Locke: A Life
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
Mr. John Locke was the son of John Locke, of Pensford, a market-town in Somersetshire, five miles from Bristol, by Ann his wife, daughter of Edmund Keen, alias Ken, of Wrington, tanner. He was born at Wrington, another market-town in the same county. John Locke, the father, was first a clerk only to a neighbouring justice of the peace, Francis Baber, of Chew Magna, but by col. Alexander Popham, whose seat was at Huntstreet, hard by Pensford, advanced to a captain in the parliament’s service. After the restoration he practised as an attorney, and was clerk of the sewers in Somersetshire. This John the father was son of Nicholas Locke, of Sutton Wick, in the parish of Chew Magna, but a younger brother of the Lockes of Charon Court in Dorsetshire.* The late Mr. Locke’s age is not to be found in the registers of Wrington, which is the parish church of Pensford; which gave umbrage to a report that his mother intending to lie in at Wrington, with her friends, was surprised in her way thither, and putting into a little house, was delivered there. Mr. Locke had one younger brother, an attorney, married, but died issueless, of a consumption. By the interest of col. Popham, our author was admitted a scholar at Westminster, and thence elected to Christ-Church in Oxon. He took the degree of bachelor of arts in 1655, and that of master in 1658.* But though he made considerable progress in the usual course of studies at that time, yet he often said, that what he had learned there was of little use to him, to enlighten and enlarge his mind. The first books which gave him a relish for the study of philosophy, were the writings of Des Cartes: for though he did not always approve of that author’s sentiments, he found that he wrote with great perspicuity. After some time he applied himself very closely to the study of medicine; not with any design of practising as a physician, but principally for the benefit of his own constitution, which was but weak. And we find he gained such esteem for his skill, even among the most learned of the faculty of his time, that Dr. Thomas Sydenham, in his book intitled, ‘Observationes medicæ circa morborum acutorum historiam et curationem,’ gives him an high encomium in these words: ‘You know,’ says he, ‘likewise how much my method has been approved of by a person, who has examined it to the bottom, and who is our common friend; I mean Mr. John Locke, who, if we consider his genius, and penetrating and exact judgment, or the purity of his morals, has scarce any superiour, and few equals, now living.’ Hence he was very often saluted by his acquaintance with the title, though he never took the degree, of doctor of medicine. In the year 1664, sir William Swan being appointed envoy from the English court to the elector of Brandenburgh, and some other German princes, Mr. Locke attended him in the quality of his secretary: but returning to England again within the year, he applied himself with great vigour to his studies, and particularly to that of natural philosophy.* While he was at Oxford in 1666, he became acquainted with the lord Ashley, afterward earl of Shaftesbury. The occasion of their acquaintance was this. Lord Ashley, by a fall, had hurt his breast in such a manner, that there was an abscess formed in it under his stomach. He was advised to drink the mineral waters at Astrop, which engaged him to write to Dr. Thomas, a physician of Oxford, to procure a quantity of those waters, which might be ready against his arrival. Dr. Thomas being obliged to be absent from Oxford at that time, desired his friend Mr. Locke to execute this commission. But it happened, that the waters not being ready the day after the lord Ashley’s arrival, through the fault of the person who had been sent for them, Mr. Locke was obliged to wait on his lordship to make an excuse for it. Lord Ashley received him with great civility, according to his usual manner, and was satisfied with his excuses. Upon his rising to go away, his lordship, who had already received great pleasure from his conversation, detained him to supper, and engaged him to dine with him the next day, and even to drink the waters, that he might have the more of his company. When his lordship left Oxford to go to Sunning-Hill, where he drank the waters, he made Mr. Locke promise to come thither, as he did in the summer of the year 1667. Lord Ashley afterward returned, and obliged him to promise that he would come and lodge at his house. Mr. Locke went thither, and though he had never practised physic, his lordship confided intirely in his advice, with regard to the operation which was to be performed by opening the abscess in his breast; which saved his life, though it never closed. After this cure, his lordship entertained so great an esteem for Mr. Locke, that though he had experienced his great skill in medicine, yet he regarded this as the least of his qualifications. He advised him to turn his thoughts another way, and would not suffer him to practise medicine out of his house, except among some of his particular friends. He urged him to apply himself to the study of political and religious matters, in which Mr. Locke made so great a progress, that lord Ashley began to consult him upon all occasions. By his acquaintance with this lord, our author was introduced to the conversation of some of the most eminent persons of that age: such as, Villiers duke of Buckingham, the lord Hallifax, and other noblemen of the greatest wit and parts, who were all charmed with his conversation. The liberty which Mr. Locke took with men of that rank, had something in it very suitable to his character. One day, three or four of these lords having met at lord Ashley’s when Mr. Locke was there, after some compliments, cards were brought in, before scarce any conversation had passed between them. Mr. Locke looked upon them for some time, while they were at play: and taking his pocket-book, began to write with great attention. One of the lords observing him, asked him what he was writing? ‘My lord,’ says he, ‘I am endeavouring to profit, as far as I am able, in your company; for having waited with impatience for the honour of being in an assembly of the greatest geniuses of this age, and at last having obtained the good fortune, I thought I could not do better than write down your conversation; and indeed I have set down the substance of what hath been said for this hour or two.’ Mr. Locke had no occasion to read much of this conversation; those noble persons saw the ridicule of it, and diverted themselves with improving the jest. They quitted their play, and entering into rational discourse, spent the rest of their time in a manner more suitable to their character.
