Staunton, Edmund (DNB00)

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STAUNTON, EDMUND (1600–1671), president of Corpus Cbristi College, Oxford, a younger son of Francis (afterwards Sir Francis) Staunton, was born at Woburn, Bedfordshire, on 20 Oct. 1600. He matriculated from Wadham College, Oxford, on 9 June 1615, and on 4 Oct. following was admitted scholar of Corpus Christi. While still an undergraduate, on 22 March 1616-17, he was transferred from the Bedfordshire scholarship to the Bedfordshire fellowship. After a dangerous illness when he was about eighteen, and a narrow escape from drowning in the river, whither he had repaired 'alone, to wash himself,' he had, about 1620, to use his own words, 'many sad and serious thoughts concerning my spiritual and eternal state.' On proceeding M.A. in 1623, he selected the ministry as his profession, and commenced his clerical life as afternoon lecturer at Witney, where he was very acceptable to the people, but obnoxious to the rector of the parish. But he soon left Witney for the valuable living of Bushey in Hertfordshire, and this living he shortly afterwards exchanged for that of Kingston-on-Thames, where he remained for about twenty years, being known by the name of 'the searching preacher.' There he devoted himself to constant preaching and catechising, taught from house to house, and set up a weekly lecture, supplied, in turn, by the most eminent preachers in that part of England. While at Kingston he proceeded B.D.and D.D. at Oxford in 1634, and he was chosen to be not only one of the assembly of divines which met at Westminster in 1643, but also one of the six preachers in the abbey.

When Dr. Robert Newlyn was ejected from the presidency of Corpus by the 'committee of Lords and Commons for Reformation of the University of Oxford' (22 May 1648), Staunton, a former fellow and a leading puritan divine, was appointed in his place. But the actual ejection of Dr. Newlyn and assumption of the office by Dr. Staunton did not take place till 11 July following. Staunton was a great improvement upon his predecessor, who was remarkable solely for the extreme old age to which he lived, and for the shameless nepotism which he practised after his restitution at the Restoration. Staunton was a good disciplinarian, and as a presbyterian divine was earnest in preaching, prayer, and catechising. He thereby incurred the ridicule of the royalist party (for some macaronic verses on his style of preaching, see Fowler, History of Corpus Christi College, pp. 221-2).

On 15 June 1652 Staunton, who had submitted lo the 'engagement,' was nominated by the committee of parliament to be on the new board of visitors, which was limited to ten. On the third board, nominated by the lord protector about two years afterwards, Staunton's name does not appear.

Staunton was, in his turn, ejected from the president's lodgings on 3 Aug. 1660, his predecessor, Newlyn, having been already been reinstated in his office. Withdrawing from Oxford, he retired, in the first instance, to Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, whence he ministered in various parishes around. On St. Bartholomew's day 1662 he was silenced, like other nonconformists, but he seems, after remaining at Rickmansworth about two years longer, to have lived in various private families, and to have exercised his ministerial functions in a private manner possibly, but in defiance of the law. 'His great sufferings and often imprisonments,' alluded to by the author of the 'Brief Relation' (see below), may probably be referred to this period of his life. According to the Rev. Robert Watts (d. 1726), 'after preaching in several conventicles at London, Staunton became pastor of a celebrated meeting-house at Salters' Hall, which was built on purpose for him' (Wood, Athenæ ed. Bliss). His last remove was to Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, where, and at the neighbouring towns, such as St. Albans, 'seeing he could not preach in a church to many, he would preach in a chamber to a few.' He died at Bovingdon on 14 July 1671, and was buried in the parish church, where there still exists 'a fair stone' bearing an inscription with a quaint Latin epitaph to his memory. Ten of Staunton's children lie buried in Kingston church, where a brass over their grave commemorates the fact in doggerel rhyme.

Though so constant a preacher, and occupying so prominent a position among those of his own beliefs, Staunton wrote only a few occasional sermons and two puritanic tracts, entitled respectively 'A Dialogue between a Minister and a Stranger about Soul Affairs,' and 'A Treatise of Christian Conference.' These were published at the end of Mayo's biography in 1671. Staunton's literary unproductiveness affords a confirmation of the character given of him by a junior contemporary: namely, that he was reckoned by his friends 'a man that had parts, but idle, and would instruct but not study for what he did.'

[Fowler's Hist. of Corpus Christi College, pp. 108-9, 211-12. 217-24, 263; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. University and Coll. Registers; The Life and Death of Edmund Staunton, D.D., published by Richard Mayo (or Mayow), of Kingston, London, 1671, to which is added A Brief Relation, &c., by Mr. J. M. A short Appendix to the life of Edmund Staunton, D.D.. London, 1675, published anonymously, but written by Pulman, was a series of sarcastic strictures on the former book.]

T. F.