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the world, and of whom I have always had a great esteem, as a man, who besides his eminent parts, learning, and knowledge, hath been always looked upon as a man of probity, and of a life free from scandal.”
Thomas May, poet and historian, was descended of an ancient family at Mayfield, in Sussex; and born in 1595. Having received his juvenile education near home, he afterwards entered at Sidney College, Cambridge, where he proceeded batchelor of arts in 1612. About three years after, he became a member of Gray's Inn; and was soon introduced to the acquaintance of some of the principal courtiers and wits of his time-as sir Kenelm Digby, sir Richard Fanshaw, sir John Suckling, sir Aston Cokaine, Thomas Carew, Endymion Porter, Ben Jonson, and others of higher quality : for 'he was countenanced by Charles and his queen.
He subsequently conceived a disgust at the court, however, probably from a disappoint
ment in his expectation of being successor to Ben Jonson as poet-laureat, William d'Ave. nant being appointed in his stead. We afterwards find him in the republican army commanded by Fairfax, and in the post of a secretaryship under the parliament. He died in i650.
1. May first appeared, in a literary character, as a poet and dramatist. He also translated Virgil's Georgics, with annotations; aś likewise, “ Select Epigrams of Martial." But his most important translation was that of " Lucan's Pharsalia," with a “Continuation" of that poem, in English and Latin, to the death of Julius Cæsar.
2. By his majesty's command, he wrote a metrical history of “The Reign of Henry the Second;" to which he added in prose, “The Description of Henry II. with a short Survey of the Changes of his Reign.” Also, “ The single and comparative Characters of Henry and Richard, his Sons."
3. But his most considerable work is "Thre History of the Parliament of England ;" which may be considered rather as a brief history of the ~ Civil Wars" which arose during its sitting. He represents this work as a task im
posed upon him, and which he undertook with reluctance. “ For (says he) I wished more than life, that for the public's sake, my themę could rather have been the prosperity of these nations, the honour and happiness of the king, and such a blessed condition of both, as might have reached all the ends for which government was first ordained in the world." The full title is, “ The History of the Parliament of England, which began November 3, 1640, with a short and necessary View of some precedent Years : written by Thomas May, Esq. secretary for the parliament; published by authority;" folio, 1847. To this first edition is prefixed a preface (never reprinted) in which the following passage deserves transcription, as it explains the situation of the author at the commencement of the civil wars, as likewise his means of informatior.
That (says he) which of all other is most likely to be differently related, is concerning the actions of war and soldiery; and in the time of this war it is a thing of extraordinary difficulty, I might say, of impossibility, for those of one party to be truly informed of all the councils, or very performances and actions of commanders and soldiers on the other side,
profound, and luminous, had appeared prior to his time. He had evidently found out the right method of conducting philosophical en quiries. In the examination of any complicated and difficult question, his first aim is to detect the primary cause of any series of effects-to disentangle it from all adventitious circumstances, and then to pursue it into all its various ramifications of consequences. In my opinion, he is a better reasoner than Locke. He has not the endless tautology of that philosopher. Locke has no sooner a good idea, than he turns, and twists, and views it in all possible lights ; he becomes so enamoured of it, that it is with great reluctance he suffers it to escape from his embraces. In all enquiries relative to the moral class of objects, especially in metaphysics, where a principle is often to be proved more by clearness of perception and of statement, than by an accumulation of particulars, if we have once succeeded in presenting an idea in a'light in which it can be distinctly apprehendedma single statement is better than a thousand. Nay, in elementary works, even in experimental philosophy, a few clear and decisive experiments are preferable to a multitude; and for a very