Codrington, Christopher (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


CODRINGTON, CHRISTOPHER (1668–1710), soldier, was born at Barbadoes in 1668. His father, also Christopher Codrington, was captain-general of the Leeward Islands. Young Codrington was sent to England to be educated, and went to school at Enfield under Dr. Wedale. From Enfield in 1685 he passed as a gentleman commoner to Christ Church, Oxford. Thence he was elected to All Souls as a probationer fellow in 1690. At All Souls if we may believe the writer of his funeral sermon, W. Gordon he 'industriously improved' his time 'to the storing of his understanding with all sorts of learning, with logick, history, the learned and modern languages, poetry, physick, and divinity . . . Nor was he less careful of those politer exercises and accomplishments which might qualifie him to appear in the world and at the nicest courts with reputation and advantage, insomuch that he soon acquir'd the deserv'd character of an accomplished, well-bred gentleman, and an universal scholar.' Already, too, at All Souls he was an enthusiastic book-collector. In 1694, still keeping his fellowship, he followed King William to Flanders. Having fought with distinction at Huy and Namur, in 1695 he was made by the king captain of the 1st regiment of foot guards. In the same year he attended his majesty to Oxford, and, in the absence of the public orator through indisposition, was selected by the university to deliver the university oration. 'Mr. Codrington of All Souls,' says Dr. Gibson, afterwards bishop of London, 'in a very elegant oration expressed the publick joy of the university to see his majesty.' Codrington had by this time acquired the reputation of a wit and scholar, though his fame is rather to be inferred from the dedications addressed to him by Creech, Dennis, and others, than from actually existent performances on his part. But he wrote some lines to Garth on his 'Dispensary,' 1696, containing the couplet:

Thou hast no faults, or I no faults can spy,
Thou art all beauty, or all blindness I;

and we trace him in 1700 among the assailants of Blackmore's 'Satire against Wit.' Tickell, in his poem of 'Oxford,' 1706, couples him with Steele as a poet and soldier:

When Codrington and Steele their verse unrein,
And form an easy, unaffected strain,
A double wreath of laurel binds their brow,
As they are poets and are warriors too.

Almost immediately after the peace of Ryswick in 1697 his father seems to have died, and King William gave him the succession to his father's office of captain-general and Commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands. As a governor his rule does not seem to have been wholly popular, since in 1702 an appeal was made against his proceedings by the inhabitants of Antigua. This document, which is still to be seen in the Codrington Library at All Souls with his comments attached, was ultimately laid before the House of Commons, by whom it was summarily dismissed. When, in the beginning of Anne's reign, war broke out again with France and Spain, Codrington's first military operations as captain-general were successful. But in 1703 took place the expedition against Guadeloupe, which, notwithstanding the gallantry of its leader, was a failure. After this he resigned his governorship, and retired to his estates in Barbadoes, passing the remainder of his life in seclusion and study, chiefly of church history and metaphysics. He died on 7 April 1710, and his body was brought to England and buried on 19 June following in All Souls Chapel. By his will dated 1702 he left 10,000l, and 6,000l. worth of books to the college, a legacy which sufficed to erect, furnish, and endow a magnificent library, in the middle of which stands his statue by Sir Henry Cheere. He also left 20l. for his own gravestone and 1,500l. for a monument to his father in Westminster Abbey. His two estates in Barbadoes, now known as the 'Society' and the 'College,' together with part of the island of Barbuda, he left 'to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for the foundation of a college in Barbadoes,' in which a convenient number of professors and scholars were to be maintained, 'all of them to be under the vowes of poverty, chastity, and obedience,' and 'obliged to study and practice physick and chirurgery, as well as divinity, that by the apparent usefulness of the former to all mankind they may both endear themselves to the people, and have the better opportunity of doing good to men's souls, while they are taking care of their bodies.' The monastic intention of the testator has been lost sight of, but Codrington College, built 1714-42, still flourishes. The present principal (1887) is the Rev. Alfred Caldecott, brother of the artist [see Caldecott, Randolph].

[See funeral sermon by W. Gordon, M.A., rector of St. James's, Barbadoes, 1710, 4to; Copy of petition against Colonel Christopher Codrington, 1702, 4to; Orations by Cotes and Young, 1716. 8vo; Biographia Britannica; Boyers's Queen Anne; Burrows's Worthies of All Souls, 1874; Rawlinson MSS. 4to, 2, f. 77.]

A. D.