Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 6. Archæological Antiquaries

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

XV. Scholars, Antiquaries and Bibliographers

§ 6. Archæological Antiquaries

Richard Gough, the first of the English antiquaries to be noticed in this chapter, devoted his whole life to antiquarian research. He had inherited a large fortune, and, even in his undergraduate days at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, was already beginning Anecdotes of British Topography, which he published in 1768 and enlarged in 1780. He was the author of the “History of the Society of Antiquaries” prefixed to their Archaeologia. He also produced in 1789 an expanded edition of the English translation of Camden’s Britannia. Moreover, in 1786, he had begun Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain, which he completed in 1799. The second volume of this was hailed by Horace Walpole as “the most splendid work” he had ever seen. Gough’s Anecdotes of British Topography was continued in the ten volumes of John Nichols’s Bibliotheca Topographica (1780–1800), whose most important work was The History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Leicester, published from 1795 to 1815. He also supplied the elaborate index to Bowyer’s Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, while the work entitled Illustrations of the Literary History of that century, begun by John Nichols, was completed by his son, John Bowyer, and his grandson, John Gough Nichols.

Three volumes of The Beauties of Wiltshire, five of The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain, and six of The Cathedral Antiquities, with single volumes on “Picturesque Antiquities of English Cities,” on St. Mary Redcliffe church, Bristol, on Fonthill abbey, and on Windsor castle, form a large part of the works of John Britton, a native of Wiltshire. It was said of him that “his elegantly-illustrated works have been a chief exciting cause in bringing about the improved state of public feeling with reference to our national antiquities.” In conjunction with Edward Wedlake Brayley he edited, in 1801–14, nine volumes of The Beauties of England and Wales. Daniel Lysons, in conjunction with his brother, Samuel, began, under the title Magna Britannia, an account of Great Britain, dealing with the first ten counties in alphabetical order from Bedfordshire to Devonshire (1806–22). The volumes were welcomed, in The Gentleman’s Magazine, as “a rich museum of valuable curiosities.” The topographical collections for the remainder of the great work are preserved in sixty-four volumes among the manuscripts of the British Museum (Additional MSS., 9408–71). The principal separate work of Daniel Lysons was The Environs of London, while his brother is best known by his Reliquiae Britannico-Romanae.

A large amount of valuable work was accomplished by Thomas Dunham Whitaker, of St. John’s college, Cambridge. His publications included, with other works on the topography of northern England, a History of Richmondshire. This important work was completed in two folio volumes in 1823, with thirty-two plates by Turner. Its merits and defects are thus summed up in The Retrospective Review:

  • No work of County History has hitherto issued from the press (not excepting even Sir Richard Hoare’s magnificent Wiltshire) so splendid, in respect both of typography and graphic illustration, as Dr. Whitaker’s Richmond; and yet, with all the author’s high reputation and acknowledged talent, few (we believe) have fallen so far short of the expectations formed by readers of real science and desirous of substantial information, principally in those very points in which we have represented Mr. Baker as far excelling.
  • The work of George Baker, extolled in the above passage, is his History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, published in five parts between 1822 and 1841, and then abandoned from lack of adequate support. A history of Hallamshire, published in 1819, and enlarged fifty years later, was produced by Joseph Hunter, the historian of South Yorkshire (1828–31). Other counties have their “histories.” They may be described as works of various degrees of merit; but it is hardly necessary to enumerate them, especially as they are in process of being absorbed and superseded by The Victoria County Histories. There are also special bibliographies of the literature of several of the counties: e.g. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancashire, Norfolk and Shropshire.

    The foundation of the study of English folklore was laid by The Antiquities of the Common People, first published at Newcastle by Henry Bourne in 1725, and re-issued in an expanded form by John Brand in 1777. In 1813, 1843 and 1849 it was greatly enlarged by Sir Henry Ellis, principal librarian of the British Museum, who published An Introduction to Domesday Book, and eleven volumes of Original Letters, illustrative of English History, with notes and illustrations (1824–48), and also prepared a new edition of Dugdale’s Monasticon Anglicanum.

