Robert Boyle

The honourable Robert Boyle esq., the son of Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, was born at Lismore in the county of Cork. He was nursed by an Irish nurse, after the Irish manner, where they put the child in a pendulous satchel instead of a cradle, with a slit for the child's head to peep out.

When a boy at Eton, he was very sickly and pale -- from Dr Wood, who was his school-fellow.


He 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 cared not for nor esteemed none anywhere else. He speaks Latin very well, and very readily, as most men I have met with I have heard him say that when he was young, he read over Cowper's dictionary: wherein I think he did very well, and I believe he is much beholding to him for his mastership of that language. 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 bless with a Particular blessing, I bequeath, etc.' Mr R. H., who has seen the rental, says it was £3000 per annum: the greatest part is in Ireland. His father left him the manor of Stallbridge in Dorset, where is a great freestone house; it was forfeited by the Earl of Castlehaven.

He is very tall (about six foot high) and straight, very temperate. and virtuous and frugal: a bachelor; keeps a coach; sojourns with his sister, the Lady Ranelagh. His greatest delight is chemistry. He has at his sister's a noble laboratory and several servants (apprentices to him) to look after it. He is charitable to ingenious men that are in want, and foreign chemists have had large proof of his bounty, for he will not spare for cost to get any rare secret. At his own cost and charges he got translated and printed the New Testament in Arabic, to send into the Mahometan countries. He was not only a high renown in England, but abroad; and when foreigners come hither, 'tis one of their curiosities to make him a visit.



From John Aubrey's Brief Lives. (Edited by R Barber, Boydell Press, 1982)