Clarke, William (1696-1771) (DNB00)

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CLARKE, WILLIAM (1696–1771), antiquary, born at Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire, in 1696, was the son of a yeoman who occupied a tract of land under the Kynastons of Hardwick (Shropshire), and who acted as confidential agent for that family. Clarke was educated at Shrewsbury school and at St. John's College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1715, M.A. 1719, and became a fellow of his college on 22 Jan. 1716–17. On leaving the university he acted as chaplain to Dr. Adam Ottley, bishop of St. David's, and on Ottley's death in 1723 was for a short time domestic chaplain to Thomas Holles, duke of Newcastle. In 1724 he was presented by Archbishop Wake to the rectory of Buxted in Sussex, and in September 1727 was made prebendary of Hova Villa in Chichester Cathedral, and in 1738 canon residentiary. In 1768, having held the rectory of Buxted for more than forty years, he obtained permission to resign it to his son Edward. In June 1770 Clarke was installed chancellor of Chichester (also holding the rectories of Chiddingly and Pevensey annexed to the chancellorship). In August of the same year he was presented to the vicarage of Amport, the vicarial residence of which he resigned to a friend who died in July 1771. In the spring of 1771 Clarke suffered from gout, and died on 21 Oct. of that year. He was buried in Chichester Cathedral, behind the choir (for sepulchral inscriptions, see Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. 370, 371). He had married (before 1724?) Anne Wotton (b. June 1700, d 11 July 1783), daughter of Dr. William Wotton, by whom he had three children, two of whom survived him—a son, the Rev. Edward Clarke (1730–1786) [q. v.], and a daughter, Anne, who died, unmarried, at Chichester.

Hayley, who was intimate with the Clarkes, wrote some memorial verses beginning

Mild William Clarke and Anne his wife.

And he elsewhere speaks of the ‘engaging mildness’ of Clarke's countenance and manners. Bishop Huntingford also testifies to his ‘exquisite taste and diversified erudition.’ So attentive, it is said, was Clarke to the interests of the chapter of Chichester, ‘and so admirably did he manage the jarring passions of its members, that it was observed after his death, “the peace of the church of Chichester has expired with Mr. Clarke”!’ Antiquities were his favourite study, but (according to Hayley) he was also ‘a secret and by no means unsuccessful votary of the muses.’ The ‘impromptu’ verses by Clarke quoted in Nichols (Lit. Anecd. iv. 376) are of no particular merit, but he composed a good epigram on seeing the words ‘Hæc est Domus ultima’ inscribed on the vault belonging to the dukes of Richmond in Chichester Cathedral:

Did he, who thus inscrib'd the wall,
Not read, or not believe St. Paul,
Who says there is, where'er it stands,
Another house not made with hands;
Or may we gather from these words,
That house is not a house of lords?

Clarke's principal published work was ‘The Connexion of the Roman, Saxon, and English Coins deduced from observations on the Saxon Weights and Money,’ London, 1767, 4to. Another edition appeared in 1771 (London, 4to). In this work Clarke brings considerable learning to bear upon his obscure subjects, and writes with much elegance of style. Clarke also wrote the Latin preface (1730) to the collection of the Welsh laws of Dr. Wotton, his father-in-law; a translation of Trapp's ‘Lectures on Poetry,’ annotations on the Greek Testament (the two latter in conjunction with Bowyer), and various notes subjoined to the English version of Bleterie's ‘Life of the Emperor Julian.’ He also drew up a short manuscript account of ‘The Antiquities of the Cathedral of Chichester,’ which was presented by his grandson to Hey, the historian of Chichester (see Hey, Hist. of Chichester, p. 408). A ‘Discourse on the Commerce of the Romans’ was either by Clarke or by Bowyer (see Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. Essay xii.). Among Clarke's friends and correspondents were Hayley, Jeremiah Markland, Dr. Taylor, the editor of Demosthenes, Archbishop Secker, and Bishop Sherlock. With Bowyer the printer he carried on an extensive correspondence, which may be found in Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes,’ iv. 395–489. The letters range in date from 1726 to 1767, and are for the most part on learned subjects, including Roman antiquities.

[Otter's Life of E. D. Clarke (1825), vol. i.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iv. 363–489, and see indexes, vii. 81, 537; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. ii. 844, iii. 549–55, 656, iv. 742, 745; Biog. Brit. (Kippis); Dodd's Epigrammatists, pp. 352, 353.]

W. W.