Camden, William (DNB00)
CAMDEN, WILLIAM (1551–1623), antiquary and historian, was born in the Old Bailey in London on 2 May 1551. His father was Sampson Camden, a native of Lichfleld, who in early life, came up to London to follow the profession of a painter, and was a member of the Guild of Painter-Stainers. In the inscription on a cup which his son bequeathed to the guild he was described as 'Pictor Londinensis,' which, as Gough observes, may apply either to his profession or his company. Camden's mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Giles Curwen of Poulton Hall, Lancashire, and came of the ancient family of Curwen of Workington in Cumberland, a descent of which he speaks with modest pride in his 'Britannia.' At an early age he was entered at Christ's Hospital, probably as a 'town child' or 'free scholar,' but the year is unknown. His biographer, Dr. Smith, infers, from the fact of the hospital having been founded for the benefit of orphans, that he had then already lost his father; and Bishop Gibson disregards the story of his admission. But Degory Wheare, his contemporary, presumably had good authority for stating the fact; and he also seems to imply that Camden's father had the care of his early training. In the registers of St. Augustine's Church, London, is entered the marriage of Sampson Camden and Avis Carter, 4 Sept. 1575. This might be a second marriage of Camden's father, but more probably a brother is referred to (see Chester, Westm. Abbey Registers, p. 122). In 1563, at the age of twelve, the boy was attacked by the plague at Islington ('peste correptus Islingtoniæ,' Memorabilia), but there is no evidence for Anthony Wood's addition that there 'he remained for some time, to the great loss of his learning.' On his recovery he was sent to St. Paul's School, where he remained until 1566, when he went up to Oxford, being then in his fifteenth or sixteenth year.
Without patrimony, his introduction to the university was under the patronage of Dr. Thomas Cooper, fellow of Magdalen College and late master of the school, afterwards successively dean of Christ Church (1567) and bishop of Winchester [q. v.] Camden's position at Magdalen is uncertain. Wood says that 'in the condition of a chorister or servitor he perfected himself in grammar learning in the free school adjoining;' Degory Wheare, less definite, is content with 'tirocinium primum exegit et logices rudimenta celerrime deposuit inter Magdalenenses.' Bishop Gibson adopts the suggestion of his service as chorister. Failing to obtain a demyship at his college, he was taken by the hand by Dr. Thomas Thornton, on whose invitation he was admitted to Broadgates Hall (Pembroke College). Here among his fellow-students were the two Carews, Richard and George, the latter of whom was afterwards created Baron Carew of Clopton and Earl of Totnes, whose tastes, like his own, led them to antiquarian research. Other associates were Sir John Packington, Sir Stephen Powel, and Sir Edward Lucy. It is recorded that certain short graces, composed by him in Latin, were used in hall for many years after he had left. His residence there lasted three years, when, on Thornton's promotion to a canonry at Christ Church, he followed his patron thither; and during the rest of his Oxford life he was supported by this generous friend. Next he appears as a candidate for a fellowship at All Souls, but in this attempt he was frustrated by the popish party. Although scarcely of the age of twenty, Camden had made enemies by taking part in religious controversy. Writing in after years (1618) to Ussher, he refers to this defeat 'for defending the religion established' (ep. 195). Thus disappointed of obtaining the means of living in the university, he supplicated in June 1570 for the degree of bachelor of arts; but nothing on this occasion appears to have followed, for afterwards, in March 1573, he again applied for the same degree, which was granted, but he failed to complete it by determination. In fact it seems doubtful whether Camden ever actually fulfilled the requirements for the first degree, although in June 1588, describing himself as B.A. of Christ Church, he supplicated for that of master of arts, and that ‘whereas he had spent sixteen years, from the time he had taken the degree of bachelor, in the study of philosophy and other liberal arts, he might be dispensed with for the reading of three solemn lectures’ (Wood). He did not, however, obtain the master's degree on this occasion; but it was afterwards offered to him in 1613, when he visited Oxford to attend Sir Thomas Bodley's funeral, and then, according to Wood, he refused it as an unprofitable honour at that advanced period of his life.
In 1571 Camden left Oxford and returned to London. He had no regular employment, and for the next few years he was free to pursue his antiquarian studies. He now began to amass the materials which laid the foundation for his future work, the ‘Britannia.’ In the address ‘ad Lectorem,’ which he added to the fifth edition of that work, Camden has himself given us an interesting sketch of the way in which his studies were directed to antiquarian subjects, and how the ‘Britannia’ grew under his hand. From his earliest days, we are told, his natural inclination led him to investigate antiquity; as a boy at school, and afterwards as a young man at Oxford, all his spare time was given to this favourite pursuit. He specially mentions the encouragement he had from his fellow-student at Christ Church, Sir Philip Sidney. Much of his leisure after leaving the university was passed in travelling through the kingdom and noting its antiquities. But his collections at this time were not made with any view to publication.