In 1668 our author attended the earl and countess of Northumberland into France; but did not continue there long, because the earl dying in his journey to Rome, the countess, whom he had left in France with Mr. Locke, came back to England sooner than was at first designed. Mr. Locke, upon his return to his native country, lived as before, at the lord Ashley’s, who was then chancellor of the exchequer, but made frequent visits to Oxford, for consulting books in the prosecution of his studies, and keeping the changes of the air. While he was at the lord Ashley’s, he inspected the education of that lord’s only son, who was then about sixteen years of age. This province he executed with great care, and to the full satisfaction of his noble patron. The young lord being of a weakly constitution, his father thought to marry him betimes, lest the family should be extinct by his death. He was too young, and had too little experience, to choose a wife for himself; and lord Ashley having the highest opinion of Mr. Locke’s judgment, and the greatest confidence in his integrity, desired that he would make a suitable choice for his son. This, it must be owned, was no easy province; for though lord Ashley did not require a great fortune for his son, yet he would have him marry a lady of a good family, an agreeable temper, and a fine person; and above all a lady of good education, and of good understanding, whose conduct would be very different from that of the generality of court-ladies. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, our author undertook the business, and acquitted himself in it happily. From this marriage sprung seven children, all of them healthy. The eldest son, afterward the noble author of the Characteristics, was committed to the care of Mr. Locke in his education. Here was a great genius, and a great master to direct and guide it, and the success was every way equal to what might be expected. It is said, that this noble author always spoke of Mr. Locke with the highest esteem, and manifested on all occasions a grateful sense of his obligations to him: but there are some passages in his works, in which he speaks of Mr. Locke’s philosophy with great severity.*
In 1670, and the year following, our author began to form the plan of his ‘Essay on Human Understanding,’ at the earnest request of Mr. Tyrrell, Dr. Thomas, and some other friends, who met frequently in his chamber to converse together on philosophical subjects; but his employments and avocations prevented him from finishing it then—About this time, it is supposed, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1672, his great patron Lord Ashley was created earl of Shaftesbury, and lord high chancellor of England; and appointed him secretary of the presentation to benefices; which place he held till the end of the year 1673, when his lordship resigned the great seal. Mr. Locke, to whom the earl had communicated his most secret affairs, was disgraced together with him: and assisted the earl in publishing some treatises, which were designed to excite the people to watch the conduct of the Roman catholics, and to oppose the arbitrary designs of the court.
In 1675 he travelled into France, on account of his health. At Montpelier he staid a considerable time; and there his first acquaintance arose with Mr. Herbert, afterward Earl of Pembroke, to whom he dedicated his ‘Essay on Human Understanding,’ having the highest respect for that noble lord. From Montpelier he went to Paris, where he contracted a friendship with Mr. Justel, whose house was at that time the place of resort for men of letters: and there he saw Mr. Guenelon, the famous physician of Amsterdam, who read lectures in anatomy with great applause. He became acquainted likewise with Mr. Toignard, who favoured him with a copy of his ‘Harmonia Evangelica,’ when there were no more than five or six copies of it complete. The earl of Shaftesbury being restored to favour at court, and made president of the council in 1679, thought proper to send for Mr. Locke to London. But that nobleman did not continue long in his post; for refusing to comply with the designs of the court, which aimed at the establishment of popery and arbitrary power, fresh crimes were laid to his charge, and he was sent to the Tower. When the earl obtained his discharge from that place, he retired to Holland; and Mr. Locke not thinking himself safe in England, followed his noble patron thither, who died soon after. During our author’s stay in Holland, he renewed his acquaintance with Mr. Guenelon, who introduced him to many learned persons of Amsterdam. Here Mr. Locke contracted a friendship with Mr. Limborch, professor of divinity among the remonstrants, and the most learned Mr. Le Clerc, which he cultivated after his return into England, and continued to the end of his life.
