Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stackhouse, Thomas (1677-1752)

STACKHOUSE, THOMAS (1677–1752), theologian, son of John Stackhouse (d. 1734), ultimately rector of Boldon, co. Durham, and uncle of John Stackhouse [q. v.], was born at Witton-le-Wear in that county (where his father was then curate) in 1677. On 3 April 1694 he was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, but the designation of ‘M.A.’ which appears on the title-pages of some of his works does not seem to represent a degree derived from an English university. It was possibly obtained, as the tradition in his family runs, during his residence abroad. From 1701 to 1704 he was headmaster of Hexham grammar school, and on 28 Dec. 1704 he was ordained priest in London. He then became curate of Shepperton in Middlesex, and from 1713 was minister of the English church at Amsterdam. In 1731 he was curate of Finchley.

For some time Stackhouse lived in poverty, and in 1722, under the designation of ‘A Clergyman of the Church of England,’ addressed a printed letter to Bishop John Robinson (1650–1723) [q. v.] exposing the ‘miseries and great hardships of the inferiour clergy in and about London.’ It was reissued, and the later editions bore his name on the title-page. In 1732, while engaged on his great ‘History of the Bible,’ he issued a pamphlet (now very scarce) called ‘Bookbinder, Bookprinter, and Bookseller confuted; or Author's Vindication of himself,’ which related his troubles with two booksellers. From a condition of extreme distress he was rescued by his appointment in the summer of 1733 to the vicarage of Benham, or Beenham, Valence, in Berkshire. In 1737, when he had a house in Theobald's Court, London, he acknowledged that he owed to Edmund Gibson [q. v.], bishop of London, ‘the present comfortable leisure for study and the generous encouragement’ to his labours. In 1741 he was living at Chelsea (Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 92), and no doubt was often non-resident and working for the booksellers. He died at Benham on 11 Oct. 1752, and was buried in the parish church, a monument being placed there to his memory. By his first wife, who died in 1709, he had two sons (of whom one, Thomas, is noticed below), and by his second wife, Elizabeth Reynell, two sons and one daughter. A portrait of Stackhouse at the age of sixty-three was engraved by Vertue in 1749 from a painting by J. Woolaston.

The great work of Stackhouse was his ‘New History of the Holy Bible from the Beginning of the World to the Establishment of Christianity,’ which he brought out in numbers and then published in three folio volumes in 1737, with a dedication to his patron, Bishop Gibson. The second edition came out in two folio volumes in 1742–4, and it was often reprinted, with additional notes, by other divines. The work was illustrated with many views, including the ark inside and outside, and the tower of Babel. The plate of the ‘Witch of Endor’ was the bugbear of the childhood of Charles Lamb, and the quaint representation of the ‘elephant and camel’ peeping out from the ark, Lamb never forgot (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. x. 405, 456, xi. 65, 7th ser. ii. 187, 217). The illustrations were altered in the later editions. This work is said by Orme to be wanting in originality and profundity, but it states infidel objections with some power. Trusler compiled from it in 1797 ‘A Compendium of Sacred History.’

Besides sermons, Stackhouse published:

  1. ‘Memoirs of the Life and Conduct of Bishop Atterbury, by Philalethes,’ 1723, which he addressed to William Pulteney; a German translation was published at Leipzig in 1724, and it was issued with a new title-page in 1723.
  2. An abridgment of Burnet's ‘History of his own Times,’ 1724.
  3. ‘New Translation of Drelincourt's Consolations against Death,’ 1725.
  4. ‘A Complete Body of Divinity in Five Parts, from the best Ancient and Modern Writers,’ 1729; 2nd edit. 1734; reprinted at Dumfries, 3 vols. 8vo, 1776. The fifth part was issued in 1760 as a separate work, with the title ‘A System of Practical Duties, Moral and Evangelical.’
  5. ‘A fair State of the Controversy between Mr. Woolston and his Adversaries,’ 1730.
  6. ‘Defence of the Christian Religion, with the whole state of the Controversy between Mr. Woolston and his Assailants,’ 1731 and 1733; translated into French by Pierre Chais at the Hague, and also into German at Hanover in 1750 (Biogr. Univ. and Didot's Nouvelle Biogr. Gén.) L. Fassoni published at Rome in 1761 a dissertation on the ‘Book of Leporius concerning the Doctrine of the Incarnation,’ in which the views of Richard Fiddes [q. v.] and Stackhouse were combated.
  7. ‘Reflections on Languages in General, and on the Advantages, Defects, and Manner of improving the English Tongue in particular,’ 1731; it was based on a plan of Du Tremblay, professor of languages in the Royal Academy of Angers.
  8. ‘A New and Practical Exposition of the Apostles' Creed,’ 1747.
  9. ‘Varia doctrinæ emolumenta, et varia Studiorum incommoda … versu hexametro exarata,’ 1752; in this scarce work he recapitulated his own sorrows.
  10. ‘Life of our Lord and Saviour, with the Lives of the Apostles and Evangelists,’ 1754 and 1772.

Stackhouse added to the third volume of the works of Archbishop Dawes a supplement of a regular course of devotions. He is sometimes credited with the authorship of ‘The Art of Shorthand on a New Plan,’ by ‘Thomas Stackhouse, A.M.’ [1760? 4to]. The topographical account of Bridgnorth communicated (about 1740) to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (xlii. 127–36), and sometimes attributed to him, was written by the Rev. Hugh Stackhouse, minister of St. Leonard and St. Mary Magdalene in that town and rector of Oldbury, who died in April 1743.

Thomas Stackhouse, M.A. (d. 1784), the younger son of the elder Thomas Stackhouse, by his first wife, was born in 1706, married Hester Nash (d. 1794) in 1767, and died at Lisson Grove, London, in 1784. He wrote:

  1. ‘Græcæ Grammatices Rudimenta,’ 1762.
  2. ‘General View of Ancient History, Chronology, and Geography,’ 1770; from the preface (dated ‘Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square, 6 March 1770’) it appears that he taught ‘some young persons of distinction.’
  3. ‘Chinese Tales,’ from the French, 1781 and 1817; dedicated to Mrs. Pulteney, whose father had frequently been his ‘bounteous benefactor.’

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 393–9; Gent. Mag. 1752 p. 478, 1806 i. 112, 1824 i. 513; information from the Rev. Henry Parsons of Bridgnorth, and from Mr. T. P. Stackhouse of 55 Aldermanbury.]

W. P. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.255
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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