Hanmer, Thomas (DNB00)
|←Hanmer, Meredith||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24
HANMER, Sir THOMAS (1677–1746), speaker of the House of Commons, the only surviving son of William Hanmer, by Peregrina, daughter of Sir Henry North, bart., of Mildenhall, Suffolk, was born at Bettisfield Park, in the parish of Hanmer, Flintshire, the residence of his grandfather, Sir Thomas Hanmer, on 24 Sept. 1677. He was educated at Westminster School, and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, where Dr. Robert Freind [q. v.] was his tutor, but left without taking a degree. His father died in 1695, and Thomas succeeded as the fourth baronet on the death of his uncle, Sir John Hanmer, in 1701. At the general election at the end of that year he was returned as a tory to parliament for the boroughs of Flint and Thetford, and elected to sit for the latter. In the following parliament he represented Flintshire, and in 1704 voted for tacking the bill against occasional conformity to a money bill, in order that its passage through the House of Lords might be insured. At the general election in May 1705 he was again returned for the borough of Thetford, but in May 1708 was elected for Suffolk, and thenceforth continued to represent that county until his retirement from the house in 1727. In August 1810 Hanmer was invited by the Duke of Shrewsbury to become one of the commissioners of the treasury in the place of Godolphin (Correspondence, &c., pp. 127-8). Though he declined office, Hanmer appears to have taken from this time a more prominent part in the proceedings of the house, and in 1712 was made the chairman of the committee appointed to report on the state of the nation, and drew up the famous 'representation' justifying the conduct of the tories towards the Duke of Marlborough and the allies, which was presented to the queen on 4 March (Somers Collection of Tracts, 1815, xiii. 146-53). In the following month he accompanied the Duke of Ormonde to Flanders, and in October proceeded to Paris, 'where he was received by the King of France's order like a prince. Never had a private man such honours paid him' (Carte's 'Memorandum Book,' quoted in Macpherson, Original Papers, 1775, ii. 420). While there several unsuccessful attempts were made to enlist him in the service of the Pretender. Soon after his return to England Hanmer, who is described in Swift's 'Letter to Stella,' dated 15 Feb. 1713, as being 'the most considerable man in the House of Commons,' began to show his distrust of Harley's policy, and in June 1713 was instrumental in throwing out the bill for making effectual the eighth and ninth articles of the treaty of commerce (Parl. Hist. vi. 1220-3). Though Hanmer had several times refused offers of office from Harley,he consented to be proposed as speaker, and at the meeting of the new parliament on 16 Feb. 1714 was elected to the chair in the place of William Bromley (1664-1732) [q.v.], who had been appointed one of the principal secretaries of state (ib. 1252-6). Shortly afterwards, in a letter to the Electress Sophia, Hanmer assured her of 'son zele et son attachement aux interests de votre sérénissime maison' (Correspondence, &c. p. 163), and on 15 April, while speaking on the question of the safety of the protestant succession, declared that 'in this debate so much had been said to prove the succession to be in danger, and so little to make out the contrary, that he could not but believe the first' (Parl. Hist. vi. 1347). While attending service in Hanmer Church on Sunday, 1 Aug. 1714, he was hastily summoned to London to preside over the house in the event of the queen's death. Anne died a few hours before Hanmer had received the summons, and the house daily met and adjourned in his absence. He arrived in London on the 4th, and the session was opened on the following day. On the 21st he presented the Subsidy Bill, and addressed the lords justices in his capacity^ of speaker (ib. vii. 9-11). The short session closed on the 25th, and at the opening of the new parliament in the following year Spencer Compton (1673?-1743) [q.v.], a whig, was elected to the chair. The protestant succession having been secured, Hanmer rejoined the ranks of the high church tory party, and took part in the opposition to the whig ministry. In 1717 he appears to have attached himself to the Prince of Wales, and to have had hopes that the ascendency of the tory party might be restored. As these hopes died away Hanmer gradually became a less prominent member in the house, and in July 1727 retired altogether from parliament. The greater portion of the remainder of his life he spent in the country, amusing himself with literature and his garden. He died on 7 May 1746 at Mildenhall, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and was buried in the chancel of Hanmer Church, where there is a monument to his memory. His epitaph was written in Latin by Dr. Robert Freind, a paraphrase of which in English appeared in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1747 (xvii. 239), and was probably written either by Johnson or Hawkesworth (Boswell's Johnson, i. 177-8). Lord Hervey describes him as 'a sensible, impracticable, honest, formal, disagreeable man, whose great merit was loving his country, and whose great weakness loving the parsons' (Memoirs, 1884, i. 105-6). Lord Hanmer possessed three portraits of his ancestor, one of them being the full-length portrait by Kneller, the head of which is engraved in Yorke's 'Royal Tribes of Wales' (opp. p. 172). Another portrait by Kneller was lent by Sir Charles J. F. Bunbury, bart., to the Loan Exhibition of 1867 at South Kensington (Catalogue, No. 174).
