Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Twyne, Brian

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TWYNE, BRIAN (1579?–1644), Oxford antiquary, son of Thomas Twyne [q. v.] and his wife, Joanna Pumfrett, was born about 1579 at Lewes, where his father was in practice as a physician. Like his father, he was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, being elected scholar on 13 Dec. 1594, and graduating B.A. on 23 July 1599 and M.A. on 9 July 1603. He was elected fellow in 1605, graduated B.D. on 25 June 1610, and became Greek lecturer at his college in 1614. On 15 March 1613–14 he was inducted to the vicarage of Rye in Sussex on the presentation of Richard Sackville, earl of Dorset [q. v.]; he performed his pastoral duties by deputy, and resided mainly at Oxford, though he spent some time at Lewes (Horsfield, Lewes, i. 220). According to Wood, he resigned his lectureship at Corpus about 1623 to avoid being involved in the dispute between the president, Thomas Anyan, and the fellows, fearing the possibility of his own expulsion (but cf. Fowler, Hist. Corpus Christi, p. 155). From that time he devoted his whole energies to the collection of materials relating to the history and antiquities of Oxford.

Before 1608 Twyne became immersed in the controversy respecting the comparative antiquity of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In that year he published his ‘Antiquitatis Academiæ Oxoniensis Apologia. In tres libros divisa’ (Oxford, sm. 4to; another edit. Oxford, 1620, is merely a reissue of the first). It is the earliest history of Oxford, and, considering Twyne's youth, is ‘a wonderful performance’ (Madan, Early Oxford Press, p. 72); but his arguments to prove the antiquity of Oxford are worthless. He defended the genuineness of the passage in Asser forged by Henry Savile [see under Savile, Sir Henry, (1549–1622)], on which the claim mainly rests; attacked Matthew Parker for omitting it from his edition of Asser, and sought by not over-scrupulous means to invest the passage with authority and to represent Camden as supporting it. Many of his other arguments are equally puerile (Parker, Early Hist. of Oxford, pp. 39, 42–43, 58–60), but they are nevertheless the basis of those used by Wood, Hearne, Ingram, and others.

Twyne was one of the delegates appointed by Archbishop Laud, then chancellor, to edit the famous Laudian statutes of the university, and the work fell mainly on Twyne and Richard Zouche [q. v.] It was completed and laid before Laud in August 1633. It was printed with Laud's alterations in 1634 as ‘Corpus Statutorum Universitatis Oxon. sive Pandectes Constitutionum Academicarum, e libris publicis et regestis Universitatis consarcinatus’ (Oxford, fol.). Under the statutes thus printed the university was to be governed for a year; the ‘full and authentic code’ was formally approved in 1636 (this edition was edited in 1888 by Griffiths and Shadwell). Twyne also wrote the preface, and a passage in it ‘extolling Queen Mary's days’ was made one of the charges against Laud at his trial; he disclaimed having written it, but, according to Wood, Twyne was also innocent of the offending passage, which was added by another hand (Laud, Works, iv. 324). For his services in drawing up the statutes, Twyne was in 1634 appointed first keeper of the university archives.

Twyne continued his residence at Oxford after the outbreak of the civil war, and wrote an ‘Account of the Musterings of the University of Oxford, with other Things that happened there from Aug. 9, 1642, to July 13th, 1643, inclusively;’ it was printed in 1733 as an appendix to Hearne's edition of R. de Morins's ‘Chronicon sive Annales Prioratus de Dunstaple’ (ii. 737–87). He was sequestered from his rectory at Rye by the Westminster assembly in 1644, and died unmarried in his lodgings in Penverthing Street, St. Aldate's, Oxford, on 14 July in the same year. He was buried in the inner chapel of Corpus Christi, to which college he left ‘many choice books, whereof some were manuscripts of his own writings.’

Twyne's published works are only an infinitesimal fraction of the results of his labour. He was the earliest and most indefatigable of Oxford antiquaries, and his successors have done little more than make a more or less adequate use of the materials which Twyne collected on the early history and antiquities of Oxford. ‘He read and made large excerpts from the muniments and registers of the university and colleges, the parish churches, and the city of Oxford; from manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, the libraries of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, of Thomas Allen, Sir Robert Cotton, and other private book-collectors; the Public Record Offices; the episcopal and chapter archives of Canterbury, Lincoln, Durham, &c.’ (Wood, Life and Times, ed. Clark, iv. 202). ‘Wood did little more than put together materials accumulated by Twyne … there is hardly a single reference in these treatises [the ‘History and Antiquities’ and ‘Annals’], which did not come, in the first instance, from Twyne,’ though there is ‘an entire absence of acknowledgment of debt to Twyne's collections’ (ib. iv. 223–4). These collections comprise some sixty manuscript volumes; they were bequeathed by Twyne's will (printed ib. iv. 202) to the university archives and Corpus Christi College. Twenty-six volumes are now in the lower room of the university archives, six are in the upper room, thirteen volumes are in Corpus Christi library, and thirteen more, only in part by Twyne, are among Wood MSS. D, E, and F. At least three were lost or destroyed by fire (for full description of the volumes see ib. iv. 203–22). No systematic attempt has been made to print these collections, but most of the volumes published by the Oxford Historical Society contain extracts from Twyne's manuscripts (cf. e.g. Oxford City Documents, ed. Thorold Rogers, p. 140 et passim).

[Authorities cited; Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. pt. iv.; Sussex Archæol. Coll. xiii. 60, 274; Horsfield's Lewes, i. 220–1, Sussex, i. 214, 501; Woodward's Hampshire, vol. iii.; Strype's Works; Laud's Works, iv. 324, v. 84, 124, 149, 582; Wood's Athenæ, iii. 108; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Oxford Hist. Society's Publications, especially Fowler's Hist. of Corpus, Reg. Univ. Oxon., Clark's Life and Times of Wood, Madan's Early Oxford Press, Burrows's Collectanea, and Parker's Early Hist. of Oxford.]

A. F. P.