During his residence in Holland, he was accused at court of having writ certain tracts against the government, which were afterward discovered to be written by another person, and upon that suspicion he was deprived of his place of student of Christ-Church.
‘Being observed,’ (says the very unfair writer of his article in Biographia Britannica) ‘to join in company with several English malecontents at the Hague, this conduct was communicated by our resident there to the earl of Sunderland, then secretary of state; who acquainting the king therewith, his majesty ordered the proper methods to be taken for expelling him from the college, and application to be made for that purpose to bish. Fell, the dean: in obedience to this command, the necessary information was given by his lordship, who at the same time wrote to our author, to appear and answer for himself, on the first of January ensuing: but immediately receiving an express command to turn him out, was obliged to comply therewith, and accordingly Mr. Locke was removed from his student’s place on the sixteenth of Nov. 1684.’—But in order to a more complete view of these iniquitous proceedings, it may not be improper to annex the several letters between lord Sunderland and bp. Fell on the occasion, from Dr. Birch’s papers in the Museum. The first from lord Sunderland runs thus: ‘Whitehall, Nov. 6, 1684. The king having been given to understand that one Locke, who belonged to the late earl of Shaftesbury, and has, upon several occasions, behaved himself very factiously against the government, is a student of Christ-Church; his majesty commands me to signify to your lordship, that he would have him removed from being a student, and that, in order thereunto, your lordship would let him know the method of doing it,’ &c. The bishop answered, Nov. 8, 1684. ‘To the right hon. the earl of Sunderland, principal secretary of state: right honourable, I have received the honour of your lordship’s letter, wherein you are pleased to inquire concerning Mr. Locke’s being a student of this house, of which I have this account to render: that he being, as your lordship is truly informed, a person who was much trusted by the late earl of Shaftesbury, and who is suspected to be ill affected to the government, I have for divers years had an eye upon him; but so close has his guard been on himself, that after several strict inquiries, I may confidently affirm, there is not any man in the college, however familiar with him, who had heard him speak a word either against or so much as concerning the government; and although very frequently, both in public and private, discourses have been purposely introduced to the disparagement of his master, the earl of Shaftesbury, his party and designs; he could never be provoked to take any notice, or discover in word or look the least concern. So that I believe there is not a man in the world so much master of taciturnity and passion. He has here a physician’s place, which frees him from the exercise of the college, and the obligation which others have to residence in it, and he is now abroad for want of health; but notwithstanding this, I have summoned him to return home, which is done with this prospect, that if he comes not back, he will be liable to expulsion for contumacy; and if he does, he will be answerable to the law for that which he shall be found to have done amiss. It being probable that, though he may have been thus cautious here where he knew himself suspected, he has laid himself more open at London, where a general liberty of speaking was used, and where the execrable designs against his majesty and government were managed and pursued. If he don’t return by the first of January, which is the time limited to him, I shall be enabled of course to proceed against him to expulsion. But if this method seems not effectual or speedy enough, and his majesty, our founder and visitor, shall please to command his immediate remove, upon the receipt thereof, directed to the dean and chapter, it shall accordingly be executed, by your lordship’s,’ &c. Lord Sunderland’s second letter to the bishop of Oxon: ‘My lord, having communicated your lordship’s of the 8th to his majesty, he has thought fit to direct me to send you the inclosed concerning his commands for the immediate expulsion of Mr. Locke.’ The inclosed warrant, addressed to the dean and chapter, Nov. 12, ‘Whereas we have received information of the factious and disloyal behaviour of Locke, one of the students of that our college; we have thought fit hereby to signify our will and pleasure to you, that you forthwith remove him from his student’s place, and deprive him of all rights and advantages thereunto belonging, for which this shall be your warrant. And so we bid you heartily farewell. Given at our court of Whitehall, the 11th day of Nov. 1684. By his majesty’s command, Sunderland.’ The bishop answered thus: Nov. 16, ‘Right honourable, I hold myself bound to signify to your lordship, that his majesty’s command for the expulsion of Mr. Locke from this college is fully executed.’ The last letter from lord Sunderland to the bishop of Oxon: ‘I have your lordship’s of the 16th, and have acquainted his majesty therewith, who is well satisfied with the college’s ready obedience to his commands for the expulsion of Mr. Locke.’
