Blount, Thomas (1618-1679) (DNB00)

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BLOUNT, THOMAS (1618–1679), author of ‘Ancient Tenures,’ son of Myles Blount, of Orleton in Herefordshire, the fifth son of Roger Blount of Monkland, in the same county, was born at Bordesley, Worcestershire, being of a younger house of the ancient family of his name. He entered himself of the Inner Temple, and was in due time called to the bar. He was never advantaged, says Anthony à Wood, who knew him and received from him copies of some of his works, by the help of a university in learning. He succeeded to considerable property, both in Essex and Warwick, the former of which he appears to have derived from his mother, as a manor farm near Maldon is described in his will as being her jointure land. His religious tenets, those of a zealous Roman catholic, interfered with the practice of his profession; but he still continued the study of the law as an amateur, and gave gratuitous advice to his neighbours while residing at Orleton, where, says Wood, he had a ‘fair and plentiful estate.’ It was what Wood calls his ‘geny,’ supported by his ‘fair and plentiful estate,’ which led him to the paths of literature, and made him hunt after the difficult and uncouth terms of legal and other science, and ‘get nothing but his own satisfaction.’ He bestowed the waste hours of some years in reading histories of various countries—Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, &c. He had a reasonable acquaintance with the Latin and French tongues, and a smattering of both Greek and other languages. The agitation due to the alleged popish plot of 1678 was for Blount a source of trouble, obliging him to fly in fear from his home and lead a wandering life. Of the last year of his life, Wood says: ‘He contracted the palsy, as by his last letter sent to me, dated 28 April 1679, I was informed, adding therein that he had then quitted all books except those of devotion. On 26 Dec. following, being St. Stephen's Day, he died at Orleton in the year of his age 61.’ (According to Sir William Dugdale's diary, ‘16 Dec., Mr. Tho. Blount dyed at Orlton in Herefordshire of an apoplexie.’) He was buried in the church there, and soon after had a comely monument put over his grave by Anne, his widow, daughter of Edmund Church of Maldon, in Essex.

In the possession of William Blount, M.D., of Herefordshire, were, in 1808, several letters addressed by Dugdale to his friend Blount. In the first of these, bearing date 29 June 1674, Sir William, then Mr. William Dugdale, writes, praying his interference in the matter of one Scott, a bookseller in Little Britain, who owed Dugdale money for his ‘Monasticons.’ In another letter we learn that Blount corrected some of Dugdale's proof-sheets. In another he is introduced to Sir John Cotton, son of the great collector, to see some manuscripts in his library, as a ‘person well verst in antiquities and deserving all encouragement in these his commendable studies.’

Blount's chief works are: 1. ‘The Art of making Devises, treating of Hieroglyphicks, Symboles, Emblemes, Ænigmas, Sentences, Parables, Reverses of Medalls, Armes, Blazons, Cimiers, Cyphres, and Rebus, translated from the French of Henry Estienne, Lord of Tossez,’ 1646; the same, together with a ‘Catalogue of Coronet Devises, both on the Kings and the Parliament's side, in the late Warres,’ 1650. 2. ‘The Academie of Eloquence, containing a compleat English Rhetorique exemplified, with Common places and Formes digested into an easie and methodical way to speak and write fluently, according to the mode of the present times, together with Letters, both Amorous and Moral, upon emergent occasions,’ 1654 (? 29 Jan. 1653), often reprinted; a book ‘specially intended’ for the youth of both sexes. 