Herbert, Lord, Of Citerbury
truth life english paris religion faculties
HERBERT, LORD, OF CITERBURY (1582-1648). Edward Herbert, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, soldier, diplomatist, historian, and religious philosopher, was born at Eyton in Shropshire in 1582, and was descended from an ancient hue of illustrious soldiers, to which the earls of Pembroke belonged. Sent to Oxford in his twelfth year, he married an heiress, his kinswoman, in his fifteenth, and returned to the university to prosecute his "beloved studies." He was knighted soon after the accession of James I., arid for a year or two fulfilled the functions of sheriff of his county. In 1608 he went abroad, at Paris gaining the esteem and love of the old Constable de Montmorency, and beginning an acquaintance with scholars like Casaubon, Gassendi, and Grotius. Next year he served as a volunteer in the Low Countries under the prince of Orange, whose intimate friend he became, and also took part in the campaigns of 1614 and 1615. Between the latter campaigns he visited Italy, and on his return was arrested in Prance fur recruiting Huguenots for the service of the duke of Savoy. In 1618 he was sent as ambassador extraordinary to the court of France; and, though recalled for a few mouths through the hostility of the French king's favourite, he soon returned to Paris as ordinary ambassador. In 1625 he came back to England, where, with the exception of one or more short visits to Paris, he spent the rest of his life. Created Lord Herbert of Castle Island ia 1625, lie was raised by Charles I. to the English peerage in 1631 as Baron Herbert of Cherbury. In the civil war he sided at first with the court, and subsequently declared for the par. liament, but the part he played was not a prominent one. His castle of Montgomery was, however, destroyed during the war, and he received an indemnity for his loss from the parliament. He died 20th August 1648.
" It is impossible to draw his picture well who bath several countenances," Herbert says of Henry VIII.; Horace Walpole made a bold attempt to sketch Herbert's character by declaring that in his case " the history of Don Quixote was the life of Plato." To his contemporaries Herbert was mainly known as a high-spirited man of the world, of great knightly and courtier-like accomplishments, who, though stiff and stately, was on the smallest actual provocation ready and able to defend his honour with his sword. He maintained the character -of ambassador with dignity, but his diplomacy was not attended by much success. It is as author that Herbert is chiefly remembered. And though in 1633 the De Veritate received the official imprimatur of the bishop of London's chaplain, on the strength of the same work the writer was soon after held up to abhorrence as an atheist. As a resolute opponent of empiricism in philosophy, he is unquestionably entitled to rank as one of the heralds of the philosophy of Paid ant' the Scottish metaphysicians. In the theological sphere ht is justly claimed as the father of English deism, and doubtless exercised a strong influence on the religious thought of England. His views were not so novel as he thought them to be, but he was an original and very independent thinker; and, as his chief work was published but a few years after the isrovunt Oryanuni, and many years before any of the works of Descartes or Hobbes, 'Herbert deserves a marked place in the van of modern speculation.
