Gostling, William (DNB00)

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GOSTLING, WILLIAM (1696–1777), antiquary, son of the Rev. John Gostling [q. v.], by Dorothy, his wife, was born at Canterbury in January 1695–6, and baptised in the cathedral on 30 Jan. He was educated at the King's School, Canterbury, where he was a king's scholar, and at St. John's College, Cambridge, entering in 1711, and taking the degrees of B.A. in 1715, M.A. in 1719. All his after life was passed in or near Canterbury, and he served in the diocese as curate or parish priest from 1720. He was instituted to the rectory of Brook, near Wye, Kent, on 23 Sept. 1722. He held a minor canonry at Canterbury from 1727 until his death. His father died on 17 July 1733, and thereby vacated the vicarage of Littlebourne, a few miles from the cathedral city, to which Gostling succeeded, vacating the benefice of Brook. The living of Littlebourne was surrendered in 1753, on his being appointed to the vicarage of Stone in Oxney. He was thoroughly versed in the history of Canterbury, and delighted to act as cicerone to strangers. For nearly twenty years before his death his infirmities confined him to his room, where he passed his hours in completing his ‘Walk in and about the City of Canterbury,’ while his friends corrected his description by personal observation. Gostling died at his house in the Mint Yard, Canterbury, on 9 March 1777, and was buried in the cloisters on 15 March. He married at the cathedral, on 3 Oct. 1717, Hester Thomas, when they were both described as of the precincts; she died on 24 Feb. 1760, aged 64, and was buried in the cloisters on 3 March. A large family kept them in poor circumstances all their days. Six of their children died young; two sons and one daughter survived. They were all commemorated on an oval marble tablet on the west side of the cloisters at Canterbury, and the volume of the cathedral registers issued by the Harleian Society in 1878 abounds in references to them.

Gostling's ‘Walk in and about the City of Canterbury’ appeared in 1774, and passed into a second edition in 1777, when it was completed from his corrected copy of the first impression. This issue was for the benefit of his surviving daughter, Hester Gostling. A subscription was raised for her, and numerous friends contributed additional plates. Other editions were issued in 1779, 1796, 1804, and 1825, and to the later impressions were prefixed the old man's portrait, ætat. 81, ‘Metz pinxit, Raymond Cantuar. delin. R. Godfrey sculp.’ The account of the painted windows in the cathedral was supplied by Dr. Osmund Beauvoir, head-master of the King's School. Gostling's remarks on the baptistery are commented upon in the ‘Archæologia,’ x. 201, xi. 108, &c., and in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for January 1775, pp. 13–14, is a letter from him in reply to several communications on his volume. A manuscript account of Hogarth's expedition in 1732 was given to Gostling, who turned the narrative into verse, twenty copies of which were struck off by John Nichols as a bibliographical curiosity in 1781 as ‘An account of what seemed most remarkable in the five days' peregrination of the five following persons, viz.: Messieurs Tothall, Scott, Hogarth, Thornhill, and Forrest, begun on Saturday, May 27, 1732, and finished on the 31st of the same month. Imitated in Hudibrastics … 1781,’ 8vo. This was afterwards inserted by Nichols in his ‘Anecdotes of Hogarth,’ 1782 ed. pp. 403–27, 1785 ed. pp. 502–25, and by Hone in his ‘Table-book,’ ii. 303–20, and it was reprinted by Hotten of Piccadilly, London, in 1872. An extract is inserted in Grose's ‘Antiquities,’ vol. ii. sub ‘Minster,’ and there are verses by Gostling in Nichols's ‘Collection of Poems,’ vii. 227, viii. 235–6. He contributed to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ xli. 871, an ‘Account of a Fireball and Explosion at Canterbury,’ to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for April 1756 an article on ‘The Sinking of some Land at Lympne in Kent in 1727,’ and for 1776, suppl. p. 603, ‘Account of a New Sluice at Dover.’ In Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature,’ iv. 639–42, and in his ‘Literary Anecdotes,’ ix. 341–5, 747, 816, are letters to and from Gostling. His library was sold by William Flackton of Canterbury in 1778.

[Hasted's Kent, iii. 189, 542, 657; J. R. Smith's Bibl. Cantiana; Sidebotham's King's School, Canterbury, p. 58; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 677, viii. 576, ix. 339–48; Gent. Mag. March 1777, pp. 147–8.]

W. P. C.