1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Dudley Fosbroke

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 17 (February 1842) 214-16.



Jan. 1. At Walford Vicarage, near Ross, Herefordshire, in his seventy-second year, the Rev. Thomas Dudley Fosbroke, M.A., F.S.A., Honorary Associate of the Royal Society of Literature, honorary Member of the Bristol Philosophical Institution, &c.

This distinguished antiquary and archaeologist 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. Wm. 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, Hesther, 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 was 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.

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 in the press.

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, archaeological, or genealogical bearing. The biography of Dr. Jenner was at the time novel, and written with a friendly and judicious hand.

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 archaeology.

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 apply a continuous biography of the very ancient noble family of the Clintons, to fill 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.)

In 1830 Mr. Fosbroke was presented to the vicarage of Walford (where he had been twenty years curate) by the Rev. Thomas Huntingford, precentor 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 before the commencement of our present series.

He had latterly with great labour prepared for the press a new work, as a companion to his Encyclopaedia of Antiquities, under the title 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.

He once issued proposals for the publishing "Sermons, illustrative of the ancient History, Arcana, and Objects of Freemasonry, preached before the Provincial Grand Lodges of the Counties of Hereford, Monmouth, and Gloucester." Mr. Fosbroke was past Provincial Grand Chaplain of those shires. The MSS. of these sermons are in the possession of his widow, who will probably publish them 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. Ives, in the co. 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 Medical student at the University of Edinburgh. Of his three surviving daughters one only is married, Hester Elizabeth, to Charles Rumford Court, esq. of Wrington, in the co. of Somerset.

It is with great pain we conclude our account of this worthy and estimable man and learned and industrious antiquary, by noticing that, from want of preferment in early life, and the demands of a numerous family, (to whom he was a most excellent father,) he has left his widow in very narrow circumstances.

A portrait of Mr. Fosbroke, "aetat. 46," was prefixed to the Encyclopaedia of Antiquities.