Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pakington, John (1671-1727)

600903Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43 — Pakington, John (1671-1727)1895George Atherton Aitken

PAKINGTON, Sir JOHN (1671–1727), politician and alleged original of Addison's ‘Sir Roger de Coverley,’ born on 16 March 1671, was only son of Sir John Pakington, of Westwood, Worcestershire, the third baronet [see under Pakington, Sir John, (1620–1680)]. His mother, Margaret (d. 1690), was second daughter of Sir John Keyt, bart., of Ebrington, Gloucestershire. Dorothy, lady Pakington [q. v.], was his grandmother. Pakington's father, who died in 1688, entrusted his education to the care of Lord Weymouth and his brothers, James and Henry Frederick Thynne.

Hearne (Collections, ed. Doble, ii. 56) mentions Pakington as one of the writers of St. John's College, Oxford; but if he was at the university for a time, he did not take his degree. On 5 March 1690, although not yet nineteen, he was elected M.P. for Worcestershire, and he sat for that county until his death, except in the parliament of 1695–8, when he voluntarily declined the position. In July 1702 he was elected for Aylesbury, where some of his ancestors lived, as well as Worcestershire (Return of Members of Parliament). In 1691 he married Frances, eldest surviving daughter of Sir Henry Parker, bart., of Honington, Warwickshire (Harl. Soc. Publ. xxxi. 191).

Pakington's political views made themselves conspicuous in the House of Commons in December 1699, when he proposed an address to the king to remove Gilbert Burnet [q. v.], bishop of Salisbury, from the office of preceptor to the Duke of Gloucester, on the ground that he was unfit for that trust because he had hinted that William III came in by conquest. The matter, however, proceeded no further (Luttrell, Brief Relation of State Affairs, iv. 592). By 1700 Pakington was a widower, and on 26 Aug. a license was granted for his marriage, at All Saints, Oxford, to Hester, daughter and heiress of Sir Herbert Perrott of Harroldston, Pembrokeshire (Harl. Soc. Publ. xxiv. 237); she died in 1715.

On 3 Nov. 1702 Pakington made complaint to the house against William Lloyd (1627–1717) [q. v.], bishop of Worcester, and his son, William Lloyd, respecting the privileges of the house. The matter was taken into consideration on the 18th, when evidence was given that Lloyd had called upon Pakington not to stand for parliament, had traduced him to his clergy and tenants, and had threatened those who voted for him. Lloyd's son had alleged that Pakington had voted for bringing in a French government, and the bishop's secretary had said that people might as well vote for the Pretender. The rector of Hampton-Lovett (of which living Pakington was patron) deposed that the bishop had charged Pakington with drunkenness, swearing, and immorality, and had urged against him a pamphlet written in vindication of the bill against the translation of bishops. Lloyd said that Pakington had published three libels against him and other bishops, and he denied that he was, as Pakington alleged, author of ‘The Character of a Churchman’ (see Somers Tracts, 1813, ix. 477–81). The house resolved that the conduct of the bishop, his son and agents, had been ‘malicious, unchristian, and arbi- trary, in high violation of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of England.’ In an address to the queen they prayed that Lloyd might be removed from his position of lord almoner; and the attorney-general was ordered to prosecute Lloyd's son when his privilege as a member of the lower House of Convocation expired. The House of Lords urged that every one had a right to be heard in his own defence before suffering punishment; but on 20 Nov. the commons were informed that Anne had agreed to remove Lloyd from his place of almoner. On the 25th the evidence was ordered to be printed (The Evidence given at the Bar of the House of Commons upon the complaint of Sir John Pakington … together with the Proceedings of the House, 1702; Rapin, cont. by Tindal, 1763, iii. 436–7). The feud continued till 1705, when (6 June) Pakington wrote to Lloyd that dissenters were more in the bishop's favour than churchmen, and complained of annoyance to his friends, which would compel him, if it did not stop, to right himself again (Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, i. 25,125; British Museum, Add. MS. 28005, f. 299).

