James Ussher – ODNB – Alexander Gordon – 1921-22

USSHER, JAMES (1581-1656), arch-
bishop of Armagh, second but elder surviv-
ing son of Arland (Arnoldus) Ussher (d.
12 Aug. 1598), clerk of the Irish court ol
chancery, by his wife Margaret (d. Novem-
ber 1626), daughter of James Stanyhurst
[see under STANYHURST, RICHARD], was born
in Nicholas Street, parish of St. Nicholas
Within, Dublin, on 4 Jan. 1580-1. Am-
brose Ussher [q. v.] was his younger brother.
Both parents were originally protestants. His
mother became a Roman catholic before her
death. Two blind aunts (probably Alice
and Katherine Ussher, his father's sisters)
taught him to read. At the age of eight he
entered the free Latin school in Schoolhouse
Lane, Dublin, conducted by (Sir) James
Fullerton (d. 1630) and James Hamilton
(Viscount Claneboye) [q. v.], two Scottish
presbyterians, political agents of James VI.
On the opening of Trinity College, Dublin
[see USSHER, HENRY], on 9 Jan. 1593-4,
Hamilton was one of the original fellows,
and Ussher was entered under him, at the
age of thirteen, as one of the earliest scholars
on a foundation which owed its existence to
the efforts of his family on both sides of the
house. He was not, as Bernard affirms, the
first scholar entered ; his name follows that
of Abel Walsh, afterwards dean of Tuam.
He had already shown a precocious taste for
divinity and chronology, having read some-
thing of William Perkins (in manuscript),
the ' Meditations ' of St. Augustine, probably
in the 'purified 'translation(1581) by Thomas
Rogers (d. 1616) [q. v.], and Sleidan's ' De
Quatuor Summis Imperils.' Greek and He-
brew he began at Trinity College. Before
graduating B.A. (probably in July 1597) he
bad drawn up in Latin a biblical chronology
(to the end of the Hebrew monarchy), which
formed the basis of his 'Annales.' His
father, intending him for the bar, had ar-
ranged, much against Ussher's own will, for
his legal studies in London. On his father's
death (1598) he inherited a considerable but
burdened estate. This, on coming of age,
ae transferred to his uncle, George Ussher
1558-1610), a Dublin merchant, in trust for
lis brother and sisters, reserving a small
sum for his college maintenance. 

Ussher first exhibited his powers at an
academic disputation before Robert Deve-
reux, second earl of Essex [q. v.], the new
chancellor of Trinity College, in April 1599.
His success led him to enter the lists in pub-
ic discussion with Henry Fitzsimon [q. v.],
;hen a prisoner for his religion in Dublin
Castle. Both disputants have given some
account of the encounter. Fitzsimon de-
scribes Ussher as ' octodenarius prsecocis
sapientise (non tamen malae, ut videtur, in-
dolis) juvenis,' and says he refused to con-
tinue the discussion unless Ussher's party
would adopt him as their champion. Ussher
affirms that Fitzsimon did not fulfil a promise
to supply the points for controversy in writing.
To meet the argument from antiquity pre-
.sented in ' A Fortresse of the Faith ' (1565), by
Thomas Stapleton [q. v.], Ussher now began
& systematic reading of the fathers, a labour
which it took him eighteen years to accom-
plish. He was made fellow in 1599 (S
p. 25), graduated M.A. on 24 Feb. 1600-1
(ib. p. 17), was appointed catechist of his
college and the first proctor, and in the same
year was chosen one of three preachers at
Christ Church. These three preachers were
then all laymen; but Ussher, whose duty
was to discourse on the Romish controversy
-on Sunday afternoons, soon felt scruples
-about his position, and by special dispensa-
tion was ordained deacon and priest (in his
twenty-first year) on 20 Dec. 1601 by Henry
Ussher [q. v.], his uncle. On 24 Dec. he
preached before the state on a day of suppli-
cation for success against the Spaniards ;
their defeat at Kinsale occurred on that
.same day. Out of the booty then gained
the officers of the English army gave ' about
700/.' to buy books for Trinity College Li-
brary. To select them, Ussher was sent on
his first journey to England, in company
with his connection, Luke Challoner, D.D.
(1550-1613). At Chester he visited Christo-
pher Goodman [q. v.], the puritan, who was
then bedridden and died the next year
(4 June 1603). In London he met Sir
Thomas Bodley [q. v.], then collecting books
for his munificent foundation at Oxford.
On his return (1602) he was appointed to a
catechetical lecture on the Roman contro-
versy on Sunday afternoons at St. Cathe-
rine's Church. This lecture was stopped in
pursuance of the government order (February
1603) for the free exercise of the Roman
catholic religion. It was in consequence of
this order that Ussher preached his famous
sermon at Christ Church, predicting (Ezek.
iv. 6) a judgment after forty years. This
was thought to be fulfilled by the massacre
of 1641. His biographers (before Elrington)
have antedated the sermon to 1601, making
the prediction more exact.
The charter (1591) of Trinity College has
no limitation of religion. Roman catholics
contributed to the funds for its erection.
