Nasmith, James

, a learned divine and antiquary, was born in 1740, at Norwich, of reputable parents. His father, who was of a Scotch family, had his son’s grammatical education completed at Amsterdam. Thence he was removed to Bene’t college, Cambridge, where his ingenuous and open temper gained him the love and esteem of the whole society, who elected him a fellow, after he had taken his degree of B. A. in 1764. In 1767 he took the degree of M. A. and was frequently honoured for his application and proficiency in every branch of academic studies. Having entered into holy orders, he served the sequestration of Hinxton in Cambridgeshire for some years, to which he was presented by bishop Mavvson, and was junior proctor of the university in 1771. He was afterwards elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and became one of his majesty’s justices of peace for the county of Cambridge. In this situation he was eminently conspicuous for his correct knowledge and mild administration of the laws; and he filled the office of chairman at the sessions of Cambridge and Ely with moderation, justice, and impartiality, at once distinguishing himself as the gentleman, the lawyer, and the divine.

Having been early engaged to a daughter of Mr. Salmon, a clergyman near Norwich, and sister to Mr. Salmon, a fellow of his own college, and then chaplain to one of our factories in the East Indies, he accepted the rectory of St. Mary Abchurch in London, in 1773, which Mr. Forster had vacated by preferment in Devonshire. This, however, he held only about a year, when, by permission of the college and the bishop of Ely, he exchanged it for Snailwell | in Cambridgeshire, with Dr. John Warren, afterwards bishop of Bangor. He took his degree of D. D. in 1797. His last preferment was the rectory of Leveringtori, in the Isle of Ely, where he died Oct. 16, 1808, in the sixtyeighth year of his age.

Besides an “Assize Sermon” preached at Wisbeach, 1796 an admirable charge “On the Duties of the Overseers of the Poor,” delivered by him as chairman of the quarter sessions in 1799; and “An Examination of the Statutes now in force, relating to the Assize of Bread,1800, 8vo, the learned world has been indebted to him for some works of much utility. After having with great skill and industry ranged and methodized the Mss. in archbishop Parker’s library at Bene’t college, he printed at the university press, in 1777, a catalogue of them, in 4to, with a Latin preface, and an etching of the archbishop by his friend Mr. Tyson. The college bore the expence of this very correct and useful catalogue. In 1778, Dr. Nasmith published an edition in octavo of the “Itineraries of Symon, son of Simeon, and William of Worcester,” with a tract on Leonine verses, from Parker’s Mss. About ten years afterwards he completed his new edition of Tanner’s “Notitia Monastica,” to which he made very considerable additions, but blended with Tanner’s labours in such a way as to prevent our discovering the new from the old, nor is it entirely free from errors. It is, however, upon the whole a very considerable acquisition to the public, and has of late years, risen in value. It is somewhat remarkable that he laments his not being able to avail himself of Mr. Cole’s Mss, which were then locked up in the British Museum, and in which he would have had the pleasure of reading the greater part of the account we have now given of his life and works. 1


Dole’s ms Athenæ in Brit. Mus.—Gent. Mag. vol. LXXVIII.