Biography of Bishop John Wilkins 1614-1672

On 14 Feb 1614 Bishop John Wilkins was born.

Evelyn's Diary. 10 Jul 1654. On Monday, I went again to the schools, to hear the several faculties, and in the afternoon tarried out the whole Act in St. Mary's, the long speeches of the Proctors, the Vice-Chancellor, the several Professors, creation of Doctors, by the cap, ring, kiss, etc., those ancient ceremonies and institution being as yet not wholly abolished. Dr. Kendal, now Inceptor among others, performing his Act incomparably well, concluded it with an excellent oration, abating his Presbyterian animosities, which he withheld, not even against that learned and pious divine, Dr. Hammond. The Act was closed with the speech of the Vice-Chancellor, there being but four in theology, and three in medicine, which was thought a considerable matter, the times considered. I dined at one Monsieur Fiat's, a student of Exeter College, and supped at a magnificent entertainment of Wadham Hall, invited by my dear and excellent friend, Dr. Wilkins (age 40), then Warden (after, Bishop of Chester).

Evelyn's Diary. 13 Jul 1654. We all dined at that most obliging and universally-curious Dr. Wilkins's (age 40), at Wadham College. He was the first who showed me the transparent apiaries, which he had built like castles and palaces, and so ordered them one upon another, as to take the honey without destroying the bees. These were adorned with a variety of dials, little statues, vanes, etc.; and, he was so abundantly civil, finding me pleased with them, to present me with one of the hives which he had empty, and which I afterward had in my garden at Sayes Court [Map], where it continued many years, and which his Majesty (age 24) came on purpose to see and contemplate with much satisfaction. He had also contrived a hollow statue, which gave a voice and uttered words by a long, concealed pipe that went to its mouth, while one speaks through it at a good distance. He had, above in his lodgings and gallery, variety of shadows, dials, perspectives, and many other artificial, mathematical, and magical curiosities, a waywiser, a thermometer, a monstrous magnet, conic, and other sections, a balance on a demi-circle; most of them of his own, and that prodigious young scholar Mr. Christopher Wren, who presented me with a piece of white marble, which he had stained with a lively red, very deep, as beautiful as if it had been natural.

In 1656 Bishop John Wilkins (age 41) and Robina Cromwell were married.

Evelyn's Diary. 10 Feb 1656. I heard Dr. Wilkins (age 41) preach before the Lord Mayor in St. Paul's [Map], showing how obedience was preferable to sacrifice. He was a most obliging person, who had married the [his brother-in-law] Protector's (age 56) [his wife] sister, and took great pains to preserve the Universities from the ignorant, sacrilegious commanders and soldiers, who would fain have demolished all places and persons that pretended to learning.

Evelyn's Diary. 19 Feb 1656. Went with Dr. Wilkins (age 42) to see Barlow (age 30), the famous painter of fowls, beasts, and birds.

Evelyn's Diary. 12 Apr 1656. Mr. Berkeley (age 7) and Mr. Robert Boyle (age 29) (that excellent person and great virtuoso), Dr. Taylor (age 43), and Dr. Wilkins (age 42), dined with me at Sayes Court [Map], when I presented Dr. Wilkins (age 42) with my rare burning-glass. In the afternoon, we all went to Colonel Blount's (age 52), to see his newly-invented plows.

Evelyn's Diary. 08 May 1656. I went to visit Dr. Wilkins (age 42), at Whitehall [Map], when I first met with Sir P. Neal (age 43), famous for his optic glasses. Greatorix, the mathematical instrument maker, showed me his excellent invention to quench fire.

Evelyn's Diary. 04 Mar 1664. Came to dine with me the Earl of Lauderdale (age 47), his Majesty's (age 33) great favorite, and Secretary of Scotland; the Earl of Teviot (age 38); my Lord Viscount Brouncker (age 53), President of the Royal Society; Dr. Wilkins (age 50), Dean of Ripon; Sir Robert Murray (age 56), and Mr. Hooke (age 28), Curator to the Society.

Pepy's Diary. 12 Feb 1665. Lord's Day. Up and to church to St. Lawrence to hear Dr. Wilkins (age 50), the great scholar, for curiosity, I having never heard him: but was not satisfied with him at all, only a gentleman sat in the pew I by chance sat in, that sang most excellently, and afterward I found by his face that he had been a Paul's scholler, but know not his name, and I was also well pleased with the church, it being a very fine church.