Camden's patrons at this period were Dr. Gabriel Goodman, dean of Westminster, and his brother Godfrey; and it was by the dean's interest that he was appointed in 1575 to the second mastership in Westminster School under Dr. Edward Grant. A schoolmaster's life still left him free in holiday time to make occasional journeys of inquiry. In 1578 he surveyed the country of the Iceni in Norfolk and Suffolk (Corresp. of Ortelius, ed. J. H. Hessels, ep. 78). He has noted in his biographical ‘Memorabilia’ in 1582 a journey through Suffolk into Yorkshire, returning by way of Lancashire. His reputation as an antiquary and topographer was now established, and he became known to scholars of other nations. He notes under the year 1581, the commencement of his friendship with Brisson, the distinguished French jurist, who, being on an embassy in England, singled out the poor Westminster master, the ‘umbraticus vir et pulvere scholastico obsitus’ (Smith), for special attention; and still earlier, in 1577, a visit of Abraham Ortelius, the ‘universæ geographiæ vindex et instaurator,’ to England brought the two men together. Camden, urged and encouraged by his new friend, undertook the systematic preparation of the ‘Britannia.’ For this work Camden's labours were enormous. Among other things, he tells us that he had to get some knowledge of the Welsh and Anglo-Saxon languages, to read and read again both native and other historians, many of whose works still remained in manuscript, and to ransack and select from the public records; and to all this, be it remembered, was added the ‘laboriosissimum munus’ of teaching (see some of the original collections for the work in Cotton MSS. Titus F. vii–ix, and Cleopatra A. iv).
After ten years' toil the ‘Britannia’ was completed, and appeared with a dedication to Lord-treasurer Burghley, dated 2 May 1586, the day on which Camden completed his thirty-fifth year. Its success was great; nothing of the kind had been attempted since the days of Leland, and by him only in briefer outline. In the space of four years it passed through three London editions, besides a reprint at Frankfort in 1590; a fourth edition came out in 1594. All these editions had the supervision of the author, and the last was more fully illustrated with genealogical matter. In 1589 Camden travelled into Devonshire, where he had been presented early in the year (6 Feb.) by Dr. Piers, bishop of Salisbury, with the prebend of Ilfracombe, a preferment which he held for life, although a layman. In the next year he was in Wales in company with Dr. Francis Godwin, soon afterwards bishop of Llandaff (1601), and then of Hereford (1617). The expenses of these journeys are said to have been defrayed by his old friend Godfrey Goodman. In October 1592 a quartan ague fastened upon him, and clung to him persistently for months. It was not till June 1594 that he could write down ‘febre liberatus.’
Meanwhile Dr. Grant, the head-master of Westminster, resigned his post in February 1593, and in the following month he was succeeded by Camden. In 1596 Camden visited Salisbury and Wells, returning by way of Oxford, ‘where he visited most, if not all, of the churches and chapels for the copying out of the several monuments and arms in them, which were reduced by him into a book written with his own hand’ (Wood). But the next year he fell seriously ill again, and removed to the house of one Cuthbert Line, by the careful nursing of whose wife he recovered. In 1597 also he published his Greek grammar for the use of Westminster School, 'Institutio Græcæ Grammatices Compendiaria,' which was based on an earlier one ('Græcæ Linguæ Spicilegium') by his predecessor, but cast in a more convenient form (see a portion of the manuscript in Cotton MS. Vespasian E. viii). It became very popular, and has gone through numberless impressions, having continued in use down to a recent date.
About this time he was offered a mastership of requests, which he refused; but in September of the same year (1597) the office of Clarenceux king-of-arms fell vacant, and on 23 Oct. Camden was appointed to the place, having been created Richmond herald for a single day as a formal step to the higher rank. He owed the appointment to Sir Fulke Greville [q. v.], afterwards (1621) Lord Brooke, without any personal solicitation. If we may believe Smith, Lord Burghley was offended that Camden had not made interest personally with him, but was appeased when he found that Greville had acted on his own motion. Camden was thus released from the routine of a schoolmaster's life. Of his work in the school we have but few details. In his letter to Ussher (ep. 195) in 1618, he makes some reference to his success as a teacher, but only to illustrate his constant obedience to the English church. He writes: 'At my coming to Westminster I took the like oath, where (absit jactantia) God so blessed my labours that the now bishops of London, Durham, and St. Asaph, to say nothing of persons employed now in eminent places abroad, and many of especial note at home of all degrees, do acknowledge themselves to have been my scholars—yes, I brought there to church divers gentlemen of Ireland, as Walshes, Nugents, O'Raily, Shees . . . and others bred popishly and so affected' (see an account of some of Camden's distinguished pupils in Gough's Britannia, 1806, i. xxvii). A few records of Camden's connection with the chapter have been found in the chapter books of Westminster (see Chester, Westm,. Abbey Registers, p. 121). Among certain regulations, under the date of 16 May 1587, respecting the college library, 'Mr. Camden, usher for the tyme present,' is appointed 'keper of the said librarie,' with a yearly salary of twenty shillings. On 2 Dec. 1591 he had the lease of 'a little tenement in the Close for the term of his life.' On 29 Jan. 1594 he and another 'have their diett allowed them at our common table;' and after receipt of 'hir Maties letters in favor of Mr. Camden, a patent for his manes diet during the life of the said Mr. Camden' was granted to him on 13 June 1594.
