In 1897 Arthur Lee Humphreys published The Somerset Roll–an Experimental List of Worthies, Unworthies and Villains Born in the County. Arthur describes the contents of the book in the published preface:
When I had progressed some way with this book, and had issued a Prospectus about it, I felt a little uneasy as to what was expected of The Somerset Roll of Worthies, Unworthies, and Villains.
Several works bearing somewhat similar titles, but relating to other Counties, had previously been issued, and consisted mostly of biographies lengthened out, in many cases, by well-known stories and anecdotes, which might be met with over and over again in biographical dictionaries such as are within the reach of all. From the first I saw no reason for putting this book together on these lines, and the general reader who purchases this book expecting to find such particulars herein will be disappointed. My idea throughout has been to give, in this first trial list, as many notable names as I knew of those who have been born within the County of Somerset, with dates and skeleton outlines attached to each. In this form I believe that the book may be useful to any one who is engaged in local research, because every principal parish in the County has sent up its ‘tale of men,’ whether they be worthies, unworthies, villains, or, what is most likely, composite characters ‘of mingled yarn, good and ill together.’
It will be noticed that my aim has been to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and, with regard to some names, I shall probably be asked what were my reasons for inserting them. I shall doubtless, also, have pointed out to me many conspicuous omissions. I say at once that any one who is so good as to take notice of this ‘experimental list,’ to point out errors of omission or commission, will have my best thanks. I have issued this list as ‘ tentative,’ or ‘ trial,’ because I wish to avail myself of the knowledge of others in any later edition of the book which may, I hope, be issued. At the moment of writing this preface, when the body of the book is printed off, I feel conscious of many improvements which I hope may be introduced at some future time—particularly the adding of bibliographical and iconographical notes to each entry.
In compiling this book I have sought out many valuable but obscure authorities, and to each I am more or less indebted ; to name all such books would be impossible. To Mr. Arthur Pippett I am deeply grateful for the compilation of an Index Locorum, which I think requires no apology, and to Mr. D. Baxter for help throughout in revision and the verification of dates.
A. L. H.
187 Piccadilly, W.
The book has been digitized by Google and can be read online or downloaded in pdf format.