JOSEPH TRAPP, an English divine, and voluminous translator, was the grandson of the rev. John Trapp, vicar of Weston-upon-Avon, and schoolmaster at Stratford in Warwickshire, who wrote large commentaries upon almost all the books of the Old and New Testament, published in several quarto volumes, 1646, &c. and other tracts on subjects of divinity. He never had, nor wished to have, any preferment besides his vicarage, which lay at the convenient distance of two miles from his school. His character, as a man and as a preacher, would have recommended him to higher promotion; but he always refused to accept it, as his condition was equal to his wishes. He died Oct. 17, 1669, aged sixty-eight.
Our author's father, the rev. Joseph Trapp, rector of Cherrington in Gloucestershire, was a master of arts, and had formerly been student of Christ-church, Oxford, and was inducted into Cherrington in 1662, where he was buried Sept. 24, 1698, with a Latin inscription, immediately over his grave, in the North chancel. His son, the subject of the present account, was born, probably in November, as he was baptised on the sixteenth of that month, 1679. After some education at home under his father, he was removed to the care of the master of New-college-school, Oxford, and became so good a scholar, that in 1695, at sixteen years of age, he was entered a commoner of Wadham-college, and, in 1696, was admitted a scholar of the same house. In 1702, he proceeded master of arts, and in 1704, was chosen a fellow. In 1708, he was appointed the first professor of poetry, on the foundation of Dr. Birkhead, sometime fellow of All-Souls-college, and continued in the same for ten years, the period allotted by the founder. In 1709-10, he acted as a manager for Dr. Sacheverell on his memorable trial; and in 1711, was appointed chaplain to sir Constantine Phipps, lord chancellor of Ireland, and one of the lords justices of that kingdom.
In 1720, Mr. Trapp was, by the favour of the earl of Peterborough, presented to the rectory of Dauntzey, in Wiltshire, which he resigned in 1721 for the vicarage of the united parishes of Christ-church, Newgate-street, and St. Leonard's, Foster-lane. In February 1727, in consequence of the merit and usefulness of his two books, entitled "Popery truly stated," and "Answer to England's Conversion," both printed in that year, he was presented by the university of Oxford with a doctor of divinity's degree by diploma. In 1733, he was, on the demise of Robert Cooper, M.A. and archdeacon of Dorset, preferred to the rectory of Harlington, Middlesex, on the presentation of the celebrated lord Bolingbroke, to whom he had been appointed chaplain by the recommendation of dean Swift, and in defence of whose administration he had written a number of papers in the "Examiner," during 1711 and two following years. In 1734, he was elected one of the joint-lecturers of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields: and dying at Harlington of a pleurisy, Nov. 22, 1747, aged sixty-seven, was interred on the North side of the entrance into the chancel of Harlington-church. He desired in his will, that each of his parishioners in Christ-church and St. Leonard's Foster-lane, and in Harlington, Middlesex, who were housekeepers, might, from the highest to the lowest, "have a copy of his little book, entitled 'The Four last Things,' beseeching them, for the sake of their immortal souls, to read it, and practise it, and recommend it to their children and servants, and all others committed to their charge." His parishioners of Christ-church had so grateful a sense of his memory, as to erect a monument by subscription in their church, with an inscription apparently taken from some lines in the poem which he bequeathed them.
Dr. Trapp was in person of a middle stature, slender habit, olive complexion, and a countenance of uncommon openness and animation, arising from the concurrence of an arched high forehead, fine eyebrows, and expressive vivid eyes, which, accompanied with an erect attitude, gave him an air of consequence and dignity, prepossessing his audience, at his first appearance in the pulpit, with a favourable expectation of what he was about to deliver. The portrait of him in the Oxford picture-gallery is a striking resemblance. In his temper, he was somewhat impatient and hasty, but in general had a considerable command over it, where professional decorum was necessary. Being a man of wit, he could unbend agreeably among his intimate friends, and had seen much of the world, and conversed with men of all parties in an age strongly marked with party-spirit. Like most divines about the commencement of the last century, he was challenged to personal controversies with those of the popish persuasion, but always resisted them. "Disputes by word of mouth," he says, in the preface to Popery truly stated, "I always declined, and always will: I never knew any good come of them: much harm, I am sure, may, and I believe often does: much empty wrangling at the time of the debate, and much misreport and misrepresentation after it. And therefore I chose writing rather than talking."