Camden's appointment as Clarenceux had given offence, for it was mainly a feeling of jealousy that prompted the public attack opened upon him in 1599. His antagonist was Ralph Brooke (or Brookesmouth) [q. v.], York herald, who is said to have also aspired to the post which Camden had obtained. Taking the fourth edition of the 'Britannia' of 1594, Brooke had set himself to examine the pedigrees of illustrious families therein set forth, and produced the errors in a book entitled 'A Discoverie of certain Errours published in print in the much commended "Britannia," 1594,' and without date. It has been stated that Brooke had been preparing his attack from the time of the publication of the fourth edition. In his prefatory address 'to Maister Camden' he does not give him the title of Clarenceux. On the other hand, it seems hardly probable that the address, published in 1599, would have been issued as written two years earlier. Brooke more probably abstained from recognising as a king-of-arms one whom he was attacking for his shortcomings as a herald. Besides, Camden had written with some lightness of the opinions of heralds, and Brooke's professional jealousy was touched. Besides accusing Camden generally of errors in genealogy, Brooke charges him with pillaging from Glover, from whom he had gleaned 'not handfuls, but whole sheaves,' and claims for Leland the honour of having anticipated Camden 'as the first author and contriver of this late-born "Britannia."' The style of the attack is personal and coarse, but Brooke recognised Camden's wide reputation as a scholar 'of rare knowledge and singular industry;' and yet no man, he fairly adds, 'is so generally well seen in all things but an inferior person in some one special matter may go beyond him.' Camden's biographers have made the most of Brooke's bad qualities. He appears to have been a man of ability, but of a quarrelsome temper, and constantly at war with his brother heralds.
In the latter part of the year 1600 Camden travelled into the north as far as Carlisle with his friend Robert (afterwards Sir Robert) Cotton, in order to survey the northern counties, and returned in December. Meanwhile, he had prepared a fifth edition of the 'Britannia,' and published it in this same year, appending to it an address 'ad Lectorem,' in which he replied to Brooke's strictures. In this document Camden is at pains to show how Brooke had himself blundered, and he injudiciously introduces much personal matter. The strong point of his defence is that the 'Britannia' was a topographical and historical work, rather than heraldic and genealogical. For the rest, he shifts many of his faults on to his predecessor, Clarenceux Cooke, whose papers he had used. He confesses he had copied Leland, but not without acknowledgment; and argues that while Leland had spent five years, he had passed six times that number in the study of antiquity. Camden would have been to blame had he not made use of his predecessor. How much he improved upon him is too manifest to need proof (see Gough's edition, in which, under Dorsetshire, the passages taken from Leland are printed in italics). As Bishop Gibson remarks, a perusal of Leland's 'Itinerary' is Camden's best defence.
Brooke wrote a 'Second Discoverie,' in which he charges Camden with having originally rejected friendly offers of correction on the appearance of his fourth edition, and complains that his 'First Discoverie' was interrupted and cut short by the influence of Camden's friends, and he 'stayed by commandment of authority to proceed any farther.' He presented this second part of his work to King James in 1620, but was not allowed to publish it (Noble, College of Arms, p. 243; but see also Nicolas, Memoir of Augustine Vincent, 1827, p. 26), and it was not till a century later (in 1723) that it appeared in print, from the manuscript in the possession of John Anstis the elder [q. v.], with an appendix showing the corrections which Camden made, in the points in dispute, in his fifth edition of 1600.
