Folkes, Martin (DNB00)

FOLKES, MARTIN (1690–1754), antiquary and man of science, born in Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, on 29 Oct. 1690, was the eldest son of Martin Folkes, bencher of Gray's Inn, by his wife Dorothy, second daughter of Sir William Hovell, knt., of Hillington Hall, near Lynn, Norfolk. When a boy he was sent to the university of Saumur, and his tutor Cappel, son of Lewis Cappel, described him as ‘a choice youth of a penetrating genius and master of the beauties of the best Roman and Greek writers.’ Soon after February 1706–7 Folkes was sent to Clare Hall, Cambridge, and there made great progress in mathematics and other studies. He held the degrees of M.A., Cambridge (6 Oct. 1717), and D.C.L., Oxford (July 1746). On 29 July 1714, when only twenty-three, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1722–3 he was appointed vice-president of the society, and often presided in the absence of Sir Isaac Newton. On Newton's death he was a candidate with Sir Hans Sloane for the presidentship. Sloane was chosen, but Folkes became president (30 Nov. 1741) on Sloane's retirement. Under Folkes the meetings were literary rather than scientific. Stukeley describes them at that time as ‘a most elegant and agreeable entertainment for a contemplative person.’ Folkes contributed ten papers to the ‘Transactions’ of the society, his communications being chiefly on astronomy and metrology. He resigned the presidentship from ill-health on 30 Nov. 1752. As president he was a principal object of attack in Sir John Hill's ‘Review of the Works of the Royal Society’ (1751), and the book is ‘dedicated’ to him (Disraeli, Calamities and Quarrels of Authors, 1860, pp. 364–6).

In 1733 Folkes went with his family to Italy and remained abroad about two years and a half. He went to Paris in May 1739. On 5 Sept. 1742 he was elected a member of the French Academy, in succession to Edmund Halley. Folkes was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 17 Feb. 1719–20. He was afterwards vice-president, and from 1749–50 till his death president of the society. His communications were on Roman antiquities and coins (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 581). He published at his own expense: 1. ‘A Table of English Gold Coins from the 18th year of King Edward III,’ with weights and values, London, 1736, 4to. 2. ‘A Table of English Silver Coins from the Norman Conquest to the Present Time,’ with weights, values, and remarks, 1745, 4to. The ‘Tables’ were much consulted by antiquaries. Folkes had more than forty plates engraved to illustrate his ‘Tables,’ and these, purchased after his death by the Society of Antiquaries, were utilised in the society's reprint of the ‘Tables’ published in 1763, 4to, 3 parts, and edited by J. Ward and Dr. A. Gifford. Folkes was an associate of the Egyptian Club and a member of the Spalding Society (instituted 1710, ib. vi. 13). He was a friend of Sir I. Newton and a patron of George Edwards, the naturalist. He gave some help to Theobald for his notes on Shakespeare. He was a man of extensive knowledge and is described as upright, modest, and affable. He contested Lynn as a whig in 1747. He died from a paralytic attack on 28 June 1754, and was buried in the chancel of Hillington Church, Norfolk. In 1792 a monument by Ashton, after Tyler, was erected to him in Westminster Abbey in the south aisle of the choir. He bequeathed to the Royal Society 200l., a cornelian ring for the use of the president, a portrait of Bacon, and his portrait by Hogarth. The sale of his library, prints, drawings, gems, pictures, coins, &c., in 1756 lasted fifty-six days and brought 3,090l. 5s. He destroyed various manuscripts o his own writings shortly before his death.

Folkes married (about 1714?) Lucretia Bradshaw, an actress who appeared as ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’ at the Haymarket Theatre in 1707 and at Drury Lane from 1710 to 1714 (ib. ii. 588, 589; Genest, Account of the English Stage, vol. i.) She acted Sylvia in the ‘Double Dealer,’ Corinna in the ‘Confederacy,’ and other parts. She spoke an epilogue (about 1712) to the ‘Generous Husband,’ ‘in boy's cloaths.’ The author of the ‘History of the English Stage,’ 1741 (cited by Nichols, loc. cit.) calls her ‘one of the greatest and most promising genii of her time,’ and says that Folkes took her off the stage for her ‘exemplary and prudent conduct.’ Nichols gathers that she was a handsome woman, probably only of second-rate abilities. At the time of her husband's death she was living in confinement at Chelsea, her mind having been for some time deranged.

The issue of this marriage was: 1. A son Martin, who entered Clare Hall, and was killed, during his father's lifetime, by a fall from his horse at Caen in Normandy, whither he had gone to finish his studies. He inherited his father's taste for coins. 2. Dorothy Rishton, who married and had a son and two daughters. 3. Lucretia, married in 1756 to (Sir) Richard Betenson.

Portraits of Folkes were produced by J. Richardson (1718), Vanderbank, Hogarth (1741), Hudson, and Gibson. There is a portrait-medal of him (specimens in British Museum) by J. A. Dassier (1740), described by G. Vertue (manuscript notes in Brit. Mus.) as, ‘done very like him.’ A curious portrait-medal (specimens in British Museum) with the reverse type of a sphinx, the sun, and the tomb of Caius Sestius, was executed at Rome. It bears a date of the era of masonry corresponding either to A.D. 1738 or 1742, and there is a story (referred to in Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, ii. 571) that it was made by command of the pope as a surprise to Folkes on his visit; but Folkes is not known to have been in Rome either in 1738 or 1742.

[Memoir in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 578–98, and numerous references in indexes in vii. 137, 566 of ib.; and in index in viii. 39 of Nichols's Lit. Illustr.; Memoir in Weld's Hist. of the Royal Society, i. 479 ff., and other references in vols. i. and ii.; Gent. Mag. 1754, xxiv. 292; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Hawkins's Medallic Illustr. (ed. Franks and Grueber), ii. 558, 571; Stukeley's Memoirs (Surtees Soc.), where Folkes's wife is called ‘Mrs. Bracegirdle.’]

W. W.