Guy, Thomas (DNB00)

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GUY, THOMAS (1645?–1724), founder of Guy's Hospital, eldest child of Thomas Guy, lighterman and coalmonger, also described as citizen and carpenter, was born in 1644 or 1645 in Pritchard's Alley, Fair Street, Horselydown, Southwark. His father, an anabaptist, died young, leaving three children, the eldest being eight years old. His mother returned to her native place, Tamworth, where she married again in 1661. Thomas Guy was carefully educated at Tamworth, and on 3 Sept. 1660 was apprenticed for eight years to John Clarke, bookseller, in Mercers' Hall Porch, Cheapside, London. On 7 Oct. 1668, at the end of his apprenticeship, he was admitted by servitude a freeman of the Stationers' Company, and of the city on 14 Oct., and on 6 Oct. 1673 he was admitted into the livery of the Stationers' Company. In 1668 he set up in business as a bookseller in the corner house at the junction of Cornhill and Lombard Street, with a stock worth about 200l. At this time there was a large unlicensed traffic in English bibles printed in Holland, in which Guy is said to have joined extensively. The king's printers had complained of the infringement of their privilege, and made numerous seizures of Dutch printed bibles. At the same time they were underselling the universities, and trying to drive them out of competition. Before 1679 Guy and Peter Parker came to the aid of Oxford university and became university printers, in association with Bishop Fell and Dr. Yates. They printed at Oxford numerous fine bibles, prayer-books, and school classics, and effectually checkmated the king's printers, both in litigation and in business. But certain members of the Stationers' Company succeeded in ousting them from their contract in 1691-2, after a sharp contest (see Ballard MSS. vol. xlix. in Bodleian Library). Dr. Wallis gives Parker and Guy a high character for probity, skill, and zeal (loc. cit.} Guy imported type from Holland and sold bibles largely for many years. He published numerous other books, and his imprint is not so rare as has been represented. Having accumulated money he invested it in various government securities, and especially in seamen's pay-tickets, then often sold at from thirty to fifty per cent, discount. In 1695 Guy became member of parliament for Tamworth, where he had in 1678 founded an almshouse for six poor women, enlarged in 1693 to accommodate fourteen men and women. A letter from Dr. G. Smalridge, afterwards bishop of Bristol (28 Oct. 1696), inquires whether Lord Weymouth has sufficient influence at Tamworth to keep Guy out at the next election (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. iii. 253). Guy sat until 1707, when he was rejected, and declined a request from his constituents to stand again. According to John Dunton [q. v.], Guy in 1705 occupied a high position among London booksellers, and was 'an eminent figure' in the Stationers' Company. He had been chosen sheriff of London, but refused to serve, choosing rather to pay the fine, and thus he practically declined the mayoralty. He probably wished to avoid expenditure. Dunton calls him 'a man of strong reason,' and says that he 'is truly charitable, of which his almshouses for the poor are standing testimonies' (Life and Errors, p.281). The same untrustworthy authority said (Essay on Death-bed Charity), after Guy's death, that Guy almost starved the bookbinders whom he employed, and declared that he gave 'but a few farthings' to the poor in his lifetime. According to Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes' (iii. 599, 600), Guy 'being a single man and very penurious, his expenses were next to nothing. His custom was to dine on his shop counter, with no other tablecloth than an old newspaper; he was also as little nice in regard to his apparel.…' It is added that Guy had intended to marry a maidservant, but that after he had ordered her to give directions for the pavement before his door to be mended, she thoughtlessly desired the paviors to extend their operations beyond the stone he had marked. Guy therefore declined to marry her. Knight connects this with an order of the common council about mending pavements in 1671.

Guy early became somewhat noted as a philanthropist. He had maintained his almshouse in Tamworth entirely himself, and among other benefactions to Tamworth he built a town hall in 1701, which is still standing. Many of his poor and distant relations received stated allowances of 10l. or 20l. a year or more from him, and two of them received 500l. each to advance them in life. He spent much money in discharging insolvent debtors and reinstating them in business, and in relieving distressed families; and as many of his good deeds only came to light after his death, it is believed that many more were unrevealed. He often advanced money to start deserving young men in business. In 1709 he contributed largely for the poor refugees from the palatinate; and often sent friendless persons to St. Thomas's with directions to the steward to give them assistance at his own cost. In 1712 he subscribed to the fund for Bowyer, the printer, after his great loss by fire (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. i. 61).

In 1704 Guy became a governor of St. Thomas's Hospital, and thereafter was one of its principal and active managers. In 1707 he built and furnished three new wards in the hospital for sixty-four patients, at a cost of 1,000l., and from 1708 contributed 100l. yearly towards their support. He also improved the stone front and built a new entrance from the Borough, and two new houses at the south-west of the hospital. His importance in the government of St. Thomas's is constantly evident in the hospital records.

