Open main menu


WANLEY, NATHANIEL (1634–1680), divine and compiler, was born at Leicester in 1634, and baptised on 27 March. His father was a mercer. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1653, M.A. in 1657. His first preferment was as rector of Beeby, Leicestershire. His first publication, ‘Vox Dei, or the Great Duty of Self-reflection upon a Man's own Wayes,’ 1658, 4to, was dedicated to Dorothy Spencer [q. v.], Waller's ‘Sacharissa.’ On the resignation of John Bryan, D.D. [q. v.], the nonconformist vicar of Trinity Church, Coventry, Wanley was instituted his successor on 28 Oct. 1662. He established the same year an annual sermon on Christmas day, endowing it with a fee of 10s., charged on a house in Bishop Street. He published ‘War and Peace Reconciled … two books,’ 1670, 8vo; 1672, 8vo; it is a translation from the Latin of Justus Lipsius. He was far from being out of touch with the prevailing puritanism of Coventry. With Bryan (who attended his services, though ministering also to a nonconformist congregation) he was closely intimate, and on Bryan's death in 1676 he preached his funeral sermon in a strain of warm appreciation honourable alike to both men. It was published posthumously, with the title ‘Peace and Rest for the Upright,’ 1681, 4to. Wanley died in 1680; he was succeeded by Samuel Barton on 22 Dec. His portrait is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. He was married on 24 July 1655; by his wife Ellen (b. 30 April 1633, d. 28 June 1719), daughter of Humphrey Burton, coroner and town clerk of Coventry, he had five children, of whom Humfrey Wanley is separately noticed. Wanley gave or bequeathed to the grammar school library at Coventry a copy of the ‘Imitatio Christi,’ described as ‘Ecclesiastical Music, written on Parchment, about the time of King Edward IV.’

Wanley's opus magnum is ‘The Wonders of the Little World; or a General History of Man. In Six Books,’ 1678, fol., dedicated (17 June 1677) to Sir Harbottle Grimston [q. v.] The Coventry corporation gave him 10l., the Drapers' Company 6l., and the Mercers' Company 4l., in acknowledgment of presentation copies. The work, which is meant to illustrate anecdotically the prodigies of human nature, shows omnivorous reading and indiscriminate credence; it is well arranged, and the authorities are fully given and carefully rendered. Of later editions the best are 1774, 4to, with revision, and index; and 1806–7, 2 vols. 8vo, with additions by William Johnston, a coadjutor of John Aikin (1747–1822) [q. v.] in the ‘General Biography.’ Wanley compiled a history of the Fielding family, which is printed in Nichols's ‘Leicestershire;’ the original, written on fine parchment, is in the possession of Lord Denbigh.

[Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire (1870), p. 784; Dugdale's Warwickshire, ed. Thomas, 1730, i. 174; Taunton's Coventry, 1870, pp. 194, 198, 205, 257, cf. Hist. and Antiquities, Coventry (1810), p. 81; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 142; Parish Magazine, Holy Trinity, Coventry, July 1884; information from Dr. William Aldis Wright, vice-master, Trinity Coll.]

A. G.