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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XIII. Legal Literature

§ 14. Selden and his Legal Works

Selden was admittedly the most erudite Englishman of his day. To a wide classical scholarship he added a remarkable knowledge, based, largely, upon original research, of archaeology, history, philology and legal antiquities. He was endowed, moreover, with a mind free from prejudice, a well balanced judgment, a calm judicial temperament. “I sought only truth,” he said in one of his works, and the expression might well be applied as a motto to them all. In 1610, before he was called to the bar, he published a discourse on the laws and customs of the Britons, English and Danes under the title Jani Anglorum Facies Altera. In 1616, he issued an annotated edition of Fortescue. Two years later, he wrote—though for diplomatic reasons it lay unpublished till 1636—his treatise Mare Clausum, an attempt to vindicate, on the basis of international law, England’s claim to sovereignty over the narrow seas against the destructive attack which Grotius had made upon it in his Mare Liberum. Finally, in 1647, he gave to the world his edition of Fleta, and, in a prefatory dissertation, condensed the results of a lifelong study of the origins of English law. By his work, he established that tradition of scholarly research into legal antiquities which, at the present day, is maintained by the society called by his name.