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


WOOD, THOMAS (1661–1722), lawyer, born on 20 Sept. 1661 at Oxford, in the parish of St. John Baptist, was the eldest son of Robert Wood (1630–1686) of Oxford city, by his wife Mary (1638–1718), daughter of Thomas Drope (d. 1644), vicar of Cumnor in Berkshire, and niece of Francis Drope [q. v.] Anthony Wood [q. v.] was his uncle. He became a scholar of Winchester College in 1675, and matriculated from St. Alban Hall, Oxford, on 7 June 1678. On 24 Aug. 1679 he was elected a fellow of New College, whence he graduated B.C.L. on 6 April 1687 and D.C.L. in 1703. Wood was a zealous champion of his uncle, Anthony Wood, as whose proctor he acted in 1692 and 1693 in the suit instituted against him for libelling the first Earl of Clarendon. In 1693 he replied anonymously to some criticisms of Burnet in ‘A Vindication of the Historiographer of the University of Oxford and his Works from the Reproaches of the Bishop of Salisbury’ (London, 4to); and in 1697 he published, also anonymously, ‘An Appendix to the Life of Seth Ward’ (London, 8vo), in which he severely attacked both Ward and Walter Pope [q. v.] on account of some liberties that he considered Pope had taken with Anthony Wood. He was called to the bar by the society of Gray's Inn ex gratia on 31 May 1692, at the instance of his kinsman, Lord-chief-justice Sir John Holt [q. v.] Wood acquired considerable fame as a lawyer by his writings, in spite of the assertion of Thomas Hearne (1678–1735) [q. v.] that ‘those who are the best judges’ were ‘of opinion that he is but as 'twere a dabbler’ (Hearne, Collections, ii. 121). His greatest work is his ‘Institute of the Laws of England; or the Laws of England in their Natural Order, according to Common Use’ (London, 1720, 2 vols. 8vo), a treatise founded on the ‘Discourse’ of Sir Henry Finch [q. v.] It attained its tenth edition in 1772 (London, folio), and remained the leading work on English law until superseded by Blackstone's ‘Commentaries’ in 1769. An introductory treatise entitled ‘Some Thoughts concerning the Study of the Laws of England in the two Universities,’ which first appeared in 1708 (London, 4to), and was republished in 1727, was after 1730 published with the subsequent editions of Wood's ‘Institute.’

In middle life Wood abandoned the profession though not the study of law, took orders, and on 17 March 1704 was presented to the rectory of Hardwick in Buckinghamshire, retaining the benefice until his death, which took place at Hardwick on 12 July 1722. In 1705 he married Jane Baker or Barker (Hearne, Collections, i. 48, 193, ii. 193). There is a portrait of him in the warden's lodgings at New College. An engraving by Michael Van der Gucht is prefixed to the edition of his ‘Institute of the Laws of England’ published in 1724.

Besides the works mentioned, Wood was the author of:

  1. ‘A Dialogue between Mr. Prejudice, a dissenting Country Gentleman, and Mr. Reason, a Student in the University: being a short Vindication of the University from Popery, and an Answer to some Objections concerning the D[uke] of Y[ork],’ London, 1682, 4to.
  2. ‘The Dissenting Casuist, or the second part of a Dialogue between Prejudice and Reason,’ London, 1682, 4to. 3. ‘Juvenalis Redivivus; or the First Satyr of Juvenal taught to speak Plain English: a Poem,’ London, 1683, 4to.
  3. ‘A Pindaric Ode upon the Death of Charles II,’ Oxford, 1685, fol.; dedicated to James Bertie, earl of Abingdon.
  4. ‘Angliæ Notitiæ sive præsens Status Angliæ succincte enucleatus,’ Oxford, 1686, 12mo: an abridged translation of ‘The Present State of England,’ by Edward Chamberlayne [q. v.]
  5. ‘A New Institute of the Imperial or Civil Law,’ London, 1704, 8vo; 4th edit. with No. 6, London, 1730, 8vo.
  6. ‘A Treatise on the First Principles of Law in General: out of French,’ London, 1705, 8vo; new edit. London, 1708, 8vo.

With Francis Willis he published ‘Anacreon done into English’ (Oxford, 1683, 8vo), completing the labours of John Oldham (1653–1683) [q. v.] and Abraham Cowley [q. v.], by translating the odes which they had not already rendered into English. Commendatory verses by Wood were prefixed to White Kennett's ‘Moriæ Encomium’ (1683) and to Oldham's ‘Remains’ (1684).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, vol. i. pp. lxxxvi, cxxxix, vol. iv. cols. 121, 557–8; Wood's Fasti Oxon., ed. Bliss, ii. 401; Wood's Hist. and Antiq. of the Colleges, ed. Gutch, p. 349; Hearne's Collections (Oxford Hist. Soc.), passim; Wood's Life and Times (Oxford Hist. Soc.), ii. 461, iii. 506, iv. 1–44; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, 1888, p. 200; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, i. 49–51; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, iv. 117; Foster's Reg. of Admissions to Gray's Inn, p. 343; Lipscomb's Hist. of Buckinghamshire, iii. 365–6; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anon. and Pseudon. Lit.]

E. I. C.