Elmsley, Peter (1774–1825)

Classical scholar. Son of Alexander Elmsley. He was named after his uncle, the famous London bookseller from whom he inherited a considerable fortune. Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford (matric. 1791, BA 1794, MA 1797, BD and DD 1823), he was described as ‘the fattest undergraduate of his day’ (DNB). Ordained and presented to the living of Little Horkesley, Essex, on his uncle’s death in 1802 he relinquished his duties and income to a curate, though he continued to hold the living until 1816. He made a brief move to Edinburgh, where he met the founders of the Edinburgh Review, to which he became a contributor. He returned to London and in 1807 moved to Kent, where he lived with his mother until 1816. During this time he produced editions of Aristophanes, Sophocles and Euripides and a number of learned papers on classical subjects, published in the Quarterly Review and other periodicals. He travelled at length in Europe c. 1816–1818 and settled in Oxford in 1818. In 1823 (having been unsuccessfully proposed for the Regius Chair of Divinity at Oxford and having turned down the See of Calcutta) he was elected Camden Professor of Ancient History and Principal of St Alban Hall, Oxford, offices he held until his death in 1825. Southey and Elmsley met at Westminster School and remained lifelong friends, though relatively little of what seems to have been an extensive correspondence survives. Elmsley was also a great friend of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn and the latter erected a memorial tablet to him in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

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