Elstob, William

, a divine and antiquary, descended from a very ancient family in the bishopric of Durham, was born at Newcastle upon Tyne, Jan. 1, 1673, and was the son of Mr. Ralph Elstob, a merchant of that place. Being intended for the church, he received his grammatical education, first at Newcastle, and afterwards at Eton after which he was admitted of Catharine-hall, in Cambridge but the air of the country not agreeing with him, he removed to Queen’s college, Oxford. Here his studious turn acquired him so much reputation, that in 1696 he was chosen fellow of University college, and was appointed joint tutor with Dr. C layering, afterwards bishop of Peterborough. At this college Mr. Elstob took the degree of master of arts, June 8, 1697. In 1701, he translated into Latin the Saxon homily of Lupus, with notes, for Dr. Jiickes. About the same time he translated into English sir John Cheke’s Latin version of Plutarch, “De Superstitione,” which is printed at the end of Strype’s Life of Cheke. The copy made use of by Mr. Elstob was a | manuscript in University college, out of which Obadiah Walker, when master of that college, had cut several leaves, containing Cheke’s remarks against popery. In 1702, Mr. Elstob was appointed rector of the united parishes of St. Swithin and St. Mary Bothaw, London, where be continued to his death, and which appears to be the only eqclesiastical preferment he ever obtained. In 1703, he published, at Oxford, an edition of Ascham’s Latin Letters. He was the author, likewise, of an “Essay on the great affinity and mutual agreement between the two professions of Law and Divinity,” printed at London, with a preface, by Dr. Hickes. This book, in process of time, became so little known, that Mr. Philip Carteret Webbe insisted upon it that there was no such work, until convinced, by an abstract or view of it, which was sent to Mr. Pegge, from a copy in the library of St. John’s college, Cambridge. It is a thin octavo, and not very scarce. In 1704, Mr Elstob published two sermons; one, a thanksgiving sermon, from Psalm ciii. 10, for the victory at Hochstet; and, the other, from 1 Timothy i. 1, 2, on the anniversary of the queen’s accession. Besides the works already mentioned, our author, who was a great proficient in the Latin tongue, compiled an essay on its history and use collected materials for an account of Newcastle and, also, the various proper names formerly used in the north but what is become of these manuscripts is not known. In 1709, he published, in the Saxon language, with a Latin translation, the homily on St. Gregory’s day. Mr. Elstob bad formed several literary designs, the execution of which was prevented by his death, in 1714, when he was only forty-one years of age. The most considerable of his designs was an edition of the Saxon laws, with great additions, and a new Latin version by Somner, together with notes of various learned men, and a prefatory history of the origin and progress of the English laws, down to the conqueror, and to Magna Charta. This great plan was completed in 1721, by Dr. David Wilkins, who, in his preface, thus speaks concerning our author “Hoc Gulielmus Elstob, in literis Anglo-Saxonicis versatissimus præstare instituerat. Hinc Wheloci vestigia premens, Leges quas editio ejus exhibet, cum Mss. Cantabrigiensibus, Bodleiano, Roffensi, et Cottonianis contulerat, versioneque nova adornare proposuerat, ut sic Leges, antea jam publici juris factae, ejus opera et studio emendatiores prodiissent. | Veruin morte immatura præreptus, propositum exequi non potuit.” Whilst Mr. Elstob was engaged in this design, Dr. Hickes recommended him to Mr. Harley, as a man whose modesty had made him an obscure person, and which would ever make him so, unless some kind patron of good learning should bring him into light. The doctor added his testimony to Mr. Elstob’s literature, his great diligence and application, and his capacity for the work he had undertaken. Mr. Harley so far attended to Dr. Hickes’s recommendation as to grant to Mr. Elstob the use of the books and manuscripts in his library, which our author acknowledged in a very humble letter. A specimen of Mr. Elstob’s design was actually printed at Oxford, in 1699, under the title of “Hormesta Pauli Orosii, &c. ad exemplar Junianum, &c.” He intended, also, a translation with notes, of Alfred’s Paraphrastic Version of Orosins; his transcript of which, with collations, was in Dr. Pegge’s hands. Another transcript, by Mr. Ballard, with a large preface on the use of Anglo-Saxon literature, was left by Dr. Charles Lyltelton, bishop of Carlisle, to the library of the Society of Antiquaries. Alfred’s Version of Orosius has since been given to the public, with an English translation, by the honourable Daines Barrington. In his publication, Mr. Barrington observes, that he has made use of Mr. Elstob’s transcript, and that he has adopted from it the whimsical title of Hormesta. When it is considered that Mr. Elstob died in early life, it will be regretted, by the lovers of antiquarian learning, that he was prevented from acquiring that name and value in the literary world, to which he would otherwise probably have arisen.1