Ballard, George (DNB00)

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BALLARD, GEORGE (1706–1755), a learned antiquary, was born of mean parentage at Campden, Gloucestershire. His mother was a midwife. As his health was weak, a light employment was chosen for him, and he was apprenticed to a staymaker or woman's habit-maker. He showed early a taste for learning, particularly for the study of Anglo-Saxon, and when his day's work was over he would read far into the night. Lord Chedworth and some gentlemen of the hunt, who usually spent a month in the neighbourhood of Campden, hearing of Ballard's ability and industry, generously offered him an annuity of 100l. a year for life, in order to allow him to pursue his studies. Ballard replied that he would be fully satisfied with 60l a year ; and with this allowance he proceeded in 1750, at the age of forty-four, to Oxford, where he was made one of the eight clerks at Magdalen College, receiving his rooms and commons free. In earlier life he had already visited Oxford several times, and had made the acquaintance of Thomas Hearne, the antiquary. Hearne describes in his diary a visit Ballard paid him on 2 March 1726-7, and writes of him as 'an ingenious curious young man,' who 'hath picked up an abundance of old coins, some of which he shewed me.' 'He is a mighty admirer of John Fox,' Hearne adds, 'and talks mightily against the Roman Catholics.… Mr. Ballard hath a sister equally curious in coins and books with himself. He told me she is twenty-three years of age.' Hearne makes many similar entries between 1727 and 1733. Ballard was afterwards chosen one of the university bedells. In 1752 he published ‘Memoirs of several Ladies of Great Britain who have been celebrated for their writings or skill in the learned languages, arts, and sciences,’ 4to, a book which contains much curious and interesting matter. A second edition appeared in 1775. In ‘Letters from the Bodleian,’ 1813, ii. 140-7, there is printed a long letter to Dr. Lyttelton, dean of Exeter, in which Ballard defends his ‘Memoirs’ from some hostile criticism that had appeared in the ‘Monthly Review.’ When Ames was preparing his ‘History of Printing,’ Ballard aided him with notes and suggestions (Nichols, Literary Illustrations, iv. 206-26). An account of Campden church by Ballard is printed in the ‘Archæologia.’ He held frequent correspondence on literary subjects with the learned Mr. Elstob. He copied out in manuscript Ælfred's version of Orosius, prefixing an essay on the advantages of the study of Anglo-Saxon. Ballard left Oxford for Campden some months before his death, while suffering from the stone, from which he died 24 June 1755. At his death he bequeathed his volume on Orosius to his friend Dr. Lyttelton, bishop of Carlisle, who presented it to the library of the Society of Antiquaries. Other manuscripts he left to the Bodleian. They consist of forty-four volumes of letters, of which five volumes contain letters addressed to himself, and the remainder letters to Dr. Charlett and others. A few of the letters were published in ‘Letters written by Eminent Persons,’ 2 vols. London, 1813.

[Bloxam's Magdalen College Registers, ii. 95-102 ; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ii. 466-70, iv. 123 ; Nichols's Literary Illustrations, iv. 206-26 ; Letters from the Bodleian, 1813, ii. 89-90. 140-47.]

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