The Nowell family were interlinked with various patrons and practitioners of literature and learning.  As discussed in 2007 in Wyman H. Herendeen’s biography of William Camden, Robert Nowell (d. 1569) was Attorney General of the Court of Wards; Alexander (d. 1602) was a prebendary at Westminster and housed Robert in the chapter at Gray’s Inn.  Laurence (d. 1576) also lived there for most of his life.  Another Laurence (cousin to the first and brother to Alexander) became Bishop of Litchfield in 1560 and is often confused with his cousin.  Each Nowell had connections to William Cecil, Lord Burghley.  The Laurence Nowell that we are concerned with here therefore had deep set connections to Gray’s Inn and to Burghley. 

Herendeen notes that Nowell’s contributions to the field were transmitted through other antiquarian scholars rather than his own publication.  Whilst living at Gray’s Inn with his cousin Robert, he drafted a British Chronicle (1565) and Old English Dictionary (1567) which were passed down to several scholars including William Lambarde.  Herendeen also notes that ‘Lambarde’s work, in turn, found its way into the hands of the parliamentarian John Selden, and the arch-royalist and Laudian, William Somner, who translated the Ancient Saxon Laws (1568) and with the support of the stipend from Henry Spelman’s Anglo-Saxon lectureship, completed the work begun by Nowell and Lambarde, publishing the Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum at Oxford in 1659 (Herendeen, p. 161).

For further details on the Nowell family see:

Alexander Grossart (ed.), The Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell…Brother of Dean Alexander Nowell, 1568-1580 (Manchester, 1877)

Ralph Churton, The Life of Alexander Nowell (Oxford, 1809), pp. 287-8

Retha M. Warnicke, ‘A Note on a Court of Requests Case of 1571’, English Language Notes, 11 (1974), pp., 250-6

Paula Black, ‘Laurence Nowell’s Disapperance in Germany’, English Historical Review, 92 (1977), pp. 345-53

Thomas Hahn, ‘The Identity of Laurence Nowell’, English Language Notes, 20 (1982/3), pp. 10-19.

C. Berkhout, ‘The Pedigree of Laurence Nowell’, English Language Notes, 20 (1985), pp. 15-26.


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