King, William (1685-1763) (DNB00)

KING, WILLIAM (1685–1763), principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, born at Stepney, Middlesex, on 16 March 1685, was the son of the Rev. Peregrine King and Margaret, daughter of Sir William Smyth, bart., of Radclive, Buckinghamshire (Anecdotes, p. 62; Lysons, Environs, iii. 456). After attending Salisbury grammar school (Anecdotes, p. 136) he entered Balliol College, Oxford, on 9 July 1701, and graduated B.C.L. on 12 July 1709, D.C.L. on 8 July 1715. He was admitted a civilian on 20 Jan. 1716, but being possessed of a modest patrimony, he never sought practice (Coote, English Civilians, pp. 111–12). He devoted his life to scholarship and literature, interested himself in politics, and was long at the head of the Jacobite party at Oxford. From want of ‘human prudence’ he twice in his life lost the opportunity of acquiring a very large fortune ‘in the most irreproachable manner,’ and owing to the same defect his own fortune became much impaired (Anecdotes, pp. 2, 3). For a time he acted as secretary to the Duke of Ormonde and the Earl of Arran, when chancellors of the university, and he was elected principal of St. Mary Hall in 1719. He resigned his secretaryship in 1722, when he stood for the parliamentary representation of the university, but was easily defeated by George Clarke (1660–1736) [q. v.] (H. S. Smith, Parliaments of England, ii. 7). A lawsuit about an estate in Galway to which he laid claim obliged him to go to Ireland in 1727. His learning, his turn for satire, and his hatred of the existing government recommended him to Swift. He thought himself injured in the course of his suit, and attacked his enemies in a mock-heroic poem, in two books, called ‘The Toast,’ supposed to have been originally composed in Latin by a Laplander, ‘Frederick Scheffer,’ and translated into English, with notes and observations, by ‘Peregrine O'Donald, Esq.’ The heroine, ‘Mira,’ is the Countess of Newburgh, who had secretly married as her third husband Sir Thomas Smyth, King's uncle. It was published in octavo at Dublin in 1732, a second volume being promised. Swift, after seeing the manuscript, declared that if he had read it when he was only twenty years of age he never would have written a satire. Hereupon ‘The Toast’ was completed in four books, inscribed to Swift, and printed in handsome quarto at London in 1736, with a frontispiece by H. Gravelot; it was reissued in 1747 (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 480, iii. 13, 4th ser. iv. 411, 5th ser. iii. passim). In his old age King regretted that he had not expunged many of the passages (Anecdotes, pp. 97–100), and at his death the remaining copies were burnt (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 241). The poem was reissued without the annotations in Almon's ‘New Foundling Hospital of Wit.’ A key to the characters is given in William Davis's ‘Second Journey round the Library of a Bibliomaniac,’ 1825, pp. 106–15, and an analysis of it in ‘Bentley's Miscellany’ for June 1857, pp. 616–25. About April 1737 King wrote a witty political paper called ‘Common Sense,’ in which he proposed a new scheme of government to the people of Corsica [i.e. Great Britain], advising them to make their king of the same stuff of which the Indians fashion their gods. He enclosed a copy in a letter to Swift, but both were intercepted at the post-office (Swift, Works, ed. Scott, 1824, xix. 81). It seems to be identical with ‘Antonietti ducis Corseorum epistola ad Corseos de rege eligendo’ included in King's collected writings. Through King, Swift endeavoured in the ensuing July to arrange for the publication in London of his ‘History of the Four Last Years of the Queen.’ King remonstrated, and ultimately Swift abandoned the intention for a time (Pope, Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, vii. 363). In January 1738–9 Swift entrusted King with a copy of the verses on his own death, that they might be published in London. King, alarmed at the satire upon Walpole and Queen Caroline, omitted more than a hundred lines, ‘in deference,’ he said, ‘to the judgment of Pope and other friends of Swift's,’ but greatly to Swift's annoyance (ib. viii. 444; Swift, Works, xix. 176, 179). During the same year King met Nathaniel Hooke [q. v.] at Dr. Cheyne's house at Bath, and often acted as his amanuensis while he was translating Ramsay's ‘Travels of Cyrus’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 607). In this year also he issued his anonymous political satire entitled ‘Miltoni Epistola ad Pollionem’ (Lord Polwarth), 1738, fol., London, dedicated to Pope (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 255; Anecdotes, p. 151), of which a second edition appeared in 1740 (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 139). When honorary degrees were conferred upon the Duke of Hamilton, and Lords Lichfield and Orrery at Oxford in 1743, King delivered the Latin speeches, afterwards published as ‘Tres Oratiunculæ habitæ in Domo Convocationis Oxon.,’ 4to, London, Oxford (printed), 1743. The preface implies that he had been attacked by some anti-Jacobite canon. To keep up public interest in the affair, King himself wrote ‘Epistola Objurgatoria ad Guilielmum King, LL.D.,’ 4to, London, 1744, to which is attached a doggerel ‘Epistola Canonici reverendi admodùm ad Archidiaconum reverendum admodùm.’ Lastly appeared ‘A Letter to a Friend occasioned by Epistola Objurgatoria, &c., by S. P. Y. B.,’ 4to, London, 1744; the writer pretends to have been wrongly credited with the authorship of the ‘Epistola.’ The ‘Letter’ was doubtless by King, who thus in all probability created and wrote the whole controversy (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xi. 33–4). Soon after the rebellion of 1745, King described the Duke of Cumberland as a man ‘qui timet omnia præter Deum.’ In 1748 he ridiculed Edward Bentham [q. v.], who had published a guide to intending students, in ‘A Proposal for publishing a Poetical Translation, both in Latin and English, of the Reverend Mr. Tutor Bentham's Letter to a Young Gentleman of Oxford. By a Master of Arts,’ 4to, London, 1748 (another edit. 8vo, 1749).

