Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whately, Thomas

WHATELY, THOMAS (d. 1772), politician and literary student, was an elder brother of Joseph Whately of Nonsuch Park, Surrey (Manning and Bray, Surrey, ii. 607), prebendary of Bristol 1793–7 (Gent. Mag. 1797, i. 435), and uncle of Archbishop Whately. He was known to all the leading men in public life as a keen politician and a well-informed man. For many years he was in the closest confidence of George Grenville, to whom he communicated from his house in Parliament Street, Westminster, an abundance of political gossip (Grenville Papers, ii. 133 to end). He also corresponded with Lord Temple, Lord George Sackville, and James Harris, M.P.

Whately sat in parliament from 1761 to 1768 for the borough of Ludgershall in Wiltshire, and from 1768 until his death he represented the borough of Castle Rising in Norfolk. From 5 April 1764 until its dismissal in July 1765 he held the post of secretary to the treasury in George Grenville's administration, and he then went into opposition with that statesman. He was the author of ‘Remarks on “The Budget,” or a Candid Examination of the Facts and Arguments in that Pamphlet’ (1765), refuting David Hartley's attack on Grenville's financial schemes, and he also defended his chief in ‘Considerations on the Trade and Finances of the Kingdom and on the Measures of the Administration since the Conclusion of the Peace’ (3rd edit. 1769). Whately has sometimes been credited with the authorship of a pamphlet on the ‘Present State of the Nation’ (1768; appendix, 1769), but it was probably drawn up, under Grenville's supervision, by William Knox (1732–1810) [q. v.] A second pamphlet, ‘The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies reviewed’ (1769), attributed to him and included in Almon's ‘Collection of Tracts on Taxing the British Colonies in America’ (vol. iii. 1773), is also believed to have been written by Knox.

On Grenville's death in November 1770 Whately attached himself to Lord North, and acted as the ‘go between’ for his old patron's friends. Junius thereupon denounced him as possessing ‘the talents of an attorney’ and ‘the agility of Colonel Bodens’ (an unwieldy man who could scarcely move), and as ‘deserting Grenville's cause when he was hardly cold in his grave’ (letter, 9 Jan. 1771, in ed. 1812, iii. 310–11). He was appointed a commissioner on the board of trade in January 1771, the ‘keeper of his Majesty's private roads and guide to his royal person in all progresses’ in January 1772, and he was under-secretary of state from June 1771 for the northern department. These appointments he held for the rest of his life. He died unmarried and intestate on 26 May 1772; his brother, William Whately, a banker in Lombard Street, London, administered to the effects.

Whately was the author of ‘Observations on Modern Gardening, illustrated by descriptions’ [anon.], 1770; 4th ed. 1777; 5th ed. 1793; new ed. with notes by Horace, earl of Orford, and plates of Wollet [sic], 1801. Selections from it were made for Fosbroke's ‘Wye Tour; or Gilpin on the Wye, 1826.’ A French translation by François de Paul Latapie, with additions, was published at Paris in 1771 (Walpole, Letters, v. 321, 324); its main idea was adopted by a M. Morel in France (Nichols, Illustrations of Lit. vii. 545–6), and the Abbé Delille in ‘Les Jardins,’ 1782 (third chant) spoke of him as his master. Archbishop Whately, in the later issues of his edition of Bacon's ‘Essays,’ appends a note to essay xlvi. ‘On Gardens,’ in praise of his uncle's treatise, but somewhat exaggerates in asserting that he ‘first brought into notice Thomson's “Seasons.”’ George Mason, in his ‘Essay on Design in Gardening’ (1795), omits no opportunity of censuring his volume; but Alison, in his ‘Essays on Taste,’ gives it the highest praise.

Whately left unfinished at his death an essay called ‘Remarks on Some of the Characters of Shakespeare’ [Macbeth and Richard III]. It was published by his brother, the Rev. Joseph Whately, in 1785, as ‘by the author of “Observations on Modern Gardening,”’ was reissued with his name as author, in 1808, and edited by Archbishop Whately, who calls it ‘one of the ablest critical works that ever appeared,’ in 1839. It had been his intention to analyse eight or ten of Shakespeare's principal characters in the same manner, but he was interrupted by other business. His essay provoked from J. P. Kemble a sharp answer in ‘Macbeth Reconsidered’ [anon.], 1785, and ‘Macbeth and King Richard III. By J. P. Kemble,’ 1817. In the autumn of 1811 Whately's work attracted the notice of Charles Knight, and ultimately led to his edition of Shakespeare (Knight, Working Life, ii. 280–2).

Several letters written in 1767–9 by Governor Hutchinson, Lieutenant-Governor Andrew Oliver, and others, to Whately, which passed on his death to his brother William, were obtained by Franklin and brought before the Massachusetts house of representatives. These communications led to a petition from the colony to the privy council for the removal of the officials who had corresponded with Whately; during the hearing of the petition Wedderburn, as counsel for the officials, made his fierce attack on Franklin. A duel followed between William Whately and John Temple, an American gentleman residing in England.

[Gent. Mag. 1772, pp. 247, 343; Almon's Anecdotes, ii. 103–7, iii. 236–73; Cavendish's Debates, ii. 214–15; Chatham Corresp. iv. 75; Parton's Franklin, i. 560–82; Walpole's Journals, 1771–83, i. 255; Hutchinson's Diary, i. 81–93; Hutchinson's Massachusetts Bay (1828), pp. 404–18; Archbishop Whately's Life and Corresp. i. 2–3; Felton's Authors on Gardening, 2nd ed. pp. 70–6; Halkett and Laing's Anon. Lit. pp. 489, 1773, 2148.]

W. P. C.