Wanley, Humfrey (DNB00)
|←Wandesford, Christopher||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
WANLEY, HUMFREY (1672–1726), antiquary, born at Coventry on 21 March 1671–2 and baptised on 10 April, was the son of Nathaniel Wanley [q. v.] About 1687 he was apprenticed to a draper called Wright at Coventry, and remained with him until 1694, but spent every vacant hour in studying old books and documents and in copying the various styles of handwriting. His studies are said to have begun with a transcript of the Anglo-Saxon dictionary of William Somner [q. v.] (Letters from the Bodleian Libr. 1813, ii. 118). His skill in unravelling ancient writing became known to William Lloyd, the bishop of Lichfield, who at a visitation sent for him, and ultimately obtained his entrance, as a commoner, at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, where John Mill, D.D. [q. v.], was principal. He matriculated there on 7 May 1695, but next year removed to University College, on the persuasion of Dr. Charlett, with whom he lived. He took no degree at Oxford, but gave Mill much help in collating the text of the New Testament.
Wanley's talents were first publicly shown, when he was twenty-three, in compiling the catalogues of the manuscripts at Coventry school and the church of St. Mary, Warwick, which are inserted in Bernard's ‘Cata- logue of Manuscripts’ (1697, ii. 33–4, 203–6), and he drew up ‘the very accurate but too brief’ index to that work. In February 1695–6 he obtained, through Charlett's influence, the post of assistant in the Bodleian Library at a salary of 12l. per annum. At the end of that year he received a special gift from the library of 10l., and in the beginning of 1700 a donation of 15l. ‘for his pains about Dr. Bernard's books.’ This second contribution was for selecting from Bernard's printed books such as were suitable for purchase on behalf of the library. The selection led to an angry difference with Thomas Hyde, D.D., the head librarian, which was, however, soon composed, and in 1698 Hyde wished Wanley to be appointed as his successor. But he had no degree, and without one he was ineligible. About 1698 he was preparing a work de re diplomatica (Thoresby Letters, i. 305, 355). The account of the Bodleian Library in Chamberlayne's ‘State of England’ (1704) is by him (Hearne, Collections, i. 130).
During 1699 and 1700 Wanley was engaged for George Hickes [q. v.] in searching through various parts of England for Anglo-Saxon manuscripts (Letters of Eminent Literary Men, Camden Soc. xxiii. 283), and this led to his drawing up the catalogue of such manuscripts published in 1705 as the second volume of the ‘Linguarum Veterum Septentrionalium Thesaurus’ of Hickes. The dedication (dated 28 Aug. 1704) to Robert Harley, acknowledging the benefits received from him, was written in English and translated into Latin by Edward Thwaites [q. v.] Wanley had been introduced by Hickes to Harley, on 23 April 1701, with the highest praise for ‘the best skill in ancient hands and manuscripts of any man, not only of this … but of any former age’ (Portland MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. iv. 16). This introduction and dedication later on procured Wanley's advancement.
Wanley desired in December 1699 to be deputy-librarian to Bentley at the king's library, but this was denied him (Letters from the Bodleian Libr. i. 99). The post of assistant to the secretary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, offered to him through the influence of Robert Nelson, on 16 Dec. 1700, with a salary of 40l. per annum, was ‘thankfully accepted.’ He was promoted on 5 March 1701–2 to be secretary, with an annual salary of 70l. (McClure, Minutes of S. P. C. K. pp. 98–9, 117, 172), and he retained the post until on or about 24 June 1708. Three letters from him relating to the society are printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature’ (i. 816–19), and to promote its objects he translated from the French J. F. Ostervald's ‘Grounds and Principles of the Christian Religion’ (1704, 7th edit. 1765).
The manuscript report of Wanley, Anstis, and Matthew Hutton on the state of the Cottonian Library (dated 22 June 1703) is prefixed to a copy of Thomas Smith's ‘Catalogue’ (696) of the Cottonian manuscripts in the king's library at the British Museum. It also contains Wanley's manuscript catalogue of the charters in the collection. He communicated to Harley in 1703 the possibility of effecting the purchase of the D'Ewes collections, and they were bought through his agency in 1706 (Edwards, British Museum, i. 235–41; Hearne, Collections, i. 163). In 1708 he was employed by Harley to catalogue the Harleian manuscripts, and he then became ‘library-keeper’ in turn to him and his son, the second Earl of Oxford. By the time of his death he had finished the collation of No. 2407, and the catalogue remains as a monument of ‘his extensive learning and the solidity of his judgment’ (Harl. MSS. Cat. i. Pref. pp. 27–8).
