Pocock, Edward (1)
Pocock, Edward (1)
an English Orientalist and theologian of great note, not only in his own times, but one whose scholarly acquirements are gladly acknowledged even in our day, was born Nov. 8, 1604. He studied in Oxford his native place, at the university, and devoted himself especially to the Oriental tongues, the Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldee, and Syriac first under the direction of Matthew Pason, and afterwards under that of William Bedwell. Pocock took his bachelor of arts degree in 1622, and his master's in 1626. Lud. de Dieu publishing a Syriac version of the Apocalypse at Leyden the following year, our author, after his example, began to prepare those four epistles which were still wanting to a complete edition of the New Testament in that language. These epistles were the second of Peter, the second and third of John, and that of Jude. All the other books, except these five, had been well printed by Albertus Widmanstadius, at Vienna, in 1555, who was sent into the West for that purpose by Ignatius, the Jacobite patriarch of Antioch, in the 16th century. Having met with a manuscript in the Bodleian Library proper to his purpose, Pocock engaged in this work and finished it; but laid it by, not having the courage to publish it, till the fame of it, in 1629, brought him into the acquaintance of Gerard Vossius, who, being then at Oxford, obtained his consent to carry it to Leyden, where it was printed that year, in 4to, under the immediate care and inspection of Lud. de Dieu. In 1628 Pocock had been received a fellow of the principal college of Oxford; but having decided to enter the priesthood, he was ordained priest in 1629, having entered into deacon's orders some time before, and he was appointed chaplain to the English factory at Aleppo, by the interest of Selden, as appears very probable. He arrived at that place, after a long voyage, Oct. 17, 1630. His residence in the East for six years furnished an opportunity of further study in the Oriental tongues. He acquired great skill in the Arabic tongue, and he likewise endeavored to get a further insight, if possible, into the Hebrew; but soon found it fruitless, the Jews there being very illiterate. He also improved himself in the Ethiopic and Syriac, of which last he made a grammar, with a praxis, for his own use. On Oct. 30, 1631, he received a commission from Laud, then bishop of London, to buy for him such ancient Greek coins and such manuscripts, either in Greek or the Oriental languages, as he should judge most proper for a university library -which commission Pocock executed to the best of his power. He also translated a number of historical works from the Arabic, collected a great quantity of Oriental manuscripts, which he sent to England, and made a careful study of the environs of Aleppo, with respect to natural history: the result of the latter study was intended to furnish a desirable addition to the commentaries of the Old Testament. In 1634 the plague raged furiously at Aleppo; many of the merchants fled two days' journey from the city, and dwelt in tents upon the mountains: Pocock did not stir, yet neither he nor any of the English caught the infection. In 1636 he received a letter from Laud, then archbishop of Canterbury, informing him of his design to found an Arabic lecture at Oxford, and of naming him to the university as the professor; upon which agreeable news he presently settled his affairs at Aleppo, and took the first opportunity of returning home. On his arrival at Oxford this year, he took the degree of bachelor of divinity in July, and entered on the professorship in August; however, the next year, when his friend Mr. John Greaves concerted his - voyage to Egypt, it was thought expedient by Laud that Pocock should attend him to Constantinople, in order to perfect himself in the Arabic language, and to purchase more manuscripts. During his abode there, he was for some time chaplain to Sir Peter Wych, then the English ambassador to the Porte, and who became Pocock's most zealous protector. He collected during his stay in that city a number of Oriental manuscripts. In 1639 he received several letters from his friends. and particularly from the archbishop, pressing him to return home; and accordingly, embarking in August, 1640, he landed in Italy, and passed thence to Paris. Here he met with Grotius, who was then ambassador at the court of France from Sweden, and acquainted him with a design he had to translate his treatise De veritate Christiatnae Religionis into Arabic, in order to promote the conversion of some of the Mohammedans. Grotius was pleased with and encouraged the proposal, while Pocock did not scruple to observe to him some things towards the end of his book which he could not approve: as his advancing opinions which, though commonly charged by Christians upon Mohammedans, yet had no foundation in any of their authentic writings, and were such as they themselves were ready to disclaim. Grotius was so far from being displeased that he heartily thanked Pocock for the freedom he had taken; and gave him full leave, in the version lie intended, to