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Peter Heylyn
Peter Heylyn
Born29 November 1599
Burford, Oxfordshire
Died8 May 1662
Other namesPeter Heylin
Occupation(s)ecclesiastic and author

Peter Heylyn or Heylin (29 November 1599 – 8 May 1662) was an English ecclesiastic and author of many polemical, historical, political and theological tracts. He incorporated his political concepts into his geographical books Microcosmus in 1621 and Cosmographie (1657).[1]


Heylyn was born in Burford, Oxfordshire, the son of Henry Heylyn and Elizabeth Clampard. He entered Merchant Taylors' School in March 1612.[2] At 14 he was sent to Hart Hall, Oxford, and matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, on 19 January 1616, aged 16. He was awarded BA on 17 October 1617 and was elected a Fellow in 1618.[3] He lectured on historical geography at Magdalen.

Heylyn was awarded MA on 1 July 1620.[3] In 1620 he presented his lecture to Prince Charles, at Theobalds. He was incorporated at Cambridge University in 1621. In 1621 his lectures were published as Microcosmos: a Little Description of the Great World. This would prove to be his most popular work and by 1639, eight editions had been produced.[4]

At college, where he was dubbed 'the perpetual dictator', Heylyn had been an outspoken controversialist.[4] He subsequently became an outspoken preacher and one of Charles I's clerical followers. He was awarded a BD on 13 June 1629. As a member of the Arminian party he played a part in struggles between the Arminians and their opponents that disturbed England in the 1630s.[5] In 1630 he lectured against the Feoffees for Impropriations.[5] He became licensed Canon of Westminster in 1631 and Rector of Hemingford, Huntingdonshire, in the same year. He became Rector of Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, in 1632 and rector of Alresford, Hampshire, in 1633. Also in 1633 he was licensed to preach and was awarded D.D. on 13 April 1633. He became a chaplain to Charles I. In 1639 he became Rector at South Warnborough, Hampshire.[3]

He suffered for his loyalty to the king when, under the Commonwealth, he was deprived of his preferments. He subsequently settled at Lacies Court in Abingdon, from 1653 until 1660. Lacies Court is now the heads residence at Abingdon School. Heylyn supported Anthony Huish (Master of the School) in maintaining the services at St Nicholas Church where Huish was rector. This was opposed by the Puritan dominated town council.[6] A house facing Bath Street from the Abingdon School grounds is named 'Heylyns' in commemoration.

At the Restoration, he left Abingdon and was made sub-Dean of Westminster, but poor health prevented further advancement.

He married Letitia Highgate and had a large family. His monument is in Westminster Abbey.


Peter Heylyn. Cosmography in foure Bookes. London: Edw. Brewster; Ric. Chiswell; Benj. Tooke; Tho. Hodgkin; Tho. Bennet, 1703.

He was a prolific writer, and a keen and acrimonious controversialist against the Puritans. Among his works are a History of the Reformation of the Church of England, and a Life of Archbishop William Laud (Cyprianus Anglicanus) (1668). He affixed Greek titles to two of his books, Κειμήλια Ἐκκλησιαστικά: Historical and miscellaneous tracts (1662) and Ἡρωολογία Anglorum; or, a help to English history (1641).[7]

He was the writer of the "Cosmographie", an attempt to describe in meticulous detail every aspect of the known world in 1652, the geography, climate, customs, achievements, politics, and belief systems. It appears to have been the first description in print of Australia, and perhaps of California, Terra del Fuego, and other territories in the New World. He objected to the name "America" as it placed undue glory on Amerigo Vespucci, and recommended "Columbana" or "Cabotia" as more indicative of the true discoverers, Columbus and Cabot.


Heylyn's publications include:[8]

