Home  »  Volume VIII: English THE AGE OF DRYDEN  »  § 19. Hobbes and the Advent of a New Era

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

XIII. Legal Literature

§ 19. Hobbes and the Advent of a New Era

A much more formidable critic, however, both of Coke and of the laws of England, was Thomas Hobbes. “Truly,” he said, “I never read weaker reasoning in any author on the law of England than in Sir Edward Coke’s Institutes.” In his Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws (published posthumously in 1681) he assails with vigorous dialectic the fundamental legal and political principles inherent in the works of Coke and the other opponents of the Stewart autocracy. But the mention of Hobbes confronts us with a new age, and warns us that we have reached our time limit. Though an Elizabethan by birth, he is in outlook very modern. As a writer on law, indeed, he has not even yet come by his own. His ideas, couched in severe and exact terminology, have not, it is true, directly reached the popular mind. But, indirectly, through the works of other men, they have made their sovereign entry, and they hold a commanding place in present day legal theory. They ushered in the era of Blackstone, Bentham and Austin.