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William Camden

William Camden: A Life in Context

Wyman H. Herendeen
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 550
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  • Book Info
    William Camden
    Book Description:

    William Camden [1551-1623] was one of the most notable historians of the Elizabethan period; his works include ‘Britannia’ the first description of Britain county by county. A herald by profession, he moved in the literary and political circles of London in an age when history and the study of the past interacted with present politics, and was well-connected with many leading figures of the time; his involvement with the precursor of what is now the Society of Antiquaries of London is of especial importance. This book provides the first major analytical biography of Camden's life and career since that of Thomas Smith in 1691. It offers a comprehensive analysis of Camden's life and of the context in which he lived, including in its great scope a wide range of aspects of English and European learned culture during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; and examines the nature of his extraordinary impact on writers both of his own and later generations. WYMAN H. HERENDEEN is Professor and Department Chair in the Department of English at the University of Houston, Texas.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-602-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. PART ONE Prolepsis:: Death, Youth, & Introduction

    • CHAPTER I Death and Life of a Minor Figure
      (pp. 3-15)

      The good life is lived with an awareness of death. A good death will look back on the life that went before, measure the distance travelled from youth, and bring any unfinished business to completion. It is safe to say that Camden, early admitted to Christ’s Church Hospital “newly founded for blue-coated children” (or orphans), and at age twelve infected with the plague, was as conscious of death’s presence as one would want a youth to be: he probably learned early on in his life the stoic ethic reflected in the motto that he adopted for himself and that is...

    • CHAPTER II A London Life: The Educator’s Education
      (pp. 16-58)

      While we have bits and fragments about Camden’s early life, what we have has remained largely undigested; from Thomas Smith, Anthony Wood, John Aubrey, from Camden himself and his contemporaries, we have data, but no real narrative until after his university years. Not surprisingly, his life seems to come into focus when he gets closer to completing his major published work, the Britannia. This is often the case in early modern biographies, for the simple reason that the early years are usually sparsely documented. The result, however, tends to be over-determined accounts that seem to work ineluctably toward the defining...

    • CHAPTER III Religious Conflict and Coming of Age at Oxford
      (pp. 59-79)

      “Oxoniam missus” is the terse entry in Camden’s Memorabilia for 1566.89 The records for the Oxford years are spare and questions abound right from the start. Idiomatic though his Latin is, one wonders how he intended the self-effacing passive construction? Was he “sent” or did he go? Who sent him? Why Oxford, where the Earl of Leicester had recently (1564) been made chancellor, rather than Cambridge, where Lord Burghley had been chancellor since 1559? Whom did he know there when he arrived? The more we know about the years when he was at Oxford, the more vexing the questions become....

      (pp. 80-88)
  7. PART TWO Elizabethan Camden

    • CHAPTER IV The Way to Westminster
      (pp. 91-179)

      What the twenty-year-old Camden did after relinquishing his “conversation with the muses” is not known. There is no concrete information about Camden’s “lost years” between 1571, when he left Oxford, and 1575, when he became under-master at Westminster School. What a man of his modest means and considerable talents did for four years is interesting white space on our canvas – if he did not have an important future ahead, we could accept it as the oblivion that lay ahead for most people, regardless of background. But given his personable, Protestant personality, his solid connections, and his literary predilections, it...

    • CHAPTER V Westminster and the Britannia
      (pp. 180-242)

      It is at this ideologically inbred Westminster that Camden spent the most discussed period of his life, from 1575 (aged 24) to 1592 as under-master, and from 1593 to 1597 (aged 46) as headmaster. Prior to 1586 he cannot be described as one admired for his achievements, but as one recognized for his abilities, and these were honed through the nurturing environment of Westminster. The man and his work are expressions of this community’s ideology and camaraderie, and should not be dehistoricized by labels of their objectivity and disinterestedness, which render him invisible.

      The early years at Westminster show Camden...

    • CHAPTER VI Antiquarians, Historians, and the Economy of the Past
      (pp. 243-333)

      In developing this comic vision Camden circumvents traditional narrative techniques and works consistently to establish different ways of speaking of the past. With gratulatory verses from Edward Grant, headmaster of Westminster, George Buck, Master of Revels, friend and librarian to the Palatine in Heidelberg, Janus Gruterus, and German scholar, Caspar Dorn, the Britannia identifies its international readership and its local coterie. What we have had to say about Westminster and Burghley is confirmed in the work’s dedication to him, where he is praised as patron of the “bonae litterae” and (in an important conjunction) also of Westminster College, as though...

      (pp. 334-350)
  8. PART THREE Jacobean Camden

    • CHAPTER VII Arms and the Man: Antiquarian in the College of Arms
      (pp. 353-444)

      There could hardly be a more appropriate penultimate phase to Camden’s career than that of herald and King of Arms. That the man who had Edmund Spenser as one of his first encomiasts should be sworn into the College of Arms by the Fox himself, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, in the year that Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, became Earl Marshal, suggests some larger pattern at work in the shaping of his life. Before looking at the details of Camden’s appointment and duties, we must stop to explore this appropriateness and the wider implications of Camden’s involvement in the...

    • CHAPTER VIII Culture Clash: Elizabethan in Stuart London
      (pp. 445-492)

      The last decade of Camden’s life saw the intensification of conflicts both large and small as the world changed around him. Signal dates and events from the period identify turning points in the changing mood within the Jacobean court and government. Although Camden was not always an actor in these affairs, they involved him indirectly through the principal players, the men and institutions whose ambitions drew him into their orbit. In particular, Robert Cotton’s career as collector, courtier, parliamentarian, and political adviser became more complicated and politically directed as he was drawn into the shadows of the Jacobean patronage system....

    • CHAPTER IX Post-Mortem: The Death and Afterlives of William Camden
      (pp. 493-511)

      Camden’s last entry in his personal diary, the Memorabilia, is 7 June 1622, when he records a night of sleeplessness and sickness. Characteristically, Camden continued to write entries for his diary of public affairs, his Annales for James’s reign, nearly until his death the next year, and our last fleeting glimpse is of him subsumed into the larger picture of this national chronicle. On 18 August 1623 he records falling from his chair in church and his temporary paralysis and illness, then noting Prince Charles’s return and welcome back to England. The last entry is of the disaster at Blackfriars...

      (pp. 512-520)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 521-536)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 537-537)