« ForrigeFortsæt »
possessed any shining talents of address, eloquence, or imagination; and was chiefly distinguished by solidity of understanding, probity of manners, and indefatigable application to business: virtues, which if they do not always enable a man to rise to high stations, do certainly qualify him best for filling them. Of all the queen's ministers he was the only one who left a considerable fortune to his posterity; a fortune not acquired by rapine or oppression, but gained by the regular profits of his offices, and preserved by frugality.”
JOHN Stow, historian and antiquarian, son of Thomas Stow, of St. Michael's, Cornhill, London, was born about the year 1525. At the out-set in life, he was a taylor, the profession of his father. He early manifested great curiosity relative to history, and particularly the history of England, the study of which he prosecuted to the almost total neglect of his · business.
About the year 1560, he conceived the des sign of composing his “ Annals;” and that he might proceed with the less interruption, he abandoned his trade, and employed himself entirely in the collection of materials. For this purpose, he perused all the writers, whether printed or MS. from whom any thing could be gleaned; and searched into records,
charters, and other original instruments; travelling on foot to the cathedral churches, and other antiquarian repositaries, and not only read, but eagerly bought up whatever was to be had of histories, chronicles, &c. some of which he found written on paper, and others on parchment. In this manner, by the year 1568, he had amassed a great stock of books and manuscripts; and the value of his library was enhanced, by its possessing, not merely ancient authors, but original charters, registers, and chronicles of particular places. The books he was unable to purchase, or otherwise procure, he took the trouble to transcribe. Six volumes of collections which he had thus copied, he transferred to Camden, who in consideration of the favour, allowed him eight pounds a year for life.
Living at the period of the dispersion of libraries, consequent upon the abolition of the monasteries, Stow had doubtless great facilities for making his collection, and it appears, that he availed himself of them to the utmost. The purchase of MSS. however, was so expensive, and the emolument he derived from it comparitively so inconsiderable, that he was once on the point of abandoning his favorite
pursuit, and of returning to his former trade, when he fortunately received encouragement and assistance from the elevating patronage of Dr. Parker, archbishop of Canterbury, a zealous promoter of the study of antiquities. In such antiquarian investigations, he expended his patrimonial estate, and was forced, at the close of life, to submit to the receipt of a collection made for his relief, He died in 1605.
1. His first publication was “ A Summary of the Chronicles of England, from the coming in of Brute* to his own time.” This work was undertaken at the request of lord Robert Dudley, afterwards earl of Leicester, and originated in the following circumstance. In the year 1562, Stow, while in pursuit of rare and and curious MSS. accidentally met with a tract written by Edmund Dudley, his lordship's grandfather, intitled, “ The Tree of the Commonwealth-t,” dedicated to Henry VIII.
'* In my remark at the end of Holińshed's article, I have stated, froni some strange inadvertence, not through neglect of previous examination, that, with that chronicler fable dics. The story of Brute is retained also by Stow.
* + The book here mentioned was written by Dudley, while prie soner in the Tower, in the first year of Henry VIII, on account of
Stow retained the original MS. but transcribed a fair copy, which he presented to his lordship, who requested him to compile a work of the same nature. Hence resulted this Summary. It was reprinted in 1573, Svo, with additions.
2. Stow next undertook the laborious task, “ The survey of London.” It was first published in 1599, and reprinted in his life-time, 1603.
I shall select a few short extracts from this work, which relate, first, to the early institu
the oppressions and extortions, of which(together with Empsom) he had been guilty, as instrument of Henry VII. The objects of the work, the author himself explains thus: “ The effect of this treatise, (says he,) consisteth in three especial points. First, remembrance of God, and the faithful of his holy church, in which every christian prince had need to begin. Secondly, of some conditions and demeanors necessary in every prince, both for his honour and assurity of his continuance. Thirdly, of the tree of the commonwealth, which touched people of every degree, of the conditions and demea. nors they should be of.” The book is supposed to have been written not merely as an employment for his thoughts in soli. tude, hut in the hope that it might gain him favour with Henry, and be instrumental in extricating him from his difficulties. It did not reach the hands of his majesty, and the author was beheaded (with Empsom) the same year. The work was much talked of, and read by many, though neves printed. Several MS. copies of it still exist in libraries.