The son of Thomas Stow, a tallow-chandler, he was born about 1525 in London, in the parish of St Michael, Cornhill. His father's whole rent for his house and garden was only 6s. 6d. a year, and Stow in his youth fetched milk every morning from a farm belonging to the convent of the Minories. He did not follow his father's trade, but was apprenticed as a merchant tailor, being admitted to the Merchant Taylor's company in 1547 and, by 1547, had established a business at a house near the well within Aldgate, between Leadenhall and Fenchurch Street. In the 1570s, he removed to a house in St Andrew's parish, in Lime Street ward, where he lived till his death. In about 1560 he entered upon the work with which his name is associated.
Stow's antiquarian tastes brought him under ecclesiastical suspicion as a person "with many dangerous and superstitious books in his possession," and in 1568 his house was searched. An inventory was taken of certain books he possessed "in defence of papistry," but he was apparently able to satisfy his interrogators of the soundness of his Protestantism. A second attempt to incriminate him in 1570 was also without result. In 1580, Stow published his Annales, or a Generale Chronicle of England from Brute until the present yeare of Christ 1580; it was reprinted in 1592, 1601 and 1605, the last being continued to March 26 1605, or within ten days of his death; editions "amended" by Edmund Howes appeared in 1615 and 1631.
At the request of Parker he had compiled a "farre larger volume," a history of Britain, but circumstances were unfavourable to its publication and the manuscript was lost. Additions to the previously published works of Chaucer were twice made through Stow's "own painful labours" in the edition of 1561, referred to above, and also in 1597. A number of Stow's manuscripts are in the Harleian collection in the British Museum. Some are in the Lambeth library (No. 306); and from the volume which includes them were published by the Camden Society, edited by James Gairdner, Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, with Historical Memoranda by John Stowe the Antiquary, and Contemporary Notes of Occurrences written by him (1880).
So Much History to Stow Away; Tudor England Observed - the World of John Stow. by Barrett L Beer (Sutton Publishing, Pounds 20). Reviewed by Richard Edmonds
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