He was so much addicted to books, that it was the late bishop Pearce's opinion that he studied harder than any man in England. In consequence of this he was liable to absence of mind, as it is called, and frequently ordinary matters and occurrences passed unheeded before him. When at college, according to the imperfect account of him in the Supplement to the "Biographia Britannica," he was somewhat dissipated, and was led to pursuits not becoming his intended profession. When he applied to Dr. Robinson, bishop of London, for orders, that prelate censured him, with much warmth, for having written a play ("Abramule"); but, after taking on him the sacred profession, he was uniform in a conduct which did credit to it. And his consistency in this respect for a series of years, during the most turbulent times, both in church and state, procured him the greatest honours and respect from persoils of the first order and character. The university of Oxford, who confers her honours only by the test of merit, and the rules of propriety, could not express her opinion of his merit more significantly than by presenting him with a doctor of divinity's degree, by diploma, in full convocation. When he preached his assize sermon at Oxford, 1739, it was observed, that the late rev. Dr. Theophilus Leigh, master of Baliol-college, and then vice-chancellor of Oxford, stood up all the time of his preaching, to manifest his high sense of so respectable a character. Nor was he regarded only by those of his own church and country, for he was much esteemed by foreigners, and even by those of the Romish communion, against whom he stood foremost in controversy, and that with some acrimony. When, in 1742, his son was at Rome, he was asked by one of the cardinals, whether he was related to the great Dr. Trapp, and the cardinal being informed that he was his son, he immediately requested, that on his return to England, he would not fail to make his particular respects to the doctor.
Dr. Trapp acquired fame in his day by a great variety of writings, theological, critical, controversial, political, and poetical. He seems to have valued himself as a translator, in which he was confessedly unsuccessful. When appointed poetry professor, he gave a regular course of lectures in very elegant Latin, which were published in 1718, in three vols. octavo, under the title of "Prelectiones Poeticae." A translation appeared afterwards: but, although he acquitted himself in these lectures as a good critic, he was not able to exemplify his own rules, and his translation of Virgil bears no resemblance to the original, owing to an imprudent choice of words and figures, and a total want of harmony. He had most success in a Latin translation of "Anacreon," for Latin poetry was his forte; but failed when he attempted to transfuse the spirit of Milton into that language.
As his numerous publications form a sort of diary of his employments, we shall give a chronological list of them, which seems to have been drawn up with great care, omitting only some of his occasional sermons, as we believe they were afterwards collected. His earliest production was, 1. " Fraus nummi Anglicani," in the "Musae Anglicanae," 1699; 2. "A poem on Badminton-house, Gloucestershire," 1700; 3. "Verses on the death of the duke of Gloucester," Oxon. 1700; 4. "On the deaths of king William, prince George, and queen Anne," 1702, &c. 5. "Verses on baron Spanheim,"1706; 6. "Miscellany verses," in vol. VI. of Dryden's Miscellany, 1709; 7. "Odes on the Oxford Act," 1713; 8. "Preservative against unsettled notions," vol. I. 1715, vol. II. 1722; 9. A controversial "Sermon" against bishop Hoadly, from John xviii. 