It was treated, however, as a protestant
stronghold. After the nominal provostship
of Adam Loftus (1533P-1605) [q. v.], its
early provosts were English puritans, whose
opinions had interfered with their prefer-
ment at home. They were men of learning
and character rather than of administrative
gifts. Ussher imbibed their theology, and
respected without sharing their ceremonial
scruples. Walter Travers [q. v.], provost
till 1598, was strong in Oriental learning.
Ussher never lost sight of him, and in later
life offered him substantial proofs of his
esteem. Travers was succeeded, after an in-
terregnum, by Henry Alvey (d. 1627), under
whom Ussher was made fellow. During
Alvey's absences, from ill-health (March to
October 1603) and from fear of the plague
(June 1604 to June 1605), the management
of the college was in the hands of Challoner
and Ussher. Shortly before his death (1 April
1605) Loftus preferred Ussher to the chan-
cellorship of St. Patrick's and the rectory of
Finglas, co. Dublin, held with it in com-
mendam ; hence he resigned his fellowship
(the presentation, owing to the commenda,
had legally devolved to the crown ; the
error was rectified by a crown presentation
on 12 July 1611). In 1606 he again visited
England in search of books, and made the
acquaintance of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton
[q. v.] and William Camden [q. v.], to whom
he furnished information on Irish antiquities,
acknowledged in the description of Dublin
in the sixth edition (1607) of the 'Bri-
tannia.' From this time he paid a triennial
visit to Oxford, Cambridge, and London,
staying a month at each place. He gra-
duated B.D. in 1607, and was at once ap-
pointed the first professor of divinity at
Dublin on the foundation (worth 81. a year)
of James Cottrell, who died at York in 1595.
On Alvey's resignation (1609) the provost-
ship was offered to Ussher, who declined it
and promoted the appointment of Sir William
Temple (d. 1627) [q. v.], a good organiser.
The scope of Ussher's office was now defined
as ' professor of theological controversies '
(the title ' regius professor of divinity ' dates
from 1674). His acquaintance with Henry
Briggs [q. v.], John Davenant [q. v.], Sir
Henry Savile [q. v.], and John Selden [q. v.]
began in a visit to London in 1609. He
brought back with him to Dublin Thomas
Lydiat [q.v.], who gave him aid in his chrono-
logical studies. At this time he preached
every Sunday at Finglas, where he endowed
a vicarage as a separate benefice. From,
about 1611 he held also the rectory of Assey,
co. Meath.
His first work, ' De . . . Ecclesiarum . . .
Successione,' the publication of which took
him to London in 1613, was designed to
carry on the argument of Jewel's ' Apologia '
(1562). Jewel had vindicated Anglican
doctrine as the doctrine of the first six cen-
times ; Ussher undertook to show a con-
tinuity of the same doctrine to 1513. The
portion published reaches the year 1270;
before completing his task Ussher awaited a
reply by his uncle. Richard Stanyhurst [q.v.],
of which only a ' Brevis Praemunitio ' (1615)
appeared. With George Abbot [q. v.], arch-
bishop of Canterbury, who had been made
chancellor of Trinity College in 1612, Ussher
conferred respecting new statutes. Abbot
complained of sundry arrangements as ' flat
puritanical ; ' Ussher wrote (9 April 1613) to
Challoner : ' I pray you be not too forward
to have statutes sent you from hence/ On
27 April Challoner died, his last wish being
that his daughter and heiress should marry
Ussher. The marriage took place within a
year. Ussher proceeded D.D. on 18 Aug.
1614, and was chosen vice-chancellor on
2 March 1614-15 ; he was chosen vice-provost
on 13 May 1616 (to act in Temple's absence) ;
and on 3 July 1617 he was again chosen
In 1615 was held at Dublin the first con-
vocation of the Irish clergy on the English
model. Hitherto the only ' articles of re-
ligion' having authority in Ireland were the
eleven articles drawn up by Matthew Parker
[q. v.] in 1559, and authorised for Ireland in
1566 (when they were numbered as twelve).
Ussher was deputed to draft a new formu-
lary. It extended to 104 articles under
nineteen heads. Incorporating much from
the articles of 1559, and more from the
Anglican articles of 1562, the Irish articles
take over the whole of the Lambeth articles
of 1595 [see BAKO, PETEK, and OVERALL,
JOHN] and even go beyond them in definition
of the subjects of reprobation. Further,
they declare the pope to be the ' man of
sinne ; ' identify the ' Catholike ' with the ' In-
uisible ' church ; reject ' the sacrifice of the
Masse ' as ' most ungodly ; ' affirm ' the eat-
ing of fish and forbearing of flesh ' to be not
a religious but an economic provision ; de-
clare religious ' images ' of every kind un-
lawful ; and direct the Lord's day ' wholly
to be dedicated' to divine service. The
most striking omission is the absence of refe-
rence to distinction of orders among the
clergy or to any form of ordination. It does
not appear that subscription to these articles
was compulsory, but the decree of convoca-
tion imposed silence and deprivation as the
penalties for public teaching contrary to
By letter of 30 Sept. 1619 from the Irish
to the English privy council, Ussher was
recommended for the next vacant bishopric.
