Coxeter, Thomas (DNB00)

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COXETER, THOMAS (1689–1747), literary antiquary, born at Lechlade in Gloucestershire on 20 Sept. 1689, was educated at Coxwell, Berkshire, and at Magdalen school in Oxford. On 7 July 1705 he was entered a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford. Having completed his course at the university, he came to London with the intention of engaging in the practice of the civil law; but in 1710, on the death of his patron, Sir John Cook, dean of arches, he abandoned the legal profession and devoted himself to literary and antiquarian pursuits. An elegy in a book entitled ‘Astræa Lacrimans,’ published anonymously in 1710, was probably written by Coxeter. In 1720 he contributed one or more of the indexes to Hudson's edition of ‘Josephus;’ and in 1739 he published a new edition of Baily's (or rather Dr. Richard Hall's) ‘Life of Bishop Fisher.’ Coxeter was a zealous collector of old English plays, and allowed the Shakespearean editor, Theobald, to make free use of his treasures. He also assisted Ames in the preparation of ‘Typographical Antiquities.’ In 1744 he circulated proposals for issuing an annotated edition of the dramatic works of Thomas May, but the scheme was never carried out. He stated in the prospectus that, having determined to ‘revive the best of our old plays, faithfully collated with all the editions that could be found in a search of above thirty years,’ he ‘happened to communicate his scheme to one who now invades it,’—the reference being to Robert Dodsley, whose ‘Select Collection of Old Plays’ appeared in 1744. In the same prospectus he promised an edition (which was never published) of the works of Thomas Sackville, lord Buckhurst. In 1747 he was appointed secretary to a society for the encouragement of an essay towards a complete English history. He died of a fever on 19 April 1747, and was buried in the chapel yard of the Royal Hospital of Bridewell. His daughter, whose necessities were frequently relieved by Dr. Johnson, died in 1807. Coxeter's manuscript collections were largely used in Cibber's ‘Lives of the Poets’ and in Warton's ‘History of English Poetry.’ His statements are to be received with caution, for he did not scruple to invent titles of imaginary books. In 1759 appeared, in four volumes, an edition of Massinger's works, ‘revised, corrected, and editions collated by Mr. Coxeter.’ Gifford pronounces a very severe judgment on his predecessor's labours. ‘Though educated at the university,’ he remarks, ‘Coxeter exhibits no proofs of literature. To critical sagacity he has not the smallest pretension; his conjectures are void alike of ingenuity and probability, and his historical references at once puerile and incorrect.’ If Coxeter's ‘Massinger’ had been issued during the editor's lifetime, Gifford's animadversions would not have been too strong; but as Coxeter did not see the edition through the press, and had left only a few scattered notes, the attack was hardly justifiable.

[Gent. Mag. li. 173–4; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ii. 512–13; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, iv. 209–10; Boswell's Johnson, ed. 1840, pp. 171, 547; Introduction to Gifford's Massinger, 2nd edit. pp. lxxxix–xciii; Oldys's Annotated Langbaine, p. 353.]

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