The Rev. Thomas Dudley Fosbooke, M.A., F.S.A, Honorary Associate of the Royal Society of Literature, Honorary Member of the Bristol Philosophical Institution, &c, was descended from a respectable family first settled at Fosbroke, in Staffordshire. Of his more immediate ancestors many were clergymen, it having been a custom of the family for several generations to have one of the sons educated for the Church. The great-grandfather of the late Mr. Fosbroke was the Rev. William Fosbroke, vicar of Diddlebury and rector of Aston Scott, both in Shropshire. He was imprisoned in Hereford Gaol for praying for the King, during the Commonwealth ascendancy, and otherwise injured in estate. His grandfather, Thomas, seems to have squandered the family estates at Diddlebury, which had been in the family at least 200 years. His father, William, was, agreeably to the family custom, educated for holy orders, but migrated to London. By his second wife, Hester, daughter of Thomas Lashbroke, of Southwark, he had an only son, the subject of this memoir.
He was born May 27, 1770; and was named Dudley, after a cousin, a squire of Lebotwood Hall, Shropshire. He lost his father in 1775, and his mother married a second husband, James Holmes, Esq. Ensign in the Coldstream Guards, and afterwards Adjutant of the West Essex Militia. His mother lived to an extreme old age, and died at Walford, in 1831. Her great-grandmother, Mrs. Dodgson, was cousin to Thomas Guy, Esq. the founder of the Hospital in Southwark.
Mr. Fosbroke was educated under the Rev. Mr. Milward, of Billericay, in Essex, and at Petersfield, in Hampshire, until he was nine years old, and was then removed to St. Paul's school, London, under the care of Dr. Roberts, from whence he was elected, in 1785, to a Teasdale Scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. 178-, M.A. 1792. It had been suggested, that he wag to be a Special Pleader, but it was his father's dying wish that he should be placed in the Church.
In 1792 he was ordained Deacon, upon the title of his scholarship; and settled in the curacy of Horsley, co. Gloucester, for which he was ordained priest in 1794, and he held that curacy till 1810.
In 1796 Mr. Fosbroke published the Economy of Monastic Life a poem in Spenserian measure and style, written upon the doctrine of Darwin, of using only precise ideas of picturesque effect, chiefly founded upon the sense of vision. The poem is again reprinted in this volume.
In 1799 he was elected F.S.A. He then devoted himself to archaeology (including the Saxon language), and studied eight or nine hours a day. Determined to publish only records, MSS. or other matters new to the public, he compiled his British Monachism, from the rich stores of the British Museum and the Bodleian Library, in two vols. 8vo.
All the reviewers were flattering; and, the work soon becoming scarce, the author published a second edition in 1817, in a handsome quarto volume, much enlarged, and enlivened by reflections. The original work was almost wholly limited to MS. authorities; but the reprint incorporated the important information in the Glossary of Du Cange, various Chronicles, and other authorities. This work was respectfully quoted by Sir Walter Scott, in his novel of The Monastery, and was favourably noticed in the Quarterly Review. A third edition of this valuable work is now presented to the public.
He next engaged in an original History of the County of Gloucester. Being possessed of a copy of the Inquisitiones post Mortem completed to the reign of Richard III. he was enabled sooner to perfect his collections from the public offices and libraries, and the work was published by subscription, under the title of Abstracts of Records and Manuscripts respecting the County of Gloucester; formed into a History, correcting the very erroneous Accounts, and supplying the numerous Deficiencies, in Sir Robert Atkins and subsequent Writers, 2 vols. 4to. 1807.
On finishing his County History, he engaged with Sir Richard Phillips in an Encyclopaedia of Antiquities; but the work was never published, owing to the failure of that bookseller in 1810.
At this time Mr. Fosbroke removed from Horsley to Walford on the banks of the Wye. Soon afterwards he had the honour of illustrating the unpublished statues in Mr. Hope's collection.
In 1814 he published an Abridgment of Whitby's Commentary on the New Testament, for which he received the unrestricted praise of Dr. Napleton, Chancellor of Hereford, and other dignitaries.
In 1819 he published An original History of the City of Gloucester, almost wholly compiled from new materials; supplying the numerous Deficiencies, and correcting the Errors, of preceding Accounts; including the Original Papers of the late Ralph Bigland, Esq. Garter Principal King at Arms. On this work Mr. Fosbroke was engaged by Messrs. Nichols, as a continuation of Mr. Bigland's work; but, by compressing Mr. Bigland's numerous but uninteresting lists of epitaphs, and supplying a large mass of the latent materials concerning the city, and by a judicious arrangement of the whole, he produced a work highly creditable to his taste, and, what used to be unfrequent in topographies, of a readable nature throughout.
Mr. Fosbroke published at least three editions of a pleasing little work, under the title of The Wye Tour; or, Gilpin on the Wye, with picturesque additions from Wheateley, Price, &c. and Archaeological Illustrations.
As a companion to this Tour, in 1821 he produced Ariconensia; or, Archaeological Sketches of Ross and Archenfield: illustrative of the campaigns of Caractacus; the Station Ariconium, &c. and other matters never before published.