Hanmer married first, in October 1698, Isabella, dowager duchess of Grafton, widow of Henry Fitzroy, the first duke, and only daughter of Henry Bennet, earl of Arlington. She died on 7 Feb. 1723. His second wife was Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas Folkes of Barton, Suffolk, who afterwards eloped with the Hon. Thomas Hervey, second son of John, first earl of Bristol, and died on 24 March 1741. There being no issue by either marriage, the baronetcy became extinct upon Hanmer's death, while the Mildenhall estate in Suffolk devolved upon his nephew, Sir William Bunbury, bart., and the Hanmer estate in Flintshire passed by settlement to his cousin and heir male, William Hanmer of Fenns, and is now possessed by Sir Edward John Henry Hanmer, bart.
In 1743-4 appeared Hanmer's edition of 'The Works of Shakespear in six vols., carefully revised and corrected by the former editions, and adorned with Sculptures designed and executed by the best hands,' Oxford, 4to. It contained a number of engravings by Gravelot, chiefly after designs by F. Hayman, and displayed a certain amount of ingenuity in the alterations made in the text, but as a critical work it was perfectly valueless. It was, however, the first Shakespeare, says Dibdin, 'which appeared in any splendid typographical form. . . . The first edition was a popular book, and was proudly displayed in morocco binding in the libraries of the great and fashionable. ... In the year 1747, when Warburton's edition was selling off at 18s. a copy (the original price having been 2l. 8s.), Hanmer's edition, which was published at 3l. 3s., rose to 9l. 9s., and continued at that price till its reprint in 1771' (The Library Companion, 1825, pp. 801-2). The first volume of the second edition (1770-1771, Oxford, 4to) contains additional matter in the shape of an 'advertisement,' and 'an epistle addressed to Sir Thomas Hanmer, on his edition of Shakespear's Works by Mr. William Collins.' Hanmer's announcement of his intention to publish his edition of Shakespeare occasioned a violent quarrel between him and Warburton, a full account of which will be found in The Castrated Letter of Sir Thomas Hanmer in the sixth volume of 'Biographia Britannica,' &c., 1763, and in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes' (1812, v. 588-90). Pope makes an allusion to Hanmer and his Shakespeare in the following passage from the 'Dunciad' (book iv. 11. 105 et seq.):
There mov'd Montalto with superior air;
His stretch'd-out arm display'd a volume fair;
Courtiers and patriots in two ranks divide,
Thro' both he pass'd and bow'd from side to side.
The authorship of the following two anonymous works has been ascribed to Hanmer by Sir H. Bunbury: 1. 'A Review of the Text of the twelve Books of Milton's "Paradise Lost," in which the chief of Dr. Bentley's Emendations are consid'd,' &c., London, 1733, 8vo. 2. 'Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, written by Mr. William Shakespeare,' London, 1736, 8vo.
[The Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer, edited by Sir Henry Bunbury, 1838; Lord Hanmer's Memorial of the Parish and Family of Hanmer, 1877; Davy's MS. Suffolk Collections, lviii. 103–21; Swift's Works, 1824, ii. 502–5, 508, iii. 118–19, v. 118–35, xvi. 51–2, xviii. 21, 332; Wentworth Papers, 1883; Biog. Brit. 1766, vi. pt. ii. App. 222–4; Granger's Biog. Hist. (Noble, 1806), ii. 171–3; Manning's Speakers of the House of Commons, 1850, pp. 423–31; Boswell's Life of Johnson (G. B. Hill's edit.), i. 175, 177–8, ii. 25, 32, 33, v. 245; Walpole's Letters (Cunningham), i. 101, 340, ix. 254; Burke's Peerage, &c. 1888, p. 644; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. i. pp. 595, 599, 606, pt. ii. 4, 13, 22, 24, 33, 44, 55; Chester's London Marriage Licenses, 1887, p. 619; Brit. Mus. Cat.]