Herbert's first and most important stork is the De Veritate prod distinguitur a Revelationc, a Verisimili, a Possibili, et a Falso (Paris, 1624 ; translated into French, but never into English). It combines a theory of knowledge with a partial psychology, a methodology for the investigation of truth, and a scheme of natural religion. The author's method is prolix and often far from clear ; the book is no compact system, but it contains the skeleton and much of the soul of a complete philosophy. Giving up all last piffles°. phizings as useless, Herbert professedly endeavours to constitute a new and true system. Truth, Nvhich he defines as a just conformation of the faculties with one another and with their objects, he distributed into four classes or stages : - (1) truth iu the thing or the truth of the object ; (2) truth of the appearance ; (3) truth of the apprehension (conceptu,$); (4) truth of the intellect. The faculties of the mind are as numerous as the differences of their objects, and are accordingly innumerable ; but they may be arranged in four groups. The first and fundamental and most certain group is the I1'atural Instinct, to which belong the Kotval *voiaz, the i'Votitix Communes, which arc the "received principles of demonstration," existing in every sane and sound man, against which it is mfas to dispute. The second group, the next in certainty, is the Senses Internes (under which head Herbert discusses amongst others love, hate, fear, conscience with its COMMU'aiS notitia, and free will) ; the third is the Senses Externus ; and the fourth is Discursus, reasoning, to which, as being the Iciest certain, we hare recourse when the other faculties fail. The ratiocinative faculties proceed by division and analysis, by questioning, and are slow and gradual in their movement ; they take aid from the other faculties, those of the instinctus naturalis being always the final test. Herbert's categories or questions to be used in investigation are ten in number, - whether (a thing is), what, of what sort, how much, in 'What relation, how, when, where, whence, wherefore. No faculty, rightly used, (an err " even in dreams "; badly exercised, reasoning becomes the source of almost all our errors. The discussion of the notitit• communes is the roost characteristic part of the book. The exposition of them, though highly dogmatic, is at times strikingly Kantian in substance. " So far are these elements or sacred principles from being derived from experience or observation that without sonic. of them, or at least some one of them, ice can neither experience nor even observe." Unless we felt driven by them to explore the nature of things, "it would never occur to us to distinguish one thing, from another." It cannot be said that Herbert proves the existence of the common emotions ; he does not deduce thou or even give any list of them. But each faculty has its common notion ; and they may be distinguished by six marks, their priority, independence, universality, certainty, necessity (for the well-being of man), and immediacy. Law is based on certain CO97691201 notions; so is religion. Though Herbert expressly defines the scope of his book as dealing with the intellect, not faith, it is the common notions of religion he has illustrated most fully; and it is plain that it is in this heart of his system that lee is chiefly interested. The common notions of religion are the famous five articles, which became the charter of the English deists : - (1) that there is a supreme god ; (2) that he ought to be worshipped ; (3) that virtue and piety form the chief part of that worship ; (4) that sins should be repented of ; (5) that there are rewards • and punishments in another life. To these doctrines, which constitute the faith of the true catholic and orthodox church, it is not easy to add anything that can make men more virtuous or godly. There is little pobmie against the received form of Christianity, but Herbert's attitude towards the church's doctrine is distinctly negative, though he admits the possibility, under certain conditions, of specific and supernatural revelation. In the De Religione Gentilium (Lend., 1645) he gives what may be called, in Mime's words, "a natural history of religion." By examining the heathen religions Herbert finds, to his great delight, that under all their absurdities the five great articles were recognized. The heathen, yearning for the supreme God, saw him in His works and worshipped Him in the most glorious of llis creatures, the heavenly bodies. It was crafty priests who insisted on the necessity of multifarious rites and ceremonies, and developed full-fledged polytheism. The same vein is maintained in the tracts De Causis Errorum and De Religions Laid. Herbert's first historieal work is the Eapeclitio Buckinglarmi Duds (1656), an account of Buckingham's ill-fatcd expedition in 1627. The Life and Raigne of King Henry VIII. (1649), in pithy English, is called by Walpole " a masterpiece of historic biography," but is ill-proportioned and is digested into annals. It abounds in picturesque but prolix accounts of sieges and pageants at home and abroad ; the sketch of the Reformation history is so dispassionate as to suggest a lack of keen sympathy with either party. Henry's character is very leniently judged. The Life of Herbert by Himself (first published by Horace Walpole in 1764) gives a vivacious and interesting account of his early life down to the return from his embassy, dwelling mainly, with something of an old man's garrulity and a famous man's vanity, on the romantic and chivalrous incidents in his career. Herbert's poems, Latin and English, are of small value.
There arc sketches of Herbert in Leland's Deistical Writers, Lechler's Geseltiehte des Englisehen Deisinus, and elsewhere ; but the only adequate work is M. Charles de Remusat's Lord Herbert de Cherbury, so Vie et ses (Eavres (Paris, 1874).