Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whitehall, Robert
WHITEHALL, ROBERT (1625–1685), poetaster, second son of Robert Whitehall of Sharpcliffe, Staffordshire, and of Dorothy his wife, daughter of Thomas Henshaw of Lockwood, Staffordshire, was born at Amersham, Buckinghamshire, early in 1625, and was baptised there on 18 March of that year. His father, who died in September 1658, was vicar of St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford, and from 1616 rector of Addington, Buckinghamshire. The poetaster was educated first at Westminster school, under Dr. Richard Busby, whence he was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1643. He graduated B.A. on 2 Nov. 1647. On 10 May following, with other students of Christ Church, he was summoned to appear before the parliamentary visitors, and, when questioned, replied: ‘As I am summoned a student of Christ Church, my name itself speaks for me, that I can acknowledge no visitation but King Charles's,’ which reply subsequent development has converted into an indifferent distich:
My name's Whitehall, God bless the poet;
If I submit the king shall know it.
He was expelled on 7 July 1648, apparently retiring to his father's house in Buckinghamshire. There coming into contact with his neighbours, the Ingoldsbys, he became popular with the parliamentary party, submitted to the committee for regulating the university, and was by them elected to a fellowship in Merton College in 1650. He completed his degree of M.A. on 18 Nov. 1652. In 1655 he was ‘terræ filius,’ and he derided the puritan discipline of the university. In 1657 Henry Cromwell, writing from Ireland (22 June), requested the college authorities to allow him leave of absence, without loss of emolument, in order to give instruction in the university of Dublin; the permission was granted in the following August. He was created M.B. on 5 Sept. 1657 by letters from Richard Cromwell. On 21 June 1665 he appears to have been in Oxford, when he was licensed to practise medicine. He was certainly there on 19 Oct. 1670, when he wrote from Merton College to Williamson begging for consideration for his losses, he having been ‘worsted in spirituals of 250l. a year and nearly 1,000l. by the Cheshire misadventure’ [?Sir George Booth's rising]. Whitehall was tutor to John Wilmot, second earl of Rochester [q. v.], at Oxford, and much devoted to him. He was sub-warden of Merton College in 1671, and in 1677 received a lease of the Burmington tithes. He died on 8 July 1685, and was buried in Merton College chapel on the following day.
Wood calls him ‘a mere poetaster and time-serving poet.’ His works consist chiefly of congratulatory odes, and ‘his pen seems to have been as ready to celebrate Oliver Cromwell's elevation to the protectorate as to congratulate Charles II on his recovery from an ague; and equally lavish of panegyric, whether Richard Cromwell or Lord Clarendon, whom he hailed as chancellors of the university’ (Welch, Alumni Westmon. pp. 119–20). His works possess a certain rhythmic fluency not unpleasant to the ear.
- ‘Τεχνηπολεμογαμία, or the Marriage of Arms and Arts, 12 July 1651, being an Accompt of the Act in Oxon. to a Friend,’ London, 1651.
- ‘Viro … honoratissimo … Eduardo Hide’ on his being raised to the dignity of chancellor of the university of Oxford), Oxford, 1660?
- ‘The Coronation,’ London, 1661?
- ‘Urania, or a Description of the Painting of the Top of the Theatre at Oxford, as the Artist laid his Design,’ London, 1669.
- ‘Verses on Mrs. More, upon her sending Sir Thomas More's picture (of her own drawing) to the Long Gallery at the Public Schools at Oxford,’ Oxford, 1674. The picture presented by Mrs. More is, however, a portrait of Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex (Walpole, Anecdotes, 1765, iii. 148).
- ‘Ἑξάστιχον Iερόν; sive Iconum quarundam extranearum (numero 258) Explicatio breviuscula et clara,’ Oxford, 1677. This work, of which only twelve copies were printed, consisted of plates purchased by Whitehall in Holland, illustrating both the Old and New Testament. The majority of the plates were those (in many cases reversed) engraved by Matthias Merian for a German edition of the Bible published in Strasburg in 1630. They afterwards appeared in ‘Afbeeldingen der voornaamste Historien,’ published by N. Visscher in Amsterdam. Whitehall's plates appear to have been specially printed on thin paper. Each was pasted on a sheet of paper on which had previously been printed six explanatory verses by Whitehall. His twelve copies were handsomely bound, and presented severally to the king and to noble friends.
- ‘Gratulamini mecum: a Congratulatory Essay upon His Majesties Most Happy Recovery,’ London, 1679.
- ‘The English Rechabite, or a defyance to Bacchus and all his works,’ London, 1680?
Whitehall contributed one Latin and one English poem to ‘Musarum Oxoniensium elaiophoria, sive, Ob Fœdera Auspiciis Serenissimi Olivieri Reipub.’ Oxford, 1654; one Latin poem under his own name in ‘Britannia Rediviva,’ Oxford, 1660 (with another Latin poem with the name of John Wilmot, earl of Rochester, attached, which is more probably the work of Whitehall); two Latin and one English to ‘Epicedia Academiæ Oxoniensis in Obitum Serenissimæ Mariæ Principis Arausionensis,’ Oxford, 1661. Four of the pieces were reprinted in Rochester's ‘Poems on several Occasions,’ London, 1697.
[Visitations of Staffordshire (William Salt, Archæological Soc. vol. v. pt. ii.); Amersham Par. Reg.; Burrows's Reg. of Visitors of Univ. Oxon. pp. 68, 144; Foster's Alumni; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), i. col. lxix, iii. cols. 1231–2, iv. cols. 176–7, 479; Brodrick's Memorials of Merton College (Oxford Hist. Soc.), pp. 106, 292; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), ii. cols. 104, 171, 209; Cal. State Papers, 1670, p. 487; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. (Gutch), II. ii. 583–4, 598, 646; Wood's Colleges and Halls (Gutch), App. p. 213; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, ii. 509.]