expunge and alter whatever he should think fit. This work was published in 1660 at the sole expense of Mr. Robert Royle: Grotius's introduction was left out, and a new preface added by Pocock, showing the design of the work, and giving some account of the persons to whom it would be of use. On his return to England, in 1640, Pocock found himself in very difficult circumstances. His chair of Arabic had been stipended by archbishop Laud, but after the death of that prelate the revenues had been seized upon. Pocock now devoted himself entirely to study, and escaped by his retreat, as well as by the friendship of John Selden, who enjoyed a great influence in the republican party, the vexations, if not dangers, which his royalist opinions would have been sure to bring upon him. In 1643 he was presented by his college with the living of Childrey, in Berkshire, and in 1647, in consequence of the exertions of John Selden, he was reinstated in his Oxford chair, and two years later he was appointed professor of Hebrew. The king, who was at that time a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, also bestowed on him a rich canonry. An act of Parliament confirmed the gift; but the canonry thus assigned to him being different from that originally annexed to the professorship, Pocock entered a protest against it, and refused to receive the profits. In the meantime he composed his Specimen Historiae Arabum, being extracts from the work of Abul-faraj in the original Arabic, together with a Latin translation and copious notes. This work, which was printed at Oxford in 1648 and 1650 (4to), was reprinted in 1806 by White, with some additions by Sylvestre de Sacy. In November 1650, about a year after publishing the preceding work, Pocock was ejected from his canonry, and it was intended to deprive him of the Hebrew and Arabic professorships; but, thanks to a petition signed by all the heads of houses, the masters, and scholars at Oxford, Pocock was suffered to enjoy both places. In 1655 he was on the point of being deprived of his living, on the ground of "ignorance and insufficiency;" at least such were the charges preferred against him by Cromwell's committee. Some of his Oxford friends, however, wisely prevented the disgrace to the Roundhead party which would have followed the ejection, upon such grounds, of so eminent a scholar as Pocock. The most determined against this measure was Dr. John Owen (himself one of the Parliamentary commissioners), Seth Ward, John Wilkins, and John Wallis, who withstood the stupid and bigoted creatures to their face, and made them sensible of "the infinite contempt and reproach" which would reward such treatment of a man "whom all the learned, not of England only, but of all Europe, so justly admired for his vast knowledge and extraordinary accomplishments." Meanwhile nothing had sufficed to check either his pious care of his parish or his pursuit of sacred and Oriental learning. In Arabic and Hebrew learning he was allowed to be second to none of his age.
From the first Pocock made his Oriental attainments subservient to Biblical illustration; and his contributions, directly and indirectly, to Biblical learning were numerous and extremely valuable. Of his connection with Walton's Polyglot, his biographer says: "From the beginning scarce a step was taken in that work [not excepting even the Prolegomena] till communicated to Mr. Pocock, without whose assistance it must have wanted much of its perfection;" he collated the Arabic Pentateuch, with two copies of Saadias's translation; drew up an account of the Arabic versions of that part of the Bible which is to be found in the Appendix to the Polyglot, and lent some of his own rich store of MSS. to the conductors of the work, viz. a Syriac MS. of the entire Old Testament, an Ethiopic MS. of the Psalms, two Syriac MSS. of the Psalms, and a Persian MS. of the Gospels. Soon after his escape from the commission's purposes Pocock published his Porta Mosis, being six prefatory discourses of Moses Maimonides's "Commentary upon the Mishna," written in Arabic, but with the Hebrew letters. This work, which was the first production of the Hebrew press at Oxford, appeared in 1655, together with a Latin translation and numerous notes. Pocock made this work the more useful to Biblical students by his copious Appendix Notarum Miscellanea, where he discusses many points of interest to Biblical scholars. Pocock reaped golden opinions on the publication of this now neglected though still very valuable work. In the following year Pocock appears to have entertained the idea of publishing the Expositions of Rabbi Tanchum on the Old Testament, as he was at that time the only person in Europe who possessed any of the MSS. of that learned rabbi; but, probably from want of encouragement, he did not prosecute his design. In 1657 the English Polyglot appeared, in which Pocock had a considerable hand. He collated the Arabic Pentateuch, and also wrote a preface concerning the different Arabic versions of that part of the Bible, and the reason of the various readings to be found in them, the whole of which was inserted in the