Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/25

This page has been validated.

the master of St. John's, had himself been required to take the oath of allegiance on proceeding B.D., and had complied, although he had formerly professed the same principles as Baker. The latter, however, was possessed by the belief that Dr. Jenkin could have screened him had he chosen to do so, and he continued long after to cherish feelings of dignified resentment. Baker, in fact, could never altogether overcome his sense of wrong at his ejection, although the blow was considerably mitigated by the consideration shown him by the college authorities, and by the kindness of friends. He was permitted to retain his rooms in college, and continued to reside there as a commoner-master until his death. Among the fellows of St. John's was Matthew Prior, the poet ; and according to Dr. Goddard, the writer of the life in the 'Biographia Britannica' (p. 520), being in easy circumstances, Prior handed his fellowship dividend, as he received it, over to his friend Baker. This statement, however, is discredited by Masters (Life of Baker, p. 120), who states that Baker 'lived comfortably and much to his own satisfaction' on an annuity of 40l. a year which he inherited from his father (ibid. p. 89).

Such were the circumstances under which the indefatigable scholar laboured on for some four-and-thirty years, during which period he acquired the well-earned reputation of being inferior to no living English scholar in his minute and extended acquaintance with the antiquities of our national history. His friends and correspondents, among whom were Burnet, Fiddes, Kennet, Hearne, Strype, Archbishop Wake, Le Neve, Peck, Dr. Rawlinson, Dr. Ward, Ames, Browne Willis, Dr. Richardson, John Lewis, Humphrey Wanley, and Masters (his biographer), represented the chief names in English historical literature in his day. To Wake, at that time dean of Exeter, he rendered material assistance in the compilation of his 'State of the Church,' although the work was conceived in a spirit diametrically opposed to the doctrines of the Anglican party. Wake, in order to show his sense of these services, afterwards offered to present any one of Baker's friends, whom the latter (being himself ineligible) might name to him, to a benefice of the value of 200l. per annum. Baker declined the offer, but asked the archbishop to present him with a copy of his 'State of the Church,' containing corrections and additions in his own handwriting. To this request Wake acceded, and the volume is now in the possession of the university library at Cambridge. To Burnet, Baker rendered similar service by forwarding a series of corrections and criticisms of the 'History of the Reformation.' It is not surprising that Burnet should have felt himself unable to accept them all without some reservations; but the following entry by Baker in the third volume of his copy of the 'History' preserved in the university library is creditable to both: 'Ex dono doctissimi auctoris, ac celeberrimi præsulis Gilberti episcopi Sarisburiensis. I shall always have an honour for the author's memory, who entered all the corrections I had made at the end of this volume. If any more are found they were not sent, for he suppressed nothing.'

Baker himself aspired to write an 'Athenæ Cantabrigienses,' if not a history of the university, on the plan of Anthony Wood's well-known work relating to Oxford (Letter to Wanley, Harl. MSS. 3778); and with this design accumulated a great mass of materials, mainly from manuscript sources, which he transcribed into forty-two folio volumes. The sound judgment and scrupulous care shown in this collection impart to it an unusual value. The first twenty-three volumes, which he bequeathed to his friend Harley, Lord Oxford, are now in the Harleian collection in the British Museum ; volumes xxiv. to xlii. are in the university library at Cambridge. An index to the whole series was published in 1848 by four members of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, and a 'Catalogue' (of a far more elaborate character) of the contents of the Cambridge volumes, by Professor John E. B. Mayor, was published for the syndics of the University Press in 1867. The 'History of St. John s College' in the former series (MS. Harl. 1039), by Baker himself, has been edited by Professor Mayor (1869) with extensive additions and annotations, and the whole work stands unrivalled as a history of a single collegiate foundation, in accuracy, completeness, and general excellence.

Baker also reprinted, with a valuable biographical preface, Bishop Fisher's funeral sermon for the Lady Margaret, mother of King Henry VII (London, 12mo, 1708); a copy, with transcripts of his manuscript notes, is preserved in the Bodleian library, and has been printed by Dr. Hymers. But the work by which he earned his chief contemporary reputation was published anonymously; this was his 'Reflections on Learning,' a treatise which went through seven editions. In its main object it somewhat resembled Dryden's 'Religio Laici,' being designed to enforce the insufficiency of the human understandingand of science as guides for the formation of belief and the conduct of life. The literary merits of the work and