Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ART. VI.-MEMOIR OF AUBREY GENTILI.

A few par

[ocr errors]

. Isaac Walton, in his life of Sir Henry Wotton, relates, * that " about the twentieth year of his age he proceeded Master of Arts; and at that time read in Latin three lectures de oculo;" “these,” adds het “ were so exactly debated and so rhetorically heightened, as among other admirers caused that learned Italian, Albericus Gentilis, then professor of the civil law in Oxford, to call him Henrice mi Ocelle; which dear expression of his was also used by divers of Sir Henry's dearest friends, and by many other persons of note during his stay in the university.” ticulars relating to the life and character of " that learned Italian may not be altogether destitute of interest.

Aubrey (or Alberico Gentili was the eldest of seven children of Matthew Gentili, a physician descended from an ancient and noble family in the March of Ancona. He was born at Castello de Sangenesio, in the year 1550. At the age of twentyone he took his degree of doctor of laws at Perugia, and shortly afterwards was made a judge in the city of. Ascoli. His father, from motives of religion, quitted his country, and retired into Carniola ; and there, for a time, not only entertained his own reformed opinions unmolested, but had the good fortune to be appointed chief physician to the province, with a competent salary. Aubrey, who felt the same scruples on points of faith, honourably gave up his appointment at Ascoli, and became a voluntary exile. But instead of establishing himself in Germany with the rest of his relations, he preferred trying the experiment of a visit to England. At first he took up his quarters in London, and here he soon gained the favour and patronage of Lord Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham. Lord Leicester, who was at that time Chancellor of Oxford, gave him his letters commendatory to that university, bearing date the 24th of November, 1580. « Soon after the date of the said letters,” says Anthony Wood, g“ he journeyed to Oxon, and, by the favour of Dr. Dan Donne, principal of New Inn, and his successor, Mr. Price, he had a convenient chamber allowed him in the said inn, and not only monies given to him towards his maintenance by several societies, but soon after 61. 138. 4d. per annum from the common chest of the university. In the latter end of 1580|| he was incor

• Page 133. + Page 134 # Bayle. § Athenæ Oxon. vol. i. page 367. || The university year begins and ends about Easter ; therefore the latter end of 1580 is close upon Easter 1581. The entry in the Fasti is accordingly:—“An. Dom. 1580, March 6, Albericus Gentilis, an Italian doctor of the civil law of the university of Perugia, was incorporated.”-Wood's Fasti Oxon. vol. i. p. 121.

porated doctor of the civil law of this university, as he had stood before in that of Perugia ; and after he had continued some years in the said inn, he wrote certain books, and laid the foundation of others, of which the students thereof have gloried in my hearing, he receded either to C. C. Coll. or to Ch. Ch., and became the flower of the university for his profession.

In the second year of his residence at Oxford, 1582, Aubrey Gentili published, in Latin, six dialogues on the interpreters of the law, which he dedicated to Lord Leicester ; in the following year, 1583, one book of readings and correspondence relating to the law; and, in the beginning of 1585, three books upon embassies.

About the year 1585 or 1586, his father found that, even in Carniola, he could not remain free from persecution, and our Aubrey seems to have gone over to the continent to assist his family in arranging their second flight. He prevailed on his father to act as he himself had done, and to seek an asylum and a home in England. His younger brother, Scipio, who was pursuing his studies at Wittenburg, it was agreed, should be removed to Leyden, as nearer to the central rendezvous of the family. Whilst these arrangements were in progress, and Aubrey still on the continent, his patron, Sir Francis Walsingham, exerted his influence with Queen Elizabeth to have him joined in an embassy which the Queen was sending to the Elector of Saxony; and he was accordingly appointed, together with Horace Pallavicini. In 1587, the death of Dr. Griffin Lloyd, the Principal of Jesus, who had for ten years discharged the duties of the Regius Professor of Civil Law in Oxford, occasioned a vacancy; and both Sir Francis Walsingham and Lord Leicester concurred in recommending it to the Queen to recall Aubrey from Germany, and to appoint him to the vacant professorship.*

In the first year of his professorship, he published a decade of law readings, some of which are very curious. The first is of a

