Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lydiat, Thomas

LYDIAT, THOMAS (1572–1646), divine and chronologer, son of Christopher Lydiat, was born in 1572 at Alkerton, Oxfordshire, of which living his father was patron. In 1584, at eleven years of age, he gained a scholarship at Winchester College, and passing thence to New College, Oxford, was elected probationer fellow in 1591, and full fellow two years later. He graduated B.A. 3 May 1595, and M.A. 5 Feb. 1598-9. His defective memory and utterance led him to relinquish both the study of divinity and his fellowship in 1603, in order to devote himself to mathematics and chronology. In 1609 he dedicated his 'Emendatio Temporum' to Henry, prince of Wales, who appointed him his chronographer and cosmographer, and took him into his household as reader, granting him an annual pension of 40 marks and the use of his library. During the course of this year he became acquainted with Ussher, afterwards archbishop of Ireland. He spent about two years in Dublin, became fellow of Trinity College 7 March 1610, and graduated M.A. therein the summer of the same year. Ussher procured him rooms in the college and an appointment as reader, with a salary of 31. 6s. 8d. a quarter. The first entry in the account-book is to 'Mr. Lydiat, partly for reading, partly by way of benevolence, 5l, Dec. 23, 1609.' The mastership of a school at Armagh, worth 50l. a year, seems also to have been promised him. Before August 1611 he had returned to London, but he still wrote to Ussher pressing his claim to the mastership, 23 Aug. 1611. The death of the Prince of Wales in 1612 cut off his hopes of preferment, and in the same year, after some hesitation, he accepted the family living of Alkerton, which he had refused during his father's lifetime. The following years he devoted to the study of chronology, and carried on a bitter controversy with Scaliger, whose replies were more notable for abuse than argument (Epist. 29; Hallam, Introd. to Lit. of Europe, ii. 294). In the opinion of Ussher and others Lydiat entirety routed his enemy. Lydiat first contrived the octodeseicentenary period, and made other chronological discoveries, which are described in Robert Plot's [q. v.] 'Oxfordshire,' cp. ix. § 17. In 1629 or 1630 he became surety for the debts of his brother, and being unable to pay was committed to prison, first in Bocardo at Oxford, and subsequently in the King's Bench, where he pursued his studies with great diligence, spending what money he could upon books. The efforts of Sir William Boswell, Dr. Robert Pink (warden of New College), Ussher (who is said to have paid 300l. for him), and Laud finally procured his release, upon which he vainly petitioned the king for permission to travel in Turkey, Armenia, and Abyssinia, in order to collect materials for civil and ecclesiastical history. Lydiat's staunch royalism and the uncompromising expression of his opinions brought him under the notice of the parliamentarians. His rectory was pillaged more than once, and he was carried off to prison amid circumstances of great hardship, once to Warwick, and again to Banbury. He died at Alkerton, 3 April 1646, and was buried the next day in the chancel of his church. In 1669 a stone was laid over his grave by the society of New College, who also erected a monument, with an inscription to his memory on a black marble table, at the north end of the east cloister of the college (Wood, Hist. and Antiquities). In person he was of low stature and mean appearance, but Hearne describes him as a man ‘of singular modesty, humility, and learning.’ His contemporaries ranked him with Joseph Mede [q. v.] and Bacon, but his reputation did not save him from a poverty which, though exaggerated, furnished Dr. Johnson with an allusion in the ‘Vanity of Human Wishes’:

If dreams yet flatter, once again attend;
Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end.’

According to the ‘Biographia Britannica’ (note to Ussher) Lydiat married Ussher's sister, the date being variously given. The statement is based on Ussher's alleged subscription, ‘Your loving brother-in-law,’ in letters to Lydiat (letters xxi. xxx., &c., Parr's collection), but the subscription is really ‘Your most assured loving friend and brother.’ Henry Briggs, it is true, writing to Ussher, August 1610, says: ‘Salute from me your brother, Mr. Lydyat,’ but the expression is not sufficient, without further confirmation, to establish any relationship.

