Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elstob, William

ELSTOB, WILLIAM (1673–1715), divine, son of Ralph Elstob, merchant of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was baptised at All Saints' Church, Newcastle, on 1 Jan. 1673 (Richardson, Reprints, p. 74). The Elstob family claimed descent from ancient Welsh kings, and had long been settled in the diocese of Durham. Elstob was educated at Newcastle and Eton, whence at the age of sixteen he was sent, by the advice of his uncle and guardian, Charles Elstob, D.D. (prebendary of Canterbury from 1685 to 1721), to Catharine Hall, Cambridge, 'in a station below his birth and fortune.' His health also suffered from the Cambridge air. He therefore entered Queen's College, Oxford, as a commoner. He graduated B.A. in 1694. He was elected fellow of University College on 23 July 1696, and took his M.A. degree on 8 June 1697. Hearne says that having failed of election to All Souls as a south country man, he 'became a northern man,' and was elected one of Skirlaw's fellows at University College (Hearne, Collections, Doble, i. 114). In 1702 he was presented by the dean and chapter of Canterbury, presumably through his uncle's influence, to the united parishes of St. Swithin and St. Mary Bothaw, London. Here he died, after a lingering illness, on 3 March 1714-15, and was buried in the chancel of St. Swithin's. He was chaplain to Bishop Nicolson of Carlisle, who in February 1713 applied for Chief-justice Parker's influence for his appointment to the preachership at Lincoln's inn.

Elstob was an amiable man, a good linguist and antiquary, and especially skilled in Anglo-Saxon. He was a friend, probably a nephew, of the learned nonjuror, Hickes, of Humphrey Wanley, Sir Andrew Fountaine, Strype, and other men of learning. In 1701 he contributed a Latin translation of the homily of Lupus to the 'Dissertatio Epistolaris' in Hickes's 'Thesaurus' (pt. iii. p. 99). Hickes wrote a preface to his 'Essay on the great Affinity and Mutual Agreement of the two professions of Divinity and Law, ... in vindication of the Clergy's concerning themselves in political matters.' It is a defence of high-church principles. Sir Andrew Fountaine acknowledges Elstob's help in giving descriptions of Saxon coins for the tables published by him in Hickes's 'Thesaurus' (pt. iii. p. 166). Elstob communicated to Strype a copy of Sir John Cheke's 'Discourse upon Plutarch's Treatise on Superstition.' This had been preserved in manuscript in the library of University College, and mutilated by Obadiah Walker. Elstob's version is appended to Strype's 'Life of Cheke.' In 1703 Elstob publisned a new edition (much enlarged)of Roger Ascham's 'Letters.' In 1709 he contributed a Latin version of the Saxon homily on the nativity of St. Gregory to his sister's edition of the original [see Elstob, Elizabeth], and an Anglo-Saxon book of 'Hours,' with a translation by him, is appended to 'Letters' between Hickes and a popish priest. He made collections for a history of Newcastle and of 'proper names formerly used in northern countries.' He also made proposals for what was to be his great work, a new edition of the Saxon laws already published by Lombarde (1568) and Wheelock (1644), with many additions, comments, prefaces, and glossaries. This design was stopped by his death, and afterwards executed by David Wilkins, 'Leges Anglo-Saxoniæ,' &c. (1721), who mentions Elstob's plan in his preface. Hickes also speaks of this plan in the dedication of his two volumes of posthumous sermons (1726). Elstob prepared a version of Ælfred's 'Orosius,' which finally came into the hands of Daines Barrington [q.v.] He printed a specimen of this at Oxford in 1699 (Nichols, Lit Anecd. iv. 123 n.)

He also published two separate sermons in 1704 on the battle of Blenheim and the anniversary of the queen's accession. In Hearne's 'Collections,' (by Doble, ii. 107-9) is a mock-heroic poem by Elstob upon the butler of University College.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iv. 112-25. This is founded upon a life by his sister, published by Samuel Pegge in Nichols's Bibl. Topogr. Britannica, vol. i. 1780 (article on history of the Textus Roffenis). It is also abridged in the Archæologia, xxvi., and republished with some additional facts in Reprints of Rare Tracts at the press of M. A. Richardson, Newcastle (1847).]

L. S.