    The Roman antiquities of Caerleon were repeatedly described by John Edward Lee, author of Imperial Profiles, enlarged from Roman coins (1874). The Roman wall was the theme of an admirable hand-book by John Collingwood Bruce, that reached a fifth edition in 1907. Bruce was also editor of Lapidarium Septentrionale, a volume illustrated by nearly a thousand woodcuts and maps and describing the monuments of Roman rule in the north of England (1875). The “Antiquarian Notes” in The Gentleman’s Magazine were edited for many years by Charles Roach Smith, who wrote on the antiquities of Richborough, Reculver, Lymne and Faversham, in Kent, and also on Roman London. The ancient remains collected by him during a course of twenty years were purchased for the British Museum. He also wrote on the birthplace and the rural life of Shakespeare, as illustrated by his works; in conjunction with Thomas Wright, he founded the British Archaeological association in 1843; and, in 1883, he published in his Retrospections a review of the researches of English antiquaries during the past forty years. Among the many antiquarian publications of Thomas Wright was an account of the excavations of Wroxeter (1872). William Thompson Watkin devoted special attention to the Roman antiquities of England and Wales. His Roman Lancashire (1882) takes rank with the best local histories of the Roman occupation of Britain, and is even surpassed by his later work entitled Roman Cheshire (1886). An admirably illustrated work entitled Romano-British Mosaic Pavements was published by Thomas Morgan in 1886.

    A work on the archaeology of the northern nations, under the title Horae Ferales, which had been left unfinished by John Mitchell Kemble, was edited in 1863 by (Sir) Augustus Wollaston Franks, of Trinity college, Cambridge, ultimately keeper of mediaeval antiquities in the British Museum, who wrote numerous memoirs on archaeological subjects, besides drawing up the catalogue of his own priceless collection of porcelain.

    The many-sided antiquary Sir John Evans, who was successively president of the Geological Numismatic and Antiquarian societies, and contributed largely to their Transactions, is best remembered as the author of three important works, each of them a masterpiece in its special department of study: (1) The Coins of the Ancient Britons (1864); (2) The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons, and Ornaments of Great Britain (1872); and (3) The Ancient Bronze Implements, Weapons, and Ornaments of Great Britain and Ireland (1881). The second of these was welcomed as “an admirable summary of the facts and the deductions as to … the relative antiquity of these rude relics of the earliest inhabitants”; and the third, as “a rich repertory of facts … skilfully marshalled in such fashion as to form an organised body.”

    Under the title Textrinum Antiquum, “an account of the art of weaving among the ancients” was produced in 1843 by James Yates, a unitarian minister, whose work was welcomed as “worthy of the best days of critical antiquarianism,” and as “deserving to rank with the works of the Graevii and the Gronovii of past ages.” A History of British Costumes, the result of ten years’ study, had meanwhile been published by a versatile writer, James Robinson Planché. Primeval History (1846), and Ancient Egypt (1850) and Phoenicia (1857), were among the earlier productions of one who has been regarded as the greatest scholar among the unitarians, John Kenrick.

    With a view to the reconstruction of the past, ancient remains and the manners and customs of modern savages were studied in Prehistoric Times (1865) by Sir John Lubbock (afterwards Lord Avebury), who also wrote The Origin of Civilization, and the Primitive Condition of Man (1870). The same subjects were treated from a different point of view, and with different results, by John Ferguson MacLennan, author of Primitive Marriage. In 1883, under the influence of Sir Henry Maine’s Ancient Law and Village Communities, The English Village Community “in its relations to the manorial and tribal systems, and to the common or open field system of husbandry” was published by Frederic Seebohm, who subsequently produced The Tribal System of Wales. The British Barrows of canon Greenwell, of Durham (1877), supplied a very full and accurate record of the examination of sepulchral mounds in various parts of England. Ten years later, the same author published an important monograph, The electrum coinage of Cyzicus. George William Kitchin, dean of Durham, author of a History of France, wrote on Winchester, and on the great screen of its cathedral; and a History of the Cathedral Church of Wells was written in 1870 by Edward Augustus Freeman. The Architectural History of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, together with that of Eton college, begun by Robert Willis, was continued and brought to a successful conclusion by John Willis Clark, registrary of the university from 1891 to his death in 1910, who also deserves to be remembered for his work on Barnwell priory, and for his fine volume on the history of libraries entitled The Care of Books. In 1872 Mackenzie Edward Charles Walcott had published Traditions and Customs of Cathedrals, followed in 1874 by A History of the Cathedrals, Conventual Foundations, Collegiate Churches, and Hospitals of Scotland. The latter work was said to have largely supplied what Scotland had long needed, “a Dodsworth, a Dugdale, a Ware, or an Archdall, who should employ his leisure in the preparation of her Monasticon.” A Survey of London, intended to do for modern London what Stow had done for the Elizabethan city, was unfortunately left unfinished by Sir Walter Besant, whose keen interest in the subject was, however, partly proved by his completed works, London (1892), Westminster (1895) and South London (1899).

