Coxe, William (DNB00)

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COXE, WILLIAM (1747–1828), historian, born 7 March 1747, in Dover Street, Piccadilly, was the son of Dr. William Coxe, physician to the king's household. He was sent to the Marylebone grammar school when five years old, and in 1753 to Eton. In 1764 he was elected to King's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in 1768. In 1771 he was ordained deacon, and took the curacy of Denham, near Uxbridge. He soon left this to become tutor to the Duke of Marlborough's eldest son. Two years later he left this post to become travelling tutor to the son of the Earl of Pembroke. He travelled through Switzerland and afterwards in Russia, and published the results of his inquiries. He made a later continental tour, from which he returned in May 1786, with Samuel Whitbread, and another afterwards with H. B. Portman. In 1794 he made a tour to Hungary with Lord Brome, eldest son of Lord Cornwallis.

He had meanwhile been receiving preferment. In 1786 he took the college living of Kingston-on-Thames, which he resigned in 1788 on his presentation by Lord Pembroke to the rectory of Bemerton. Here he chiefly resided until his death. About 1800 Sir Richard Colt Hoare presented him to the rectory of Stourton, which he held until 1811, when he was presented by Lord Pembroke to the rectory of Fovant, Wiltshire. He was appointed archdeacon of Wiltshire by Bishop Douglas in May 1804, and had been a prebendary of Salisbury from 1791. Coxe, after publishing his various travels, put out a prospectus in 1792 for an ‘Historical and Political State of Europe.’ This came to nothing, and he devoted himself chiefly to a series of memoirs, which are of great value for the history of the eighteenth century. He was entrusted with many valuable collections of papers, and was a laborious and careful editor. His books contain also original documents, though his own writing is of the dullest and shows no higher qualities than those of the conscientious annalist. He wrote a few professional works, but his chief article of faith seems to have been the impeccability of the whigs. In person he was short, stout, and erect, healthy and active; he clearly had the amiability which makes friends of fellow-travellers, not the less when they are patrons of livings, and seems to have been a really worthy man in his way.

He married in 1803 Eleonora, daughter of Walter Shairp, consul-general of Russia, and widow of Thomas Yeldham of the British factory at St. Petersburg. He died 8 June 1828, and was buried in the chancel of Bemerton.

His works are:

  1. ‘Sketches of the Natural, Political, and Civil State of Swisserland,’ 1779 (French translation, 1781).
  2. ‘Account of the Russian Discoveries between Asia and America,’ 1780 (4th edition, 1804; German translation, 1783).
  3. ‘Account of Prisons and Hospitals in Russia, Sweden, and Denmark,’ 1781.
  4. ‘Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Denmark,’ 3 vols. 1784 (in Pinkerton's collection, vol. vi.; French translations, 1786, 1791).
  5. ‘Travels in Switzerland,’ 3 vols. 1789; 4th edition, 1801, with ‘Historical Sketch and Notes on late Revolution,’ re-printed separately in 1802 (Pinkerton's collection, vol. v.).
  6. ‘Letter on Secret Tribunals of Westphalia,’ 1796.
  7. ‘Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole,’ 3 vols. 1798.
  8. ‘Historical Tour in Monmouthshire,’ 1801 (with plates from drawings by his companion, Sir R. C. Hoare).
  9. ‘Memoirs of Horatio, Lord Walpole,’ 1802, and, enlarged in 2 vols., 1808.
  10. ‘History of the House of Austria … from 1218 to 1792,’ 2 vols. 1807 (Bohn's Standard Library, 1807).
  11. ‘Memoirs of the Bourbon Kings of Spain … from 1700 to 1788,’ 3 vols. 1813.
  12. ‘Memoirs of John, Duke of Marlborough,’ 3 vols. 1818, 1819.
  13. ‘Private and Original Correspondence of Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury,’ 1821.
  14. ‘Memoirs of the Administrations … of Henry Pelham’ (posthumous), 1829.

Besides these Coxe wrote a pamphlet against Dr. Price in 1789, and edited Gay's ‘Fables’ in 1796, with a ‘Life of Gay,’ published separately in 1797; also ‘Anecdotes of Handel and J. C. Smith,’ 1798; a pamphlet against J. Benett on ‘Tithe Commutation,’ 1814; ‘Sketches of the Lives of Correggio and Parmegiano’ (anon.), 1823; and a few sermons and religious tracts.

[Gent. Mag. for 1828, ii. 86–9; Annual Obituary for 1829, pp. 227–35.]