« PreviousContinue »
others the Strabo' and the · Pausanias' of his
age. These encomiums inciting him to add every practicable improvement to his performance, with this view he passed a considerable part of the year 1589 at Ilfracomb, a prebend of the cathedral of Salisbury, to which he had recently been presented by Bishop Piers. After visiting every part of the west of England, he proceeded to Wales, in company with the learned Dr. Godwin, subsequently Bishop of Hereford: by whose assistance he was enabled to insert many valuable discoveries in the fourth edition of his · Britannia, published in 4to. in 1594.
Dr. Graunt, the Head-Master of Westminster school, dying in 1592, Camden was appointed to succeed him; but, being at this time afflicted with an ague, he forbore making any excursions in pursuit of his favourite plan till the summer-vacation of 1593. He then visited Oxford, and carefully copied the heraldry and inscriptions of the monuments in it's various churches.
His next performance was, in 1597, a Greek Grammar for the use of Westminster school, which was almost exclusively adopted in all the public seminaries for above a century after his death : so constant indeed was the demand for it, both at home and abroad, that a new edition was printed every year. His friends, however, thought the office of a schoolmaster at once too fatiguing for his constitution, and too sedentary for his active genius. To
* This Grammar, the abridgement of a more copious work drawn up by his predecessor, has gone through above a hundred editions !
relieve him therefore from a station, which prevented the exertion of his peculiar talents, they procured for him through the interest of Sir Fulke Greville the office of Clarenceux, second King at Arms. This appointment excited the cynicism of Ralph Brooke, the York Herald, who to gratify his spleen, completed a tract entitled, ' A Discovery of Certain Errors published in print in the much-commended Britannia.' These errors however being extremely trifling, as they chiefly respected pedigrees, in which branch it might well be imagined the herald after many years' practice was more critically exact than the schoolmaster, his reputation suffered no injury from this piece of ill-natured criticism.
Brooke had, naturally, imbibed from his office high notions of the dignity of heraldic studies; and, therefore, it is unfair to ascribe his virulent and malicious charges of plagiarism entirely to envy: more particularly, as he had begun his work prior to Camden's promotion, and not intending it for publica. tion, had liberally offered it to his perusal.* That
* It was fastidiously however, perhaps haughtily, rejected; on the false principle, that to correct his errors in genealogy might discredit the whole production. Yet Brooke respectfully observes of the Topographer, “ The most abstruse arts I profess not, but yield the palm and victory to mine adversary, that great learned Mr. Camden; with whom yet a long experimented navigator may contend about his chart and compass, about havens, creeks, and sounds: so I, an ancient herald, a little dispute, without imputation of audacity, concerning the honour of arms and the truth of honourable descents.”
Yet Camden, in his angry reply in Latin, addressed Ad Lectorem) never alludes to Brooke otherwise than by a Quidam, and an Iste: “disguising himself,” as his exasperated opponent observes, “ in his school-rhetoric; wherein, like the cuttle-fish, being stricken, he thinks to hide and shift himself away in the
work, notwithstanding it's objectionably caustic invective, is still valuable for it's peculiar researches. It was violently disturbed indeed in it's progress, and hurried in a mutilated state into the world : but it's author, though thus by the intervention of Camden's powerful connexions denied the fair freedom of the press, calmly pursued his silent labour. Of his • Second Discovery of Errors, however, which was an enlargement of the first, he could never effect the publication. If then, as he proceeded, his reproaches became keener and less generous, may they not rather be regarded as the effect of contempt and persecution acting upon a vexed spirit, than as the result of personal rancour? Camden even went so far, as to allow no private communication with his official collegue.
In 1600, Camden undertook a journey to the north of England, accompanied by Sir Robert Cotton* the founder of the Cottonian Library, spent
ink of his rhetoric. I will (he adds) clear the water again.” Brooke afterward warmly repels the accusation brought against him as an enemy to learning, and appeals to many scholars, who had tasted of his liberality at the Universities. Camden, though he could not endure with patient dignity his adversary's corrections, had the wisdom and the meanness silently in his edi. tion of 1600 to adopt them. Thus from the spleen of a mortified herald, as it has been observed, arose great advantages to the public, by the shifting and bringing to light as good, perhaps a better account of our nobility, than had been given at that time of those in any other country of Europe.
