1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Dodd

John Nichols, in Select Collection of Poems with Notes Biographical and Historical (1780-82) 7:228-31.



This unfortunate author, eldest son of the Rev. Wm. Dodd, M.A. many years vicar of Bourne in Lincolnshire, was born May 29, 1729. He was sent, at the age of 16, to the university of Cambridge, and admitted in the year 1745 a sizar of Clare-Hall. In 1749-50 he took the degree of B.A. with great honour, being upon that occasion placed in the list of wranglers. Leaving the university, he imprudently married a miss Mary Perkins, of Frith-street, Soho, in 1751; was ordained a deacon the same year, and a priest in 1753, and soon became a popular preacher. His first preferment was the lectureship of West-Ham in 1752. In 1753 he was chosen lecturer of St. James's Garlickhithe, which he resigned in 1754 for that of St. Olave's Hart-street, and in 1758 took the degree of M.A. at Cambridge. On the foundation of the Magdalen Hospital in 1758, he was a strenuous supporter of that charity, and soon after became preacher at the chapel of it. By the favour of bishop Squire, to whom he was chaplain, he in 1763 obtained a prebend of Brecon, and by the same interest had the education of Mr. Stanhope, now earl of Chesterfield, entrusted to his care. In 1765, by the interest of some city friends, he was appointed one of the king's chaplains. In 1766 he went to Cambridge, and took the degree of LL.D. Two new polite chapels were now the scenes of his ministry, and he obtained the rectory of Hockliffe in Bedfordshire by purchase. At this period the estimation he was held in by the world was sufficient to give him expectations of preferment, and hopes of riches and honours; and these he might probably have acquired, had he possessed a common portion of prudence and discretion. On the living of St. George Hanover-square becoming vacant in 1774, he wrote an anonymous letter to the lord chancellor's lady, offering 3000 guineas if by her assistance he was promoted to it. This being traced to him, complaint was immediately made to the king; and Dr. Dodd was dismissed with disgrace from his post of chaplain. From this period, though he obtained the vicarage of Winge in Bucks from his noble pupil, he lived neglected, if not despised; and his extravagance still continuing, he became involved in difficulties, which tempted him to forge, Feb. 4, 1777, a bond from his late pupil lord Chesterfield, for 4200. which he actually received; but, being detected, was tried at the Old Bailey, found guilty, and, in spite of every application for mercy, received sentence of death; and was executed at Tyburn, June 27, 1777. He was a voluminous writer, and possessed, with little judgment and much vanity, considerable abilities: but the advantages of these were totally lost to him by habits of dissipation, which seem to have affected both his life and writings. To this account, for which I am principally indebted to a pamphlet called "An impartial Account of the Life and Writings of Wm. Dodd, LL.D." I have taken the liberty to make some additions and corrections from the "Historical Memoirs of Dr. Dodd's Life and Writings," 8vo. 1777, compiled by one who knew him intus et in cute, seem to have superseded his projected Life (if any such was really projected) by his brother the Rev. Mr. Richard Dodd, and his friend Mr. Butler.