Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowlands, Richard

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ROWLANDS alias VERSTEGEN, RICHARD (fl. 1565–1620), antiquary, born in the parish of St. Catherine, near the Tower of London, was grandson of Theodore Roland Verstegen, of an ancient Dutch family which was driven from Gelderland to England about 1500. His father was a cooper. Rowlands, after a good education, was entered at Christ Church, Oxford, in the beginning of 1565 as ‘Richard Rowlands, servant to Mr. Barnard’ (Oxf. Univ. Reg. Oxf. Hist. Soc. II. ii. 14). A zealous catholic, he declined the tests essential to a degree, and left the university without one. While there, however, he distinguished himself by his study of early English history, and began to learn Anglo-Saxon. In 1576 he published a translation from the German, entitled ‘The Post of the World, wherin is contayned the antiquities and originall of the most famous cities in Europe,’ London, by Thomas East, 12mo, with a dedication to Sir Thomas Gresham [q. v.], who was then living as royal agent at Antwerp. Rowlands soon after removed to that town, dropped his English name, and resumed the paternal Verstegen. He set up a printing press (Hazlitt, Collections, ii. 70), wrote books, and, being an artist of no mean skill, engraved some of the cuts for them himself. He also acted as agent for the transmission of catholic literature (some of which he printed), and letters to and from England, Spain, Rome, and the Netherlands. He was in frequent correspondence with Cardinal Allen and Robert Parsons, and for a time in their pay (Strype, Annals, iv. 207; Cal. Hatfield MSS. v. 26).

About 1587 Rowlands was living in Paris, where his narrative of Elizabeth's treatment of the catholics in England in his ‘Theatrum Crudelitatum Hæreticorum nostri Temporis,’ Antwerp, 1587, 4to (translated into French, Antwerp, 1588, 4to), excited the attention of the English ambassador, and he was thrown into prison. Upon his release he returned to Antwerp and reprinted the book in 1588 (another edition, 1592). He was back in France in 1595 on his way to Spain, where he had an interview with Philip, and spent some time at the catholic college at Seville. At the end of the same year he was once more in Antwerp, living ‘near the bridge of the tapestry makers,’ and interpreting English letters for the postmaster (Cal. Hatfield MSS. v. 225). He had then married a lady who is described as ‘doing much to keep up his credit’ (Wadsworth, English Spanish Pilgrims, ii. 67). He corresponded with Sir R. Cotton up to 1617, and was still living in Antwerp in 1620.

Rowlands's other works were published under the name or initials of Richard Verstegen. The most interesting of them was ‘Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning the English Nation,’ Antwerp, 1605, 4to, reprinted in London, 1673, 8vo; in this work, dedicated to James I, Verstegen protests his English birth. He gives a summary of the early invasions of Great Britain, the formation of its languages, surnames, and other matters, and exhibits his knowledge of Anglo-Saxon. He also published:

  1. ‘Odes in Imitation of the Seaven Penitential Psalms,’ Antwerp, 1601, 8vo.
  2. ‘A Dialogue on Dying well,’ translated from the Italian of Dom Peter of Lucca, Antwerp, 1603.
  3. ‘Sundry Successive Regal Governments of England, in one large sheet with cuts, Antwerp, 1620.
  4. ‘Neder Dvytsche Epigrammen,’ Mechelen, 1617, 8vo.
  5. ‘Spiegel der Nederlandsche Elenden,’ Mechelen, 1621. ‘England's Joy,’ by R. R., London, 1601, 4to, verses occasioned by Lord Mountjoy's defeat of Irish rebels under Tyrone, is doubtfully attributed to him.

The ‘Nederlantsche Antiquiteyten,’ Brussels, 1646, 12mo, and other works in Dutch attributed to Rowlands, are probably all by another Richard Verstegen or Verstegan whose will was dated Antwerp, 26 Feb. 1640, and whose widow, Catharina de Saulchy, remarried in August 1640 (Huberts, Biogr. Woordenboek). He may have been Rowlands's son.

[Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 428; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 392; Hazlitt's Handbook and Bibliogr. Collections passim, chiefly s. v. ‘Verstegan;’ Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. xxx. 318; Brydges's Censura Lit. ii. 95; Burgon's Life and Times of Sir T. Gresham, i. 203, ii. 479; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1591–4 pp. 478, 520, 533, 534, 1595–7 pp. 36, 40, 39, 488, 1598–1601 p. 510, 1580–1625 p. 290; Hist. MSS Comm. Rep.; Cal. of Hatfield MSS. iv. 498, v. 26, 63, 225, 252, 445; Foulis's Hist. of Romish Treasons, &c., 1681, pp. 320, 322, 323; Watson's Quodlibets of Rel. and State, 1602, p. 257; Gul. Barcl. Contra Monarchomachos, bk. vi. cap. 7 pp. 438, 439; Sir T. Herbert's Travels; Hessels's Epist. Abrahami Ortelii, p. 524, 525; Cotton MS. Jul. C. iii. f. 47.]

C. F. S.