Foss, Edward (DNB00)

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FOSS, EDWARD (1787–1870), biographer, eldest son of Edward Smith Foss, solicitor, of 36 Essex Street, Strand, London, by Anne, his wife, daughter of Dr. William Rose of Chiswick, was born in Gough Square, Fleet Street, 16 Oct. 1787. He was educated under Dr. Charles Burney [q. v.], his mother's brother-in-law, at Greenwich, and remained there until he was articled in 1804 to his father, whose partner he became in 1811. In 1822 he became a member of the Inner Temple, but never proceeded further towards a call to the bar. Upon his father's death, in 1830, he removed to Essex Street, and carried on the practice alone until 1840, when he retired. During his professional career he had, owing to his literary tastes and connections, been specially concerned with questions relating to publishers and literary men. In 1827–8 he served the office of under-sheriff of London. He was connected with the Law Life Assurance Society from its foundation in 1823, first as auditor and afterwards as director, and was active in founding the Incorporated Law Society, of which he was president in 1842 and 1843. In 1844 he removed from Streatham to Canterbury, where he proved himself a useful chairman of the magistrates' bench, in 1859 to Dover, and in 1865 to Addiscombe. From an early age he had made various essays in writing. He contributed, while still a very young man, to the ‘Monthly Review,’ ‘Aikin's Athenæum,’ the ‘London Magazine,’ the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and the ‘Morning Chronicle.’ In 1817 he published ‘The Beauties of Massinger,’ and in 1820 an abridgment of Blackstone's ‘Commentaries,’ begun by John Giffard and published under his name, which has since been translated into German. On retiring from professional practice he devoted himself to collecting materials for the history of the legal profession, which he lent to Lord Campbell for his ‘Lives of the Chancellors.’ He published in 1843 ‘The Grandeur of the Law,’ and in 1848 the first two volumes of the ‘Judges of England’ appeared. The work was at first unsuccessful, owing to the obscurity and unpopularity of the subject—judges of the Norman period; but as it progressed it rose in favour, until it is now established as the standard authority in its particular field. In recognition of his labours Lord Langdale, to whom the first two volumes were dedicated, procured for him a grant of the entire series of publications of the Record Commission. The third and fourth volumes appeared in 1851, fifth and sixth in 1857, and seventh, eighth, and ninth in 1864. In 1865 he published ‘Tabulæ Curiales,’ and the printing of his ‘Biographia Juridica’—an abbreviation of his ‘Judges of England’—was far advanced when he died of an apoplexy, 27 July 1870. He also contributed to the ‘Standard.’ He was an original member of the Archæological Institute, and contributed a paper on Westminster Hall to its publication, ‘Old London,’ 1867. He contributed to ‘Archæologia’ papers ‘On the Lord Chancellors under King John,’ ‘On the Relationship of Bishop FitzJames and Lord Chief Justice Fitzjames,’ ‘On the Lineage of Sir Thomas More,’ and ‘On the Office and Title of Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer.’ For the Kent Archæological Association, which he helped to found, he wrote a paper ‘On the Collar of S.S.’ (Archæol. Cantiana, vol. i. 1858), and a privately printed volume of poems, ‘A Century of Inventions,’ appeared in 1863. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1822, was a member of the council of the Camden Society from 1850 to 1853, and from 1865 to 1870, a member of the Royal Society of Literature from 1837, and on the council of the Royal Literary Fund, and until 1839 secretary to the Society of Guardians of Trade. He was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for Kent. He married in 1814 Catherine, eldest daughter of Peter Martineau, by whom he had one son, who died in infancy, and in 1844 Maria Elizabeth, eldest daughter of William Hutchins, by whom he had six sons (of whom the eldest, Edward, a barrister, assisted in the preparation of the ‘Biographia Juridica’) and three daughters.

[Memoir by J. C. Robertson, prefixed to Biographia Juridica; Law Times, 24 Sept. 1870; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vi. 126.]

J. A. H.