The document was intended 'to set him
right in his majesties opinion ' in regard of
his alleged ' unaptness to be conformable/
He had been passed over when Launcelot
Bulkeley [q. v.] was appointed to Dublin
(11 Aug.) He was presented (17 April
1620) to the rectory of Trim, resigning Assey.
On the death of George Montgomery (January
1620-1) James I at once nominated Ussher
to the see of Meath and Clonmacnoise. On
18 Feb. he preached before the House of
Commons at St. Margaret's, Westminster,
when the members received the communion as
a test against popery. His patent was issued
on 22 Feb., and he resigned his professorship.
On his return to Ireland he was consecrated
(the writ is dated 27 June) at St. Peter's, Drog-
heda, by Christopher Hampton [q. v.], arch-
bishop of Armagh, and three suffragans, in-
cluding Theophilus Buckworth (1561-1652),
bishop of Dromore, who had married Ussher's
sister Sarah. The yearly revenue of the see
amounted to little over 400/. ; Ussher held
Trim (worth 200/.) in commendam, perhaps
also Finglas, where he was living in 1623.
Ussher's ' certificate ' of the state of the dio-
cese (28 May 1622) is a most minute and in-
teresting document (ELRINGTOST, app. v.)
There was no cathedral and no chapter ; the
clergy met in synod, but the great majority
of the parish churches were ruinous ; yet
Elrington considers the diocese ' at that
time the best arranged and most civilised
part of Ireland.' Ussher made endeavours
to win the Roman catholics by his sermons,
preaching in the session-house when he could
not induce them to enter the church.
Rumours of his adopting less legitimate
modes of propaganda (' clandestine christen-
ings ') are mentioned in a letter (April 1622)
by Sir Henry Bourgchier. His sermon
(8 Sept. 1622) before the new lord deputy,
Henry Gary, first viscount Falkland [q. v.],
showed anxiety to curb corresponding efforts
on the part of the Roman catholic priesthood.
Archbishop Hampton wrote (17 Oct.) a wise
remonstrance, advising Ussher to soften
matters 'by a voluntary retraction and
milder interpretation,' and to 'spend more
time ' in his diocese. According to Cox
(Hibernia Anglicana, 1690, ii. 39), Ussher
preached an explanatory sermon ; he certainly
wrote (16 Oct.) an explanatory letter, but it
must be added that in his speech at the privy
council (22 Nov.) enforcing the oath of
supremacy, he distinctly recognises the death
penalty for heresy as part of the civil govern-
ment. This speech was published with a
special letter of thanks by James I, who in
the following year granted Ussher an in-
definite leave of absence in England for the
completion of his projected works on the
antiquities of the British church.
Ussher reached London early in December
1623, and remained in England till the
beginning of 1626. He preached before
James at Wanstead on 20 June 1624 ; in the
same year he was admitted a member of
Gray's Inn; at its close he published his
{ Answer ' to William Malone [q. v.] On
22 March 1624-5 he was appointed by
patent archbishop of Armagh, in succession
to Hampton. He was then living at Much
Hadham, Hertfordshire, where his friend
George Montaigne [q. v.], bishop of London,
had a country house, now known as the
Palace. In January 1624-5 he had preached
a funeral sermon for Theophilus Aylmer, the
late rector. Aylmer's successor, Peter
Hausted [q. v.], is a link between Ussher
and Jeremy Taylor [q. v.], being in charge
of Uppingham on Taylor's appointment.
Weekday preaching in Essex threw Ussher
into a quartan ague ; he lay ill at Hadham
several months. In November, still ailing,
he became the guest at Drayton Lodge,
Northamptonshire, of John Mordaunt (after-
wards first Earl of Peterborough) [see under
daunt had become a Roman catholic, his
wife Elizabeth, granddaughter of Charles
Howard, earl of Nottingham [q. v.], remain-
ing protestant ; on her motion Ussher was
to dispute the points in controversy with
Oswald Tesimond [q. v.], known as Philip
Beaumont. After three days' discussion,
Tesimond retired ; Mordaunt returned to the
Anglican church. By 22 March 1626
Ussher was at Drogheda, under treatment
by Thomas Arthur, M.D. [q. v.], who took
him to the island of Lambay, which he left
for Dublin ' evicto morbo,' on 8 June. He
must have journeyed to Oxford soon after
14 June, if Wood is right in saying that he
lodged in Jesus College at the time of his
incorporation as D.D. (24 July). Parr says
he returned to Ireland in August, but this
is inconsistent with the statement that he
was in England at the time of his mother's
Ussher's name heads the list of twelve
Irish prelates, who met in Dublin and signed
(26 Nov. 1626) a protestation against tolera-
tion of popery [see DOWNHAM or DOWNAME,
GEORGE], S}me relief had been proposed
for Roman catholics in return for their
army contributions. Against this Ussher
preached as a corrupt bargain; and in an
elaborate speech (30 April 1627) he urged
that it was to the interest of Roman catho-
lics to support the army without relief. In
the previous month he had expressed to
Robert Blair (1593-1666) [q. v.] his desire
for the removal of grievances felt by the
nonconforming puritans. As vice-chancellor
he took now a large share in the affairs of
Trinity College. The appointment of Wil-
liam Bedell [q. v.] as provost (16 Aug.
