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MR. THOMAS MARTIN was born at Thetford, in the school-house in St. Mary's parish (the only remaining parish of that town in Suffolk) March 8, 1696-7. His grandfather, William Martin, was rector of Stanton St. John in Suffolk, where he was buried in 1677. His father, William Martin, was rector of Great Livermere, and of St. Mary's, in Thetford, both in the same county. He married Elizabeth, only daughter of Mr. Thomas Burrough, of Bury St. Edmond's, and aunt to the late Sir James Burrough, master of Caius college, Cambridge; he died in 1721, aged 71, and was buried in Livermere chancel, where his son Thomas, not long before his death, placed a monument for him, and his mother, and their children, who were then all dead except himself, “now by God's permission residing at Palgrave."
Thomas was the seventh of nine children. His school education was probably at Thetford. In 1715 he had been some time clerk to his brother Robert, who practised as an attorney there; but it appears by some objections to that employment in his own hand-writing that year, that he was very uneasy and dissatisfied with that way of life. As these give us the state of his mind, and the bent of his inclination at that early period, and may perhaps account for his succeeding unsettled turn, and little application to his business, they may be worth preserving in his own words.
Objections. I.“ First my mind and inclinations are wholly to Cambridge, having already found by experience that I can never settle to my present employment.
II. I was always designed for Cambridge by my father, and I believe am the only instance in the
which, I suppose, is what you mean. These I took to have been given in return for the 23d number of my work, I promised and since gave you. But, lest you should have given me them through inadvertence and without design, you have the same herewith returned, by, Yours, William MAITLAND."
world that ever went to school so long to be a lawyer's clerk.
II. I always wished that I might lead a private retired life, which can never happen if I be an attorney; but, on the contrary, I must have the care and concern of several people's business besides mine own, &c.
IV. If I be a lawyer, the will of the dead can never be fulfilled; viz. of my sister Elizabeth, who left 101. to enter me at college; and aunt Burrough, to whom I have promised (at her earnest request) that I never would be a lawyer; nay, my brother himself had promised her I never should.
V. It was always counted ruination for young persons to be brought up at home, and I am sure there is no worse town under the sun for breeding or conversation than this.
VI. Though I should serve my time out with my brother, I should never fancy the study of the law, having got a taste of a more noble and pleasant study.
Questions. But perhaps these questions may be asked me, to which I shall answer as follows: 1. Why I came to my brother at all'; 2. And have absented myself thus long from school? 3. Or why I have not spoke my mind before this time?
Answers. I. Though I am with my brother, it was none of my desire (having always confessed an aversion to his employment), but was almost forced to it by the persuasion of a great many, ringing in my ears that this was the gainfullest employment, &c.
II. Though I have lost some time in school learning, I have read a great deal of history, poetry, &c. which might have taken up as much time at Cambridge had I kept at school.
III. I have staid thus long, thinking continual use might have made it easy to me; but the longer I stay, the worse I like it. THOMAS MARTIN, 1715." Vol. V. Cc
He was, however, by some means or other, kept from executing his favourite plan of going to Cambridge. In 1722 he still probably resided at Thetford; for, having married Sarah, the widow of Mr. Thomas Hopley, and daughter of Mr. John Tyrrel of Thetford, his first child was born there that in 1723, his second was born at Palgrave in Suffolk, as were the rest. This wife bore him eight children, and died November 15, 1731, ten days after she had been delivered of twins. He very soon, however, repaired this loss, by marrying Frances, the widow of Peter Le Neve, Norroy, who had not been long dead, and to whom he was executor. By this lady he came into the possession of a very valuable collection of English antiquities, pictures, &c.
She bore him also about as many children as his former spouse (four of whom, as well as five of the others, arrived at manhood), and died, I think, before him.
He died March 1, 1771, and was buried, with others of his family, in Palgrave church-porch, where no epitaph as yet records the name of that man who has so industriously preserved those of others, though Mr. Ives had promised his friends that he would erect a monument for him, and had actually drawn up the following inscription, such as it is, to be put upon it:
the remains of
To whose memory
John Ives, F.S. A." Mr. Martin seems to have presaged that he might want this posthumous honour, as in a curious manuscript of church collections made by him, he had inserted the following pieces of poetry:
When Death shall have his due of me,
Or in the old phrase:
By me collected into one;
Of my own monumental stone. What is become of this book, I know not; Mr. Ives, after Mr. Martin's death, solicited and obtained it of the family; and, upon his death, the Martins made very earnest applications to his friends to have it returned, but were refused. Mr. Martin refers to it sometimes in his church notes in my possession. I think it was not in Mr. Ives's auction in 1777.
Mr. Martin's desire was, not only to be esteemed, but to be known and distinguished by the name of Honest Tom Martin of Palgrave*, an ambition in which his acquaintance saw no reason not to gratify him; and I have observed with pleasure several strokes of moral sentiment scattered about his rough church notes. These were the genuine effusions of his heart, not designed for the public eye, and therefore mark his real character in that respect. Had he desired the appellation of wise and prudent, his inattention to his business, his contempt and improper use of money, and his fondness for mixed and festive company, would have debarred him, as the father of a numerous family, of that pretension,
As an Antiquary, he was most skilful and indefatigable; and when he was employed as an attorney and genealogist, he was in his element. I have two or three of his collections in that way that shew his prodigious industry. He had the happiest use of
* He is thus called among the subscribers to Grey's Hudibras, 1744. CC 2
his pen, copying, as well as tracing, with dispatch and exactness, the different writing of every æra, and tricking arms, seals, &c. with great neatness. His taste for antient lore seems to have possessed him from his earliest to his latest days. He dated all the scraps of paper on which he made his church notes, &c. Some of these begin as early as 1721, and end but the autumn before his death, when he still wrote an excellent hand; but he certainly began his collections even before the first-mentioned period, for he appears among the contributors to Mr. Le Neve's “ Monumenta Anglicana,” printed in 1719 *.
His collection of antiquities, particularly of such as relate to Suffolk, was very considerable, greater than probably ever was before, or will be hereafter, in the possession of an individual; their fragments of have enriched several private libraries; and, from the liberal spirit of communication that distinguishes the present age, would undoubtedly be accessible to any gentleman whose time should enable, and incli
* All the old deeds and archives of Eton college were many years ago digested and indexed by Mr. Martin; whose index, under his own hand, remains there to this day.
+ His distresses obliged him to dispose of many of his books, with his MS notes on them, to Mr. T. Payne, in his life-time, 1769. A Catalogue of his library was printed after his death at Lynn, in 8vo, 1771, in hopes of disposing of the whole at once. Mr. Worth, chemist, at Diss, F.S.A. purchased the rest, with all his other collectiona, for 600%. The printed books he immediately sold to Booth and Berzy of Norwich; who disposed of them in a catalogue, 1773. The pictures and lesser curiosities Mr. Worth sold by auction at Diss; part of his MSS, in London, in April 1778, by Mr. Samuel Baker; and by a second sale there, id May 1774, MSS. scarce books, deeds, grants, pedigrees, drawings, prints, coins, and curiosities. What remained on the death of Mr. Worth, consisting chiefly of the papers relating to Thetford, Bury, and the county of Suffolk, were purchased by Mr. Hunt, bookseller at Harleston, who incorporated them into a marked catalogue, and sold the rest to private purchasers. Mr. Gough became possessed of the Bury, and Sir John Cullum of the county, papers. The dispersion was completed by the sale of Mr. Ives's collection in London, March 1777, he having been a principal purchaser at every former one.