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Sprat
Sprat
420

in his ‘Sermon before the Natives of Dorset, 8 Dec. 1692’ (p. 38), was son of Thomas Sprat, minister of that parish, who is said to have married a daughter of Mr. Strode of Parnham. The father was in 1646 sequestrator of the parish of St. Alphege, Greenwich (Drake, Blackheath, p. 99), and in 1652 was in charge of the parish of Talaton in Devonshire.

After receiving the rudiments of education ‘at a little school by the churchyard side,’ Sprat matriculated from Wadham College, Oxford, on 12 Nov. 1651, and on 25 Sept. 1652 was elected a scholar. He graduated B.A. 25 June 1654, M.A. 11 June 1657, and B.D. and D.D. 3 July 1669. In 1671 he was incorporated at Cambridge. From 30 June 1657 to 24 March 1670 (when he resigned) he held a fellowship at Wadham, and on 6 Dec. 1659 he was elected catechist. The college, which was presided over by Dr. John Wilkins, was then the meeting-place of Seth Ward [q. v.], Christopher Wren [q. v.], Dr. Ralph Bathurst [q. v.], and others who were interested in scientific study, and Sprat was drawn by their influence into the same pursuits. From these gatherings sprang the Royal Society.

Sprat was one of the contributors of satirical commendatory verses to the ‘Naps upon Parnassus,’ 1658, of Samuel Austin, the younger [q. v.] A poem by him ‘upon the death of his late highnesse, Oliver, lord-protector,’ was published, with others by Dryden and Waller, in 1659, and was dedicated to Dr. Wilkins. It was reprinted in 1682 and 1709, and was included in the first part of Dryden's ‘Miscellany.’ Its laudation of Cromwell frequently exposed Sprat to censure in after years. From a second poem, ‘The Plague of Athens,’ composed ‘after incomparable Dr. Cowley's Pindarick way,’ he was known as ‘Pindaric’ Sprat. It appeared in 1659, was reprinted in 1665, 1676, and 1688, and was included in Dryden's ‘Miscellany’ and Pratt's ‘Cabinet of Poetry’ (vol. ii.) The poems of Sprat were included in the collections of Johnson, Anderson, Chalmers, and Sanford. It is his misfortune that through this circumstance his name is better known as a versifier than as a master of English prose.

After the Restoration the political views of Sprat changed. He ‘turned about with the virtuosi’ and was ordained priest on 10 March 1660–1. He was the friend as well as the imitator of Cowley, on whose recommendation he was appointed chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham. He was probably indebted to the same patron for the prebend of Carlton-cum-Thurlby in Lincoln Cathedral, to which he was instituted on 20 Oct. 1660, holding it until 1669. Sprat afterwards acknowledged that the duke had encouraged his studies (Life of Cowley, pp. 8–9). At this period his life was passed between Oxford and London. On the royal visit to Oxford in 1663 he preached at St. Mary's on 27 Sept., and on 29 Sept., when the king visited Wadham College, ‘Sprat spoke a speech’ (Wood, Life, Oxford Hist. Soc. i. 495–8).

Within the next four years were published Sprat's two most important works—the answer to Sorbière and the history of the Royal Society. Samuel de Sorbière, a Frenchman, published in 1664 a work entitled ‘Relation d'un Voyage en Angleterre,’ in which he touched upon some of the defects of the national character. Sprat, with some assistance from Evelyn (Diary and Corresp. 1850–2, iii. 144–7), composed a biting reply under the title ‘Observations on Monsieur de Sorbier's Voyage into England.’ It was addressed to his friend and frequent correspondent, Christopher Wren, and dated London, 1 Aug. 1664; it was published in 1665 and 1668, and reissued, with a translation into English of the original work, in a volume dated 1709. An adaptation of it by Joh. Maximilian Lucas, with a dedication to John, duke of Lauderdale, appeared at Amsterdam in 1675. It was a popular vindication of Englishmen, praised by Addison as ‘full of just satire and ingenuity.’ Johnson's comment on it was that it was ‘not ill performed, but perhaps rewarded with at least its full proportion of praise’ (Jusserand, English Essays, 1895, pp. 158–92).

In 1663 Sprat was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. His ‘History of the Royal Society of London’ came out in 1667, and was often republished down to 1764. A French translation appeared at Geneva in 1669, and at Paris in 1670. Only the second part specifically relates to the society, the first and third deal respectively with ancient philosophy and experimental knowledge. The work was attacked by Henry Stubbe [q. v.] in three curious pamphlets in 1670, mainly on the ground that it was ‘destructive to the established Religion and Church of England.’ Sprat needlessly defended himself in ‘A Letter to Mr. H. Stubs’ (sic), 1670 (D'Israeli, Quarrels of Authors, 1814, ii. 1–77). Cowley, in his ode to the Royal Society, praised Sprat's work, and Dr. Johnson declared it ‘one of the few books which selection of sentiment and elegance of diction have been able to preserve, though written upon a subject flux and transitory.’ Written in excellent English, it impresses even modern readers with its ‘bold and liberal spirit’ of observation.

In 1667 Sprat's friend Cowley died, and next year he wrote ‘An Account of the Life