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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VII. Historical and Political Writers

§ 7. The Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale

Before the second volume of The History had been actually issued, Burnet had produced the interesting monograph on the last phase in the life of Rochester, who had read the first volume with real interest. To this pamphlet, which reveals a power of sympathy more valuable than the ordinary tact in which Burnet was signally deficient, reference has already been made. To a slightly later date (1682) belongs the publication of The Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale, sometime Lord Chief Justice of His Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench, an admirable little biography. Though Hale habitually heard Burnet preach at the Rolls, they were not personally acquainted, and the book was chiefly founded on the notes of a confidential clerk of the great lawyer, who was an incorruptible but successful judge, a powerful thinker and a man of lofty spirit and godliness of life. Burnet deprecates his History being set down as a “Panegyrick,” and it merits preservation as the record of a man who, whatever his failings, in a factious age strove consistently to remain outside party. Soon afterwards (1683), as if the personal history of one great lawyer had inspired him with interest in the more or less remote speculations of another, Burnet beguiled his leisure with a translation of Utopia, published in 1685, with a preface containing some verdicts on English contemporary and Elizabethan literature.