With regard to bishop Fell’s conduct on this occasion, Dr. Birch observes, that notwithstanding his many good qualities, he was capable of some excesses in cases where the interest of party could bias him. Life of Tillotson, p. 100, first edition. What has been urged on the bishop’s side as rather favouring Mr. Locke, seems only to prove that all he acted against him might be done with some degree of reluctance; but yet notwithstanding the respect and kindness which he bore toward Mr. Locke, bishop Fell, it seems, on the clearest conviction of his inoffensiveness, under so many trials, had no thoughts of serving him so far as to run the least hazard of suffering for him, or with him. His candour towards Mr. Locke on a former occasion, when application was making for his being admitted to a doctor’s degree at Oxon, on a visit from the prince of Orange, will appear sufficiently from lord Shaftesbury’s letter to the said Dr. Fell, annexed in Vol. ix. p. 321, of this edition.
After the death of king Charles II. Mr. William Penn, who had known our author at the university, used his interest with king James to procure a pardon for him; and would have obtained it, if Mr. Locke had not answered, that he had no occasion for a pardon, since he had not been guilty of any crime.
In the year 1685, when the duke of Monmouth and his party were making preparations in Holland for his unfortunate enterprize, the English envoy at the Hague had orders to demand Mr. Locke and eighty-three other persons to be delivered up by the states-general: upon which he lay concealed to the year following.a
During this concealment, our author wrote his ‘Letter of Toleration,’ in Latin, in 1685; which was printed in duodecimo, at Gouda,* 1689, under the following title, ‘Epistola de Tolerantia; ad Clarissimum Virum, t. a. r. p. t. o. l. a. [Theologiæ apud Remonstrantes Professorem, Tyrannidis Osorem, Limburgium, Amstelodamensem:] scripta a p. a. p. o. i. l. a.’ [Pacis Amico, Persecutionis Osore, Joanne Lockio, Anglo.]†
At Amsterdam he formed a weekly assembly, consisting of Mr. Limborch, Mr. Le Clerc, and others, for conversation upon important subjects, and had drawn up in Latin some rules to be observed by them; but these conferences were much interrupted by the frequent changes he was forced to make of the places of his residence.
Our author’s great work, the ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding,’ he had been employed about for some years, and he finished it in Holland about the end of the year 1687. He made an abridgment of it himself, which his friend Mr. Le Clerc translated into French, and inserted in one of his ‘Bibliotheques.’* This abridgment was so highly approved of by all persons of understanding, and sincere lovers of truth, that they expressed the strongest desire to see the whole work.
About the same time, as Le Clerc informs us, he made several extracts of books, as that of Boyle on Specific Medicines, which is inserted in the second volume of Bibliotheque Universelle; and some others in the following volume.
At length the happy revolution in 1688, effected by the courage and good conduct of the prince of Orange, opened a way for Mr. Locke’s return into his own country; whither he came in the fleet which conveyed the princess of Orange. And upon the restoration of public liberty, he thought it proper to assert his own private rights. He endeavoured therefore to procure his restoration to his place of student of Christ-Church; not that he designed to return thither, but only that it might appear from thence, that he had been unjustly deprived of it. But when he found, that the college could not be prevailed on to dispossess the person who had been elected in his room, and that they would only admit him as a supernumerary student, he desisted from his claim.
He was now at full liberty to pursue his speculations, and accordingly, in the year 1689, he published his ‘Essay on Human Understanding.’ This work, which has made our author’s name immortal, and which does honour to our country, gave great offence to many people at the first publication. It was proposed at a meeting of the heads of houses of the university of Oxford, to censure and discourage the reading of it; and after various debates among themselves, it was concluded, that each head of an house should endeavour to prevent its being read in his college.* The reason of this is obvious; Mr. Locke had let in more light upon the minds of men than was consistent with the dark designs of some persons.
In the same year Mr. Locke also published his ‘Two Treatises on Government;’ in which he fully vindicated the principles upon which the revolution was founded, and entirely overturned all the doctrines of slavery.
His writings had now procured him such high esteem, and he had merited so much of the government, that it would have been easy for him to have obtained a very considerable post; but he contented himself with that of commissioner of appeals, worth about 2001. per ann. He was offered to go abroad in a public character, and it was left to his choice whether he would be envoy at the court of the emperor, the elector of Brandenbourg, or any other, where he thought the air most suitable to him; but he declined it on account of his ill health.
