1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Rymer

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:605.



1713, Dec. 14. Died, THOMAS RYMER, a celebrated antiquary, and historiographer to king William III. It was in the councils of this king that it was first determined to print authoritatively the public conventions of Great Britain with other powers. The first volume, commencing with the documents of the year 1201, was published in 1704. This valuable collection of the Foedera, in twenty volumes, continued from the death of Rymer, by Mr. Sanderson, will be a lasting monument of his industry and abilities. It was abridged by Mr. Rapin, in French, in Le Clerc's Bibliotheque, and a translation of it by Stephen Whatley, was printed in four volumes 8vo. 1731. It is a lamentable fact that Mr. Rymer was compelled to sell his library to support himself. — Peter Le Neve, in a letter to the earl of Oxford, says, "I am desired by Mr. Rymer, historiographer, to lay before your lordship the circumstances of his affairs. — He was forced some years back to part with all his choice printed books, to subsist himself; and now, he says, he must be forced, for subsistence, to sell all his manuscript collections to the best bidder, without your lordship will be pleased to buy them for the queen's library. There are fifty volumes in folio, of public affairs, which he has collected but not printed. The price he asks is 500." These manuscripts have since been placed in the British museum, and form no inconsiderable addition to that invaluable repository of legal and antiquarian knowledge. He was born in the north of England, and educated at the grammar school, at Northallerton, in Yorkshire, from whence he went to Sidney college, Cambridge. On quitting the university, he became a member of Gray's-Inn; and succeeded Mr. Shadwell as historiographer to king William III. He also became an early member of the society of antiquaries.

In the compilation of the Foedera, Rymer's first warrant was signed "Marie R." (the king being then in Flanders), empowering him to search the public offices for this undertaking, is dated Aug. 26, 1693; was renewed by king William, April 12, 1694; and again by queen Anne, May 3, 1707, when Mr. Sanderson was joined to him in his undertaking. Rymer wrote Edgar, or the English Monarch, an heroic tragedy, 1678; several poems and translations; and A View of the Tragedies of the last Age, which occasioned those admirable remarks preserved in the preface to Mr. Colman's edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, and since by Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Dryden.