Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wheeler, Maurice

WHEELER, MAURICE (1648?–1727), divine and almanac-maker, born in 1647 or 1648, was son of Maurice Wheeler ‘plebeius,’ who in 1664 was living at St. Giles (Wimborne) in Dorset. On 1 April 1664 he entered as a batteler at New Inn Hall, Oxford, and took the degrees of B.A. on 17 Oct. 1667, and of M.A. on 5 July 1670. At the latter date he had recently been appointed chaplain at Christ Church, and in the same year he became rector of St. Ebbe's at Oxford. His celebrated almanac (see below) was published in 1673, and at about this time he must have married, for a monument at St. Ebbe's records the death of twin sons of the rector (Maurice and William) on 25 June 1680. Probably this loss determined him to leave Oxford, for we find him holding the rectory of Sibbertoft in Northamptonshire from 1680 till 1684, in which year, on 11 Sept., he was appointed master of the collegiate or cathedral school at Gloucester, a position he probably held till 1707–8, when he was made prebendary of Lincoln. In 1686 he established a library at the school. His other preferments were the rectory of Wappenham in Northamptonshire (17 May 1712–15) and the rectory of Thorp Mandeville in the same county (from 12 Nov. 1720 till his death in 1727). On 7 Oct. 1727 he was buried in his former parish church at Wappenham. Baker, in his ‘Northamptonshire’ (i. 722), states that he was tutor to William Wake [q. v.] (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury), no doubt while rector of St. Ebbe's.

In 1673 Wheeler published anonymously at the Sheldonian Press at Oxford ‘The Oxford Almanac for … 1673 … Calculated for the meridian of Oxford …,’ a small octavo, containing, besides the bare almanac, a Roman calendar, chronological lists, statistics about the universities and counties of England, dates of fairs and the like, with the usual prognostications of weather, but little of astrology, and no ‘hieroglyphic figures,’ as Gough asserts (Brit. Topogr. 1780, ii. 140). Anthony Wood declares that ‘there were near thirty thousand of them printed, … and because of the novelty of the said almanac, and its title, they were all vended. But the printing of it being a great hindrance to the sale of other almanacs, the Society of Booksellers in London bought off the copy for the future.’ No corroboration has been found of this statement of the vast number printed, and it may be suspected of exaggeration; there were certainly many disputes between the Oxford and London booksellers at the time. For some unknown reason the almanac is very rare, and even Wood did not possess one; the only known copy in a public library is in the Bodleian. Besides this book, a letter from Wheeler to Robert Plot [q. v.] about a ‘domestic timepiece’ or ‘automaton’ is printed in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ for July 1684 (p. 647), and he contributed a section ‘Of Curiosity’ to an English translation of Plutarch's ‘Moralia’ (London, 1684; Boston, U.S.A., 1874).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, iv. 785; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, ii. 297, 319; Wood's City of Oxford, ed. Peshall, App. p. 18; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Rudder's Gloucestershire, pp. 170–1.]

F. M.