3. ‘Glossographia, or a Dictionary interpreting all such hard words, of whatsoever language, now used in our refined English tongue, with etymologies, definitions, and historical observations on the same; also the Terms of Divinity, Law, Physick, Mathematicks, and other Arts and Sciences explicated; very useful for all such as desire to understand what they read,’ London, 1656, 8vo; 1670, 1671, 8vo; 1679, 1691; enlarged by William Nelson, 1717, fol. Much of this was adopted by Edward Phillips in his ‘New World of English Words,’ which appeared the year after. 4. ‘The Lamps of the Law and Lights of the Gospel, or the Titles of some late Spiritual, Polemical, and Metaphysical New Books,’ London, 1658, 8vo, written in imitation of J. Birkenhead's, Paul's Churchyard, and published under the name of ‘Grass and Hay Withers.’ 5. ‘Boscobel, or the History of his Sacred Majesties most miraculous preservation after the battle of Worcester, 3 Sept. 1651,’ London, 1660, frequently republished (translated into French and Portuguese; the last of which was done by Peter Gifford, of White Ladies, in Staffordshire, a Roman catholic). 6. ‘The Catholic Almanac for 1661–2–3,’ &c. (which selling not so well as John Booker's almanac did, he afterwards wrote ‘Animadversions upon Booker,’ &c.; vid. inf.) 7. ‘The Pedigree of the Blounts, printed in Peacham's Complete Gentleman,’ 1661. 8. ‘Animadversions upon Booker's Telescopium Uranicum, or Ephemeris, 1665, which is very erroneous,’ &c., London, 1665, in one sheet. 9. ‘The several Statutes concerning Bankrupts, methodically digested, together with the Resolutions of our learned Judges on them,’ 1670, ‘intended for the generality of men and ordinary capacities,’ says Blount in explanation. 10. ‘A Law Dictionary interpreting such difficult and obscure Words and Terms as are found either in our Common or Statute, Ancient or Modern Lawes. With References to the several Statutes, Records, Registers, Law-Books, Charters, Ancient Deeds, and Manuscripts, wherein the Words are used; and Etymologies, where they properly occur,’ 1670. This is the Nomolexikon, republished in 1691, with some corrections and the addition of above six hundred words. Mr. Phillips incorporated a number of the articles in this book in a second edition of his own. In a letter to Wood, Blount says: ‘I am much discouraged in my so much fancied scrutiny of words, since I am lately assured my last Dictionary [meaning the ‘Law Dictionary’] is at the press surreptitiously being transcribed, mutilated, and disguised with some new title; and this by a beggarly half-witted scholar hired for the purpose by some of the law booksellers, to transcribe that in four or five months, which cost me twice as many years in compiling,’ &c. It was this matter which occasioned the publication of the ‘World of Errors,’ &c. (vid. inf.) 11. ‘Journey to Jerusalem in 1669,’ 1672. 12. ‘Animadversions upon Sir Richard Baker's Chronicle and its continuation, wherein many errors are discovered and some truths advanced,’ Oxford, 1672. This book bears the motto from Cic. ‘De Orat.:’ ‘Prima est historiæ lex ne quid falsi dicere audeat, deinde ne quid veri non audeat.’ This was revised by Wood. It was called in and silenced by Dr. Mews, because it said that the word ‘conventicle’ was first taken up in the time of Wycliffe. 13. ‘A World of Errors discovered in the Interpreter of hard Words written against Sir Edward Philips book entitled A New World of English Words,’ &c., 1673. 14. ‘Fragmenta Antiquitatis, Ancient Tenures of Land, and Jocular Customs of some Manors,’ &c., 1679; new edition, enlarged, with explanatory notes, &c., by Jos. Beckwith, F.A.S., York, 1784; new edition, with considerable additions from authentic sources, by Hercules Malebysse Beckwith, 1815. 15. ‘A Catalogue of the Catholics who lost their lives in the King's Cause during the Civil Wars,’ printed at the end of Lord Castlemain's ‘Catholick Apology.’ 