Wilson, Bernard (DNB00)

WILSON, BERNARD or BARNARD (1689–1772), divine and author, born in 1689, was the son of Barnard Wilson, a mercer of Newark-on-Trent. His mother was descended from Sir William Sutton, bart., of Averham, Nottinghamshire (B. Wilson, Vindication). The father failed in business about the period of Bernard's birth, but was so respected by his neighbours that some of them subscribed a fund for the education of his son. The latter was admitted at Westminster in 1704, and five years later proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1712, M.A. in 1719, and D.D. in 1737. At the university Wilson assiduously cultivated his social superiors. By one of these, Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle [q. v.], he was presented in 1719 to the vicarage of his native place, Newark. Some years afterwards, when he had attained an independent position, Wilson quarrelled with his patron. Wilson's other chief patrons were Sir George Markham, M.P. for Newark, and Bishop Reynolds of Lincoln. He laid the foundation of his favour with the former by an exceedingly fulsome dedication to him of a translation, published in 1717, of ‘harangues by the most eminent members of the French Academy’ (probably the Abbé Fleury's ‘Discours Académiques’). Markham soon afterwards gave him the management of his large estates, and recommended him as a husband to his niece, Miss Ogle. That lady induced her uncle to leave Wilson almost the whole of his property, to the detriment of her own brothers. After Markham's death in 1736 the elder of them disputed the will, and Wilson retorted by prosecuting the younger for libel, at the same time issuing a ‘vindication of his own conduct.’ Matters were compromised by the payment of 30,000l. to the Ogle family. But Wilson did not marry Miss Ogle, who subsequently became a lunatic. After having been rejected by Lady Elizabeth Fane (afterwards wife of Lord Mansfield) ‘with marks of peculiar disdain,’ he married privately at Claypole, near Nottingham, a lady named Bradford, ‘of reputable connections’ and a fortune of her own, with whom he had long been intimate. In 1747 a Miss Davis of Holborn recovered from him 7,000l. damages for breach of promise of marriage.

On 3 May 1727 Wilson was presented to the prebend of Scamlesby, and on 18 Nov. 1730 to that of Louth in Lincoln Cathedral. In the latter year he also received a canonry at Lichfield, where Bishop Chandler gave him a house, and on 13 Oct. 1734 was nominated to one at Worcester. He was also vicar of Frisby, Lincolnshire. In July 1735 he was presented to the benefice of Bottesford in the same county, but never took possession. At Newark he was now a person of great influence, being not only vicar, but also the master of St. Leonard's Hospital. His private fortune amounted to not less than 100,000l. He was liberal in his earlier years, but latterly became a miser, and at his death 5,000l., in guineas and half-crowns was found in his house. He deserves the credit of having discovered and restored by means of litigation to their proper uses local charity estates left to Newark. He published a ‘Discourse’ on the subject in 1768. He left 40l. a year to be distributed among the poor and necessitous families of Newark, and 10l. to the vicar for preaching sermons on the days of distribution, 11 Jan. and 21 Aug., his own and Markham's birthdays.

Wilson died on 30 April 1772, and was buried in the south aisle of Newark parish church. His monument, described by Dickinson as ‘a splendid display of sepulchral grandeur,’ bears a highly eulogistic inscription by his nephew, Robert Wilson Cracroft. He left no children.

A man of some cultivation, he was a member of the Gentleman's Society at Spalding. His chief publication was an English version, which appeared in two folio volumes in 1729–30, of part of De Thou's ‘Historia sui Temporis.’ The first was dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle, the second to John, duke of Rutland. The translation is made from the Geneva edition of 1620, and includes only the first twenty-six books.

[Dickinson's Hist. of Newark-on-Trent, 1819, pp. 236, 268, 303–13; Brown's Annals of Newark, pp. 209, 217, 219–21; Gent. Mag. 1747 p. 293, 1772 p. 247; Le Neve's Fasti Eccles. Anglic.; Welch's Alumni Westmon. 1852; Thoroton's Nottinghamshire; Green's Survey of Worcester; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vi. 97 n., 120, 121; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit.; Wilson's Vindication, 1736, and Discourse, 1768.]

G. Le G. N.