Richard Holdsworth

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Richard Holdsworth (or Houldsworth, Oldsworth) (1590, Newcastle-on-Tyne – 22 August 1649) was an English academic theologian, and Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1637 to 1643. Although Emmanuel was a Puritan stronghold, Holdsworth, who in religion agreed,[1] in the political sphere resisted Parliamentary interference, and showed Royalist sympathies.


Richard Holdsworth was the son of Richard Holdswourth, Vicar of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and baptised at St Nicholas, Newcastle on 20 December 1590. He entered St. John's College, Cambridge as a scholar in 1607, graduated B.A. in 1610, and became a Fellow in 1613.[2]

He was chaplain to Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet.[3] He was rector of St Peter-le-Poor, London in 1624.[4]

He was in 1629 the first Gresham College divinity lecturer appointed from the Puritan camp;[5] he held the position until 1637. A London reputation[6] brought him the presidency of Sion College in 1639. He became Archdeacon of Huntingdon.

He was a member of the Westminster Assembly.[7] He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, for two years, and Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity, from 1643. He lost his position as Master of Emmanuel, because of expressed royalist opinions;[8] and was briefly imprisoned by Parliament.

He was appointed Dean of Worcester by the King, in 1647.[9] It is also claimed that the King wanted to appoint him Bishop of Bristol; this is mentioned by Thomas Fuller.[10] Given the wartime conditions, these appointments could have been taken up only with difficulty.

Educational views[edit]

He is said to have been a modernizer in education, in the line of Francis Bacon and Comenius,[11] and a proponent of unadorned prose.[12] His students at St. John's included Simonds D'Ewes, whom he instructed by means of a system of note-taking.[13]

He provided John Wallis with an introduction to William Oughtred, steering Wallis towards mathematics (Wallis graduated BA at Emmanuel as Holdsworth arrived).

He was also a bibliophile who amassed a private collection of 10,000 books, bequeathed to the Cambridge University Library.[14] It arrived there in 1664, after a long legal limbo caused by testamentary conditions. It is said to have been the largest private collection of the time in England.[15]

The Directions for a Student in the Universite[16] has been attributed to him. The attribution is questioned by Hill as not certain.[17] This work is a scheme of a four-year classical education.[18]


  1. ^ Christopher Hill, Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (1965), p. 5, p. 56.
  2. ^ "Houldsworth, Richard (HLDT607R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Hill, Intellectual Origins, p. 215.
  4. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  5. ^ Hill, Intellectual Origins, p. 56.
  6. ^ The most celebrated preacher of Caroline LondonPDF
  7. ^ A List of the Members of the Westminster Assembly Archived 2008-11-08 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Emmanuel College - About Emmanuel - College Masters
  9. ^ Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy, p. 881.
  10. ^ The history of the University of Cambridge, and of Waltham abbey
  11. ^ Hill, Intellectual Origins, p. 100.
  12. ^ Hill, Intellectual Origins, p. 130.
  13. ^ PDF, note 118, p. 37.
  14. ^ PDF, p. 48.
  15. ^ Cambridge University Library: A historical sketch
  16. ^ Reproduced in Harris Francis Fletcher, The Intellectual Development of John Milton, vol. 2, The Cambridge University Period, 1625-32 (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1961), Appendix II, 623-64.
  17. ^ Intellectual Origins, pp. 307-9.
  18. ^ Mordecai Feingold, The Humanities p. 258, in The History of the University of Oxford IV, Seventeenth-Century Oxford (1997) edited by Nicholas Tyacke.

Further reading[edit]

  • John A. Trentman, "The Authorship of Directions for a Student in the Universitie," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, vol. 7, no. 2, 1978, pp. 170–183.
  • Brent L. Nelson, "The Social Context of Rhetoric, 1500-1660," The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 281: British Rhetoricians and Logicians, 1500-1660, Second Series, Detroit: Gale, 2003, pp. 355–377.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Samuel Brooke
Gresham Professor of Divinity
Succeeded by
Thomas Horton
Preceded by
William Sancroft the Elder
Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Thomas Hill