Hale, Sir Matthew : A Letter from Sr Matthew Hale, Kt. sometime Lord Chief Justice of England: to one of his Sons, after his Recovery from the Small-Pox


 

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London, J. Playford for W. Shrowsbery, at the sign of the Bible in Duke-lane, 1684, 1st Edition. Hardcover, 8vo, [2] 37 [1]pp. Contemporary panelled calf, recent reback, corners bumped/rubbed, engraved armorial bookplate of George Baillie (1664-1738, member for Berwickshire) and previous owner's name in ink on front pastedown, small closed tear on foredge of ffep, text clean and bright.

Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676) was called to the bar in 1636 and while his natural abilities would have brought him to prominence, the political upheavals in England over the next three decades undoubtedly accelerated this process. In many ways his talent seems to have been to be seen as impartial in those troubles. His understanding of the constitution was broadly royalist and he never appeared for the prosecution in a case involving a royalist defendant. Yet during the Civil Wars, when royalists left London Hale remained living there and is reported to have taken the solemn league and covenant. Hale had an extensive practice under the protectorate and sat as MP for Gloucester in the first of the protectorate parliaments. Hale was knighted after the restoration and while held in great regard by most, some royalist Anglicans suspected him of pro-puritan and anti-government bias. Indeed in his personal life Hale practiced an austerity that would seem puritan, particularly in the hedonistic atmosphere of the restoration. He wore drab clothing and the modesty with which he lived has been described as ostentatious. His only vice appears to have been smoking. It was Hale's great integrity as much as his learning that gave him his standing among his contemporaries but he is remembered more for the later and for the two major works that resulted from it; his unfinished 'Historia placitorum coronae', and his 'History and Analysis of the Common Laws of England'. Both were published after his death but would have a significant impact on English law over the next century and a half. Burnett's biography of Hale is more hagiography but it cemented his place in the national memory as both virtuous lawyer and incorruptible judge.

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