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WILLIAM CAMDEN, son of Sampson Camden, paper-stainer of Lichfield, who had settled in London, was born in the latter city in 1551. - The rudiments of his education he received at Christ's Hospital; but at twelve years of age, having been greatly injured in his health by the plague, he remained for some time in so languid a condition, that he was unable to pursue his studies. On his recovery, he went to St. Paul's school till he was fifteen, and was then sent to Oxford, and admitted a servitor in Magdalen College. Here he finished his classical learning in the school belonging to that society, under the care of Dr. Thomas Cooper, afterward Bishop of Lincoln. Being disappointed of a demy's place in his College, he removed to Broadgate-Hall (now Pembroke College) and there continued his academical pursuits for two years under Dr. Thomas Thornton; who conceiving sentiments of high regard for his young pupil, became his first patron, and on his promotion to a canonry of Christ Church, took
* AUTHORITIES. Biographia Britannica, and Life of Camden by Gibson, prefixed to his Edition of the Britannia.'
him along with him, and lodged him in his own apartments.
The number of Camden's friends quickly increased, and by their persuasion he offered himself as a candidate for a fellowship in All Souls' College ; but, the influence of the Popish party prevailing, the election was carried against him. In 1570, he met with a still more severe mortification, being refused the degree of B. A., though no reason was assigned for so extraordinary a circumstance.
About this time he formed a close friendship with Richard and George Carew, gentlemen of respectable families and fortunes in Devonshire, the latter of whom was created Earl of Totness by James I. His new friends were antiquarians, and from conversing with them Camden derived an inclination to study this branch of history; with which he was at length so fascinated, that he says, 'he could never hear any tlring mentioned relative to it, without more than ordinary attention. It thenceforward engrossed · all his spare-hours, and his festival-days. To the pursuit of it he voluntarily sacrificed every other view, and even renounced what are more commonly denominated domestic pleasures ; lest preferment, or marriage, should interrupt his favourite occupation. Of these laudable researches, the antiquities of his own country were the object; and both before and after he left the University he made frequent excursions, sometimes in company with the Carews, and at other times alone, into the different counties, * in order to procure materials for those
* His own words are, Relictâ Academid, studio incitatus satis magnam Angliæ partem fide oculată obivi.
collections, from which he subsequently composed his • Britannia.'
In 1571, he accepted an earnest invitation from Dr. Gabriel Goodman Dean of Westminster, and Dr. Godfrey Goodman his brother, to settle near them in Westminster; they undertaking to supply him with books, and every other accommodation, till he should meet with preferment suitable to his merit. In 1573, he went to Oxford, and remained there nearly two years, during which time he is supposed to have taken his degree of B. A.; and in 1575, through the interest of his friend the Dean, he was appointed second master of Westminster school; in which station he eminently signalised himself, and strengthened his useful connexions. He could, now, only devote his leisure-hours to his favourite study; yet he had already made such a progress in it, that his reputation as an antiquary daily increased, and procured him the esteem of men of the highest literary distinction. Hotoman, the celebrated French civilian, and Secretary to the Earl of Leicester; Justus Lipsius, the critic; James Dousa (or VanderDoos) the younger, of the Hague; and Gruter of Antwerp, an illustrious philologist, kept up a constant correspondence with him: while Peiresc, the great patron of learning, with Pithæus and Puteanus, was ranked among the number of his friends. To these may be added the illustrious English names of Sir Henry Savil, and his brother Mr. Thomas Savil ; Sir Henry Spelman; Archbishop Usher, who assisted him in the affairs of Ireland; and Dr. Johnston of Aberdeen, to whom upon the subject of Scottish antiquities he was indebted for similar favours. But the chief promoters of his • Britannia' were Sir
Philip Sidney, who furnished him with important communications, and made him several considerable presents; and Abraham Ortelius of Antwerp, the most celebrated geographer of the age, who upon his visit to England, being introduced to Camden, was so much struck with his remarks, that he strongly importuned him to complete and publish a history of the ancient state of Britain. Accordingly, with unwearied assiduity he collected every anecdote, dispersed in the works of old writers, respecting the British Isles. With the same attention, he examined all the chronicles of his country at that time extant. He, likewise, purchased several valuable manuscripts, and explored all the records in the public offices. In fine, he visited every repository of learning in the kingdom; and inspected on the spot every monument of antiquity, which might serve to illustrate his work.*
At length, after ten years of indefatigable industry, in 1586 the first edition of his Britannia, in Latin, made it's appearance, in one volume 8vo. The title in English is, ‘Britain, or a Chorographical Description of the flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with the adjacent Islands, from the remotest antiquity. This elaborate work was dedicated to Lord Burghley, whose kind patronage the author acknowledges with great gratitude.
Camden’s reputation was now raised so high, that he was stiled by some foreigners the • Varro,' and by
* In 1581, the learned M. Brisson, President of the Parliament of Paris, visited England on public affairs, and forming an intimacy with Camden, imparted to him some important communications from ancient manuscripts in the French lia braries,
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 yarious 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 !