THE LIFE OF MR. RICHARD HOOKER:
The author of those learned
books of the laws of ecclesiastical
“Judicious Hooker, though the cost
On him, that hath a lasting monument
In his own books; yet ought we to express
If not the worth, yet our respectfulness.”
SIR WIL. COWPER
I have been persuaded, by a friend whom I reverence, and ought to obey, to write the Life of Richard Hooker, the happy Author of Five—if not more—of the eight learned books of “The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.” And though I have undertaken it, yet it hath been with some unwillingness: because I foresee that it must prove to me, and especially at this time of my age, a work of much labour to enquire, consider, research, and determine what is needful to be known concerning him. For I knew him not in his life, and must therefore not only look back to his death,—now sixty-four years past,—but almost fifty years beyond, that, even to his childhood and youth; and gather thence such observations and prognostics as may at least adorn, if not prove necessary for the completing of what I have undertaken.
[Sidenote: Reasons for this Life]
This trouble I foresee, and foresee also that it is impossible to escape censures; against which I will not hope my well-meaning and diligence can protect me,—for I consider the age in which I live—and shall therefore but intreat of my Reader a suspension of his censures, till I have made known unto him some reasons, which I myself would now gladly believe do make me in some measure fit for this undertaking; and if these reasons shall not acquit me from all censures, they may at least abate of their severity, and this is all I can probably hope for. My reasons follow.
About forty years past—for I am now past the seventy of my age—I began a happy affinity with William Cranmer,—now with God,—grand-nephew unto the great Archbishop of that name;—a family of noted prudence and resolution; with him and two of his sisters I had an entire and free friendship: one of them was the wife of Dr. Spencer, a bosom friend and sometime com-pupil with Mr. Hooker in Corpus Christi College in Oxford, and after President of the same. I name them here, for that I shall have occasion to mention them in the following discourse, as also George Cranmer, their brother, of whose useful abilities my Reader may have a more authentic testimony than my pen can purchase for him, by that of our learned Camden and others.
[Sidenote: Hooker’s friends]