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Sydenham, Humphrey (DNB00)


SYDENHAM, HUMPHREY (1591–1650?), royalist divine, the son of Humphrey Sydenham of Dulverton, by his wife Jane, born Champneys, was born at Dulverton in 1591, matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, in Lent term 1606, and graduated B.A. on 24 Jan. 1610–11. He became a fellow of Wadham College in 1613, and was the first to graduate as master of arts from that foundation (3 Dec. 1613). He took priest's orders in 1621, became librarian at Wadham in 1623, and was incorporated at Cambridge in 1625. He resigned his fellowship in 1628. In the meantime he had been appointed chaplain to Lord Howard of Escrick, and on 15 Dec. 1627 he was presented by the king to the vicarage of Ashbrittle, Somerset, holding that preferment down to 1645. On 18 May 1629 he was presented by Sir Hugh Portman to the rectory of Puckington in the same county. He was collated to the prebend of Wedmore Tertia in Wells Cathedral in 1642, and on 14 Dec. 1644 he was instituted to the rectory of Odcombe, Somerset, upon the presentation of the king, during the minority of his distant kinsman, Sir John Sydenham, bart.; but he held this preferment for little more than a year, when he was ejected from all his benefices by the parliamentary commissioners. Though very devout and learned in biblical lore, Sydenham was an unbending royalist and suffered accordingly. ‘Consummata eloquentia celeberrimus,’ he is described by Lloyd as ‘happy in having the tongue of men and angels’ (Memoirs, p. 625). ‘A person of a quaint and curious style, better at practical than at school divinity,’ he was so eloquent and fluent a preacher that he was ‘commonly called “Silver Tongue Sydenham”’ (Wood). His numerous dedications and epistles dedicatory show what a panegyrical turn he could give to his silvery periods. He appears to have died in 1650, and was buried at Dulverton. An elder brother, Roger, matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, and entered the Middle Temple in 1607.

Sydenham's works are:

  1. ‘Natures Overthrow and Deaths Triumph … preached at the Funeral of Sir John Sydenham, kt., at Brimpton, 15 Dec. 1625;’ dedicated to his affectionate kinsman, John Sydenham, London, 1626, and 1636.
  2. ‘Five Sermons upon severall occasions preached at Paul's Crosse and at St. Maries in Oxford,’ London, 1626, 4to; dedicated to ‘Lord Danvers, Earle of Dandy,’ 1626 [1627], 8vo.
  3. ‘Sermons by Humph. Sydenham, late Fellow of Wadham College. Religioni non Gloriæ,’ London, 1630, 8vo; with an epistle dedicatory to Sir Hugh Portman, bart. Several of these discourses had appeared separately with much acceptance, notably ‘The Rich Man's Warning Peece’ and ‘Waters of Marah,’ directed against the ‘Pseudo-Zealots of our Age.’
  4. ‘Sermons upon Solemn Occasions: preached in severall Auditories,’ London, 1637, 8vo, dedicated to William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury. Of these, two sermons preached at Taunton assizes, 1634 and 1635, were issued separately as ‘The Christian Duell’ (London, 1837, 4to), with a dedication to Sir John Poulett.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 274; Clark's Oxf. Univ. Registers, i. 269; Gardiner's Regist. of Wadham, i. 9; Boase's Registers of Exeter Coll. ii. 314; Weaver's Somerset Incumbents, pp. 157, 309, 423; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 76; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.