Thomas Corser

Thomas Corser

Thomas Corser (1793–1876), British literary scholar and Church of England clergyman; editor of "Collectanea Anglo-Poetica".


Corser, third son of George Corser of Whitchurch, Shropshire, banker, and his wife Martha, daughter of Randall Phythian of the Higher Hall, Edge, Cheshire, was born at Whitchurch in 1793. From Whitchurch school he was removed in 1808 to the Manchester grammar school, whence in May 1812 he was admitted a commoner of Balliol College, Oxford, taking with him one of the school exhibitions. He graduated B.A. in 1815, and M.A. in 1818.

It was during his residence at Oxford, and through his intimacy with Dr. Henry Cotton, sub-librarian of the Bodleian Library, that his love of early English poetry and Elizabethan literature was formed and his bibliographical tastes encouraged. In the early part of 1816 he was ordained to the curacy of Condover, near Shrewsbury, and in the following year received priest's orders, holding also the chaplaincy of Atcham Union at Berrington. From 1819 to 1821 he served as curate of the extensive parish of Stone, Staffordshire, and for the next year and a half was curate of Monmouth. Here, while meditating the acceptance of the English chaplaincy at Antwerp, he accepted the offer of the curacy of Prestwich, near Manchester, which proved the turning-point of his life.

In 1826, while curate of Prestwich, he obtained the incumbency of All Saints' Church, Stand, Manchester, where he was admitted on 8 Sept. and continued for nearly fifty years. By his care and exertions the parish was early supplied with large and flourishing schools. In 1828 he succeeded to the vicarage of Norton-by-Daventry in Northamptonshire, but there being no residence he continued to remain at Stand. He was one of the founders of the Chetham Society in 1843.

Of the four works edited by Corser for the society — "Chester's Triumph" (1844), "Iter Lancastrense" (1845), Robinson's "Golden Mirrour," and "Collectanea Anglo-Poetica" — the most important are the "Iter" and the "Collectanea." The first is an interesting account by Richard James, in verse, of his visit to Lancashire in 1636, illustrated by the editor's research and diligence. The second is an alphabetical account, with extracts from each author, and elaborate biographical and bibliographical notices of the editor's magnificent collection of early English poetry which he had begun to form at an early age. The first part was issued in 1860. The rector's advanced age and infirmities interfered with the progress of the undertaking on the original scale beyond the letter C, which was concluded at the fourth part (1869). But six parts (1873–1880) were subsequently issued on a briefer plan. Corser died after the fifth part was published in 1873, and James Crossley edited the remainder. The work is a very valuable contribution to English bibliography. The collection of books which formed the basis of this work was sold in London in portions at different dates, from July 1868 to 1874, and realised upwards of 20,000 Pounds. Mr. Henry Huth purchased some of the most valuable volumes.

Corser was also a member of the Spenser, Camden, Surtees, Percy, and Shakespeare societies, and was elected a FSA in 1850. His name appears in the list of those who signed the remonstrance on the Purchas judgment in 1872. In 1867 he suffered from an attack of paralysis; his eyesight failed, and he could only write with his left hand.

He died at Stand rectory on 24 August 1876.

He married, on 24 Nov. 1828, Ellen, eldest daughter of the Rev. James Lyon, rector of Prestwich. She died on 25 April 1859.


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