Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Badcock, Samuel

BADCOCK, SAMUEL (1747–1788), theological and literary critic, was born at South Molton, Devon, 23 Feb. 1747. His parents were dissenters, and he was educated in a school at Ottery St. Mary, which was reserved for the sons of those opposed to the English church. He was trained for the dissenting ministry, and in 1766 became the pastor of a congregation at Wimborne in Dorset. After three years of residence in that county he was appointed to a similar post at the more important town of Barnstaple in Devon, and remained there until 1778. During this period he became known, through his contributions to the 'Theological Repository,' to Dr. Priestley, and sought his acquaintance in correspondence, and personally by a journey to Bowood, where Priestley was living with Lord Shelburne. This intercourse, and the adoption of some of the doctor's theological views, led to an estrangement with the congregation at Barnstaple, and Badcock returned to his native town, where he ministered from 1778 to 1786, when he became dissatisfied with the doctrines of dissent and with the position assigned to its ministers. He sought for ordination in the established church, and, having obtained a title for the curacy of Broad Clyst, was ordained by Bishop Ross, of Exeter, deacon and priest within a week in June 1787. Harassed by failing health and pecuniary anxiety, he assisted for the last six months of his life at the Octagon Chapel, Bath; and whilst on a visit to Sir John Chichester, one of his Devonshire patrons, at his town house. Queen Street, Mayfair, London, died 19 May, 1788.

Most of Badcock's contributions to literature appeared in the magazines of the day. From 1774, when he sent to the 'Westminster Magazine' a series of articles, the names of which are printed in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' lviii. pt. ii. 595 (1788), until his death, his services were in constant demand by the conductors of the critical papers. He wrote in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' the 'London Magazine,' 'General Evening Post,' and 'St. James's Chronicle,' but the most famous of his contributions appeared in the 'Monthly Review.' Although he had been friendly with Priestley, and had published in 1780 'A slight Sketch of the Controversy between Dr. Priestley and his Opponents,' a severe notice from his pen of the doctor's 'History of the Corruptions of Christianity' appeared in the pages of that review for June 1783. This, and. an article by him in the next year on 'Priestley's Letters to Dr. Horsley,' produced two answers from Dr. Priestley and pamphlets from J. E. Hamilton and Edward Harwood, D.D. Whilst resident at Barnstaple, Badcock became acquainted with the daughter of Samuel Wesley, the master of the Tiverton school and elder brother of John Wesley. The letters and anecdotes which he obtained from her were transmitted by him to the 'Westminster Magazine' in 1774. A subsequent account, based on her statements, of the Wesley family, provoked a correspondence with John Wesley; this biography was printed in the 'Bibl. Topog. Britt. iii. pp. xli-xlviii, and reprinted, with the letters which it occasioned, in Nichols's 'Lit. Anecdotes,' v. 217-42. Several letters from Wesley which Badcock gave to Priestley were published by the latter in 1791 under the title of 'Original Letters by Rev. John Wesley and his Friends.' A sermon which Badcock preached at the Octagon Chapel, Bath, for the benefit of the General Infirmary, 23 Dec. 1787, was printed for private distribution. Rose, in his 'Biographical Dictionary,' says that he wrote in 1781 a poem called the 'Hermitage,' and Watt states that an assize sermon preached by him at St. Peter's, Exeter, in 1788, was published in 1795; but neither of these works can be found at the British Museum. After Badcock's death, his friend. Rev. R. B. Gabriel, D.D., alleged that he was the virtual author of Dr. Joseph White's Bampton lectures on the effects of Christianity and Mahometanism. A fierce war of words raged in the papers. Dr. Gabriel published 'Facts relating to the Rev. Dr. White's Bampton lectures,' and the lecturer rejoined with 'A Statement of Dr. White's Literary Obligations to the late Rev. Mr. Samuel Badcock and the Rev. Samuel Parr, LL.D.' (1790). From this acrimonious controversy it appeared beyond doubt that Dr. White had received considerable assistance, though not to the extent which his assailants asserted, from Badcock. The papers which William Chapple had collected for an improved edition of Risdon's 'Survey of Devon,' were entrusted to Badcock's care for arrangement and revision, and from this he was induced to contemplate the preparation of a complete history of that county. Several letters on this matter are printed in Rev. R. Polwhele's 'Reminiscences,' i. 44-77, but the prosecution of the work was stopped by Badcock's death. As a reviewer, Badcock ranks among the best known names of the last century.

[Chalmers; Gent. Mag. 1788 and 1789; Priestley's Life and Correspondence (1831); Polwhele's Traditions and Recollections, i. 184, 240-2.]

W. P. C.