Holdsworth, Richard (DNB00)

HOLDSWORTH, RICHARD (1590–1649), theologian, was the youngest son of the Rev. Richard Holdsworth, vicar of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he was born in 1590. His father died in 1596, leaving his child to the care of a son-in-law, the Rev. William Pearson or Pierson, who was curate and lecturer in the parish church of Newcastle (Brand, Newcastle, i. 312). Holdsworth was educated at the grammar school of that town, whence he proceeded to Cambridge, and was admitted scholar of St. John's College on 2 Nov. 1607. He took the degree of B.A. in 1610, was elected fellow of St. John's on 20 March 1613, and took holy orders soon afterwards. He shared in the educational work of the college, and among his pupils was Sir Simonds D'Ewes, who speaks of him with admiration (Autobiography, i. 107). In 1617 he was incorporated M.A. at Oxford (Wood, Fasti, i. 828), and in 1620 was one of the university preachers at Cambridge. Soon after this he became chaplain to Sir Henry Hobart [q. v.], and was presented to a benefice in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which he at once exchanged for the rectory of St. Peter-le-Poer in Broad Street, London.

Early in 1624 he entered upon his parochial life in London, and gained great credit for the zealous discharge of his clerical duties during the plague of 1625. He soon became one of the most famous preachers in London, and was reckoned as belonging to the moderate puritan party. In consequence of his reputation for learning and eloquence he was appointed on 28 Nov. 1629 professor of divinity in Gresham College, where his Latin lectures were attended by crowded audiences. It is a sign of the repute in which he was held that he was called to the deathbed of Sir Robert Cotton in 1631 (Birch, Court and Times of Charles I, ii. 112).

The management of St. John's College under the mastership of Owen Gwynne had not been creditable, and on his death in 1633 the younger fellows, wishing for a man of high character from outside, chose Holdsworth as their candidate. The senior fellows chose the president, Dr. Lane, known as a genial boon companion. Lane sent a friend to Charles I, who wrote from Berwick recommending Lane for election. Each side claimed to have carried its candidate, and both were presented to the vice-chancellor, who refused to admit either, and the matter was referred to the king. Charles I appointed a commission to investigate; and after eight months' dispute, the king, on 20 Feb. 1634, declared against both elections, and issued his mandate for the election of a third person, William Beale (the copious records of this struggle, which is interesting in academical history, are to be found in Cal. State Papers, 1633–4, pp. 105, 120, 185, 269, 270, and the MSS. University Library, Cambridge, Patrick Papers, pp. 22, 16). Holdsworth, although worsted in the contest, succeeded to the archdeaconry of Huntingdon and prebend of Buckden, which had been held by the late master.

Holdsworth again applied himself to his Gresham lectures, but was elected to the mastership of Emmanuel College on 25 April 1637. The first master, Laurence Chaderton [q. v.], was still alive, though he had been induced to resign his office in 1622 with a view of modifying the rigid puritanism which had marked the early years of the college. He had outlived two successors, and Holdsworth came as the third. It says much for Holdsworth that he treated Chaderton, who lived close by the college, with great respect, and assured him ‘that he was still master in the college, though he was not master of the college.’ Chaderton looked with growing approval on Holdsworth's government, and said that he was ‘the only master he ever saw in that house.’

Holdsworth retained the confidence of the London clergy, and in 1639 was elected president of Sion College. He continued to hold the position of a moderate puritan, and was one of those who in 1640 protested against the continuance of convocation by royal writ after the dissolution of parliament (Fuller, Church History, ed. 1845, v. 163). Although a puritan, however, he was a staunch churchman. He had suffered for his opposition to Laud, but he was still less in favour of any violent changes in the church. His signature is appended to a suggestion for an amendment of Archbishop Ussher's scheme ‘for the reduction of episcopacy into the synodical form of government’ (Sylvester, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, pt. i. p. 240). But he soon saw that this scheme was impracticable, and when he grasped the meaning of the issue he became a fervent royalist. He first came into collision with parliament upon an academic question. The original statutes of the founder of Emmanuel provided that a fellow should vacate his fellowship within a year of taking his doctor's degree. The fellows had succeeded in obtaining the king's permission to rescind this rule, but the representatives of the founder in 1640 brought the matter before parliament, which showed a decided willingness to interfere, and annulled an election to a fellowship (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iii. 307, note 1). Holdsworth joined with his fellows in making representations to parliament (Baker MS. Cambridge Univ. Libr., Mm. 2, 23, 95–6), and probably resented its action. He was vice-chancellor, and very influential in the university; it is clear that he was reckoned a formidable person from the care with which parliament watched his proceedings. In a formal speech delivered as vice-chancellor he deplored the prospects of religion and learning, praised the existing state of the church, and extolled the completeness of the reformation settlement (Oratio in Vesperiis Comitiorum, at the end of his Prælectiones). Parliament at once took notice of these sentiments, and on 23 July referred the matter to a committee (Rushworth, Hist. Coll. vol. i. pt. iii. p. 335). Charles I meanwhile appointed Holdsworth one of his chaplains, and offered him the bishopric of Bristol, which he refused, probably because he thought he could do better service where he was. In March 1642 he entertained the king and the Prince of Wales in Cambridge (Cooper, Annals, iii. 321–2), and strangely enough was soon afterwards nominated by the House of Lords as one of the members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. It does not appear that he ever attended any of the meetings of this body. Indeed he was too much engaged at Cambridge, where he continued to hold the office of vice-chancellor during 1642 and 1643. In this capacity he was instrumental in raising money and plate from the colleges for the king's use. But Cromwell was in August 1642 commissioned by parliament to take charge of the county of Cambridge. When the university printer at the end of 1642 published a royalist pamphlet, ‘The Resolving of Conscience,’ by Henry Ferne [q. v.], parliament on 2 Feb. 1643 ordered that Holdsworth, as vice-chancellor, should be brought before the bar in custody (Commons' Journals, ii. 900, 951). Holdsworth was not deterred, and when in the following month a demand was made by parliament for pecuniary aid from the university, he presided at a meeting of the heads, where it was resolved that ‘it was against their religion and conscience to contribute’ (Mercurius Aulicus, 22 April). In May Holdsworth was taken as a prisoner to London on the charge of having authorised the publication in Cambridge of the king's declaration printed at York (Querela Cantabr. p. 7).

