1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Oldys

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 1:71-72.



THE UNIVERSAL SPECTATOR. The essays which form this work, and which were afterwards collected into four volumes 12mo, were originally prefixed to a weekly journal under this title; and on the top of the paper, which was printed in single sheets, it was said to be conducted "by Henry Stonecastle, of Northumberland, Esq." One of the real publishers and authors, however, was the industrious antiquary William Oldys; but who succeeded him in this office, for he continued in it no great length of time, I am unable to ascertain. Oldys was born in the year 1687, and was the son of William Oldys, LL.D. chancellor of Lincoln. Having early in life consumed his patrimony by extravagance, he was condemned for the greater part of the residue of his (lays to work for the Booksellers. He enjoyed the post, however, of Norroy king at arms, and was for some years librarian to the Earl of Oxford; upon whose death, he was employed by Osborne the Bookseller, who had purchased the Earl's books for thirteen thousand pounds, to form a catalogue, or rather a Bibliotheque Raisonne, of that valuable collection. He executed but two volumes of the five which compose the catalogue, owing probably to the difficulties under which, about this period, he had the misfortune to labour, being a resident in the Fleet. Dr. Johnson completed the undertaking. Biography and Literary History have been much indebted to the researches of Oldys; he was the author of "The British Librarian, exhibiting a compendious review of all unpublished and valuable books in all sciences," 8vo. 1737; of "The Life of Sir Walter Raleigh;" of those articles in the Biographia Britannica to which is affixed the signature G; of several articles in the General Historical Dictionary; of the "Life of Mr. Richard Carew;" of an "Introduction to Hayward's British Muse;" of the "Scarborough Miscellany," 1732, 1734; and of the "Life and Writings of Thomas Moffett, M.D." He assisted in many other works; and his manuscripts, which were numerous and valuable, were purchased by the booksellers for the new edition of the Biographia Britannica. In his manners and mode of living, Oldys was vulgar and irregular, and his death, it has been said, was hastened by his excesses; he attained, however, the age of 74, and died in 1761. The following curious anagram on his name was found among his manuscripts.

In word and WILL I AM a friend to you,

And one friend OLD IS worth an hundred new.