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Dr. Wilkins, the editor of Selden's works, has attempted to discredit the authenticity of the Table Talk,' upon the ground of its containing many things unworthy of a man of Selden's erudition, and at variance with his principles and practice. But this objection is far from conclusive, and the compilation has such a complete and unaffected air of genuineness, that we have no hesitation in giving credit to the assertion of Richard Milward, Selden's Amanuensis, who says that it was faithfully committed to writing, from time to time, during the long period of twenty years, in which he enjoyed the opportunity of daily hearing his discourse, and of recording the excellent things that usually fell from him. He appeals to the executors and friends of Selden, that such was the usual manner of his patron's conversation; and this dedicatory appeal to them is no slight testimonial of the veracity of his assertion.
It is true, that the familiar and sometimes coarse manner in which many of the subjects discussed are illustrated, is not such as might
have been expected from a profound scholar, but Selden, with all his learning, was a man of the world, familiar with the ordinary scenes of common life, and knew how to bring abstruse subjects home to the business and bosoms of men of ordinary capacity, in a manner at once perspicuous and agreeable.
It is remarkable that the style of Selden, in those English compositions published during his life, appears harsh and obscure; but Lord Clarendon, who knew him well, tells us, that he was a clear discourser, and possessed the faculty of making difficult things easy, and presenting them clearly to the understanding. This faculty is every where apparent in the following pages, which are replete with the fruits of his varied and extensive erudition, illustrated in the most plain and sometimes in the happiest manner by familiar parallels, without pedantry, and without pretension. In preparing the present edition for the press, the text of the first edition, printed in 4to. London, 1689, under the care of Richard
Milward, has been scrupulously followed, the orthography alone having been reformed.
Selden was born at Salvington, an obscure village on the coast of Sussex, near Terring, and not far from Worthing, on the 16th of December, 1584. His father was a substantial yeoman, and had very much bettered his condition by marriage with the only daughter of Thomas Baker of Rushington, descended from an ancient and knightly family of that name. It was his skill in music which obtained him his wife, who was mother to this great dictator of learning, and glory of the English nation.' Selden received the rudiments of education at the fee school of Chichester, and was from thence, at the age of sixteen, sent to the University of Oxford, and entered of Hart Hall, under the tuition of Anthony Barker, a relation of his master at Chichester school. His progress at college was more than usually rapid, and he left it with a high reputation in about four years, to pursue the study of the law in the Inner Temple, where he was admitted in May, 1604. He
became so sedulous a student, and his proficiency so well known, that he was soon in very extensive practice as a chamber counsel; but he does not seem to have appeared frequently at the bar. His devotion to his profession did not prevent him from pursuing his literary occupations with assiduity, and, at the early age of twenty-two, he had completed his Dissertation on the Civil Government of Britain before the Norman Conquest*
This work is an astonishing performance, considering the age at which it was composed. In 1610, we find him pursuing the same course of study, the fruits of which were given to the world under the itles of 'Jani Anglorum facies altera.' England's Epinomis;' and “The Duello, or Single Combat.' These publications were in a measure connected with the studies incident to his profession; but in 1612, was put forth his elaborate and interesting com
* This was not published until 1615, when it was printed at Francfort, under the title of Analectan Anglo-Britanicwn.
mentary on the first twelve books of the Polyolbion; he must therefore have been indefatigable in his pursuit of knowledge through every channel, and in all its various ramifications. His intense application appears to have very materially injured his health, for in the dedication, of his "Titles of Honour,' published in 1614, to his friend Mr. Edward Heyward, he says, “Some year since it was finished, wanting only in some parts my last hand; which was then prevented by my dangerous and tedious sicknesse;' from this attack he recovered by the skill and care of Doctor Robert Floyd, returning to his studies with fresh zest, and renewed vigour, and thus,' says he, 'I employed the breathing times, which from the so different studies of my profession, were allowed me. Nor hath the proverbial assertion, that the Lady Common Law must lye alone,' ever wrought with me.'—His fame now rang through Europe, and his books were received and read with avidity. In the year 1617, was produced that extraordinary and profoundly