FABYAN, ROBERT (d. 1513), English chronicler, belonged to an Essex family, members of which had been connected with trade in London. He was a member of the Drapers company, alderman of Farringdon Without, and served as sheriff in 1493-1494. In 1496 he was one of those appointed to make representations to the king on the new impositions on English cloth in Flanders. Next year he was one of the aldermen employed in keeping watch at the time of the Cornish rebellion. He resigned his aldermanry in 1502, on the pretext of poverty, apparently in order to avoid the expense of mayoralty. He had, however, acquired considerable wealth with his wife Elizabeth Pake, by whom he had a numerous family. He spent his latter years on his estate of Halstedys at Theydon Garnon in Essex. He died on the 28th of February 1513 (Inquisitiones post mortem for London, p. 29, edited by G.S. Fry, 1896); his will, dated the 11th of July 1511, was proved on the 12th of July 1513. Fabyan's Chronicle was first published by Richard Pynson in 1516 as The new chronicles of England and of France. In this edition it ends with the reign of Richard III., and this probably represents the work as Fabyan left it, though with the omission of an autobiographical note and some religious verses, which form the Envoi of his history. The note and verses are first found in the second edition, printed by John Rastell in 1533 with continuations down to 1509. A third edition appeared in 1542, and a fourth in 1559 with additions to that year. The only modern edition is that of Sir Henry Ellis, 1811.
In the note above mentioned Fabyan himself says: "and here I make an ende of the vii. parte and hole werke, the vii. day of November in the yere of our Lord Jesu Christes Incarnacion M. vc. and iiij." This seems conclusive that in 1504 he did not contemplate any extension of his chronicles beyond 1485. The continuations printed by Rastell are certainly not Fabyan's work. But Stow in his Collections (ap. Survey of London, ii. 305-306, ed. C.L. Kingsford) states that Fabyan wrote "a Chronicle of London, England and of France, beginning at the creation and endynge in the third year of Henry VIII., which both I have in written hand." In his Survey of London (i. 191, 209, ii. 55, 116) Stow several times quotes Fabyan as his authority for statements which are not to be found in the printed continuations of Rastell. Some further evidence may be found in other notes of Stow's (ap. Survey of London, ii. 280, 283, 365-366), and in the citation by Hakluyt of an unprinted work of Fabyan as the authority for his note of Cabot's voyages. That Fabyan had continued his Chronicle to 1511 may be accepted as certain, but no trace of the manuscript can now be found.
It is only the seventh part of Fabyan's Chronicle, from the Norman Conquest onwards, that possesses any historical value. For his French history he followed chiefly the Compendium super Francorum gestis of Robert Gaguin, printed at Paris in 1497. For English history his best source was the old Chronicles of London, from which he borrowed also the arrangement of his work in civic form. From 1440 to 1485 he follows, as a rule with great fidelity, the original of the London Chronicle in Cotton MS. Vitellius A. XVI. (printed in Chronicles of London, 1905, pp. 153-264).
Fabyan's own merits are little more than those of an industrious compiler, who strung together the accounts of his different authorities without any critical capacity. He says expressly that his work was "gaderyd without understandynge," and speaks of himself as "of cunnynge full destitute." Nevertheless he deserves the praise which he has received as an early worker, and for having made public information which through Hall and Holinshed has become the common property of later historians, and has only recently been otherwise accessible. Bale alleges that the first edition was burnt by order of Cardinal Wolsey because it reflected on the wealth of the clergy; this probably refers to his version of the Lollards Bill of 1410, which Fabyan extracted from one of the London Chronicles.
See further Ellis' Introduction; W. Busch, England under the Tudors (trans. A.M. Todd, 1895), i. 405-410; and C.L. Kingsford, Chronicles of London, pp. xxvi-xxxii (1905).
(C. L. K.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)