    George Thomas Clark, a founder of the Archaeological association (now the Royal Archaeological institute), propounded, in his Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (1884), the theory that the castle of Norman times was identical with the burh of the Old English Chronicle; but this theory has been, practically, overthrown by later authorities. Other important works on the same general subject were The Castles of England, their Story and Structure, by Sir James Dixon Mackenzie (1897), and the unfinished Border Holds of Northumberland by Cadwallader John Bates.

    The antiquities of Scotland, as well as those of England and Wales, were explored by Francis Grose, an excellent draughtsman and accomplished scholar of Swiss origin, whose work, The Antiquities of England and Wales, begun in 1777, was completed ten years later. Two years after its completion, he set out for Scotland, where he met Robert Burns, and was immortalised by him in the famous song beginning “Ken ye ought o’ Captain Grose,” while, in another poem, “Hear, land o’ Cakes and brither Scots,” he playfully warned all Scotsmen of this chield amang them, taking notes. The two volumes of Grose’s Antiquities of Scotland were completed in 1791, which was also the year of his death, and of the publication of his posthumous work, The Antiquities of Ireland. Captain Grose, who has been aptly described as “a sort of antiquarian Falstaff,” is further known as the author of a treatise entitled Ancient Armour and Weapons, and of two volumes on military antiquities. The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh in 1780, at a time when captain Grose was still engaged on The Antiquities of England and Wales.

    A comprehensive topographical and historical account of Scotland was published in 1807–24 in the Caledonia of George Chalmers, who devoted a large part of his life to this stupendous work, which, unhappily, remained unfinished. The author has been described by Dibdin as “the Atlas of Scottish Antiquaries and Historians; bearing on his shoulders whatever has been collected, and with pain separately endured by his predecessors”; one “whom neither difficulties tire, nor dangers daunt.” During his previous migration to Maryland, he had made a collection of “Treaties” and of “Political Annals of the … Colonies.” After his return to Scotland, he wrote lives of Ruddiman, Sir David Lyndsay and Mary queen of Scots. The Scottish section of his library has been described as “one of the most valuable collections of works on the history and literature of Scotland ever formed by a private individual.” In the next generation, Sir John Graham Dalyell, author of The Darker Superstitions of Scotland (1834), gave proof of being a remarkably versatile antiquary. James Logan was a man of some note as the author of The Scottish Gael, or Celtic Manners as preserved amongst the Highlanders (1831), and also of the two illustrated folios on the Clans of the Scottish Highlands (1843–9), regarded in their day as “one of the most valuable and interesting works of modern times.” Robert Stuart, the bookseller and antiquary of Glasgow, produced, in his Caledonia Romana of 1845, “a descriptive account of the Roman antiquities of Scotland.” John Stuart, of Edinburgh, published, in 1856, The Sculptured Stones of Scotland, besides editing, in 1869, The Book of Deer, and preparing for publication, in 1872, Archaeological Essays by the eminent physician, Sir James Young Simpson.

    Contributions to Scottish Ethnology was the title of the first important work of John Beddoe, who was born in Worcestershire in 1826, and educated in the universities of London and Edinburgh, and was president of the Anthropological society in 1869–70. He subsequently wrote The Races of Britain (1885), and The Anthropological History of Europe (1891). The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, published in 1851 by (Sir) Daniel Wilson, afterwards president of the university of Toronto, formed an epoch in the study of the earlier antiquities of Scotland, and invested antiquities with all the charms of graceful literature. Sir Daniel was also the author of “Researches into the origin of civilisation in the Old and the New World,” published under the title Prehistoric Man, a work teeming with interesting matter clothed in a clear and graphic style. The Rhind lectures in archaeology were founded by Alexander Henry Rhind, who made a special study of Scottish antiquities, and, during a visit to Egypt for the benefit of his health, collected the materials for a work entitled Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants (1862).

