Stephens, Robert, Esq.

, an eminent antiquary, was the fourth sou of Richard Stephens, esq. of the elder house of that name atEastington in Gloucestershire, by Anne the eldest daughter of sir Hugh Cholmeley, of Whitby, in Yorkshire, baronet. His first education was at Wotton school, whence he removed to Lincoln-college, Oxford, May 19, 681. He was entered very young in the Middle Temple, applied himself to the study of the common law, and was called to the bar. As he was master of a sufficient fortune, it may be presumed that the temper of his mind, which was naturally modest, detained him from the public exercise of his profession, and led him to the politer studies, and an acquaintance with the best authors, ancient and modern: yet he was thought by all who knew him to have made a great proficience in the law, though history and antiquities seem to have been his favourite study. When he was about twenty years old, being at a relation’s house, he accidentally met with some original letters of the lord chancellor Bacon; and finding that they would greatly contribute to our knowledge of matters relating to king James’s reign, he immediately set himself to search for whatever might elucidate the obscure passages, and published a complete edition of them in 1702, with useful notes, and an excellent historical introduction. He intended to have presented his work to king William but that monarch dying before it was published, the dedication was omitted. In the preface, he requested the communication of unpublished pieces of his noble author, to make his collection more complete; and obtained in consequence as many letters as formed the second collection, published in 1734, two years after his death. Being a relation of Robert Harley earl of Oxford (whose mother Abigail, was daughter of Nathaniel Stephens of Eastington), he was preferred by him to be chief solicitor of the | customs, in which employment he continued with unblemished reputation till 172C, when he declined that troublesome office, and was appointed to succeed Mr. Madox in the place of historiographer royal. He then formed a design of writing a history of king James the first, a reign which he thought to be more misrepresented than almost any other since the conquest: and, if we may judge by the good impression which he seems to have had of these times, his exactness and care never to advance any thing but from unquestionable authorities, besides his great candour and integrity, it could not but have proved a judicious and valuable performance. He married Mary the daughter of sir Hugh Cholmeley, a lady of great worth, and died at Gravesend, near Thornbury, in Gloucestershire, Nov. 12, 1732; and was buried at Eastington, the seat of his ancestors, where is an inscription to his memory. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.