Peck, Francis

, a learned antiquary, the younger son of Robert and Elizabeth Peck, was born in the parish of St. John the Baptist, at Stamford, in Lincolnshire, May 4, and baptized May 12, 1692. His mother’s maiden name was Jephson. It does not appear at what seminary he received the early part of his education; but it was probably at the grammar-school of his native town. He completed his studies at Trinity-college, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B. A. 1715; and of M. A. 1727.

The first work discovered of his writing is “Το ὕϕος ἄγιον; or an Exercise on the Creation, and an Hymn to the Creator of the World; written in the express words of the Sacred Text; as an attempt to shew the Beauty and Sublimity of Holy Scripture,” 1716, 8vo. This was followed by a poem, entitled “Sighs on the Death of Queen Anne,” published in 1719; subjoined to which are three poems, viz, 1. “Paraphrase on part of the cxxxixth Psalm.” 2. “The Choice.” 3. “Verses to Lady Elizabeth Cecil, on her Birth-day, Nov. 23, 1717.” At the end of this work he mentions, as preparing for the press, “The History of the two last Months of King Charles I.” and solicits assistance; but this never was published. He also mentions a poem on Saul and Jonathan, not then published. During his residence at the university, and perhaps in the early part of it, he wrote a comedy called the “Humours of the University; or the Merry Wives of Cambridge.” The ms. of this comedy is now in the possession of Octavius Gilchrist, esq. of Stamford, who has obliged the editor with a transcript of the preface .*

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"It may be necessary to inform the reader, that the university characters in this play are of those despicable wretches only who dishonour a college, and are generally expelled as soon as discovered, For I should take no pleasure in drawing those descriptions which scandalize the place of my education, were it not to inform the libertine that a college is sacred in a double sense; to learning, and what is beyond it, to religion.

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Wit ceases to be so when it plays upon religion or good manners, and, in my opinion, he hath but an awkward genius who can’t exert himself without affronting God, or the most valuable part of mankind. Wherefore the good and virtuous man hath no reason to be angry with him who shows him the pictures of some persons who dishonour that sa,i!uce, more by their scandalous behaviour than any writer can by the discovery of shameful truths, or descriptions of villainous falsehoods. ``The university then is not intended to be affronted, or the nobility and gentry discouraged from sending their sons thither for education. The satire is just, and no man need quarrel, but he who knows it to be his own character. ``To conclude, I was incapable of drawing a man of fine sense, in so much perfection as he is frequently met with in the university and therefore waved that graceful part for fear of doing injustice to it, thro‘ the feintness of my strokes, and the weakness of my descriptions.’'

