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Sanderson, Robert (1660-1741) (DNB00)


SANDERSON, ROBERT (1660–1741), historian and archivist, born on 27 July 1660 at Eggleston Hall, Durham, was a younger son of Christopher Sanderson, justice of the peace for that county, who had suffered for his attachment to the cause of the Stuarts during the civil war. He was entered as a student of St. John's College, Cambridge, under the tuition of Dr. Baker, on 7 July 1683, and he resided for several years in the university, where he was contemporary with Matthew Prior. Removing to London, he devoted himself to the study of the common law, and was appointed clerk of the rolls in the Rolls Chapel. From 1696 to 1707 he was employed by Thomas Rymer [q. v.] His first publication consisted of ‘Original Letters from King William III, then prince of Orange, to Charles II, Lord Arlington, &c., translated; together with an Account of his Reception at Middleburgh, and his Speech upon that occasion,’ London, 1704, 8vo. He also wrote a ‘History of the Reign of Henry V of England, composed from printed works and manuscript authorities, and divided into books corresponding with the regnal years.’ The first three books of this history were lost, but the remainder, consisting of six folio volumes, are now in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 19979–84).

He contributed largely to the compilation of Rymer's ‘Fœdera.’ Rymer's royal warrant to search the public offices in order to obtain materials for this great work was renewed by Queen Anne on 3 May 1707, when Sanderson was associated with him in the undertaking; and another warrant to Sanderson alone was issued on 15 Feb. 1717. After Rymer's death he continued the publication, beginning with the sixteenth volume (1715), which had very nearly been completed by Rymer, and ending with the twentieth, which is dated 21 Aug. 1735. The seventeenth volume, which he brought out in 1717, contains a general index. But his ‘incapacity and want of judgment are very perceptible in the volumes entrusted to his care; they contain documents of a nature unfit for the “Fœdera” in the proportion of three to one’ (Hardy). He either mistook his instructions or wilfully perverted them. Instead of a ‘Fœdera,’ he produced a new work in the shape of materials for our domestic history, in which foreign affairs are slightly intermingled. He contented himself with making selections from those monuments which came easily to hand, and seldom prosecuted his researches beyond the precincts of the Rolls Chapel, of which he was one of the chief clerks. In the eighteenth volume he committed a grave breach of privilege of parliament by publishing the journals of the first parliament of Charles I, contrary to the standing orders of both houses. He was summoned before the house on 7 May 1729, and obliged to withdraw the volume and to cancel 230 printed pages.

On the death of Rymer, in 1715, Sanderson became a candidate for the post of historiographer to Queen Anne, and received offers of assistance from Matthew Prior, at that time ambassador at Paris. His success, however, was prevented by the change of ministry which followed the queen's death. Sanderson was one of the original members or founders of the Society of Antiquaries when it was revived in 1717 (Gough, Chronological List, p. 2; Archæologia, vol. i. introd. pp. xxvi, xxxv). On 28 Nov. 1726 he was appointed usher of the high court of chancery by Sir Joseph Jekyll [q. v.], master of the rolls, and afterwards clerk or keeper of the records in the Rolls Chapel. He succeeded in 1727, on the death of an elder brother, to considerable landed property in Cumberland, Durham, and the North Riding of Yorkshire. After this, although he continued to reside chiefly in London, he occasionally visited his country seat at Armathwaite Castle, near Carlisle. He married four times; his fourth wife, Elizabeth Hickes of London, he married when he had completed his seventieth year. He died on 25 Dec. 1741 at his house in Chancery Lane, and was buried in Red Lion Fields. As he left no issue his estates descended, on the death of his widow in 1753, to the family of Margaret, his eldest sister, wife of Henry Milbourne of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Their great-grandson, William Henry Milbourne, was high sheriff of Cumberland in 1794.

[Hardy's Preface to the Syllabus of Rymer's Fœdera, pp. lviii, lxxxviii, xcii; Rees's Cyclopædia, 1819 vol. xxxi.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 385, 386, 477, 478, ii. 88, vi. 146, 148, 156.]

T. C.