  • Microcosmus. A little description of the great world 1621 (−1639); enlarged and entitled Cosmographie in four bookes, containing the chorographie and historie of the whole world 1652 (1674)
  • The history of St. George of Cappadocia (1631)
  • The history of the Sabbath (1636)
  • A coale from the altar (1636)
  • Antidotum Lincolniense; or an answer to a book entitled, The Holy Table, name and thing (1637)
  • A brief and moderate answer to the seditious and scandalous Challenge of H. Burton (1637)
  • Ἡρωολογια Anglorum; or, a help to English history (1641)
  • The first table or, a catalogue of all the kings which have reigned in England, since the first entrance of the Romans (1641)
  • The historie of episcopacie (1642)
  • The undeceiving of the people in the point of tithes (1648)
  • Extraneus vapulans; or, the observator rescued from the violent but vaine assaults of Hamon L'Estrange, (1656)
  • A full relation of two journeys: the one, into the mainland of France; the other, into some of the adjacent islands (1656)
  • Ecclesia vindicata; or, the Church of England justified (1657)
  • The stumbling-block of disobedience and rebellion cunningly laid by Calvin in the subjects way, discovered, censured and removed (1658)
  • Examen historicum, or a discovery and examination of the mistakes in some modern histories (1659)
  • Certamen epistolare; or the letter-combate with Mr. Baxter, etc. (1659)
  • Historia quinqu-articularis; or a declaration of the judgement of the Western churches, particularly of the church of England, in the five controverted points reproached by the name of Arminianism (1660)
  • Ecclesia restaurata; or, the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1661)
  • Aerius redivivus; or, the history of the presbyterians from 1536 to 1647 a 1662 (1670)
  • Cyprianus Anglicus; or the history of the life and death of William Laud a 1662 (1668, 1671)
  • Κειμήλια Ἐκκλησιαστικά Historical and miscellaneous tracts a 1662 (1681)

and the very, very rare:

  • Chorography and History of the Whole World (1682) more on this book in links below

Notes and references


  1. ^ Robert Mayhew, Geography is twinned with divinity; Geographical Review, Vol 90, No 1, January 2000.
  2. ^ A register of the scholars admitted into Merchant Taylors' School
  3. ^ a b c 'Alumni Oxonienses, 1500-1714: Hawten-Hider', Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714: Abannan-Kyte (1891), pp. 679–705. Date accessed: 15 January 2012
  4. ^ a b  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Heylyn, Peter". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. ^ a b MacGillivray 1974, p. 29.
  6. ^ Hammond, Nigel (1963). Thames Valley Countryside. Thames Valley Countryside.
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Bibliography: Hart-He
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary


External links

5 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

THE Civil War in Hampshire (1642-45) and the Story of Basing House
by Rev. G. N. GODWIN, B.D.…

Chapter VIII - Sufferings of the Clegy

Of Dr. Peter Heylyn, Rector of Old Alresford and South Warnborough, ....
Winstanley says in his "Worthies of England " (pp. 610, 612):
"Several times was the Doctor alarmed by drums and trumpets sounding about him, so that finding no other way of safety, for safeguard of his life he was forced to fly to the King at Oxford, the Parliament resolving if they could have took him he should have followed his good lord of Canterbury to another world than that described in his cosmography; but since they could not light on his person they secured his estate, sending down an order for sequestration of all his goods and chattels, and that the sooner by the means of one Col. Norton, who (it is said) kept the best of the Doctor's plate, beds, and other costly furniture to himself, as a recompence of his great care in plundering him of the rest, although indeed he might have spared the Doctor his plate and beds, and only have took the hangings for his due.

"His books were carried away to Portsmouth, many of them being sold by the way, good folios for a flagon of ale apiece, and the carriage of them paid by books, Robin Hood's penniworths; yet notwithstanding the books were so embezzled and wasted by them, they were appraised at near £1,000, and put into a public library from whence they could never be regained."

... "But, weary of this perambulatory life, and some supplies of money coming in, he settled himself, his wife, and eldest daughter at Winchester, then a strong garrison of the King's, where for a while he had some halcyon days, but they endured not long, for this place, thought invincible, was cowardly yielded up in three days* time, so that the Doctor was now in more danger than ever, had not Mr. Lizard, in whose house he boarded, secured him in a private room, so cunningly contrived that there was no door to be seen nor entrance into it, supposed to be formerly made for the hiding of seminary Priests and Jesuits, the house heretofore belonging to a papist family. Here did he abide in safety while the soldiers hunted about for him.