When the bill for preventing occasional conformity came before the house in November 1703, Pakington made a speech in which he denounced those who stood neutral in matters so nearly concerning the church, and said that the trimmers had a hatred of the Stuarts which came to them by inheritance (Cobbett, Parl. Hist. vi. 153). In a debate on 7 Dec. 1705, which arose out of a resolution of the lords that any one who said the Church of England was in danger was an enemy to the queen, church, and kingdom, Pakington drew attention to the licentiousness of the press, the numerous libels against the church, the increase of presbyterian conventicles, and the lords' resolution itself, as proofs that the church was in danger. The commons, however, agreed with the lords, in spite of Pakington's argument that the lords' resolution would be a convenient weapon in the hands of any evil minister who might wish to abolish episcopacy (ib. vi. 508). Pakington found another opportunity for expressing his high tory views on 4 Feb. 1707, when the Act of Ratification of the Articles of Union with Scotland was before the house. He said he was absolutely against the union, ‘a measure conducted by bribery and corruption within doors, and by force and violence without.’ When the tumult that followed had subsided, he modified slightly his remark, asked whether persons who had betrayed their trust were fit to sit in the house, and pointed out difficulties in having in one kingdom two churches which claimed to be ‘jure divino’ (ib. vi. 560). The union, however, was soon approved by the house.

On Harley's dismissal from the office of lord treasurer on 27 July 1714, Pakington was singled out for high office, and was probably offered a commissionership of the treasury (Boyer, Annals, p. 713). Upon Queen Anne's death, five days later, he and his friends were necessarily much alarmed, and on 5 Aug. Pakington made a complaint against Dr. Radcliffe for not attending her majesty when sent for by the Duke of Ormonde; but the matter dropped when it was found that Radcliffe was not in his place in the house, no one seconding the motion of expulsion (Boyer, Political State, August 1714, p. 152; Wentworth Papers, 410). In September 1715, immediately after the outbreak of the rebellion on behalf of the elder Pretender, Stanhope acquainted the house that there was just cause to suspect six members, including Pakington, and that the king desired the consent of the commons to their arrest. The house readily concurred, and an address of thanks was presented. Pakington received warning through the landlord of a posthouse between Oxford and Worcester, where he was a good customer; for a friendly messenger got the first horse, and the king's messenger did not arrive at Westwood until six hours after Sir John knew of the warrant of arrest. He was, however, waiting for the messenger, and said he was quite willing to go up to town by the stage-coach next day, which he did; and, after examination before the council, he proved his innocence, and was honourably acquitted (A full and authentick Narrative of the intended horrid Conspiracy and Invasion: Containing the Case of … Sir John Packington, &c., 1715). Four years later (7 Dec. 1719) Pakington spoke against the peerage bill, when he found himself on the same side as the Walpoles and Steele. ‘For my own part,’ he said, ‘I never desire to be a Lord, but I have a son and may one day have that ambition; and I hope to leave him a better claim to it than a certain great man [Stanhope] had when he was made a peer.’ He also opposed the measure because it was prejudicial to the rights of the heir to the throne, and would render the division between George I and his son irreconcilable (History and Proceedings of the House of Commons, 1741, i. 202, 209–10).

Pakington was made recorder of Worcester on 21 Feb. 1725, and he died on 13 Aug. 1727, and was buried with his ancestors at Hampton-Lovett, in accordance with the wish expressed in the will which he made three days before his death. The cost of the funeral was not to exceed 200l. The will was proved on 27 Oct., and a large and elaborate monument was erected on the north side of the chancel in the church. This was moved into the Pakington chapel when the church was restored in 1858–9. Pakington's effigy, by J. Rose, reclines on the marble tomb, and an inscription—prepared, as the will shows, beforehand—states that he was an indulgent father, a kind master, charitable and loyal; ‘he spoke his mind in parliament without reserve, neither fearing nor flattering those in power, but despising all their offers of title and preferment upon base and dishonourable compliances.’ Charles Lyttelton [q. v.], bishop of Carlisle, afterwards alleged that, as a matter of fact, Pakington had a secret pension from the whig minister of 500l. a year, charged on the Salt Office; but this is hardly probable, and Lyttelton was not a friendly critic.