In 1600 Camden also 'diverted himself among the ancient monuments' (Gibson), and published his account of the monuments, or rather list of the epitaphs, in Westminster Abbey, entitled 'Reges, Reginæ;, Nobiles, et alii in ecclesia collegiata B. Petri Westmonasterii sepulti,' a work which he enlarged and issued again in 1603 and 1606. In 1601 he was again stricken with fever, but recovered under the care of his friend William Heather, afterwards doctor of music and founder of a music lecture at Oxford; and in 1603, on an outbreak of the plague in London, he removed to his friend Cotton's house at Connington in Huntingdonshire, where he stayed till Christmas. In the latter year appeared at Frankfort his edition of the chronicles of Asser, Walsingham, and other historians, with the title 'Anglica, Normannica, Hibernica, a veteribus scripta,' and a dedication to Sir Fulke Greville. This book originally grew out of his preparatory labours on the 'Britannia.' He had also conceived the idea of writing a general history of England in Latin, but the vastness of the scheme compelled him to abandon the project. He had accordingly to content himself with putting forth this volume of chronicles and smaller works, dealing with particular periods, as the account of the Norman invasion which he gave in his edition of the 'Britannia' of 1607, and his annals of Queen Elizabeth. Camden's edition of the chronicle of Asser [q. v.] is famous from the fact of its containing the interpolated passage regarding the foundation of Oxford University by King Alfred. The same account had already appeared in his 'Britannia' of 1600. Conclusive evidence on the point is lost by the disappearance of the manuscripts of Asser, but it is now admitted that the passage is a late forgery. The circumstance of its interpolation in Camden's publications has naturally cast some suspicion upon his honesty in the matter; but,as Gough says, Camden had no special reason for glorifying Oxford, and his character for truthfulness stands too high to be impeached on imperfect evidence. The composition of the passage has been attributed to Sir Henry Savile (see Parker, Early Hist. of Oxford, Oxford Hist. Soc. 1884-5, pp. 39 sqq.) At this same time Camden was also preparing for the press his 'Remains,' or commonplace collections from his 'Britannia,' 'the rude rubble and outcast rubbish of a greater and more serious work,' as he styles it. The book was brought out in 1605, with a dedication to Sir Robert Cotton, signed only with the letters M. N., the last letters of Camden's two names, and passed through as many as seven editions in the course of the seventeenth century. He had originally intended to dedicate it to Sir Fulke Greville, but did honour to that patron by the dedication of his collection of chronicles in its place. On the discovery of the Gunpowder plot Camden was for the first time called upon to write in the public service, and instructed to translate into Latin the account of the trial of the conspirators. Accordingly in 1607 appeared his 'Actio in Henricum Garnetum, Societatis Jesuit icæ' in Anglia superiorem, et cæteros.'
On 7 Sept. 1607 Camden had injured his leg so severely by a fall from his horse that he was kept to his house for nine months, only leaving it at length to attend the funeral of his friend Sir John Fortescue, who had assisted him in his early work on the 'Annals.' During this confinement 'he put the last hand to his "Britannia" which gained him the titles of the Varro, the Strabo, and the Pausanias of Britain in the writings and letters of learned men' (Gibson), and published during 1607 an edition in folio, which was a considerable enlargement on those which had preceded. As his own memoranda prove, he did not to the last give up thoughts of a still further edition, and as late as 1621 he was making researches for the purpose (Apparat. Annul. Jac. I, p. 70).
Under date of 1608 Camden enters in his 'Memorabilia' the words 'Annales digerere cœpi:' he began to digest the material for a history of Elizabeth's reign which he had contemplated for some years. As far back as 1597 he had been urged to the work by his patron, Lord Burghley; but the death of the latter in the following year had probably been one of the principal reasons for laying it aside. He now resumed his preparations, but was interrupted by a severe illness which seized him on his birthday, 2 May 1609. The fear of the plague, which broke out in his neighbourhood at the same time, drove him to his friend Heather's house in Westminster, where he recovered under the treatment of Dr. John Giffard. When convalescent he removed to Chislehurst in August, and remained there till the close of the following October.
It was at this period that an attempt was made to carry out a plan, devised by Dr. Sutcliffe, dean of Exeter, to found a college at Chelsea for a certain number of learned men who were to be employed in writing against the errors of the church of Rome. The king nominated a provost (Dr. Sutcliffe himself), seventeen fellows, and two historians. One of the latter was Camden, whose appointment was dated 10 May 1610. The scheme fell through for lack of funds, and the site of the building, which was actually begun, was finally used for the present Chelsea Hospital.