16. ‘Boscobel, pt. ii., and Claustrum regale reseratum,’ published by Mrs. Anne Windham, of Trent, 1681. Of ‘Boscobel’ the first part contains the history of the king's escape after the battle of Worcester up to the time of his leaving the White Ladies and Boscobel; the second, his concealment at Trent in Somersetshire, with his adventures in the west of England. The famous Worcestershire historian, Dr. Nash (Worcestershire Supplement, p. 90), strangely remarks of this book: ‘Who was the author is not known; certainly not Mr. Blount. In a manuscript I have seen,’ continues Dr. Nash, ‘he denies that he was the author of “Boscobel,” and says the first time he ever saw the book was at Lord Oxford's at Brampton Bryan. Blount's grandson says: “I dare say my grandfather, Counsellor Blount, was not the author of ‘Boscobel,’ for in a letter to my father I have seen the following sense expressed: ‘The other day, being on a visit to Lord Oxford, I met with a tract called “Boscobel.” My lord expressed great surprise on seeing me eager to peruse it, saying I was deemed the author. How the world comes to be so kind to give it me I know not; but whatever merit it may have, for I had not time to examine it, I do not choose to usurp it. I scorn to take the fame of another's productions. So if the same opinion prevails amongst my friends in your part of the world, I desire you will contradict it; for I do not so much as know the author of that piece.’ ”’ Notwithstanding this flat denial of Blount's, the piece seems, by general consent, to be undoubtedly his. The first edition of 1660, printed for Henry Seile, stationer to the king's most excellent majesty in London, contains a preface signed by Thomas Blount. In the majority of cases Blount seems not to have attached his name to his works. William Denton, the author of ‘Horæ Subsecivæ,’ a book written against the papists, and of ‘The Burnt Child dreads the Fire,’ justifying an act of parliament for preventing dangers which might happen from popish recusants, speaks in his ‘Jus Cæsaris et Ecclesiæ vere dictæ,’ an odd and rambling work concerning presbytery, the power of kings, liturgies, and conventicles, of three persons, R. P., I. S., and P. W., as having written against his two former books. Whether either of these three was Blount, who certainly answered one of Denton's books in a little treatise of one sheet, it is now difficult to tell. Blount also left behind him an imperfect ‘Chronicle of England,’ which he and I. B. (which was all Wood knew of his collaborator, for Blount would never disclose his name) had for several years been compiling; but ‘what became of it afterwards,’ says Wood, ‘I cannot tell.’ He also wrote ‘Animadversions upon Britannia, written by R. Blome,’ but whether it was printed is uncertain. A ‘History of Hereford,’ two vols. small fol., was left in manuscript, in which the parishes were arranged alphabetically. Of these the second volume, beginning with letter L, was for some time in the possession of Dr. Blount of Hereford; but the other, having been lent to Sir Robert Cornewall, was lost. Mr. Speaker Cornewall examined his father's papers at the request of Dr. Nash, the Worcestershire historian, but could find nothing of Blount's. Nash quotes from a letter, which mentions the loan to Sir Robert Cornewall, the following extract: ‘The other volume I (Blount's grandson) had, but my son took it with him to London, in hopes of meeting with the present baronet, and with an intent of revising the whole if he could get it. … After my son's death, whether my son Edward took care to preserve it I do not know.’ There is probably little chance of ever recovering either volume of this historical manuscript. It has escaped the researches of Mr. Gough. ‘Les Termes de la Ley,’ by T. B. of the Inner Temple, 1685, is supposed by Loveday to be by Thomas Blount.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (ed. 1820), Life, lxviii, lxx, i. 181, iii. 149, 819, iv. 308, 761, 763; Catal. Brit. Mus.; Nash's Worcestershire, Supplement, 90; Stow's Survey of London (fol. 1720), i. 107; Gough's Brit. Top. lii. 179; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Peacham's Compleat Gentleman, 230; Hughes's Boscobel Tracts, 185; Chancy's Hertfordshire; Notes and Queries, 1st series, viii. 286, 603; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. 221; Camden's Annals, iii. 805; Grazebrook's Heraldry of Worcestershire, 59; Hamper's Life of Dugdale (1827), 141, 395, 397, 400, 401, 416, 420.]

J. M.