1627) was mainly his work, on the failure
of overtures to Richard Sibbes [q. v.] Their
relations became strained soon after Bedell's
elevation (1629) to the sees of Kilmore and
Ardagh. Ussher disapproved of Bedell's
leniency to Roman catholics, and was averse
from the policy of encouraging the Irish lan-
guage as a means of religious instruction.
Ussher's correspondence with Laud began
in 1628, and was maintained till 1640, with no
lack of cordiality on either side. In love of
learning, in reverence for antiquity, and in
opposition to Rome, they had common
ground, notwithstanding their adhesion to
different theological schools ; and though
Usshsr had none of Laud's passion for uni-
formity, he fully recognised the duty of
allegiance to constituted authority. In
September 1631 he interceded with Robert
Echlin [q. v.], his suffragan, for leniency
towards the Scottish nonconformists in
Down ; but in the following May, the crown
having issued instructions, he declined to
interfere. He carried out the king's order
in regard to the sermon by George Downham
against Arminianism (Elrington's suspicion
of the authenticity of the letter, 8 Nov. 1631,
is unfounded), though he had himself j ust pub-
lished an extreme view of predestination in
his ' Gotteschalci Historia.' On. Laud be-
coming archbishop of Canterbury (1633),
Ussher took immediate steps to procure his
election (May 1634) as chancellor of Trinity
It has been assumed that Strafford, in
conjunction with Laud, took measures to
lessen Ussher's influence. Urwick urges
in support of this view the appointment of
William Chappell [q. v.] as provost of
Trinity, but the facts will not bear this
construction. On 26 June 1634 the long-
pending dispute between the sees of Armagh
and Dublin, for the primacy of all Ireland,
was decided by Strafford in favour of Armagh
(Ussher's paper on the controversy is printed
in ELRINGTON'S Life, App. vi.) Ussher
preached at the opening of the Irish parlia-
ment on 14 July. In the Irish convocation,
which met simultaneously, the main question
was that of the adoption of the Anglican
articles and canons. Ussher had a plan for
substituting the Anglican articles for the
Irish 'without noise, as it were aliud agens.'
Difficulties arose, and Strafford insisted on
the adoption of the Anglican articles without
discussion, which was done (November 1634),
with one dissentient voice, in the lower house.
The Irish articles were not repealed ; Ussher's
own course (and that of some other bishops)
was to require subscription to both sets of
articles, a practice which fell into abeyance
at the Restoration. The adoption of the
Anglican canons of 1604 was proposed by
John Bramhall [q. v.], bishop of Derry.
Ussher strenuously resisted this, as incon-
sistent with the independence of a national
church ; ultimately a hundred canons, mainly
drafted by Bramhall, but ' methodised ' by
Ussher, were adopted. They exhibit no
-concession to puritan scruples, and their en-
forcement became the main grievance of the
Scottish settlers in the north. It is curious
-that when Stratford visited Ussher at
Drogheda in 1638, he found no communion
table in his private chapel. In 1638 may
perhaps be placed Ussher's famous visit to
Samuel Rutherford [q. v.], at Anwoth, Kirk-
cudbrightshire ; no date will exactly fit the
story as given by Wodrow.
Ussher's relations with Bedell at this
period are perplexing. The Irish canons
had allowed the use of the Irish language
(concurrently with English) in the service,
and Ussher had recommended to Bedell, as
translator of the Old Testament, Murtagh
King, a convert from Roman Catholicism.
But he certainly did not support Bedell in
his difficulties about King's preferment,
which led to what Burnet calls the ' unjust
prosecution 'of Bedell in the prerogative
In March 1640 Ussher preached at the j
opening of the Irish parliament, and imme-
diately left Ireland, finally as it turned out.
He spent a short time at Oxford, lodging in
Christ Church, and preaching at St. Mary's
on 5 Nov., bub was called up to London
to aid in composing the ecclesiastical revo-
lution which began with the opening of the
Long parliament (November 1640). He pre-
pared the draft of a modified scheme of epi-
scopacy, which was surreptitiously printed
(1641 , 4to, and again 1642, 4to) with a mislead-
ing title, implying that Ussher had issued
' Directions ' affecting ' the Lyturgy ' as well
as church government. Instead of putting
forth his own edition, he obtained an order
(9 Feb. 1640-1) of the House of Commons
suppressing the pamphlet, a course which
has thrown doubt on the authenticity of one
of the most important ecclesiastical docu-
ments of the time. The scheme was sub-
mitted to the sub-committee of divines j
appointed (12 March) by the lords' com- I
mittee for accommodation. It was accepted j
by the puritan leaders, then and subse- I
quently ; Charles I fell back upon it in 1648 ;
Charles II made it the basis of his ' declara-
tion' in October 1660; Robert Leighton
(1611-1684) [q. v.] took it as the model of
his experiments in the dioceses of Dunblane
and Glasgow. Another surreptitious edi-
tion, with more correct title, having been
issued in 1656 (after Ussher's death), the
original was published from Ussher's auto-
graph, with his ' last correction,' by Nicholas
Bernard, D.D. [q. v.], as < The Reduction of
Episcopacie unto the form of Synodical
Government received in the Ancient Church,'
1656, 4to. The text, as actually presented
in 1641, is given in * Reliquiae Baxterianse,'
1696, ii. 238 sq., with bracketed amendments
suggested by Richard Holdsworth [q. v.] and
afterwards adopted by Ussher. The margi-
nalia, showing parallels with the Scottish
system, were tFssher's own, but he had for-
bidden Bernard to print them ; in fact, the
parallels were not real, for Ussher's synods
were purely clerical, except the meeting of
parochial officers, which had no jurisdiction.
