Rev. Joseph Spence

Luke Booker, "William Shenstone's Copy of Fugitive Pieces" Gentleman's Magazine 90 (January 1820) 29-30.

[Luke Booker is obviously incorrect in asserting that this memoir is in the handwriting of William Shenstone, who had died in 1763.]

Dudley Vicarage,

Jan. 1.


In addition to the communication of Viator (see volume LXXXIX. Part ii. page 412), concerning Spence, the following, perhaps, will be deemed of some importance, on account of having Shenstone for their author, in whose hand-writing I possess them, prefixed to two volumes (once his property), intituled "Fugitive Pieces on various Subjects, by several Authors. Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, 1761."

"Joseph Spence, M.A. took this degree 2d Nov. 1727; was Fellow of New Coll. Oxon; was elected Poetry Professor 11th July, 1728; which he held ten years. He quitted his Fellowship on being presented by his College to the Rectory of Great Horwood in Buckinghamshire. He never resided at his Living, but made an annual visit to Horwood, and did many acts of charity to the Poor there. He resided mostly at Byfleet in Surrey, in a small villa given hint for life by his pupil, the (then) Earl of Lincoln. In June 1742, he was made Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and 24th May 1754, a Prebendary of Durham. In June 1758, he made a visit, in company with Mr. R. Dodsley, at the Leasowes. From thence, after staying a week or ten days, he and Mr. Dodsley proceeded to Durham, and then went on a tour to Scotland; of which Mr. Spence wrote some account to me. On their return, Mr. Dodsley made an afternoon visit to a distant relation at Duffield in Derbyshire, a Miss Eliz. Cartwright, a handsome, decent, and accomplished young woman; with whose conversation and manners Mr. Spence was so charmed, that he took a memorandum of her in his pocket-book, and left her a genteel legacy in his will. In 1764, Mr. Dodsley died while on a visit to him at Durham, and was buried by his friend in the Cathedral there, August 26, 1768. Mr. Spence was unfortunately drowned in a canal in his garden at Byfleet. He was found flat on his face at the edge, where the water was too shallow to cover his head. He most likely fell down in a fit. — He was of a spare and feeble constitution, very temperate in his hours and way of life, cheerful and entertaining in conversation. His features bore some resemblance to the celebrated Mr. Locke, but had more sweetness and benignity of countenance. — His works are numerous; besides the well-known 'Polymetis,' in folio, he left some MS vols. now in the possession of the Duke of Newcastle. — In this volume," (i.e. the first volume of Fugitive Pieces), "Crito, and the Account of the Emperor of China's Gardens, are by his hand. In the second volume, the Parallel between Magliabechi and Hill was written by him also. He is commemorated by Mr. J. Ridley in his Tales of the Genii, under the anagrammatic appellation of Phesoi Ecneps, or Dervise of the Groves."

Under the title of the third piece in the first volume, by Wm. Hay, Esq. on "Deformity," Shenstone has written, "The Author was born at Glenburne, near Lewes in Sussex, and died 19 June, 1755." Under that of the fourth piece, intituled "Lucina sine Concubitu, addressed to the Royal Society," he has written, "By the celebrated Dr. Sir John Hill, who was born about the year 1716, and died in Nov. 1766." Under that of the first piece in the second volume, intituled "A Vindication of Natural Society," he has written, "By Mr. Burke." Under that of the second piece, intituled "The History and Antiquities of the antient Villa of Wheatfield, in the County of Suffolk," he has written, "By the Rev. Mr. John Clubbe, Rector of Wheatfield, and Vicar of Debenham."

Yours, &c.