From time to time, while browsing through this database, you will come across Webster 1913 definitions attributed to a certain "Halliwell".  One of our great noders marvelled at one of these definitions, piquing my curiousity about the author. A quick Web search turned up the name of the most likely source, a prolific Victorian Shakespearean scholar and antiquarian. When I informed the instigator of my findings, I received the following message:

"Fascinating. You should node Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, so future enquiries won't meet solely with Geri."

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips turns out to be quite an interesting character. He is primarily known for his scholarship about the life and works of William Shakespeare, but he wrote extensively on a variety of literary subjects. He published mathematical treatises and histories of science, and was one of the first scientific archaeologists, from his studies of Shakespeare-related sites in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was a primary force behind the establishment of the Stratford-upon-Avon sites now mobbed by tourists.

Halliwell-Phillips' career was dogged by disputes, quarrels, and controversies.  He married without getting his father-in-law's permission. He was accused of stealing manuscripts from Cambridge.  He changed his name late in life to gain control of his wife's inheritance.

Another rival of Halliwell-Phillips was Frederick J. Furnivall, with whom he clashed horns over several Shakespearean controversies:

  • Whether Shakespeare had ever been a Royal servant (a "W. Shaxpeare" was given royal livery and may have marched in a 1604 parade with James I)
  • Whether certain plays attributed to Shakespeare (now known as "Shakespeare Apocrypha") were really written by the Bard.  This controversy, along with a dispute over his cataloguing of Stratford's town archives, caused him to break with the Shakespeare authorities in Stratford.  It's interesting to note that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's website does not mention Halliwell-Phillips in conjunction with the Stratford Records.

Highlights of the man's life include:

(June 21) born James Orchard Halliwell.
Finds "A poem of moral duties" now called the "Regius Poem". Written in Middle English about 1390, this turned out to be the oldest known Masonic manuscript.
Elected to The Royal Society; at eighteen, the youngest Fellow ever.
Published his translation of the Regius Poem
Reliquae Antiquae, dedicated to Sir Thomas Phillips, a Shakespearean collector.  Phillips invites Halliwell to Middle Hill, his estate, and Halliwell becomes a frequent guest, eventually meeting Sir Thomas's daughter Henrietta.
The Private Diary of Dr. John Dee, and the Catalogue of his Library of Manuscripts, from the original manuscripts in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, and Trinity College Library, Cambridge.
Halliwell elopes with Henrietta Phillips, after Sir Thomas refuses to consent to their marriage.  Sir Thomas is so angry he cuts off all contact with them. Sir Thomas cannot disinherit her because of the terms of his own father's will, but Henrietta will receive nothing from the estate while he is alive.
Publishes Nursery Rhymes of England, where the following appears for the first time in print:
Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday, christened on Tuesday, married on Wednesday, took ill on Thursday, worse on Friday, died on Saturday, buried on Sunday, that is the end of Solomon Grundy
Several manuscruipts that disappeared from Trinity College, Cambridge while Halliwell was a student are sold to the British Museum.  Halliwell is investigated but is never charged. However, he is excluded from the British Museum library.
Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century.  This appears to be the work that Noah Webster's successors used as a source.
Morte Arthure. The Alliterative Romance of the Death of King Arthur
Biography of William Shakespeare
Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales: A Sequel to the Nursery Rhymes of England
An Historical Sketch of the Provincial Dialects of England
Purchases Nash House, aka New Place, William Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and begins raising funds to buy other properties in Stratford important to the life of Shakespeare.
begins to organize 5000 or so ancient records of Stratford-on-Avon, but leaves several hundred out because he feels they are not important to Shakepeare biography.
bequest to University of Penzance
Sir Thomas Phillips dies; Henrietta inherits everything.  Halliwell adds "-Phillips" to their name and becomes master of Middle Hill.
bequest to Edinburgh University.
publishes The Stratford Records, a pamphlet in which he explains his side of the falling-out with the authorities in Stratford-on-Avon.
"The reasons that have led to my retirement from the Shakespearean councils of Stratford-upon-Avon having, I find, been greatly misunderstood, an endeavour must be made to give a more extended publicity to the true causes. A large number of copies of this pamphlet will, therefore, be distributed gratuitously, and it will also be accessible to the general public.
"My dispute is not with the people of Stratford Every surviving old or intimate friemd that I have ever had there is still my old or intimate friend, and I have every reason to believe that I am only out of favour with the members of an imperious little oligarchy, who resent the slightest quesiton of their supremacy, and who consider it highly indecorous that so inferior a being as a Shakespearean biographer should venture to dispute the validity of their decrees.
"Stratford-upon-Avon, under the management of its oligarchy, instead of being, as it ought to be, the centre of Shakespeare-biographical research, has become the seat of Shakespeare charlatanry."
(January 3), dies. His collection is donated and sold piecemeal, as he refuses to let the Stratford worthies get their paws on it.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Masonic Events in History

Rare Books & Special Collections: An Online Exhibition 1474-1900, Belmont Abbey College,

The Stratford Records and the Shakespeare Autotypes,  Facsimile at Omnipaedia Polyglotta,

The Horblitt-Phillips Collection at Grolier Club

Edinburgh University Library, Gallery of Benefactors,

I am trying to get hold of a copy of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps: The Life and Works of the Shakespearean Scholar and Bookman by Marvin Spevack. If I do, this writeup may change a bit.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.