Reresby, John (DNB00)

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RERESBY, Sir JOHN (1634–1689), author of ‘Travels and Memoirs,’ born at Thribergh in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 14 April 1634, was the eldest son of Sir John Reresby, bart., of Thribergh Hall, who died at the age of thirty-five in April 1646, ‘having been taken prisoner two years before by the parliament's party, and confined to his own house’ (Memoirs, 1875, p. 21). His mother, Frances, daughter of Edmund Yarburgh of Snaith Hall, Yorkshire, subsequently married James Moyser of Beverley, Yorkshire, where she died in September 1668. Reresby says that in 1652 he ‘was admitted of Trinity College in Cambridge’ (ib. p. 23); but, as the college refused to allow him the rank and privilege of a nobleman, he did not go into residence, and no entry of his admission is to be found in the college books. According to his own account, he was shortly afterwards admitted to Gray's Inn (ib. p. 23), but his name does not appear in Foster's ‘Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521–1889’. In April 1654 Reresby went abroad, where he remained rather more than four years. The account which he wrote of his travels during this period was published in the edition of his ‘Memoirs’ which appeared in 1813. After stopping in England for some eighteen months he returned to Paris in November 1659, visited Henrietta Maria's court at the Palais Royal, and became a great favourite with the young princess, Henrietta, duchess of Orleans [q. v.] Soon after the Restoration, Reresby returned to England with a letter of recommendation from the queen-mother, and was presented to the king at Whitehall. He served the office of high sheriff of Yorkshire in 1667. At a by-election in November 1673 he was returned to the Long parliament for Aldborough in Yorkshire, together with one Robert Benson. The question of the double return having been at length decided in his favour, Reresby took his seat in the House of Commons on 14 April 1675 (Journals of the House of Commons, ix. 323; Memoirs, pp. 94–5). He spoke in favour of giving an aid to the king in February 1678, and in the following month obtained a commission for raising an independent company of foot, and was appointed governor of Bridlington, with a salary of 200l. a year. In December following Reresby opposed Danby's impeachment (Memoirs, pp. 155, 157). At the general election in February 1679 he was again returned for Aldborough, but was unseated on petition in the following May (ib. pp. 160–1; Journals of the House of Commons, ix. 622, 623). In 1680 he drew up the Yorkshire petition of abhorrence, but took care to pen it ‘so carefully that no great exceptions could be taken at it’ (Memoirs, p. 190). At the general election in February 1681 he was once more elected for Aldborough. In November following he was made a justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster, and in that capacity superintended the proceedings against Thynne's murderers in February 1682 [see under Seymour, Charles, sixth Duke of Somerset].

On Halifax's recommendation, Reresby was appointed governor of York in April 1682. He assisted in the plot to obtain the forfeiture of the city's charter, and entertained the lord chief justice, Jeffreys, at the summer assizes in 1684, with great respect. At the general election after the death of Charles II, Reresby was elected for the city of York. Though less attached to James, Reresby took a prominent part in the House of Commons as a supporter of the court. He favoured the imposition of a tax on London houses for the purpose of defraying the expenses of crushing Monmouth's rebellion, on the curious ground that London ‘drained all England of its people,’ and ‘was a nuisance to all the rest’ of the country (ib. p. 333). In November 1685 he voted in favour of obtaining the concurrence of the House of Lords with the address passed by the commons for the dismissal of the Roman catholic officers (ib. p. 346). In April 1688 he refused to sign an address of thanks to the king for ‘his late indulgence for liberty of conscience’ (ib. pp. 392–3). Though he promised the king to stand for York at the next general election, Reresby had for some time past been growing lukewarm in the royal cause. On 22 Nov. 1688 York Castle was seized by Danby and his adherents, who declared for the Prince of Orange. Reresby was taken prisoner, but his parole was subsequently accepted, and he was thereupon allowed to retire to Thribergh. Early in the following year he went up to London, and was presented to William by his old friend Halifax. He died somewhat suddenly on 12 May 1689, aged 55, and was buried in St. Leonard's Church, Thribergh, where a monument was erected to his memory.