About this time the public coin was very bad, having been so much clipped, and no care used to remedy it, that it wanted above a third of its due value. The effect of this was, that the people thought themselves a great deal richer than indeed they were: for though the coin was not raised in its value by public authority, it was put off in trade for above a third part more than it weighed. Mr. Locke had observed this disorder ever since his return to England; and he frequently spoke of it, that some measures might be taken to prevent it.—He said, ‘that the nation was in greater danger from a secret unobserved abuse, than from all those other evils of which persons were so generally apprehensive; and that if care was not taken to rectify the coin, that irregularity alone would prove fatal to us, though we should succeed in every thing else.’ One day, when he seemed very much disturbed about this matter, some persons rallied him as if he tormented himself with a groundless fear: he answered, ‘that persons might laugh if they pleased, but they would find in a very short time, that if care was not taken, we should want money in England to buy bread.’ And accordingly there were such disorders on this account, that the parliament took the matter into the most serious consideration. To assist the great men at the head of affairs, who are not always the best judges, to form a right understanding of this matter, and to excite them to rectify this shameful abuse, Mr. Locke published a little treatise, intitled, ‘Some Considerations of the Consequence of the lowering of the Interest, and raising the Value of Money;’ in which there are many nice and curious observations on both those subjects, as well as on trade in general. This treatise was shortly followed by two more upon the same subject, in which he obviated all objections, and confuted all his opposers.
He fully showed to the world by these discourses, that he was able to reason on trade and business, as on the most abstract parts of science; and that he was none of those philosophers, who spend their lives in search of truths merely speculative, and who by their ignorance of those things which concern the public good, are incapable of serving their country. These writings recommended him to the notice of the greatest persons, with whom he used to converse very freely. He held weekly conferences with the earl of Pembroke, then lord keeper of the privy seal; and when the air of London began to affect his lungs, he went for some days to the earl of Peterborough’s seat near Fulham, where he always met with the most friendly reception: but he was obliged afterward entirely to leave London, at least all the winter season, and to go to a greater distance. He had made frequent visits at different times to sir Francis Masham’s, at Oates, in Essex; where he found the air so good, so agreeable to his constitution, and the society so delightful, that he was easily prevailed with to become one of the family, and to settle there during his life. He was received upon his own terms, that he might have his intire liberty, and look upon himself as at his own house. Here he applied himself to his studies as much as his weak health would allow, being seldom absent, because the air of London grew more and more troublesome to him. He came to town only in the summer for three or four months, and if he returned to Oates any thing indisposed, the air of that place soon recovered him.
In 1693 he published his ‘Thoughts concerning the Education of Children,’ which he improved considerably afterward.
In 1695 Mr. Locke published his treatise of ‘The Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the Scriptures:’ written, it is said, in order to promote the scheme which king William III. had much at heart, of a comprehension with the dissenters. In this he has proved, that the christian religion, as delivered in the scriptures, and free from all corrupt mixtures, is the most reasonable institution in the world. This book was attacked by an ignorant, but zealous divine, Dr. Edwards, in a very rude and scurrilous manner. Mr. Locke answered Edwards, and defended his answer with such strength of reason, that he might justly have expected from his adversary a public acknowledgment of his errour, if he had not been one of those writers who have no more shame than reason in them. Mr. Locke was also obliged to Mr. Bold, a worthy and pious clergyman, for vindicating his principles against the cavils of Edwards.
Some time before this, Mr. Toland published a book, intitled, ‘Christianity not mysterious,’ in which he endeavoured to prove, that there is nothing in the ‘christian religion, not only contrary to reason, but even nothing above it.’ Mr. Toland, in explaining some of his notions, used several arguments from Mr. Locke’s ‘Essay on Human Understanding.’ Some unitarians also about this time published several treatises, in which they affirmed, that there was nothing in the christian religion but what was rational and intelligible; and Mr. Locke having asserted in his writings, that revelation delivers nothing contrary to reason; these things engaged Dr. Stillingfleet, the learned bishop of Worcester, to publish a treatise in which he endeavoured to defend the doctrine of the trinity, against Mr. Toland and the unitarians. In this treatise the bishop opposed some of Mr. Locke’s principles, judging them heretical, and favouring the above-mentioned writers. Mr. Locke answered him, and the bishop replied the same year. This reply was confuted, by a second letter of Mr. Locke’s, which drew a second answer from the bishop in 1698; and Mr. Locke again replied in a third letter, wherein he treated more largely of ‘the certainty of reason by ideas, of the certainty of faith, of the resurrection of the same body, and the immateriality of the soul.’ He showed the perfect agreement of his principles with the christian religion, and that he had advanced nothing which had the least tendency to scepticism, which the bishop had very ignorantly charged him with. But the bishop dying some time after this, the dispute ended. In this controversy every body admired the strength of Mr. Locke’s reasoning, his great clearness and exactness, both in explaining his own notions and principles, and confuting those of his adversary: nor were men of understanding less surprised, that so learned a man as the bishop should engage in a controversy, wherein he had all the disadvantages possible; for he was by no means able to maintain his opinions against Mr. Locke, whose reasoning he neither understood, nor the thing itself about which he disputed. This learned bishop had spent the greatest part of his time in the study of ecclesiastical antiquities, and reading a prodigious number of books, but was no great philosopher; nor had he ever accustomed himself to that close way of thinking and reasoning, in which Mr. Locke did so highly excel. However, though our philosopher had so great a victory over the bishop, and had reason to complain of the bishop’s unjust charges against him, and for his writing on subjects of which he was so grossly ignorant; yet he did not make an insolent triumph over his ignorance, but in the confutation of his errours treated him with great respect. He shows, indeed, that the bishop did not understand the subject he wrote about, and that he was very incorrect and inaccurate in his expressions; but he rather insinuates this by producing the bishop’s own words, and leaving his readers to judge, than reflects on him for it. In short, never was a controversy managed with so much art and skill on one side; nor, on the other, so unjustly, confusedly, or so little to the credit of the author. Time, which is the best judge of things, has abundantly manifested this. The bishop’s writings on that subject, like all those of our author’s adversaries, are neglected and buried in oblivion; but his own will live for ever.