The 1660 reprint has a careless title-page, but
follows the original in every material par-
ticular. A Latin version was edited by John
Hoornbeek, Utrecht, 1661.
Ussher was one of the five bishops con-
sulted by Charles before passing the bill of
attainder against Straffbrd. Not only did
he warn the king against giving his assent
unless he were satisfied of Stratford's trea-
son, but after the assent he reproached
Charles ' with tears in his eyes.' He was
sent to Stratford with the last message from
Charles, and to Laud with the last message
from Straftbrd, attended him to the block,
and brought the account of his last moments
to the king.
The rebellion of October 1641 made havoc
of all Ussher's Irish property (except his
library). He declined the offer of a chair
at Leyden. On 22 Dec. he preached before
the House of Lords, and obtained an order
(11 Feb.) for the suppression of a surrepti-
tious print of his sermon. On 16 Feb.
1641-2 Charles made him a grant of the bi-
shopric of Carlisle in commendam on the
death of Barnaby Potter [q. v.] He admi-
nistered the diocese by commission, and re-
ceived the revenue till the autumn of 1643.
On 21 Sept. 1643 parliament granted him a
pension of 400. a year, but no payment was
made till 10 Dec. 1647. In London he had
preached regularly at St. Paul's, Covent
Garden ; he removed in 1642 with parlia-
mentary sanction to Oxford, occupying the
house of John Prideaux (1578-1650) [q. v.],
and frequently preaching at St. Aldate's or
at All Saints'. His name was included in
the ordinance (20 June 1643) summoning
the Westminster assembly, not without de-
bate, in the course of which John Selden
[q. v.] remarked, ' they had as good inquire
whether they had best admit Inigo Jones,
the king's architect, to the company of
mouse-trap makers.' He responded to the
summons by preaching boldly against the
legality of the assembly; the commons
promptly removed his name, substituting
that of John Bond, LL.D. [q. v.], and con-
fiscated his library, then deposited at Chelsea
College. Daniel Featley or Fairclough
[q. v.], with Selden's aid, redeemed the books
for a nominal sum, but many of Ussher's
papers and all his correspondence had disap-
peared. He was again offered a seat in the
assembly in 1647, but he never attended.
The influence of his writings is very apparent
in the work of the assembly. The chapters
of the f Westminster Confession ' in the
main follow the order and adopt the head-
ings of the Irish articles, and introduce but
two new topics (liberty of conscience and
Ussher had found himself powerless to
resist Charles's scheme (April 1644) for pur-
chasing Irish support by proffering relief to
Roman catholics. He left Oxford on 5 March
1644-5, accompanying Prince Charles as far
as Bristol. Thence he proceeded to Cardiff,
where Tyrrell, his son-in-law, was governor.
There he preached before Charles on 3 Aug.
He had thoughts of migrating to the con-
tinent, but accepted the hospitality of Mary,
widow of Sir Edward Stradling [see under
STRADLING, SIR JOHN"] at St. Donat's, Gla-
morganshire. On his way thither with his
daughter he fell into the hands of Welsh
insurgents, and was stripped of his books
and papers, most of which were afterwards
recovered. At St. Donat's Castle there was
a fine library, but Ussher's studies were in-
terrupted by serious illness, leaving him so
weak from haemorrhage that his death was
reported. John Greaves [q. v.] wrote an
epitaph for him. He again resolved to retire
to the continent, and procured a passport
from Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick
[q. v.], the lord high admiral. He was
putting to sea, when Molton, the vice-
admiral, threatened him with arrest. At the
invitation of his old friend, Elizabeth Mor-
daunt, now Dowager Countess of Peter-
borough, he removed to London, and re-
mained her guest till his death. On his
way through Gloucester (June 1646) he had
an interview with John Biddle [q. v.], the
antitrinitarian ; the interview was not fruit-
less, as it led Biddle to examine the argu-
ment from Christian antiquity.
When parliament called upon Ussher to
take the negative oath, he asked time for con-
sideration, and the matter was not pressed.
His appointment as preacher at Lincoln's
Inn was sanctioned by parliament at the
beginning of 1647, on his petition. He is
said to have refused the sacrament to Ed-
ward, first lord Herbert of Cherbury [q. v.],.
on his deathbed (August 1648), in consequence
of the dying man's remark, 'if there was
good in anything it was in that ; or if it did
no good, it could do no harm.' His preach-
ing was fearless. In November 1648 he
denounced at Lincoln's Inn the attitude of"
parliament towards the king. On 19 Nov.