"But, desirous of liberty, while the soldiers were gaming and rioting, he took his opportunity on the market-day to put on his travelling robes, with a long staff in his hand, and so walked out of the town, confidently with the country crowd leaving his wife and daughter to the care of his faithful friend Mr. Lizard.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"And now thinking himself out of danger, he was just upon the brink of it, for, having left Winchester not many miles behind him, he met with some straggling soldiers, who, catching hold of his hand, felt a ring under his glove, which through haste of his escape he forgot to pull off. Now a gold ring agreeing so ill with his habit, made them conclude him some runaway Cavalier, and therefore resolved first to plunder, and then secure him; but whilst they were ransacking him, some of the Parliament Scouts came galloping by, who said to their fellow soldiers, 'Look to yourselves the Cavaliers are coming,' which affrighting words made them leave him, having took away his ring and that little money he had in his pocket, but through their haste missed of some pieces of gold which he had in his high shoes.

"And thus did the Doctor run through many dangers for his loyalty, never secure from their rage and malice, which was so inveterate that, could they have catcht him, nought had satisfied but his blood, as he was informed from a friend in the House of Commons."

At the Restoration he regained his preferments and became Sub-Dean of Westminster.
He entertained some friends at supper after the Coronation of Charles II and, some of them being frightened at a thunderstorm, he said, "See how the ordnance of heaven answer those of the Tower, rejoicing at this royal solemnity."

He afterwards lost his sight through over study, and died on Holy Thursday, 1663, in his 63rd year. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

From the same book on page 4 I found an earlier entry on what forced Heylyn to Winchester:

Dr. Peter Heylyn, the rector of Old Alresford, who wrote a history of the Reformation, was hated by the Puritans for having arranged his church according to the injunctions issued by Archbishop Laud.

The principal inhabitants of Alresford favored the cause of the Parliament.

Winstanley ("Worthies of England") says Dr. Peter Heylyn spent large sums upon his parsonage at Alresford, and that he kept great hospitality for the poor, and a bountiful house among his rich neighbors. Nor was his care less for the service of God to be constantly performed, by reading the Common Prayers in the church every morning, which gave great satisfaction to the parish, being a populous market town.

Despite this Dr. Peter Heylyn’s house was plundered by Col. Richard "Idle Dick” Norton; and he was declared a delinquent by a Parliamentary Committee sitting at Portsmouth, to which town his library and household goods were brought by order, and sold for a very small fraction of their value.

Dr. Peter Heylyn took refuge during the war at Winchester, where he met with his full share of troubles.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Peter Heylyn loved learning from his youth; but his belief in the value of discipline can hardly have exceeded his craving for publicity.

Heylyn began his career as a historical writer in 1621 with the publication of his Geography, a subject on which, as connected with history, he had lectured at Oxford in his 18th year, and which, with the aid of some experience of travel, he afterwards developed into that of his Cosmography.

Dr. Heylyn was King Charles’ chaplain for many years, as well as a prebendary of Westminster, when his personal troubles began with the downfall of Archbishop William Laud, whose ecclesiastical policy he supported;

Dr. Heylyn was brought before the Commons as having helped to get up the case against the author of Histriomastix.

After the first civil war broke out, Dr. Peter Heylyn was commissioned to keep a record of public occurrences in Mercurius Aulicus; but he speedily lost his benefice (he was rector of Old Alresford and South Warnborough) with his house and library; it until 1656 he could again venture to the front.

In 1659, Dr. Peter Heylyn published his Examen Criticum, the first part of which adversely criticized Fuller’s Church History, but the pair managed to make friends.

Dr. Peter Heylyn’s next controversy was with Richard Baxter.

When the Restoration came, Dr. Heylyn returned into residence at Westminster, and the brief remainder of his life was spent in tranquility.

Dr. Peter Heylyn’s pen continued active to the end.

In 1661, he brought out his chief work, Ecclesia Restaurata, or The History of the Reformation, which passed through several editions. This book is the history of the church of England from the accession of Edward VI to the Elizabethan settlement (1566), is notable as an attempt to view the changes effected by the reformation with as much of impartiality as was to be expected from a prelatist opposed to reunion with Rome.

Among Dr. Peter Heylyn’s writings published posthumously are:

Cyprianus Anglicus, or The History of the Life and Death of Archbishop Laud (1668), defending him against William Prynne MP’s elaborate invective, and described by Creighton as “the chief authority for Laud’s personal character and private life”;

and Aerius Redivivus, or The History of Presbyterianism (1670), which traces back to Calvin the origin of Puritanism, here described as the source of England’s internal troubles.

Dr. Peter Heylyn was no bigot, and was capable of looking on things as a historian rather than as a professional apologist; but controversy was irresistible to him.

FROM: The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.