    In Irish archaeology, the first name of permanent importance is that of George Petrie. In 1833 he was appointed to superintend the historical and antiquarian sections of the ordnance survey of Ireland. It was originally proposed to add to the maps of each district a memoir on its past history and its ancient monuments, but, after one volume of the proposed series had been issued, the work was suddenly dropped on the alleged ground of expense. Petrie’s three chief essays were the outcome of his work on the survey. In his prize-essay, The Round Towers of Ireland (1833), he dispelled the theory of their pagan origin by proving that they were Christian belfries; and this essay was expanded into his great work, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland (1845). His second essay, Antiquities of Tara (1843), was originally intended for the ordnance memoir on Meath. The manuscript of the third, Irish Military Architecture, still remains among the archives of the Royal Irish academy. As a landscape painter, he had been attracted by the surprising interest of Irish antiquities. He traversed the whole country “in search of subjects for his canvas, and, at the same time, made copious notes and sketches of buildings,” besides collecting antiquities, and reaping “a vast harvest of traditional music.” Petrie, on joining the Irish academy, arranged the small series of weapons and implements presented by the king of Denmark. After his death, his own collection was added, and, in 1857–62, all the antiquarian acquisitions of the academy were described in an amply illustrated catalogue by the distinguished physician, Sir William Wilde, who thus provided “the quarry from which all later writers on Irish antiquities draw their materials.” The Royal Irish academy had grown from a society established in Dublin about 1782. The Kilkenny Archaeological society, founded in 1849, became, in 1869, the “Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland,” and, in 1890, the “Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.”

    Turning from Ireland to India, we note that the Asiatic society of Bengal was founded by Sir William Jones in 1784, and that, in 1811, the eminent Sanskrit scholar, Horace Hayman Wilson, was appointed secretary of that body. Wilson was also an original member of the Royal Asiatic society, and director of it from 1837 to his death in 1860. Most of his works were specially connected with the Sanskrit language and literature; but he was also an Indian antiquary. His Ariana Antiqua (1841) is “a Descriptive Account of the Antiquities and Coins of Afghanistan,” including a chapter on “the progress of discovery” of Indian monuments, and a “Memoir on the Topes” by Charles Masson, the traveller in Balochistan. James Tod, who lived in India from 1800 to 1823, published The Antiquities of Rajpootana, ranked by cardinal Wiseman “among the most valuable, as well as among the most beautiful works upon Eastern literature.”

    As secretary of the Asiatic society of Bengal, Wilson was succeeded, in 1832, by James Prinsep, who, as an assay-master in northern India, collected the materials for his earliest work, his Benares illustrated (1831). He also paid special attention to the deciphering of inscriptions.

    The Kharosthi alphabet, written from right to left, ceased to be used in India in the third century of our era; while the Brhm, written from left to right, is the source of all later Indian alphabets. A collection of Prinsep’s Essays on Indian Antiquities, bearing on these and on cognate topics, was published by Edward Thomas in 1858. Edwin Norris, in a paper on “the Kapur-di-Giri rock-inscription” (1845), pointed out the method of deciphering an alphabet, which had been previously unknown, thus making, in the words of H. H. Wilson, “an unexpected and interesting accession to our knowledge of the palaeography and ancient history of India.” The office of director-general of the archaeological survey of India was ably filled from 1870 to 1885 by major-general Sir Alexander Cunningham, who had made his mark in antiquarian literature by his Essay on the Architecture of the Temples of Kashmir (1848), followed by The Bhilsa Topes, or Buddhist Monuments of Central India (1854). He also wrote The Ancient Geography of India (1871), and published an important Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum (1879).

    James Fergusson, who went to India in 1829 as an indigoplanter, settled in London in 1839, and devoted himself to archaeological research. The author of the well-known Illustrated Hand-book of Architecture, which deals with the styles of all ages and countries, was led by his early life in India to take a special interest in its ancient architecture and its religious institutions. Such was the origin of his Rock-cut Temples of India (1864), his Tree and Serpent Worship, with its illustrations from the sculptures of Buddhist topes (1863 and 1873), and his joint work The Cave Temples of India (1880).

    The coins of ancient India were investigated by H. H. Wilson, in his Ariana Antiqua; by James Prinsep in his Essays; by Edward Thomas in his Ancient Indian Weights; and by Sir Alexander Cunningham, who also made a special study of the coinage of the Hindu states of medieval India.