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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XIII. Scholars and Antiquaries

§ 25. Ashmole and other County Antiquaries

The notes which Elias Ashmole began collecting in 1667 for The Antiquities of Berkshire were not printed till 1719, more than a quarter of a century after his death. Robert Thoroton published his Antiquities of Nottinghamshire in 1677, and James Wright’s meagre History and Antiquities of Rutland came out in 1684. Sir Henry Chauncy’s Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1700) was followed, on the same plan, by Sir Robert Atkyns’s Ancient and present state of Glocestershire (1712); but neither of them was a conspicuously meritorious work. Peter Le Neve’s great collections for Norfolk antiquities and genealogy served as the ground work of the History of Norfolk which Francis Blomefield began issuing in 1739, in monthly numbers printed at his own private press. After his death, the work was completed in 1775 in an inferior manner. Richard Rawlinson, who had a gift for editing other men’s work, and who acted as foster-parent to many orphaned books, designed a parochial history of the county of Oxford, which was to have included Wood’s account of the city; and the materials collected both for this work and for his projected continuation of Wood’s Athenae form part of the immense collection of manuscripts which he bequeathed to the Bodleian library. In addition to printing Aubrey’s Surrey (1719), Rawlinson also brought out Tristram Risdon’s Survey of Devon (1714), and fathered separate histories of several cathedral churches, which are not especially valuable.

Individual towns received a due share of attention; among the more successful essays being William Somner’s Canterbury (1640), Ralph Thoresby’s Leeds (1715), and Francis Drake’s York (1736). Stow’s Survey of London, first published in 1598, had been already several times “augmented,” before John Strype once more edited and brought it down to date in 1720. Strype’s chief work, however, was in the field of ecclesiastical history and biography; but his books, ill-arranged and uncritical, are distinguished less for their literary value than for the remarkable amount of curious detail which they contain. The diocese of London found a chronicler in Richard Newcourt, who, in 1708–10, published his valuable Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense. Wood’s Oxford has already been referred to.