Walmisley, Gilbert (DNB00)

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WALMISLEY or WALMSLEY, GILBERT (1680–1751), friend of Dr. Johnson, was descended from an ancient family in Lancashire [see Walmisley, Sir Thomas]. He was born in 1680, and was the son of William Walmisley of the city of Lichfield, chancellor of that diocese from 1698 to 1713, and M.P. for the city in 1701, who married in Lichfield Cathedral on 22 April 1675 Dorothy Gilbert, and was buried in the cathedral on 18 July 1713. He matriculated as commoner from Trinity College, Oxford, on 14 April 1698, but did not take a degree. In 1707 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple, and became registrar of the ecclesiastical court of Lichfield. He was probably a near relative of William Walmisley, prebendary of Lichfield from 1718 to 1720, and dean from 1720 to 1730.

Walmisley, ‘the most able scholar and the finest gentleman’ in the city according to Miss Seward, lived in the bishop's palace at Lichfield for thirty years; and Johnson, then a stripling at school, spent there, with David Garrick, ‘many cheerful and instructive hours, with companions such as are not often found.’ He was ‘a whig with all the virulence and malevolence of his party,’ but polite and learned, so that Johnson could not name ‘a man of equal knowledge,’ and the benefit of this intercourse remained to him throughout life. He endeavoured in 1735 to procure for Johnson the mastership of a school at Solihull, near Warwick, but without success. An abiding tribute to his memory was paid by Johnson in his ‘Life’ of Edmund Smith (Lives of the Poets, ed. Cunningham, ii. 57–8).

In April 1736 Walmisley, ‘being tired since the death of my brother of living quite alone,’ married Magdalen, commonly called Margaret or Margery, Aston, fourth of the eight daughters of Sir Thomas Aston, bart., of Aston, Cheshire. His marriage was said to have extinguished certain expectations entertained by Garrick of a ‘settlement’ from his friend. Walmisley died at Lichfield on 3 Aug. 1751, and his widow died on 11 Nov. 1786, aged 77. Both are buried in a vault near the south side of the west door in Lichfield Cathedral. A poetical epitaph by Thomas Seward [q. v.] was inscribed on a temporary monument ‘which stood over the grave during a twelvemonth after his decease;’ it is printed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1785, i. 166). It is said that Johnson promised to write an epitaph for him, but procrastinated until it was too late; he may be acquitted of any share in the composition printed as his in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1797, ii. 726). A prose inscription to Walmisley's memory is on the south side of the west door of Lichfield Cathedral. Johnson's eulogy from his ‘Life’ of Smith was also inscribed on an adjoining monument. Walmisley's library was sold by Thomas Osborne of Gray's Inn in 1756. The Latin translation of Byrom's verses, beginning ‘My time, O ye muses,’ printed in the ‘Gentle- man's Magazine’ (1745, pp. 102–3) as by G. Walmsley of ‘Sid. Coll. Camb.,’ and sometimes attributed to Gilbert Walmisley, is no doubt by Galfridus Walmsley, B.A. from that college in 1746. Some correspondence between Garrick and Johnson and Walmisley is printed in Garrick's ‘Private Correspondence’ (i. 9–12, 44–5), and in Johnson's ‘Letters,’ ed. Hill (i. 83 sq.).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 315, iii. 650, viii. 467; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, i. 81–3, 101–2, ii. 467; Johnson's Letters, ed. Hill, ii. 49; Johnsonian Miscell., ed. Hill, ii. 416; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Croker, 1848 edit., pp. 19, 24, 27–8; Gent. Mag. 1751 p. 380, 1797 ii. 811; Harwood's Lichfield, pp. 78–9, 298; Ormerod's Cheshire, ed. Helsby, i. 725–6; Shaw's Staffordshire, i. 289, 300, 308; Miss Seward's Poems and Letters, 1810, vol. i. pp. lxix–lxxiii.]

W. P. C.