Peers, Richard (DNB00)

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PEERS, RICHARD (1645–1690), translator and author, the son of Richard Peers of Lisburn, co. Antrim, was born there in 1645. His father, a poor tanner, apprenticed him to his own trade. Peers, however, ran away to Bristol, whence an uncle sent him to a school in Carmarthenshire. It is stated on doubtful authority that the master was Jeremy Taylor, and that by Taylor's intercession Peers became a scholar at Westminster under Busby. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 22 July 1664, aged 19, was elected student in 1665, and graduated B.A. in 1668, M.A. in 1671. As an undergraduate he eked out his scanty living by ‘doing the exercises of idle scholars.’ In 1670 the delegates of the university press bought of Wood for 100l. his completed ‘History and Antiquities,’ with a view to publishing a Latin translation. The work was entrusted to Dr. Fell of Christ Church, who employed Peers to execute it. Wood says that Peers was no Latin scholar when he took up the translation, and frequent alterations had at first to be made in his rendering. In a year, however, he translated to the end of 1298, and ‘at length, by his great diligence and observation overcoming the difficulties, became a compleat master of the Latin tongue, and what he did was excellent.’ Peers and Fell, however, took many liberties with the original, much to Wood's annoyance, and Wood consequently always treated Peers with contempt. He calls him ‘a rogue’ and ‘a sullen, dogged, clownish, and perverse fellow;’ speaks of his ‘low, drunken company,’ and accuses him of forsaking his studies, marrying a wife, and enjoying the goods of the world. The Latin version of the ‘History and Antiquities’ was published in 1674, Oxford, folio.

On 18 Sept. 1675 Peers was elected esquire bedell of arts as a reward for his translation; ‘I was absent,’ writes Wood, ‘else he should not have carried it.’ Later on he became esquire bedell of physic, and on 6 July 1688 was licensed to practise medicine; he is said to have qualified himself for medicine, fearing James II would expel him from his studentship of Christ Church and leave him destitute. He was not present in his capacity of senior bedell at the reception of the king in September 1687, because, says Wood, ‘being fat and wieldy, he could not ride or walk as others could.’ He died at his residence at Holywell, near Oxford, on Monday, 11 Aug. 1690, about 8 or 9 A.M., and was buried in St. Aldate's Church, in the middle aisle of which is a flat stone to his memory.

Besides his translation of Wood's ‘History and Antiquities,’ Peers compiled the first catalogue of Oxford graduates, entitled ‘A Catalogue of Graduats in Divinity, Law, and Physick; and of all Masters of Arts and Doctors of Music who have regularly proceeded or been created in the University of Oxford; between the 10th of October 1659 and the 14th of July 1688,’ Oxford, 1689, 8vo; many subsequent editions, with continuations, have been published. Peers also wrote ‘Four small copies of Verses on Sundry Occasions,’ Oxford, 1667, 4to, and ‘The Description of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries or Netherlands,’ Oxford, 1682, fol., which is the fourth volume of the ‘English Atlas’ published by Moses Pitt [q. v.] The latter is a substantial compilation, containing 244 large double-column folio pages. He translated into English the life of Alcibiades in ‘Lives of Illustrious Men,’ from the Latin of Cornelius Nepos, Oxford, 1684, 8vo, and contributed a set of verses to the Oxford collection on the death of the Duke of Albemarle. Wood also attributes to him ‘A Poem in Vindication of the late Public Proceedings, by Way of a Dialogue between a High Tory and a Trimmer,’ folio, no date.

By his wife, who was an Oxford lady, Peers had a son, Richard Peers (1685–1739), who was born in the parish of All Saint's, Oxford, on 15 July 1685, matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, on 3 Dec. 1701, was elected scholar in 1702, graduated B.A. 1705 and M.A. 1708. From 1710 to 1711 he was vicar of Hartley-Wintney, Hampshire, and of Faringdon, Berkshire, from 1711 till his death there on 20 July 1739. He was author of: 1. ‘The Character of an Honest Dissenter,’ 3rd edit. Oxford, 1717, 8vo; another edition was published in 1718, and it called forth two letters from an anonymous clergyman, published in 1716 and 1717, and a reply by Thomas Moore, entitled ‘The Honesty of Protestant Dissenters Vindicated,’ 1718, 8vo. 2. ‘The Great Tendency …’ London, 1731, 8vo. 3. ‘A Companion for the Aged,’ of which the fourteenth edition was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1823.

[Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Cat. Bodleian Libr.; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, iv. 199, 290–291, Fasti, ii. 301, 308, and Life and Times, ed. Clark, passim; Hearne's Collectanea, ii. 63; Gutch's preface to the Hist. and Antiq. Oxford, 1786; Peshall's Oxford, p. 16; List of Queen's Scholars, p. 159; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Ware's Ireland, ii. 205–6.]

A. F. P.