(the king's birthday), in a sermon before
Charles at Carisbrooke, he urged the doc-
trine of divine right. It was then that
Charles accepted his ' reduction ' scheme of
1641, having previously refused it (this is
Ussher's own testimony given to Baxter,
Reliq. Baxt. i. 62). He saw the prelimi-
naries of the execution of Charles from the
leads of Lady Peterborough's house in St.
Martin's Lane, 'just over against Charing
Cross,' but fainted when l the villains in
vizards began to put up his hair.' To a date
subsequent to the execution of Charles must
be referred the offer (to which he alludes,
November 1651) of a pension with the free
exercise of his religion, made through Riche-
lieu by the queen regent of France. He had
previously exchanged courtesies with Riche-
lieu, after the publication of his ' Britanni-
carum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates ' (1639).
Early in 1654 Roger Boyle, baron Brog-
hill [q. v.], nominated L T ssher as one of four-
teen divines to draw up l fundamentals ' as
terms of toleration ; he declined to act, and
suggested Baxter, who was put in his place
(Monthly Repository, 1825, p. 287). Crom-
well, according to Parr, consulted Ussher
about advancing the protestant interest
abroad, and promised him a twenty-one-
years' lease of lands belonging to the see of
Armagh ; the grant was not made ; after
Ussher's death his daughter made fruitless
application for it. In November 1654 Ussher
was at Selden's deathbed, and is said to have
given him absolution. He approached Crom-
well in 1655, seeking liberty for episcopal
clergy to minister in private ; some kind of
promise was given, but retracted at a second
interview, after Ussher had made a retort,
ofted quoted. ' If this core were out,' said
Cromwell (alluding to a boil), 1 1 should be
soon well.' ' I doubt the core lies deeper,'
said Ussher ; l there is a core in the heart.'
His application to Cromwell had no personal
reference, for he had resigned Lincoln's Inn,,
as loss of teeth interfered with his preaching.
His sight was also failing, and spectacles
were of no service. He preached for the?
last time at Hammersmith at Michaelmas
On 13 Feb. 1655-6 he took leave of his Lon-
don friends, and retired to Lady Peter-
borough's house at Reigate. He was still
intent on his studies, and thought of en-
gaging an amanuensis. On 20 March he was
seized with pleurisy at night, and quickly
sank ; his last words referred to his ' sins of
omission.' He died on 21 March 1656. His
body was embalmed, and was to have been
buried in the Peterborough vault at Reigate.
Cromwell ordered a public funeral in West-
minster Abbey, making for the purpose a
treasury grant (2 April) of 200/. (a fourth of
the actual cost). The interment took place
on 17 April in St. Erasmus's Chapel, next to
the tomb of Ussher's first master. Sir James
Fullerton. Bernard preached the funeral
sermon to an immense concourse ; the Angli-
can service was used at the grave. Payne
Fisher [q. v.], Cromwell's poet laureate, is
said to have recited on the same day a worth-
less Latin elegy in the hall of Christ Church,
Oxford ; as published (1658, fol.) it purports
to be a commemoration of the anniversary of
the funeral. There is no monument to
Ussher. The best likeness of him, according
to Parr, was the portrait by Lely, at Shotover,
engraved (1738) by Vertue ; the Bodleian has a
portrait dated 1644 ; Trinity College, Dublin,
has a portrait dated 1654 ; the National Por-
trait Gallery has a portrait (in surplice)
ascribed to Lely and dated about 1655 ; an
anonymous portrait is at Armagh (Cat. Third
Loan Exhib. No. 570). Engravings are very
numerous: that by Vaughan (1647) was done
at the expense of Oxford University. All
represent him in plain skull-cap and large
ruff. He was of middle height, erect and
well made, of fresh complexion, and wore
moustache and short beard.
Ussher married in 1614 Phoebe (d. 1654),
only daughter of Luke Challoner, D.D. (her
portrait, formerly at Shotover, was exhibited
in the National Portrait Exhibition, 1866),
and had issue an only child, Elizabeth. She
was baptised on 19 Sept. 1619 at St. Dun-
stan's-in-the-East, and married in 1641 Sir
Timothy Tyrrell (d. 23 Oct. 1701, aged 83)
of Oakley, Buckinghamshire, afterwards of
Shotover, Oxfordshire. She died in 1693,
and was buried at Oakley (Wright's copy
of her epitaph is incorrect) ; James Tyrrell
(1642-1718) [q. v.] was the eldest of her
twelve children ; her sixth daughter, Elea-
nor, was the wife of Charles Blount [q. v.],
the deist.
Burnet's eulogy of Ussher is warm and
discriminating : ' No man had a better soul.'
' Love of the world seemed not ... in his
nature.' ' He had a way of gaining people's
hearts and of touching their consciences that
look'd like somewhat of the apostolical age
reviv'd.' Burnet adds that ' he was not made
for the governing part of his function,' having
' too gentle a soul ' for the ; rough work of
reforming abuses ; ' hence ' he left things as
he found them.' He had nothing of Bram-
hall's statesmanlike grasp of affairs, and his
measures of ecclesiastical legislation were
academic. The blunder of the Irish articles
was not retrieved by the opposite blunder of
the Irish canons. His reduction of episco-
pacy took no account of the. real difficulty,
the lay demand for a voice in church affairs.