* Sir Robert Cotton, son of Thomas Cotton, Esq. of Denton Hall near Conington in Huntingdonshire, was born in 1570, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. In his twenty-ninth year, when he made with Camden the antiquarian tour in question, he had greatly augmented, by purchase and otherwise, his literary treasures. At the time of some time at Carlisle, and surveyed every remarkable curiosity in that part of the island. Before the close
their acquisition, many of them were in loose skins, small tracts, or very thin volumes: of such, he caused several to be bound in a single cover. They relate especially to the history and antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland; enriched however with whatever could be procured, that was curious or valuable, in every other branch of literature. At this period, the contents of the monastic libraries, with other choice remains of ancient learning, saved from the wreck of college-collections at the visitations of those seminaries, lay dispersed in private hands. Several antiquarians, before Cotton (Josceline, Noel, Allen, Lambarde, Elsinge, &c.) had diligently gathered portions of the scattered fragments; and, of these accumulations, many were successively concentered in the Cottonian hoard.
Respected by his Sovereigns, and admired by all the literati in Europe, he saw himself in as eminent a situation as wealth, talents, taste, and integrity can place an individual. His collection of books increased rapidly; but MS. records, deeds, and charters were the chief objects of his pursuit. His mansion was noble, his library extensive, and his own manners such as conciliated the esteem of almost every one who approached him, He was doomed, however, to have the evening of his life clouded by a most disastrous event. In 1615, some wretch communicated the valuable state-papers in his library to the Spanish Embassador, who caused them to be copied and translated into Spanish. These papers were of too much importance to be made public; and James I, had the meanness to issue a 'com. mission, which excluded Sir Robert from his own library.' The storm quickly blew over, and Cotton's integrity was proved to be spotless. But in 1629 it was reported by another calumniator (his librarian) of the name of James, that he had been privy to a treasonable publication;' because the original tract, from which the criminated copy was taken, had been introduced in 1613 without his knowledge into the Cottonian collection ! This wretch had even the baseness • for pecuniary considerations' to suffer one or more copies of the pamphlet to be taken, and in consequence printed. Sir Robert was, therefore, again singled out for royal vengeance; his library was ence more put under sequestration, and the owner a second
of the year, likewise, he published in small quarto • A Description of all the Monuments of the Kings,
time forbidden to enter it. It was in vain, that he re-established his complete innocence. He declared to his friend, Sir Simon D'Ewes, who “ went several times in 1630 to visit and comfort him,” that they had broken his heart, that had locked up his library from him :' which declaration he solemnly repeated to the Privy Council. The tract in question, entitled · A Proposition for his Majesty's Service, to bridle the Impertinency of Parliaments,' was written by Sir Robert Dudley, commonly called Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, then in exile at Florence, with a view to conciliate the favour of James I. It had been lent out by James ; and it was handed about chiefly among the patriotic party, who probably considered it (as some have considered Machiavel's Prince), however intended, as an useful warning against the schemes of despotism. In 1631, having previously requested Sir Henry Spelman to signify to the Council, that' their so long detaining his books from him, without rendering any reason for the same, had been the cause of his mortal malady,' he expired.
His library, which he directed by his will should pass on entire to his heirs, continued under sequestration for some time after his death, and was with difficulty preserved entire during the shock of the civil wars. It received some augmentations from his son, and from his grandson. In the reign of King William, an Act of Parliament was made for the better securing of it in the name and family of the Cottons, for the benefit of the public, in order to prevent it's being sold or otherwise disposed of. Cotton-House was subsequently purchased by Queen Anne of his great grandson, as a common repository for the Royal and the Cottonian libraries; and both the edifice, and it's contents, were by another Act vested in trustees. In 1712, it was removed to Essex-House; and, eighteen years afterward, deposited in Little Dean's Yard. By a fire, which took place in 1730, of it's 958 volumes 97. were destroyed, and 105 damaged. In 1753, it was purchased by Parliament, and lodged in the British Museum. The collection now contains 26,000 articles.
With the sagacity and the judgement of Lord Coke, Cotton