Boase, Charles William (DNB01)

BOASE, CHARLES WILLIAM (1828–1895), historian and antiquary, born in Chapel Street, Penzance, on 6 July 1828, was the eldest child of John Josias Arthur Boase (1801–1896), who married at St. Clement, near Truro, on 4 July 1827, Charlotte (1802–1873), second daughter of Robert Shell of Truro (cf. Times, 12 Sept. 1896, p. 9). George Clement Boase [q. v. Suppl.] was a younger brother.

Charles was sent to the Penzance grammar school to 1841, and to the Truro grammar school from that date to 1846, At Truro he gained several medals and prizes, and during four years (1846–9) he held from it an Elliot scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 4 June 1846. From 1847 to 1850 he combined with it an open scholarship at his college, and on 18 May 1850 he graduated B.A. with a second class in classics. He was elected to a Cornish fellowship on 30 June 1850, proceeded M.A. in 1853, and was ordained deacon at Cuddesdon by Bishop Wilberforce on 4 March 1855.

From the day of his matriculation to that of his death Boase dwelt at Exeter College. He witnessed its rebuilding, and took an especial interest in the construction and fitting of its library buildings. He was assistant tutor 1853–5, tutor 1855–84, lecturer in Hebrew 1859–69, lecturer in modern history 1855–94, and librarian from 1868. Between 1857 and 1875 he examined in various schools, and he was appointed in 1884 the university reader in foreign history. He resigned this last appointment and his college lectureship of modern history (which he held for nearly forty years) in the summer of 1894, but he retained the place of librarian. He died in his rooms at Exeter College on 11 March 1895, and was buried in St. Sepulchre's cemetery, Oxford, on 13 March.

Boase had acquired vast stores of knowledge, which were given ungrudgingly to others, and he was endowed with much quiet humour. He had long studied the history of Exeter College and its alumni, and in 1879 two hundred copies were printed for private circulation of his annotated 'Register of the Rectors, Fellows, Scholars,' &c., with an historical introduction (cf. Edinburgh Review, October 1880, pp. 344-79). A second edition, but without the introduction, came out in 1893, and a third edition, with the introduction revised and greatly expanded, forms vol. xxvii. of the publications of the Oxford Historical Society, the cost of the printing, a sum exceeding 200l., being defrayed by the author. The second part of the college register, containing a similar list of the commoners, being 'all names other than those in the previous volume,' was issued by him in 1894. He contributed to Mr. Andrew Clark's 'Colleges of Oxford ' the article on Exeter College.

On the formation of the Oxford Historical Society in 1884 Boase was one of the honorary secretaries, and he acted on the committee to 1 June 1892. Much of its success was due to his judgment and energy, and its first publication consisted of the 'Register of the University of Oxford, 1449-63, 1505–71,' which he compiled and edited. He also wrote the preface to J. E. Thorold Rogers's 'Oxford City Documents, 1268-1665,' which the society issued in 1891. The volume on 'Oxford' in the 'Historic Towns' series, a 'veritable storehouse of materials,' was written by him, but much of the information which he had collected was omitted.

Boase edited, with Dr. G. W. Kitchin (afterwards dean of Durham), the translation in six volumes of Leopold von Ranke's 'History of England,' being himself responsible for the rendering of the first volume. In conjunction with his two brothers he compiled an 'Account of the Families of Boase or Bowes,' tracing his ancestors back in West Cornwall to the end of the sixteenth century. The first edition was printed at Exeter in 1876 (seventy-five copies only for private circulation), and the second appeared at Truro in 1893 (a hundred copies only for private issue, and ten of these contained five additional sheets). He contributed to the 'Literary Churchman,' 'Academy,' and 'English Historical Review,' wrote the article on the ' Macedonian Empire' in the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' (9th edit.), and the lives of the Cornish saints in Smith's 'Dictionary of Christian Biography.' The account of the deeds and writs (1306-1836) in the Dawson collection at the Penzance public library was compiled by him (Cat. of Library, 1874, pp. 336-343). His library and manuscripts, including great collections on Cornish genealogies, were dispersed at the time of his death.

[Account of Boase family; Athenæum, March 1895, pp. 345-6, 378; Academy, 16 March 1895, p. 237; Oxford Mag. 13 March 1895, pp. 285-6, 1 May 1895, pp. 310-11; private knowledge.]

W. P. C.