English divine, born at York about 1601. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, but migrated to Merton, where he obtained a fellowship. In 1631 he was proctor and also chaplain to Philip, Earl of Pembroke, then chancellor of the university, who presented him to the rectory of Bishopston in Wiltshire. His fame spread, and in 1641 he was appointed chaplain and tutor to Prince Charles. In 1643 he was elected one of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, but his sympathies with the king and with the Anglican Church were so strong that he declined to sit. Early in 1643 he was chosen chancellor of the cathedral of Salisbury, but of this preferment he was soon deprived as a "malignant." After Cromwell's great victory at Worcester, Earle went abroad, and was named clerk of the closet and chaplain to Charles II. He spent a year at Antwerp in the house of Izaak Walton's friend, George Morley, who afterwards became Bishop of Winchester. He next joined the Duke of York (later King James II) at Paris, returning to England at the Restoration. He was at once appointed dean of Westminster, and in 1661 was one of the commissioners for revising the liturgy. He was on friendly terms with Richard Baxter. In November 1662 he was consecrated Bishop of Worcester, and was translated, ten months later, to the see of Salisbury, where he conciliated the nonconformists. He was strongly opposed to the Conventicle and Five Mile Acts. During the great plague Earle attended the king and queen at Oxford, and there he died on the 17th of November 1665.
Earle's chief title to remembrance is his witty and humorous work entitled Microcosmographie, or a Piece of the World discovered, in Essays and Characters, which throws light on the manners of the time. First published anonymously in 1628, it became very popular, and ran through ten editions in the lifetime of the author. The style is quaint and epigrammatic; and the reader is frequently reminded of Thomas Fuller by such passages as this: "A university dunner is a gentlemen follower cheaply purchased, for his own money has hired him." Several reprints of the book have been issued since the author's death; and in 1671 a French translation by J. Dymock appeared with the title of Le Vice ridiculeé. Earle was employed by King Charles II to make the Latin translation of the Eikon Basilike, published in 1649. A similar translation of Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity was accidentally destroyed.
"Dr. Earle", says Lord Clarendon in his Life, "was a man of great piety and devotion, a most eloquent and powerful preacher, and of a conversation so pleasant and delightful, so very innocent, and so very facetious, that no man's company was more desired and loved. No man was more negligent in his dress and habit and mien, no man more wary and cultivated in his behavior and discourse. He was very dear to the Lord Falkland, with whom he spent as much time as he could make his own."