Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poole, Matthew

1194819Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46 — Poole, Matthew1896Alexander Gordon

POOLE or POLE, MATTHEW (1624–1679), biblical commentator, son of Francis Pole, was born at York in 1624. His father was descended from the Poles or Pools of Spinkhill, Derbyshire; his mother was a daughter of Alderman Toppins of York. He was admitted at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 2 July 1645, his tutor being John Worthington, D.D. Having graduated B.A. at the beginning of 1649, he succeeded Anthony Tuckney, D.D., in the sequestered rectory of St. Michael-le-Querne, then in the fifth classis of the London province, under the parliamentary presbyterianism. This was his only preferment. He proceeded M.A. in 1652. Two years later he published a small tract against John Biddle [q. v.] On 14 July 1657 he was one of eleven Cambridge graduates incorporated M.A. at Oxford on occasion of the visit of Richard Cromwell as chancellor.

In 1658 Poole published a scheme for a permanent fund out of which young men of promise were to be maintained during their university course, with a view to the ministry. The plan was approved by Worthington and Tuckney, and had the support also of John Arrowsmith, D.D. [q. v.], Ralph Cudworth [q. v.], William Dillingham, D.D. [q. v.], and Benjamin Whichcote. About 900l. was raised, and it appears that William Sherlock, afterwards dean of St. Paul's, received assistance from this fund during his studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge, till 1660, when he graduated B.A. The Restoration brought the scheme to an end.

Poole was a jure divino presbyterian, and an authorised defender of the views on ordination of the London provincial assembly, as formulated by William Blackmore [q. v.] Subsequently to the Restoration, in a sermon (26 Aug. 1660) before the lord mayor (Sir Thomas Aleyn) at St. Paul's, he endeavoured to make a stand for simplicity of public worship, especially deprecating ‘curiosity of voice and musical sounds in churches.’ On the passing of the Uniformity Act (1662) he resigned his living, and was succeeded by R. Booker on 29 Aug. 1662. His ‘Vox Clamantis’ gives his view of the ecclesiastical situation. Though he occasionally preached and printed a few tracts, he made no attempt to gather a congregation. He had a patrimony of 100l. a year, on which he lived. He was one of those who presented to the king ‘a cautious and moderate thanksgiving’ for the indulgence of 15 March 1672, and hence were offered royal bounty. Burnet reports, on Stillingfleet's authority, that Poole received for two years a pension of 50l. Early in 1675 he entered with Baxter into a negotiation for comprehension, promoted by Tillotson, which came to nothing. According to Henry Sampson, M.D. [q. v.], Poole ‘first set on foot’ the provision for a nonconformist ministry and day-school at Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

On the suggestion of William Lloyd (1627–1717) [q. v.], ultimately bishop of Worcester, Poole undertook the great work of his life, the ‘Synopsis’ of the critical labours of biblical commentators. He began the compilation in 1666, and laboured at it for ten years. His plan was to rise at three or four in the morning, take a raw egg at eight or nine, and another at twelve, and continue at his studies till late in the afternoon. The evening he spent at some friend's house, very frequently that of Henry Ashurst [q. v.], where ‘he would be exceedingly but innocently merry,’ although he always ended the day in ‘grave and serious discourse,’ which he ushered in with the words, ‘Now let us call for a reckoning.’ The prospectus of Poole's work bore the names of eight bishops (headed by Morley and Hacket) and five continental scholars, besides other divines. Simon Patrick (1626–1707) [q. v.], Tillotson, and Stillingfleet, with four laymen, acted as trustees of the subscription money. A patent for the work was obtained on 14 Oct. 1667. The first volume was ready for the press, when difficulties were raised by Cornelius Bee, publisher of the ‘Critici Sacri’ (1660, fol., nine vols.), who accused Poole of invading his patent, both by citing authors reprinted in his collection, and by injuring his prospective sales. Poole had offered Bee a fourth share in the property of the ‘Synopsis,’ but this was declined. After pamphlets had been written and legal opinions taken, the matter was referred to Henry Pierrepont, marquis of Dorchester [q. v.], and Arthur Annesley, first earl of Anglesey [q. v.], who decided in Poole's favour. Bee's name appears (1669) among the publishers of the ‘Synopsis,’ which was to have been completed in three folio volumes, but ran to five. Four thousand copies were printed, and quickly disposed of. The merit of Poole's work depends partly on its wide range, as a compendium of contributions to textual interpretation, partly on the rare skill which condenses into brief, crisp notes the substance of much laboured comment. Rabbinical sources and Roman catholic commentators are not neglected; little is taken from Calvin, nothing from Luther. The ‘Synopsis’ being in Latin for scholars, Poole began a smaller series of annotations in English, and reached Isaiah lviii.; the work was completed by others (the correct list is given in Calamy).