Appendix to the Polyglot. Those parts of the Syriac version of the New Testament which had remained unpublished are due to him; he accompanied them with a Latin version and annotations. In 1658 his Latin translation of the Annals of Eutychius was published at Oxford (in 2 vols. 4to), at the request and at the expense of Selden, who died before it appeared. At the Restoration, Pocock was restored (June 1660) to his canonry of Christ-church, as originally annexed to the Hebrew professorship by Charles I; but the frivolous court of Charles II thought as little of rewarding further his attachment to the royal cause as they were able to appreciate his works and his worth. He took his doctor of divinity's degree, and continued afterwards to discharge the duties of both his lectures, and to give to the world, to the end of his life, new proofs of his unrivalled skill in Oriental learning. He was consulted as a master by all the most learned men in Europe: by Hornius, Alting, Hottinger, Golius, from abroad; and by Cudworth, Boyle, Hammond, Castel, at home. His next publication, in 1661, was the Arabic poem by Abli Ismail Thograi, entitled Lámiy-yatu-l-'ajem, with a Latin translation, copious notes, and a learned preface by Dr. Samuel Clarke. But by far the most important as well as the most useful of Pocock's works was his translation of the entire work of Abul-faraj, which, along with the text and a few excellent notes, was printed at Oxford in 1663 (2 vols. 4to), entitled Gregorii Abul Farajii historia Dynastiarum. (This is a compendium of the general history of the world from the creation to his own time, i.e. about the end of the 13th century, and is divided into ten dynasties.) After the publication of this work Pocock seems to have devoted himself entirely to Biblical learning. In 1674 he published, at the expense of the university, his Arabic translation of the Church Catechism and the English Liturgy. Some time after, Fell, dean of Christchurch, having concerted a scheme for a commentary upon the Old Testament, to be written by some learned hands in that university, engaged our author to take a share. This gave occasion to his commentaries. In 1677 appeared his Commentarys on the Prophecies of
Micah and Malachi; in 1685 that on Hosea, and in 1691 that on Joel. It was his intention to comment upon others of the lesser prophets. In these commentaries, which are all in English. Pocock's skill in his favorite subject of Biblical Hebrew is very apparent. The notes, no doubt, are too diffuse, but they exhibit much profound learning in rabbinical as well as sacred Hebrew. In his critical principles he warmly defends the general purity of the Masoretic text against the aspersions of Isaac Vossius and the theory of Capellus; but, although his Masoretic predilections are excessive, he does not depreciate the Septuagint. His scheme ever was to reconcile by learned explanations the sacred original and the most venerable of its versions. This great and good man labored on, harassed by enemies and neglected by friends, but respected for his purity of life, and admired for his matchless learning, in his professional and pastoral pursuits, to the very end of his life, his only distemper being extreme old age, which yet hindered him not, even the night before he died, from his invariable custom of praying from the liturgy with his family. He expired Sept. 10, 1691, after a gradual decay of his constitution, and his remains were interred in the cathedral of Christchurch, where a monument with an inscription is erected to his memory. As to his person, he was of a middle stature, and slender; his hair and eyes black, his complexion fresh, his look lively and cheerful, and his constitution sound and healthy. In his conversation he was free, open, and affable, retaining even to the last the briskness and facetiousness of youth. His temper was modest, humble, sincere; and his charity brought such numbers of necessitous objects to him that dean Fell used to tell him complainingly "that he drew all the poor of Oxford into the college property." His theological works were collected in 2 vols. fol. in 1740 by Leonard Twells, who also wrote an account of the life and works of Pocock. Pocock's services to Oriental scholarship in Europe, especially in England, are wellnigh inestimable. Bishop Marsh says of him: "Should I begin to speak of the rare endowments of this admirable man, I should not be able to end his character under a volume. His rare learning appears in his writings." "Pocock," says Hallam, "was probably equal to any Oriental scholar whom Europe had hitherto produced.... No Englishman probably has ever contributed so much to that province of [Arabic] learning." See Cattermole, Literature of the English Church, 1, 175; Hook, Ecclesiastical Biography, 8:98; Skeats, Hist. of the English Free Church, p. 63; Orme, Bibliotheca Biblia, s.v.; Perry, Hist. Ch. of Engl. (see Index in vol. 3); Stoughton, Eccles. Hist. of Engl. (since the Restoration), 2, 332;
Kitto, Cyclopaedia of British Literature, 3, 553; Allibone, Dict. of British and American Authors, vol. 2, s.v.; Biblical Repository, 10:2 sq. (J.H.W.)