Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adams, William (1706-1789)
ADAMS, WILLIAM (1706–1789), divine, was born at Shrewsbury 17 Aug. 1706, and at thirteen entered Pembroke College, Oxford. He took his M.A. degree in 1727, became fellow of his college, and, in 1734, tutor in place of Mr. Jorden. Samuel Johnson, born in 1709, had been one of Jorden's pupils; and during his short university career, 1728–9, formed a friendship with Adams which lasted till Johnson's death. In 1730 Adams was presented to the curacy of St. Chad's in Shrewsbury, and ceased to reside. In 1755 he became rector of Counde in Shropshire; and, in 1756, took his B.D. and D.D. degrees in Oxford. He was elected to the mastership of Pembroke, to which was attached a prebend of Gloucester, in 1775, and resigned St. Chad's. He was afterwards made archdeacon of Llandaff. He retained these offices and the rectory of Counde till his death in the prebendal house at Gloucester, 13 Jan. 1789. He married Sarah Hunt, and left a daughter, married, in 1788, to B. Hyatt of Painswick in Gloucestershire. Adams's friendship with Johnson is commemorated by Boswell, to whom he gave some information about their common friend. Adams attended the first representation of ‘Irene’ in 1749. He tried to reconcile Johnson to Chesterfield's incivility in 1754, though at the same time taking a message from Warburton to Johnson approving of his ‘manly behaviour.’ In June 1784 Johnson, accompanied by Boswell, paid a visit to Adams at Oxford. Johnson stayed at Pembroke lodge for a fortnight, and was greatly pleased by the attentions of Adams and his daughter. Adams published some occasional sermons, one of which ‘On True and False Doctrine,’ preached at St. Chad's, 4 Sept. 1769, and directed against the methodist doctrines of W. Romayne, led to some controversy, in which neither of the principals took part. His chief work is an ‘Essay on Mr. Hume's Essay on Miracles, by William Adams, M.A., chaplain to the Bishop of Llandaff,’ 1752. It is said to have been the first answer to Hume, whose essay was first published in 1748 (Burton's Life of Hume, i. 285), and was a temperate statement of the argument that the divine power supplies an adequate cause for the production of the alleged effects, which are therefore credible upon sufficient evidence.
[Life in Chalmers's Dictionary ‘from private information;’ Gent. Mag. vol. lix.; Rawlinson MSS. fol. 16, 4; Nichols's Illustrations, v. 277; Boswell's Johnson.]