At length, in 1615, Camden published his annals brought down to the end of the year 1588, 'Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum, regnante Elizabetha, ad annum Salutis mdlxxxix.' The book was received generally with high praise. Smith and other biographers of Camden specially quote Selden's eulogy, who singles out Camden's 'Annals' and Bacon's 'History of Henry VII' as the only two books of their kind which reach a high standard of excellence, for, except them, 'we have not so much as a publique piece of the history of England that tastes enough either of the truth or plenty that may be gained from the records of the kingdom' (Letter quoted in Vincent's Discoverie of Errours, 1622). But Camden's impartiality was afterwards impugned in certain points, and particularly in the contradictions which appeared between his own account of the events in Scotland and concerning Mary Queen of Scots, and the information which he was said to have supplied to the French historian De Thou on the same subject. Gough points out that Camden writing in England could not use the same freedom as De Thou writing abroad. But, as a matter of fact, there is really no evidence to show that Camden supplied De Thou with the information which has been attributed to him. Their correspondence began at a date when the second part of the French historian's work was already in the press, and there is nothing in their letters to show that any such information had passed (see Smith, Vita, p. 54; Bayle, Dictionary, English ed. 1736, iv. 64, 65). On the contrary, in his first letter to Camden, February 1605-6 (ep. 54), De Thou, telling him that the book is being printed, asks his advice how he may best avoid giving offence in treating of the affairs of Scotland. But there was then no time to alter the whole complexion of his account, however he may have modified anything on Camden's suggestion of moderation; and, in fact, he apologises for doing so little in this direction in the letter which accompanied the gift of his work, August 1606 (ep. 59). Camden wrote a paper of 'Animadversiones in Jac. Aug. Thuani Historiam, in quâ res Scoticæ memorantur' (printed with the 'Epistolæ'); and, although this was done by James's order, Camden could hardly have thus criticised work for which he was himself partly answerable. At a later period De Thou was greatly indebted to Camden's assistance. There is extant (Cotton MS. Faustina F. x, f. 254) a memorandum by the latter: 'The copye of this story of Queen Elizabeth, from 1583 to 1587, not transcribed for myself as yett, but sent into France to Tuanus.' The transcript was no doubt sent to De Thou in continuation of Sir Robert Cotton's 'Commentaries,' which, as far as the year 1582, had been placed at his service in 1613 (De Thou to Camden, ep. 99). De Thou refers to it in his letter of July 1515 (ep. lll), in which he also asks for the rest of the annals of Elizabeth's reign, and, if possible, the continuation to 1610.
As to the theory that Camden smoothed down his original account to please James, or even that the king himself made alterations, we are able to go to the manuscripts themselves for evidence. Camden's drafts and transcripts (unfortunately imperfect) of his 'Annals' are in the Cottonian Library (Faustina F. i-x). In the first part of the work these manuscripts contain a portion of the first drafts, a first fair copy, which was further revised, and, from this revision, a second fair copy, which, after receiving further corrections and insertions, presents, with slight variations, the text of the printed work. The first copy ends with the year 1582, and no doubt it was the rest of this transcript that was sent to De Thou. The second copy breaks off in the middle of 1586. Throughout the work there is no alteration of the main lines on which the history was first laid down. The latter part (1586-8), where the transcripts fail, and especially the account of Mary's trial and execution, is supplied by the drafts, a perusal of which clearly indicates that the revision which they underwent was exactly of the same nature as that which is seen in the transcripts of the earlier portion. The second transcript appears to have been finally revised in 1613, and the text thus received the form in which it was published before it was submitted to the king.
Camden's biographers, from Smith downwards, tell us that on account of these censures he determined that the second part of his 'Annals' should not see the light during his lifetime. However, it appears from one of his letters (ep. 287), written on the submission of the manuscript to the king, that at that time his feelings were neutral. While careless as to the publication of the Latin original, he was decidedly opposed to the appearance of an English translation: 'As I do not dislike that they should be published in my lifetime, so I do not desire that they should be set forth in English until after my death, knowing how unjust carpers the unlearned readers are.' He finished the compilation in 1617, and, keeping the original, he sent a copy to his friend. Pierre Dupuy, the historian, who undertook to publish it after the author's death. It was accordingly issued at Leyden in 1625, and in London in 1627.
The materials from which Camden compiled his 'Annals' exist to the present day in great part in the Cottonian Library. Godfrey Goodman, bishop of Gloucester, once a pupil of Camden's at Westminster, and nephew of his old friend the dean, asked for such materials as a legacy, but Camden had already bequeathed them to Archbishop Bancroft, on whose death he transferred the bequest to the succeeding primate, Abbot. Bishop Gibson has suggested that the papers so bequeathed were only such as more immediately concerned ecclesiastical matters. Whatever they may have been, it is supposed that they were lost on the pillage of Laud's library, as Bancroft could find no trace of them.