In his depositions relative to the alleged ‘popish plot’ (September 1678), Titus Oates [q. v.] had represented Poole as marked for assassination, in consequence of his tract (1666) on the ‘Nullity of the Romish Faith.’ Poole gave no credit to this, till he got a scare on returning one evening from Ashurst's house in company with Josiah Chorley [q. v.] When they reached the ‘passage which goes from Clerkenwell to St. John's Court,’ two men stood at the entrance; one cried ‘Here he is,’ the other replied ‘Let him alone, for there is somebody with him.’ Poole made up his mind that, but for Chorley's presence, he would have been murdered. This, at any rate, is Chorley's story. He accordingly left England, and settled at Amsterdam. Here he died on 12 Oct., new style, 1679. A suspicion arose that he had been poisoned, but it rests on no better ground than the wild terror inspired by Oates's infamous fabrications. He was buried in a vault of the English presbyterian church at Amsterdam. His portrait was engraved by R. White. His wife, whose maiden name is not known, was buried on 11 Aug. 1668 at St. Andrew's, Holborn, Stillingfleet preaching the funeral sermon. He left a son, who died in 1697. The commentator spelled his name Poole, and in Latin Polus.

He published: 1. ‘The Blasphemer slain with the Sword of the Spirit; or a Plea for the Godhead of the Holy Spirit … against … Biddle,’ &c., 1654, 12mo. 2. ‘Quo Warranto; or an Enquiry into the … Preaching of … Unordained Persons,’ &c., 1658, 4to (this was probably written earlier, as it was drawn up by the appointment of the London provincial assembly, which appears to have held no meetings after 1655; Wood mentions an edition, 1659, 4to). 3. ‘A Model for the Maintaining of Students … at the University … in order to the Ministry,’ &c., 1658, 4to. 4. ‘A Letter from a London Minister to the Lord Fleetwood,’ 1659, 4to (dated 13 Dec.). 5. ‘Evangelical Worship is Spiritual Worship,’ &c., 1660, 4to; with title ‘A Reverse to Mr. Oliver's Sermon of Spiritual Worship,’ &c., 1698, 4to. 6. ‘Vox Clamantis in Deserto,’ &c., 1666, 8vo (in Latin). 7. ‘The Nullity of the Romish Faith,’ &c., Oxford, 1666, 8vo (Wood); Oxford, 1667, 12mo. 8. ‘A Dialogue between a Popish Priest and an English Protestant,’ &c., 1667, 8vo, often reprinted; recent editions are, 1840, 12mo (edited by Peter Hall [q. v.]); 1850, 12mo (edited by John Cumming [q. v.]). 9. ‘Synopsis Criticorum aliorumque Sacræ Scripturæ Interpretum,’ &c., vol. i., 1669, fol.; vol. ii., 1671, fol.; vol. iii., 1673, fol.; vol. iv., 1674, fol.; vol. v., 1676, fol.; 2nd edit., Frankfort, 1678, fol., 5 vols.; 3rd edit., Utrecht, 1684–6, fol., 5 vols. (edited by John Leusden); 4th edit., Frankfort, 1694, 4to, 5 vols. (with life); 5th edit., Frankfort, 1709–12, fol., 6 vols. (with comment on the Apocrypha). The ‘Synopsis’ was placed on the Roman Index by decree dated 21 April 1693. 10. ‘A Seasonable Apology for Religion,’ &c., 1673, 4to. Posthumous were 11. ‘His late Sayings a little before his Death,’ &c. [1679], broadsheet. 12. ‘Annotations upon the Holy Bible,’ &c., 1683–5, fol., 2 vols.; often reprinted; last edit. 1840, 8vo, 3 vols. Four of his sermons are in the ‘Morning Exercises,’ 1660–75, 4to. He had a hand in John Toldervy's ‘The Foot out of the Snare,’ 1656, 4to (a tract against quakers); he subscribed the epistle commendatory prefixed to Christopher Love's posthumous ‘Sinner's Legacy,’ 1657, 4to; he wrote a preface and memoir for the posthumous sermons (1677) of James Nalton [q. v.]; also elegiac verses in memory of Jacob Stock, Richard Vines, and Jeremy Whitaker.

[Calamy's Account, 1713, pp. 14 seq.; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, i. 15 seq.; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), ii. 205; Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, iii. 157; Burnet's Own Time, 1724, i. 308; Birch's Life of Tillotson, 1753, pp. 37 seq.; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, 1779, iii. 311; Peck's Desiderata Curiosa, 1779, ii. 546; Chalmers's General Biogr. Dict., 1816, xxv. 154 seq.; Glaire's Dictionnaire Universel des Sciences Ecclésiastiques, 1868, ii. 1816; extract from Sampson's Day-book, in Christian Reformer, 1862, p. 247; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1891, iii. 1175.]

A. G.