Nasmith, James (DNB00)

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NASMITH, JAMES (1740–1808), antiquary, son of a carrier who came from Scotland, and plied between Norwich and London, was born at Norwich late in 1740. He was sent by his father to Amsterdam for a year to complete his school education, and was entered in 1760 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. 1764, M.A. 1767, and D.D. 1797. In 1765 he was elected to a fellowship in his college, he acted for some time as its sub-tutor, and in 1771 he was the junior proctor of the university. Having been ordained in the English church, he served for some years as the minister of the sequestrated benefice of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire. Nasmith devoted his leisure to antiquarian research, and he was elected F.S.A. on 30 Nov. 1769. He was nominated by his college in 1773 to the rectory of St. Mary Abchurch with St. Laurence Pountney, London, but he exchanged it before he could be instituted for the rectory of Snailwell, Cambridgeshire. He was then occupied in arranging and cataloguing the manuscripts which Archbishop Parker gave to his college, and he desired for convenience in his work to be resident near the university. The catalogue was finished in February 1775, and presented by him to the master and fellows, who directed that it should be printed under his direction, and that the profits of the sale should be given to him. When the headship of his college became vacant in 1778, he was considered, being ‘a decent man, of a good temper and beloved in his college,’ to have pretensions for the post; but he declined the offer of it, and was promoted by Bishop Yorke in 1796 to the rich rectory of Leverington, in the isle of Ely. As magistrate for Cambridgeshire and chairman for many years of the sessions at Cambridge and Ely, he studied the poor laws and other economical questions affecting his district. He was also for some time chaplain to John Hobart, second earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.] After a long and painful illness he died at Leverington on 16 Oct. 1808, aged 67, and was buried in the church, where his widow erected a monument to his memory on the north side of the chancel. He married in 1774 Susanna, daughter of John Salmon, rector of Shelton, Norfolk, and sister of Benjamin Salmon, fellow of his college. She died at Norwich on 11 Nov. 1814, aged 75, bequeathing ‘considerable sums for the use of public and private charities.’ His character was warmly commended by Cole, in spite of differences of opinion in ecclesiastical matters, and Sir Egerton Brydges adds that he was much respected. ‘His person and manners and habits were plain.’

Nasmith edited: 1. ‘Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum quos collegio Corporis Christi in Acad. Cantabrigiensi legavit Matthæus Parker, archiepiscopus Cantuariensis,’ 1777. 2. ‘Itineraria Symonis Simeonis et Willelmi de Worcestre, quibus accedit tractatus de Metro,’ 1778. 3. ‘Notitia Monastica, or an Account of all the Abbies, Priories, and Houses of Friers formerly in England and Wales.’ By Bishop Tanner. ‘Published 1744 by John Tanner, and now reprinted, with many additions,’ 1787. The additions consisted mainly of references to books and manuscripts. Many copies of this edition of the ‘Notitia Monastica’ remained on hand, and, after being warehoused for twenty years, were consumed by fire on 8 Feb. 1808. Nasmith was also author of: 4. ‘The Duties of Overseers of the Poor and the Sufficiency of the present system of Poor Laws considered. A charge to the Grand Jury at Ely Quarter Sessions, 2 April. With remarks on a late publication on the Poor Laws by Robert Saunders,’ 1799. 5. ‘An Examination of the Statutes now in force relating to the Assize of Bread,’ 1800. Saunders replied to these criticisms in ‘An Abstract of Observations on the Poor Laws, with a Reply to the Remarks of the Rev. James Nasmith,’ 1802. The assistance of Nasmith is acknowledged in the preface to Henry Swinden's ‘History of Great Yarmouth,’ which was edited by John Ives in 1772.

[Gent. Mag., 1808 pt. ii. p. 958, 1814 pt. ii. p. 610; Masters's Corpus Christi Coll. (ed. Lamb), pp. 406–7; Lysons's Cambridgeshire, pp. 228, 260; Watson's Wisbech, p. 464; Brydges's Restituta, iii. 220–1; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 164, viii. 593–9, 614, ix. 647.]

W. P. C.