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

William Tisdall in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

TISDAL or TISDALL, WILLIAM (1669–1735), controversialist and acquaintance of Swift, born in Dublin in 1669, was the son of William Tisdall of Carrickfergus, by his wife Anna. He entered Trinity College on 8 April 1687, his tutor being Edward Smith [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Down and Connor, became scholar in 1692, fellow in 1696, and obtained the degree of D.D. in 1707. Swift seems to have made his acquaintance as early as 1695–6, while he was at Kilroot, during one of his estrangements from Sir William Temple. Swift sympathised with Tisdall's arrogant churchmanship and hatred of presbyterians, and thought a good deal of his capacity as a preacher. They corresponded, too, upon political questions, and were in agreement as to the desirability of passing a bill against occasional conformity. These relations were abruptly changed in 1704 when Tisdall announced to his friend that he had designs upon the hand of ‘Stella’ (Esther Johnson). Swift replied in a letter dated 20 April 1704, in which rage and irony are apparent enough beneath the studied calmness which he affected. The episode was very soon closed, but Swift never got over his grudge against the ‘interloper.’ When he wanted a contemptuous epithet for Steele, he called him a ‘Tisdall fellow.’ Tisdall consoled himself by marrying, on 16 May 1706, Eleanor, daughter of Hugh Morgan of Cottlestown, co. Sligo.

In 1706 Tisdall became vicar of Kerry and Ruavan, co. Antrim; he was appointed rector of Drumcree, co. Armagh, on 29 Nov. 1711, and was admitted vicar of Belfast in the following year. His reputation as a controversialist was already considerable in the north of Ireland. In 1709 appeared his ironical ‘A Sample of True-Blew Presbyterian Loyalty, in all Changes and Turns of Government’ (Dublin, 4to), which was followed in 1712 by his vigorous ‘Conduct of the Dissenters in Ireland.’ Tisdall declared jocularly (though the joke was not relished by Swift) that he had saved Ireland by this as Swift England by his ‘Conduct of the Allies.’ John McBride [q. v.] retorted in ‘A Sample of Jet-black Prelatic Calumny.’ Tisdall published two other small tracts, before the dominion of the whigs was definitely established in 1715. After this he was silent. His relations with Swift became closer again after Stella's death, and he was a witness to Swift's will. He died on 8 June 1735, being survived just a year and a day by his wife. A son William became vicar of St. James's, Dublin, married Lady Mary, daughter of Chambre Brabazon, fifth earl of Meath, and had issue (Burke, Landed Gentry and Peerage, s.v. ‘Meath’).

[Dublin Univ. Cal.; Stubbs's Trinity Coll. Dublin; Benn's Hist. of Belfast; Reid's Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Craik's Life of Swift; Forster's Life of Swift; Swift's Journal to Stella, ed. Ryland; Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, vi. 304; notes kindly supplied by Surgeon-captain W. W. Webb.]

T. S.