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SADLER, JOHN (1615–1674), master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, descended from an ancient Shropshire family, was born on 18 Aug. 1615, being son of the incumbent of Patcham, Sussex, by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Shelley of that parish. He received his academical education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, of which he was for some years a fellow. He became very eminent for his great knowledge in Hebrew and other oriental languages. In 1633 he graduated B.A., and in 1638 he commenced M.A. (Addit. MS. 5851, f. 12). After studying law at Lincoln's Inn, he was admitted one of the masters-in-ordinary in the court of chancery on 1 June 1644, and he was also one of the two masters of requests. In 1649 he was chosen town-clerk of London. He was highly esteemed by Oliver Cromwell, who, by a letter from Cork, 1 Dec. 1649, offered him the office of chief justice of Munster in Ireland with a salary of 1,000l. per annum, but he declined the offer.

On 31 Aug. 1650 he was constituted master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, upon the removal of Dr. Edward Rainbow, who was reinstated after the Restoration (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iii. 435, 484). In January 1651–2 he was appointed one of the committee for the better regulation of the law; in 1653 he was chosen M.P. for Cambridge; and in 1655, by warrant of the Protector Cromwell, pursuant to an ordinance for regulating and limiting the jurisdiction of the court of chancery, he was continued one of the masters in chancery when their number was reduced to six. It was by his interest that the Jews obtained the privilege of building a synagogue in London. In 1658 he was chosen M.P. for Great Yarmouth, and in December 1659 he was appointed first commissioner under the great seal, with Taylor, Whitelocke, and others, for the probate of wills. Soon after the Restoration he lost all his employments.

As he was lying sick at his manor of Warmwell, Dorset, which he acquired by marriage in 1662, he made the prophecy that there would be a plague in London, and that ‘the greatest part of the city would be burnt, and St. Paul's Cathedral’ (Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, bk. vii. p. 102). In the fire of London his house in Salisbury Court, which cost him 5,000l. in building, and several other houses belonging to him, were burnt down; and shortly afterwards his mansion in Shropshire had the same fate. He was now also deprived of Vaux Hall, on the river Thames, and other estates, which being crown lands, he had purchased, and of a considerable estate in the Bedford Level, without any recompense. Having a family of fourteen children to provide for, he was obliged to retire to his seat at Warmwell, where he died in April 1674.

On 9 Sept. 1645 he married Jane, youngest daughter and coheiress of John Trenchard, esq., of Warmwell, Dorset, receiving with her a fortune of 10,000l. (Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, 3rd. edit., 1861, i. 430).

Walker describes John Sadler as ‘a very insignificant man’ (Sufferings of the Clergy, ii. 151), and a clergyman who knew him well in the university told Calamy, ‘We accounted him not only a general scholar and an accomplished gentleman, but also a person of great piety … though it must be owned he was not always right in his head, especially towards the latter end of his being master of the college’ (Life and Times of Baxter, continuation, i. 116).

His works are:

  1. ‘Masquarade du Ciel: presented to the Great Queene of the Little World. A Celestiall Map, representing the late commotions between Saturn and Mercury about the Northern Thule. By J. S.,’ London, 1640, 4to; dedicated to the queen; ascribed to Sadler on the authority of Archbishop Sancroft, who wrote the name of the author on a copy of this masque or play in the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge (Baker, Biogr. Dramatica, ed. Reed and Jones, 1812, i. 623, iii. 28).
  2. ‘Rights of the Kingdom; or Customs of our ancestors touching the duty, power, election, or succession of our Kings and Parliaments, our true liberty, due allegiance, three estates, their legislative power, originall, judiciall, and executive, with the Militia,’ London, 1649, 4to; reprinted London, 1682, 4to.
  3. ‘Olbia. The new Iland lately discovered. With its Religion and Rites of Worship; Laws, Customs, and Government; Characters and Language; with Education of their Children in their Sciences, Arts, and Manufactures; with other things remarkable. By a Christian Pilgrim,’ pt. i. London, 1660, 4to. No second part was published.
  4. ‘A Prophecy concerning Plague and Fire in the City of London, certified by Cuthbert Bound, minister of Warmwell, Dorset,’ Lansdowne MS. 98, art. 24; printed in Hutchins's ‘History of Dorset,’ 3rd ed., i. 435.

Thomas Sadler (fl. 1670–1700), his second son, was intended for the law, and entered at Lincoln's Inn. He was, however, devoted to art, and received some instructions from Sir Peter Lely in portrait-painting. He painted in oils and also in miniature, and his portraits were commended by his contemporaries. In 1685 he drew the portrait of John Bunyan [q. v.], which was engraved more than once. His son Thomas Sadler the younger became deputy-clerk of the Pells (Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, i. 431, ed. 1861; Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting; Redgrave, Dict. of Artists).

[Memoir by his grandson, Thomas Sadler, of the exchequer, in Birch MS. 4223, f. 166; Addit. MS. 5880, f. 35; Ayscough's Cat. of MSS. p. 737; General Dictionary, Historical and Critical, 1739, ix. 19; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anonymous Lit. ii. 1555, iii. 1808; Hutchins's Dorset, 1815, i. 259, iv. 355; Kennett's Register and Chronicle, pp. 906, 913; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 2168; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iii. 175.]

T. C.