At the opening of Radcliffe's Library, on 13 April 1749, King delivered a Latin speech in the Sheldonian Theatre, in which he adroitly contrived to express his Jacobitism. He introduced six times in his peroration the word ‘redeat,’ pausing each time for a considerable space, amid loud applause from a distinguished audience (Fitzmaurice, Life of Lord Shelburne, i. 35). Thomas Warton, in his poem ‘The Triumph of Isis,’ eulogises King's powers of oratory. The oration (printed in 1749, and again in 1750) gave rise to violent attacks. King was charged with barbarous Latin, Jacobitism, and propagation of sedition in the university. John Burton (1696–1771) [q. v.], cousin and patron of Edward Bentham, published some virulent ‘Remarks on Dr. K——'s Speech,’ by ‘Phileleutherus Londinensis,’ 1750. King retorted savagely in ‘Elogium Famæ inserviens Jacci Etonensis sive Gigantis; or, the Praises of Jack of Eton, commonly called Jack the Giant; collected into Latin and English Metre, after the Manner of Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, John Burton, and others. To which is added, a Dissertation on the Burtonian style. By a Master of Arts,’ 8vo, Oxford, 1750. The satire also attacks William Bowyer the younger [q. v.], who had said something against King's latinity (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 223–5). King further translated all the abusive names which Burton had bestowed on him, and the complimentary phrases applied by Burton to himself, and printing the whole catalogue on a large sheet of coarse paper, gave it to a scavenger to be cried about the streets of Oxford, Windsor, and Eton (Anecdotes, pp. 153–7).

King was presented to the Pretender in September 1750. The Pretender was then paying a stealthy visit to England, and drank tea one evening at the doctor's lodgings at Oxford. They subsequently corresponded, but as the intimacy advanced King came to dislike the Pretender (ib. pp. 196–214).

