Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coote, Henry Charles

COOTE, HENRY CHARLES (1815–1885), writer of the ‘Romans in Britain’ and several legal treatises, was son of the well-known civilian, Charles Coote [q. v.] He was admitted a proctor in Doctors' Commons in 1840, practised in the probate court for seventeen years, and, when that court was thrown open to the whole legal profession in 1857, became a solicitor. He wrote several books on professional subjects, but devoted all his leisure in middle life to the study of early English history, folklore, and foreign literature. Coote frequently travelled in Italy, and was an accomplished linguist. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a founder of the Folklore Society, and an industrious contributor to learned periodicals. Attacked by paralysis in 1882, he died 4 Jan. 1885, being buried at Kensal Green.

Coote's name is chiefly associated with his endeavours to prove that the Roman settlers in Britain were not extirpated at the Teutonic conquest of the fifth century, and that the laws and customs observed in this country under Anglo-Saxon rule were in large part of Roman origin. The theory was first advanced by Coote in some papers published in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and in 1864 this material was expanded into a little volume entitled ‘A Neglected Fact in English History.’ Little attention was paid to Coote's researches until 1870, when Mr. E. A. Freeman subjected them to a fierce attack in a paper issued in ‘Macmillan's Magazine.’ Coote was stimulated to revise his work, and in 1878 he published a larger volume entitled ‘The Romans in Britain.’ All accessible authorities are here laid under contribution, and the importance of Coote's conclusions were acknowledged by Mr. Frederic Seebohm in his ‘English Village Community,’ 1883. Although Mr. Freeman and his disciples decline to modify their opinion that the Anglo-Saxon régime and population were free from any Roman taint, Coote's reasoning makes it clear that this opinion can only be finally accepted with large and important qualifications. Several papers bearing on this and cognate points were contributed by Coote to the ‘Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archæological Society.’

Coote's other writings are: 1. ‘Practices of the Ecclesiastical Courts, with Forms and Tables of Costs,’ 1846. 2. ‘The Common Form Practice of the Court of Probate in granting probates … with the New Act (20 & 21 Vict. c. 77),’ 1858; 2nd edition (with Dr. T. H. Tristram's ‘Practice of the Court in Contentious Business’) 1859; 9th edition 1883. 3. ‘Practice of the High Court of Admiralty,’ 1860; and 2nd edition 1869. His last published work was a paper in the ‘Folklore Quarterly Journal’ for January 1885, to which he was a very frequent contributor.

[Athenæum for 17 Jan. 1885, p. 86, and 24 Jan. p. 122; Brit. Mus. Cat.]