Page images

XVI. Anecdotes of Mr. ROBERT SCOTT, and Observations on the Booksellers of Little Britain, at the latter end of

the Seventeenth Century.


"MR. ROBERT SCOTT, of Little Britain, was, in his time, the greatest librarian in Europe; for, besides his stock in England, he had warehouses at Francfort, Paris, and other places, and dealt by factors. After he was grown old and much worn by multiplicity of business, he began to think of his ease, and to leave off: hereupon he contracted with one Mr. Mills, of St. Paul's Church-yard, near 10,000l. deep, and articled not to open his shop any more. Mills, with his auctioneering, atlasses, and projects, failed; whereby poor Scott lost above half his means. But he held to his contract of not opening his shop; and, when he was in London, for he had a country-house, passed most of his time at his house amongst the rest of his books; and his reading (for he was no mean scholar) was the chief entertainment of his time. He was not only a very great bookseller, but a very conscientious good man; and when he threw up his trade, Europe had no small loss of him. Little Britain was, in the middle of the last century, a plentiful emporium of learned authors; and men went thither as to a market. This drew to the place a mighty trade, the rather because the shops were spacious, and the learned gladly resorted to them, where they seldom failed to meet with agreeable conversation; and the booksellers themselves were knowing and conversable men, with whom, for the sake of bookish knowledge, the greatest wits were pleased to converse; and we may judge the time as well spent there, as (in latter days) either in taverns or coffee-houses, though the latter hath carried off the spare time of most people. But now this emporium is vanished, and the trade contracted into the hands of two or three persons, who, to make good their monopoly, ransack not only their neighbours of the trade, that are scattered about town, but all over England; aye, and beyond sea too; and send abroad their circulators, and in that manner get into their hands all that is valuable; the rest of the trade are content to take their refuse, with which, and the first scum of the press, they furnish one side of a shop, which serves for the sign of a bookseller, rather than a real one; but, instead of selling, deal as factors, and procure what the country divines and gentry send for, of whom each one has his book-factor; and, when wanting any thing, writes to his bookseller, and pays

his bill; and it is wretched to consider what pickpocket work, with help of the press, these demi-booksellers make; they crack their brains to find out selling subjects, and keep hirelings in garrets, on hard meat, to write and correct by the groat; so put up an octavo to a sufficient thickness, and there is six shillings current for an hour and a half's reading, and perhaps never to be read or looked upon after. One that would go higher, must take his fortune at blank walls and corners of streets, or repair to the sign of Bateman, Innys, and one or two more, where are best choice and better pennyworths."

Such were the remarks of the Hon. Roger North, at the end of the last century. The race of booksellers in Little Britain is now almost totally extinct; honest Ballard, well known by his curious divinity catalogues, being their only genuine representative.

1780, Jan.


XVII. Brief Memoirs of THOMAS COxeter.

MR. WARTON, in the third volume of the History of
English Poetry, just published, having mentioned the late
Mr. Coxeter as a faithful and industrious collector in our old
English literature, I send you some anecdotes of his life.

THOMAS COXETER was born of an ancient and respectable family at Lechlade, in Gloucestershire, Sept. 20, 1689. He was educated in grammatical learning, first under the Rev. Mr. Collier, at Coxwell, in Berkshire, and afterwards under the Rev. Mr. Collins, at Magdalen college school, in Oxford. In his sixteenth year, he was entered a commoner of Trinity college, Oxford, July 7, 1705. His tutor there was the Rev. Mr. Edward Cranke, one of the fellows, afterwards preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and presented by the said college to the living of Great Waltham, in Essex, 1722.* From Oxford, where he wore a civilian's gown, he came to London, with a view of engaging in the practice of the civil law; but losing his friend and patron, Sir John Cook,† he abandoned all thoughts of that and every other profession.


*He resigned it in 1722, and was succeeded by Nicholas Tindal, translator of Rapin, &c. E.

+ Sir John Cook, Knt. Dean of the Arches, and Vicar General, &c. died in 1710. An anonymous Funeral Poem to his memory, intituled, "Astræa La chrimans," the production probably of Coxeter, appeared that year, E.

Continuing in London without any settled pursuit, he became acquainted with booksellers and authors. He amassed materials for a Biography of our Poets, some of which appear to have been communicated to Mr. Warton by Mr. Wise, late Radclivian librarian, and a contemporary with Mr. Coxeter at Trinity college. He assisted Mr. Ames in the History of British Typography. He had a curious collection of old plays. He pointed out to Theobald many of the black-lettered books with which that critic illustrated Shakespeare. He compiled one, if not more, of the Indexes to Hudson's edition of Josephus, in 1720. In 1739, he published a new edition of Dr. Baily's (or rather Dr. Richard Hall's) Life of Bishop Fisher, first printed in 1655. In the beginning of the year 1744, he circulated Proposals for printing May's Plays, of which this is an exact copy.

