Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ainsworth, Robert
AINSWORTH, ROBERT (1660–1743), lexicographer, was born at Woodyale, in the parish of Eccles, four miles from Manchester, in September 1660. He received his education at Bolton, in Lancashire, and afterwards kept a school in that town. In or before 1698 he removed to London, and for a time he was master of ‘a considerable boarding-school’ at Bethnal Green. During his residence there he published, probably as a kind of advertisement, a very suggestive pamphlet on ‘The most Natural and Easie Way of Institution,’ containing various useful proposals in the direction of educational reform. He afterwards removed his school to Hackney, and carried it on successively at other villages in the neighbourhood of the metropolis.
Having acquired a moderate fortune, Ainsworth gave up his school, and spent the remainder of his life in a private manner. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1724, and honourable mention is made of him in the history of the society prefixed to the first volume of the 'Archæologia.' After retiring from his school he devoted a good deal of his time to ransacking the shops of obscure brokers in every quarter of London, by which means he often procured old coins and other valuable curiosities at a small cost. He disposed of his collection of antiquities and rarities in single articles a short time before his death. Hearne in his jottings (30 Aug. 1734) says: 'Mr. Aynsworth formerly kept a boarding school, and had a very flourishing school. His wife is dead, but he had no children. He is not in orders. He was born in Lancashire, in which county he is about making a settlement, being down there at present, for the poor for ever, having no relations but at a great distance. He hath been said to be a nonjuror. I think he is rather a Calvinist. . . . He hath a very great collection of coins. A maid servant robb'd him of many gold and silver ones. Dr. Middleton Massey is well acquainted with him. He is well spoken of in Westminster school.' Thomas Jackson, in his 'Life of Charles Wesley,' states that 'among those who visited Charles at this time (May 1738) was the learned Mr. Ainsworth, author of the Latin Dictionary which bears his name. He was now venerable through age, and attended the methodist meetings for prayer and spiritual converse, in the spirit of a little child.' Charles Wesley himself in his journal (12 May 1738), remarks: 'I was much moved at the sight of Mr. Ainsworth, a man of great learning, above seventy, who, like old Simeon, was waiting to see the Lord's salvation, that he might depart in peace. His tears, and vehemence, and childlike simplicity showed him upon the entrance of the kingdom of heaven.' Again Charles Wesley writes (24 May 1738): 'I was much pleased to-day at the sight of Mr. Ainsworth; a little child, full of grief, and fears, and love. At our repeating the line of the hymn—
Now descend and shake the earth,
he fell down as in an agony.'
Ainsworth died in London, 4 April 1743, in the eighty-third year of his age, and was buried at Poplar, where is the following monumental inscription for him and his wife, written by himself:—
Rob. Ainsworth et Uxor ejus, admodum senes,
Dormituri, vestem detritam hic exuerunt,
Novam, primo mane surgentes, induturi.
Dum fas, mortalis, sapias, et respice finem,
Hoc suadent manes, hoc canit Amramides.
To thy Reflection, mortal Friend,
Th' Advice of Moses I commend:
Be wise and meditate thy End.
His works are:—1. The tract already alluded to, entitled 'The most Natural and Easie Way of Institution: containing Proposals for making a Domestic Education less chargeable to Parents, and more Easie and Beneficial to Children. By which Method, Youth may not only make a very considerable Progress in Languages, but also in Arts and Sciences, in Two Years,' London, 1698, 4to. This sensible treatise shows that Ainsworth was in advance of his age, and that he had arrived at much more correct views of education than were then, and indeed are still, commonly entertained, more especially on the mode of teaching foreign languages. He perceived the absurdity of imparting, at the outset, the abstract rules of grammar, and proposed that languages should be taught after the mode by which every child learns its mother tongue. His ingenious and rational scheme for imparting a knowledge of Latin is thus described: 'I believe the Latin Tongue may be learn'd so far forth as to understand very well a Roman Author, to write Latin correctly, and speak it fluently, and a considerable Knowledge attained in Arts and Sciences, by little Children, by the Proposals following, in two years' time at most, and that with ease and pleasure, both to Master and Scholar. Proposition (1) That a convenient House be taken, a small distance from London, with a large Garden, and other Conveniencies. (2) That there be two Masters, whereof one to be capable of teaching Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: The other, at least, to understand Latin, and speak it fluently; to be well skill'd in Logic, Rhetoric, Geography, and History; and that he write a good Hand. (3) That Latin be made a Living Language in the Family; i.e. That no other Language be us'd in presence of the Boys. (4) That one or both the Masters continually be present with the Pupils, whether Reading, Writing, Translating, or Playing, from 7 in the Morning till 8 at Night. (5) That there be no Rods, or