Reresby was a cautious time-serving politician, who possessed a happy knack of pleasing those in power and a keen eye for his own advancement. His ‘Memoirs,’ which give an interesting and valuable account of the events of his time, were first published in 1734 (London, 8vo); another edition was privately printed in the same year (London, 4to). In 1813 appeared ‘The Travels and Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, bart. The former (now first published) … with forty portraits and views of the most remarkable persons and places mentioned’ (London, 8vo). This edition, which was also published without the illustrations, was reprinted in 1821 and 1831. In 1875 appeared ‘The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby of Thrybergh … written by himself, edited from the original manuscript by James J. Cartwright’ (London, 8vo). The first chapter of Mr. Cartwright's edition seems to have been extracted from the genealogy of the Reresby family, compiled by John Reresby, and preserved at the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 29442–3). The rest of the text is derived from the original ‘Memoirs,’ which were purchased for the British Museum at Sotheby's in June 1873 (ib. 29440–1). Though it contains much additional matter, this edition is by no means a literal transcript of the manuscript. The omissions and alterations are numerous, and the editing far from adequate. A French translation of the ‘Memoirs’ forms part of the twenty-first volume of the ‘Collection de Mémoires relatifs à la Révolution d'Angleterre’ (Paris, 1827, 8vo). The manuscript of the ‘Travels,’ which at one time formed part of Topham Beauclerk's library, was given by Mr. Hodges, of Bramdean, Hampshire, to the editor of the ‘Travels and Memoirs’ (1813), but the present whereabouts of this manuscript is unknown. Twenty-two letters written by Reresby to the Marquis of Halifax, 1661–8, are in the possession of Earl Spencer (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. App. p. 15). Extracts from these letters are given in Mr. Cartwright's edition of the ‘Memoirs.’ A small volume in the Bodleian Library in Reresby's handwriting contains copies of letters written by him on various occasions, and a few poems (Rawlinson MS. D. 204). Several of Reresby's letters are preserved at the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 6669 f. 55, 9735 ff. 14–43, 28053 ff. 228, 353).

Reresby married, on 9 March 1665, Frances, elder daughter of William Browne of York, barrister-at-law, by whom he had five sons and four daughters. The eldest son, William, born 7 Jan. 1668, succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father. After leading a life of profligate extravagance, he sold the family estate to John Savile of Methley in 1705, and died in extreme want while serving as a tapster in the Fleet prison. Tamworth, the second son, born 17 Sept. 1670, a major in Colonel Stanwix's regiment, was the author of ‘A Miscellany of Ingenious Thoughts and Reflections in Verse and Prose, with some useful Remarks. To which are added … Characters, Pleasant Narratives, Moral Observations, and Essays’ (London, 1721, 4to). John, the third son, died in July 1683; George in April 1689. Leonard, the youngest son, born 22 Sept. 1679, succeeded his brother Tamworth as the fourth baronet, and died unmarried on 16 Aug. 1748, when the baronetcy became extinct.

[Preface to Reresby's Travels and Memoirs (1813); Wotton's English Baronetage, 1741, ii. 292; Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 1844, pp. 439–40; Hunter's South Yorkshire, 1831, pp. 39, 40–41, 44; Brydges's Censura Literaria, 1815, iv. 208–10; Smyth's Lectures on Modern History, 1840, ii. 61–2; Gardiner and Mullinger's Introduction to the Study of English History, 1881, p. 360; Retrospective Review, viii. 342–80; Edinburgh Review, cxlii. 394–431; Athenæum, 1875, pt. i. pp. 816–17; Gent. Mag. 1748 p. 380, 1814 pt. i. pp. 250–1; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. v. 478, 5th ser. iii. 459, v. 9, 229, 249, 429, 8th ser. vi. 387; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. i. pp. 530, 550, 556; Watt's Bibl. Brit. 1824; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.233
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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30 ii 24 Reresby, Sir John: for Moysey read Moyser