Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/448

This page needs to be proofread.


the late government. On every opportunity he endeavoured to restrict the scope of the Act of Indemnity. He successfully moved to have Fleetwood excepted, and urged the exclusion of Richard Cromwell and Judge Thorpe. He proposed to force the officials of the Protectorate to refund their salaries and to disable or punish indiscriminately large classes of persons (Old Parliamentary History, xxii. 339, 352, 366, 369, 412, 428; Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 277). Prynne showed great zeal for the disbanding of the army and was one of the commissioners appointed to pay it off (Old Parliamentary History xxii. 473). In the debates on religion he was one of the leaders of the presbyterians spoke against the Thirty-nine Articles, denied the claims of the bishops, urged the validity of presbyterian ordination, and supported the bill for turning the king's ecclesiastical declaration into law (ib. xxii. 375, 385, 409, 414, 421, xxiii. 29). Returned again for Bath to the parliament of May 1661, Prynne asserted his presbyterianism by refusing to kneel when the two houses received the sacrament together (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 170). A few weeks earlier he had published a pamphlet demanding the revision of the prayer-book, but the new parliament was opposed to any concessions to nonconformity. On 15 July a pamphlet by Prynne against the Corporation Bill was voted scandalous and seditious; he was reprimanded by the speaker, and only escaped punishment by abject submission (Kennett, Register, p. 495; Commons' Journals, viii. 301). He was again censured on 13 May 1664 for making some alterations in a bill concerning vintners and ale-sellers after its commitment (ib. viii. 563). In January 1667 Prynne was one of the managers of Lord Mordaunt's impeachment (ib. viii. 681). He spoke several times on Clarendon's impeachment, and opposed the bill for his banishment. On constitutional subjects and points of procedure his opinion had great weight, and in 1667 he was privately consulted by the king on the question whether a parliament which had been prorogued could be convened before the day fixed (Grey), Debates, i. 7, 65, 153; Clarendon, Continuation of Life, §1097).

As a politician Prynne was during his latter years of little importance, but as a writer his most valuable work belongs to that period. Shortly after the Restoration he had been appointed keeper of the records in the Tower at a salary of 500l. a year. In January 1662 Prynne dedicated his 'Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva' to Charles II. The state papers contain several petitions from Prynne for additional accommodation in the Tower, in order to facilitate his work in transcribing and arranging the records (Cat. State Papers, Dom. 1661-2 p. 627, 1665-6 p. 346). Anthony Wood found him affable and obliging towards record-searchers. 'Mr. Prynne received him with old-fashion compliments, such as were used in the reign of King James I, and told him he should see what he desired, and seemed to be glad that "such a young man as he was should have inclinations towards venerable antiquity," &c.' (Life of Anthony Wood, ed. Clarke, ii. 110). Ryley, Prynne's predecessor, spread reports that Prynne ne-glected his duties, but Prynne's publications during his tenure of office refute the charge (Pepys, Diary, ed. Wheatley, iv. 133).

Prynne died unmarried on 24 Oct. 1669 'in his lodgings in Lincoln's Inn, and was buried in the walk under the chapel there, which stands upon pillars' (Wood, Athenae, iii. 876). His will is printed by Bruce (Documents relating to William Prynne, p. 96). He left his manuscripts to the library of Lincoln's Inn, and a set of his works to Oriel College, Oxford. The college also possesses a portrait of Prynne in oils. Two others belong respectively to the Marquis of Hastings and the Marquis Townshend. An engraved portrait of Prynne is given in his 'New Discovery of the Prelates' Tyranny,' reproductions of which are frequently found in his later pamphlets. Lists of engraved portraits are given by Granger and in the catalogue of portraits in the Sutherland Clarendon in the Bodleian Library.

Prynne published about two hundred books and pamphlets. 'I verily believe,' says Wood, 'that, if rightly computed, he wrote a sheet for every day of his life, reckoning from the time he came to the use of reason and the state of man' (Athenæ, Oxon. iii. 852). According to Aubrey, 'his manner of study was thus: he wore a long quilt cap, which came two or three inches at least over his eyes, which served him as an umbrella to defend his eyes from the light; about every three hours his man was to bring him a roll and a pot of ale to refocillate his wasted spirits: so he studied and drank, and munched some bread; and this maintained him till night, and then he made a good supper' (Aubrey, Letters from the Bodleian Library, ii. 508). To this habit Butler refers in 'Hudibras' when he addresses the muse

that with ale or viler liquors
Did'st inspire Wither, Prynne, and Vicars.

In point of style Prynne's historical works possess no merits. He apologises to his