replied in ‘An Answer to a Censorious Epistle,’ and upon this Hall published (1610) ‘A Common Apology against the Brownists.’ This is a treatise of considerable length, answering Robinson's ‘Censorious Epistle’ paragraph by paragraph. It has the terse and racy style and the exuberance of illustrations and quotations which distinguish all Hall's theological writings. Hall's constant custom while at Waltham was to preach thrice in the week, and he carefully wrote every sermon beforehand. On the death of his patron, Prince Henry, Hall preached the funeral sermon to his household, and soon after this he was involved in a troublesome, but ultimately successful, lawsuit. He had been induced by his kinsman, Archdeacon Barton, to apply for a prebend in the collegiate church of Wolverhampton, which was in the patronage of the dean of Windsor. Having obtained the appointment of the prebend of Willenhall, he immediately joined with another of the prebendaries in endeavouring to put the revenues of the church on a more satisfactory footing. A certain Sir Walter Leveson held the whole of the estates of the church in what was called a ‘perpetual fee-farm,’ and doled out what he pleased to the prebendaries. Hall brought an action against him, in the course of which it was discovered that the claim of the fee-farm rested on a manifest forgery. The law courts adjudged the title of the property to the dean and prebendaries, who consented to grant it out to the Leveson family on leases. In 1616 Hall was sent by the king as chaplain to Lord Doncaster in his embassy to France. Here he became seriously ill, and reached his home at Waltham with much difficulty. During his absence he found that James I had nominated him to the deanery of Worcester. Before, however, he could take possession of his new dignity, he was summoned to attend the king to Scotland (1617).
James was now endeavouring to introduce the ceremonial and the liturgy of an episcopal church. In this scheme Hall does not seem to have been a very zealous assistant. At any rate he was accused to the king of an ‘over-plausible demeanour to that already prejudicate people,’ and was ordered by the king to write something in defence of the five points of ceremonial which it was desired that the Scotch should accept. This he did to the king's satisfaction. It was probably the knowledge which James had of Hall's fondness for the Calvinistic theology, as well as his readiness to be amenable to direction in his views, which led him to select the new dean, together with Bishop Carlton and Drs. Davenant and Ward, to represent him at the synod of Dort (1618). At this assembly, Hall, together with the other English deputies, did something to moderate the bitterness of the onslaughts of the Calvinists on the Arminians. Ill-health obliged him to leave Dort before the conclusion of the synod. Before his departure he was presented with a handsome gold medal as a testimonial, and had the opportunity of preaching a Latin sermon to the synod, in which with the utmost earnestness and solemnity he advocates unanimity, moderation, and mutual charity. Soon after his return Hall found the church of England ‘begin to sicken of the same disease’ which he had seen raging in Holland. Richard Montagu of Stamford Rivers, Essex, had, in a controversial tract against the Romanists, attributed doctrine to the church of England which was held to be identical with the ‘five points’ of Arminius. He was delated to Archbishop Abbot and censured by him. Hall, endeavouring to soften matters, wrote a tract called ‘Via Media, the Way of Peace.’ This, as he confesses, had no great effect, the quinquarticular controversy beginning now to rage with much fierceness in England. At the meeting of the parliament and convocation in 1624 Hall preached the Latin sermon before convocation entitled ‘Columba Noæ,’ advocating peace and good will. In this year (1624) the bishopric of Gloucester was offered to him, but he refused it ‘with most humble deprecation.’
