Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Littleton, Adam
LITTLETON, ADAM (1627–1694), lexicographer, born on 2 Nov. 1627, was the son of Thomas Littleton, vicar of Halesowen, Worcestershire. He was educated on the foundation at Westminster School, whence he was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1644. He took a decided part against the parliamentary visitors (Register, Camd. Soc., p. 488), and in 1648 ridiculed their proceedings in a Latin poem entitled ‘Tragi-Comœdia Oxoniensis,’ 4to, which has, however, been ascribed to John Carrick of Christ Church. He was expelled from the university (2 Nov. 1648), but seems to have been allowed to return, as he joined in May 1651 with three other students in a petition for the restitution of their Craven scholarships, which had been sequestered (Sussex Arch. Coll. xix. 110, 210). He was allowed to become an usher at Westminster, and ‘taught school’ at other places before he succeeded to the post of second master there in 1658. After the Restoration he established a school at Chelsea, London. On 3 Feb. 1669 he was admitted rector of Chelsea (Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 586). In gratitude for the benefactions to the church there of his friend, Baldwin Hamey the younger [q. v.], Littleton appended to his ‘Latin Dictionary’ some verses in praise of Hamey, and after Hamey's death printed his essay ‘On the Oath of Hippocrates,’ 1693 (Munk, Coll. of Phys. ed. 1878, i. 211, 215). He accumulated the degrees in divinity on 12 July 1670, and took with him a highly complimentary letter from Henchman, bishop of London (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 320). During the same year Charles II made him his chaplain and gave him a grant of the reversion of the head-mastership of Westminster School upon the death of Busby. In September 1674 he became prebendary of Westminster (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, iii. 362), in 1683 rector of Overton, Hampshire (Foster, Alumni Oxon.), and in 1685 he was licensed to the church of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, which he served for about four years (Newcourt, i. 916). He was also chaplain to the prince palatine. He died on 30 June 1694, and was buried in Chelsea Church where there is a monument to his memory (Stow, Survey, ed. Strype, Appendix, p. 71).
Littleton was married three times. He married secondly, by license dated 24 Jan. 1666–7, Miss Susan Rich of West Ham, Essex (Chester, London Marriage Licenses, col. 849). By his marriage with the daughter of Richard Guildford of Chelsea he acquired a large fortune, but he left his widow, who was buried at Chelsea on 14 Nov. 1698, in poor circumstances (Faulkner, Chelsea, ed. 1829, i. 180–2). His books were sold in 1695 (Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, Oxf. Hist. Soc., ii. 362).
In addition to his classical attainments Littleton was a good mathematician, and well skilled in oriental languages and rabbinical learning. He collected books and manuscripts from all parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, to the ‘great impoverishment’ of his estate. Collier says that his erudition procured for him the title of the ‘Great Dictator of Learning,’ and that he was charitable to a fault, ‘easy of access, wonderfully communicative of his rare learning and knowledge, facetious and pleasant in conversation, never ruffled with passion.’ He adds that he was ‘endued with a strong habit of body made for noble undertakings, of a clean and venerable countenance’ (Dict. Supplement).
His great work, entitled ‘Linguæ Latinæ Liber Dictionarius quadripartitus. A Latin Dictionary in four parts,’ was published at London in 1673 in massive quarto. Other editions appeared in 1678, 1685, 1695, 1723, and a sixth edition in 1735, a few months before the issue of Ainsworth's ‘Dictionary,’ by which it was superseded. The editions of 1678 and 1695 were much enlarged, and were accompanied with chronological tables of events down to his own time. Littleton had laboured much at a ‘Greek Lexicon,’ but died before its completion.
In 1683, under the name of Redman Westcot, he published an English translation, with copious notes, of Selden's ‘Jani Anglorum Facies Altera,’ fol., London.
He published also: 1. ‘Pasor metricus sive Voces omnes Novi Testamenti primogeniæ … Hexametris Versibus comprehensæ. Accessit diatriba in VIII Tractatus distributa; in quâ agitur de flectendi, derivandi, & componendi ratione … Margaritæ Christianæ, sive Novi Testamenti adagiales formulæ, colligente A. Schotto huc congestæ ut juventuti materiam ad Praxin subministrent,’ 3 pts. 4to, London, 1658. 2. ‘Elementa Religionis, sive quatuor Capita Catechetica,’ 8vo, London, 1658. 3. ‘Solomon's Gate: or, an Entrance into the Church, being a familiar explanation of the Grounds of Religion conteined in the four heads of Catechism,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1662. 4. ‘Sixty-one Sermons preached mostly upon publick occasions,’ &c., 3 pts., fol. London, 1680, 1679.
Littleton likewise published several single sermons. He prefixed a long copy of Latin elegiacs to Nathaniel Hodges's ‘Λοιμολογία,’ 1672. He wrote the preface to ‘Cicero,’ edited by Thomas Gale, 2 vols. fol., 1681, in which he says that he had an edition of ‘Epiphanius’ ready for the press, and that John Pearson, bishop of Chester, had ‘overlooked’ it. The life of Themistocles in vol. i. of the English translation of Plutarch's ‘Lives,’ 8vo, 1683, was contributed by Littleton.
[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 403–5; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 108; Wood's Colleges and Halls (Gutch), vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 580, 610; Welch's Alumni Westmon. (1852), p. 120; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. ii. 58–60, vols. iv. v.; Addit. MS. (Cole), 5875, f. 6 b; Lysons's Environs, ii. 98, 111; Boswell's Life of Johnson (G. B. Hill), i. 294, n. 6.]