| In August 1719, he occurs curate of King’s Cliff, in Northamptonshire, and in 1721 he offered to the world proposals for printing the history and antiquities of his native town. In 1723, he obtained the rectory of Godeby Maureward, by purchase, from Samuel Lowe, esq. who at that time was lord of the manor, and patron of the advowson. In 1727, he drew up a poetical description of Belvoir and its neighbourhood, which is printed in Mr. Nichols’s History of Leicestershire; and in that year his first considerable work appeared, under the title of “Academia Tertia Anglicana; or, The Antiquarian Annals of Stanford, in Lincoln, Rutland, and Northampton Shires; containing the History of the University, Monasteries, Gilds, Churches, Chapels, Hospitals, and Schools there,” &c. ornamented with XLI plates; and inscribed to John duke of Rutland, in an elaborate dedication, which contains a tolerably complete history of the principal events of that illustrious family, from the founder of it at the Conquest. This publication was evidently hastened by “An Essay on the ancient and present State of Stamford, 1726,” 4to, by Francis Hargrave, who, in the preface to his pamphlet, mentions a difference which had arisen between him and Mr. Peck, because his publication forestalled that intended by the latter. Mr. Peck is also rather roughly treated, on account of a small work he had formerly printed, entitled “The History of the Stamford Bull-running.” In 1729, Jie printed a single sheet, containing, “Queries concerning the Natural History and Antiquities of Leicestershire and Rutland,” which were afterwards reprinted in 174O. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, March 9, 1732, and in that year he published the first volume of “Desiderata Curiosa; or, A Collection of divers scarce and curious Pieces, relating chiefly to matters of | English History 5 consisting of choice Tracts, Memoirs, Letters, Wills, Epitaphs, &c. Transcribed, many of them, from the originals themselves, and the rest from divers ancient ms Copies, or the ms Collations of sundry famous Antiquaries, and other eminent Persons, both of the last and present age: the whole, as nearly as possible, digested into order of time, and illustrated with ample Notes, Contents, additional Discourses, and a complete Index.” This volume was dedicated to lord William Manners; and was followed, in 1735, by a second volume, dedicated to Dr. Reynolds, bishop of Lincoln. There being only 250 copies of these volumes printed, they soon became scarce and high-priced, and were reprinted in one volume, 4to, by subscription, by the late Mr. Thomas Evans, in 1779, without, however, any improvements, or any attempt, which might perhaps have been dangerous by an unskilful hand, at a better arrangement. In 1735, Mr. Peck printed, in a quarto pamphlet, “A complete Catalogue of all the Discourses written both for and against Popery, in the time of King James the Second; containing in the whole an account of four hundred and fifty-seven Books and Pamphlets, a great number of them not mentioned in the three former Catalogues; with references after each title, for the more speedy finding a further Account of the said Discourses and their Authors in sundry Writers, and an Alphabetical List of the Writers on each side.” In 1736, he obtained, by the favour of bishop Reynolds, the prebendal stall of Marston St. Lawrence, in the cathedral church of Lincoln. In 1739, he was the editor of “Nineteen Letters of the truly reverend and learned Henry Hammond, D. D. (author of the Annotations on the New Testament, &c.) written to Mi*. Peter Stainnough and Dr. Nathaniel Angelo, many of them on curious subjects,” &c. These were printed from the originals, communicated by Mr. Robert Marsden, archdeacon of Nottingham, and Mr. John Worthington. The next year, 1740, produced two volumes in quarto; one of them entitled “Memoirs of the life and actions of Oliver Cromwell, as delivered in three Panegyrics of him written in Latin; the first, as said, by Don Juan Roderiguez de Saa Meneses, Conde de Penguiao, the Portugal Ambassador; the second, as affirmed by a certain Jesuit, the lord ambassador’s Chaplain; yet both, it is thought, composed by Mr. John Milton (Latin Secretary to Oliver Cromwell), as was the | third with an English version of each. The whole illustrated with a large Historical Preface many similar passages from the Paradise Lost, and other works of Mr. John Milton, and Notes from the best historians. To all which is added, a Collection of divers curious Historical Pieces relating to Cromwell, and a great number of other remarkable persons (after the manner of Desiderata Curiosa, vol. I. and II.)” The other, “New Memoirs of the Life and Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton; with, first, an Examination of Milton’s Style; and, secondly, Explanatory and Critical Notes on divers passages in Milton and Shakspeare, by the Editor. Thirdly, Baptistes; a sacred Dramatic Poem in Defence of Liberty, as written in Latin by Mr. George Buchanan, translated into English by Mr. John Milton, and first published in 1641, by order of the House of Commons. Fourthly, The Parallel) or archbishop Laud and cardinal Wolsey compared, a vision, by Milton. Fifthly, The Legend of sir Nicholas Throckmorton, knt. Chief Butler of England, who died of poison, anno 1570, an Historical Poem, by his nephew sir Thomas Throckmorton, knt. Sixth, Herod the Great, by the Editor. Seventh, The Resurrection, a Poem, in imitation of Milton, by a Friend. And eighth, a Discourse on the Harmony of the Spheres, by Milton; with Prefaces and Notes.” Of these his “Explanatory and Critical Notes on divers passages of Shakspeare” seem to prove that the mode of illustrating Shakspeare by extracts from contemporary writers, was not entirely reserved for the modern commentators on our illustrious bard, but had occurred to Mr. Peck. The worst circumstance respecting this volume is the portrait of Milton, engraved from a painting which Peck got from sir John Meres of KirkbyBeler in Leicestershire. He was not a little proud to possess this painting, which is certainly not genuine and what is worse, he appears to have known that it was not genuine. Having asked Vertue whether he thought it a picture of Milton, and Vertue peremptorily answering in the negative, Peck replied, “I’ll have a scraping from it, however: and let posterity settle the difference.

