1910 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Hall

William Prideaux Courtney, Dodsley's Collection of Poetry (1910) 99-101.



He was son and heir of William Hall, of Wood Street, City of London, gent., to quote the description of him which was given when he was entered at the Middle Temple on 22 Feb., 1727-8. He had been to school at Eton, and on 20 July, 1719 — his birthday being 31 July — was placed fifteenth out of twenty-one on the list for a scholarship, succeeding to a vacancy before the next annual election. On 5 Aug., 1723, he obtained the eighth place out of twelve on the list for admission to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, but his claims were postponed. At the next election (27 July, 1724) he was placed first, and duly succeeded.

Hall was dismissed from Eton on 8 Dec, 1724, and four days later was admitted a scholar of King's College, Cambridge, his place of birth being stated as London. On 13 Dec., 1727, he became a Fellow, and he took the degrees of B.A. 1728, M.A. 1732. He never held any of the statutable offices in the college, but was a "Poser" at the Eton elections of 1741 and 1742. In accordance with the statutes, he was diverted on 29 Nov., 1742, to the study of physic; and at the time of his death he was the senior Fellow of his college. For the dates of his connexion with Eton and King's College I am indebted to Mr. F. L. Clarke, Bursar's Clerk at the latter place.

Latin verses by Hall are inserted in the University collection on the death of George I. and the accession of George II., 1727. From schooldays to old age he was an intimate friend of Nicholas Hardinge, and "the bosom friend and most enthusiastic admirer" of Pratt, the first Lord Camden. He was in and out of their houses like a relation, and is introduced by Hardinge into some Latin and English verses as making, while at his house of Canbury, Kingston-upon-Thames, in 1749, a kite for his children. When Sir Edward Walpole was Postmaster-General he gave Hall the place of solicitor to the Post Office, which made him independent. He was also Deputy-Master of the Exchequer Office, and secretary and first assistant to the Pipe Office. Lords Jersey, Clarendon, and Hampden were also among his friends; and from his dignity of manners and air of prosperity he was dubbed by his associates with the title of Prince Hall. His characteristics were "a good person, a mild and pleasing countenance, a ready fund of good sense, propriety of manners, grace of thought and of expression, a poetical ear, and a most admirable taste." He frequented Tom's Coffee-House in Devereux Court, and loved his chambers, his books, and the society of the Benchers of the Middle Temple. But he was very licentious in life, became at first weak, next childish, then absolutely an idiot, passing "into the wildest paroxysm of delirium, in which he died" (George Hardinge).

Hall died at his chambers in New Court, in the Middle Temple, on 28 Feb., 1767, and was carried out to be buried at Islington on 7 March. In the same year his library was sold. His will, dated 3 July, 1741, directed that he should be "buried in that parish in which I die, at as small expense as decency will permit of"; but this seems to have been disregarded. He bequeathed to his cousin, Joyce Fisher, 300, which she owed him, and to another cousin, John Browne, living at Clement's Inn, 20. "To the Hon. Edward Walpole, my most valuable and beloved friend," he left the gold watch given him by the Hon. Mr. Page. His sister, Joyce Hall, was his residuary legatee and executrix. A codicil of the same date gave to the Hon. Mrs. Page "my 4-stoned diamond ring, given me by Mr. Walpole. To Thomas Page, Esq., my tortoise-shell snuff box given me by lady Pembroke." His sister, Joyce Hall, predeceased him, and on 13 April, 1767, letters of administration were granted to his cousin-german, Catherine Lighthasell, spinster. She in her turn left the goods unadministered, and on 20 Feb., 1824, administration was granted to Daniel Perry, of Smith Street, Northampton Square, the nominee of Anthony George Wright and others, "so far as concerned certain lands and messuages in the parishes of St. Martin in the Fields and St. Ann, Westminster, comprised in a certain term of 500 years."

Akenside in 1750 addressed an ode to him "with the works of Chaulieu." The first edition (40 copies in all) of Jeremiah Markland's De Graecorum quinta declinatione imparisyllabica, et inde formata Latinorum tertia, quaestio grammatica, was printed at Hall's expense in 1761, and was dedicated to him as "amicissimo viro, W. H. armigo, non ut patrono cliens, sed ut amico amicus," because he was accustomed willingly to read classical discussions of this kind, and because there was no one to whose kindness Markland owed more. It was also annexed in 1763 to an edition of the Supplices Mulieres of Euripides. At p. 50 of the 1761 ed., p. 253 of the 1763 ed., Markland referred "ad Latinos et in primis ad Delicias tuas (et cujus non cui mens sana est?) Horatium." "Part of a Preface to Mr. Hall's [expected] Poem, written 3 Nov., 1746," is in the Poems by Nicholas Hardinge, pp. 152-3. Hall's Sonnet to Nicholas Hardinge on the First Impression of Lauder's Forgeries, is in the same volume, pp. 220-2. It is included in Dodd, Epigrammatists, 2nd edit., p. 424, and, with two other of his poems, in Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, viii. 518-20.

[Gent. Mag., 1767, p. 144; Harwood, Alumni Eton., p. 314; Burials at Temple Church, ed. H. G. Woods, 1905, p. 66; Akenside, Poems, ed. Dyce, 1866, pp. xl.-xli.; Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, iii. 689, iv. 327, viii. 517-20; N. Hardinge, Poems, ed. George Hardinge, 1818, pp. 95, 165, 221.]