1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Norden

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 23:220-21.



JOHN NORDEN, an industrious topographer, classed by Walpole and Strutt among engravers, seems to have been born in Wiltshire about 1548, and admitted of Hart-hall, Oxford, in 1564. He proceeded A.M. in 1573. He had patronage, but little else, from the great Burleigh; and in his old age obtained jointly with his son the place of surveyor to the prince of Wales. He lived in narrow circumstances at Fulham and Hendon, and died about 1626. Wood ascribes to him fifteen devotional pieces, though he doubts if they were really written by him, and Granger, who describes a print of him, thinks they must have been his father's. As a topographer, however, we are more certain of his productions. He surveyed the county of Essex in 1584, and Hertfordshire and Middlesex in 1533; and besides these, he executed the maps of Cornwall, Hampshire, Surrey, and Sussex, all which, except those of Herts and Hants, were copied, with additions, into Speed's Theatre. He was the first that inserted the roads. His map of Surrey was much larger and more exact than any of his others. Among his published works are, England; an intended guyde for English travailers, &c. Lond. 1625, 4to; Speculum Britanniae, a topographical and historical description of Cornwall, 1728, 4to. It was published from a very old MS. in the British Museum, MSS. Harl. 6252. Mr. Gough says that the better part of this most finished of Norden's works is a mere transcript of Carew; from the other parts very little of moment is to be learned; and no stress is to be laid on his drawings. Norden wrote also an account of the estate of the dutchy of Cornwall, the right by which the duke holds his estates, and many of the customs of the manors; which was once deposited in the duchy office. Another of his publications, is Speculum Britanniae, or an historical and chorographical description of Middlesex and Hertfordshire, 1573, 4to, reprinted 1637, and 1723. The Middlesex part was the first of his labours; there is a copy of it among the Harleian MSS. No. 570, supposed to be in Norden's own writing, which differs from the printed books both in the arrangement and the additions made to it. The last of this kind was his Speculum Brit. pars altera, or a delineation of Northamptonshire, Lond. 1720, 8vo. This is the most superficial of all his surveys, except in a few towns; nor were the map and plans of Peterborough and Northampton referred to in it ever engraved. Norden was not only a practical surveyor, but wrote a good treatise on the subject, entitled The Surveyor's Dialogue, &c. 1607 4to. Of this an account, with extracts, is given in the Censura Literaria vol. I. There are some MSS. by Norden in the British Museum and other public libraries.