Pepy's Diary. 01 May 1665. Thence to the Duke of Albemarle (age 56), where I was sorry to find myself to come a little late, and so home, and at noon going to the 'Change [Map] I met my Lord Brunkard (age 45), Sir Robert Murry (age 57), Deane Wilkins (age 51), and Mr. Hooke (age 29), going by coach to Colonell Blunts (age 61) to dinner. So they stopped and took me with them. Landed at the Tower-wharf, and thence by water to Greenwich, Kent [Map]; and there coaches met us; and to his house, a very stately sight for situation and brave plantations; and among others, a vineyard, the first that ever I did see. No extraordinary dinner, nor any other entertainment good; but only after dinner to the tryall of some experiments about making of coaches easy. And several we tried; but one did prove mighty easy (not here for me to describe, but the whole body of the coach lies upon one long spring), and we all, one after another, rid in it; and it is very fine and likely to take. These experiments were the intent of their coming, and pretty they are.

Pepy's Diary. 01 May 1665. Thence back by coach to Greenwich, Kent [Map], and in his pleasure boat to Deptford, Kent [Map], and there stopped and in to Mr. Evelyn's (age 44)1, which is a most beautiful place; but it being dark and late, I staid not; but Deane Wilkins (age 51) and Mr. Hooke (age 29) and I walked to Redriffe [Map]; and noble discourse all day long did please me, and it being late did take them to my house to drink, and did give them some sweetmeats, and thence sent them with a lanthorn home, two worthy persons as are in England, I think, or the world.

Note 1. Sayes Court [Map], the well-known residence of John Evelyn (age 44).

Evelyn's Diary. 04 Aug 1665. I went to Wotton, Surrey [Map] with my Son and his tutor, Mr. Bohun, Fellow of New College (recommended to me by Dr. Wilkins (age 51), and the President of New College, Oxford), for fear of the pestilence, still increasing in London and its environs. On my return, I called at Durdans, where I found Dr. Wilkins (age 51), Sir William Petty (age 42), and Mr. Hooke (age 30), contriving chariots, new rigging for ships, a wheel for one to run races in, and other mechanical inventions; perhaps three such persons together were not to be found elsewhere in Europe, for parts and ingenuity.

Pepy's Diary. 21 Nov 1667. From this we fell to other discourse, and very good; among the rest they discourse of a man that is a little frantic, that hath been a kind of minister, Dr. Wilkins (age 53) saying that he hath read for him in his church, that is poor and a debauched man, that the College' have hired for 20s. to have some of the blood of a sheep let into his body; and it is to be done on Saturday next1. They purpose to let in about twelve ounces; which, they compute, is what will be let in in a minute's time by a watch. They differ in the opinion they have of the effects of it; some think it may have a good effect upon him as a frantic man by cooling his blood, others that it will not have any effect at all. But the man is a healthy man, and by this means will be able to give an account what alteration, if any, he do find in himself, and so may be usefull. On this occasion, Dr. Whistler told a pretty story related by Muffet, a good author, of Dr. Caius, that built Keys College; that, being very old, and living only at that time upon woman's milk, he, while he fed upon the milk of an angry, fretful woman, was so himself; and then, being advised to take it of a good-natured, patient woman, he did become so, beyond the common temper of his age. Thus much nutriment, they observed, might do. Their discourse was very fine; and if I should be put out of my office, I do take great content in the liberty I shall be at of frequenting these gentlemen's company. Broke up thence and home, and there to my wife in her chamber, who is not well (of those), and there she tells me great stories of the gossiping women of the parish-what this, and what that woman was; and, among the rest, how Mrs. Hollworthy is the veriest confident bragging gossip of them all, which I should not have believed; but that Sir R. Brookes (age 30), her partner, was mighty civil to her, and taken with her, and what not. My eyes being bad I spent the evening with her in her chamber talking and inventing a cypher to put on a piece of plate, which I must give, better than ordinary, to the Parson's child, and so to bed, and through my wife's illness had a bad night of it, and she a worse, poor wretch!

