Stevenson, Joseph (DNB00)

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STEVENSON, JOSEPH (1806–1895), historian and archivist, born at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 27 Nov. 1806, was the eldest son of Robert Stevenson, surgeon, of that town, by his wife, Elizabeth Wilson. His first schooldays were passed at Wooten-le-Wear, and thence he was removed to Durham, where he was placed under the charge of the Rev. James Raine [q. v.] He next studied in the university of Glasgow, but does not appear to have graduated. In 1829 he returned to Berwick, with the intention of entering the presbyterian ministry. He became a licentiate of that body, and preached a trial sermon at Hutton, Berwickshire, where he resided for the period necessary to qualify himself for service in the kirk of Scotland. However, he turned his attention to antiquarian and literary pursuits, and for more than sixty years from 1831 his pen was never idle. Coming to London, he found employment in arranging the public records, then kept in St. John's Chapel in the Tower, and about midsummer 1831 he was appointed to a permanent situation in the manuscript department of the British Museum. On 19 Sept. in the same year he married Mary Ann, daughter of John Craig of Mount Florida, Glasgow. His post at the Museum brought him into contact with the leading students of British history and antiquities, and he became a member of several learned societies. After his appointment as a sub-commissioner of the public records in 1834, he worked at the proposed new edition of Rymer's ‘Fœdera,’ and he drew up in 1836 the appendix (vol. E) to Charles Purton Cooper's report on that subject.

In London Stevenson gradually dropped his connection with the presbyterian body, and had his children baptized in the established church. On the death of his eldest son, Robert, on 5 Nov. 1839, he resigned his post on the Record commission, returned to Durham, where he entered the university and became a licentiate in theology in 1841. He was ordained priest by Bishop Maltby. In 1841 he was appointed librarian and keeper of records to the dean and chapter in succession to his old schoolmaster, James Raine, and for the next seven years he was engaged in drawing up a catalogue of the charters and deeds preserved in the treasury. In acknowledgment of his services the university conferred upon him the honorary degree of M.A. He was appointed curate of the parish of St. Giles, Durham, in 1847; and in January 1849 he was instituted to the parish of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

In 1856 Stevenson undertook to bring out for the Clarendon Press at Oxford a work which, if completed, would have been of a monumental character. This was a chronological list of English historians of all ages, with a critical account of their works, whether in print or manuscript. Eventually he presented the whole of his collections to Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy [q. v.] for his well-known ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts relating to the History of Great Britain and Ireland.’ When many plans for continuing the work of the Record commission had fallen through, Stevenson's representation in 1856 induced the government to undertake in the following year the splendid Rolls Series of historical works, under the title of ‘Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland.’ He was himself appointed one of the editors, and in the prosecution of his researches he visited Paris, Rheims, Chartres, Rouen, and Lille. He resigned his living in 1862, and undertook the work of calendaring at the Public Record Office that William Barclay Turnbull [q. v.] had resigned. His study of the history of the Reformation period led him, like his predecessor, to withdraw from the Anglican communion, and on 24 June 1863 he was received into the Roman catholic church. In consequence of the pressure brought to bear upon him, he resigned his post as calendarer, though he continued to be employed as an editor of the Rolls Series. He retired to Selly Park, near Birmingham, and assisted Canon Estcourt in composing his book on Anglican orders. The historical manuscripts commission opened for him a further field for congenial labour, and he examined and reported upon no fewer than twenty-four manuscript collections in the possession of various corporations or private families.

After the death of his wife (11 July 1869) he entered St. Mary's College, Oscott. In 1872 he was ordained priest by Bishop Ullathorne, and in the same year he not only received from Mr. Gladstone a pension in recognition of his valuable services to historical literature, but was deputed by the government, after consent had been obtained from the pope, to make a detailed examination of the Vatican archives. This task occupied him about four years, and the results of his labours are contained in thirteen folio volumes of transcripts now deposited in the Public Record Office. In November 1877 he entered Roehampton College as a novice of the Society of Jesus. In 1878 his headquarters were at Oxford, and after that, until his decease, he resided in the ‘House of Writers’ at 31 Farm Street, Berkeley Square, London. On 25 March 1885 he was professed of the three vows, and when he was eighty-six years old, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was bestowed upon him by the university of St. Andrews. He died at Farm Street on 8 Feb. 1895, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Thomas's Church, Fulham.

For the Maitland Club Stevenson edited: 1. ‘Illustrations of Scottish History,’ 1834. 2. ‘Scalachronica, by Sir Thomas Gray of Heton,’ 1836. 3. ‘The Life and Death of King James I of Scotland,’ 1837. 4. ‘Selections from unpublished Manuscripts illustrating the reign of Mary, queen of Scotland,’ 1837. 5. ‘Chronicon de Lanercost,’ 1839 (printed also for the Bannatyne Club). 6. ‘The Scottish Metrical Romance of Lancelot du Lak,’ 1839. 7. ‘Documents illustrative of Sir William Wallace, his Life and Times,’ 1841. 8. ‘Notices of original unprinted Documents … illustrative of the History of Scotland,’ 1842.

For the Bannatyne Club he edited: 9. ‘Chronica de Mailros,’ 1835. 10. ‘Chronicon de Lanercost,’ 1839.

For the English Historical Society he edited: 11. ‘Chronicon Ricardi Divisiensis de Gestis Ricardi I,’ 1838. 12. ‘Gildas de Excidio Britanniæ,’ 1838. 13. ‘Nennii Historia Britonum,’ 1838. 14. ‘Venerabilis Bedæ Historia Ecclesiastica … et Opera Historica Minora,’ 1838–41.

For the Roxburghe Club he edited: 15. ‘The Owl and the Nightingale,’ 1838. 16. ‘Correspondence of Sir Henry Unton,’ 1847. 17. ‘The Alliterative Romance of Alexander,’ 1849. 18. Dan Michel's ‘The Ayenbite of Inwyt,’ 1855.

For the Surtees Society he edited: 19. ‘Rituale Ecclesiæ Dunelmensis,’ 1840. 20. ‘Liber Vitæ Ecclesiæ Dunelmensis,’ 1841. 21. ‘The Correspondence of Robert Bowes of Ask,’ 1842. 22. ‘Anglo-Saxon and Early English Psalter,’ 2 vols. 1843–4. 23. ‘Libellus de Vita et Miraculis S. Godrici,’ 1845. 24. ‘Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church,’ 1851. 25. ‘The Gospel of St. Matthew, from the … Lindisfarne and Rushworth Gospels,’ 1854.

For the collection of ‘The Church Historians of England’ he edited: 26. ‘The Historical Works of the Venerable Beda,’ 1853. 27. ‘The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; the Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, with a continuation and appendix,’ 1853. 28. ‘The History of the Kings of England, and of his own Times, by William of Malmesbury,’ 1854. 29. ‘The Chronicle of Fabius Ethelwerd; Asser's “Annals of King Alfred;” the Book of Hyde; the Chronicles of John Wallinford; the History of Ingulf; Gaimar,’ 1854. 30. ‘The Historical Works of Simeon of Durham,’ 1855. 31. ‘The History of William of Newburgh; the Chronicles of Robert de Monte,’ 1856. 32. ‘The Chronicles of John and Richard of Hexham; the Chronicle of Holyrood; the Chronicle of Melrose; Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle,’ 1856.

For the Rolls Series he edited: 33. ‘Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon,’ 2 vols. 1858. 34. ‘Letters and Papers illustrative of the Wars of the English in France during the Reign of Henry VI,’ 2 vols., 1861–4. 35. ‘Narratives of the Expulsion of the English from Normandy, 1449–50,’ 1863. 36. ‘Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum,’ 1875.

His other works are: 37. ‘Comparison between certain Statements in the Evidence by Messrs. S. Hardy and Cole before the select committee upon the Record Commission,’ 1837. 38. ‘Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth,’ vols. i. to vii., 1863, &c. 39. ‘Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland from the Death of King Alexander III to the Accession of Robert Bruce,’ 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1870, 8vo. 40. ‘The History of Mary Stewart. … By Claude Nau, her Secretary, now first printed from the original Manuscripts, with illustrative Papers from the secret Archives of the Vatican, and other Collections in Rome,’ Edinburgh, 1883, 8vo. 41. ‘The Truth about John Wyclif, his Life, Writings, and Opinions, chiefly from the evidence of his Contemporaries,’ London, 1885, 8vo. 42. ‘Marie Stuart: a narrative of the first eighteen years of her Life, principally from original Documents,’ Edinburgh, 1886, 8vo. 43. ‘The Life of St. Cuthbert,’ translated from the Latin of the Venerable Bede, London, 1887, 8vo. 44. An edition of H. Clifford's ‘Life of Jane Dormer, duchess of Feria,’ London, 1887, 8vo, forming vol. lxii. of the ‘Quarterly Series.’ 45. ‘Cranmer and Anne Boleyn,’ London [1892], 8vo. He also assisted Mr. James Paton in editing the ‘Scottish National Memorials,’ 1890.

[Memoir by Rev. J. H. Pollen in the Month, March 1895 p. 331, and April p. 500; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), Suppl. pp. 5, 6, 22–5, 33–5, 131; Times, 12 Feb. 1895, p. 11, col. 5; Tablet, 16 Feb. 1895, p. 243; Athenæum, 16 Feb. 1895, p. 220; Durham Univ. Journal, xi. 169, 221; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 221.]

T. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.258
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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241 i 26 Stevenson, Joseph: after Durham, insert He entered the university there, became a licentiate in theology in 1841,