Page images

little account at present, except the two following:

1. 'Quæstiones sex, totidem prælectionibus in Schola Theologica Oxoniæ pro formâ habitis, discussæ et disceptatæ anno 1597, in quibus è Sacrá Scripturá et Patribus quid statuendum sit, definitur?' Oxoniæ 1598, Francofurti 1616, 4to.

2. 'Exposition on the Prophet Jonah, in certain Sermons preached in St. Mary's church, Oxford;' London, 4to. 1600. These Sermons were reprinted in 1613, and are the most popular of his works.

He had an elder brother Robert, who after having filled the see of Salisbury, to which the Primate had the pleasure of consecrating him, died in 1617; equally esteemed for his piety and moderation, and for his theological works preferred to the Archbishop, as they are on more general subjects, and discussed with deeper erudition.

in Jan. 1600, concerning Cheapside Cross' (not printed until 1641); ́ Reasons, which Dr. Hill hath brought for the upholding of Papistry, unmasked and showed to be very weak,' Oxon. 4to. 1604; Funeral Sermon on Thomas Earl of Dorset,' May 26, 1608, 4to.; Short Apology for Archbishop Abbot, touching the death of Peter Howard,' 1621, &c.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Of a more general nature were his Brief Description of the whole World,' 4to. 1617 (of which there have been several editions); Treatise of the perpetual Visibility and Succession of the true Church in all Ages,' 4to. 1624; Narrative, containing the true Cause of his Sequestration and Disgrace at Court, in two parts, written at Ford in Kent,' and printed in Rushworth's Hist. Coll. I. 438-461; History of the Massacre in the Valtoline,' printed in Fox's Acts and Monuments, III; and Judgement on bowing at the Name of Jesus,' Hamb. 8vo. 1632.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

In 1618, he and Sir Henry Savile jointly defrayed the expense of an edition of Bradwardin's Cause of God,' a work written against the Pelagians.





THIS illustrious lawyer, son of Robert Coke Esq., was born at Mileham in the county of Norfolk, in 1550. At ten years of age, he was sent to the freeschool, Norwich; and thence removed to Trinity College, Cambridge. From Trinity College, after a residence of about four years, he migrated to Clifford's Inn, London; and, the year following, was entered a student of the Inner Temple. The first occasion of his rise, as we learn from Lloyd, was his stating the case of the Temple-cook so exactly that the whole bench took notice of him. At six years' standing he was called to the bar, a circumstance in that age deemed extraordinary. He has himself

informed us, that the first cause he moved in the King's Bench was in Trinity Term, 1578; when he was counsel for Mr. Edward Denny, Vicar of North Ingham in the county of Norfolk, in an action of

* AUTHORITIES. Hume's History of England; Rushworth's Historical Collections; and British Biography.

Scandalum Magnatum brought against him by Henry Lord Cromwell.*

About the same time, he was appointed reader of Lyon's Inn, which office he held three years; and his reputation increasing rapidly, he soon came into great practice. When he had been at the bar about seven years, he married Bridget, daughter and co-heiress of John Paston Esq., a lady of one of the best families in Norfolk, who brought him thirty thousand pounds. This connexion accelerated his advancement. The cities of Coventry and Norwich chose him their Recorder; and he was engaged in all the important causes in Westminster Hall. He was, also, in high credit with the Lord Treasurer Burghley,† and was frequently consulted about the affairs of the Queen, to whom in 1592 he was appointed Solicitor. His large estate, combined with his eminent character, recommended him to the freeholders of his county, by whom he was returned knight of the shire: in the parliament held 35 Eliz., he was chosen Speaker of the House of Commons; and, soon afterward, he was made Attorney General.

Having about this time lost his wife, by whom he had ten children, he in 1598 paid his addresses to Lady Hatton, relict of Sir William Hatton, and

* Of this remarkable cause an account is given in Coke's Reports.

+ "Burghley," observes Mrs. Macaulay, "found so much solid judgement in him, that he promoted him before his own kinsman Bacon, whose law-learning he accounted somewhat superficial." It is to be lamented, that in his first official capacities, as Solicitor and Attorney General, he too often gave a legal colouring to the most tyrannical of the minister's practices:

sister to Thomas Lord Burghley, subsequently Earl of Exeter. This new marriage, advantageous as it was in other respects, made no addition to his domestic felicity, as he and his lady were frequently on ill terms with each other. The very celebration of it, from an unfortunate circumstance by which it was attended, occasioned no small disquiet. In consequence of a number of irregular marriages, Archbishop Whitgift had about this period injoined the Bishops of his province rigorously to prosecute all such persons as should offend in the solemnisation of their nuptials, in point either of form, of time, or of place. Whether Mr. Coke regarded his own and his lady's quality, and their being married with the consent of the family, as setting them above such restrictions or not, is uncertain: but they were married in a private house, without either banns or licence. These illustrious delinquents in consequence, with the Rev. Mr. Bothwell, Rector of Okeover in the county of Rutland, Thomas Lord Burghley, and several others, were prosecuted in the Archbishop's court. On their submission by their proxies, however, they were absolved from excommunication, and the penalties consequent upon it; because,' adds the record, they offended not out of contumacy, but through ignorance of the law in that point.'


[ocr errors]

The affair of most importance, in which as Attorney General he took a part during the reign of Elizabeth, was the prosecution of the Earl of Essex,*

After laying open the nature of the treason, and the numerous favours which Essex had received from the Queen, he is said to have closed with these words; that "by the just judgement of VOL. IL 2 N

against whom he mingled the bitterest virulence (after the manner of the times) with the grossest adulation of the Sovereign. In May, 1603, he was knighted by James I.; and in the ensuing November, he managed the trial of Sir Walter Ralegh at Winchester, to which city the term had been adjourned from London on account of the plague. Against that distinguished, but unfortunate, man he inveighed with so much acrimony and scurrility, as justly and greatly lessened him in the general opinion.*

He soon afterward, however, obtained considerable

God he of his earldom should be Robert the last, that of a kingdom thought to be Robert the first."

* In deference to the popular feeling, and in allusion to Coke's "Thou Viper, for I thou thee, thou traitor," Shakspeare (it has been generally believed) puts the following speech into the mouth of Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night, III. 4. Go, write in a martial hand, be crusty and brief: it is no matter how witty, so it be eloquent and full of invention. Taunt him with the licence of ink: if thou thou'st him some thrice, it shall not be amiss; and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of paper, although the sheet were big enough for the bed of Ware in England, set 'em down. Go about it: let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter—about it.' And in a letter, written to him by Bacon after his fall, occurs the following passage: "As your pleadings were wont to insult even misery, and inveigh bitterly against the person, so are you still careless in this point to praise and disgrace upon slight grounds, and that suddenly; so that your reproofs or commendations are for the most part neglected and contemned, when the censure of a judge, coming slow but sure, should be a brand to the guilty and a crown to the virtuous. You will jest at any man in public, without any respect to the person's dignity, or your own. This disgraces your gravity, more than it can advance the opinion of your wit; and so do all your actions, which we see you do directly with a touch of vain-glory. You make the laws too much lean to your opinion, whereby you show yourself to be a legal tyrant, &c." He had, previously, pointed out to him seve

« PreviousContinue »