Pate, William (DNB00)


PATE, WILLIAM (1666–1746), ‘the learned woollen-draper,’ son of William Pate, was born in 1666. He was a direct lineal descendant from John Pate (b. 1557) of Brin in Essex, the great-uncle of Sir John Pate, bart. (1585–1652), of Sysonby, Leicestershire. He is erroneously stated by Nichols, who is followed by Scott, to have been educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and to have been granted the degree of LL.D. It appears, however, that he travelled in Italy, whence Arbuthnot mentions that he ‘brought back all Chaussane's music.’ Charles King, writing to Wanley in 1693, alludes to Pate as a young man newly set up, yet ‘probably master of the best study of books and the best scholar of his age I know.’ About the same period John Arbuthnot, previous to matriculating at Oxford, lived with Pate, who inherited from his father a prosperous business and a house opposite the Royal Exchange. In October 1694 the learned woollen-draper gave his boarder a letter of introduction to Dr. Charlett, master of University, in which he spoke highly of his young friend's honesty, discretion, and merit (Letter in Tanner MSS. at the Bodleian Library, xxv. 228). It was probably through the instrumentality of Arbuthnot that Pate became such a familiar figure in the literary society of his epoch; he was doubtless taken up the more warmly because to men like Steele and Swift the combination of literary taste with the practice of trade was something of a novel sensation. Steele wrote about the learned tradesman in the ‘Guardian’ (No. 141): ‘A passage which happened to me some years ago confirmed several maxims of frugality in my mind. A woollen-draper of my acquaintance, remarkable for his learning and good nature, pulled out his pocket-book, wherein he showed me at the one end several well-chosen mottos, and several patterns of cloth at the other. I, like a well-bred man, praised both sort of goods, whereupon he tore out the mottos and generously gave them to me, but with great prudence put the patterns in his pocket again.’ Swift, who, while staying in London during 1708–9, wrote of Pate as a ‘bel esprit and woollen-draper,’ renewed his acquaintance in the autumn of 1710. He dined with Pate at Lee Grove, Kent, on 17 Sept., and again on the 24th. On 6 Oct. he and Sir Andrew Fountaine shared Pate's hospitality at a chop-house in the city, and the trio subsequently ‘sauntered in booksellers' and china shops’ until it was time to go to the tavern, the party not breaking up until ten o'clock. About this time Pate started the ‘Lacedemonian Mercury,’ under Tom Brown, to oppose Dunton's ‘Athenian Mercury;’ but he was outmanœuvred by his rivals, and the venture failed. He retained, however, the loyalty of Brown, who in 1710 dedicated to his ‘honest friend, Mr. Pate,’ his ‘Memoirs of the Present State of the Court and Councils of Spain.’ By Swift the accomplished draper was introduced to Pope, who, writing to John Hughes in 1714, enclosed a ‘proposal for his Homer’ to Pate, as a likely person to promote the subscription.

Pate, who was a sheriff of the city in 1734, died at Lee on 9 Dec. 1746, and was buried in the old churchyard. He dictated the following apophthegm, to be inscribed in gold letters upon his tomb: ‘Epicharmion illud teneto nervos atque artus esse scientiæ: Non temere credere.’ Pate had many friends at Oxford, and he presented a portrait of Sir Kenelm Digby to the Bodleian Library in 1692. An autograph note to Sir Hans Sloane about a pattern of black cloth is preserved at the British Museum (Addit. MS. 4055, f. 29).

[Nichols's Life of Bowyer and Lit. Anecdotes, i. 98; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 403; Drake's Hundred of Blackheath, pp. 225 and n. 231; Lysons's Environs, iv. 505, 659; Archæolog. Cantiana, xiv. 193; Swift's Journal to Stella, passim; Forster's Life of Swift, pp. 251, 279, 280, 284; Aitken's Life of Arbuthnot, pp. 7, 18, 24; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, vol. x.; Dunton's Life and Errors; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, p. 196; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. iv. 346.]

T. S.