The literary history of Spence's ‘Anecdotes’ is curious. During the writer's lifetime the manuscripts were lent to Warburton and to Warton, and were used to a slight extent in Owen Ruffhead's ‘Life of Pope.’ Spence undoubtedly designed them for posthumous publication, and is, indeed, said to have disposed of the copyright by anticipation to Dodsley; but his executors hesitated, and finally deferred to the objections of Lord Lincoln (then Duke of Newcastle). A copy made for the duke was, however, communicated to Dr. Johnson, who was indebted to it for many of the most important particulars in his ‘Lives’ of Pope and Addison. It was subsequently transcribed for Malone, who used it in preparing his ‘Life of Dryden.’ Malone's copy was to have served for an edition by William Beloe [q. v.], but Beloe died in 1817 before publishing it, and the manuscript was sold to John Murray; the latter kept it back until the announcement of another edition, by Samuel Weller Singer [q. v.], when he hurried it through the press, and the rival editions appeared on the same day in 1820. Singer's was the fuller and more authentic, being printed without omission of text or alteration of arrangement from Spence's own manuscript, which had remained in the hands of Spence's executor, Bishop Lowth, and been bequeathed or given by the bishop to a gentleman in his service named Forster, from whom it had passed to the bookseller, W. H. Carpenter. This edition also contained supplementary matter and a memoir of Spence by Singer. At Singer's death the manuscript (forming lot 21 of the Spence MSS.) was knocked down at Sotheby's for ten shillings on 3 Aug. 1858 (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 120). A reprint, so exact as to preserve even mistakes and errata, was published in Russell Smith's ‘Library of Old Authors’ (1858). A ‘Selection’ was edited with an introduction by John Underhill in 1890.
Spence's miscellaneous writings include ‘An Account of Stephen Duck,’ 1731, subsequently prefixed to Duck's ‘Poems on Several Occasions’ in 1736; ‘An Account of the Life and Poems of Mr. Blacklock,’ the blind poet, 1754, which was prefixed to the ‘Poems’ of 1756 [see Blacklock, Thomas]; ‘A Parallel in the Manner of Plutarch’ between Robert Hill, the learned tailor, and Magliabecchi, 1757, which was included in Dodsley's ‘Fugitive Pieces’ in 1761 and several times reprinted [see Hill, Robert, (1699–1777)]. Besides other trifles, he also published ‘Crito’ (1725) and ‘Moralities’ (1753) under the pseudonym of Sir Harry Beaumont. At his death he left in manuscript a mock epic, ‘The Charliad,’ which was ‘wisely suppressed’ by Lowth (Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 25897). His autograph letters to his mother and various friends during his foreign tours are in Egerton MSS. 2234 and 2235. Spence's library was sold by B. White on 8 Aug. 1769 (see Catalogue in British Museum).
A portrait of Spence, painted by Isaack Whood in 1739, was engraved for ‘Polymetis’ by G. Vertue in 1746.
[Singer's Memoir of Spence, prefixed to his edition of the Anecdotes; Tyer's Historical Rhapsody on Mr. Pope; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 373 sq. (with portrait); Walpole's Corresp. ed. Cunningham; Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, iii. 350; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, passim; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, passim; Gent. Mag. 1768, p. 399; Monthly Review, March 1820; Quarterly Review, xxiii. 401 (art. by I. D'Israeli.)]
SPENCE, THOMAS (1750–1814), bookseller and author of the Spencean scheme of land nationalisation, was born on the Quayside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 21 June 1750. His father came from Aberdeen about 1739; he was a net-maker and shoemaker, and sold hardware in a booth upon the Sandhill. He had nineteen children by two wives, of whom the second, Margaret Flet, was the mother of Thomas. Young Spence was taught to read by his father; he was a clerk, and afterwards a teacher in several schools in Newcastle. A lawsuit between the corporation and free men of the town about some common land is said to have first turned Spence's attention to the question to which he devoted his whole life. He submitted, in 1775, his views on land tenure to the Philosophical Society, which met in Westgate Street, in a paper entitled ‘The Real Rights of Man.’ The society expelled him, not for his opinions nor even for printing the paper, but for hawking it about like a halfpenny ballad. He proposed that the inhabitants of each parish should form a corporation in whom the land should be for ever vested; parish officers would collect rents, deduct state and local expenses, and divide the remaining sum among the parishioners. No tolls or taxes would be levied beyond the rent; all wares, manufactures, and employments would be duty free; public libraries and schools would be supported from the local fund. Every man would have to serve in a militia, and each year the parish would choose a representative for the national assembly. A sabbath of rest would be allowed every five days. ‘Whether the title of king, consul, president, &c., is quite indifferent to me.’ The proposals were frequently re-