Thursday, January 5, 2012

Anthony Wood

Am reading the autobiography of Oxford writer Anthony Wood (1632-1695). At his death, the book existed only in manuscript among his papers. It was printed for the first time in 1730, re-edited and republished in 1813, and then again in the 1890s (see above). Readers now have the first new edition (see below) in over a century, beautifully edited by Nicolas K. Kiessling and published by the Bodleian Library.

The great subject of Anthony Wood was the history of the University of Oxford. Above is a plan of the city from Wood's Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis of 1674, showing Oxford and the fortifications as they existed in 1648 at the close of the English Civil War, when Anthony Wood was a teenager in the Royalist city.

Below is a 21st century computer-generated reconstruction of Eynsham Abbey by Peter Lorimer. Today the foundations are visible, but nothing else. Anthony Wood visited the ruins of the Abbey on 16 September 1657 when he was 25 (and still in the process of discovering the antiquarian enthusiasms that would preserve his name down the centuries).

About 120 years after Henry VIII confiscated the place and chased away the monks, Wood made his visit and rhapsodized about the still-partially-intact ruin –

"AW went to Einsham to see an old kinsman called Thomas Barncote – He was there wonderfully strucken with a veneration of the stately yet much lamented ruins of the Abbey there, built before the Norman Conquest – He saw then there two high Towers at the west end of the church, and some of the north walls of the church standing. He spent some time with a melancholy Delight in taking a prospect of the ruins of that place. All which, together with the entrance or the Lodg, were soon after pul'd downe, and the stones sold to build Houses in that Towne and neare it – The place hath yet some Ruins to shew, and to instruct the pensive Beholder with an exemplary Frailty."