In 1821 Mr. Fosbroke edited the Berkeley Manuscripts: Abstracts and Extracts of Smyth's Lives of the Berkeleys, illustrative of Ancient Manners and the Constitution, including all the Pedigrees in that ancient Manuscript. To which are annexed, a copious History of the Castle and Parish of Berkeley, consisting of matter never before published; and Biographical Anecdotes of Dr. Jenner, his Interviews with the Emperor of Russia, &c. 4to. Much use of Smyth's MSS. had been made by Mr. Fosbroke in his History of Gloucestershire, where that collector's accounts of property were incorporated. In the present work, the principle upon which the selections were formed are, that of preserving every thing of a constitutional, topographical, archeological, or genealogical bearing. The Biography of Dr. Jenner was at the time novel, and written with a friendly and judicious hand.
Mr. Fosbroke's Grammar of Rhetorick was surreptitiously published, without acknowledgment, in Pinnock and Maunder's Catechisms.
In 1824 Mr. Fosbroke published his largest and most important work, the Encyclopaedia of Antiquities, and Elements of Archaeology, in two vols. 4to. This work was most favourably received by his subscribers, and the public in general, as it supplied a deficiency then much wanted by all aspirants in the study of archaeology. A second edition, with improvements, appeared in one very large volume in 1840.
It was followed, in 1828, by a uniform volume, entitled Foreign Topography; or, an Encyclopediack Account, alphabetically arranged, of the ancient Remains in Africa, Asia, and Europe; forming a Sequel to the Encyclopaedia of Antiquities, 4to. and abounding with a large mass of latent, curious, and instructive information.
In 1826 he published, A Picturesque and Topographical Account of Cheltenham and its Vicinity. To which is added, Contributions towards the Medical Topography, including the Medical History of the Waters, by [his son Dr.] John Fosbroke. The object of this work was to give some literary character to the account of Cheltenham, by treating the subject according to the rules of great authorities in scenery and archeology.
In the same year he produced, The Tourist's Grammar; or Rules relating to the Scenery and Antiquities incident to Travellers; compiled from the first authorities, and including an Epitome of Gilpin's Principles of the Picturesque, 12mo, in which the knowledge requisite to form a correct taste upon the subject is brought into a cheap and accessible form. At this time, also, he was solicited by the Duke of Newcastle, to give his assistance in elucidating some difficulties in the Saxon line of his Grace's pedigree; and with extraordinary perseverance he collected sufficient matter from various sources to supply a continuous biography of the very ancient noble family of the Clintons, filling three large folio volumes of MS. which are now in the possession of his Grace, and highly valued by him.
In 1827 Mr. Fosbroke had the gratification of being elected an Honorary Associate of the Royal Society of Literature. He contributed to their Transactions, Extracts from MSS. relative to English History, (vol. i. p. 36,) and Illustrations of the Constitution of our ancient Parliaments. (vol. ii. 268.)
A similar acknowledgment of the literary merits of this distinguished Author was paid him by the Bristol Literary and Philosophical Society, who elected him an honorary member of their institution and communicated the honour conferred upon him in terms expressive of their admiration of his talents and services in the cause of literature.
In 1830 Mr. Fosbroke was presented to the vicarage of Walford (where he had been twenty years curate) by the Rev. Thomas Huntingford, preceptor of Hereford Cathedral; and nephew of the late very learned and amiable Bishop of Hereford. To this vicarage is annexed the parochial chapelry of Ruardean, co. Gloucester, of which place Mr Fosbroke communicated an account to the Gentleman's Magazine in June 1831, p. 488.
Mr. Fosbroke was for several years intimately connected with the Gentleman's Magazine, and contributed largely to its review department; in which office he always acted towards authors with a fair and liberal spirit. His notices were full of original observations. The connection terminated a few years before the commencement of the present series of that Miscellany in 1834.
He had latterly with great labour prepared for the press a new work, as a companion to his Encyclopedia of Antiquities, under the tide of a New and original Synopsis of ancient English Manners, Customs, and Opinions, derived from old Chronicles, local Histories, and other authentic Documents. This may hereafter be published.
Mr. Fosbroke was highly distinguished as a Freemason, and had the honour of being appointed in three successive years Chaplain of the Provincial Grand Lodges of Hereford, Monmouth, and Gloucester. The MSS. of several of several sermons illustrative of the ancient History, Arcana and objects of Freemasonry preached before these Lodges, are now in the possession of his widow, and will probably be published at some future period.
In 1796 he was married to Miss Howell; of Horsley, and had issue by her four sons and six daughters, of whom seven are now living. His eldest son John, is a doctor of medicine, and author of several works and essays on professional subjects. His second son, Yate, is a clergyman, and vicar of St. Ive's, in the county of Huntingdon. His third son, Thomas Dudley, is First Lieut. in the Royal Marine Corps, whose commission was presented to him by Sir James Graham, (at that time First Lord of the Admiralty,) through the recommendation of the Duke of Newcastle, as a mark of his Grace's favour and esteem for his father. His fourth son, Wm. Michael Malbon, is now a doctor of medicine of the University of Edinburgh. Of his three surviving daughters one only is married, Hester Elizabeth, to Charles Ransford Court, esq. of Wrington, in the county of Somerset.
A portrait of Mr. Fosbroke, "aetat. 46," was prefixed to the Encyclopaedia of Antiquities, and is also given in this volume.
This distinguished antiquary and archaeologist died at his vicarage in Herefordshire, on the 1st of January, 1842, in the 72d year of his age.