After the death of King James (27 March 1625) Hall continued in equal favour with his successor. His views of the Romish controversy were acceptable to Charles and Laud. Discarding the ordinary protestant view of the apostasy of the visible church, Hall maintained, in his ‘No Peace with Rome,’ that the catholic church, of which the church of England formed a part, had fallen into corruptions, of which the church of England had now purged herself, and that the church of England should denounce the errors of the church of Rome without denying her catholicity. This line of argument gave much offence to some of the zealous protestant controversialists of the day, but commended itself to the king and his ecclesiastical advisers. In the same spirit Hall wrote a treatise called the ‘Old Religion’ (London 1628), which he defended in the same year by his ‘Apologetical Advertisement’ and ‘Reconciler,’ the latter being accompanied by letters of approval from Bishops Morton and Davenant, Drs. Prideaux and Primrose. Before the publication of these treatises Hall had accepted another offer of a bishopric. He was consecrated to the see of Exeter on 23 Dec. 1627, being allowed, on account of the small revenue of the see, to hold the living of St. Breoc in commendam. Laud, thinking Hall too favourable to Calvinist and puritanical notions, desired him to be closely watched. ‘I soon had intelligence,’ writes Hall, ‘who were set over me for espials; my ways were curiously observed and scanned.’ He determined, however, upon a conciliatory policy towards the puritans, and succeeded in reducing all to conformity. Laud's spies were consequently busy, and the bishop was terribly harassed. He says: ‘I was three several times on my knees to his majesty to answer these great criminations.’ At length he plainly told Laud that ‘rather than be obnoxious to these slanderous tongues of his misinformers he would cast up his rochet,’ which amount of spirit seems to have procured him somewhat of peace. Probably some part of the dissatisfaction shown with Hall's administration of his diocese was due to his disinclination to enforce the reading of the declaration for sports on the Sunday (1633). In the diocese of Exeter it does not appear that any of the clergy were censured for refusing to read this document. In 1635, however, Laud, in the report on his province to the king, says: ‘I must do my lord of Exeter this right, that for his majesty's instructions they have been carefully observed.’ Hall, leaning to the puritans and the low church party, probably induced the archbishop to recommend to him (in 1637) the writing of a treatise in defence of the ‘Divine Right of Episcopacy.’ Hall undertook the charge, and sent to Laud the heads of his proposed work. The archbishop, approving generally of the draft, returned it with some alterations. These Hall readily accepted, and wrote the treatise as desired. Contrary to his anticipation it was again carefully revised by Laud and his chaplains. They made the case stronger against the foreign reformed churches and the sabbatarians, and objected to the pope being called antichrist. Hall humbly accepted Laud's directions.
The latter years of the bishop's sojourn at Exeter seem to have been peaceful. He writes: ‘I had peace and comfort at home in the happy sense of that general unanimity and loving correspondence of my clergy till the last year of my presiding there, after the synodical oath was set on foot.’ This was the oath known as the et cetera oath, ordered by the convocation of 1640 to be taken by all clergymen. Hall declares that he never administered this oath, but he defended and explained it, and thus incurred no small share of the unpopularity of Laud and his party. The anger of the parliament of 1640 was especially directed against the late convocation. The order of bishops and the whole status of the church were violently assailed in pamphlets. No less than 140 of these passed the press before the session was very far advanced. Hall came gallantly forward to defend his order and church. In a speech delivered in the House of Lords he claimed protection for the church, and in a published work, ‘An humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament’ (1640 and 1641, published by Nathaniel Butter), he vindicated liturgies and episcopacy with great skill and power. He was immediately answered by five puritan divines, the initials of whose names made up the word Smectymnuus. In reply to their treatise the bishop wrote a ‘Defence of that Remonstrance,’ which produced a ‘Vindication’ from the divines, and an ‘Answer to the Vindication of Smectymnuus’ from Bishop Hall. Other writers joined in the controversy, Milton contributing no less than five tracts to it. Hall appealed to the learned Ussher to lend a helping hand, which drew from the Irish primate the tract entitled ‘The Original of Bishops and Metropolitans briefly laid down.’ In the attempt made by Archbishop Williams to effect a compromise which might satisfy the puritans, and which led to the lords' committee on religion (March 1641), Bishop Hall took a part. He, together with Williams, Morton, and Ussher, as being among the most moderate of the prelates, sat on the committee.
