1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William King of Oxford

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 19:376-79.



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 Baliol-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, 1727, he went over to Ireland. With what design he went thither is to us unknown; but his enemies say, it was for the purposes of intrigue, and to expose himself to sale. But he says himself, and there are no facts alleged to disprove it, "At no time of my life, either in England or Ireland, either from the present or any former government, have I asked, or endeavoured by any means to obtain, a place, pension, or employment, of any kind. I could assign many reasons for my conduct; but one answer I have always ready: I inherited a patrimony, which I found sufficient to supply all my wants, and to leave me at liberty to pursue those liberal studies, which afforded me the most solid pleasures in my youth, and are the delight and enjoyment of my old age. Besides, I always conceived a secret horror of a state of servility and dependence: and I never yet saw a place-man or a courtier, whether in a higher or lower class, whether a priest or a layman, who was his own master." During his stay in Ireland, he is said to have written an epic poem, called The Toast, bearing the name of Scheffer, a Laplander, as its author, and of Peregrine O'Donald, esq. as its translator; which was a political satire, and was printed and given away to friends, but never sold. Dr. Warton says that the countess of Newburgh was aimed at in this satire.

On the dedication of Radcliffe's library, 1749, he spoke a Latin oration in the theatre at Oxford, which was received with the highest acclamations by a splendid auditory. Mr. Warton, in The Triumphs of Isis, pays him a very great compliment on that occasion. But this oration, which was soon after printed, did not meet with such favourable reception from the public; for he was attacked in several pamphlets on account of it, in which he was charged with writing barbarous Latin, with being disaffected to the government, and that he instigated the younger members of the university to sedition and licentiousness; very heavy accusations, if we may not candidly suppose them dictated by the spirit of malevolence and party zeal. And again, in 1755, when the memorable election contest happened in Oxfordshire, his attachment to the old interest drew on him the resentment of the new. He was libelled in newspapers and in pamphlets, and charged with the following particulars, viz. that be was an Irishman; that he had received subscriptions for books never published to the amount of 1500 of which sum he had defrauded his subscribers; that he had offered himself to sale both in England and 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, entitled Political Considerations, 1710, in which there was false English; and of a book then just published, called, The Dreamer, 1754, 8vo. At this time he published his Apology in 4to, and plausibly vindicated himself from the several matters charged on him, except only the last article, of his being the author of The Dreamer; and warmly retaliated on his adversaries.

He 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 ducts 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. Besides these, he published the first five 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. He died Dec. 30, 1763, having sketched his own character in an elegant epitaph, in which, while he acknowledges his failings, he claims the praise of benevolence, temperance, and fortitude. This epitaph was to be engraved on a silver case, in which he directed his heart should be preserved in some convenient part of St. Mary Hall. He was buried in Ealing church, but the inscription is on a marble tablet in the chapel of St. Mary-hall. There is a striking likeness of Dr. King in Worlidge's view of the installation of lord Westmorland as chancellor of Oxford in 1761.