any kind of Punishment, but that a generous Emulation be carry'd on by Rewards; to which use the Parents shall allow per Annum, of which they to have an Account Monthly in a Latin Epistle, by which they may be informed both of their Proficiency and Diligence from time to time. (6) That the number of Pupils exceed not Twelve. (7 ) That they read English well; and that their Master take care to Improve it. (8) That they be not younger than Six, nor older than Eleven Years of Age. (9) That their Authors, and Masters, be their Grammar, Dictionary, and Phrase-Book. (10) That nothing be imposed on them as a Task.' Ainsworth did not place his name on the title-page of the first edition of this pamphlet, but he affixed it to ‘the dedication addressed to Sir William Hustler, M.P.,’ one of the members for Northallerton, with whom he appears to have been previously well acquainted. At the end is the following advertisement:—‘Such as desire to discourse the Author upon these Proposals may hear of him at the Book-sellers, or at the Marine Coffee-House in Birchin Lane, after 'Change, who can inform them of Undertakers.’ A second edition, with a few additions, appeared in 1699; and another, also called the second edition, was brought out in 1736 by the notorious Curll, of Rose Street, Covent Garden, probably without Ainsworth's knowledge or consent. 2. An account, in Latin, of the classical antiquities collected by John Kemp, under the title of ‘Monumenta Vetustatis Kempiana, ex vetustis scriptoribus illustrata, eosque vicissim illustrantia; In duas Partes divisa: Quarum Altera Mumias, Simulacra, Statuas, Signa, Lares, Inscriptiones, Vasa, Lucernas, Amuleta, Lapides, Gemmas, Annulos, Fibulas, cum aliis veterum Reliquiis; Altera Nummos, materia modoque diversos, continet.’ London, 1720, 8vo. Besides the catalogue, profusely illustrated with classical references, the volume contains ten long dissertations on Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities; one being a disquisition on the Roman money, ‘De Asse et Partibus ejus,’ which extends to above seventy pages. There is in the British Museum the handsomely bound presentation copv of this work that was sent to Henry Hare, Lord Coleraine. Two manuscript letters, in most elegant handwriting, addressed by Ainsworth to his lordship, and also a manuscript note by Dr. Birch, are prefixed to this copy. 3. An account of ancient Roman coins, drawn up by him and Roger Gale conjointly for the Society of Antiquaries. 4. ‘Ἴσειον, sive, ex Veteris Monumenti Isaici Descriptione, Isidis Delubrum reseratum,’ 1729, 4to, consisting of only four pages, besides the dedication to James West, Esq. 5. ‘De Clypeo Camilli antiquo,’ 1734, 4to, which had previously appeared at the end of the ‘Museum Woodwardianum,’ or account of the antiquarian collections of Dr. John Woodward, published after Woodward's death in 1728, under the superintendence of Ainsworth, by whom it was in part drawn up. 6. A Latin–English Dictionary. About the year 1714 a proposal was made to some of the leading London booksellers for compiling a new ‘Compendious English and Latin Dictionary’ upon the plan of Faber's ‘Thesaurus.’ Ainsworth was engaged to carry out the design. Delays and difficulties arose, and afterwards, on account of Ainsworth's advanced age and a disorder which affected his eyes, Dr. Samuel Patrick was requested to assist in revising the copy after about a dozen sheets had been struck off. Originally the dictionary was intended to be merely a school book, but the dimensions of the scheme were gradually enlarged, and the authorities for the meaning of the words were added. The first edition appeared with the title ‘Thesaurus Linguæ Latinæ compendiarius; or, a Compendious Dictionary of the Latin Tongue, desired principally for the use of the British Nations,’ in one volume, 1736, 4to. It was inscribed to Dr. Richard Mead in a Latin dedication written with Ainsworth's usual elegance of style. The work was at once recognised as superior to other undertakings of a similar kind, and it long remained the best Latin–English Dictionary. A second edition was brought out in 1746 under the superintendence of Dr. Patrick. Dr. John Ward also assisted in this edition, which, like the first, was in one volume 4to. A third edition, with little or no variation, followed in 1751 under the care of Mr. Kimber, and a fourth in one volume, folio, in 1752, with great improvements by the Rev. William Young, assisted by Ward. An edition, in two vols. 8vo, was published in 1758, under the inspection of Nathanael Thomas, who corrected a fourth edition in 4to, 1761. Another edition, in two vols. 4to, was produced in 1773 under the care of the Rev. Thomas Morell,and many other editions have since appeared, some of them quite recently. One of them, in a single 8vo volume, was reprinted at London in 1829 from the edition of 1752, with numerous additions, emendations, and improvements by the Rev. B. W. B. Beatson, M.A., and William Ellis, M.A. The sum received by Ainsworth for the first edition was 666l. 17s. 6d. For the second edition Ainsworth's executors were paid 250l., Dr. Patrick 101l. 11s. 9d., and Dr. Ward 26l. 5s. Kimber had 21l. for correcting the third edition; and Young 184l. 10s. for his improvements in the folio. Besides these sums 218l. 8s. had been paid by the booksellers to Dr. Morell for correcting Ainsworth, and 261l. 12s. to Mr. Thomas, making a total, up to 1773, of 1,730l. 10s. 3d.