1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Dodd

John Taylor Esq., in Records of my Life (1832) 2:250-53 &n.



Mr. Woodfall told me, that after Dr. Dodd had been tried and convicted, but not ordered for execution, he sent to request Mr. Woodfall would visit him in Newgate. Mr. Woodfall, who was always ready at the call of distress, naturally supposed the doctor wished to consult him on his situation, or to desire that he would insert some article in his favour in The Morning Chronicle. On entering the place of confinement, Mr. Woodfall began to condole with him on his unfortunate situation. The doctor immediately interrupted him, and said that he wished to see him on quite a different subject. He then told Mr. Woodfall, that, knowing his judgment on dramatic matters, he was anxious to have his opinion of a comedy which he had written, and if he approved of it, to request his interest with the managers to bring it on the stage. Mr. Woodfall was not only surprised but shocked to find the doctor so insensible to his situation, and the more so, because whenever he attempted to offer consolation, the doctor as often said "Oh! they will not hang me!" while, to aggravate Mr. Woodfall's feelings, he had been informed by Mr. Ackerman, the keeper of Newgate, before his interview with the doctor, that the order for his execution had actually reached the prison. For this extraordinary fact, the reader may confidently rely on the veracity of Mr. Woodfall....

I once heard the unfortunate doctor preach at the Magdalen Hospital. Presuming upon his importance, he did not arrive till the service was over, and a clergyman had entered the pulpit and commenced the sermon. The clergyman, however, resigned his situation as soon as the doctor appeared. His discourse was delivered with energy, but with something theatrical in his action and poetical in his language. Among other passages of a lofty description, I remember he said, that "the man whose life is conducted according to the principles of the Christian religion, will have the satisfaction of an approving conscience and the glory of an admiring God." Dodd published a volume of poems, some of which are in Dodsley's collection. His sermons have a tincture of poetry in the language. I heard him a second time in Charlotte Chapel, Pimlico, and his discourse made the same impression.

It was lamentable to remark the difference between his former deportment in the streets and his appearance in the coach the last time I saw him, when he was going to suffer the sentence of the law. In the streets he walked with his head erect and with a lofty gait, like a man conscious of his own importance, and perhaps of the dignity of his sacred calling. In the coach he had sunk down with his head to the side, his face pale, while his features seemed to be expanded: his eyes were closed, and he appeared a wretched spectacle of despair. The crowd of people in Holborn, where I saw him pass, was immense, and a deep sense of pity seemed to be the universal feeling. I was young and adventurous, or I should not have trusted myself in so vast a multitude; sympathy had repressed every tendency towards disorder, even in so varied and numerous a mass of people.

Dr. Dodd, on the day when he was taken into custody, had engaged to dine with the late Chevalier Ruspini, in Pall Mall. He had arrived some time before the hour appointed, and soon after two persons called and enquired for him, and when he went to them, he was informed that they had come to secure him on a criminal charge. The doctor apologised to the chevalier for the necessity of leaving him so abruptly, and desired that he would not wait dinner for him. Soon after dinner a friend of the chevalier called, and said he had just left the city, and informed the company that Dr. Dodd had been committed to prison on a charge of forgery. I was present at the sale of his effects at his house in Argyle Street. During the sale a large table in the drawing-room was covered with private letters to the doctor, all open, and some signed by many noblemen and distinguished characters. I presume these letters were to be sold in one lot, but I did not stay till the conclusion of the sale.