Imagens das páginas


ISAAC BARROW was a son of Thomas Barrow, a London citizen, who held the appointment of linendraper to Charles I. Throughout the civil war, the father was a steadfast adherent of the Royal cause, and followed Charles II. into exile. He belonged to a good family in the Eastern Counties, and his brother, Isaac, became Bishop of St Asaph. The similarity of name has often caused a confusion between the uncle and the nephew. The Bishop was charged with romanizing tendencies, and on his tombstone were inscribed the words, Orate pro conservo vestro, ut inveniat misericordiam in die Domini (Pray for your fellow-servant, that he may find mercy in the day of the Lord). With such tendencies as these, his illustrious nephew and namesake had no sympathy.

The precise date of Isaac Barrow's birth is somewhat doubtful. It is commonly said to be Oct., 1630. But his gossiping contemporary, Dr Pope, strongly asserts that both month and year are wrong, for that “he often had heard him say, jestingly, that his birthday was the best a man could have, being the twenty-ninth of February; seeing that his friends must invite him to a feast every year, and that he need not invite them oftener than once in four years.” The date ordinarily given, however, is probably the true one.

He was sent, as a lad, to the Charter House School ; but his career there was most unpromising. He showed himself rough and coarse, even beyond the general roughness and coarseness of public school boysof that day. His chief aversion was his book; his favourite amusement was fighting. Such was his misconduct, and so irreclaimable did he seem, that his father, in despair, used to say that“ if it pleased God to remove any of his children, he wished it might be his son Isaac.” How powerless are we to look into futurity, or to divine the purposes of God! What became of the other and more hopeful children of the worthy linen-draper, we cannot tell :this unworthy son lived to be the happiness and pride of his father's old age, to be one of the most illustrious members of the university to which he belonged, and one of the brightest ornaments of the Church of which he became a minister. Perhaps the misconduct of his youth may be, in part, accounted for by the fact that at a very early age he suffered the irreparable loss of his mother.

From the Charter House he was removed to the Grammar School of Felstead in Essex, where his character and conduct underwent an entire change. He became as remarkable for industry and good conduct as he had previously been for indolence and insubordination. His quaint old biographer and friend, Abraham Hill, says of him, that “he quickly made so great progress in learning and all things praiseworthy, that his master appointed him a little tutor to the Lord Viscount Fairfax of Emely in Ireland ;” adding that whilst“ he perfectly subdued all inclination to quarrelling, yet in his aftertime a very great courage remained, whereof many instances might be set down; and a negligence of his clothes did always continue with him.”

From Felstead he removed to Cambridge. It had been intended to place him at Peter House, his uncle's college. But in the troubles of the times his uncle had been ejected. He was thereforeentered at Trinity College in February, 1645. His father was now much reduced in circumstances, having left London and being in attendance on the king at Oxford. It seemed doubtful whether it would be possible for him to maintain his son at the university, so straitened were his means. But a friend was providentially raised up when the need was sorest. The celebrated Dr Hammond, a man as good and generous as he was learned, made it a point to search out and educate young men of piety and ability, who lacked the means of maintaining themselves at the universities. Of Barrow's abilities there could be no doubt, and he had now become a humble and sincere Christian. Dr Hammond therefore gave his young friend all the help he required to complete his studies.


The fortunes of the Puritans and the Parliament were now in the ascendant, but Barrow, by inheritance and from conviction, was a steadfast adherent to the cause of the king; nor did he care to conceal his opinions. Abraham Hill tells us : “The young man continued such a Royalist that he would never take the Covenant; yet carrying himself with fairness, candour, and pru. dence he gained the good-will of the chief governors of the university.” “One day Dr Hill, master of the College, laying his hand on his head, said, Thou art a good lad, 'tis pity thou art a Cavalier; and when, in an oration on the gunpowder treason, he had so celebrated the former times as to reflect much on the present, some fellows were provoked to move for his expulsion, but the master silenced them with this: Barrow is a better man than any of us. It says something for the moderation of the Puritan heads of the university that they should have tolerated such outspoken differences of opinion on the part of an under-graduate.

In due time, notwithstanding all obstacles, he was elected Fellow of Trinity College (1649), and that royal and ancient foundation can boast no worthier son. Barrow's mind had always been of a strongly scientific cast. He was deeply familiar with the philosophy associated with the splendid names, then almost new, of Bacon, Galileo, and Des Cartes. He now directed these studies

, into a practical direction. In the troubled condition of Church and State he thought he could not do better than become a physician. For some years he diligently

« AnteriorContinuar »