Aubrey's visit to the continent, and public appointment abroad, are not noticed by Moreri or Bayle, or the Oxford antiquary, but the statement in the text is supported by the following passage in Aubrey's dedication to Walsingham, of his “Disputationum decas Prima," printed in London, 1587, p. 2:—“ Et verò tibi cur non debeam maximè, si tu is fuisti, qui sex continuis annis me, ac meos tanta es complexus humanitate semper, ut, si excellentissimum Leicestrensem excipio, nullus omnino mihi occurrat, quem tibi parem hac in parte facere possim. Discedentem deinde me, et vale tibi dicentem, Angliæque, non tu ferè etiam votis reducem exoptasti, et tuorum erga me sensuum, voluntatisque interpres reditum auguratus es? Absentem nec sine honore esse voluisti, qui viro illustri Horatio Palavicino comitem me in legatione, qua ille pro augustissima Regina apud Saxoniæ electorem functus est, adjungi curaveris. Et mox cum de regio professore prospiciendum Oxoniensibus esset, susceptum illustrissimo Leicestrensi de me revocando consilium sic adprobasti, ut eum initæ alacrem deliberationis executorem effeceris ; et deliberationem ipsam Reginæ serenissimæ sic laudasti, ut tua tandem opera datum sit, quod extremum in negotio conficiendo supererat. Redeuntem porro quanta me lætitia excepisti ?” &c.

medico-legal cast, on the period of gestation, and the learned professor quotes some of his father's cases with as much naiveté as one of the physicians in a late peerage case referred to instances of a still more personal interest. The second is on the question whether the sovereign is above the law or restrained by law : the third is on accumulative legacies: the sixth, whether a judge is bound to decide according to the evidence, or from his own conviction of the truth of the case. The last is on treasure trove.

In 1587 and 1588, Aubrey published, in three separate parts, his treatise on the rights of war. This work has never happened to fall under the observation of the writer. The learned Italian Protestant is, in one particular at least, pronounced by a very competent judge, to be inferior to a contemporary author on the same subject, the famous Spanish Jesuit Suarez. “ Suarez," observes Sir James Mackintosh,+ “first saw that international law was composed not only of the simple principles of justice applied to the intercourse between states, but of those usages long observed in that intercourse by the European race, which have since been more exactly distinguished as the consuetudinary law acknowledged by the Christian nations of Europe and America. On this important point his views are more clear than those of his contemporary, Alberico Gentili."

In the year 1599 our author published two treatises—one on the arms of the Romans, and the second on stage players and on the nature and degrees of falsehood. This latter tract gave to much obloquy, and involved him in a course of controversy. Some of his refinements on equivocation and mental reservation are certainly expressed in such a manner as cannot be justified. For instance, he maintains that a witness, who is indisposed to answer a question as to facts which are within his knowledge, is authorised to say, “ I cannot tell;” and he considers it to be the judge's or the advocate's fault, and not the witness's, if the answer is allowed to convey the impression that the witness is really ignorant of the matter. It is lamentable to see the system of non mi ricordo so gravely maintained. But such positions on the subject of truth were only objected to by men of sense and reflection : the discussion of stage plays involved the author in the much fiercer heats of reli

gave occasion gious animosities. Dr. Rainolds and William Gage were in the midst of a bitter warfare on the legality of theatrical amusements. Aubrey still wished to lend a little aid, and wrote two letters to Dr. Rainolds, which were subjoined to a book called “The Overthrow of Stage Plays." This Dr. Rainolds, we may observe, by the way, was John Rainolds, originally a zealous Romanist, and his brother William a warm reformer. The brothers had frequent discussions on their points of faith, the result of which was, that William became a convert to Popery and John turned Protestant. Each of them is accounted, by the party which he joined, as one of their ablest champions. Such reciprocal conversions must be very perplexing facts to those who consider men as reasoning machines, and who suppose that the affections have nothing to do with the operations of the intellect. That Dr. John Rainolds was no ordinary man we may judge from what Hakervill says

* The whole may be considered a commentary on those lines of Cæcilius :

“ Insolet ne mulier decimo mense parere ?

Pol nono etiam, septimo, atque octavo. + Second Preliminary Dissertation to the Encyclopædia Brit. page 315.