His Augustinian theology commended him
to the puritans, his veneration for antiquity
to the high churchmen ; no royalist sur-
passed him in his deference to the divine
right of kings. All parties had confidence
in his character, and marvelled at his learn-
Selden calls him ' learned to a miracle '
(' ad miraculum doctus '). To estimate his
labours aright would be the work of a com-
pany of experts. His learning was for use ;
and his topics were suggested by the contro-
versies of his age, which he was resolved to
probe to their roots in the ground of history.
He told Evelyn (21 Aug. 1655) < how great
the loss of time was to study much the
eastern languages ; that, excepting Hebrew,
there was little fruit to be gathered of ex-
ceeding labour . . . the Arabic itself had
little considerable.' His genius as a scholar
was shown in his eye for original sources,
and this on all subjects that he touched. He"
worked from manuscripts hitherto neglected,
and brought to light the materials he needed
by personal research, and by correspondence
with continental scholars and with agents in
the east. Younger scholars, like Francis
Quarles [q. v.], were employed as his aids and
amanuenses. As a writer, his passion for
exactness (which made him extremely sensi-
tive on the subject of unauthorised publica-
tion) exhibits itself in his use of materials.
He lets his sources tell their story in their
own words, incorporating them into his text
with clear but sparing comment. Few faults
have been found with his accuracy ; his con-
clusions have been mended by further appli-
cation of his own methods. His merits as
an investigator of early Irish history are
acknowledged by his countrymen of all
parties ; his' 7 contributions to the history of
the creed and to the treatment of the Igna-
tian problem are recognised by modern scho-
lars as of primary value ; his chronology is
still the standard adopted in editions of the
English Bible.
Ussher's library was offered for sale after
his death. On 12 June 1656 Cromwell, by
an order in council, referred it to John
Owen, D.D., Joseph Caryl, and Peter Sterry,
to certify what part was ' fitt to be bought
by the state/ and meantime stopped the
sale. The whole library was purchased for
2,200/., raised in part by contributions
from the army in Ireland. The library was
sent, by way of Chester, to Dublin, and
lodged in the castle, the intention being to
place it in Cork House, as a library for the
New College then projected. The statement
that it was negligently kept appears to be
groundless. In 1661 the library was de-
posited in Trinity College, Dublin, as the
gift of Charles II.
Ussher's complete ' Works/ with 'life/
were published at Dublin, 1847-64, 8vo, 17
vols., the first fourteen volumes edited by
Charles Richard Elrington [q. v.], the re-
mainder by James Henthorn Todd [q. v.], the
index by William Reeves, D.D. [q. v.] Edi-
tions of separate works ; many of them edited
by foreign as well as by English scholars,
are very numerous. The following is a list
of original editions, omitting single sermons :
1. * Gravissimse Qugestionis de Christianorum
Ecclesiarum . . . Successione et Statu His-
torica Explicatio/ 1613, 4to ; the edition
1678, 4to, has additions by Ussher, though
this is denied by Smith. 2. 'A Discourse
of the Religion anciently professed by the
Irish/ Dublin, 1623, 4to ; enlarged, London,
1631, 4to. 3. ' An Answer to ... A lesu-ite
in Ireland/ 1625, 4to (in reply to Malone's
challenge). 4. ' Gotteschalci et Predestina-
tianss Controversies . . . Historia/ Dublin,
1631, 4to. 5. ' A Speech ... in the Castle-
Chamber at Dublin/ 1631, 4to (delivered
22 Nov. 1622). 6. 'Veterum Epistolarum
Hibernicarum Sylloge/ Dublin, 1632, 4to.
7. i Immanuel, or the Mysterie of the In-
carnation/ Dublin, 1638, 4to. 8. ' Britan-
nicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates . . .
inserta est ... a Pelagio . . . inductse
Hsereseos Historia/ Dublin, 1639, 4to ; en-
larged, London, 1677, fol. 9. 'The Juge-
ment of Doctor Rainoldes touching the
Originall of Episcopacy . . . confirmed/
Oxford, 1641, 4to. 10. 'The Originall of
Bishops/ Oxford, 1641, 4to. 11. 'A Geo-
graphicall and Historicall Disquisition
touching the Asia properly so called/ Ox-
ford, 1641, 4to. 12. ' Polycarpi et Ignatii
Epistolse,' Oxford, 1644, 4to. 13. 'The
Principles of Christian Religion/ 1644, 12mo
(apparently not published by Ussher).
14. ' A Body of Divinitie/ 1645, fol. ; pub-
lished by John Downham or Downame [q.v.]
under Ussher's name, and often reprinted as
his; it was part of a manuscript ' lent abroad
to divers in scattered sheets/ and described
by Ussher (letter of 13 May 1645) as ' a
kinde of common place book ... in divers
places dissonant from my own judgment;'
subsequent editions have some corrections,
15. ' Appendix Ignatiana/ 1647, 4to.
