Nelson, William (fl.1720) (DNB00)

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NELSON, WILLIAM (fl. 1720), legal writer, born in 1653, was son of William Nelson of Chaddleworth, Berkshire. On 16 July 1669 he matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, but did not graduate. He was called to the bar from the Middle Temple in 1684, and was elected a bencher in 1706 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, iii. 1056). He practised in the court of chancery for many years.

Nelson's juridical knowledge was undoubtedly great, but he lacked both judgment and acumen. Although an unsparing critic of the labours of others, he was himself inaccurate and slovenly. His books are: 1. ‘Reports of Special Cases argued and decreed in the Court of Chancery,’ 1625–1693, 8vo, the Savoy, 1694 (another edit. 1717). 2. ‘The Rights of the Clergy … of Great Britain,’ 8vo, the Savoy, 1709 (2nd edit. 1712; 3rd edit. 1732). 3. ‘The Office and Authority of a Justice of the Peace,’ 8vo, the Savoy, 1710 (6th edit. 1718; 12th edit. 2 vols. 1745). 4. ‘Lex Testamentaria; or, a Compendious System of all the Laws of England … concerning Last Wills and Testaments,’ 8vo, the Savoy, 1714 (other edits. 1724 and 1728). 5. ‘Reports of Cases decreed in the High Court of Chancery during the time of Sir Heneage Finch (Lord Chancellor Nottingham), 1673–81,’ fol., London, 1725, said to be a book of no authority. 6. ‘Lex Maneriorum; or, the Law and Customs of England relating to Manors,’ &c., 2 pts. fol., the Savoy, 1726 (other edits. in 8vo, 1728, 1733, 1735). 7. ‘An Abridgment of the Common Law of England,’ 3 vols. fol., the Savoy, 1725–6, chiefly borrowed from William Hughes's ‘Abridgments.’ He does not abridge cases anterior to those in ‘Fitzherbert’ and ‘Brooke,’ and treats the ‘Year Books’ as a rhapsody of antiquated law. 8. ‘The Laws of England concerning the Game; of Hunting, Hawking, Fishing, and Fowling,’ 12mo, the Savoy, 1727 (other edits. 1732, 1736, 1751, 1753, 1762).

Nelson translated and annotated Sir Edward Lutwyche's ‘Reports and Entries,’ fol., London, 1718; the work was stigmatised by Charles Viner ‘as being a reproach and dishonour to the profession, and rather adapted to Billingsgate than Westminster Hall’ (Viner, Abridgment, vol. xviii. Preface). He also translated Lutwyche's ‘Reports of the Resolutions of the Court on divers exceptions taken to Pleadings … arising … in the … Common Pleas,’ 8vo, London, 1718.

In 1717 he issued enlarged editions of Blount's ‘Law Dictionary,’ fol., and Manwood's ‘Treatise of the Forest Laws,’ 8vo. To J. Lilly's ‘Reports and Pleadings of Cases in Assise for Offices … and Tenements,’ fol., 1719, he supplied a ‘Prefatory Discourse, shewing the Nature of this Action and reasons for putting it in practice.’ Nelson is supposed to have been the editor of the first five volumes of the so-called ‘Modern Reports,’ 1669–1700, fol., London, 1682–1711 (other edits.); a long preface by him precedes vol. v.

[Wallace's Reporters; Marvin's Legal Bibliography; Bridgman's Legal Bibliography.]

G. G.