King took part in the memorable contested election for Oxfordshire in 1754, and was in consequence vigorously libelled. He was accused of having defrauded subscribers for books never published to the extent of 1,500l., was taunted with having offered himself to sale both in England and Ireland, and was accused of inspiring the Jacobite ‘London Evening Post.’ During the same year he published without his name a volume of fanciful essays called ‘The Dreamer,’ 8vo, London, 1754, which was assailed in the whig papers as tainted with Jacobitism. In February 1755 King had the pleasing duty of taking to Johnson his diploma of M.A., and found in him a warm admirer of both his scholarship and politics (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, i. 279). During the same year he replied to his assailants in a vigorously written pamphlet entitled ‘Doctor King's Apology; or, Vindication of himself from the several matters charged on him by the Society of Informers,’ 4to, Oxford, 1755 (2nd and 3rd editions the same year). He retaliated warmly on the authors of various libels which had appeared in the ‘Evening Advertiser,’ attacked a pestilent tract called ‘A Defence of the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College,’ and spoke severely of a canon of Windsor named Richard Blacow. Blacow thereupon printed a ‘Letter to William King, LL.D.,’ 8vo, 1755, in which he sought to make King responsible for a Jacobite demonstration by some undergraduates in February 1747.

On the Earl of Arran's death the Jacobite Earl of Westmoreland was elected chancellor. At his installation on 7 July 1759 King made a speech, at which Johnson ‘clapped his hands till they were sore’ (Boswell, i. 348). A collective edition of his writings was published as ‘Opera Guilielmi King,’ 4to, London, 1760 (cf. Notes and Queries, 5th ser. ix. 14). King publicly severed his connection with the Jacobite party in 1761, when he accompanied a deputation from the university to present the king with an address of congratulation on his marriage. He was personally introduced to the king by Lord Shelburne. His desertion did not escape censure (Anecdotes, pp. 189–196).

At the Encænia of 1763 King, amid great applause, delivered an oration with all his wonted animation and grace. Churchill, who was present, condescended to approve of his style, but afterwards sneered at his ‘piebald Latin’ in the ‘Candidate’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 236).

King died on 30 Dec. 1763, and was buried on 5 Jan. following at Ealing, Middlesex (Lysons, ii. 236), where he had resided for many years on an estate called Newby, near the church. He was also lessee of the rectory of Ealing (Faulkner, Hist. of Brentford, &c., 1845, pp. 177, 248). His heart, having been enclosed in a silver urn, was deposited by his own directions in the chapel of St. Mary Hall, where there is a monument to his memory, with a Latin epitaph written by himself (Wood, Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, p. 675). His son, Charles King, born about 1711, was M.A. of St. Mary Hall, and in holy orders (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, ii. 794). His daughter Dorothy married William Melmoth the younger (1710–1799) [q. v.] (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iii. 41).

Assisted by the contributions of old members of St. Mary Hall, King rebuilt the east side of the quadrangle, and added a new room to the principal's lodgings (Wood, Colleges, &c., p. 674).

King wrote also an inscription for the collection of statues presented to the university in 1756 by the Countess Dowager of Pomfret (Wood, Antiquities of Oxford, ed. Gutch, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 811); an ‘Elogium’ in 1758 on Chevalier John Taylor the oculist, of which he printed a few copies to oblige his friends (Anecdotes, p. 136), and an epitaph on Beau Nash (ib. p. 248). His posthumous ‘Political and Literary Anecdotes of his own Times,’ 8vo, London, 1818 (2nd edit. 1819), mostly written in his seventy-sixth year to beguile the languor of a sick-room, and edited for the benefit of two of his lady relatives by Philip Bury Duncan [q. v.] (Gent. Mag. 3rd ser. xvi. 125), show him to have been a man of sense, acuteness, and cultivation. Throughout his life he was a water-drinker (Anecdotes, p. 11).

There is a striking likeness of King in the orator's rostrum in Worlidge's picture of the installation of Lord Westmoreland. His portrait by Williams hangs in the picture gallery at Oxford (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 241; Wood, Antiquities, &c., vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 977). It was engraved by Faber; another portrait by Hudson was engraved by MacArdell; both are in mezzotint (Evans, Cat. of Engraved Portraits, i. 197).

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 607.]

G. G.