36, 1717; 10. "Virgil translated into blank verse," 1717, 2 vols. 4to; 11. "Prelectiones Poeticae, 1718, 3 vols. 8vo; 12. "Treatise on Popery truly stated and briefly confuted," 1727; 13. "Answer to England's conversion," 1727; 14. "Sermons on Righteousness overmuch, four in one," Ecclesiastes vii. 16, 'Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise; why shouldst thou destroy thyself;' 15. "Sermon at Oxford Assizes," 'But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing,' 1739; 16. "Answer to the Seven Pamphlets against the said Sermon," 1740; 17. "Reply to Mr. Law's answer to Righteousness over-much," 1740; 18. "Miltoni Paradisus Amissus, 2 vols.; 19. "Concio ad Clerum Londinensem Sion Coll. Matt, x. Comm. 16," 1743; 20. C Sermons, No. III. from Matt. xvi. 22, 23, 'Now all this was done,' &c.; Malachi iii. 1, 'Behold I will send my messenger,' &c.; and from Matt. xvi. 27, 28, 'For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father,' &c. — prefixed to Explanatory Notes on the first of the Four Gospels," 1747; 21. "Continuation of Explanatory Notes on the Four Gospels," finished and published by Mr. Trapp, his son, 1752; 22. "Sermons on Moral and Practical subjects," 2 vols. 8vo, published by Mr. Trapp, and printed at Reading, in 1752. His Sermons at Lady Moyer's Lecture were published in 1731, 8vo. Besides the above he published, without his name, 23. "A Prologue to the University of Oxford," 1703; 24. "Abramule," a Tragedy, 1703; 25. "An ordinary Journey no Progress," in defence of Dr. Sacheverell, 1710; 26. "The true genuine Whig and Tory Address," in answer to a Libel of Dr. B. Hoadly, 1710; 27. "Examiners" in Vol. I. Nos. 8, 9, 26, 33, 4.5, 46, 48, .50, 1711; Vol. III. Nos. 6, 12, 26, 27, 37, 45, 50, 17 12; Vol. III. Nos. 1, 2, 5, 13, 20, 21, 26, 29, 34, 1713; 28. The Age of Riddles," 1710; 29. "Character and principles of the present set of Whigs," 1711; 30. "Most Faults on one Side," against a sly Whig pamphlet, entitled, 'Faults on both Sides,' 1710; 31. "Verses on Garth's Verses to Godolphin," 1710; 32. "Votes without Doors, occasioned by Votes within Doors," 1710; 33. "Preface to an Answer to Priestcraft," 1710; 34. "Verses on Harley's being stabbed by Guiscard," 1711; 35. "Poem to the duke of Ormond," 1711; 36. "Character of a certain Whig," 1711; 37. "Her Majesty's prerogative in Ireland," 1711; 38. "Peace," a poem, 1713; 39. "A short answer to the bishop of Bangor's great hook against the Committee," 1717; 40. "The Case of the Rector of St. Andrew, Holborn," 1722; 41. "Several Pieces in the Grub-street Journal," viz. upon impudence, upon Henley's Grammars, Answering, and not answering, Books, 1726; 42. "On Budgel's Philosopher's Prayer," 1726; 43. "Prologue and Epilogue for Mr. Hemmings's Scholars at Thistle worth," 1728; 44. "Grubstreet verses, Bowman," 1731; 45. "Anacreon translated into Elegiacs," 1732; 46. "Four last Things," a poem, 1734; 47. "Bribery and Perjury;" 48. "Letter about the Quakers Tithe Bill," 1736.
Dr. Trapp's library, consisting of his own original collection and Dr. Sacheverell's added, at his town house in Warwick-lane, and his country living at Harlington, together with his manuscript papers, devolved, in course, to his son, Mr. Trapp, who dying, the books, now much increased by Mr. Trapp's elegant collection of classic authors, valuable prints, and medals, were sold altogether to Lowndes of London, and from him the library passed to Gov. Palk. The manuscripts were excepted for Mr. Awbery, at whose death they passed into the possession of some friend, common to Messrs. Trapp and Awbery.
Dr. Trapp married, in 1712, Miss White, daughter of Mr. Alderman White of Oxford, by whom he had two sons, Henry, so baptised after his godfather lord Bolingbroke, who died in infancy, and Joseph, who became in 1734 fellow of New college Oxford, and in 1751 was presented by George Pits, esq. afterwards lord Rivers, to the living of Stratfield, near Hertford Bridge, Hampshire. He died in 1769.