Elstob, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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ELSTOB, ELIZABETH (1683–1758), Anglo-Saxon scholar, was born on 29 Sept. 1683 in St. Nicholas parish, Newcastle-on-Tyne. She was the sister of William Elstob [q.v.], and it is said (Nichols, Anecd. iv. 139) that Dr. Hickes was her grandfather by her mother s side. As Hickes, born 1644, married in 1679, this is impossible. She appears to have been really his niece. She had learnt her 'accidence and grammar' at the age of eight, when her mother died. Her guardian stopped her studies, thinking that one 'tongue was enough for a woman.' She obtained leave, however to learn French, and upon going to live with her brother at Oxford was encouraged by him to learn eight languages, including Latin. In 1709 she published the 'English-Saxon Homliy on the Nativity of St. Gregory,' with an English translation and a preface. The book was printed by subscription and dedicated to Queen Anne. Her portrait is inserted in the initial letter G. Lord Oxford obtained some assistance from the queen in a proposed edition by her of the homilies of Ælfric (fl. 1006) [q. v.] Her scheme is advocated in a letter by her to the prebendary Elstob, in 'Some Testimonies of Learned Men in favour of the intended version of the Saxon Homilies.' The original manuscript is in the Lansdowne MSS. No. 458. The printing was actually begun at Oxford, and a fragment of thirty-six pages, presented by Sir Henry Ellis, is in the British Museum. It never reached publication. In 1715 she published 'Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue, first given in English; with an apology for the Study of Northern Antiquities.' A new set of types was provided for this at the expense of Chief-justice Parker, afterwards Lord Macclesfield (Nichols, Anecd. i. 67).

After her brother's death she became dependent on her friends and received some help from Bishop Smalridge. She retired to Evesham in Worcestershire, where she set up a school. After a hard struggle she obtained so many pupils that she had 'scarcely time to eat.' She made the acquaintance of George Ballard [q.v.], then of Campden in Gloucestershire, and of Mrs. Chapone (often called Capon), wife of a clergyman who kept a school at Stanton in the same'county. Mrs. Chapone (whose maiden name was Sarah Kirkman) was an intimate friend of Mary Grenville, afterwards Mrs. Pendarves, and finally Mrs. Delaney [q.v.], and mother of John Chapone, husband of Hester Chapone [q.v.] Miss Elstob was still in difficulties, as her scholars only paid a groat a week, and Mrs. Chapone wrote a circular letter asking for a subscription on her behalf. The subscription produced an annuity of 20l., and Queen Caroline, to whom the letter had been shown through the good offices of Mrs. Pendarves, sent 100l., and promised a similar sum at the end of every five years. The death of Queen Caroline deprived Miss Elstob of any further advantage. Mrs. Pendarves, however, introduced her to the Duchess of Portland, daughter of her old patron. Lord Oxford. She was made governess to the duchess's children in the autumn of 1738, and remained in the same service until her death, 3 June 1756. Her letters to Ballard are preserved in his collection in the Bodleian Library. Ballard speaks of some portraits by her as 'very masterly done' (Nichols, Illustr. iv. 213).

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iv. 128-40, 714; Nichols's Illustr. iv. 212; Nichols's Bibl. Topogr. Brit. vol. i.; Mrs. Delaney's Autobiography (1st Ser.); Thoresby's Diary, ii. 27, 131, 158, 183, 229; Thoresby's Correspondence, ii. 147, 198, 199, 225, 301; Reprints of Rare Tracts, Newcastle, 1847.]

L. S.