“Quacunque uti licèt amphibologia quam usitatus sermo ferre potest. Et qui quid scit, si interrogetur, an illud sciat, respondens se nescire, sic liberatur a mendacio, quasi senserit se nescire utrum diceret. Et de suo facto interrogatus, si responderit, se non meminisse itidem censeatur non mendacium dicere, quasi itidem sit ejus sensus, se non meminisse, ut tum diceret.”

of him in his noble Apology of the Power and Providence of God, when speaking of prodigies of memory. * “Of Dr. Rainolds, it is most certain that he excelled this way to the astonishment of all that were inwardly acquainted with him, not only for St. Augustine's works, but almost all classic authors: so as in this respect it might truly be said of him, which hath been applied to some others, that he was a living library, or third university. I have heard it very credibly reported, that upon occasion of some writings which passed to and fro betwixt him and Dr. Gentilis, then our professor in the civil laws, he publicly professed that he thought Dr. Rainolds had read and did remember more of those laws than himself, though it were his profession."

In 1600 Aubrey published a dissertation upon the first book of the Maccabees, in which, to the great horror of some of his Protestant friends, he seemed to go far to insinuate its canonical authority. In 1601 he published a work, in three books, on marriage, in which he determines in favour of the opinion generally entertained by Protestants, that in case of adultery the injured party is not only justified in dissolving the existing marriage, but is also entitled to venture upon other nuptials. In a letter, however, which he subsequently addressed to John Howton, who, though a Protestant, had maintained the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, Gentili expressed himself with so much ambiguity, that he must either have been unable to come to a positive conclusion upon the point, or have wished to disguise his real sentiments. About this time he was appointed advocate-general in England for the King of Spain; and, some while afterwards, published a short tract on the duties of his office.

In 1605 he gave fresh scandal by publishing three dissertations

ול

* Page 254.

-one on the books of the canon law, the second on the books of the civil law, and the third on the latinity of the Vulgate. In the last he maintains that the faults found with the Vulgate showed not the incapacity of the translator, but the ignorance of the objectors.

In 1614 he published a commentary on the meaning of terms in the civil law; and also a discourse on marriages by proxy, which he dedicated to the Lord Chancellor, Egerton.

In 1616 he died, but it is not clear whether he was buried in Christ Church or London. He left behind him a widow named Hesther, who afterwards lived at Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, -where she died in 1648, and two sons, Robert and Matthew. Of Matthew no memorial is found. But Anthony Wood gives an account of Robert written truly in his own fashion,* as follows: “ Robert Gentilis, son of Aubrey Gentilis, was born in London, matriculated as a member of Christ Ch. 19th of April, 1599, in the ninth year of his age, took the degree of Bach. of Arts as a member of Jesus Coll

. in the beginning of July, 1603; was translated to St. John's Coll. soon after, and became collector in the Lent following for proctor to land of that house. Thence he was elected probationary fellow of All S. Coll. in 1607, by the endeavour of his father, who got him sped into that house by an argument in law, as being under the statutable years. In the said coll. he continued for some time, took a degree in the civil law, but turned a rake-hell, became king of the beggars for a time, and so much given up to sordid liberty, if not downright wickedness, that he not only spent all he could get from his father, whom he would often abuse, but also, afterwards, what he could get from his mother, to whom he was very disobedient, as she in her last will confesseth. Afterwards he travelled beyond the seas, took up and became a sober man, and at his return was a retainer to the royal court, and received a pension from the King. He hath translated from Ital. into English, 1. The History of the Inquisition,' Lond. 1639, qu. written by Paul Sewita; 2. Of the Success and Chief Events of the Monarchy of Spain, and of the Revolt of the Catalonians,' Lond. 1639, in 4to., written by Marquis Virgilio Malvezzi ; 3. Considerations on the Lives of Alcibiades and Coriolanus," Lond. 1650, in 4to., written by the same author; also from French into English, “Le Chemia Abrege, or a Compendious Method for the obtaining of Sciences in a short Time, together with the Statutes of the Academy founded by the Cardinal of Richlieu.' Lond. 1654, Oct.; and, lastly, from Spanish, as it seems, into English, “The Antipathy between the French and the Spaniard,'

• Athenæ Oxon. vol. ii. p. 190.

« AnteriorContinuar »