Hall none the less protested boldly in his place in the House of Lords (1 May 1641) against the bill for taking away the bishops' votes in parliament. On 31 July (1641) a committee was appointed to draw up articles of impeachment against thirteen bishops, of whom Hall was one, for having passed canons in the late convocation by which it was asserted that they had fallen under the præmunire statute. On this occasion Hall made a speech in defence of the canons and the action of convocation. During the king's absence in Scotland and the recess of parliament Hall went to his diocese of Exeter, where he was enthusiastically received, and on 7 Sept. preached a sermon at Exeter on the pacification between the English and Scots, in which he bewails the troubled state of the church. The king, who had conceded the abolition of episcopacy in Scotland, was now desirous to show that his mind was not changed as regards the English church, and accordingly issued congés d'élire for filling up the vacant sees. Hall was translated to the see of Norwich (15 Nov.) Laud in his ‘History of his Troubles’ mentions this appointment in answering the charge that he offered preferment only to ‘such men as were for ceremonies, Popery and Arminianism.’ On the reopening of parliament in the winter of 1641, the bishops, insulted by the rabble, petitioned the king, declaring that they were hindered by violence from attending to their parliamentary duties, and protesting against the legality of all acts of parliament done in their enforced absence. The House of Lords, resenting this proceeding, immediately sent a message to the commons. The lower house voted that the bishops were guilty of high treason, and they were at once sent for, brought to the bar of the House of Lords, and committed to the Tower (30 Dec. 1641). Hall has given in his ‘Hard Measure’ a touching account of the way in which he and his brethren were treated; how they were brought again and again amidst the greatest tumults to the bar of the House of Lords to plead; and how, when it was found that the impeachment could not be sustained, they were voted by parliament to be guilty of a præmunire, and all their estates forfeited. A sum was allowed for their maintenance, 400l. a year being assigned to Hall. The bishops were now liberated from the Tower on bail, but the commons objecting to this, they were again arrested and confined for six weeks longer, when upon giving bonds for 5,000l. they were allowed to depart, ‘having spent the time betwixt New-year's eve and Whitsuntide in those safe walls.’ Hall now made his way to his new diocese of Norwich, which he had not yet visited. He was at first received with considerable respect, and his sermons attentively listened to. Probably also he enjoyed at first some of the revenues of the see. But on the passing of the act for sequestration of the property of malignants, in which Hall was mentioned by name (April 1643), commissioners were sent to Norwich, who not only impounded all the rents of the see then due, but seized everything in the palace, ‘not leaving so much as a dozen of trenchers or the children's pictures.’ Some charitable friends, Mrs. Goodwin and Mr. Cook, paid to the sequestrators the amount at which the goods were valued, and the bishop was allowed to use them a little longer. Meantime, being now utterly destitute of resources, he applied to the committee of the eastern counties for an allowance, and they assigned him the 400l. a year which had been voted by parliament. This, however, was at once stopped by the London committee, which ordered that ‘the fifth’ allowed to the wives and families of ‘malignants’ should be the only payment made to him. There was considerable difficulty in ascertaining what these fifths amounted to, and the bishop and his family were still kept without payment. The bishop continued with great courage to hold his place, ordaining and instituting even after the passing of the covenant. He was frequently threatened and insulted. The townspeople forced their way into his chapel and obliged him to demolish the painted windows. They desecrated and wrecked the cathedral, with circumstances of the greatest profanity, and at length violently expelled the bishop and his family from the palace in so sudden a manner that they would have had to lie in the street all night had it not been for the kindness of a Mr. Gostlin, who gave up his house to them. The ‘Hard Measure,’ which relates all these troubles, was published in May 1647, and it is probable that the bishop's ejection from his palace took place not long before this, as no mention is made in it of his removal to Higham. To this village near Norwich he removed with his family, renting a small house near the church, which afterwards became the Dolphin inn; and here he lived for about ten years in retirement and devotional works, dying 8 Sept. 1656, in the eighty-second year of his age. A funeral sermon preached in Norwich at the bishop's death by the Rev. J. Whitefoot, the parson of Higham, states that when forbidden to preach, and afterwards prevented by infirmity, he still attended divine service. The bishop suffered much in his latter years from bodily diseases, but was remarkable for his patience and sweetness of temper. He was very generous in his charitable gifts, though his means were but small, ‘giving a weekly contribution of money to certain poor widows to his dying day.’ He does not seem to have resented the ill-treatment he had received, and took no part in public affairs after his forced retirement. Fuller's estimate of his works is probably as true as any that can be made. ‘He was commonly called our English Seneca for his pure, plain, and full style. Not ill at controversies, more happy at comments, very good in his characters, better in his sermons, best of all in his meditations’ (Worthies, p. 441).
