Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Evelyn and Pepys, though Burnet criticises it as too copious. He was a great lover of books and collected a large library, was well read in the Roman and in the contemporary histories both foreign and English, and could appreciate Carew, Ben Jonson and Cowley. As a writer and historian Clarendon occupies a high place in English literature. His great work, the History of the Rebellion, is composed in the grand style. A characteristic feature is the wonderful series of well-known portraits, drawn with great skill and liveliness and especially praised by Evelyn and by Macaulay. The long digressions, the lengthy sentences, and the numerous parentheses do not accord with modern taste and usage, but it may be observed that these often follow more closely the natural involutions of the thought, and express the argument more clearly, than the short disconnected sentences, now generally employed, while in rhythm and dignity Clarendon’s style is immeasurably superior. The composition, however, of the work as a whole is totally wanting in proportion, and the book is overloaded with state papers, misplaced and tedious in the narrative. In considering the accuracy of the history it is important to remember the dates and circumstances of the composition of its various portions. The published History is mainly a compilation of two separate original manuscripts, the first being the history proper, written between 1646 and 1648, with the advantage of a fresh memory and the help of various documents and authorities, and ending in March 1644, and the second being the Life, extending from 1609 to 1660, but composed long afterwards in exile and without the aid of papers between 1668 and 1670. The value of any statement, therefore, in the published History depends chiefly on whether it is taken from the History proper or the Life. In 1671 these two manuscripts were united by Clarendon with certain alterations and modifications making Books i.-vii. of the published History, while Books viii.-xv. were written subsequently, and, being composed for the most part without materials, are generally inaccurate, with the notable exception of Book ix., made up from two narratives written at Jersey in 1646, and containing very little from the Life. Sincerity and honest conviction are present on every page, and the inaccuracies are due not to wilful misrepresentation, but to failure of memory and to the disadvantages under which the author laboured in exile. But they lessen considerably the value of his work, and detract from his reputation as chronicler of contemporary events, for which he was specially fitted by his practical experience in public business, a qualification declared by himself to be the “genius, spirit and soul of an historian.” In general, Clarendon, like many of his contemporaries, failed signally to comprehend the real issues and principles at stake in the great struggle, laying far too much stress on personalities and never understanding the real aims and motives of the Presbyterian party. The work was first published in 1702–1704 from a copy of a transcript made by Clarendon’s secretary, with a few unimportant alterations, and was the object of a violent attack by John Oldmixon for supposed changes and omissions in Clarendon and Whitelocke compared (1727) and again in a preface to his History of England (1730), repelled and refuted by John Burton in the Genuineness of Lord Clarendon’s History Vindicated (1744). The history was first published from the original in 1826; the best edition being that of 1888 edited by W. D. Macray and issued by the Clarendon Press. The Lord Clarendon’s History . . . Compleated, a supplement containing portraits and illustrative papers, was published in 1717, and An Appendix to the History, containing a life, speeches and various pieces, in 1724. The Sutherland Clarendon in the Bodleian library at Oxford contains several thousand portraits and illustrations of the History. The Life of Edward, earl of Clarendon . . . [and the] Continuation of the History . . . , the first consisting of that portion of the Life not included in the History, and the second of the account of Clarendon’s administration and exile in France, begun in 1672, was published in 1759, the History of the Reign of King Charles II. from the Restoration . . ., published about 1755, being a surreptitious edition of this work, of which the latest and best edition is that of the Clarendon Press of 1857.

