William Harrison (1534-1593)

William Harrison (1534-1593)

William Harrison (18 April 1534 — 24 April 1593) was an English writer, whose "Description of England" was produced as part of the publishing venture of a group of London stationers who produced Raphael Holinshed's "Chronicles" (London 1577).

Harrison was born in London and educated at Westminster School. He then studied at Cambridge University and in 1560 gained a degree from Christ Church, Oxford. He was chaplain to William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham, in whose household he was in a position to travel within a small compass in the south of England. ["Unt ill nowe of late," he wrote to his patron "except it were from the parish where I dwell, unto your Honour in Kent; or out of London where I was borne, unto Oxford and Cambridge where I have bene brought up, I never travelled 40 miles foorthright and at one journey in all my life." (Quoted in [http://www.bartleby.com/213/1503.html "The Cambridge History of English and American Literature", Vol. III. "Renascence and Reformation", XV. Chroniclers and Antiquaries. 3. Harrison’s Description of England] ] In 1559 Cobham made him rector of Radwinter, Essex (endowed with a very modest £40 a year), and a Canon of Windsor. He is buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor.

To him was allotted the task of writing the "Descriptions of Britain and England". He gathered his facts from books, letters, maps, the notes of John Leland, and conversations with antiquaries and local historians like his friends John Stow and William Camden. He also used his own observation, experience and wit, and wrote in a conversational tone without pedantry, which has made the work a classic. [Harrison's "Description of England" found a place among the Harvard Classics, (Vol. 35, Part 3), the "Harvard five-foot shelf".] The result is a compendium of Elizabethan England during the youth of William Shakespeare. "No work of the time contains so vivid and picturesque a sketch," was the assessment of "The Cambridge History of English and American Literature". ["The Cambridge History of English and American Literature", "eo. loc."]


External links

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1577harrison-england.html (Modern History Sourcebook) William Harrison (1534-1593): Description Of Elizabethan England, 1577 (from Holinshed's Chronicles)] Prints Dr. Frederick Furnivall's condensed and modernised text of Harrison's chapters, edited for the New Shakespeare Society (1876).

Further reading

*G. J. R. Parry; Maurice Cowling; G. R. Elton; J. R. Pole, "A Protestant Vision: William Harrison and the Reformation of Elizabethan England".

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