Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomas, John (1691-1766)

THOMAS, JOHN (1691–1766), successively bishop of Lincoln and Salisbury, born on 23 June 1691, was the son of a drayman in Nicholson's brewery in the parish of All Hallows the Great in the city of London, and was sent to the parish school (note in Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 28). He was admitted to Merchant Taylors' school on 11 March 1702-3. He graduated B.A. in 1713 and M.A. in 1717 from Catharine Hall, Cambridge, was made D.D. in 1728, and incorporated at Oxford on 11 July of the same year. He became chaplain of the English factory at Hamburg, where he was highly popular with the merchants, published a paper in German called the 'Patriot ' in imitation of the 'Spectator,' and attracted the notice of George II, who voluntarily offered him preferment in England if his ministers would leave him any patronage to bestow. In 1736 he was presented to the rectory of St. Vedast's, Foster Lane; he accompanied the king to Hanover at his personal request, and succeeded Dr. Lockyer as dean of Peterborough in 1740, in spite of the opposition of the Duke of Newcastle (Newton, Autobiogr. pp. 81-5). In 1743 he was nominated to the bishopric of St. Asaph, but was immediately transferred to Lincoln, to which he was consecrated at Lambeth on 1 April 1744. He was translated to Salisbury in November 1761, died there on 19 July 1766, and was buried in the cathedral, where a tablet erroneously gives his age as eighty-five instead of seventy-five. His library was sold in 1767. He left one daughter, married to John Taylor, chancellor of Salisbury. Of his four wives, the first was a niece of Bishop Sherlock. The famous wedding-ring ' posy,' 'If I survive I'll make them five,' is attributed to him.

Thomas seems to have been a worthy man, though weak in the disposal of patronage. His knowledge of German had commended him to George II, who liked him, and refused to quarrel with him for having dined at Cliefden with Frederick, prince of Wales. He was often confused with his namesakes of Winchester and Rochester, especially with the former, who also had held a city living, was a royal chaplain, preached well, and squinted. Thomas was also very deaf. He was a man of some humour, perhaps occasionally a practical joker (Wakefield, Life, i. 15; Gent. Mag. 1783 i. 463, ii. 1008, 1784 i. 80). Thomas was the author of sermons published between 1739 and 1756. His por- trait is in the palace at Salisbury.

[Cassan's Bishops of Salisbury, iii. 313-19; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. passim; Abbey's English Church and its Bishops, ii. 75-6; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Robinson's Merchant Taylors' Register, ii. 9.]

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