Carte, Thomas (DNB00)
CARTE, THOMAS (1686–1754), historian, son of Samuel Carte [q. v.], was born at Clifton-upon-Dunsmoor, Warwickshire, where he was baptised by immersion 23 April 1686. He was admitted at University College, Oxford, 8 July 1698, and took his degree of B.A. in 1702. Afterwards he was incorporated at Cambridge, and took his M.A. degree from King's College in 1706. Shortly afterwards he took holy orders, and was appointed reader at the abbey church, Bath, in 1707. In 1712 he is said to have made the tour of Europe, as tutor to a nobleman. He was a strong Jacobite, and his opinions involved him in more than one controversy, and on several occasions got him into trouble with the government. The first of these controversies arose from a sermon preached by him at the abbey church, Bath (when he was reader), on 30 Jan. 1713–14; he then defended Charles I from the common charge of having secretly instigated the Irish rebellion and massacre of 1641. For this he was attacked by Henry Chandler (or Chaundler), father of Samuel Chandler [q. v.], who was a dissenting minister at Bath. Carte's reply was published in May 1714, with the title: ‘The Irish Massacre set in a Clear Light;’ it is reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ iii. 369. Carte, refusing to take the oaths to George I, adopted a lay habit. At the Jacobite rising of 1715 he appears to have been suspected by the government. He concealed himself in the house of a Mr. Badger, curate of Coleshill, and does not seem to have been molested there, for he acted occasionally at Coleshill as a clergyman. His continued connection with the Jacobite party is shown by his intimacy with Atterbury, to whom he is said to have acted as secretary. In his defence before the House of Lords Atterbury denied having seen him, ‘except very rarely, for two or three years past.’ But the bishop had crossed out this passage in the draft of his speech, and he acknowledges that he obtained a living for his brother, John Carte, from the chapter of Westminster (Nichols, Correspondence of Atterbury, ii. 140). Atterbury was committed to the Tower 24 Aug. 1722, and in the gazette of the 15th of the same month a proclamation appeared, offering a reward of 1,000l. for Carte's apprehension, in which he was described as ‘about thirty-two years of age, of a middle stature, a raw-boned man, goes a little stooping, a sallow complexion, with a full grey or blue eye, his eyelids fair, inclining to red, and commonly wears a light-coloured peruke.’ The description, however, was declared by Dr. Rawlinson, who knew him, to be quite opposite to the truth. Meanwhile, Carte had escaped to France, where he lived under the name of Phillips, and gaining access to the best libraries, he devoted himself to collecting materials for illustrating a translation of the ‘History of Thuanus’ (de Thou). These materials were purchased in 1724 at a considerable price by Dr. Mead for the edition of ‘Thuanus’ published at his expense in London, in seven folio volumes, in 1733, under the editorship of S. Buckley, and with a Latin address to Mead signed by Carte, who appears also to have made the index for the book. In 1728 Carte was allowed to return to England on the intercession of Queen Caroline. He now devoted himself to an expansion of his early pamphlet, in vindication of Charles I, in regard to the Irish rebellion. This he did in his ‘Life of James, Duke of Ormonde,’ in 2 vols. fol., 1736, preceded by a third volume in the previous year, containing a collection of original letters of Wentworth, Ormonde, and others connected with Ireland. He labours to prove that the pretended commission given by Charles at Oxford (12 Jan. 1644–5) to Lord Glamorgan (Lord Herbert) for treating with the Irish catholics, was a forgery of Glamorgan's. The book is still of value from the mass of materials which his diligence collected. Yet Dr. Johnson's criticism must be allowed to have some justification: ‘The matter is diffused in too many words; there is no animation, no compression, no vigour. Two good volumes in duodecimo might be made out of two in folio’ (Croker, Boswell, v. 24, ed. 1859). In a letter to Swift, dated 11 Aug. 1736, on sending him his ‘Ormonde,’ Carte sketches his plan for his other voluminous work, ‘The History of England.’ He complains that Rapin had had no knowledge of the documentary sources of English history beyond those published in Rymer's ‘Fœdera;’ that the Cottonian MSS., the rolls of parliament, and the contents of the Paper Office had been quite neglected by him, and that therefore there was room for a history founded on the study of these. In the midst of his work at this history he had to take action against some Dublin booksellers who were pirating his ‘Life of Ormonde.’ He found that the only way he had of defeating them was to serve upon them an order of the House of Lords, which had been passed in 1721 in regard to Curll's printing the ‘Life and Works of the Duke of Buckingham,’ declaring it a breach of the privileges of the house for any one to print an account of the life, the letters, or other works of a deceased peer without the consent of his heirs or executors. This served Carte's immediate purpose, but he exerted himself to obtain a new act of parliament securing an author a property in his works, and in 1737 published ‘Further Reasons addressed to Parliament for rendering more effectual an Act of Queen Anne relating to Vesting in Authors the Rights of Copies, for the Encouragement of Learning. By R. H.’ The encouragement that Carte received in preparing his History was extraordinary. In October 1738 he says, in a letter to Dr. Zachary Grey, that he already had 600l. a year promised for seven years; that he hoped fifteen Oxford colleges would subscribe (apparently only five did so, see the dedication of vol. i.), and that then he shall try Cambridge. He had, in April of that year (1738), published ‘A General Account of the Necessary Material for a History of England, the Society and Subscriptions proposed for the Expenses thereof, and the Method wherein Mr. Carte intends to proceed in carrying on the said Work,’ 4to. Later in the same year he went to Cambridge to seek for materials and help. Cambridge is not mentioned in his dedication, and therefore he probably got nothing there of material aid. He was the guest of Sir John Hynde Cotton at Madingley, whose great collection of pamphlets of the period of the great rebellion he reduced to order, and had bound in volumes. The next six years (1738–44) were almost incessantly employed in pushing on his work, much of which he carried on in Paris, where he diligently searched the royal archives, then under the care of the Abbé Sullier. This work was varied as usual with controversy. In 1741–2 he wrote a thick pamphlet of 214 pages, 8vo, in answer to ‘A Letter of a Bystander to a Member of Parliament,’ which he called ‘A Full Answer to a Letter of a Bystander, wherein his False Calculations and Misrepresentations of Facts in the Time of Charles II are refuted. By R. A., Esq.’ This was answered again by a ‘Gentleman of Cambridge’ in a ‘Letter to Mr. Thomas Carte,’ London, 1744, in which the writer says: ‘You were so rash as to appear yourself publicly in the support of it at an eminent coffee-house; you there declared you were Mr. Carte, the author of the “Full Answer to the Bystander,” and that you came there on purpose to vindicate it from any observations. You know what followed. You were driven thence with a birchen rod, and abandoned the place with shame and confusion.’ The ‘birchen rod’ refers to arguments of Dr. Thomas Birch, who, among his many books, had written on Charles I and Ireland in opposition to Carte. Carte replied again in ‘A Full and Clear Vindication of A Full Answer to a Letter from a Bystander.’ The year 1744 was again a period of some trouble to Carte. In March he had a lawsuit with his brother Samuel and sister Sarah about a clause in his father's will which removed him from his executorship and inheritance in case he were troubled by the government. He, however, won his cause (Atkyns, Reports, iii. 174). Shortly afterwards, upon an alarm of a French invasion to support a Jacobite rising, the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended, and Carte was arrested. He was not long retained in custody, being released on 9 May, ‘confined,’ he said, ‘for he knew not what, and released he knew not why.’ His subscriptions, however, went on. In July the common council of London voted him 50l. for seven years, for which, according to Horace Walpole, who ridicules the proceeding, four aldermen and six common-councilmen were to inspect his materials and the progress of his work (Letters to Sir H. Mann, i. 381). In October the Goldsmiths', Grocers', and Vintners' Companies gave 25l. each for seven years. In August (1744) he printed ‘A Collection of the several Papers published by Thomas Carte, in relation to his History of England,’ 8vo. In 1746 he issued proposals for printing his History; and the first volume appeared in December 1747. It was not prepossessing in point of style; but it was so great an advance on previous histories, in the extent of the original material used and quoted, that it would have commanded success but for an unlucky note, inserted at p. 291, on a passage concerning the unction of our kings at their coronation. In this note (which his friends vainly pleaded was not by his hand), he asserted his belief in the cure of the king's evil in the case of a man named Christopher Lovel of Bristol, by the touch of the Pretender, or, as he called him, ‘the eldest lineal descendant of a race of kings who had, indeed, for a long succession of ages cured that disease by the royal touch.’ The cure was said to have been effected at Avignon in November 1716. This raised a storm among the anti-Jacobite party. Carte was attacked in several pamphlets, and a writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1748, p. 13) professed to have investigated the case and found it, of course, entirely false. The man had been temporarily cured by the change of air and regimen, but had suffered a relapse on his return and died when on a second voyage. The practical result to Carte was the withdrawal of the grant from the common council of London by a unanimous vote on 7 April 1748 (Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 185), and an immediate neglect of his work. In spite of such discouragement he persisted in his enterprise, and the next two volumes appeared in 1750 and 1752, and a fourth in 1755, after his death. Carte died of diabetes on 2 April 1754, at Caldecott House, near Abingdon, and was buried in the church of Yattendon, near Newbury, on 11 April. He was a man of mean appearance, but of cheerful and social disposition. He worked with indefatigable industry from early morning until evening. His historical collections were left to his wife, a daughter of Colonel Arthur Brett, who, in turn, left them to her second husband, Nicholas Jernegan, for his life, and afterwards to the Bodleian. Jernegan, after receiving large sums for the use of them, among others as much as 200l. from Lord Hardwick, and 300l. from Macpherson, who used them for his ‘History’ and ‘State Papers’ (1775), finally disposed of them to the Bodleian for a good price, during his lifetime, at some period subsequent to 1775. Besides the works mentioned above, Carte published: 1. ‘Preface to a Translation, by Mrs.Thomson, of the History of the Calamities of Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England,’ by Michael Baudier, 1736. 2. ‘Advice of a Mother to her Son and Daughter.’ Translated from the French of the Marchioness de Lambert. 3. ‘The History of the Revolutions of Portugal from the foundation of that kingdom to the year 1567; with letters of Sir Robert Southwell during his embassy there to the Duke of Ormonde,’ 1740. 4. ‘Preface to Catalogue des Rolles Gascons, Normands et François, conservés dans les Archives de la Tour de Londres,’ fol. 1743. This preface, according to Lowndes, was afterwards cancelled by order of the French government. A new edition of his History was published at Oxford in 1851, 6 vols. 8vo.
[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 471–518, and elsewhere; Nichols's Illustrations of Lit. Hist. v. 152–66; Gent. Mag. 1748; Biographia Britannica, ed. Kippis; Hearne's Remains, ii. 154, ed. 1869.]