Elstob, Elizabeth

, sister of Mr. William Elstob, and engaged in the same learned pursuits, was born at Newcastle, Sept. 29, 1683. It is said, that she owed the rudiments of her extraordinary education to her mother; of which advantage, however, she was soon deprived; for at the age of eight years she had the misfortune of losing this intelligent parent. Her guardians, who entertained different sentiments, discouraged as much as they were able her progress in literature, as improper for her sex; but she had contracted too great a fondness for literary studies to be diverted from the prosecution of them.


Biog. Brit—Nichols’s Bowyer, where are many letters and additional particulars.

| During her brother’s continuance at Oxford, she appears to have resided in that city, where she was esteemed and respected by Dr. Hudson and other Oxonians. Upon her brother’s removal to London, she probably removed with him; and, it is certain, that she assisted him in his antiquarian undertakings. The first public proof which she gave of it was in 1709, when, upon Mr. Elstob’s printing the homily on St. Gregory’s day, she accompanied it with an English translation. The preface, too, was written by her, in which she answers the objections made to female learning, by producing that glory of her sex, as she calls her, Mrs. Anna Maria Schurman. Mrs. Elstob’s next publication was a translation of madame Seudery’s “t-ssay on Glory.” She assisted, also, her brother in an edition of Gregory’s pastoral, which was probably intended to have included both the original and Saxon version; and she had transcribed all the hymns, from an ancient manuscript in Salisbury cathedral. By the encouragement of Dr. Hickes, she undertook a Saxon Homilarium, with an English translation, notes, and various readings. To promote this design, Mr. Bowyer printed for her, in 1713, “Some testimonies of learned men, in favour of the intended edition of the Saxon Homilies, concerning the learning of the author of those homilies, and the advantages to be hoped for from an edition of them. In a letter from the publisher to a doctor in divinity.” About the same time she wrote three letters to the lord treasurer, from which it appears, that he solicited and obtained for her queen Anne’s bounty towards printing the homilies in question. Her majesty’s decease soon deprived Mrs. Elstob of this benefit; and she was not otherwise sufficiently patronized, so as to be able to complete the work. A lew only of the homilies were actually printed at Oxford, in folio. Mrs. Elstob’s portrait was given in the initial letter G of “The English. Saxon Homily on the Birth-day of St, George.” In 1715, she published a Saxon grammar, the types for which had been cut at the expence of the lord chief justice Parker, afterwards earl of Macclesfield. Mrs. Elstob had other literary designs in view, but was prevented from the prosecution of them, by her distressed circumstances, and the want of due encouragement. After her brother’s death, she was so far reduced, that she was obliged to retire to Evesham in Worcestershire, where she subsisted with difficulty by keeping a small school. In | this situation she experienced the friendship of Mr. George Ballard, and of Mrs. Capon, wife of the rev. Mr. Capon, who kept a boarding-school at Sianton, in Gloucestershire. These worthy persons exerted themselves among their acquaintance, to obtain for Mrs. Elstub some annual provision. At length she was recoiflmended to queen Caroline, who granted her a pension of twenty guineas a year. This being discontinued on the queen’s decease, Mrs. Elstob was again brought into difficulties, and, though mistress of eight languages, besides her own, was obliged to seek for employment as a preceptress of children. She may, however, be considered as having been very fortunate in the situation which she obtained in this capacity; for, in 1739, she was taken into the family of the duchess Dowager of Portland, where she continued till her death, which happened on the 30th of May 1756. She was buried at St. Margaret’s, Westminster. Mr. Rowe Mores describes her as having been the indefessa comes of her brother’s studies, and a female student of the university; and as having originally possessed a genteel fortune, which, by pursuing too much the drug called learning, she did not know how to manage. He adds, that upon visiting her in her sleeping-room at Bulstrode, he found her surrounded with books and dirtiness. She was, however, one of the most extraordinary women of her age, the first, and as far as we know, the last of her sex, who was a Saxon scholar. A more particular account of her Mss. and other productions is given in our first authority. 1

Nichols’s Eowyer. Biog. Brit.