Monday, December 17, 2012

A cold clownish woman

After yesterday’s William Cole anniversary, today is the 380th anniversary of the birth of another English antiquarian - Anthony Wood. Although Wood’s diaries are dryer and more impenetrable than Cole’s, they do have some interest, and are valuable for being relatively early in historical terms.

Wood was born in Oxford, on 17 December 1632, and educated at a free grammar school and Trinity College. In 1647, he entered Merton College and was made postmaster. During subsequent years, he seems to have developed an interest in ploughing, bell-ringing and violin-playing. He published a book of sermons preached by his late brother Edward. Thereafter, he steadily investigated local antiquities, as well as researching into historical records, and this led, in 1669, to publication of Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis.
In 1678, Wood was relieved of the university registers, which had been in his custody for the best part of two decades, because it was thought he might be implicated in the Popish Plot. Subsequently, to recover his position, he swore oaths of allegiance. In 1693, though, he was banished from the university for a libel in Athenae Oxoniensis against the late Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, but he then recanted. It is said that Wood was an uncouth man, but one who led a life of self-denial, and devoted himself entirely to antiquarian research. He died in 1695. Wikipedia has more biographical information, as does the Notable Names Database.

There would not be much to remember Wood by were it not for the scholarly five volume biography put together by Andrew Clark, Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. This was published by the Oxford Historical Press in the 1890s under the title The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, antiquary, at Oxford, 1632-1695, described by himself. The volumes were collected from Wood’s ‘diaries and other papers’, and, indeed, there are numerous references and quotations from the diaries in the first three volumes. However, all the diary entries are heavily annotated, with additions (in brackets) and notes, and often taken second place to the text and chronology of Wood’s daily life as constructed by Clark. Moreover, the diary entries themselves are largely rather dry records of events.

All five volumes are freely available at Internet Archive. Here are a few extracts to give a flavour of Wood’s diary (the parentheses are all by Clark).

9 May 1671
‘At 7 in the morning the King’s crowne endeavoured to be taken away by (Thomas) Blood and his son and 3 others out of the Tower of London, but 3 of them were taken. The said Bloud and his son, who call themselves by the name of Hunt, were 2 of those 6 that set upon the duke of Ormond a little before last Xtmas, and they now confess that they had a designe to sell him to the Turks, because that by his meanes they had lost their estates in Ireland while he was Lord Deputy.’

24 June 1673
‘Midsomer day. Din’d at my brother Kit’s. Cold meat, cold entertainment, cold reception, cold clownish woman. Talking of players and praising them, shee asked me to goe with her and give her a play: ‘if I had money I would, I must be forced to borrow of my brother’ - I told her. Then shee began to extoll Mr. (Edward ?) Fettiplace and Den(nis ?) Huntingdon for cloiying with curtesies, doing any thing that she desired. I told her ‘if I had it, or were in my power, I would doe it.’ She told me that shee ‘had 300li. per annum and scorne(d) to goe.’ I told her ‘I came to be merry and not be scolded at.’ Shee, angry at the word ‘scolding,’ told me ‘if I did not like it’ (the diet), ‘I should leave it.’

14 July 1673
‘M., Mr. (John) Shirley, the Terra filius, of Trinity College, appeared and spoke a speech full of obscenity and prophaneness. Among the rest that he reflected upon, was me and my book: that I made it my employment to peere upon old walls, alters, tombes &c.; that I threated to geld the translator for gelding my booke; that I should say that he had altered my book so much that I did not know whether it was French or Latin; that I perused all privy houses to furnish me with matter to write my book (i.e., meaning from the shitten papers); and when all was done, my book was but fit to returne there againe, etc. But so obscure and dull it was, that few could understand who he meant or what, and therfore had no applause: all looked upon Dr. Wallis, but none upon me who sate within two places (?) of him (one of Peers’ low drunken company). But this was my comfort, that what he had uttered to my great disgrace, the vicechancellor in his concluding speech recruited all againe for upon speaking of the eminent men that have sprung from the University, he said that he would leave it (being too long to recite) to a book that would lately come forth.’

8 July 1693
‘Musick speech, (Hugh) Smith of Univ. Coll. spoke in the Theater. Above 2000 in the Theater, as many as in the great Act 1669, or when the Morocco ambassador was here. Mr. Smith was very baudy among the women: (he had) a grand auditory, while some lecturers had none - so you may see what governs the world. In the afternoon full againe.’

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