Stow had devoted his life, and exhausted his patrimony, in the study of English antiquities; he had travelled on foot throughout the Kingdom, inspecting all monuments of antiquity, and rescuing what he could from the dispersed libraries of the monasteries. . . . Late in life, worn out with study and the cares of poverty, neglected by that proud metropolis of which he had been the historian, yet his good-humour did not desert him; for, being afflicted with sharp pains in his aged feet, he observed that 'his affliction lay in that part which formerly he had made so much use of'. Many a mile had he wandered, many a pound had he yielded, for those treasures of antiquities which had exhausted his fortune, and with which he had formed works of great public utility. It was in his eightieth year that Stow at length received a public acknowledgement of his services, which will appear to us of a very extraordinary nature. He was so reduced in his circumstances that he petitioned James I for a license to collect alms for himself,
'as a recompense for his labour and travel of forty-five years, in setting forth the Chronicles of England, and eight years taken up in the Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, towards his relief now in his old age; having left his former means of living, and only employing himself for the service and good of his county.'
Letters patent under the great seal were granted. After no penurious commendation of Stow's labours, he is permitted
'to gather the benevolence of well-disposed people within this realm of England: to ask, gather, and take the alms of all our loving subjects'.
These letters patent were to be published by the clergy from their pulpit; they produced so little that they were renewed for another twelvemonth: one entire parish in the city contributed seven shillings and sixpence! Such, then, was the patronage received by Stow, to be a licensed beggar throughout the kingdom for one twelvemonth. Such was the public remuneration of a man who had been useful to his nation, but not to himself.
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