SIR ROBERT FILMER
SIR ROBERT FILMER has, I fear, no connexion with anything Augustan; and the only visible excuse for his appearance in the present series is that he was not included in the last. But he was a thinker well worth considering, and, in my opinion, has never received his due. He fought for a losing cause, and suffered the fate of the vanquished. Even on his own side of the great controversy there were few who agreed with him. His thought was so far from being typical of the Royalist thought of his time that he was to a great extent isolated.
Not only was he rather lonely among defenders of the Royalist cause, few of whom believed, in any sense, in absolute monarchy or wished to see it established in England, but he was, above all else, a critic of conceptions that after his death became more and more generally current and received the stamp of Parliamentary approval. His writings were, probably, not much read in his own day; and, under Charles II, they were read chiefly in connexion with the controversy over the Exclusion Bill. That means that he was misunderstood even by his friends. A little later still he seems to have been almost forgotten, or was remembered only by the caricature presented in Locke's essay. That first of Locke's essays on Civil Government was, in truth, a shameful piece of party journalism. Either Locke had failed to understand Filmer, or he misrepresented him deliberately. One may prefer for him either horn of that dilemma; but there is really no alternative. I doubt whether Locke had even read Filmer's writings. He had read the Patriarcha and, I suspect, nothing else. That is no kind of an excuse for Locke. To write about Filmer when you have only read the Patriarcha is, from my point of view, mere dishonesty. In any case, if you want to understand Filmer's thought it is no manner of use to read Locke.