1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir George Buc

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 7:216-17.



GEORGE BUC, a learned antiquary, was born in Lincolnshire, in the sixteenth century, and flourished in the beginning of the seventeenth. He was descended from the ancient family of the Bucs, or Buckes, of West Stanton, and Hertfill, in Yorkshire, and Melford-hall, in Suffolk. His great-grandfather, sir John Buc, knight, was one of king Richard the Third's favourites, and attended that unfortunate prince to the battle of Bosworth, where he lost his crown and life. In the first parliament of king Henry VII. this sir John Buc was attainted for being one of the chief aiders and assistants to the king just now mentioned in the battle of Bosworth, and soon after was beheaded at Leicester. By this attainder his posterity were reduced to very great distress; but, through the interest of Thomas duke of Norfolk, the great patron of the family, they had probably some of their estates restored to them, and, among others, that in Lincolnshire, where our author was born. In the reign of king James I. he was made one of the gentlemen of his majesty's privy-chamber, and knighted. He was also constituted master of the revels, whose office was then kept on St. Peter's-hill, in London. What he mostly distinguished himself by, was writing The Life and Reign of Richard III. in five books, wherein, in opposition to the whole body of English historians, he endeavours to represent that prince's person and actions in a quite different light from what they have been by others; and takes great pains to wipe off the bloody stains that have been fixed upon his character. He has also written: The third universitie of England; or, a treatise of the foundations of all the colledges, ancient schooles of priviledge, and of houses of learning, and liberall arts, within and about the most famous citie of London. With a briefe report of the sciences, arts, and faculties therein professed, studied, and practiced. And a treatise of The Art of Revels. Mr. Camden gives him the character of "a person of excellent learning," and thankfully acknowledges that he "remarked many things in his histories, and courteously communicated his observations to him." He has since received very able support, and Richard III. has found a powerful advocate in Horace Walpole, the late lord Orford, who in his Historic Doubts has, with much ingenuity, at least, shewn that the evidence produced in confirmation of Richard's crimes, is far from being decisive. But we have now an "historic doubt" to bring forward of more importance to the present article, which we find in a note on Malone's Shakspeare, in the following words: "I take this opportunity of correcting an error into which Anthony Wood has fallen, and which has been implicitly adopted in the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, and many other books. The error I allude to, is, that this sir George Buc, who was knighted at Whitehall by king James the day before his coronation, July 23, 1603, was the author of the celebrated 'History of king Richard the Third;' which was written above twenty years after his death, by George Buck, esq. who was, I suppose, his son. The precise time of the father's death, I have not been able to ascertain, there being no will of his in the prerogative office; but I have reason to believe that it happened soon after the year 1622. He certainly died before August 1629."

In answer to this, Mr. Ritson asserts that there can be no doubt of the fact, that sir George Buc was the author of this History, although published, and said in the title to be "composed by George Bucke, esq." in 1646, his original MS. (though much injured by fire) being still preserved among the Cotton MSS. Mr. Ritson adds that sir George died in 1623. He has also enrolled him among his poets, on account of An Eclog treating of crownes, and of garlandes, and to whom of right they appertaine. Addressed and consecrated to the king's majestie, 1605, 4to, and of some other verses.

Sir George Buc's History of Richard is printed in Kennet's Complete History of England, and his Third Universitie, first printed in 1615, fol. is appended to Stowe's Chronicle, by Howes, 1631.