Master Clench

Of  this astonishing youth, we have no information except what is furnished by the following account, extracted from Mr. Evelyn's diary, of 1689, very shortly after the landing of William III. in England.

"I dined," says Mr. Evelyn, "at the Admiralty, where a child of twelve years old was brought in, the son of Dr. Clench, of the most prodigious maturity of knowledge, for I cannot call it altogether memory, but something more extraordinary. Mr. Pepys and myself examined him, not in any method, but with promiscuous questions, which required judgment and discernment, to answer so readily and pertinently.

"There was not anything in chronology, history, geography, the several systems of astronomy, courses of the stars, longitude, latitude, doctrine of the spheres, courses and sources of rivers, creeks, harbors, eminent cities, boundaries of countries, not only in Europe, but in every part of the earth, which he did not readily resolve, and demonstrate his knowledge of, readily drawing with a pen anything he would describe.

"He was able not only to repeat the most famous things which are left us in any of the Greek or Roman histories, monarchies, republics, wars, colonies, exploits by sea and land, but all the Sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; the succession of all the monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman; with all the lower emperors, popes, heresiarchs, and councils; what they were called about; what they determined; or in the controversy about Easter; the tenets of the Sabellians, Arians, Nestorians; and the difference between St. Cyprian and Stephen about re-baptization; the schisms.

"We leaped from that to other things totally different,—to Olympic years and synchronisms; we asked him questions which could not be answered without considerable meditation and judgment; nay, of some particulars of the civil wars; of the digest and code. He gave a stupendous account of both natural and moral philosophy, and even of metaphysics.

"Having thus exhausted ourselves, rather than this wonderful child, or angel rather, for he was as beautiful and lovely in countenance as in knowledge, we concluded with asking him, if, in all he had ever heard or read of, he had ever met with anything which was like the expedition of the Prince of Orange, with so small a force, as to obtain three kingdoms without any contest. After a little thought, he told us that he knew of nothing that resembled it, so much as the coming of Constantine the Great out of Great Britain, through France and Italy, so tedious a march, to meet Maxentius, whom he overthrew at Pons Melvius, with very little conflict, and at the very gates of Rome, which he entered, and was received with triumph, and obtained the empire not of three kingdoms only, but of the then known world.

"He was perfect in the Latin authors, spoke French naturally, and gave us a description of France, Italy, Savoy and Spain, anciently and modernly divided; as also of ancient Greece, Scythia, and the northern countries and tracts.

"He answered our questions without any set or formal repetitions, as one who had learned things without book, but as if he minded other things, going about the room, and toying with a parrot, seeming to be full of play, of a lively, sprightly temper, always smiling, and exceedingly pleasant; without the least levity, rudeness, or childishness."