Note 1. This was Arthur Coga, who had studied at Cambridge, and was said to be a bachelor of divinity. He was indigent, and "looked upon as a very freakish and extravagant man". Dr. King, in a letter to the Hon. Robert Boyle (age 40), remarks "that Mr. Coga was about thirty-two years of age; that he spoke Latin well, when he was in company, which he liked, but that his brain was sometimes a little too warm". The experiment was performed on November 23rd, 1667, by Dr. King, at Arundel House, in the presence of many spectators of quality, and four or five physicians. Coga wrote a description of his own case in Latin, and when asked why he had not the blood of some other creature, instead of that of a sheep, transfused into him, answered, "Sanguis ovis symbolicam quandam facultatem habet cum sanguine Christi, quia Christus est agnus Dei" [Note. "Sheep's blood has some symbolic power, like the blood of Christ, for Christ is the Lamb of God."] (Birch's "History of the Royal Society", vol. ii., pp. 214-16). Coga was the first person in England to be experimented upon; previous experiments were made by the transfusion of the blood of one dog into another. See November 14th, 1666 (vol. vi., p. 64).

Pepy's Diary. 21 Nov 1667. Up, and to the office, where all the morning, and at noon home, where my wife not very well, but is to go to Mr. Mills's child's christening, where she is godmother, Sir J. Minnes (age 68) and Sir R. Brookes (age 30) her companions. I left her after dinner (my clerks dining with me) to go with Sir J. Minnes (age 68), and I to the office, where did much business till after candlelight, and then my eyes beginning to fail me, I out and took coach to Arundell House [Map], where the meeting of Gresham College was broke up; but there meeting Creed, I with him to the taverne in St. Clement's Churchyard, where was Deane Wilkins (age 53), Dr. Whistler, Dr. Floyd (age 40), a divine admitted, I perceive, this day, and other brave men; and there, among other things of news, I do hear, that upon the reading of the House of Commons's Reasons of the manner of their proceedings in the business of my Chancellor (age 58), the Reasons were so bad, that my Lord Bristoll (age 55) himself did declare that he would not stand to what he had, and did still, advise the Lords to concur to, upon any of the Reasons of the House of Commons; but if it was put to the question whether it should be done on their Reasons, he would be against them; and indeed it seems the Reasons-however they come to escape the House of Commons, which shews how slightly the greatest matters are done in this world, and even in Parliaments were none of them of strength, but the principle of them untrue; they saying, that where any man is brought before a judge, accused of Treason in general, without specifying the particular, the judge do there constantly and is obliged to commit him. Whereas the question being put by the Lords to my Lord Keeper, he said that quite the contrary was true: and then, in the Sixth Article (I will get a copy of them if I can) there are two or three things strangely asserted to the diminishing of the King's power, as is said, at least things that heretofore would not have been heard of. But then the question being put among the Lords, as my Lord Bristoll (age 55) advised, whether, upon the whole matter and Reasons that had been laid before them, they would commit my Lord Clarendon (age 58), it was carried five to one against it; there being but three Bishops against him, of whom Cosens (age 72) and Dr. Reynolds were two, and I know not the third. This made the opposite Lords, as Bristoll (age 55) and Buckingham (age 39), so mad, that they declared and protested against it, speaking very broad that there was mutiny and rebellion in the hearts of the Lords, and that they desired they might enter their dissents, which they did do, in great fury.

