Peter Heylin

English ecclesiastic and author of polemical, historical, political and theological tracts (1599-1662)

Peter Heylin (or Heylyn) (1599–1662) was an English ecclesiastic, newspaper publisher, geographer, and author of many polemical, historical, political and theological tracts.

Peter Heylin.



Microcosmos: a Little Description of the Great World (1621)

  • Our most provident and glorious Creator so furnished countries with severall commodities that amongst all there might be sociable conversation; and, one standing in need of the other, all might be combined in a common league, and exhibite mutuall succours. This abundance of all countries in everything, and defect of every country in most things, maintaineth in all regions and every province a most strict combination. So that, as in the body of the little world, the head cannot say to the foot, nor the foot to the head, 'I stand in no need of thee:' so, in the body of the great world, Europe cannot say to Asia, nor Asia to Africke, 'I want not your commodities, nor am defective in that of which thou boastest of abundance.'
  • Water, making but one globe with the earth, is yet higher than it. This appears, first, because it is a body not so heavy; secondly, it is observed by sailors that their ships move faster to the shore than from it, whereof no reason can be given but the height of the water above the land; thirdly to such as stand on the shore the sea seems to swell into the form of a round hill till it puts a bound upon our sight. Now that the sea, hovering thus over and above the earth doth, not overwhelm it, can be ascribed only to his Providence who 'hath made the waters to stand on an heap that they turn not again to cover the earth.

Cosmographie (1657)

  • A Continent is a great quantity of Land, not separated by any Sea from the rest of the World, as the whole Continent of Europe, Asia, Africa.