On 5 Aug. 1717 he offered to the Stationers' Company 1,000l. to enable them to add to the quarterly charity to poor members and widows, and 2,600l., the interest to be paid to such charitable uses as he should appoint by his will.

In 1720 Guy is said to have possessed 45,500l. of the original South Sea Stock. The 100l. shares gradually rose. Guy began to sell out at 300l., and sold the last of his shares at 600l. Having thus a vast fortune he decided to carry out a project long contemplated, of providing for the numerous patients who either could not be received in St. Thomas's Hospital, or were discharged thence as incurable. He consequently in 1721 took a lease from the St. Thomas's governors of a piece of ground opposite the hospital for 999 years, and, having pulled down a number of small houses, began the erection of a hospital on the site in 1722, intending to place it under the same administration. When the building was raised to the second story, he changed his mind and decided to have a separate government. The building, which cost 18,793l., was roofed in before the founder's death, which took place on 27 Dec. 1724 in his eightieth year. He was buried with great pomp, after lying in state at the Mercers' Chapel.

Guy's will went through three editions in 1725, and was reprinted by the governors of Guy's Hospital in 1732. 'it was signed on 4 Sept. 1724, and bequeaths lands and tenements in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Derbyshire to grandchildren of his deceased sister, about 75,000l. in four per cent, annuities, mostly in sums of 1,000l., to about ninety cousins in various degrees, as well as some persons apparently not relatives, and annuities varying from 10l. to 200l. per annum to others, mostly older relatives, being the interest on about 22,000l. stock. One thousand pounds was left to discharge poor debtors in London, Middlesex, or Surrey, in sums not exceeding 5l. each (six hundred persons were relieved by this benefaction, Maitland, p. 668). Four hundred pounds per annum was left to Christ's Hospital for the board and education of four poor children annually, to be nominated by the executors, the governors of Guy's, with preference to Guy's relations. His almshouse and library at Tamworth, was left in trust for the maintenance of fourteen poor persons of parishes surrounding Tamworth, excluding the town itself, preference being given to his own poor relations, a portion of the endowment being applied to apprenticing children, and nursing four, six, or eight persons of the families of Wood or Guy; while 1,000l. was left to other persons for charitable purposes. The remainder of his fortune, amounting to more than 200,000l, was left to Sir Gregory Page, bart., Charles Joye, treasurer of St. Thomas's Hospital, and several other of its governors, including Dr. Richard Mead [q. v.], to complete his hospital for four hundred sick persons who might not be received into other hospitals from being deemed incurable, or only curable by long treatment; lunatics, up to the number of twenty, were to be received for similar reasons; but full discretion was given to the executors for varying the application of the funds. The executors and trustees were desired to procure an act of parliament incorporating them with other persons named, all governors of St. Thomas's, to the number of fifty, with a president and treasurer; they were to purchase lands, ground rents, or estates with the residuary estate, and maintain the hospital by the proceeds, any surplus to be applied to the benefit of poor sick persons or for other charitable uses. The will was proved on 4 Jan. 1724-5. The required act of parliament was obtained in the same year (11 George I, cap. xii.), and gave power to the executors to set up a monument to Guy in the chapel, which was designed by John Bacon, R.A.

In the centre of the square, which afterwards completed the front of Guy's Hospital, is a bronze statue of Guy in his livery gown, by Scheemakers; on the west side, in basso-relievo, is represented the parable of the Good Samaritan, and on the east Christ healing the impotent man. There are some portraits of Guy at the hospital, mostly posthumous; the only one that has any pretensions to originality is by Vanderbank, dated 1706, reproduced in the ‘Graphic,’ 14 May 1887. He there appears long-faced, with a high forehead, firm lips, and self-possessed, calm, and resolute expression.

[Ballard MSS. xlix. in Bodleian Library, Oxford ; Dr. John Wallis's Account of Printing at Oxford, 23 Jan. 1691, in Derham's Philosophical Experiments, &c., of Robert Hooke and others, 1726 ; Dunton's Life and Errors, 1705, pp. 281, 307; Dunton's Essay on Death-bed Charity, 1728; Guy's Will, three editions in 1725, reprinted by the governors of Guy's, 1732; Maitland's London, 1739, pp. 667-70, the account evidently furnished by Guy's Hospital authorities; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 61, iii. 599, 600; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. iii. 253; Saturday Magazine, 2 Aug. 1834; Charles Knight's Shadows of the Old Booksellers, 1865; Old and New London, vol. vi.; information from Mr. W. Rendle of Forest Hill ; Bettany and Wilks's forthcoming Biographical History of Guy's Hospital.]

G. T. B.