Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pearce, Zachary

PEARCE, ZACHARY (1690–1774), bishop of Rochester, born on 8 Sept. 1690 in the parish of St. Giles's, High Holborn, was son of John Pearce, a distiller, who made a fortune and bought an estate at Little Ealing. After living there for forty years, he died, aged 85, on 14 Aug. 1752. After some education in a school at Great Ealing, Zachary was sent to Westminster, 12 Feb. 1704, and in 1707 was granted a queen's scholarship. He was elected to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1710. While at college he wrote a paper in the ‘Guardian,’ and two in the last series of the ‘Spectator’ (Nos. 572 and 633), and afterwards one in Ambrose Philips's ‘Freethinker’ (No. 114). In 1716 he printed an edition of Cicero's ‘De Oratore’ at the university press. A friend of his was known to Chief-justice Thomas Parker, afterwards (1721) Lord Macclesfield [q. v.], and obtained Parker's consent to receive a dedication. Parker was so much gratified that he requested Bentley to obtain Pearce's election to a fellowship. Bentley consented, but apparently with some reluctance (Monk, Bentley, i. 411), for which perhaps he had reasons. At any rate, Pearce soon afterwards encouraged Colbatch in his famous struggle against the master. Pearce upon thanking Parker received a present of fifty guineas from his patron. He was ordained deacon in 1717, and priest in 1718, by Bishop Fleetwood. Parker upon becoming chancellor in 1718 appointed Pearce to a chaplaincy. He lived in the chancellor's family for three years. In December 1719 he became rector of Stapleford Abbots, Essex, and on 19 March 1719–20 was inducted into the rectory of St. Bartholomew's, in the gift of the chancellor. The chancellor said that when applying to Bentley for the Trinity fellowship he had promised to make a vacancy as soon as possible. The Duke of Newcastle, dining one day at the chancellor's, recognised Pearce as an old schoolfellow, and made him one of the king's chaplains. In February 1721–2 he married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Adams, a rich distiller in Holborn. On 10 Jan. 1723–4 he was inducted into the vicarage of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, worth 500l. year, which was at the chancellor's disposal in consequence of the translation to Ely of Dr. Thomas Green [q. v.], who had held it in commendam with the bishopric of Norwich. The chancellor then obtained for Pearce a degree of D.D. from the archbishop of Canterbury. Pearce showed his gratitude for this series of favours by dedicating an edition of Longinus, ‘On the Sublime,’ to his patron. The chancellor's impeachment in 1725 put an end to his power of helping Pearce; but they remained on friendly terms till Macclesfield's death in 1732. The plan for rebuilding the church of St. Martin's in 1724 made an act of parliament necessary in order to raise additional funds. Pearce waited upon Pulteney, who had large property in the parish, to ask his concurrence; and Pulteney, also a Westminster boy, became a warm friend and patron. Lord Sundon, another parishioner, made Pearce's acquaintance, and Lady Sundon introduced him to Queen Caroline, with whom she had great influence (see Walpole, Reminiscences in Letters i. cxxx.; and Hervey, Memoirs, i. 90). The queen took a liking to the popular doctor, ordered him to preach before her, and made two offers of preferment, which were accidentally frustrated. She also spoke in his favour to Sir Robert Walpole, but died before she could do anything for him. Pearce asked Walpole in 1739 for the deanery of Wells; and Pulteney, then in the heat of opposition, begged that his friendship with Pearce might not hinder the preferment. Walpole politely promised, but kept the deanery vacant until the death of Nailor, dean of Winchester. On 4 Aug. 1739 Pearce was instituted to the deanery of Winchester, worth 600l. year, in consequence, as he believed, of a promise made by Walpole to the queen. Pulteney, after joining the cabinet, proposed Pearce for a bishopric; but the Duke of Newcastle would only promise for the next occasion, and Pulteney ceased to have influence. Archbishop Potter applied on his behalf in 1746, without success, when Pearce declared that upon his father's death he should resign his living and be content with his deanery. In 1747 Matthew Hutton (1693–1758) [q. v.], bishop of Bangor, was translated to York, and the Duke of Newcastle offered the vacant see to Pearce, allowing him to hold St. Martin's in commendam. Pearce at first declined, and even persuaded his father and Pulteney, now Lord Bath, to allow him to refuse ‘without their displeasure.’ Newcastle, however, pointed out that, if clergymen of merit refused bishoprics, ministers could not be blamed for appointing men of less merit. Pearce did not see his way to answer this argument, and was consecrated bishop of Bangor on 21 Feb. 1748. Bath had, he thinks, reminded Newcastle of his old promise. He visited his diocese annually (with one exception) till 1753, when his health became too weak, and he gave all preferments in his gifts to Welshmen. In 1755 the duke persuaded him with less trouble to exchange Bangor for the bishopric of Rochester (installed 9 July 1756) and the deanery of Westminster (15 April 1756).

