Page images
[ocr errors]

On hearing this, Ben Jonson swore with a heavy oath, “I believe this is my son Randolph ;" which being made known to them, he was kindly entertained and Ben ever after called him son.

His irregular mode of life threw him into a consumption ; and he died in his native county before he attained the thirtieth year of his age. .

His poems, published at different times, were collected by bis brother, and printed in one voJume 8vo. at Oxford in 1640. Another edition appeared in 1652, but this is very incorrect.Two more were published in 1664 and 1668.

His pieces abound with beautiful passages, and though now buried in undeserved obscurity, they have been frequently plundered by writers of great name, who, however, have not had the ho. nesty to acknowledge their obligations.

[ocr errors][merged small]


This universal scholar and most excellent divine was a native of Dublin, and was born in 1580. His uncle, Dr. Henry Usher, was Archbishop of Armagh, and the principal promoter of the foundation of Trinity College in that city. Another uncle by the mother's side was Richard Stanihurst, a very learned man of the Romish persuasion who published some books against his nephew, but this difference in their sentiments did not embitter their disposition towards each other. On the contrary, they kept up a friendly correspondence, and were mutually assisting to each other in their literary pursuits.

James Usher had two aunts who were blind from their cradle and so continued to their deaths, and yet were blessed with admirable understandings, particularly in religion, and of such tenacious memories, that whatever they heard read out of the Scriptures, or was preached to them, they always retained, and became such proficients, that they were able to repeat much of the bible by art, and were the first who taught their nephew to read English. At the bottom of Vertue's portrait of the Archbishop, the two old ladies are represented in the act of instructing him, from a roll resembling a worked sampler.


[ocr errors]

He discovered an extraordinary strength of understanding in his earliest years, and we are told that before he had attained his thirteenth year he had acquired a considerable knowledge of history and antiquities, to which study he was. prompted by that passage of Cicero, Nescire quid antea quam natus sis acciderit, id est, semper esse Puerum.

He was the first student who entered of Trinity College, and he made so quick a progress in learning there, that between the age of fifteen and sixteen he had drawn up in Latin an exact Chronicle of the Bible, as far as the Book of Kings, not much differing from the method of his great work entitled, Annals of the Old and New Testament.

When he was eighteen his father died, and he being the eldest son, the paternal estate of course descended to him, but he finding his brother and sisters indifferently provided for, gave up the inheritance to be divided between them, reserving only enough to inaintain him at college and to purchase some necessary books.

It was at this time that he entered the lists of disputation with a learned Jesuit, one Henry Fitz-Symonds, then a prisoner in the castle of Dublin, who had sent out a challenge defying the greatest champion and best learned to dispute with him about those points then in controversy

between the Roman and Reformed Churches, This challenge was accepted by Usher, and they



accordingly met. The Jesuit made light of him at first, as being but a boy, and thinking it an easy task to baffle him, he consented to a public disputation, and because the several matters in debate could not be dispatched in one or two conferences, they appointed to meet once a week to argue the chief subjects in controversy. But it seems that the Jesuit had soon enough of it; for though he despised him at first, he did not care to have any more to do with him ; for after the second conference this boasting Goliath declined the contest with this stripling, and not without cause, for he had felt the quickness of his wit, the strength of his arguments, and his skill in disputation, so that the Jesuit quickly left the field. Usher wrote a modest letter to him, desiring a continuance of the conference, but he received no answer; and the Jesuit when he was liberated from prison, said thus of him, Prodiit quidam octodenarius, precocis sapientiæ juvenis, de abstrusisimis rebus Theologicis, cum adhuc Philosophica studia vix emensus, nec er Ephebis egressus, i. e. “There came to me once a youth of about eighteen years of age, of a ripe wit, when scarcely as you would think, gone through his course of philosophy, or out of his childhood, yet ready to dispute on the most abstruse points of divinity.” At another time the same Jesuit calls Usher, Acatholicorium doctissimus, “The most learned of the Non-catholicks."


At the age of twenty-one Mr. Usher was ad. mitted both deacon and priest, contrary to the canons, but the excuse for this deviation from the rule in his case, was his extraordinary merit, and the necessity which the Church then had of such a labourer,

His powers as a preacher were very great, and he had such an insight into the times and the character of the Romanists, to whom more indulgence was then shewn than he thought prudent or safe, that he ventured in a sermon preached before the court at Dublin, to utter a very remarkable prediction.

His text was Ezekiel iv. 6. And thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. This relates to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, which the preacher having considered proceeded to apply to existing circumstances, and in the course of his sermon expressed the following conjecture with regard to Ireland. “ From this time (1601] I reckon forty years, and then those whom you now embrace shall be your ruin, and you shall bear their iniquity.” This passage says the author of the Archbishop's life, seemed to be only the present thoughts of a young man who was no friend to popery; but afterwards when it came to pass at the expiration of forty years, viz. in 1641, that the Irish rebellion broke out and so many thousands of protestants


« PreviousContinue »