Camden continued to write short memoranda of events in the course of the reign of James I: 'a skeleton of a history, or bare touches to put the author in mind of greater matters, had he lived to have digested them in a full history' (Wood), which were printed by Smith at the end of his 'Camdeni Epistolæ'. Wood is the authority for the story of the original manuscript having been carried off, after Camden's death, by John Hacket, afterwards (1661) bishop of Lichfield, 'who, as I have been divers times informed, did privately convey it out of the library of the author.' It is now in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Camden spent the latter years of his life in retirement at Chislehurst. He describes himself to Ussher, in July 1618 (ep. 195), as 'being retired into the country for the recovery of my tender health, where, portum anhelans beatitudinis, I purposed to sequester myself from worldly business and cogitations;' and, constant to his place of retreat, he declined the invitation, made in 1621 by Sir Henry Savile, to take up his quarters in his house at Eton, where, says his friend, 'you might make me a happy man in my old age without any discontent' (ep. 251). In February 1620 he had a severe vomiting of blood (Memorabilia), and remained ill till the following August, his constitution rallying, however, even after further blood-letting by Dr. Giffard.
During 1619 his letters show that he had some dispute with his brother kings-of-arms, Garter and Norroy, concerning his appointment of deputies to serve on his visitations (see a list of counties visited by his deputies in The Visitation of co. Huntingdon, Camd. Soc., 1849, p. vi). Indeed, down to the very time of his death this matter continued to cause him trouble, there being still extant (Cotton MS. Julius C. iii. f. 151 b; Letters of Eminent Literary Men, Camd. Soc. p. 126) on this subject a letter signed, with painful effort, 22 Oct. 1623, after he had received the stroke which shortly preceded his death. In another letter, dated simply 26 Oct., probably 1623, he refers to the office of Clarenceux having been given to another, and continues that 'they proposed to leave me 600l. presently, and an hundred mark a year' (Cotton MS. Faustina E. i. f. 131).
Early in 1621 he was summoned to court to exercise his office of king-of-arms on the creation of Lord-chancellor Bacon as Viscount St. Albans; and in June of the same year he was present at the degradation of Sir Francis Mitchell (Apparat Annal. Jac. I, pp. 65, 72).
At the end of August 1621 he had a return of the blood-vomiting. He had long had the design of founding a history lectureship at Oxford, and now he executed a deed of gift, 5 March 1622, and sent it down to the university, where it was published in convocation on 17 May. The endowment was provided out of the manor of Bexley in Kent, which Camden had purchased of Sir Henry Spelman. The rents, valued at 400l. per annum, were settled on William Heather and his heirs for a term of ninety-nine years, dating from the time of Camden's death, and during this term the annual stipend of 140l. was to be paid to the professor of history. The first professor, appointed by Camden himself, was Degory Wheare.
Within a few weeks of this foundation Camden records, in the last entry in his 'Memorabilia,' a night of illness on 7 June 1622. Little more than a year after (18 Aug. 1623) he fell from his chair, stricken with paralysis, which for the moment deprived him of the use of his hands and feet (Apparat. Annal. Jac. I, p. 82). This was followed by an illness which put an end to his life, 9 Nov. 1623. His body was brought up to his house at Westminster, and on the 19th of the month was thence carried to burial in the abbey, and laid, in the presence of a large company, in the southern transept (see a copy of his funeral certificate, which gives the names of persons who attended, printed in The Visitation of co. Hunt., Camd. Soc., 1849, p. xi). His monument of white marble, which is affixed to the wall above his grave, represents him at half length, his left hand resting on a closed book, on which is the word 'Britannia.' It is curious that in the inscription his age is wrongly stated to have been seventy-four. Smith (p. 75) tells an apparently absurd story, on the faith of gossip of Charles Hatton, that the nose of the effigy was wilfully damaged by a young man, one of whose relatives had been reflected on by Camden. Another and more probable account of the mischief is that the cavaliers or independents who broke into the abbey at night to deface the hearse of the Earl of Essex (1646) 'used the like uncivil deportment towards the effigies of old learned Camden, cut in pieces the book held in his hand, broke off his nose, and otherwise defaced his visiognomy' (Perfect Diurnal, 23-30 Nov. 1646, quoted in Stanley's Memorials of Westm. Abbey, 1876, p. 290). The damages were repaired at the cost of the university of Oxford. An oration in Camden's honour, which was delivered by Zouch Townley, deputy-orator, and another ('Parentatio Historica') by Degory Wheare, together with various copies of complimentary verses composed by members of the university, were published in 1624 under the title of 'Camdeni Insignia.'
