Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Morris, Thomas (1660-1748)

1338227Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39 — Morris, Thomas (1660-1748)1894Albert Frederick Pollard

MORRIS, THOMAS (1660–1748), non-juror, born in 1660, may possibly be the Thomas Morris who graduated from King's College, Cambridge, B.A. in 1683, M.A. in 1688; in the latter year he was minor canon of Worcester and vicar of Claines, Worcestershire. Refusing to take the oath of supremacy in 1689, he was deprived of his ecclesiastical preferments, and reduced to live on the generosity of affluent Jacobites; he is nevertheless described as 'very charitable to the poor, and much esteem'd.' He died on 15 June 1748, aged 88, and was buried at the west end of the north aisle of the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral under a flat gravestone, on which was inscribed, at his request, the word, 'Miserimus,' without name, date, or comment. This inscription was nearly obliterated in 1829, but was soon after renewed with the more correct spelling, 'Miserrimus.'

In 1828 Wordsworth wrote in the 'Keepsake' a sonnet on 'Miserrimus,' apparently without any knowledge of Morris's history. It begins '"Miserrimus!" and neither name nor date.' Another sonnet, with the same title, by Edwin Lees, was published in 1828, and a third, by Henry Martin, was included in his 'Sonnets and Miscellaneous Poems,' Birmingham, 1830, 8vo. In 1832 Frederic Mansell Reynolds [q. v.] published a novel, 'Miserrimus,' which reached a second edition in the next year, and was dedicated to William Godwin. In the advertisement to the second edition Reynolds says he 'would never have adopted this epitaph as the groundwork for a fiction had he been aware that the name and career of the individual who selected it were known.' The 'Gentleman's Magazine' (1833, i. 245) calls it 'a posthumous libel on an innocent and helpless person whose story is widely different from that here inflicted on his memory.'

[Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 428, s.v. ‘Maurice;’ The Worcestershire Miscellany, p. 140, Suppl. pp. 37–40; Bowles's Life of Ken, ii. 181; Green's Hist. and Antiquities of Worcester, App. p. xxvii; Mackenzie Walcott's Memorials, p. 28; Britton's Hist. and Antiquities of Worcester Cathedral, pp. 23–4; Chambers's Biog. Illustr. of Worcestershire, pp. 310–11; Rep. of Brit. Archæol. Assoc. at Worcester, August 1848, p. 130; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. v. 354, 5th ser. xi. 348, 392–3 (by Cuthbert Bede), 432; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

A. F. P.