In 1742, Mr. Peck published his last work: “Four Discourses, viz. 1. Of Grace, and how to excite it. 2. Jesus Christ the true Messiah, proved from a consideration of his miracles in general. 3. The same proved from a consideration of his resurrection in particular. 4. The | necessity and advantage of good laws and good magistrates: as delivered in two visitation and two assize-sermons.” At this time he had in contemplation no less than nine different works but whether he h&d not met with encouragement for those which he had already produced, or whether he was rendered incapable of executing them by reason of his declining health, is uncertain; none of them, however, ever were made public. He concluded a laborious, and it may be affirmed, an useful life, wholly devoted to antiquarian pursuits, Aug. 13, 1743, at the age of sixty-one years. He was buried in the church of Godeby, with a Latin inscription. There are two portraits of him; one in his “Memoirs of Milton; the other prefixed to the second edition of his” Desiderata Curiosa,“inscribed,Francis Peck, A. M. natus Stanfordias, 4 Maii, MDCXCII." By his wife, the daughter of Mr. Curtis of Stamford, he had two sons, Francis, a clergyman, who died in 1749, rector of Gunby in Lincolnshire; and Thomas, who died young; and a daughter, Anne, widow (in 1794) of Mr. John Smalley, farmer at Stroxton in Lincolnshire.

The greater part of Mr. Peck’s Mss. became the property of sir Thomas Cave, bart. Among others, he purchased 5 vols. in 4to, fairly transcribed for the press, in. Mr. Peck’s own neat hand, under the title of “Monasticon Anglicanum.” These volumes were, on the 14th of May, 1779, presented to the British Museum, by the last sir Thomas Cave, after the death of his father, who twenty years before had it in contemplation to bestow them on that excellent repository. They are a most valuable and almost inestimable collection, and we hope will not be neglected by the editors of the new edition of Dugdale. Mr. Peck’s other literary projects announced in the preface to his “Desiderata,” and at the end his “Memoirs of Cromwell,” are, 1. “Desiderata Curiosa,” vol. III. Of this Mr. Nichols has a few scattered fragments. 2. “The Annals of Stanford continued.” 3. “The History and Antiquities of the Town and Soke of Grantham, in Lincolnshire.” 4. “The Natural History and Antiquities of Rutland.” 5. “The Natural History and Antiquities of Leicestershire.” The whole of Mr. Peck’s Mss. relative to this work, were purchased by sir Thomas Cave, in 1754, whose grandson, with equal liberality and propriety, presented them to Mr. Nichols for the use of his elaborate history of that county. It appears from one of Mr. Peck’s Mss. on | Leicestershire, that he meditated a chapter on apparitions, in which he cordially believed. 6. “r rhe Life of Mr. Nicholas Ferrar, of Little Gidding, in the county of Huntingdon, gent, commonly called the Protestant St. Nicholas, and the pious Mr. George Herbert’s Spiritual Brother, done from original Mss.” This ms. of Ferrar is now in the possession of Mr. Gilchrist of Stamford, before mentioned, who informs us that there is nothing in it beyond what may be found in Peckard’s Life of Ferrar. 7. “The Lives of William Burton, esq. author of the Antiquities of Leicestershire, and his brother Robert Burton, B. D. student of Christ-church, and rector of Seagrave, in Leicestershire, better known by the name of Democritus jun.” Mr. Nichols had also the whole of this ms. or plan, which was merely an outline. 8. “New Memoirs of the Restoration of King Charles the Second (which may be considered also as an Appendix to secretary Thurloe’s Papers), containing the copies of Two Hundred and Forty-six Original Letters and Papers, all written annis 1658, 1659, and 1660 (none of them ever yet printed). The whole communicated by William Cowper, esq, Clerk of the Parliament.” In 1731, Mr. Peck drew up a curious “Account of the Asshebys and De la Launds, owners of Bloxham, in the county of Lincoin,” a ms. in the British Museum. Mr. Gilchrist has a copy of Langbaine’s Lives, carefully interlined by him, whence it should seem that he meditated an enlargement of that very useful volume. Mr. Peck also left a great many ms sermons, some of which are in the possession of the same gentleman, who has obligingly favoured us with some particulars of the Stamford antiquary. 1

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Nichols’s Leicestershire and Bowyer. Warton’s Milton, p. 545.