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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 design 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 librarics, 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 ence 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 Summ 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 Commonwealtht,", dedicated to Henry VIII.
* In my remark at the end of Holinshed's article, 'I have stated, from some strange inadvertence, not through neglect of previous examination, that, with that chronicler fable dies. The story of Brute is retained also by Stow.
+ The book here mentioned was written by Dudley, while prisoner 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 lord- ship, 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 1593, and reprinted in his life-time, 1603.
I shall select a few short extracts from this work, which relate, first, to the early institulions of learning; and secondly, to some of the diversions, &c. prevalent among our an
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, reinembrance 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 demeanors they should be of.” The book is supposed to have been written not merely as an employment for his thoughts in solitude, but in the hope that it might gain him favour with Fienry, 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 mucii talked of, and read by many, though never printed. Several MS. copies of it still exist in libraries.
In the reign of King Stephen, and of Henry II. saith Fitz-Stephen*, there were in London three principal churches, which had famous schools, either by privilege and ancient dignity, or by favour of some particular persons, as of doctors, which were counted notable and renowned for knowledge in philosophy: and there were other inferior schools also.
Upon festival days, the masters made solemn meetings in the churches, where their scholars disputed logically and demonstratively; some bringing Enthymems, others, perfect Syllogisms; some disa puted for shew, others to trace out the truth: and cunning sophisters were thought brave scholars, when they flowed with words: others used fallacies. Rhetoricians spoke aptly to persuade, observing the precepts of art, and omitted nothing that might
* Fitz-Stephen was descended of Norman nobility, and born in London; and subsequently became monk of Cantera , bury. Besides many other works, he wrote a description of London in Latin, a small tract about 10 pages 4to, which was translated by Stow, and added to his Survey. In his time it apo pears, that there were 13 conventual, and 136 parochial churches in London; on which Fuller remarks, that “though there be, at this day, more bodies of men, there be fewer houses of God therein." He florished about 1190.