Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Elworthy, Frederick Thomas

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ELWORTHY, FREDERICK THOMAS (1830–1907), philologist and antiquary, eldest son of Thomas Elworthy, woollen manufacturer, of Wellington, Somerset, by his wife Jane, daughter of William Chorley of Quarm, near Dunster, was born at Wellington on 10 Jan. 1830, and was educated at a private school at Denmark Hill. Though studious from boyhood, he did not enter on authorship until middle life. He became eminent first as a philologist and later as a writer on folk-lore. His two books on the evil eye and kindred superstitions contain much curious information gathered during travels in Spain, Italy, and other countries, in the course of which he made perhaps the finest collection of charms, amulets, and such-like trinkets in existence; this collection, at present in the possession his widow, is destined for the Somersetshire Archæological Society's museum at Tauntor He contributed to 'Archæologia,' was the council of the Philological Society, and in 1891-6 was editorial secretary of the Somersetshire Archæological Society, for whose 'Proceedings,' as well as for those of the Devonshire Association, he wrote some valuable papers. He was elected F.S.A. on 14 June 1900. He was a good linguist and possessed considerable skill as a draughtsman and as an artist in water-colours. He was a prominent churchman, and the erection of All Saints' Church, Wellington, was largely due to his liberality and exertions. He was a magistrate, a churchwarden, an active member of the Wellington school board, and a prominent freemason. After an illness which began in the summer of 1906 he died at his residence, Foxdown, Wellington, on 13 Dec. 1907, and was buried in the churchyard of the parish church there.

By his marriage with Maria, daughter of James Kershaw, M.P., on 17 Aug. 1854, he had three sons, who all predeceased him, and three daughters, two of whom survived him.

Elworthy prepared for publication by the English Dialect Society:

  1. 'The Dialect of West Somerset,' 1875 (a paper read before the Philological Soc.).
  2. 'An Outline of the Grammar of the Dialect of West Somerset,' 1877 (papers read before the Philolog. Soc. in 1876 and 1877); this work was described by Sir James A. H. Murray, editor of the ' New English Dictionary,' as 'the first grammar of an English dialect of any scientific value.'
  3. 'An edition of 'An Exmoor Scolding and an Exmoor Courtship, with a Somersetshire Man's Complaint,' 1879.
  4. 'The West Somerset Word-book, a Glossary,' 1886.

Elworthy also published:

  1. 'Canonsleigh,' 1892, reprinted from the ' Transactions of the Devonshire Association.'
  2. 'Some Notes on the History of Wellington,' 4to, 1892.
  3. 'The Evil Eye,' 1895.
  4. 'Horns of Honour and other Studies in the Byways of Archaeology,' 1900.

From the inception of the 'New English Dictionary' to his death Elworthy gave much voluntary help both in supplying quotations and in assisting in arrangement.

[Wellington Weekly News, 18 Dec. 1907, with an appreciation by Sir James Murray; Athenæum, 21 Dec. 1907; Somerset Archæol. Soc. Proc., 3rd ser. vol. xiii. 1908 (with good portrait); information supplied by Mr. C. Tite of Taunton; personal recollection.]

W. H.