In 1761 he was more obstinate. Lord Bath offered to procure his appointment to the bishopric of London, but he stated his resolution to decline. He was growing old, and told Lord Bath that he meant to resign both bishopric and deanery. After some difficulty the king consented. The ministry, however, objected, because, as Pearce says, Bath had asked the king to appoint Thomas Newton [q. v.] to the vacant preferment. They thought that the king would thus be encouraged to interfere personally in the appointment of bishops, and objected successfully to the acceptance of Pearce's resignation. Pearce, however, resigned the deanery of Westminster in 1768. Although Pearce had obtained patronage in the manner common to the clergy of the day, this desire to resign at the age of seventy seems to have struck his contemporaries as a proof of singular disinterestedness.

He celebrated the fiftieth year of his marriage (1772) as ‘a year of jubilee’ (verses written on the occasion are given in the ‘Annual Register’ for 1776, p. 233). His wife died on 23 Oct. 1773, their children having all died very young. A fortnight after her funeral he lamented his loss ‘in proper expressions of sorrow and respect,’ and spoke of her in the evening, but never mentioned her again. He was declining, and died at Little Ealing on 29 June 1774. He divided his time between Ealing and the palace belonging to the bishops of Rochester at Bromley, Kent. He was buried by the side of his wife at Bromley. He left his library to the dean and chapter of Westminster; his manuscripts to his chaplain, John Derby; and 5,000l. to the college founded for clergymen's widows at Bromley by Bishop Warner. He built a registry at Rochester, and left legacies amounting to 15,000l. to various other charities. There is a portrait in Bromley College, and a marble bust, said to be a striking likeness, on his monument in Westminster Abbey. A portrait painted by Thomas Hudson, belonging to the archbishop of Canterbury, was engraved in 1754 and prefixed to his works.

Pearce was known as a good scholar. His editions of Cicero, ‘De Oratore’ (1716) and ‘De Officiis’ (1745), went through several editions, and the first brought him a complimentary letter from his rival editor, Olivet. His edition of Longinus (1724) reached a ninth edition in 1806, though eclipsed by Toup's in 1778.

His other works are: 1. ‘An Account of Trinity College,’ 1720 (mentioned in the list appended to the ‘Life,’ but not in the British Museum or elsewhere; it is probably one of the pamphlets about Bentley, possibly to be identified with ‘A Full and Impartial Account of the Proceedings … against Dr. Bentley,’ 1719). 2. ‘Epistolæ duæ ad … F. V. professorem Amstelodamensem scriptæ …’ by ‘Phileleutherus Londinensis,’ 1721 (an examination of Bentley's proposals for an edition of the Greek Testament). 3. ‘A Letter to the Clergy of the Church of England on Occasion of the Bishop of Rochester's Commitment to the Tower,’ 1722 (and a French translation). 4. ‘The Miracles of Jesus defended,’ 1729 (against Thomas Woolston's ‘Discourses’). 5. ‘Reply to a “Letter to Dr. Waterland,” setting forth many Falsehoods … by which the Letter-writer [Conyers Middleton, q. v.] endeavours to weaken the Authority of Moses,’ 1731 (Middleton published a ‘Defence,’ and Pearce a ‘Reply’ to the defence). 6. ‘Review of the Text of Milton's “Paradise Lost,” in which the chief of Dr. Bentley's Emendations are considered,’ 1732. 7. A ‘Concio ad Clerum,’ preached before the convocation in 1741, was published with a translation; and, in reply to some criticisms, he published in 1742 ‘Character of the Clergy Defended.’ 8. ‘A Commentary, with Notes on the Four Evangelists and the Acts of the Apostles, together with a new Translation of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, with a Paraphrase and Notes,’ 2 vols. 4to, was published in 1777, with his life, by his chaplain, John Derby, who in 1778 published also four volumes of his sermons.

Ten sermons were also published separately during his life.

[The Life (see above) prefixed to the Commentary published also in ‘Lives’ edited by A. Chalmers in 1816. It consists of autobiographical notes connected by Dr. Johnson, who also wrote the dedication to the king (Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, ii. 446, iii. 112). Republished [by A. Chalmers] in ‘Lives,’ 1816. A letter upon the publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Chronology is appended. Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, iii. 107–11; Monk's Bentley, i. 411, ii. 79, 80, 144, 323; Lyttelton's Memoirs and Correspondence, i. 161–2; Welch's Alumni West. pp. 248, 252–3; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 108, ii. 575, iii. 22, 349; Cole's Athenæ Cantabr.; Gent. Mag. 1775 p. 421, 1776 pp. 62, 103, 116, 183, 208.]

L. S.