Popple, William (DNB00)

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POPPLE, WILLIAM (1701–1764), dramatist, born in 1701, was the only son of William Popple of St. Margaret's, Westminster, who died in 1722, and was buried at Hampstead, by his wife Anne.

His grandfather, also William Popple (d. 1708), was son of Edmund Popple, sheriff of Hull in 1638, who married Catherine, daughter of the Rev. Andrew Marvell, and sister of Andrew Marvell [q. v.] the poet; he was, accordingly, the nephew of Marvell, under whose guidance he was educated, and with whom he corresponded. He became a London merchant, and in 1676 was residing at Bordeaux, whence, ten years later, he dated a small expository work, entitled ‘A Rational Catechism’ (London, 1687, 12mo). He was appointed secretary to the board of trade in 1696, and became intimate with John Locke (a commissioner of the board from 1696 to 1700), whose ‘Letter on Toleration’ he was the first to translate from the Latin (London, 1689, 8vo and 12mo). Some manuscript translations in his hand are in the British Museum (Add. MS. 8888). He died in 1708, in the parish of St. Clement Danes; his widow Mary was living in Holborn in 1709.

The dramatist entered the cofferer's office about 1730, and in June 1737 was promoted solicitor and clerk of the reports to the commissioners of trade and plantations. He was appointed governor of the Bermudas in March 1745, ‘in the room of his relative, Alured Popple’ (1699–1744), and held that post until shortly before his death at Hampstead on 8 Feb. 1764 (Miscellanea Geneal. et Heraldica, new ser. iii. 364). He was buried on 13 Feb. in Hampstead churchyard, where there is an inscribed stone in his memory.

Some of Popple's juvenile poems were included in the ‘Collection of Miscellaneous Poems’ issued by Richard Savage [q. v.] in 1726. The encouragement of Aaron Hill [q. v.] was largely responsible for his independent production of two comedies, to both of which Hill wrote prologues. The first of these, ‘The Lady's Revenge, or the Rover reclaim'd’ (London and Dublin, 1734, 8vo), was dedicated to the Prince of Wales, and produced on four occasions at Covent Garden in January 1734. ‘Dull in parts, but a pretty good play,’ is Genest's verdict upon it. The second, entitled ‘The Double Deceit, or a Cure for Jealousy’ (London, 1736, 8vo), dedicated to Edward Walpole, was produced on 25 April 1735, also at Covent Garden. It is the better play of the two, and, according to Genest, deserved more success than it met with. About this same time (1735) Popple collaborated with Hill in his ‘Prompter,’ and incurred a share of Pope's resentment, which took the usual shape of a line in the ‘Dunciad:’

Lo P—p—le's brow tremendous to the town.

Warburton elucidates by defining Popple as ‘author of some vile plays and pamphlets.’ The dramatist was not deterred from publishing, in 1753, a smooth but diffuse translation of the ‘Ars Poetica’ of Horace (London, 4to), which he dedicated to the Earl of Halifax.

[Baker's Biogr. Dramatica; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, vol. iii.; Sheahan's Hist. of Hull, 1864, p. 461; Manchester School Reg. (Chetham Soc.), i. 131–2; Howitt's Northern Heights of London, 1869, pp. 148, 233; Marvell's Works, 1776, vols. i. iii. passim; Gent. Mag. 1764, p. 197; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vi. 198, 222, 6th ser. iv. 30, 7th ser. ix. 485; Brit. Mus. Cat. (where, however, the dramatist is confused with his grandfather, the nephew of Marvell).]

T. S.