Dr. William King, son of the Rev. Peregrine King, was born at Stepney in Middlesex, in 1685; and, after a school education at Salisbury, was entered of Balliol College, Oxford, July 9, 1701. Proceeding on the Law line, he took his Doctor's degree in 1715; was Secretary to the Duke of Ormond and the Earl of Arran, when Chancellors of the University; and was made principal of St. Mary Hall in 1718. When he was candidate for the University, in 1722, he resigned his office of Secretary; but his other preferment he enjoyed (and it was all he did enjoy) to the time of his death. Dr. Clarke, who opposed him, carried his election; and, after this disappointment, in the year 1727, he went over to Ireland; where he wrote The Toast, a celebrated political satire, which was printed and given to his friends. The first edition of The Toast was a small pamphlet in 12mo, enlarged in 1736 to a handsome quarto, with an elegant frontispiece. It now sells for an extravagant price; and his been reprinted, but without (one of its principal beauties) the notes and observations, in Almon's New Foundling Hospital for Wit. It was re-published, with the other Works of the Doctor, in 4to, likewise in 1754, with a Latin address to the Parliaments of France, who were at that time making a vigorous resistance to the encroachments of the Crown. Of this Book, which is very well printed, and adorned with emblematical head and tailpieces, a small number only were taken off, for private distribution, and it is very rarely to be met with. On the dedication of the Radcliffe Library, 1749, he spoke a Latin Oration in the Theatre, which was received with the highest acclamations, and for which Mr. Warton pays him an elegant compliment in The Triumph of Isis. In 1755, when the memorable contest happened in Oxfordshire, his attachment to the Old Interest drew on him the resentment of the New. He was libelled in newspapers and pamphlets, and charged with the following particulars; viz. That he was an Irishman; that he had received subscriptions for books never published to the amount of fifteen hundred pounds, of which sum he had defrauded his subscribers; that he had offered himself to sale both in England and in Ireland, and was not found worth the purchase; that he was the writer of The London Evening Post; the author of a book in Queen Anne's reign, intituled, Political Considerations, 1710, in which there was false English; and of a book just then printed, called, The Dreamer, 1754. At this time he published his Apology, in quarto, and very clearly vindicated himself from the several matters charged on him, except only the last article, of his being author of The Dreamer; and warmly retaliated on his adversaries. Mr. Cole had often seen him at St. Mary's church, Cambridge, when he used to be on a visit to Mr. Mackenzie, who married Mr. Chambers the town-clerk's daughter. He was a tall, lean, well-looking man; and was the author of, 1. Miltoni Epistola ad Pollionem (Lord Polwarth); 2. Sermo Pedestris; 3. Scamnum, Ecloga; 4. Templum Libertatis, in Three Books; 5. Tres Oratiunculae; 6. Epistola Objurgatoria; 7. Antonietti Ducis Corscorum Epistola ad Corscos de rege eligendo; 8. Eulogium Jacci Etonensis; 9. Aviti Epistola ad Perillam, virginem Scotam, &c. 10. Oratiuncula habita in domo Convocationis Oxon. cum Epistola dedicatoria, 1757; and Epitaphium Richardi Nash. He was also the Editor of the five last volumes of Dr. South's Sermons. — He was known and esteemed by the first men of his time for wit and learning; and must be allowed to have been a polite scholar, an excellent orator, and an elegant and easy writer both in Latin and English. Mr. Cole was informed that he lies buried in Ealing Church, as lord of the manor, or lessee of the great tithes. There is no monument or epitaph for him; but the Doctor himself, not long before his death, which happened Dec. 30, 1763, drew up the following very curious one, in order to be engraved on a silver case, in which he directed his heart should be preserved, in some convenient part of St. Mary Hall:
EPITAPHIUM GULIELMI KING,
a seipso scriptum pridie nonas Junii,
die natali Georgii III. MDCCLXII.
GUILIELMUS KING, LL.D.
ab anno MDCCXIX. ad annum MDCC—
hujus Aulae Praefectus.
Literis humanioribus a puero deditus,
eas usque ad supremum vitae diem colui.
Neque vittis carui, neque virtutibus;
imprudens et improvidus, comis et benevolus;
saepe aequo iracundior,
haud unquam ut essem implacabilis.
A luxuria pariter ac avaritia
(quam non tam vitium
quam mentis insanitatem esse duxi)
Cives, hospites, peregrinos
omnino liberaliter accepi,
ipse et cibi parcus, et vini parcissimus.
Cum magnis vixi, cum plebeiis, cum omnibus,
ut homines noscerem, ut meipusum imprimis:
neque, eheu, novi!
Permultos habui amicos,
at veros, stabiles, gratos,
(quae fortasse est gentis culpa)
Plures habui inimicos;
sed invidos, sed improbos, sed inhumanos;
quorum nullis tamen injuriis
perinde commotus fui
quam deliquiis meis.
Summam, quam adeptus sum, senectutem,
neque optavi, neque accusavi;
vitae incommodos nimium contentus.
Mortem neque contempsi neque metui.
que hunc orbem et humanas res curas,
miserere animae nostrae!
There is a striking likeness of Dr. King, in the Orator's Rostrum, in Worlidge's View of the Installation of Lord Westmoreland as Chancellor of Oxford, in 1761; likewise to portraits of him, in mezzotinto, by Faber and M'Ardell.