Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Charlett, Arthur

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CHARLETT, ARTHUR (1655–1722), master of University College, Oxford, son of Arthur Charlett, rector of Collingbourn Ducis, Wiltshire, by Judith, daughter of Mr. Cratford, a merchant of London, was born at Shipton, near Cheltenham, on 4 Jan. 1665. After receiving his early education at the free school at Salisbury, he matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 13 Jan. 1669, having just completed his fourteenth year. He obtained a scholarship at that college and proceeded B.A. on 17 April 1673, and M.A. 23 Nov. 1676. He was chosen fellow at the election of 1680, and the same year received deacon's orders from Dr. Fell, bishop of Oxford. In 1683 he was chosen junior proctor, and spent the long vacation in taking a tour in Scotland, where he was hospitably entertained by Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, in the county of Ross, and by other men of learning. He was noted for his love of society, and for his expensive way of living, and when he was appointed tutor to Lord Guilford in 1688 Hickes wrote to advise him 'to keep college constantly,' and give fewer invitations to his chambers, because the Norths were lovers of frugality. On 17 Dec. 1684 he took the degree of B.D., and when in 1692 the mastership of University College was refused by certain members of the society on account of the expense and trouble it entailed, he was chosen master on 7 July, chiefly through the influence of Dr. Hudson, and the next day proceeded D.D. He at once laid out 200l. or 300l. on the master's lodgings, and effected a considerable reform in the discipline of the college, which had of late fallen into great disorder. Charlett must have had private means, for his income as master in 1699 was not more than 110l. 10s. 4d., with a load of hay and other perquisites (Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, i. 300). His activity was not of long duration, and the college again declined, partly through his remissness. He was a scholar and a patron of learning and of learned men. In a letter to Archbishop Tenison he gives a touching account of his visit to Anthony à Wood in his last sickness; it was at his recommendation that Wood entrusted his papers to Tanner. Charlett took great interest in the work of the Clarendon Press, and each year caused some classical work to be published or re-printed, and presented a copy of it to each of the students of his college. For example, he paid Dr. Hudson 10l. for preparing an edition of 'M. Velleii Paterculi quæ supersunt,' and distributed copies of it in University. On the other hand, he was vain and given to gossip, and Hearne says was 'commonly called the Gazzeteer or Oxford Intelligencer, and by some (I know not for what reason) Troderam ' (ib. 214). He delighted in carrying on an extensive correspondence and was ever meddling in matters that did not concern him. These weaknesses are ridiculed in No. 43 of the 'Spectator,' where Charlett, under the name of Abraham Frothy is made to write a letter describing the business transacted at the meetings of the hebdomadal council. He was held to be insincere, and the Christ Church men believed that he acted in a double part with respect to their feud with Richard Bentley (1662-1742) [q. v.]

Through the influence of Archbishop Tenison, Charlett was appointed chaplain to the king on 17 Nov. 1697, and held that office until he, in common with certain other of the royal chaplains, was removed in March 1716-17. In the spring of 1706 he was in some trouble, being sent for to London to give an account of a paper he had shown , about, asserting that Burnet, bishop of Sarum [q. v.], was to receive a large sum of money and give i when presbyterianism was established. On his return Hearne perceived that he was afraid he would be prosecuted. On 28 June 1707 he was instituted to the rectory of Hambleden, Buckinghamshire. He was anxious to obtain a bishopric, but is said to have ruined his chance of preferment by his double dealing in the matter of the dedication of Thwaites's 'Saxon Heptateuch' to Dean Hickes. Lords Somers and Oxford were both friends of the dean and resented Charlett's underhand interference. He did Hearne much injury both in the matter of the offices the antiquary held, ,and again in 1714, when he used his influence with the vice-chancellor to get him prosecuted for his preface to Camden's 'Elizabeth,' and so put a stop to his printing. Charlett died at his lodgings in University, on 18 Nov. 1722, and is buried in the college chapel. He published 'A Discourse of the Holy Eucharist,' 1686, in answer to Abraham Woodhead's 'Two Discourses concerning . . . the Eucharist,' ' published by Obadiah Walker in 1686. He wrote the chief part of the life of Sir George Mackenzie in Wood's 'Fasti' (ii. 414), and set on foot the first attempt at a university calendar, published in 1707, with the title of 'Mercurius Oxoniensis, or the Oxford Intelligencer.' Gibson, in the preface to his edition of Camden's 'Britannia,' 1695, says: 'Doctor Charlett, the worthy Master of University College in Oxford, has been our general benefactor; whom this Work (as all other publick Undertakings) has from beginning to end found its greatest Promoter.' Charlett contributed a paper on a fatal colliery fire near Newcastle to the 'Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society' in 1708 (Trans. Abr. v. 450). He had a fine library, which was sold to an Oxford bookseller for five hundred guineas. His correspondence now in the Bodleian is among the Ballard MSS.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1161, Fasti, ii 386, 414; Bliss's Reliquiæ Hearnianæ (1869), i. 218-24 and passim; Hearne's Collections (Doble), i. passim; Hearne's Life, 21; Luttrell's Brief Relation, iv. 142; Evelyn's Correspondence, iii. 359. There is a curious account of him in Rawlinson MSS. at the Bodleian.]

W. H.