Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Askew, Anthony
ASKEW, ANTHONY, M.D. (1722–1772), was born at Kendal, Westmoreland, and was the son of Dr. Adam Askew, a well-known physician of Newcastle. Anthony Askew went from Sedbergh school to the grammar school at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and thence to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of M.B. in 1745. 'He told me,' says Dr. Parr, 'that he received part of his education from Richard Dawes of Newcastle, and described the terror which he felt at seeing a schoolmaster whose name was a μορμολύκειον in the North of England.' In those days the birch was allowed, and the father of Anthony is said to have stipulated with Dawes that his son should be only liable to strictly limited castigation.
Being intended for the medical profession, Askew studied for one year at Leyden. Alexander Carlyle, who met him there, says that he had come to collate manuscripts of Æschylus, and describes him as having some drollery, but little sense (Autobiography, p. 174). He then visited Hungary, Athens, Constantinople, Italy, and other countries. By the purchase at home and abroad of a great number of valuable books and manuscripts he laid the foundation of the extensive library, the Bibliotheca Askeviana. He commenced practice at Cambridge in 1750, in which year he took his degree of M.D., and afterwards established himself in London. He had a good practice, and was physician to St. Bartholomew's and to Christ's Hospitals, and Registrar of the College of Physicians. He was married twice, the second time to Elizabeth Halford, 'a woman,' says Dr. Parr, 'of celestial beauty and celestial virtue,' by whom he left twelve children. He died at Hampstead, 27 Feb. 1772.
He is far better known as a classical scholar than as a physician. He helped to develope the taste for curious manuscripts, scarce editions, and fine copies. Of the classical attainments of Askew Dr. Parr, his friend, speaks in high praise.
Askew appears to have contemplated a new edition of Æschylus, for a complete collection of the various published editions of this author was found in his library, some copies of which were enriched with manuscript notes by himself. In 1746, while a medical student at Leyden, he put forth a specimen of this intended edition, in a small quarto pamphlet, 'Novæ Editionis Tragœdiarum Æschyli specimen, curante Antonio Askew, 1746.' This was dedicated to Dr. Mead. It contained only twenty-nine lines of the 'Eumenides' (563-591, Schiitz ed.), accompanied with variæ lectiones. In Butler's edition of Æschylus most of Askew's collections were made use of, and a volume in his handwriting, which contained a collation of five codices, is referred to as Askew's. Bishop Blomfield discovered the volume to be a transcript from one in the handwriting of Peter Needham, and takes notice of the fact in the prefaces to his editions of the 'Prometheus' and the 'Seven against Thebes' in terms little complimentary to the learning or honesty of Askew. Askew's house was crowded with books up to the garrets. The collection was chiefly classical, and it was its possessor's aim to have every edition of a Greek author. The sale of his library lasted twenty days in the year 1775, and produced 3,993l. 0s. 6d. The principal purchasers were Dr. Hunter, Mr. Cracherode, the British Museum, and the kings of England and of France. The sale of Askew's manuscripts did not take place till 1785. Among the lots were the manuscripts of Mead and Taylor. An appendix to Scapula's Lexicon, edited by Dr. Chas. Burney in 1789, is described as taken 'è codice manuscripto olim Askeviano.' A verbal index to Aristophanes, by John Caravella, an Epirote, published at Oxford in 1822, is one of a series formerly in Askew's library. John Caravella was Dr. Askew's librarian.
Askew's regard for Mead was great; he engaged Roubiliac to execute his friend's bust in marble. Like Mead, he received many visitors, among them Archbishop Markham, Sir William Jones, Dr. Farmer, Dr. Samuel Parr, and Demosthenes Taylor. With the last he was very intimate, and subsequently became his executor. As Askew had travelled in the East, he was conjectured to be learned in all the oriental tongues, and in accordance with this remarkable hypothesis a Chinese, named Chetqua, was on one occasion brought to him. It is said that Askew made himself very agreeable to Chetqua, but Chetqua did not understand him, nor did he understand Chetqua. The Chinaman was, however, sufficiently grateful to Askew to make a model of him in his robes in unbaked potter's clay, coloured, about a foot high. This model may be seen in the College of Physicians, to which it was given by Sir Lucas Pepys, who married Askew's daughter. In the same college is the gold-headed cane which Radcliffe gave to Mead, Mead to Askew, and which, after passing through the hands of Pitcairn and Baillie, was finally placed by Joanna Baillie in its present domicile. He is the author of a manuscript volume of Greek inscriptions, now preserved among the Burney MSS. in the British Museum. An engraved portrait of Askew is given in the 2nd volume of Dibdin's enlarged edition of Ames's 'Typographical Antiquities.'[Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit.Mus. Catal.; Nichols's Lit. Anec. 3, 494; Dibdin, Bibliom. p. 515; Hirschung, Hist.-Lit. Handb. i. 60; Cantab. Grad. p. 12.]