Holdsworth was next asked to take oath to the solemn league and covenant; on his refusal his mastership and his rectory of St. Peter's were sequestrated. He was confined first in Ely House, and afterwards in the Tower. It did not help him that he was elected by his friends in Cambridge to the Lady Margaret professorship of divinity, and by a private patron was presented with a living in Rutland. He remained in confinement till 31 Oct. 1645, when he was released on bail, on condition that he did not go further than twenty miles from London (Commons' Journals, iv. 328). Perhaps it was some consolation to him to know that at Cambridge his library was spared by Manchester, on the ground that he intended to leave part of it to the college, and in his confinement he was anxious about the safety of the college plate, which was in his possession. He never seems to have returned to Cambridge, where Anthony Tuckney took his place as master of Emmanuel. His only interest seems to have been to cheer the king among his troubles. He applied for leave to visit him at Holmby House, but was refused. In September 1647 he was allowed to see him at Hampton Court, when Charles conferred on him the deanery of Worcester. It was an empty honour, for Holdsworth died of jaundice on 22 Aug. 1649. As he lay on his deathbed his friends consoled him that he was being taken from the evil to come. ‘No,’ said the dying man, ‘from the good to come,’ and in later days his hopefulness was regarded as a prophecy. He was buried in his former church of St. Peter-le-Poer, where his friend Bishop Brownrigg wrote an elaborate epitaph in his honour (see Stow, Survey of London (ed. 1720), bk. ii. p. 114).

Holdsworth shrank from literary fame. The only work published in his lifetime was ‘The People's Happinesse; a Sermon preached in Marie's, Cambridge, upon Sunday, May 27,’ Cambridge, 1642, and this was published only in consequence of a thrice-repeated request of the king. In 1649 there appeared in London ‘An Answer without a Question; or the late Schismatical Petition for a Diabolical Toleration; written by that reverend divine, Dr. Holdsworth, a little before his death;’ this, however, is not mentioned by Pearson, is not worthy of Holdsworth's learning, and must be rejected as spurious. In 1651 was published (London) ‘The Valley of Vision; in twenty-one Sermons, by Dr. Richard Holsworth.’ This included ‘The People's Happinesse’; Pearson says that the other sermons were printed from shorthand notes, which were so badly taken that the book contains nothing of Holdsworth's genius and spirit. In 1661 Holdsworth's nephew, Richard Pearson, published his ‘Prælectiones Theologicæ habitæ in Collegio Greshamensi,’ two courses of Latin lectures, dealing with such questions as the training of the clergy, the relations of the Old and New Testament, and points of church order arising out of the controversies of the time. Among the manuscripts in Emmanuel College Library is a little book, ‘Directions for Students in the University,’ which shows his practical care for education.

Holdsworth left behind him a large and valuable library, the possession of which was for some time a subject of dispute between the university and Emmanuel College. Ultimately the university paid the college 220l. and acquired it. The rough catalogue, which occupied three masters of arts for three months, is in the Cambridge Library MSS., Dd. viii. 45, and accounts for 10,095 volumes, of which 186 were in manuscript.

[The chief authority is a short Latin life by his nephew, Richard Pearson, prefixed to the Prælectiones Theologicæ. Besides this, Baker's Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor, pp. 213–15, 623–7; Lloyd's Memoirs of Excellent Persons, pp. 457–61; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 79, 80; Querela Cantabr. p. 7; Ward's Lives of the Professors of Gresham Coll. pp. 56–65; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, vol. iii.; Fuller's Worthies, p. 305; D'Oyly's Life of Sancroft, i. 29–32; Proceedings in Kent, 1640 (Camd. Soc.), pp. 52–3.]

M. C.