Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thwaites, Edward
THWAITES, EDWARD (1667–1711), Anglo-Saxon scholar, the son of William Thwaites of Crosby-Ravensworth, Westmoreland, and the descendant of an ancient family in that district (Anne Thwaites bequeathed a small charity to Kendal in 1616, and a John Thwaites was chief magistrate of Kendal in 1592 and 1600), was born at Ravensworth in 1667 (for the controverted origin of the name see Nicolson and Burn, Westmoreland and Cumberland, 1777, ii. 14 seq.) A younger brother, James, graduated M.A. from Queen's College, Oxford, in 1708, and died in orders at Lambeth on 24 July 1755.
After some schooling at Kendal, Thwaites was admitted batler of Queen's College, Oxford, on 18 Sept. 1689, and graduated B.A. in 1694 and M.A. in 1697. Before he took his master's degree Thwaites had come under the spell of the profound erudition of George Hickes [q. v.], who came to live at Gloucester Green in Oxford in 1696. There was already a group of Anglo-Saxon students at Queen's, among whom Thwaites took the lead. His first project seems to have been to edit, with a commentary and translation, Alfred's Anglo-Saxon version of the 'Universal History' of Orosius, and this plan had Hickes's warm encouragement and approval. For it, however, was substituted, in the course of 1697, an edition of 'Dionysii Orbis Descriptio cum veterum Scholiis et Eustathii commentariis. Accedit Periegesis Prisciani cum Notis Andreae Papii' (Oxford, 8vo). Thwaites was ordained priest on 2 Jan. 1698, and shortly afterwards was elected fellow and lecturer, or 'Anglo-Saxon preceptor' of his college. The difficulty which he found in procuring sufficient copies of Somner's 'Anglo-Saxon Dictionary' (of which the first edition had appeared at Oxford in 1659) led to the issue of another edition, with additions by Thomas Benson, in 1701. Before the close of 1698 Thwaites dedicated to George Hickes, 'literaturae Anglo-Saxonicae instaurator,' his 'Heptateuchus, Liber Job et Evangelium Nicodemi Anglo-Saxonicae,' and the same year witnessed an edition of Alfred's version of Boethius ('Consolationis Philosophiae lib. v.') by Thwaites's pupil at Queen's, Christopher Rawlinson [q. v.], who acknowledges valuable aid from his tutor. Thwaites had already begun in a modest fashion to assist Hickes in the preparation of his great 'Thesaurus,' which was published in 1705, and was accompanied by a certificate from Thwaites to the effect that the actual cost of each copy was estimated at 2l. 8s. In 1699 he was appointed dean of his college, and some interesting memoranda are extant in Thwaites's own hand touching his attempts to improve the college discipline, efforts attended by disaster to the dean's windows, and by no very conspicuous success (cf. Gent. Mag. 1834, ii. 262-3). He was promoted to be lecturer in moral philosophy in 1704, and he became regius professor of Greek in March 1707-8. He gave his inaugural lecture on 12 May 1708, 'which was nothing else,' says Thomas Hearne, 'but a short dry account in the old road of the Greek Letters.' Hearne and Thwaites had hitherto been on very cordial terms. Hearne expressed deep concern at his friend's consumptive tendency, and notes several of his 'ingenious speculations' with approbation. But from the time of his becoming professor their friendship began to wane. Hearne grew suspicious of his friend, and found him 'shy over matters of scholarship.' Jealousy may have had something to do with the estrangement, and Hearne also thought Thwaites had wronged St. Edmund Hall in the matter of Dr. Mill's books (Hearne, ed. Doble, ii. 65). During 1708 Thwaites was appointed Whyte's professor of moral philosophy, and before the close of the year was privately printed his 'Notae in Anglo-Saxonum nummos' (Oxford, 12mo). The coins described were from the collection of Sir Andrew Fountaine [q. v.], another Oxford contemporary, friend, and fellow contributor to Hickes's 'Thesaurus.' In 1709 appeared at Oxford in folio Τὰ τοῦ ὁσίου πατρὸς Ἐφραὶμ τοῦ Σύρου πρὸς τὴν Ελλάδα μεταβληθέντα. S. Ephraimus e codicibus manuscriptis Bodleianis, curante Eduardo Thwaites;' but the assistance offered to the student seems inadequate, and the work was perhaps rightly characterised by Hearne as 'a mean performance.' Two years later Thwaites celebrated his return to more congenial studies by dedicating to his old pupil, Christopher Rawlinson, his 'Grammatica Anglo-Saxonica, ex Hickesanio Linguarum SeptentrionaliumThesauro excerpta' (Oxford, 8vo). Hearne speaks of Thwaites as reduced before the close of this year to 'a meer sceleton.' He was suffering from a complication of disorders. Brome, writing to Ballard in 1739, speaks of the magnanimity with which he bore his lameness. Charles Bernard [q. v.], the queen's surgeon, was so impressed by his heroism during an operation (the amputation of his leg) that he is said to have mentioned his case to Anne, who forthwith made the savant a grant of money. Thwaites died at Littlemore (so Hearne, ed. Doble, iii. 278, though the college entrance book says ' in coll.') on 12 Dec. 1711 (Biogr. Britannica, 1763, vi. 3732 n.}, and was buried the same month on the south side of the chancel of Iffley church (Marshall, Iffley, 1874, p. 106). His monument is figured in Le Neve's 'Monumenta Anglicana'(1717, v. 226). His books were sold at Oxford in the following May (Hearne, Collect. ed. Doble, iii. 363). He left an Italian crucifix, dug up in the precincts of Christ Church, to the Bodleian, which also has a transcript of Somner's 'Anglo-Saxon Dictionary,' with his annotations.
There is a portrait of Thwaites as St. Gregory, in an initial L, in Mrs. Elstob's 'English-Saxon Homily on the Birthday of St. Gregory' (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. 131).[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Rawl. MS. ii. 136; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iv. 148; Nicolson's Letters, i. 105; Ellis's Letters of Eminent Lit. Men, 1813; Hearne's Collectanea, ed. Doble, passim; Aubrey's Bodleian Letters, i. 201, 203; Home's Bibl. Bib. p. lviii; Macray's Annals of Bodleian Library; Ingram's Memorials of Oxford, 1837; Nicholson's Annals of Kendal, 1861; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; notes kindly furnished by Dr. Magrath.]