During his long service at Westminster School, Camden had laid by sufficient means to content him. By his will, which was proved 10 Nov. 1623, William Heather being executor, and which was printed by Hearne (Curious Discourses, ii. 390), he left a number of small sums to various friends and dependents. His cousin John Wyatt, painter, of London, receives the largest bequest of 100l. A piece of plate is left to Sir Fulke Greville, lord Brooke, 'who preferred me gratis to my office.' The two city guilds of Painters and Cordwainers also received each a piece of plate, with directions to have it inscribed as the gift of 'Guil. Camdenus, filius Sampsonis pictoris Londinensis.' With regard to his books and manuscripts Camden directs that Sir Robert Cotton 'shall have the first view of them, that he may take out such as I borrowed of him,' and then bequeaths to him all except heraldic collections and ancient seals, which were to pass, at a valuation, to his successors in the office of Clarenceux. The printed books, however, were diverted to another use; for on the building of the new library attached to the abbey, Dr. John Williams, bishop of Lincoln and dean of Westminster, 'laid hold of an expression in the will that was capable of a double meaning' (Gibson), and removed the books thither. Sir Henry Bourghchier, in his letter to Ussher (Parr, Life of Ussher, p. 302), says: 'His library, I hope, will fall to my share, by an agreement between his executors and me; which I much desire, partly to keep it entire, out of my love to the defunct.'
Camden appears to have been of a peculiarly happy temperament. His gentleness of disposition made and kept him many friends. He was active in body, of middle height, of a pleasant countenance, and as his portraits, taken when he was well advanced in life, present him, of a ruddy complexion. He was careless of ordinary personal distinction, and refused knighthood. 'I never made suit to any man,' he writes in his letter to Ussher in 1616 (ep. 195), 'no, not to his majesty, but for a matter of course, incident to my place; neither, God be praised, I needed, having gathered a contented sufficiency by my long labours in the school.' And again, his own words, 'My life and my writings shall apologise for me' (ep. 194), might have been adopted as his motto.
Among his intimate friends Smith enumerates Sir Robert Cotton, Bishop Godwin, Matthew Sutcliffe, Sir Henry Savile, Sir Henry Wotton, Archbishop Ussher, Sir Henry Bourghchier, Sir Henry Spelman, and John Selden. In addition, his printed correspondence connects him with Thomas Savile, who died early (1592), Degory Wheare, John Johnstone of St. Andrews, Sir William Beecher the diplomatist, and many other Englishmen; and with Ortelius, James Gruter, the librarian of the Elector Palatine, the historian and statesman, Jacques de Thou, Casaubon, Peter Sweerts, Peiresc, Jean Hotman, once Leicester's secretary, and others. Of his friendship with De Thou he seems to have been especially proud, as he enters in his 'Memorabilia,' as he had done in the case of Brisson, a note of their first acquaintance in 1606.
Camden's 'Britannia, sive Florentissimorum Regnorum Angliæ, Scotiæ, Hiberniæ, et Insularum adjacentium ex intimâ antiquitate Chorographica Descriptio,' was first published, in 8vo, in 1586. Anthony Wood (ii. 343, ed. Bliss) has erroneously stated that editions appeared in 1582 and 1585. Camden himself has fixed the true date in his 'Memorabilia,' in 1586, 'Britanniam edidi.' The second edition, which besides other additions is distinguished by an index, was issued, in the same size, in 1587. The third edition, also 8vo, followed in 1590; a facsimile of it being also published at Frankfort, and again issued in 1616. The fourth edition, in 4to, is dated 1594. The fifth, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, also in 4to, was published in 1600, and is the first edition which treats of coins, of which it has six plates, besides four maps and a view of Stonehenge. The sixth edition, the last issued in Camden's lifetime, appeared in 1607, in folio, and has large additions. It is dedicated to James I, and has maps of several counties by Saxton and Norden. It was reprinted as the fourth part of Jansson's 'Novus Atlas' in 1659; and two editions of an epitome were published in Holland in 1617 and 1639.
The 'Britannia' was first translated into English by Philemon Holland, apparently under Camden's own direction. Two editions were issued, in 1610 and 1637. Edmund Gibson, afterwards bishop of Lincoln (1716), and of London (1723), published the first edition of his translation, in folio, in 1695; the second, in two vols. folio, in 1722. The latter was reprinted in 1753; and again, with a few corrections, by Gibson's son-in-law, George Scott, in 1772. The last translation was by Richard Gough, who issued it, with very large additions, in three vols. folio, in 1789. A second edition, in four vols. (the first alone being revised by the editor), was issued in 1806. The Ashmole MS. 849 contains an English translation by Richard Knolles, which was found in Camden's study after his death, having probably been presented to him by the translator.
The first part of the 'Annales' was published in 1615, in folio. The second part appeared (with a reprint of the first part) at Leyden in 1625 in 8vo, and independently, but uniform with the 1615 edition of the first part, in London in 1627. Further editions of the complete work were issued at Leyden in 8vo in 1639 and 1677. The most perfect edition is that printed by Hearne from Dr. Smith's copy, which had received corrections from Camden's own hand, collated with a manuscript in the Rawlinson collection, three vols. 8vo, 1717.