Pepy's Diary. 30 Nov 1667. Up, and to the office, where all the morning, and then by coach to Arundel House [Map], to the election of Officers for the next year; where I was near being chosen of the Council, but am glad I was not, for I could not have attended, though, above all things, I could wish it; and do take it as a mighty respect to have been named there. The company great, and the elections long, and then to Cary House, a house now of entertainment, next my Lord Ashly's (age 46); and there, where I have heretofore heard Common Prayer in the time of Dr. Mossum, we after two hours' stay, sitting at the table with our napkins open, had our dinners brought, but badly done. But here was good company. I choosing to sit next Dr. Wilkins (age 53), Sir George Ent, and others whom I value, there talked of several things. Among others Dr. Wilkins, talking of the universal speech, of which he hath a book coming out, did first inform me how man was certainly made for society, he being of all creatures the least armed for defence, and of all creatures in the world the young ones are not able to do anything to help themselves, nor can find the dug without being put to it, but would die if the mother did not help it; and, he says, were it not for speech man would be a very mean creature. Much of this good discourse we had. But here, above all, I was pleased to see the person who had his blood taken out. He speaks well, and did this day give the Society a relation thereof in Latin, saying that he finds himself much better since, and as a new man, but he is cracked a little in his head, though he speaks very reasonably, and very well. He had but 20s. for his suffering it, and is to have the same again tried upon him: the first sound man that ever had it tried on him in England, and but one that we hear of in France, which was a porter hired by the virtuosos. Here all the afternoon till within night. Then I took coach and to the Exchange [Map], where I was to meet my wife, but she was gone home, and so I to Westminster Hall [Map], and there took a turn or two, but meeting with nobody to discourse with, returned to Cary House, and there stayed and saw a pretty deception of the sight by a glass with water poured into it, with a stick standing up with three balls of wax upon it, one distant from the other. How these balls did seem double and disappear one after another, mighty pretty! Here Mr. Carcasse did come to me, and brought first Mr. Colwall, our Treasurer, and then Dr. Wilkins to engage me to be his friend, and himself asking forgiveness and desiring my friendship, saying that the Council have now ordered him to be free to return to the Office to be employed. I promised him my friendship, and am glad of this occasion, having desired it; for there is nobody's ill tongue that I fear like his, being a malicious and cunning bold fellow.

In 1668 Bishop John Wilkins (age 53) was appointed Bishop of Chester.

Pepy's Diary. 12 Mar 1668. Up, and to the office, where all the morning, at noon home, and after dinner with wife and Deb., carried them to Unthanke's, and I to Westminster Hall [Map] expecting our being with the Committee this afternoon about Victualling business, but once more waited in vain. So after a turn or two with Lord Brouncker (age 48), I took my wife up and left her at the 'Change [Map] while I to Gresham College, there to shew myself; and was there greeted by Dr. Wilkins (age 54), Whistler, and others, as the patron of the Navy Office, and one that got great fame by my late speech to the Parliament. Here I saw a great trial of the goodness of a burning glass, made of a new figure, not spherical (by one Smithys, I think, they call him), that did burn a glove of my Lord Brouncker's (age 48) from the heat of a very little fire, which a burning glass of the old form, or much bigger, could not do, which was mighty pretty. Here I heard Sir Robert Southwell (age 32) give an account of some things committed to him by the Society at his going to Portugall, which he did deliver in a mighty handsome manner1. Thence went away home, and there at my office as long as my eyes would endure, and then home to supper, and to talk with Mr. Pelling, who tells me what a fame I have in the City for my late performance; and upon the whole I bless God for it. I think I have, if I can keep it, done myself a great deal of repute. So by and by to bed.

Note 1. At the meeting of the Royal Society on March 12th, 1668, "Mr. Smethwick's glasses were tried again; and his telescope being compared with another longer telescope, and the object-glasses exchanged, was still found to exceed the other in goodness; and his burning concave being compared with a spherical burning-glass of almost twice the diameter, and held to the fire, it burnt gloves, whereas the other spherical ones would not burn at all".-"Sir Robert Southwell (age 32) being lately returned from Portugal, where he had been ambassador from the King (age 37), and being desired to acquaint the society with what he had done with respect to the instructions, which he had received from them before his departure from England, related, that he had lodged the astronomical quadrant, which the society had sent to Portugal to make observations with there, with a body of men at Lisbon, who had applied themselves among other kinds of literature to mathematics" (Birch's "History of the Royal Society", vol. ii., p. 256).

Pepy's Diary. 17 May 1668. By and by Gayet goes away, being a Catholick, to her devotions, and Mercer to church; but we continuing an hour or two singing, and so parted; and I to Sir W. Pen's (age 47), and there sent for a Hackney-coach; and he and she [Lady Pen (age 44)] and I out, to take the gyre. We went to Stepney, and there stopped at the Trinity House, Deptford [Map], he to talk with the servants there against to-morrow, which is a great day for the choice of a new Master, and thence to Mile End [Map], and there eat and drank, and so home; and I supped with them-that is, eat some butter and radishes, which is my excuse for not eating any other of their victuals, which I hate, because of their sluttery: and so home, and made my boy read to me part of Dr. Wilkins's (age 54) new book of the "Real Character"; and so to bed.

