The Honourable Robert Boyle

By John Aubrey, from Brief Lives

Edited by Jack Lynch

[1] The Honourable Robert Boyle, Esq., that profound Philosopher, accomplished Humanist, and excellent Divine, I had almost sayd Lay-Bishop, as one hath stiled Sir Henry Savil, was borne at Lismor in the Couny of Corke. He was nursed by an Irish Nurse, after the Irish manner, wher they putt the child into a pendulous Satchell (insted of a Cradle) with a slitt for the Child’s head to peepe out.

[2] When a boy at Eaton was verie sickly and pale. Went to the University of Leyden. Travelled France, Italy, Switzerland. I have oftentimes heard him say that after he had seen the Antiquities and architecture of Rome, he esteemed none any where els.

[3] He speakes Latin very well, and very readily, as most men I have mett with. I have heard him say that when he was young, he read over Cowper’s Dictionary: wherein I thinke he did very well, and I beleeve he is much beholding to him for his Mastership of that Language.

[4] His father in his Will, when he comes to the Settlement and Provision for his son Robert, thus: — Item, to my son Robert, whom I beseech God to blesse with a particular Blessing, I bequeath, &c. Mr. Robert Hooke, who has seen the Rentall, sayes it was 3000 pounds per annum: the greatest part is in Ireland.

[5] He is very tall (about six foot high) and streight, very temperate, and vertuouse, and frugall: a Batcheler; keepes a Coach; sojournes with his sister, the Lady Ranulagh. His greatest delight is Chymistrey. He haz at his sister’s a noble Laboratory, and severall servants (Prentices to him) to looke to it. He is charitable to ingeniose men that are in want, and foreigne Chymists have had large proofe of his bountie, for he will not spare for cost to gett any rare Secret: vide Oliver Hill’s book, where he is accused of grosse Plagiarisme.

[6] At his owne costs and chardges he gott translated and printed the New Testament in Arabique, to send into the Mahometan countreys. He has not only a high renowne in England, but abroad; and when foreigners come to hither, ’tis one of their curiosities to make him a Visit.

[7] His Works alone may make a Librarie.