In 1695 Mr. Locke was appointed one of the commissioners of trade and plantations, a place worth 1000l. per annum. The duties of this post he discharged with much care and diligence, and with universal approbation. He continued in it till the year 1700, when upon the increase of his asthmatic disorder, he was forced to resign it.
He acquainted no person with his design of leaving that place till he had given up his commission into the king’s own hand. The king was very unwilling to dismiss him, and told our author, that he would be well pleased with his continuance in that office, though he should give little or no attendance; for that he did not desire him to stay in town one day to the hurt of his health. But Mr. Locke told the king, that he could not in conscience hold a place to which such a salary was annexed, without discharging the duties of it; and therefore he begged leave to resign it. King William had a great esteem for our author, and would sometimes send for him to discourse on public affairs, and to know his sentiments of things. Mr. Locke once told the king very plainly, that if the universities were not reformed, and other principles taught there, than had been formerly inculcated, they would either destroy him, or some of his successors, or both.
He had a great knowledge of the world, and was prudent without cunning, easy, affable, and condescending without any mean complaisance. If there was any thing he could not bear, it was ill manners, and a rude behaviour. This was ever ungrateful to him, unless when he perceived that it proceeded from ignorance; but when it was the effect of pride, ill-nature, or brutality, he detested it. He looked on civility not only as a duty of humanity, but of christianity; and he thought that it ought to be more pressed and urged upon men than it commonly is. He recommended on this occasion a treatise in the moral Essays, written by the gentlemen of Port Royal, ‘concerning the means of preserving peace among men,’ and was a great admirer of Dr. Whichcote’s sermons on the subject. He was exact to his word, and religiously performed whatever he promised. He was very scrupulous of giving recommendations of persons whom he did not well know, and would by no means commend those whom he thought not to deserve it. If he was told that his recommendation had not produced the effect expected, he would say, ‘the reason of that was because he never deceived any person by saying more than he knew; that he never passed his word for any but such as he believed would answer the character he gave of them; and that if he should do otherwise, his recommendations would be worth nothing.’
He was naturally very active, and employed himself as much as his health would permit. Sometimes he diverted himself with working in the garden, which he well understood. He loved walking, but not being able to walk much, through the disorder of his lungs, he used to ride out after dinner; and when he could not bear a horse, he went in a chaise. He always chose to have company with him, though it were but a child, for he took pleasure in talking with children of a good education.* His bad health was a disturbance to none but himself; and any person might be with him without any other concern than that of seeing him suffer. He did not differ from others in his diet, but only in that his usual drink was nothing but water; and he thought that was the means, under God, of lengthening his life. To this he also thought the preservation of his sight was in a great measure owing, for he could read by candle-light all sorts of books to the last, if they were not of a very small print, without the use of spectacles. He had no other distemper but his asthma, except a deafness for about six months, which he lamented in a letter to one of his friends, telling him, ‘he thought it better to be blind than deaf, as it deprived him of all conversation.’
The last fourteen or fifteen years of his life, he spent chiefly at Oates, seldom coming to town; and during this agreeable retirement, he applied himself to the study of the scriptures.