Pepy's Diary. 27 May 1668. Thence after dinner to the office, and there did a little business, and so to see Sir W. Pen (age 47), who I find still very ill of the goute, sitting in his great chair, made on purpose for persons sick of that disease, for their ease; and this very chair, he tells me, was made for my Lady Lambert! Thence I by coach to my tailor's, there to direct about the making of me another suit, and so to White Hall, and through St. James's Park to St. James's, thinking to have met with Mr. Wren (age 39), but could not, and so homeward toward the New Exchange, and meeting Mr. Creed he and I to drink some whey at the whey-house, and so into the 'Change [Map] and took a walk or two, and so home, and there vexed at my boy's being out of doors till ten at night, but it was upon my brother Jackson's (age 28) business, and so I was the less displeased, and then made the boy to read to me out of Dr. Wilkins (age 54) his "Real Character", and particularly about Noah's arke, where he do give a very good account thereof, shewing how few the number of the several species of beasts and fowls were that were to be in the arke, and that there was room enough for them and their food and dung, which do please me mightily and is much beyond what ever I heard of the subject, and so to bed.

Pepy's Diary. 05 Jul 1668. Lord's Day. About four in the morning took four pills of Dr. Turberville's (age 56) prescribing, for my eyes, and they wrought pretty well most of the morning, and I did get my wife to spend the morning reading of Wilkins's (age 54) Reall Character.

Pepy's Diary. 18 Oct 1668. Thence with Brouncker (age 48) to Lincolne's Inn, and Mr. Ball, to visit Dr. Wilkins (age 54), now newly Bishop of Chester: and he received us mighty kindly; and had most excellent discourse from him about his Book of Reall Character: and so I with Lord Brouncker (age 48) to White Hall, and there saw the Queen (age 29) and some ladies, and with Lord Brouncker (age 48) back, it again being a rainy evening, and so my Lord forced to lend me his coach till I got a Hackney which I did, and so home and to supper, and got my wife to read to me, and so to bed.

Evelyn's Diary. 14 Nov 1668. To London, invited to the consecration of that excellent person, the Dean of Ripon, Dr. Wilkins (age 54), now made Bishop of Chester; it was at Ely House, the Archbishop of Canterbury (age 70), Dr. Cosin (age 73), Bishop of Durham, the Bishops of Ely (age 77), Salisbury, Rochester (age 43), and others officiating. Dr. Tillotson (age 38) preached. Then, we went to a sumptuous dinner in the hall, where were the Duke of Buckingham (age 40), Judges, Secretaries of State, Lord-Keeper, Council, Noblemen, and innumerable other company, who were honorers of this incomparable man, universally beloved by all who knew him.

Pepy's Diary. 01 Dec 1668. Up, and to the office, where sat all the morning, and at noon with my people to dinner, and so to the office, very busy till night, and then home and made my boy read to me Wilkins's (age 54) Reall Character, which do please me mightily, and so after supper to bed with great pleasure and content with my wife. This day I hear of poor Mr. Clerke, the solicitor, being dead, of a cold, after being not above two days ill, which troubles me mightily, poor man!

Pepy's Diary. 16 Mar 1669. Thence to Deptford, Kent [Map], but staid not, Uthwayte being out of the way: and so home, and then to the Ship Tavern [Map], Morrice's, and staid till W. Hewer (age 27) fetched his uncle Blackburne by appointment to me, to discourse of the business of the Navy in the late times; and he did do it, by giving me a most exact account in writing, of the several turns in the Admiralty and Navy, of the persons employed therein, from the beginning of the King's leaving the Parliament, to his Son's coming in, to my great content; and now I am fully informed in all I at present desire. We fell to other talk; and I find by him that the Bishops must certainly fall, and their hierarchy; these people have got so much ground upon the King (age 38) and kingdom as is not to be got again from them: and the Bishops do well deserve it. But it is all the talk, I find, that Dr. Wilkins (age 55), my friend, the Bishop of Chester, shall be removed to Winchester, and be Lord Treasurer. Though this be foolish talk, yet I do gather that he is a mighty rising man, as being a Latitudinarian, and the Duke of Buckingham (age 41) his great friend. Here we staid talking till to at night, where I did never drink before since this man come to the house, though for his pretty wife's sake I do fetch my wine from this, whom I could not nevertheless get para see to-night, though her husband did seem to call for her. So parted here and I home, and to supper and to bed.

On 19 Nov 1672 Bishop John Wilkins (age 58) died.