Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holinshed, Raphael

HOLINSHED or HOLLINGSHEAD, RAPHAEL (d. 1580?), chronicler, is said to have been son of Ralph Holinshed or Hollingshed of Cophurst in the township of Sutton Downes, Cheshire, but the pedigree of the Holinsheds or Hollingsheds of Cophurst cannot be traced authoritatively. Hugh Holinshed or Hollingshead of Bosley, Cheshire, has been claimed as the chronicler's uncle. Hugh purchased the estate of Heywood, Cheshire, in 1541, and the frequent appearance of the christian name Ralph or Raphael among his immediate descendants supports the theory of kinship. Hugh's second son, Ralph, who died before 1577, had a son Ralph (d. 1635?) and three grandsons of the name (Earwaker, East Cheshire, ii. 617). Tanner states that the chronicler was educated at Cambridge. Of two Holinsheds known there at a possible date one was Ottiwell, son of Hugh, Holinshed (possibly Raphael's first cousin), B.A. in 1540–1, and M.A. in 1544, fellow of Trinity College from 19 Dec. 1546, and canon of Windsor from 24 Sept. 1550; after Mary's accession he lived at Ashby-de-la-Zouch with his wife Margaret, daughter of Henry Harden of Ascot. Another Holinshed matriculated from Christ's College in May 1544, and was a scholar there in 1544–5; probably he was the chronicler. Baker assumed that the chronicler was of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Wood asserts that after studying at a university he became ‘a minister of God's word’ (Athenæ Oxon. i. 713). Early in Elizabeth's reign he was a translator in the London printing office of Reginald Wolfe. To Wolfe he writes that he was ‘singularly beholden’ (Chron. 1577, ded.)

About 1548 Wolfe designed a universal history and cosmography, with maps and illustrations. He had inherited Leland's notes, and he himself began the compilation of the English, Scottish, and Irish portions. Holinshed worked for some years under his direction, and had free access to Leland's manuscripts. ‘After fiue-and-twentie yeares travell spent therein,’ Wolfe died in 1573. No part of the great project was then ready for publication, but three well-known publishers, George Bishop, John Harrison, and Luke or Lucas Harrison, determined to persevere with it, and Holinshed continued his labours in their service. Alarmed at the size the work seemed likely to assume, Wolfe's successors resolved to limit their plan to histories and descriptions of England, Scotland, and Ireland only, and to omit maps. William Harrison [q. v.] was engaged to assist Holinshed in the descriptions of England and Scotland, and Richard Stanihurst to continue from 1509 to 1547 the history of Ireland, which Holinshed had compiled, chiefly from a manuscript by Edmund Campion [q. v.] At length on 1 July 1578 a license for publishing ‘Raphael Hollingesheds Cronycle’ was issued to John Harrison and George Bishop, on payment of the unusually high fee of ‘xxs and a copy.’ A fortnight later the widow of Luke or Lucas Harrison, the third publisher interested in the venture, was allowed to sell her copies to Thomas Woodcock (Reg. Stationers' Comp. ed. Arber, ii. 329, 332). The work appeared in two folio volumes, and was admirably illustrated with portraits, battle-pieces, and the like. The title of vol. i. ran: ‘The firste volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande, conteyning the description and chronicles from the firste inhabiting unto the Conquest. The description and chronicles of Scotland . . . till . . . 1571. The description and chronicles of Irelande . . . untill . . . 1547, faithfully gathered and set forth by Raphael Holinshed.’ The engraved title-page bears 1577 in an upper panel, and ‘God saue the Queene’ in the lower. The arms of William Cecil, lord Burghley, to whom Holinshed dedicated the book, are at the back of the title-page. ‘The Historie of Scotland,’ which Holinshed dedicated to Leicester, has a new title-page, and is followed by an exhaustive ‘table of the principall matters,’ occupying twenty-four pages, each divided into four columns. The ‘Historie of Ireland,’ which is dedicated to Sir Henry Sydney, has a third title-page, and is followed by a ‘table.’ The title of vol. ii., which fills 1876 pages, ran: ‘The laste volume of the Chronicles . . . conteyning the Chronicles of England from the Norman Conquest until this present time.’ The latest event recorded is the burning of anabaptists in 1575, but a long list of English authors of Elizabeth's time precedes the ‘faultes escaped’ and one more elaborate ‘table.’ Perfect examples of these volumes, especially with the folding plate of the siege of Edinburgh, between pages 1868 and 1869, and a duplicate page, 1593, are extremely rare. Some copies bear the imprint of John Harrison, others of George Bishop, Luke or Lucas Harrison, and John Hunne (cf. Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xi. 269, 351). All copies were printed by Henry Bynneman. A few passages (pp. 74–8 and pp. 90–1) in the ‘Historie of Ireland’ dealing with the rebellion of Gerald Fitzgerald, ninth earl of Kildare [q. v.], or reflecting on the character of John Alen or Allen [q. v.], archbishop of Dublin (1528–34), offended the queen and her ministers, and were ordered to be cancelled and replaced by others omitting the offending sentences. Heber possessed an original unexpurgated copy, which was purchased by Thomas Grenville (1755–1846) [q. v.], and the cancelled pages were excised and inserted in an admirable copy of the revised version already in Grenville's collection. This copy is now in the British Museum.

Holinshed's ‘Chronicle’ met with immediate success, but the compiler did not long survive its publication. He made his will on 1 Oct. 1578, and there describes himself as steward to Thomas Burdet of Bramcote, Warwickshire. Wood says that he died at Bramcote about the end of 1580. By his will, which was proved on 24 April 1582, all his property passed to his master, Burdet, who thus, according to Wood, became possessor of Holinshed's ‘notes, collections, books, and MSS.’ The only manuscript of Holinshed known to be extant is a translation, prepared for the ‘Chronicle,’ of Florence of Worcester, which is now in Brit. Mus. MS. Harl. 563.