In 1704 our author’s strength began to fail more than ever in the beginning of the summer; a season which for several years had restored him some degrees of strength. His weakness made him apprehend his death was near. He often spoke of it himself, but always with great composure, though he omitted none of the precautions which his skill in medicine could suggest, in order to prolong his life. At length his legs began to swell; and that swelling increasing every day, his strength diminished visibly. He then saw how short a time he had to live, and prepared to quit this world, with a deep sense of the manifold blessings of God to him, which he took delight in recounting to his friends, and full of a sincere resignation to the divine will, and of firm hopes in his promises of a future life. For some weeks, as he was not able to walk, he was carried about the house in a chair. The day before his death, lady Masham being alone with him, and sitting by his bed, he exhorted her, to regard this world only as a state of preparation for a better; and added, that he had lived long enough, and thanked God for having passed his life so happily, but that this life appeared to him a mere vanity. He had no sleep that night, but resolved to try to rise next morning, as he did. He was carried into his study, and placed in an easy chair, where he slept a considerable while at different times. Seeming to be a little refreshed, he would be dressed as he used to be. He then desired lady Masham, who was reading the psalms low, while he was dressing, to read aloud: she did so, and he appeared very attentive, till the approach of death preventing him, he desired her to break off, and a few minutes after expired, on October 28, 1704, in the seventy-third year of his age. He was interred in the church-yard of High Lever, in Essex, and the following inscription, placed against the church-wall, was written by himself:
‘Siste viator, Hic juxta situs est Joannes Locke. Si qualis fuerit rogas, mediocritate sua contentum se vixisse respondet. Literis innutritus, eousque profecit, ut veritati unice litaret. Hoc ex scriptis illius disce; quæ, quod de eo reliquum est, majori fide tibi exhibebunt, quam epitaphii suspecta elogia. Virtutes si quas habuit, minores sane quam sibi laudi, tibi in exemplum proponeret. Vitia una sepeliantur. Morum exemplum si quæras, in evangelio habes; vitiorum utinam nusquam: mortalitatis, certe, quod prosit, hic et ubique.’
- Natum An. Dni. 1632, Aug. 29°.
- Mortuum 1704, Oct. 28°.
- Memorat hac tabula
- Brevi et ipsa peritura.
Thus died this great and most excellent philosopher, who, after he had bestowed many years in matters of science and speculation, happily turned his thoughts to the study of the scriptures, which he carefully examined with the same liberty he had used in the study of the other sciences.
There is no occasion to attempt a panegyric on our author. His writings are now well known, and valued, and will last as long as the English language. Some account of these has been given in the editor’s preface, and a farther description of them occurs in Des Maizeaux’s dedication, towards the middle of our last vol. His character, by P. Coste, is likewise delivered at large in the same place, and need not be repeated here, as it inadvertently was in a former edition.
[* ]Dr. Birch’s papers in the Museum. This account is there stated as coming from Mr. John Heal, a relation, and well acquainted with the family, a person studious in pedigree. On the back of it is this label: ‘Mr. Locke’s pedigree, taken from a ms. at Chipley, June 23, 1737.’ Frequent notice is likewise taken of Mr. Locke’s wife, in his letters to Mr. Clarke, (for the use of whose son Mr. Locke drew up most of the Thoughts on Education) between 1692 and 1702, ibid.
[* ]In 1672, among his college or university exercises, there is a thesis under his own hand on the following question: An Jesus Christus fuit verus Messias Patribus promissus. Aff.
[* ]This appears from the journal which he kept of the changes of the air at Oxford, from June, 1666, to June, 1683; for the regular observation of which he used a barometer, thermometer, and hygroscope. This journal may be seen in ‘The General History of the Air,’ published by Mr. Boyle, in 1692. It occurs likewise in the 5th vol. of Boyle’s Works, published by Millar, 1744, containing 27 pages, fol. together with a letter from Mr. Locke, in p. 157, containing experiments made with the barometer at Minedeep Hills, dated from Christ-Church, May 5, 1666. In the same volume there are several other letters of his to Mr. Boyle on the various points of natural philosophy, chemistry, and medicine.
[* ]In the ‘letters written by a nobleman to a young man at the university,’ published 1716, which are now known to be lord Shaftesbury’s, having observed, that ‘Dr. Tindal’s principles, whatever they were as to church-government, yet in morals and theology were very different from the author’s of the “Rhapsody,”—he proceeds thus: In general, truly, it has happened, that all those they call freewriters now-a-days, have espoused those principles, which Mr. Hobbes set a-foot in this last age. Mr. Locke, as much as I honour him on account of his other writings, (viz. on government, policy, trade, coin, education, toleration, &c.) and as well as I knew him, and can answer for his sincerity as a most zealous christian and believer, did however go in the self-same track, and is followed by the Tindals and all the other ingenious free authors of our time.’ The rest of those recollections, which that noble author has thought fit to cast upon the philosophy of his preceptor, (and which have been carefully retailed among many other misrepresentations of Mr. Locke’s character, in the Biogr. Brit.) are too gross and groundless to be here inserted; but his lordship’s inconsistencies may in part be accounted for from that remarkable change made in his lordship’s constitution, when from a sober, serious christian, [as he appeared to be at his writing the preface to that volume of Dr. Whichcote’s Sermons, which was published by him] he became both at once a sneering infidel with regard to revealed religion, and a rank enthusiast in morals. Instead of trusting to this author’s character of Mr. Locke, we have a much more impartial one given, incidentally, by a better judge, who could not by his education be at all prejudiced in Mr. Locke’s favour, and came but late into his system. ‘In the last century there arose a very extraordinary genius for philosophical speculations, I mean Mr. Locke, the glory of that age, and the instructor of the present. This gentleman had examined into the nature and extent of human understanding, beyond any person before him, and made such discoveries as have highly obliged the curious,’ &c. Bp. Conybeare, Defence of Rev. Rel. c. 5.