By his first wife Pakington had two sons—John, who died at Oxford in 1712, aged nineteen, and Thomas, who entered Balliol College in 1715, aged nineteen, and died at Rome in 1724—and two daughters, Margaret and Frances, the latter of whom married Thomas, viscount Tracey (cf. Luttrell, vi. 382; Wentworth Papers, 93; Tatler, No. 40, ed. Nichols, 1786, ii. 50, v. 364–6). Other children of Pakington died young. By his second wife he had a son, Herbert Perrott, who succeeded his father as baronet and M.P. for Worcestershire, and who had two sons, John and Herbert Perrott, afterwards sixth and seventh baronets. The title became extinct upon the death of Sir John Pakington, eighth baronet, in 1830, but was revived in 1846 in favour of John Somerset Russell, son of Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the seventh baronet [see Pakington, John Somerset, first Baron Hampton].

Pakington is best known, not as a typical high tory and churchman, but as the supposed original of the Sir Roger de Coverley of the ‘Spectator.’ He seems, however, to have no just claim to that distinction. The name of the famous country gentleman was taken from the old country dance, and Tickell, Addison's editor, says that the whole of the characters in the periodical were feigned; while the Spectator himself said (No. 262), ‘When I place an imaginary name at the head of a character, I examine every syllable and letter of it, that it may not bear any resemblance to one that is real.’ It is true that Eustace Budgell vaguely asserted, in the preface to his ‘Theophrastus,’ that most of the characters in the ‘Spectator’ existed among the ‘conspicuous characters of the day;’ but it was Tyers (An Historical Essay on Mr. Addison, 1783) who first said that it was understood that Sir Roger was drawn for Sir John Pakington, a tory not without sense, but abounding in absurdities. It is difficult to understand how this story arose, for the two characters have remarkably few points of resemblance beyond the fact that they were both baronets of Worcestershire. Sir Roger was a bachelor, because he had been crossed in love by a perverse widow, while Pakington married twice. In March 1711, when the ‘Spectator’ was commenced, Pakington was 39, and an energetic and militant politician; Sir Roger was 55, had no enemies, and visited London only occasionally, when his old-world manners seemed strange to those who saw him, though in his youth he had been a fine gentleman about town. Sir Roger had, indeed, been more than once returned knight of the shire; but Pakington sat continuously in the house. Sir Roger was not given to lawsuits, though he sat on the bench at assizes, and at quarter sessions gained applause by explaining ‘a passage in the Game Act;’ but Pakington was a lawyer and a recorder, and able to take proceedings with success against opponents like Bishop Lloyd. Sir Roger would hardly have opposed a bishop, though he were Lloyd or Burnet. Both came into their estates when they were young; but Sir Roger, unlike Pakington, was a much stronger tory in the country than in town. Near Coverley Hall were the ruins of an old abbey, and the mansion was surrounded by ‘pleasing walks … struck out of a wood, in the midst of which the house stands;’ and there had been a monastery at Westwood, and the house was surrounded by two hundred acres of oak-trees; but the description of Coverley Hall would apply to many country houses besides Westwood. Even if the idea of Coverley Hall were taken from Westwood, there would be no sufficient ground for saying that Pakington was the prototype of Sir Roger.

George Hickes [q. v.], and others who would not take the oaths to William III, found a temporary refuge at Westwood in 1689. There Hickes wrote a great part of his ‘Linguarum Septentrionalium Thesaurus’, and he subsequently dedicated his ‘Grammatica Anglo-Saxonica’ to Pakington.

[Nash's History and Antiquities of Worcestershire, i. 186, 350–3, 536–40 (with views of Westwood); Lipscombe's History of the County of Buckingham, ii. 14, 15; Burke's Peerage and Extinct Baronetage; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses; State Papers, Treasury, 1697–1702 lxii. 79, 1708–1714 cxxxv. 9, cliii. 7, clxxii. 8; Additional MS. (Brit. Mus.) 24121, f. 142; Tanner MSS. (Bodleian) cccv. 231; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 367, 2nd ser. iii. 46, 7th ser. ii. 447; Tindal's continuation of Rapin, iv. 212, 358–9; Wyon's History of Queen Anne, i. 216–17, 390–1, 481; Wills's Sir Roger de Coverley; information furnished by Lord Hampton, the Rev. Edwin Lewis, and Miss Porter.]

G. A. A.