1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Dodd

William Tooke, Note to The Times; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 2:319-21n.



Poor, plain Concupiscence is in disgrace,
And simple Lech'ry dares not shew her face,
Lest she be sent to bridewell; bankrupts made,
To save their fortunes, bawds leave off their trade,
Which first had left off them; to Wellclose square
Fine, fresh young strumpets (for Dodd preaches there)
Throng for subsistence....

That worthless character, Dr. William Dodd, occasionally preached at a chapel in Wellclose-square, which the congregation, alluded to by the poet, might have been induced to frequent on account of the Doctor's interest in the Magdalen Hospital then lately established, and to which he was appointed chaplain. Dr. Dodd possessed a florid declamatory eloquence, which, aided by a deep fund of affectation and hypocrisy, rendered him for many years the most popular eleemonsynary preacher in the metropolis. His popularity survived his assumed sanctity, and twenty thousand persons were weakly induced to sign a petition to the throne for a remission of the punishment he had so justly merited. The king, with that firmness which has uniformly marked his administration of the executive power, resisted an application which was unsupported by any one circumstance of extenuation on the part of the offender. The Jury did not even, according to a too frequent practice, recommend to mercy the case of this unfortunate Divine, who, in addition to the crime for which he suffered, had only attempted to bribe the first law officer of the kingdom, and whose life had been one continued series of profligacy and debauchery. Dr. Johnson unaccountably suffered himself to be prevailed upon to write Dodd's speech at the Old-Bailey, his petition to the king, and his sermon to the condemned convicts. The noble Lord, for forging whose name the prosecution had been instituted, was calumniated for the honourable sacrifice he had made of his private feelings as a man to the public duty he owed his country, and in which he would have been palpably deficient had he consented to have screened from justice a crime so peculiarly injurious in a commercial country.

Much misplaced pity has, in our opinion, been bestowed upon this man, whose name is never introduced but with some compassionate epithet annext, though numbers of criminals annually suffer death in this kingdom, most of whose cases, individually taken, would probably admit of more circumstances of alleviation than occur in that of Dr. Dodd, for if an example was ever wanted of the equal administration of our laws, no fitter subject for the purpose could have fallen under their cognizance. In the sacred function which be profaned he introduced a species of theatrical rant closely bordering upon methodism, and unbecoming the sober, dignified gravity of the church of England. It has since his time however become too prevalent, and many of our charitable foundations principally subsist upon the labours of their advertised and advertising advocates. This censure by no means applies to those noble institutions for the education youth, and for the relief of the unfortunate victims of disease and casualty which abound in this metropolis, but it does, to the numerous societies formed in the very wantonness and exuberance of charity, which, by holding out premiums to idleness and imposture, discourage and disgust the industrious poor from the prosecution of their severe but unnoticed exertions for a scanty subsistence; but it would, to a society, if such there ever could exist, which should presumptuously and arrogantly assume to itself the task of suppressing vice, and endeavour to effect its object by promoting perjury, in the encouragement held out the vilest informers, and by vexatiously persecuting the honest tradesman, who, to relieve a neighbour in sickness or distress, may be inadvertently induced to exercise his calling during the hours of Divine service. A society, which should obtrude itself upon the notice of the public upon every occasion, whether advertising its thanks to a Chelsea Divine, or covering the walls of London with canting addresses to the volunteers; whose rigorous zeal would give no quarter to the vices of the poor, but either connive at or mention with the most indulgent palliations the flagrant excesses of the higher classes; who would denounce the wrath of heaven against the frequenters of an ale-house on the Lord's day, while the politer Sunday visitors to the coffee and gambling houses, in the precincts of St. James, might be gently reminded of the benefit that would accrue from their attendance on public worship, "were it only for the sake of the example thereby afforded to their inferiors" to a society so constituted, if, as we repeat, it could ever have existed, Dr. Dodd would have proved an appropriate chaplain.