Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Laughton, Richard

LAUGHTON, RICHARD (1668?–1723), prebendary of Worcester, was educated at Clare College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. 1684–5, proceeded M.A. 1691, and was created D.D. by mandate in 1717. About 1693 he appears to have been chaplain to John Moore, bishop of Norwich (Whiston, Memoirs, p. 26). In 1694 he was appointed tutor of his college, and in this capacity he acquired a remarkable reputation. Colbatch, in his commemoration sermon preached in Trinity College Chapel, 17 Dec. 1717, says, alluding to Laughton, 'We see what a conflux of nobility and gentry the virtue of one man draws daily to one of our least colleges' (ib. p. 430; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 400). Among his pupils were Browne (afterwards Sir William), Martin Folkes, and Benjamin Ibbot. Laughton also distinguished himself as an ardent supporter of the Newtonian philosophy; and when in 1709–1710 it devolved on him as proctor to appoint a moderator in connection with the examinations, he discharged this function himself. At that time, according to Dr. Whewell, he had already issued a paper of questions on the Newtonian theory, with the design, probably, of suggesting theses for the disputations in the schools (Mus. Crit. ii. 517–18). He was on terms of the closest intimacy with Bentley, and is the 'Laughton' to whom in the correspondence of that great scholar foreign savants are frequently to be found sending their compliments. By Conrad von Uffenbach (Visit to Cambridge in 1710) he is described as 'an agreeable man, who spoke French well.' In 1710 he was, as proctor, prominent in his endeavours to restore the academic discipline, at that time much relaxed, and his efforts in this direction involved him in an unfortunate collision with some other leading members of the university, among whom were Conyers Middleton and Thomas Gooch. He was charged with excessive censoriousness, and with aiming at his own profit and advancement by contriving to gain credit for great vigilance and conscientiousness as a college tutor. Of Laughton's attainments some of his contemporaries speak very highly. Samuel Clarke, in the preface to his edition of Rohault's 'Physics,' acknowledges his obligations: 'Permulta doctissimo et in his rebus exercitatissimo viro Ricardo Laughton ... debere me gratus fateor.' Whiston speaks of him as 'that excellent tutor;' styles him 'his bosom friend;' and records that Laughton strove, though without avail, to turn him from his adoption of Arianism (Memoirs, p. 151). It was to Laughton that Lady Masham addressed her well-known letter describing the closing scene of Locke's life (Chalmers, Biog. Dict. xx. 369). In 1717 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the mastership of his college; and on 14 Nov. in the same year he was installed prebendary of the eighth stall in Worcester Cathedral. He died on 28 July 1723.

His speech, as senior proctor, in the bachelors' schools is among the Cambridge Univ. MSS. Oo. vi. 111 (3), and he has verses in 'Acad. Cantabr. Affectus' (1684–5), f. I 3, and in 'Lacrymæ Cantabrigienses' (1694–5), f. N 2. He also wrote 1. 'A Sermon preach'd before the King at King's College Chapel in Cambridge,' Cambridge, Corn. Crownfield, 1717, 8vo. 2. 'On Natural Religion,' autograph manuscript, 4to, sold at Dr. Jo. Lee's sale (Sotheby), 7 April 1876.

[Whiston's Memoirs; Conyers Middleton's Remarks on the Case of Dr. Bentley, Works, iii. 341; Monk's Life of Bentley, i. 286–8; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 322.]

J. B. M.