1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Surtees

Robert Southey, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 1 (April 1834) 440-41.



Feb. 11. At his family seat of Mainsforth, in the county of Durham, in his 55th year, Robert Surtees, Esq. M.A., F.S.A. the Historian of that County.

This distinguished antiquary was born in the Bailey, Durham, April 1, 1779. He received the first part of his education at the grammar-school of Houghton-le-Spring, and while a school-boy there, in his 15th year, he began his collections for the history of his native country; so early was his predilection manifested for historical and archeological pursuits. On his removal from Houghton he was placed under the Rev. John Bristow at Hampstead, where Reginald Heber was his schoolfellow. The course of his education was completed at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was created M.A. in 1803.

Mr. Surtees was not one of those men for whom a profession is necessary to keep them from idleness. He had his calling from nature, and he followed it. Providence had placed him in the happiest station in life fro one who knew how to appreciate the blessings of fortune, and he enjoyed them thoroughly because he made the best use of them.

In 1806 he married Anne daughter of Ralph Robinson of Herrington, esq. and he found in his wife an affectionate and amiable companion.

The first volume of his History of Durham was published in 1816, the second in 1820, the third in 1823. Much of the fourth and concluding volume is printed, and the materials for the remainder are mostly collected.

Mr. Surtees was no ordinary Topographer. The merest pioneer in literature could not have been more patient in painstaking: but he possessed higher qualifications than the indispensable ones of industry and exactness: few writers of this class have equaled him in richness and variety of knowledge; fewer still have brought to the task a mind at once so playful and so feeling.

Happy in his station, happy in his marriage, happy in his pursuits, habits, and opinions, and in the constant exercise of secret beneficence, he has left a good name, which by those who now regret his loss will be held dear as long as thy survive him; and a great work, which must always be consulted by those who study the ancient history of England, and the institutions and manners of their forefathers.

A severe cold, caught on the outside of a coach, led to the melancholy event which it has become our painful duty to record, after an illness of not more than a week's duration. Mr. Surtees's funeral, which took place on the 15th of February, was, by his own desire, of the most private and unostentatious nature. His body was carried on men's shoulders from Mainsforth to Bishop Middleham, and was buried in a deep grave in the limestone rock, in the presence of a great concourse of people overwhelmed with grief. The deep sighs of those few of his intimate friends who were present, were rendered inaudible by the unsuppressed lamentations of his tenants, and the numerous poor persons who had been mainly supported by him.