Lydiat's published works are: 1. ‘Tractatus de variis Annorum formis,’ Lond. 1605, 8vo. 2. ‘Prælectio Astronomica de Natura Cœli et conditionibus Elementorum.’ 3. ‘Disquisitio Physiologica de origine fontium’ (these two printed with the first). 4. ‘Defensio Tractatus de variis Annorum formis contra J. Scaligeri obtrectationes,’ Lond. 1607, 8vo, dedicated to Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell [see under Cope, Anthony]. 5. ‘Examen Canonum Chronologiæ Isagogicorum’ (printed with the ‘Defensio’). 6. ‘Emendatio Temporum ab initio Mundi … contra Scaligerum et alios,’ Lond. 1609, 8vo. 7. ‘Recensio et Explicatio argumentorum—insertis brevibus confutationibus opinionum Scaligeranæ, Baronianæ … atque Johannis Keppleri,’ 1613, 8vo. 8. ‘Solis et Lunæ Periodus seu Annus Magnus,’ Lond. 1620, 8vo. 9. ‘De Anni Solaris Mensura Epistola astronomica ad Hen. Savilium,’ Lond. 1620, 8vo. 10. ‘Numerus Aureus mellioribus Lapillis insignatus, &c.,’ Lond. 1621. 11. ‘Canones Chronologici,’ Oxford, 1675, 8vo. (published from a manuscript in the library of Dr. Jo. Lamphire). 12. ‘Letters to Dr. Jam. Ussher, Primate of Ireland,’ printed at the end of Ussher's ‘Life,’ 1686, published by Dr. Richard Parr. 13. ‘Marmoreum Chronicon Arundelianum cum Annotationibus,’ of which manuscripts are in the Bodleian and Trinity College, Dublin; printed in Humphrey Prideaux's ‘Marmora Oxoniensia,’ 1676.

Soon after Lydiat's death Dr. Worthington and others made vain efforts, at the request of ‘a certain great patron of letters,’ to collect Lydiat's manuscripts with a view to having them printed (Worthington, Life of Joseph Mede, App. 40). According to the Preface to Lydiat's ‘Canones Chronologici,’ Oxford, 1675, his manuscripts were carried off by a rustic to his cottage, where Dr. Lamphire [q. v.] accidentally discovered them some years after Lydiat's death; others were presented to him by Dr. Robert Plot. These passed, apparently, with the rest of Lamphire's property, into the hands of William Coward, M.D. [q. v.], who presented to the Bodleian Library fifteen manuscripts, of which the following are unprinted: 1. ‘Almanac sive de anno magno.’ 2. ‘Harmonia Evangeliorum, Hebraice,’ vol. i. 3. ‘Harmonia Evangeliorum, Hebraice,’ vol. ii. 4. ‘Harmonia Evangeliorum, Anglice.’ 5. Almanac for nineteen years. 6. ‘Apparatus to the “New Calendar” and “Chronicon Mundi emendatum.”’ 7. ‘Trigonometria.’ 8. ‘Mesolabum Geometricum et Circuli dimensio.’ 9. ‘Evangeliorum Harmonia, Græce.’ 10. ‘A Chronical Canon, with a Treatise referring thereunto.’ 11. ‘Annales Ecclesiastici pro annis xi. prioribus a Christo baptizato.’ 12. ‘Summorum magistratuum Romanorum et triumphorum series.’ 13. ‘Lydiat's Letters and Answers.’ 14. ‘Historia observationum Astronomicarum, per Lydiatum.’ The following unprinted manuscripts are in Trinity College, Dublin, Library: 1. ‘Judgment against bowing at the Name of Jesus.’ 2. ‘Christian Scribe, together with a Preface to John, bishop of Oxford’ (Bernard, p. 37).

Wood gives the titles of other unprinted manuscripts, viz.: 1. ‘Annotations upon part of Mr. Edward Breerwood's Treatise of the Sabbath.’ 2. ‘A few Annotations upon some Places or Passages of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the book entitled “Altare Christianum.”’ 3. ‘Treatise touching the setting up of Altars in Christian Churches and bowing in reverence to them, &c.,’ dedicated to Archbishop Laud in gratitude for his release from prison, in answer to the Bishop of St. Andrews. 4. ‘Answer to Mr. Joseph Mede's “Treatise of the name of Altar,”’ written in February 1637. 5. ‘Answer to the Defence of the Coal from the Altar.’ 6. ‘Annales Ecclesiæ Christi inchoati secundum methodum Baronii,’ written in Latin, but imperfect. 7. ‘Chronicon Regum Judæorum. Methodo magis perspicua,’ written in Hebrew. 8. ‘Divina Sphæra humanorum Eventuum,’ dedicated to the king, 1632. 9. ‘Problema Astronomicum de Solis Eccentricitate.’ 10. ‘Diatribæ et Animadversiones Astronomicæ ternæ.’

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 185–9; Wood's Hist. and Antiquities, ed. Gutch, 213. vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 945; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1715; Aikin's Life of Ussher; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble; Parr's Life of Ussher, with a collection of Letters; Elrington's Life and Works of Ussher; Biog. Brit., note to Ussher; Fuller's Worthies; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy; Plot's Oxfordshire, ix. 17; Gent. Mag. 1798, pt. ii. pp. 842, 951, 1028; Eachard's Hist. (1720), p. 631; Taylor's Hist. Univ. Dublin; Todd's Catalogue of Graduates, Trin. Coll. Dublin; Dilly's Juvenal, note; Dilly's Elegant Extracts of Verse, note.]

A. F. P.