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sir ross’ inner temple

John Ross was scarcely known until I assembled his biography and edited some of his poems a few years ago. A Latin poet and lawyer with close ties to the Inner Temple, his claim as a “major author,” if any, would lie in his nearly unique place at the intersection of several vital cultural paths. Ross was baptized at Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, 26 June 1563. Like his younger brother Gabriel, he attended Westminster School, where he began a lifelong acquaintance with Camden, who perhaps aroused his interest in ancient Britain. Evidence suggests a stay at Trinity College, Cambridge, before entering the Inner Temple in 1584, where the admission book lists him as “late of Lyon’s Inn.” Poems written before his call to the bar in 1593 indicate a dislike of Puritans and Catholics on both theological and patriotic grounds. Friendships with Cambridge divines like John Overall and Benjamin Carier must have fueled his interest in religious controversy.

At this time or soon after, he came to know Edward Coke, in whose orbit he seems to have worked as a barrister. Other friends were members of the Manners family (earls of Rutland), Elizabeth Goodwin (daughter of Arthur Lord Grey, wife of the litigant in the famous case of Goodwin versus Fortescue), and Sir William Sackville (one of Lord Buckhurst’s sons). Several acquaintances followed the earl of Essex: Roger Manners, the eccentric Sir Anthony Sherley, and Sir William Constable, later a signer of Charles I’s death warrant, whom the Privy Council placed in Ross’ custody following the Essex fiasco. Ross’ long poem on the Gunpowder Plot emerges from a knowledge of both the prosecutor Coke and one of the plotters, Sir Everard Digby. His will was probated in November 1607, the year his one printed book, Britannica , appeared in Frankfurt.


Of interest to scholars of British antiquarianism is Ross’ prose “Tractatus Apologeticus,” or apology defending the historicity of Geoffrey, “De Fide et Antiquitate Huius Historiae” (On the truth and antiquity of this history), published with Britannica (86–113). This essay marshals a variety of English and Continental authorities to argue for the actual existence of Brut and his legendary lineage. Noteworthy is Ross’ outcry against “opinio” (opinion), which has cast all things in doubt in a world gone awry.

Ross, Sir James Clark [next] [back] Ross, Dorothy (1936–) - U.S. Intellectual History

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