Clarendon was also the author of The Difference and Disparity between the Estate and Condition of George, duke of Buckingham and Robert, earl of Essex, a youthful production vindicating Buckingham, printed in Reliquiae Wottonianae (1672), i. 184; Animadversions on a Book entitled Fanaticism (1673); A Brief View . . . of the dangerous . . . errors in . . . Mr Hobbes’s book entitled “Leviathan” (1676); The History of the Rebellion and Civil War in Ireland (1719); A Collection of Several Pieces of Edward, earl of Clarendon, containing reprints of speeches from the journals of the House of Lords and of the History of the Rebellion in Ireland (1727); A Collection of Several Tracts containing his Vindication in answer to his impeachment, Reflections upon several Christian Duties, Two Dialogues on Education and on the want of Respect due to age, and Contemplations on the Psalms (1727); Religion and Policy (1811); Essays moral and entertaining on the various faculties and passions of the human mind (1815, and in British Prose Writers, 1819, vol. i.); Speeches in Rushworth’s Collections (1692), pt. iii. vol. i. 230, 333; Declarations and Manifestos (Clarendon being the author of nearly all on the king’s side between March 1642 and March 1645, the first being the answer to the Grand Remonstrance in January 1642, but not of the answer to the XIX. Propositions or the apology for the King’s attack upon Brentford) in the published History, Rushworth’s Collections, E. Husband’s Collections of Ordinances and Declarations (1646), Old Parliamentary History (1751–1762), Somers Tracts, State Tracts, Harleian Miscellany, Thomasson Tracts (Brit. Mus.), E. 157 (14); and a large number of anonymous pamphlets aimed against the parliament, including Transcendent and Multiplied Rebellion and Treason (1645), A Letter from a True and Lawful Member of Parliament . . . to one of the Lords of his Highness’s Council (1656), and Two Speeches made in the House of Peers on Monday 19th Dec. [1642] . . . (Somers Tracts, Scott, vi. 576); Second Thoughts (n.d., in favour of a limited toleration) is ascribed to him in the Catalogue in the British Museum; A Letter . . . to one of the Chief Ministers of the Nonconforming Party . . . (Saumur, 7th May 1674) has been attributed to him on insufficient evidence.

Clarendon’s correspondence, amounting to over 100 volumes, is in the Bodleian library at Oxford, and other letters are to be found in Additional MSS. in the British Museum. Selections have been published under the title of State Papers Collected by Edward, earl of Clarendon (Clarendon State Papers) between 1767 and 1786, and the collection has been calendared up to 1657 in 1869, 1872, 1876. Other letters of Clarendon are to be found in Lister’s Life of Clarendon, iii.; Nicholas Papers (Camden Soc., 1886); Diary of J. Evelyn, appendix; Sir R. Fanshaw’s Original Letters (1724); Warburton’s Life of Prince Rupert (1849): Barwick’s Life of Barwick (1724); Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. vi. pp. 193-216, and in the Harleian Miscellany.

Bibliography.—Clarendon’s autobiographical works and Letters enumerated above, and the MS. Collection in the Bodleian library. The Lives of Clarendon by T. H. Lister (1838), and by C. H. Firth in the Dict. of Nat. Biography (with authorities there collected), completely supersede all earlier accounts including that in Lives of All the Lord Chancellors (1708), in Macdiarmid’s Lives of British Statesmen (1807), and in the different Lives by Wood in Athenae Oxonienses (Bliss), iii. 1018; while those in J. H. Browne’s Lives of the Prime Ministers of England (1858), in Lodge’s Portraits, in Lord Campbell’s Lives of the Chancellors, iii. 110 (1845), and in Foss’s Judges, supply no further information. In Historical Inquiries respecting the Character of Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, various charges against Clarendon were collected by G. A. Ellis (1827) and answered by Lister, vol. ii. 529, and by Lady Th. Lewis in Lives of the Contemporaries of Lord Clarendon (1852), i. preface pt. i. For criticisms of the History see Gardiner’s Civil Wars (1893), iii. 121; Ranke’s Hist. of England, vi. 3-29; Die Politik Karls des Ersten . . . und Lord Clarendon’s Darstellung, by A. Buff (1868); article in the Dict. of Nat. Biog. by C. H. Firth, and especially a series of admirable articles by the same author in the Eng. Hist. Review (1904). For description of the MS., Macray’s edition of the History (1888), Lady Th. Lewis’s Lives from the Clarendon Gallery, i. introd. pt. ii.; for list of earlier editions, Ath. Oxon. (Bliss) iii. 1017. Lord Lansdowne defends Sir R. Granville against Clarendon’s strictures in the Vindication (Genuine Works of G. Granville, Lord Lansdowne, i. 503 [1732]), and Lord Ashburnham defends John Ashburnham in A Narrative by John Ashburnham (1830). See also Notes at Meetings of the Privy Council between Charles II. and the Earl of Clarendon (Roxburghe Club. 1896); General Orders of the High Court of Chancery, by J. Beames (1815), 147-221; S. R. Gardiner’s