Wanley was the embodiment of honesty and industry. He was also a keen bargainer, and often secured for his patron many desirable blocks of books and manuscripts. His journal, from 2 March 1714–15 to 23 June 1726, is in Lansdowne MSS. 771–2, and contains many amusing entries. It has never been printed in full, but extracts from it are in Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (i. 86–94), ‘Notes and Queries’ (1st ser. viii. 335), ‘The Genealogist’ (new ser. i. 114, 178, 256), and in the ‘Library Chronicle’ (i. 87, 110). Memoranda by him of the prices of books are in Lansdowne MS. 677, but the opening leaves are wanting. He wrote the account of the Harleian Library in Nicolson's ‘Historical Libraries’ (1736, p. vi; Yeowell, William Oldys, p. 38). Through Harley he became known to Pope, who used to imitate his ‘stilted turns of phraseology and elaboration of manner,’ and addressed two letters to him in 1725 (Works, ed. Courthope, viii. 206–7, x. 115–116). Gay introduced him, ‘from thy shelves with dust besprent,’ into his poem of ‘Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece.’
Wanley often suffered from ill-health, and died of dropsy at Clarges Street, Hanover Square, London, on 6 July 1726. He was buried within the altar-rails of Marylebone church, and an inscription was put up to his memory. He married, at St. Swithin's, London Stone, on 1 May 1705, Anna, daughter of Thomas Bourchier of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and widow of Bernard Martin Beren- clow. She was buried at St. Paul's, Covent Garden, on 5 Jan. 1721–2. Of their three children, one was born dead and the other two died in infancy. His second wife was Ann, who afterwards married William Lloyd of St. James's, Westminster, and was buried in Marylebone church, a monument to her memory being placed against the north wall at the eastern end. Administration of Wanley's effects was granted to her on 3 Nov. 1726 (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 142–3).
Wanley's minutes of the meetings of some antiquaries at a tavern in 1707 are in Harleian MS. 7055. This was the germ of the present Society of Antiquaries, and on its revival in July 1717 he became F.S.A. A communication by him on judging the age of manuscripts is in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (1705, pp. 1993–2008), and his account of Bagford's collections of printing is in the volume for 1707 (pp. 2407–10; cf. also Trans. Bibliographical Soc. iv. 189, 195–6). His statement of the indentures between Henry VII and Westminster Abbey is in the ‘Will of King Henry VII’ (1775). He transcribed from the Cottonian manuscripts for publication, with the patronage of Lord Weymouth, the ‘Chronicon Dunstapliæ,’ the ‘Benedicti Petroburgensis Chronicon,’ and the ‘Annales de Lanercost,’ but Weymouth's death in 1714 put an end to the design. The first two were afterwards published by Hearne, who inserted in the preface to the first work particulars of his life. Hearne at one time hated Wanley, and even accused him of theft (Collections, i. 180, iii. 434, iv. 421–7). Wanley meditated an edition of the Bible in Saxon, a new edition of the Septuagint, a life of Cardinal Wolsey, and had proceeded some way in a work on handwriting.
Masses of letters to and from Wanley are in the collections of the British Museum and the Bodleian Library. Many of them are in the ‘Life Journal of Pepys’ (ii. 261, &c.), Hearne's ‘Collections’ (ed. Doble and Rannie), Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (i. 94–105, 530–41, ii. 472, iv. 135–7, viii. 360–4), Ellis's ‘Original Letters’ (2nd ser. iv. 311–14), Ellis's ‘Letters of Literary Men’ (Camd. Soc. xxiii. 238, &c.), ‘Letters from Bodleian Library’ (1813, i. 80, &c.), and ‘Notes and Queries’ (1st ser. ix. 7, 2nd ser. ii. 242–3, 296). His collection of bibles and prayer-books is set out in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1816, ii. 509); it was purchased in 1726, shortly before his death, by the dean and chapter of St. Paul's. Several volumes at the British Museum have copious notes in his handwriting; his additions to Wood's ‘Athenæ Oxonienses’ are contained in a copy in the library of the Royal Institution.
Three portraits of Wanley were painted by Thomas Hill; one, dated 18 Dec. 1711, belongs to the Society of Antiquaries; another, dated September 1717, was transferred in 1879 from the British Museum to the National Portrait Gallery, and the third remains in the students' room in the manuscripts department of the British Museum. A fourth portrait is at the Bodleian, showing a countenance, says Dibdin, ‘absolutely peppered with variolous indentations’ (Bibliomania, 1842, p. 346). Engravings after Hill were executed by J. Smith and A. Wivell.[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Restituta, ii. 76–7; Lysons's Environs, iii. 258; Macray's Bodleian Library, 2nd edit. pp. 163–7; Noble's Cont. of Granger, iii. 350–3; Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies, 1870, p. 784; Genealogist, new ser. 1884, pp. 114–17; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. viii. 224; Hearne's Collections, i. 20, 52, 211–212, ii. 137, 449; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 82–4; Yeowell's William Oldys, p. 65; Edwards's Libraries, i. 689; Secretan's Nelson, pp. 104–14, 181, 217–19, 264.]