Joseph Spence was Fellow of New College, Oxford, where he took the degree of M.A. Nov. 2, 1727; and in that year published his Essay on Pope's Odyssey. On 11 July, 1728, he was elected poetry professor at Oxford, an office which he held ten years. He travelled with the present duke of Newcastle (then earl of Lincoln) into Italy; and during the tour collected materials for his great work, Polymetis. He quitted his fellowship at New College in 1742, on being presented by that society to the rectory of Great Horwood in Buckinghamshire. In June, the same year, he succeeded Dr. Holmes at his Majesty's professor of modern history at Oxford. On 24 May, 1754, he was installed prebendary of the seventh stall at Durham, and died 20th August, 1768. The manner of his death could only be conjectured, but is generally supposed to have been occasioned by a fit, while he was standing near the brink of the water; as he was found flat upon his face, where the water was too shallow to cover his head or any part of his body.