16. ' De Romanss Ecclesiae Symbolo Apo-
stolico . . . Diatriba/ 1647, 4to ; prefixed is a
portrait of Ussher, engraved by order
(10 March 1644-5) of the convocation of
Oxford University, and meant to be pre-
fixed to No. 12. 17. 'De Macedonum et
Asianorum Anno Solari Dissertatio/ 1648,
8vo. 18. ' Annalhim Pnro Prior/ 1650, fol.;
oombiii&d with Jffoi DO ao ' Annales Veteris
Testament!/ 1650, fol. 19. ' De Textus
Hebraici . . . variantibus lectionibus ad
Ludovicum Cappellum Epistola/ 1652, 4to.
20. 'Annalium Pars Posterior/ 1654, foli|f
Nos. 18 and 20 were translated, with addi-
tions, as ' The Annals of the World ... to the
beginning of the Emperor Vespasian's Reign/
1658, fol. 21 . ' De Grseca Septuaginta Inter-
pretum Versione Syntagma/ 1655, 4to. Pos-
thumous were : 22. 'The Judgement of the late
Archbishop of Armagh ... i. Of the Ex-
tent of Christ's Death. . . . ii. Of the Sabbath.
. . . iii. Of the Ordination in other Reformed
Churches/ 1658, 8vo. 23. ' The Judgement
. . . of the present See of Rome/ 1659, 8vo
(on Rev. xviii. 4) ; this and the preceding
were edited by Bernard from early papers
by Ussher. 24. ' Eighteen Sermons/ 1659,
4to ; enlarged, ' Twenty Sermons/ 1677, fol.
(from notes of his Oxford sermons in 1640).
25. ' Chronologia Sacra/ Oxford, 1660, 4to ;
edited by Thomas Barlow [q. v.] 26. ' The
Power communicated by God to the Prince/
1661, 8vo ; edited by James Tyrrell.
27. ' Historia Dogmatica Controversies inter
Orthodoxos et Pontificios de Scripturis/
1690, 4to ; edited by Henry Wharton.
Two speeches by Ussher, on the ' king's
supremacy ' and on the ' duty of subjects to
supply the king's necessities/ were printed
in Bernard's ' Clavi Trabales/ 1661, 4to. An
' Epistola ' by Ussher is in Buxtorf ' s ' Cata-
lecta Philologico-theologica/ 1707, 8vo.
Charles Vallancey [q. v.] in 'Collectanea
de Rebus Hibernicis/ 1770, i., published
Ussher's treatise (1609) on ' Corbes, Erenachs,
and Termon Lands/ which had been used
by Sir Henry Spelman [q. v.] in his ' Glos-
sary.' In the ' Collectanea Curiosa/ 1781, i.,
John Gutch [q. v.] published two tracts by
Ussher on ' the first establishment of Eng-
lish laws and parliaments in Ireland/ and
' when and how far the imperial laws were
received by the old Irish.' A collection of
Ussher's ' Strange and Remarkable Pro-
$( After '1654, fol.' add 'a
continuation of no. 18 to the capture of
Jerusalem by the Romans ; the two parts
together, with nos. 17 and 25, Paris, 1673 j
the two parts, with the life by Thomas
Smith, Geneva, 1722'. H. O.
phecies and Predictions/ 1678, 4to, is a
curious but untrustworthy production, often
[The Life of Ussher, with Funeral Sermon,
1656, by Bernard, his chaplain, who had known
him from 1624, is reprinted with additions of
his own by Clarke, in Lives of Thirty-Two Eng-
lish Divines, 1677, pp. 277 sq. The Life, 1686,
by Richard Parr, D.D. [q. v.], also his chaplain,
who had known him from 1643, adds some
particulars, but is chiefly valuable for its rich
collection of Ussher's Correspondence. The
Vita, 1700, by William Dillingham, the Vita,
1707, by Thomas Smith, the article in the Bio-
graphia Britannica, and the Life, 1812, by John
Aikin, add little. Elrington's Life, 1848, and
the enlarged collection of letters published by
Elrington in the Works, supersede previous
sources. Some further particulars are in
W. Ball Wright's Ussher Memoirs, 1889. See
also Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss); Harris's Ware,
1739, vol. i. ; Bayle's Dictionnaire Historique et
Critique, 1740, iv. 280 ; Granger's Biographical
Hist, of England, 1779, ii. 162 ; Rawdon Papers
(Berwick), 1819 ; Mant's Hist, of the Church of
Ireland, 1840, vol. i. ; Keid's Hist. Presb.
Church in Ireland (Killen), 1867, vol. i. ; Mit-
chell and Struthers's Minutes of Westminster
Assembly, 1874 ; Chester's Westminster Abbe}'
Registers, 1876, p. 129; Urwick's Noncon-
formity in Hertfordshire, 1884, p. 746; Stubbs's
Hist. University of Dublin, 1889 ; Urwick's
Early Hist. Trinity College, Dublin, 1892;
Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892 iv. 1532.] A. Gr.

1 Comment

Filed under articles, church history, history, ignatius, ireland, james ussher, puritans, Resources

One response to “James Ussher – ODNB – Alexander Gordon – 1921-22

  1. Ian,

    This article may be of interest – on the Church Society website.


    The Reunion Views of Archbishop Ussher and his Circle
    Churchman 77/3 1963
    Graham Windsor

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