A French translation of the first part was published by Paul de Bellegent in London, 1624, 4to, and of both parts in Paris, 1627. This translation of the first part was turned into English by Abraham Darcie, or Darcy, in 1625, 4to. The second part of the 'Annals' was translated into English by Thomas Browne, in 1629, 4to. An English version of the whole work, by R. N[orton], appeared in 1635. English editions were also issued in 1675 and 1688, folio. The work was also incorporated in White Kennet's 'Complete History,' 1706.
Camden's correspondence was published by Dr. Thomas Smith: 'V. cl. Gulielmi Camdeni et Illustrium Virorum ad G. Camdenum Epistolæ,' London, 1691, 4to. (The original letters to Camden are contained in Cotton MS. Julius C. v.) The volume also includes a Latin life of Camden; Zouch Townley's oration on his death; his notes of the reign of James I, 'Regni Regis Jacobi I Annalium Apparatus;' a single leaf of autobiographical 'Memorabilia de seipso;' and a few smaller pieces. An English version, with some omissions, of his 'Notes of the Reign of James' was incorporated in White Kennet's 'Complete History,' 1706.
Several of Camden's short papers on heraldic or antiquarian subjects, which he seems to have written for a Society of Antiquaries of which he was a member (see Spelman's 'Original of the Terms,' in Gibson's Relig. Spelmannianæ, 1723, p. 69), are printed in Hearne's 'Collection of Curious Discourses,' 1771. Specimens of his power in Latin verse composition are to be seen in some small pieces printed by Smith, and in his 'Marriage of Thame and Isis' in the 'Britannia' (Oxfordshire).
We learn from Smith that it was at the request of Peiresc and other friends that Camden had his portrait taken. The artist was Marc Geerarts, and two of the three extant authentic portraits are from his hand. The first came to the hands of Degory Wheare, who presented it to the History School at Oxford. It is now in the gallery of the Bodleian Library. The second belonged to Sir Robert Cotton, and remained until recently with his library in the British Museum. It is now in the National Portrait Gallery. A third portrait, taken by stealth, when Camden was on his deathbed, belonged to Lord-chancellor Clarendon. It still forms part of the Clarendon Gallery (see Lady Theresa Lewis's Friends of Clarendon, 1852, iii. 284). Two other portraits, in possession of the College of Arms and the PainterStainers' Company, perished in the fire of London. A copy of one of the originals was made for Sylvan Morgan, who also set up a second, much decorated, as a sign before his door.
The engraved portraits of Camden are as follows: 1. Oval, by J. T. de Bry, in Boissard's 'Bibliotheca sive Thesaurus Virtutis et Gloriæ,' 1628, sm. 4to. 2. Small oval (by J. Payne ?), bearing the name of G. Humble as publisher; the plate afterwards used, Humble's name being cleaned off, in the 1637 edition, and again, retouched, in the 1657 edition of the 'Remains,' sm. 4to. 3. Small square, by W. Marshall, in Fuller's 'Holy State,' 1648, folio. 4. In a herald's coat, very unlike all the others, and perhaps copied from Morgan's 'sign,' by J. Gaywood, in Morgan's 'Sphere of Gentry,' 1661, sm. folio. 5. An adaptation of 2 by R. White, in the 'Remains,' 1674, 8vo. 6. Another, larger, by White, representing Camden at fifty-eight years of age, a.d. 1609, in the 'Epistolæ,' 1691, 4to. 7. In a herald's coat, also by White, large, in Gibson's 'Britannia,' 1695, folio. 8. The Bodleian portrait, engraved by Basire for Gough's 'Britannia,' 1789, folio. 9. A small head-piece, by G. Vertue, for Wise's ed. of Asser, 1722. In addition, there are a few modern copies, including one after the Clarendon portrait.
Camden's house at Chislehurst passed, in the last century, into the hands of the family of Pratt, barons Camden, who took their title from the property. To the present generation it is known as the place of retirement of the French emperor, Louis Napoleon.[Camden's Memorabilia de seipso, his Jac. I Annalium Apparatus, and his correspondence, all in Smith's Camdeni Epistolæ (1691); his address ad Lectorem in the 1600 ed. of the Britannia; Degory Wheare's Parentatio Historica (1624); Camdoni Vita, by Smith (1601); Life in Gibson's Britannia; Life in Gough's Britannia ; Life in Bayle's Dictionary (1736); Life in the Biographia Britannica; Life in Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (ed. Bliss), vol. ii.: Letters of Eminent Literary Men (Camd. Soc. 1843); Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers (1875)].