[ocr errors]

"Speedily will be Published,

"The DRAMATIC WORKS of THOMAS MAY, Esquire, a contemporary with Ben Jonson, and, upon his decease, a "competitor for the Bays. With Notes, and an Account of "his Life and Writings. By THOMAS COXETER, Esquire, "some time of Trinity college, Oxford. The Editor, in"tending to revive the best of our Old Plays, faithfully "collated with all the editions that could be found in a "search of above thirty years, happened to communicatė "his scheme to one who now invades it. To vindicate "which, he is resolved to publish this deserving Author, "though out of the order of his Design. And as à late spurious edition of GORBODUC is sufficient to shew what "mistakes and confusion may be expected from the Medley "now advertising in ten volumes, a correct edition will be "added of that excellent tragedy; with other Poetical "Works of the renowned Sackville, his Life, and a Glos"sary. These are offered as a specimen of the great care "which is necessary, and will constantly be used in the re"vival of such old writers as the Editor shall be encouraged "to restore to the public in their genuine purity."

Though this design did not take effect, we learn from it, that he was the first who formed the very excellent scheme of publishing an ample selection of our obsolete dramas, adopted by Dodsley, and lately perfected with great improvements. Sackville's Gorbod uc, here referred to, is the same edition that was conducted by Mr. Spence, in 1736.

In February, 1746-7, Mr. Coxeter was appointed secretary

to "A Society for the Encouragement of an Essay towards a complete English History," under the auspices of which appeared the first volume of Carte's History of England.

He died of a fever on Easter-day, April 19, 1747, in his 59th year; and was buried in the chapel-yard of the Royal Hospital of Bridewell.

1781, April.

Yours, &c.


XVIII. Biographical Memoirs of Sir SIMON BASKERVILLE, M.D. and GEORGE BATE, M.D.

SIMON BASKERVILLE, born at Exeter, 1573, was the son of Thomas Baskerville, an apothecary in that city, descended from an ancient family of that name in Herefordshire. He was entered of Exeter college, Oxford, in 1591, where he distinguished himself so much by his morals and learning, that he was elected fellow before he took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. His academical reputation appears to have been very high, from his being chosen as a disputant in philosophy before King James, on his visit to Oxford. In 1606, he was made senior proctor of the university; and from this period directed his studies entirely to medicine. In 1611, he accumulated the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Physic; and after a long course of assiduous study in his profession, he removed to London, where he became eminent in the practice of it. He was made a member of the College of Physicians, and was for some time president of that body. King James appointed him one of his physicians; and King Charles I. who had a great esteem for his learning and other accomplishments, continued him in this post, and likewise honoured him with the rank of knighthood.

With respect to the extensiveness of his practice, we are told that he visited a hundred patients in a week. The fortune he acquired was so great as to gain him the appellation of Sir Simon Baskerville the rich, and his spirit and generosity were not inferior to his wealth. Fuller, speaking of the stoppage of the river Exe, has the following passage, in his quaint style, concerning him. "Some, knowing Sir Simon Baskerville, a physician, and native of this place, to have a plentiful purse and a public spirit, wished he would have taken the work in hand to have cured this obstruction, but

it was no physician's work to meddle therewith, nor is it either powder of steel, or gilded pills, which can do the deed, but only pills of massy gold and silver, so expensive is the performance." It is likewise recorded of him, that being a great loyalist and friend to the clergy, "he would never take a fee of an orthodox minister under a dean, nor of any suffering cavalier in the cause of King Charles, under a gentlemen of a hundred a year; but would also, with physic to their bodies, generally give relief to their necessities."

This physician, who, though a credit to his profession from his figure and character, did not benefit the art by any writings, died July 5, 1641, aged 68, and was buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's, London.

GEORGE BATE, son of Mr. John Bate, of Bourton, in Buckinghamshire, was born at Maid's Moreton, near Buckingham, in the year 1608. At the age of 14 he became a clerk of New College, Oxford, from whence he afterwards removed to Queen's College, and thence to Edmund Hall. After taking his degrees in Arts, he entered on the physic line, and commenced bachelor of that faculty, in 1629. About this time, having obtained a licence, he practised for some years in his profession at Oxford, chiefly among the Puritans, who reckoned him inclined to their party. He took his degree of Doctor in 1637. During the king's residence at Oxford, we find him his Majesty's principal physician, and in high reputation.

On the decline of the king's affairs, he left Oxford, and settled in London, when he became fellow of the College of Physicians, and physician to the Charter-house. He pretended at this time to be a concealed loyalist, yet ingratiated himself so well with the ruling powers, that he was at length made principal physician to Oliver Cromwell, whom he is said to have flattered in an extraordinary degree. He had been sent by the parliament along with Dr. Wright to Scotland, in the spring, 1651, to attend Cromwell, then dangerously indisposed with an intermitting fever. After the Restoration he still kept in favour at court, and was continued in his post of first physician by Charles II. and made a member of the newly constituted Royal Society. The means which, as it is asserted, were used to reconcile him with the royal party, deserve to be noted for their peculiar infamy. His friends industriously spread a report that he had hastened the death of his master, the Protector, by a secret dose. What an idea must it give us of the spirit of party to find so horrid a perfidy rendered meritorious by it! There is

« PreviousContinue »