Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Enfield, William

ENFIELD, WILLIAM (1741–1797), divine and author, was born of poor parents at Sudbury, Suffolk, on 29 March 1741. His earliest instructor was the Rev. William Hextall, a dissenting minister, by whose advice he was prepared for the ministry, and sent, in his seventeenth year, to the Daventry Academy, then conducted by Dr. Caleb Ashworth. He was there educated as one of the alumni of the presbyterian fund. In November 1763 he was ordained minister of the congregation of protestant dissenters at Benn's Garden, Liverpool. In 1770 he succeeded the Rev. John Seddon as tutor in belles-lettres and rector of the academy at Warrington. That institution was from various causes in a declining condition, and it was dissolved in 1783. In the meantime he established a sound reputation as a divine and author, and the degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by the university of Edinburgh on 8 March 1774. His pastoral duties to the Cairo Street presbyterian congregation, which he had undertaken on first going to Warrington in 1770, were continued two years after the closing of the academy, and only relinquished on his receiving an invitation (in 1785) to the Octagon Chapel at Norwich. For some time after taking up his residence near that city he received pupils at his house, as he had done at Warrington, and among them were Denman, afterwards lord chief justice, and Maltby, subsequent bishop of Durham. Enfield was an amiable and estimable man, an influential writer and persuasive preacher, and was a leading figure in the literary society of both Warrington and Norwich.

He wrote:

  1. ‘Sermons for the Use of Families,’ 1768–70, 2 vols. 8vo.
  2. ‘Prayers for the Use of Families,’ 1770, 2nd edit. 1777.
  3. ‘Sermon preached at the Ordination of the Rev. Philip Taylor,’ &c., 1770.
  4. ‘Remarks on several late Publications relative to the Dissenters, in a letter to Dr. Priestley,’ 1770. To this Priestley replied.
  5. ‘The Preacher's Directory,’ 1771, 4to, 2nd edit. 1781.
  6. ‘Hymns for Public Worship, selected,’ 1772, 12mo, 2nd edit. 1781.
  7. ‘An Essay towards the History of Leverpool [i.e. Liverpool], drawn up chiefly from the papers left by the late Mr. George Perry,’ 1773, fol., 2nd edit. 1774.
  8. ‘The English Preacher, or Sermons on the Principal Subjects of Religion and Morality,’ 1773–79, 9 vols. 12mo.
  9. ‘Observations on Literary Property,’ 1774, 4to.
  10. ‘The Speaker, or Miscellaneous Pieces selected from the best English Writers,’ 1774. This very popular elocutionary book has often been reprinted.
  11. ‘A Sermon on the Death of Mr. J. Galloway,’ 1777.
  12. ‘Biographical Sermons on the Principal Characters in Scripture,’ 12mo.
  13. ‘A Sermon on the Ordination of the Rev. J. P. Estlin,’ 1778.
  14. ‘A Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. John Aikin, D.D.,’ 1780.
  15. ‘Discourse on the Progress of Religion and Christian Knowledge,’ 1780.
  16. ‘Exercises in Elocution,’ 1780, 3rd edit. 1786. To an edition in 1794 he added ‘Counsels to Young Men.’
  17. A translation of Rossignol's ‘Elements of Geometry,’ 1781, 8vo.
  18. ‘Institutes of Natural Philosophy,’ 1785, 4to, 2nd edit. 1799.
  19. ‘The History of Philosophy … from Brucker's “Historia Critica Philosophiæ,”’ 1791, 2 vols. 4to, 2nd edit. 1819, 2 vols. 8vo, new edit. 1840.
  20. ‘Sermons on Practical Subjects,’ with portrait, and memoir by Aikin, 1798, 2nd edit. 1799.

He contributed to the ‘Cabinet,’ published at Norwich, to the ‘Monthly Magazine,’ edited by Dr. Aikin, 1796, and to the ‘Monthly’ and ‘Analytical’ reviews, and wrote a number of articles for the first volume of Aikin's ‘General Biographical Dictionary.’ Several of his earlier works were translated into German.

He died at Norwich on 3 Nov. 1797, aged 56. His wife, whom he married in 1767, was the daughter of Richard Holland, draper, of Liverpool. His sons, Richard and Henry, were successively appointed to the office of town clerk of Nottingham.

[Aikin's Memoir, as above; also in L. Aikin's Memoirs of John Aikin, 1823, ii. 293; Monthly Repository, viii. 427; Taylor's Hist. of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1848, p. 49; Memoir of Gilbert Wakefield, 1804, i. 223; Priestley's Works, vol. xxii.; Rutt's Memoir of Priestley; H. A. Bright in Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancashire and Cheshire, xi. 15; Kendrick's Profiles of Warrington Worthies, 1854; Kendrick's Eyres's Warrington Press in Warrington Examiner, 1881; Picton's Memorials of Liverpool, 1873, ii. 107; Palatine Note-book, i. 34, 53 (as to editions of the ‘Speaker’); Allibone, i. 558; Bohn's Lowndes, iv. 739; Cat. of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, and Dr. Daniel Williams's Fund, 1885, p. 63; Reuss's Alphab. Register of Authors, Berlin, 1791, p. 125.]

C. W. S.