Méric Casaubon

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Line Engraving of Meric Casaubon by Pieter Stevens van Gunst, after Adriaen van der Werff, published 1709 Meric Casaubon by Pieter Stevens van Gunst, after Adriaen van der Werff.jpg
Line Engraving of Meric Casaubon by Pieter Stevens van Gunst, after Adriaen van der Werff, published 1709

Meric Casaubon (14 August 1599 in Geneva – 14 July 1671 in Canterbury), son of Isaac Casaubon, was a French-English classical scholar. He was the first to translate Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into English.

Contents

Although biographical dictionaries (including the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica ) commonly accentuate his name to Méric, he himself did not do so. [1]

Life

He was born in Geneva to a French father, scholar Isaac Casaubon; he was named for his godfather Meric de Vic. After education in Sedan, at an early age he joined his father in England, and completed his education at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford (B.A. 1618; M.A. 1621; D.D. 1636). [2] [3]

His defence of his father against the attacks of certain Catholics (Pietas contra maledicos patrii Nominis et Religionis Hostes, 1621), secured him the notice and favour of James I, who conferred upon him a prebendal stall in Canterbury Cathedral (stall IX) which he held from 1628 to his death. [4] He also vindicated his father's literary reputation against certain impostors who had published, under his name, a work on The Origin of Idolatry (Vindicatio Patris adversus Impostores, 1624).

During the English Civil War he was deprived of his benefices and his prebendal stall at Canterbury Cathedral [5] and retired to Oxford [6] refusing to acknowledge the authority of Oliver Cromwell, who, notwithstanding, requested him to write an "impartial" history of the events of the period. In spite of the tempting inducements held out, he declined, and also refused the post of inspector of the Swedish universities offered him by Queen Christina. After the Restoration, he was reinstated in his benefice and his stall in Canterbury [3] and devoted the rest of his life to literary work. He died at Canterbury and is buried in the Cathedral. His coin collection was incorporated into that of Canon John Bargrave.

Meric Casaubon's reputation was overshadowed by that of his father; but his editions of numerous classical authors, especially of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, were especially valued, and reprinted several times (but by modern standards, his translation is difficult reading). He had an interest in the study of Anglo-Saxon, which he shared with his lifelong "trustie frend" William Somner. Edward Stillingfleet, whom Casaubon admired, bought many of his books, which are now in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin. Some other volumes from his library came into Canterbury Cathedral Library through William Somner.

Controversy

In A Treatise Concerning Enthusiasme (1655), Casaubon wrote against enthusiasm, and circumscribed the domain of the supernatural. The next year he produced an edition of John Dee, portraying him as having dealings with the Devil. The background is of orthodox Anglicans wishing to discredit the sectarian Protestants of the period; but also to validate the existence of spirits to atheists. Casaubon was in touch with Nicholas Bernard about the Dee manuscript. [7] Following the Restoration, Casaubon wrote supporting the traditional theories of witchcraft. [8] He was in fact operating on several fronts: as well as attacking those who would deny the supernatural entirely, and limiting the role of reason in faith, he defended humanist learning against the claims for the new natural philosophy, emanating from figures in the Royal Society who saw it as completely replacing the old learning. [9]

Benefices

Family

Meric Casaubon married Frances Harrison of Hampshire in about 1628. His wife's grandfather was William Barlow, who had been a canon of Winchester Cathedral since 1581. The couple had seven children, most of whom were born in Canterbury, but only two lived to maturity:

Frances Casaubon died on 24 February 1652 in London. Her poor health and death was one of the reasons Meric gave for not complying with Oliver Cromwell's request. [10]

Works

Notes

  1. At the end of a letter written by Casaubon in May 1634, he signed himself, unaccented, Meric. (Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CCA-DCc-ChChLet/IV/1/3) A summons issued to him in July 1644 addresses him unaccented.(CCA-LitMs/A/15) As Receiver General at Canterbury Cathedral, he signed his accounts of November 1660 unaccented. (CCA-DCc-PET/327) He signed his will, dated 23 February 1669/70, unaccented.
  2. s:Casaubon, Meric (DNB00)
  3. 1 2 R. W. Serjeantson, 'Casaubon, (Florence Estienne) Meric (1599–1671)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 6 March 2010
  4. A History of Canterbury Cathedral, OUP 1995, p.209.
  5. Jacqueline Eales, Community and Disunity: Kent and the English Civil Wars, 1640–1649, Canterbury, 2001, p. 37.
  6. A History of Canterbury Cathedral, OUP 1995, p.194.
  7. Ian Bostridge, Witchcraft and its Transformations, c.1650-c.1750 (1997), pp. 55–7.
  8. Bostridge, p. 53.
  9. Andrew Pyle (editor), Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), article on Casaubon, pp. 162–3.
  10. Tim Treml, 'Who was Frances, the Wife of Meric Casaubon?', Notes & Queries September 2017, Oxford University Press

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