By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of George Winiffe of Brettenham, Suffolk (she died 27 Aug. 1652, aged 69), Hall had six sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Robert Hall, D.D. (1605–1667), became canon of Exeter in 1629, and archdeacon of Cornwall in 1633. Joseph Hall, the second son (1607–1669), was registrar of Exeter Cathedral. George, the third son (1612–1668), bishop of Chester, is noticed separately. Samuel, the fourth son (1616–1674), was sub-dean of Exeter.
As a theological writer Hall occupies a middle place between Bishop Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor. He had somewhat of the pungent quaintness of Andrewes, without being so grotesque; and much of the eloquence and power of learned illustration of Taylor. His accommodating temper may be held by some to be his chief fault, but it is fair to attribute it rather to an excess of charity than a lack of honesty. Hall's devotional works are certainly his best. To this class rather than to that of exegesis we may assign his ‘Contemplations upon the Principall Passages of the Holy Storie,’ issued in eight volumes between 1612 and 1626, and again in the edition of his works in 1634. ‘Contemplations on the New Testament’ first appeared in the folio of 1662, after the bishop's death. Among the bishop's works are ‘Six Decades of Epistles,’ some of which run almost into treatises, and also a great number of essays or treatises upon various practical subjects. His work as a commentator is represented by his ‘Paraphrase of Hard Texts from Genesis to Revelation’ (1633, fol.). Something has already been said of his writings as a satirist and a controversialist. He was not free from the tendency to scurrility when arguing against the Roman church, though he did much to raise the tone of the English controversialists against Rome. Several folio editions of his works were published by the bishop in his lifetime, viz. in 1621, 1625, and 1634. The preface of the first folio has an extravagant laudation of King James, reprinted in the folio of 1634. A small quarto, with a collection of posthumous pieces called ‘The Shaking of the Olive Tree,’ was published in 1660; in 1662 a more complete collection of the bishop's works. In 1714 the moral works were published in a separate folio. The first complete edition was that published by the Rev. Josiah Pratt (London, 1808, 10 vols. 8vo). This was followed by an improved edition under the editorship of Peter Hall [q. v.], a descendant of the bishop, in twelve octavo volumes (Oxford, 1837), and by another collection, edited by the Rev. Philip Wynter (Oxford, 1863) in ten volumes. Of separate portions of the bishop's works there have been numerous editions. Singer edited the poems with Warton's illustrations in 1824. Dr. Grosart's complete edition of the poems appeared in 1879.
Engraved portraits of Hall are prefixed to his ‘Resolutions and Cases of Conscience,’ 1650; to his ‘Shaking of the Olive Tree,’ 1660; and to Whitefoot's funeral sermon.
[Bishop Hall's autobiographical tracts, Observations of some Specialities of Divine Providence, and Hard Measure, in his Shaking of the Olive Tree (1660); Wordsworth's Eccl. Biograph. vol. iv., London, 1839; the Rev. George Lewis's Life of Joseph Hall, D.D. (1886); Memoirs of Bishop Hall, by the Rev. John Jones, London, 1826; Life of Archbishop Laud, by Peter Heylyn, London, 1668; Prynne's Canterbury's Doom, London, 1645; Archbishop Laud's History of his Troubles, London, 1695; Clarendon's History of Rebellion, Oxford, 1843; Fuller's Worthies, London, 1662; Hall's King's Prophecie, ed. W. E. Buckley (Roxb. Club), 1882; Newly Discovered Poems by Bishop Hall, by J. P. Collier, in Gent. Mag. 1851, i. 235–9.]