Matthew Wren (writer)

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Matthew Wren (20 August 1629 – 14 June 1672) was an English politician and writer. He is now known as an opponent of James Harrington, and a monarchist who made qualified use of the ideas of Thomas Hobbes.[1]


He was the eldest child of the Royalist Bishop of Ely Matthew Wren and Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Cutler of Ipswich, and therefore cousin of Sir Christopher Wren. He was educated at both Peterhouse, Cambridge and the University of Oxford, graduating M.A. at Oxford on 9 September 1661.[2][3]

He was secretary to Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, from 1660 to 1667, M.P. for St. Michael (1661 to 1672), and secretary to James, Duke of York (1667 to 1672). He was fatally injured accompanying the duke at the Battle of Solebay in 1672 and died on his return to Greenwich. He was buried with his father at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge.[3]

He was one of the council of the Royal Society named in Charles II's original charter, dated 15 July 1662,[4] and was a prominent member of the Society.[3]


He wrote:

  • Considerations on Mr. Harrington's ... Oceana, 1657, 12mo (anon.)
  • Monarchy Asserted. In Vindication of the Considerations, 1659 8vo, 2nd edit. 1660, 8vo, to which Harrington replied in his Politicaster, London, 1659, 8vo.

J. G. A. Pocock describes him as the leading contemporary opponent of Harrington, and an illustration in his views of the theory of possessive individualism of C. B. Macpherson.[5] Francis D. Wormuth writes that Wren reversed the relation between politics and economics found in Harrington.[6] According to I. Bernard Cohen, Wren may have been the first, in Monarchy Asserted, to apply the term 'revolution' to the English Revolution.[7] The book was dedicated to John Wilkins, and Wren's introduction explained that the anonymous Considerations had been taken by Harrington to come from the whole group of Oxford experimentalists around Wilkins (to which Wren belonged, as did his more famous cousin Christopher Wren).[8]


  1. ^ Andrew Pyle (editor), Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), article on Wren, pp. 920-1.
  2. ^ "Wren, Matthew (WRN642M)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b c  "Wren, Matthew". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  4. ^ Thomas Sprat, History of the Royal Society, 1667, p. 55.
  5. ^ John Greville Agard Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History: Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century (1985), p. 61.
  6. ^ Wormuth, Francis D. (1949). The origins of modern constitutionalism. Harper & Bros. 
  7. ^ I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (1985), p. 477.
  8. ^ Margery Purver, The Royal Society: Concept and Creation (1967), p. 114.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Wren, Matthew". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

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