After Holinshed's death the publishers of his ‘Chronicle,’ Harrison and Bishop, joined with themselves Ralph Newberie, Henry Denham, and Thomas Woodcock to prepare a new edition. They employed John Hooker, alias Vowell [q. v.], as editor. He continued the work till 1586, inserting many new passages on topics insufficiently treated of in the early edition, and employing Francis Thynne [q. v.] on the Scottish continuations, and Thynne, Abraham Fleming [q. v.], and John Stow [q. v.] on other portions of the book. The new edition, which was printed in 1586, appeared in three folio volumes in January 1586–7, and was without illustrations. The freedom with which Hooker and his colleagues wrote of nearly contemporary events led the privy council to order extensive castrations immediately after its publication. In the ‘Historie of Scotland’ (vol. ii.) four sheets (pp. 421–4, 433–6, 443–50), chiefly dealing with contests of political parties in Scotland in 1677, and with Elizabeth’s negotiations with the two sides, were excised. In the ‘Historie of England,’ in vol. iii. pp. 1828–1831 and all between pp. 1419 and 1538, were cancelled. The censures on Leicester, Cecil, Bromley the chancellor, and other statesmen, which were described by the council as ‘malevolentes seu nimium subtiles,’ account for most of these castrations. The later passages chiefly treated of Leicester’s Proceedings in the Netherlands (by Stow), abington’s conspiracy, and Drake's return to England, and they included lives of the archbishops of Canterbury and accounts of the Lords Cobham, both by Francis Thynne. The living Lord Cobham [see under Brooke, Henry, eighth Lord Cobham] is incorrectly said by Bishop Nicolson to have been then out of favour at court, and to this circumstance Nicolson attributes the council’s objections to the ‘treatise’ on his ancestors. o other explanation has been suggested, and the grounds of the council’s censure are not obvious. Whitgift took an active part in the expurgation of the volumes, and Abraham Fleming, after offering explanations, conducted the typographical revision. Original uncastrated copies are extremely rare. One is in the Grenville collection; another is at Britwell. In castrated copies of vol. iii. new passages were introduced to supply the excisions on pp. 1828–1331, but the space between 1419 and 1538 is filled by four new leaves, paged respectively 1419–20, 1421–90, 1491–1536, and 1537–8. The title of the uncastrated vol. iii. begins ‘The Chronicles of England from Will. the Conqueror,’ and ends ‘Cum privilegio regiæ majestatis.’ The title of the castrated vol. iii. begins ‘The Third Volume of Chronicles, beginning at Duke William the Norman,’ and ends ‘Historiæ placeant nostrates et peregrinæ’ (see Tanner, Bibl. Brit., and Thynne, Animadversions on Speght’s Chaucer, Early Engl. Text Soc., ed. Dr. Furnivall, 1865, pp. lxiv–xc.)

Fleming’s manuscripts contained copies of letters and papers dealing with the council’s action, and in 1732 these were in the possession of Francis Peck, who printed the titles at the end of the first edition of his ‘Desiderata Curiosa,’ vol. i. (1782), and promised to print them all in full in a second volume, together with an historical and bibliographical account of the mutilations of the chronicles. But this purpose was not fulfilled, and the papers are not now known to be in existence.

In February 1722–3 three London booksellers (Mears, Gyles, and Woodman) published in a thin black-letter folio the castrated pages, so that possessors castrated copies might perfect them. The volume was carefully edited by John Blackbourn [q. v.], and the publishers at the time warned the public against a rival (and, as they declared, a very careless) reprint of boas ag ‘secretly handed about’ by less reputable booksellers (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, i. 249–51). Another folio volume containing the castrated sheets is said to have been edited by Dr. Drake, and to have appeared in 1728.

The uncastrated edition was reprinted by a syndicate of the chief London booksellers in six volumes, 4to, in 1807–8.

The ‘Chronicles’ form a very valuable repertory of historical information. The enormous number of authorities cited attests Holinshed’s and his successors’ industry. The style is clear, although never elevated, and the chronicler fully justified his claim ‘to have had an aapecial eye unto the truth of things,’ although his protestant bias is very marked throughout and his treatment of early times is very uncritical. The patriotic tone of the book led Holinshed’s assistants to insist so strenuously on the rights of the English sovereigns to exact homage from the Scottish rulers, that Sir Thomas Craig [q. v.] was moved to write a reply, entitled ‘De Hominio, in 1605. The Elizabethan dramatists drew many of their plots from Holinshed’s pages, and nearly all Shakespeare's historical plays (as well as ‘Macbeth,’ ‘King Lear,’ and part of ‘Cymbeline’) are based on Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles.’ At times (as in the two parts of ‘Henry IV’) Shakespeare adopted not only Holinshed’s facts, but some of his phrases (cf. Collier’s Shakespeare’s Library, ed. Collier, and T. P. Countenay’s Commentaries on Shakespeares’s Historical Plays). Many extracts from Holinshed’s work have been printed by the editors of Shakespeare’s historical plays, to illustrate the sources of his information. The dramatist seems to have used the edition of 1586–7.

[Cooper’s Athenæ Cant. i. 430–1, 568; Biog. Brit.; Ames’s Typ. Antiq. ed. Herbert ; Brit. Mus. Cat. ; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. ; Hearne’s Curious Discourses; Hearne’s pref. to his edition of Camden’s Annales; Nicolson’s Historical Library, i. 110, iv. 109; arts. Harrison, William, 1534–1593; Hooker, alias Vowell, John; Stow, John; and Thynne, Francis.]

S. L.