Huntington, Robert (DNB00)

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HUNTINGTON, ROBERT (1637–1701), orientalist and bishop of Raphoe, second son of the Rev. Robert Huntington, curate of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, was born in February 1636-7, probably at Deerhurst, although his name is not entered in its register of baptisms. His father was vicar of the adjoining parish of Leigh from 1648 till his death in 1664. Robert was educated at Bristol grammar school, and in 1652 was admitted portionist at Merton College, Oxford, graduating B.A. on 9 March 1657-8, and M.A. on 21 Jan. 1662-3. As soon as the statutes of the college would allow, he was elected to a fellowship, and as he signed the decree of 1660, condemning all the proceedings of convocation under the Commonwealth, his possession of its emoluments was undisturbed. At Oxford he applied himself to the study of oriental languages, and on the return of Robert Frampton [q.v.] he applied for his post of chaplain to the Levant Company at Aleppo, and was elected on 1 Aug. 1670. In the following month he sailed, and arrived there in January 1671. Huntington remained in the East for more than ten years, paying lengthened visits to Palestine, Cyprus, and Egypt, and losing no opportunity of acquiring rare manuscripts. His chief correspondents in England were Narcissus Marsh, afterwards archbishop of Armagh, Bishop Fell, Edward Pocock, and Edward Bernard, and for the two former he purchased many manuscripts. With the Samaritans of Nabulus he began in 1671 a correspondence which was kept up between English and Samaritan scholars for many years. A glimpse at his life in Aleppo is given in the diary of the Rev. Henry Teonge, who visited that city in 1676 (Diary, pp. 158-66). On 14 July 1681 he resigned his chaplaincy, returning leisurely homeward through Italy and France, and settling once more at Merton College, the authorities of which are said to have funded for him during his absence the profits of his fellowship. He took the degrees of B.D. and D.D. (15 June 1683. Humphry Prideaux, himself eager for the Hebrew professorship, mentions Huntington as a probable competitor, and speaks of 'him as so well liked, he is a very worthy person.' Through the recommendation of Fell to Marsh he was offered the provostship of Trinity College, Dublin (1683), and reluctantly accepted it. An Irish translation of the New Testament had already been printed, but the two friends, Marsh and Huntington, superintended a translation into the same language of the canonical books of the Old Testament, which was printed at the expense of Robert Boyle. In 1688 he fled from Ireland, but returned for a short time after the battle of the Boyne. The bishopric of Kilmore, which was vacant through the refusal of Dr. William Sheridan to take the oaths of allegiance to the new ministry, was offered to him early in 1692, but declined, and as he preferred to live in England, he resigned his provostship (September 1692), leaving the college a silver salver, still preserved, on which his arms are engraved. In the same autumn (19 Aug. 1692) Huntington was instituted, on the presentation of Sir Edward Turner, to the rectory of Great Hallingbury in Essex. In his letters to his friends he often lamented his banishment to this solitude, with its consequent loss of books and society. He failed in October 1693 to obtain the wardenship of Merton College, and about the end of 1692 he married a daughter of John Powell, and a sister of Sir John Powell, judge of the king's bench. He was consecrated at Dublin, bishop of Raphoe on 20 July 1701 (Cotton, Fasti Eccl. Hibernicæ, iii. 353). Almost immediately afterwards he was attacked by illness, and he died at Dublin on 2 Sept. 1701, when he was buried near the door of Trinity College Chapel, and a marble monument was erected by the widow to his memory.

Huntington's sole contribution to literature was a short paper in 'Philosophical Transactions' No. 161 (20 July 1684), pp. 623-9, entitled A Letter from Dublin concerning the Porphyry Pillars in Egypt,' which was reproduced in John Ray's 'Collection of Curious Travels and Voyages' (1693), ii. 149-55. Edward Bernard [q. v.] inscribed to him his paper on the chief fixed stars (see Phil. Trans, xiv. 567 et seq.) Huntington gave to Merton College fourteen oriental manuscripts, and to the Bodleian Library thirty-five more. A much larger number, 646 in all, was purchased from him in 1693 for the latter collection at a cost of 700l. Thomas Marshall, rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, and dean of Gloucester, gave to the Bodleian in 1685 many valuable manuscripts, including some Coptic copies of the gospels procured for him by Huntington, and Archbishop Marsh on his death in 1713 left to the same library many oriental manuscripts which he had acquired from Huntington. These manuscripts are described in Bernard's 'Catalogue' (1697), and in the official catalogues of the Bodleian (1788-1835 and 1848-90). Huntington was a liberal contributor of manuscripts to Trinity College, Dublin, and a collection of his letters, dated between 1684 and 1688, relating to that institution were on sale by Osborne the bookseller about 1755.

[The chief materials for Huntington's biography are found in the work of his friend, D. Roberti Huntingtoni Epistolæ, praemittuntur D. Huntingtoni et D. Bernardi vitæ. Scriptore Thoma Smitho, 1704. A contemporaneous translation into English was inserted by Shirley Woolmer of Exeter in Gent. Mag. 1825, pt. i. pp. 11-15, 115-19, 218-21, and reproduced in the Tewkesbury Keg. and Mag. ii. 222-40. See also Pearson's Levant Chaplains, pp.18-23, 57; Bernard's Cat. Librorum Manuscriptorum (1697), pp.177-8, 279-85; Coxe's Cat. MSS. in Collegiis Oxon.i. (Merton Coll.) 130-2; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p.588; Biog. Brit. 1757 ed. iv. 2710-12; English Cyclop.; Luttrell's Hist. Relation, ii. 405, iii. 203; Brodrick's Merton Coll. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), p. 293; Prideaux's Letters (Camd. Soc.), pp.39, 132-5; J. W. Stubbs's Dublin Univ. pp.117-36; Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, i. 3, ii. 24-5, 110; Macray's Annals of Bodl. Lib. 1890 ed. pp.154, 161-3, 185.]

W. P. C.