Quotes about Heylin

  • Here we have lying before us an old geography book, printed early in the reign of Charles the First. It is what Mr. Carlyle happily designates "a dumpy quarto"... presenting somewhat the appearance of a modern school-book; and is entitled Mikrokosmos: A Little Description of the Great World. The Fourth Edition. Revised. By Peter Heylyn. Oxford, Printed by W. T. for William Turner and Thomas Huggins. 1629." The first edition appeared in sixteen hundred and twenty-one; so that we see the work was held in no inconsiderable estimation at the time. Indeed, Peter, though now known only to a few inquirers, was a man of some importance during his life; and, for several years after his death, was quoted as an authority. The substance of the quarto now before us was originally delivered in the form of lectures at Magdalen College, Oxford, when the writer was only seventeen years of age; and, being afterwards enlarged, was published as a book. Subsequently, Heylyn entered the Church; became one of the chaplains of Charles I., a great favourite of Laud, and a doughty champion of kingly and priestly domination; suffered for his opinions under the Commonwealth; and finally died in prosperity after the restoration of the Stuarts. He was a ready and voluminous author; and will be regarded with interest as one of our earliest newspaper-press men, having published at Oxford a weekly paper called the Mercurius Aulicus.
    • Charles Dickens, "An Old Book of Geography" Household Words: A Weekly Journal (1854) Vol.9, p.75
  • High Churchman and scholar though was, our friend Heylyn puts on no saturnine or crabbed visage. His manner, on the contrary, is gay, lively, unctuous, flavorous, good-humoured, and full of character. His style has a chuckle in it whenever he can tell you a quaint story or an odd bit of national manners. Great relish for a joke has Peter; and you may now and then catch him telling a naughty tale with a twinkle in the eye. With no solemn pretence of abstruse wisdom does our geographical mentor conduct us on the long pilgrimage through a world; but rather with the air of a genial and well-informed companion, familiar with history, antiquity, and tradition; full of anecdote and illustration; observant of new forms and modes of life; not deficient in the broad daylight of statistics (such as were then known) yet having strong love for glimmering fables and twilight myths; no indiscriminate swallower of lies, though willing to believe any strange tale; and, poet-like, increasing in riches as he passes onward into regions and more remote. Sometimes we laugh with Peter, sometimes at him; yet there is no denying that his book is the result of great industry, great learning, much careful research in many volumes, and considerable literary tact in selection and condensation. Let us dip a little into the old quarto, and see how the world has altered in many things—how remained stationary in some—since the year sixteen hundred and twenty-nine.
    • Charles Dickens, "An Old Book of Geography" Household Words: A Weekly Journal (1854) Vol.9, p.75
  • Concerning rivers, we find a scientific opinion which we fear will not pass muster with the learned of our own times. It appears that rivers are "engendered in the hollow concavities of the earth," and are derived from congealed air: to give us a lively idea of which engendering, Peter informs us that it is in the same manner "as we see the aire in winter nights to be melted into a pearlie dew, sticking on our glasse windowes."
    • Charles Dickens, "An Old Book of Geography" Household Words: A Weekly Journal (1854) Vol.9, p.75
  • Here also is a dictum in respect to the political position and power of islands which, could the author be suddenly reanimated, he would find had been startlingly disproved in the course of a few generations. "As concerning the situation of ilands," says Peter, "whether commodious or not, this is my judgment. If a Prince desire rather to keep than augment his dominions, no place fitter for his abode than an iland, as being by itself and Nature sufficiently defensible. But if a King be minded to adde continually unto his empire, an iland is no fit seat for him; because, partly by the uncertainty of winds and seas, partly by the longsomenesse of the wayes, he is not so well able to supply and keep such forces as he hath on the continent. An example hereof is England, which hath even to admiration repelled the most puissant monarch of Europe [ Philip II of Spain ]; but for the causes above-named cannot show any of her winnings on the firme land: though shee hath attempted and atchieved as many glorious exploits as any country in the world." See what genius and energy can effect, even in spite of what seems a very plausible theory. Our insular position remains unchanged; yet we have acquired and maintained a foreign empire greater than Alexander's. On the other hand, Spain, then "the most puissant" of monarchies, has been stripped of nearly all its foreign possessions.
    • Charles Dickens, "An Old Book of Geography" Household Words: A Weekly Journal, (1854) Vol.9, p.75
  • Heylyn,... with commendable honesty, will not make himself and his readers merry with the follies of the Spanish character, without also enumerating its virtues; one of which he asserts to be "an unmoved patience in suffering adversities, accompanied with a settled resolution to overcome them: a noble virtue, of which in their [West] Indian discoveries they showed excellent proofes, and received for it a glorious and a golden reward." It is to be feared that the Spaniards have degenerated since those days. Adversities enough, Heaven knows, they have had to encounter; but as yet they have not overcome them.
    • Charles Dickens, "An Old Book of Geography" Household Words: A Weekly Journal (1854) Vol.9, p.75
  • There are some... Points relating to Episcopacy, which Dr. Heylyn has long time since cleared and determined. And if some of our pretending States-men had considered and read what was written upon those Subjects, their time and pains would have been more profitably spent to the honor and security of this Church and Kingdom, than in raising doubts and scruples which had long before been so clearly stated and resolved. For, 1. As for Bishops sitting in Parliament to Vote in Causes of Blood and Death, this the Doctor evinced not only in the Tract, entituled, De Jure paritatis Episcoporum, but in his Observations upon Mr. L'Estrange's History, where he says, "that altho the ancient Canons disable Bishops from Sentencing any man to Death, yet they do not from being Assistants in such cases; from taking Examinations, hearing Depositions, of Witnesses, or giving Counsel in such matters as they saw occasion. The Bishops sitting as Peers in the English Parliament, were never excluded from the Earl of Strafford's Trial, from any such Assistances, as by their Gravity and Learning and other Abilities, they were enabled to give in any dark and difficult business (tho of Blood and Death) which were brought before them. 2. With the like solid reasoning, the Doctor has evinced the Bishops to be one of the Three Estates.
  • In all things that were either spoke or writ by him, he did loqui cum vulgo so speak as to be understood by the meanest Hearer, and so write as to be comprehended by the most vulgar Reader. "It is true indeed" (as he himself observes) "that when there is necessity of using either Terms of Law, or Logical Notions, or any other words of Art, an Author is then to keep himself to such Terms and Words as are transmitted to us by the Learned in their several Faculties. But to affect new Notions and indeed new Nothings, when there is no necessity to invite us to it, is a Vein of writing which the two great Masters of the Greek and Roman Eloquence had no knowledg of. But knowledg many think that they can never speak elegantly, nor write significantly, except they do it in a language of their own devising, as if they were ashamed of their Mother-Tongue, and thought it not sufficiently curious to express their fancies. By means whereof more French and Latine words have gained ground upon us since the middle of Queen Elizabeth, than were admitted by our Ancestors (whether we look upon them as the British or Saxon Race) not only since the Norman, but the Roman Conquest. A folly handsomly derided in an old blunt Epigram, where the spruce Gallant thus bespeaks his Page, or Laquey Diminutive and my defettive Slave, Reach my Corps Coverture immediately: 'Tis my complacency that Vest to have, T' insconce my person from Frigidity. The Boy believed all Welsh his Master spoke, Till rail'd in English, Rogue go fetch my Cloak."
    • George Vernon, The Life Of the Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylyn Edward Vize (1682) p.256-257
  • But alas! all these unkindnesses and neglects were trivial to the irreparable loss of his eye sight: of which he found a sensible and gradual decay for many years; and therefore was the better enabled to endure it. But about the year 1654. tenebrescunt videntes per foramina [darkly you look through the holes]; those that looked out of the windows were darkened, and he was constrained to make use of other mens eyes (but not in the sense as great persons do) to guide him in the Motions of his Body, tho not in the Contemplations of his Mind.
    • George Vernon, The Life Of the Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylyn Edward Vize (1682) p.265
Wikipedia has an article about: