A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Leland or Leyland, John

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Leland or Leyland, John (1506-1552). — Antiquary, b. in London, and ed. at St. Paul's School and at Camb., Oxf., and Paris. He was a good linguist, and one of the first Englishmen to acquire Greek, and he was likewise acquainted with French, Italian, Spanish, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxon. He became chaplain and librarian to Henry VIII., from whom he received the Rectory of Poppeling, near Calais, and in 1533 the appointment of King's Antiquary. Soon afterwards he was permitted to do his work in France by deputy, and was commissioned to go over England in search of documents and antiquities; and on the strength of this made his famous tour, which lasted for about six years. He was able to do something to stem the destruction of manuscripts on the dissolution of the monasteries, and made vast collections of documents and information regarding the monuments and general features of the country, which, however, he was unable fully to digest and set in order. They formed, nevertheless, an almost inexhaustible quarry in which succeeding workers in the same field, such as Stow, Camden, and Dugdale, wrought. In his last years he was insane, and hence none of his collections appeared in his lifetime. His Itinerary was, however, at length pub. by T. Hearne in 9 vols. (1710-12), and his Collectanea in 6 vols. (1715).