Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eachard, John
EACHARD, JOHN, D.D. (1636?–1697), master of Catharine Hall, Cambridge, descended from a good family in Suffolk, was born about 1636, and was admitted into Catharine Hall on 10 May 1653. He proceeded B.A. in 1656, was elected a fellow of his college in 1658, and commenced M.A. in 1660. On the death of Dr. John Lightfoot in 1675 he was chosen master of Catharine Hall, and in the following year he was created D.D. by royal mandamus. He was elected vice-chancellor of the university in 1679, and again in 1695 (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, iii. 607, 608). In 1687 he, with others, was nominated by the senate to represent the university before the ecclesiastical commissioners, and to justify the action of the vice-chancellor and senate in refusing to confer, in compliance with a mandamus from James II, the degree of M.A. without oaths upon Alban Francis, a Benedictine monk (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iii. 620).
He governed his college with the utmost care and fidelity, and to the general satisfaction of the whole university. He procured many donations from his friends towards a proposed rebuilding of his college, but his death prevented the accomplishment of the design. He died on 7 July 1697, and was buried on the 14th in the chapel of Catharine Hall (Cole's MS. 12, f. 235 b).
The works written by or attributed to him are: 1. ‘The Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy and Religion enquired into. In a letter to R. L., Lond. 1670 (anon.) This work, which brims over with wit and humour, had a rapid sale, and passed through many editions. The author represents the contempt with which the clergy were generally regarded as being in great measure due to a wrong method of education or the poverty of some of the inferior clergy. The book was attacked by an anonymous writer in ‘An Answer to a Letter of Enquiry into the Grounds,’ &c., Lond. 1671, 8vo. Halkett and Laing (Dict. of Anonymous Literature, i. 110) wrongly attribute the authorship of this reply to John Bramhall, bishop of Derry, who died seven years before the publication of Eachard's book, which was assailed also by Barnabas Oley in his preface to George Herbert's ‘Country Parson,’ by Dr. John Owen in a preface to some sermons of W. Bridge, and by ‘D. T.’ in ‘Hieragonisticon; or Corah's Doom,’ Lond. 1672, 12mo. Eachard replied to the first of his assailants in ‘Some Observations upon the Answer to an Enquiry into …; with some additions. In a second Letter to R. L.,’ Lond. 1671, 12mo. The original work is reprinted in ‘An English Garner,’ edited by Edward Arber, vol. vii. (1883), and it was translated into German by Johann Gustav Reinbeck under the title of ‘Untersuchung der Ursachen und Gelegenheiten, welche zur Verachtung der Geistlichen und der Religion Anlass gegeben,’ Berlin, 1740, 12mo. Macaulay, in the ‘History of England,’ largely quoted Eachard in his account of the social condition of the clergy about the time of the accession of James II. This led to the publication of ‘Mr. Macaulay's Character of the Clergy in the latter part of the 17th century considered,’ Cambridge, 1849, 8vo, by the Rev. Churchill Babington, M.A., fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, who says that Eachard's book ‘from beginning to end is a series of jocose caricatures. He burlesques unmercifully the sermons of sundry injudicious and ignorant clergymen, and draws the most facetious picture of the extremities to which others were reduced by poverty, and he has done it in such a manner that he was perhaps not very unnaturally supposed to have meant his descriptions for the clergy generally, and to have made up his book for the express purpose of bringing them into contempt.’ 2. ‘Mr. Hobb's State of Nature considered: in a Dialogue between Philautus and Timothy. To which are added Five Letters from the Author of the Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy,’ Lond. 1672, 12mo, dedicated to Gilbert Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury. 3. ‘Some Opinions of Mr. Hobbs considered in a second Dialogue between Philautus and Timothy. By the same Author,’ 1673. Sir Richard Blackmore, in his ‘Essay on Wit,’ recommends these dialogues, in which he observes: ‘There is a kind of vein of solid learning mixed with many strokes of raillery.’ 4. ‘A Free and Impartial Enquiry into the Causes of that very great Esteem and Honour that the Nonconforming Preachers are generally in with their Followers. In a Letter to his honoured friend, H. M. By a Lover of the Church of England and unfeigned Piety,’ 1673, 12mo. This is attributed to Eachard in the British Museum Catalogue. Thomas Broughton, in the ‘Biographia Britannica,’ says, however, that after an inspection of the piece he was convinced it was not written by Eachard. It has not his wit, nor is it in any respect in his manner.
Eachard's works, except his second dialogue on the writings of Hobbes, have been several times printed together in one volume 8vo; but the most complete edition containing that dialogue is that published by T. Davies in 3 vols. 12mo, 1774. Though Eachard was a great wit and humorist, he failed lamentably when he attempted to treat a subject in a serious manner. Thomas Baker, the Cambridge antiquary, has recorded that he went to St. Mary's, with great expectation, to hear Eachard preach, and was never more disappointed (Granger, Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. v. 38 n.); and Dean Swift remarks: ‘I have known men happy enough at ridicule, who, upon grave subjects, were perfectly stupid; of which Dr. Eachard of Cambridge, who writ “The Contempt of the Clergy,” was a great instance’ (Works, xii. 279).[Life by Zachary Grey in Cole's MS. 12, f. 234; Life by T. Davies, prefixed to Eachard's Works, ed. 1774; Biog. Brit. (Kippis); Addit. MSS. 5868, f. 8, 19165, f. 304; Birch's Tillotson (1752), p. 326; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anon. Lit. ii. 1673; Heywood's Diaries, ii. 258; Littell's Museum of Foreign Literature, xiv. 305; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 707; Macaulay's Hist. of England; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vi. 426–8; Nichols's Suppl. to Swift's Works, Lond. 1779, ii. 366; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 320, 404, 2nd ser. ii. 492, iii. 109, 6th ser. v. 387, 452, vi. 37; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (1813), i. p. lxx.]