[a ]Mr. Le Clerc observes, that Mr. Locke had no correspondence with the duke of Monmouth, having no great opinion of his undertaking. Besides, his natural temper was timorous, not resolute, and he was far from being fond of commotions. He had been at the end of the year 1684 at Utrecht, and returned in the spring to Amsterdam, with a design to go again to Utrecht, as he actually did, to avoid being charged with having any share in the duke of Monmouth’s enterprize. He had before some inclination to lodge with his friend Mr. Guenelon, but he excused himself, it not being the custom of that city, to admit strangers to lodge, though he received Mr. Locke with great civility. But when Mr. Guenelon saw that his friend was in real danger, he served him with great generosity. He spoke to Mr. Veen, his father-in-law, and engaged him to receive Mr. Locke into his house. Upon this Mr. Locke came to Amsterdam, where he lay concealed at Mr. Veen’s two or three months. In the mean time, Mr. Limborch took care to deliver him the letters which were written to him, and had the custody of Mr. Locke’s will, who desired him to send it to some of his relations, whom he named, if he should die. One of the principal magistrates of the city was consulted, whether he might continue there in safety? That magistrate answered, “They could not protect him, if the king of England should demand him; but he should not be betrayed, and his landlord should have timely notice when there should be occasion.” This gave him confidence; and he continued with Mr. Veen for some time, without going abroad, except at night, for fear of being known. In the mean time, he was persuaded to go to Cleves, but returned in about two months, and lodged again at Mr. Veen’s. At the end of the year he went to lodge with Mr. Guenelon, where he was likewise the year following. In 1686, he began to appear again in public, because it was sufficiently known, that he had no share in the duke of Monmouth’s invasion. In autumn he went to Utrecht, and at the end of the year returned to Amsterdam, and lodged at Mr. Guenelon’s as before.
[* ]In the fol. edit. of 1714, it is said to have been printed at Tergaw.
[† ]This letter was translated into English by Mr. Popple, (who was nephew to Andrew Marvel, and author of the ‘Rational Catechism’) licensed 1689; and printed twice in London: the first time in 1689, in quarto, and again in 1690, in duodecimo.
It was too much to be expected, that such a performance should pass without animadversion. Accordingly, there issued from Oxford, printed at the Theatre, 1690, in quarto, a small tract, intitled, ‘The Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration, briefly considered and answered.—Imprimatur, Jonathan Edwards, Vice-Can. Oxon.’
A. Wood, in his ‘Athenæ Oxonienses,’ tells us, that the author was Jonas Proast, m. a. of Queen’s College, Oxford: and he is elsewhere mentioned as archdeacon.
In the same year Mr. Locke published, in quarto, ‘A second Letter concerning Toleration. To the author of The Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration briefly considered and answered.’
To this Mr. Proast replied, under a perplexing title, in, ‘A third Letter concerning Toleration; in Defence of the Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration, briefly considered and answered.’ Printed at Oxford, 1691, in quarto.
In answer to it, in 1692, Mr. Locke published ‘A third Letter for Toleration. To the Author of the third Letter concerning Toleration.’—In quarto.
After twelve years silence, another tract appeared, written by Mr. Proast, intitled, ‘A second Letter to the Author of three Letters for Toleration. From the Author of the Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration briefly considered and answered. And of the Defence of it. With a postscript, taking some notice of two passages in The Rights of the Protestant Dissenters.’ Printed at Oxford, 1704, in quarto.—‘Imprimatur, Timo, Halton, Pro-Vice-Can. Oxon.’
Mr. Locke began a reply, which was left unfinished, and published in his posthumous works.
Preface to the 4to edition of the Letters concerning Toleration.
[* ]Bibliotheque Universelle, for January, 1688.
[* ]V. Letter to Collins, Vol. IX. p. 277.
[* ]See his Treatise on Education, § 120, fin.
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