Cotgrave, Randle (DNB00)

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COTGRAVE, RANDLE (d. 1634?), lexicographer, may possibly be Randal, son of William Cotgreve of Christleton in Cheshire, who is mentioned in the pedigree of the Cotgreve family, contained in Harl. MS. 1500, fol. 118. A fact which gives some support to this identification is that the Cotgreve arms, as depicted in this manuscript, are (with the exception of some trifling discrepancies in the tinctures, due probably to error on the part of the copyist) the same as those which appear on a seal used by Randle Cotgrave on one of his extant autograph letters. The arms borne by Hugh Cotgrave, Richmond herald in 1566, who has sometimes been supposed to be the father of Randle Cotgrave, are quite different. It is certain that Randle Cotgrave belonged to Cheshire, and that he was admitted scholar of St. John's College, Cambridge, on the Lady Margaret foundation, 10 Nov. 1587. He subsequently became secretary to William Cecil, lord Burghley, eldest son of Thomas, first earl of Exeter. In dedicating to Lord Burghley his French-English dictionary, Cotgrave says that to his patron's favour he owes ‘all that he is or has been for many years,’ and thanks him for his kindness in ‘so often dispensing with the ordinary assistance of an ordinary servant.’ The dictionary was first published in 1611; a second edition was published in 1632, together with an English-French dictionary by Robert Sherwood. Subsequent editions, revised and enlarged by James Howell, appeared in 1650, 1660, and 1673. The author presented a copy of the first edition of his work to Prince Henry, eldest son of James I, and received from him a gift of ten pounds. Cotgrave's dictionary, although not free from ludicrous mistakes, was, for the time at which it was published, an unusually careful and intelligent piece of lexicographical work, and is still constantly referred to by students, both of English and of French philology. Two autograph letters of Cotgrave are extant, both addressed to M. Beaulieu, secretary to the British ambassador at Paris. The first of these, dated 27 Nov. 1610, was printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 3rd ser. viii. 84, and relates to the progress that was being made with the printing of his dictionary, in the preparation of which he says that he had received valuable help from Beaulieu himself and from a Mr. Limery. In the other letter (Harl. MS. 7002, fol. 221) Cotgrave states that he has sent his correspondent two copies of his book, and requests payment of twenty-two shillings, ‘which they cost me, who have not been provident enough to reserve any of them, and therefore am forced to be beholden for them to a base and mechanicall generation, that suffers no respect to weigh down a private gain.’ It appears from this letter that Cotgrave was still in Lord Burghley's service. If he be the same person as the ‘Randal Cotgreve’ of the Harl. MS., he became subsequently registrar to the bishop of Chester, and married Ellinor Taylor of that city, by whom he had four sons, William, Randolf, Robert, and Alexander, and a daughter Mary. The 1632 edition of the dictionary was evidently carried through the press by the author himself, the year of whose death is given in Cooper's ‘Memorials of Cambridge’ as 1634.

[Harl. MSS. 1500, fol. 118, 7002, fol. 221; Joseph Hunter, in Addit. MS. 24492, fol. 14; Cooper's Memorials of Cambridge, ii. 113; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 9, 3rd ser. viii. 84; Cunningham's Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels (Shakespeare Soc.), p. xvi.]

H. B.