Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bellers, Fettiplace

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BELLERS, FETTIPLACE (1687–1750?), dramatist and philosophical writer, son of John [q. v.] and Frances Bellers, was born in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn, London, 23 Sept. 1687. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, and his father may perhaps be identified with the writer of many tracts on the employment of the poor and other topics. Fettiplace Bellers left his father's faith; the cause of this step may probably be found in the title of his anonymous play, 'Injur'd Innocence; a tragedy,' London 1732, which was acted at Drury Lane Theatre in February 1732. The plot is partly taken from Davenant's 'Unfortunate Lovers.' The play failed, though acted six or eight times. A work, 'Of the Ends of Society,'which did not appear until 1759, was drawn up in 1722. It is a mere outline, in which matters relating to government and social comfort are arranged in an elaborate classification. His most important work is 'A Delineation of Universal Law: being an Abstract or Essay towards deducing the Elements of Natural Law from the First Principles of Knowledge and the Nature of Things. In a methodical and connected series. In five books: (1) Of law in general, (2) Of private law, (3) Of criminal law, (4) Of the laws of magistracy, (5) Of the law of nations.' It was printed for Dodsley in 1750. The 'Advertisement ' shows that this was a posthumous publication, although proposals, and perhaps a specimen, had been issued at an earlier date. 'The author had been engaged in the great work of which this is an abstract for twenty years.' Lowndes, Allibone, and Smith speak of this as having been issued in 1740, but this appears to be an error for 1750. A second edition is recorded for 1754, and a third for 1759. Lowndes styles it 'an excellent outline,' whilst Marvin, referring to the long time that the author spent upon the work, says: 'It is with a feeling of regret, mingled with something like reproach, that we find the labours of twenty years so wasted, and reflect upon the great expenditure of time and diligence that has been destitute of any useful result.' The advertisement to the 'Delineation' printed in 1750 distinctly states that Bellers was then dead, and yet the official archives of the Royal Society record that he was elected a fellow 30 Nov. 1711, was admitted 17 April 1712, and withdrew from the society 12 April 1752. This chronological puzzle remains unsolved. According to a memorandum made by Mendes de Costa, 'the remains of his collections are in the hands of — Ingram, Esq., at Northleach, in Gloucestershire (N.B. MSS. 1747)' (Gent. Mag, vol. lxxxii. pt. i. p. 205).

[Genest's Account of the English Stage, Bath, 1832, iii. 330, x. 80; Baker, Reed, and Jones's Biographia Dramatica, i. 32, ii. 324; Smith's Descriptive Catalogue of Friends' Books, 1867. The particulars from the Royal Society's archives were obligingly communicated by Mr. Walter White.]

W. E. A. A.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.22
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
190 i 9 Bellers, Fettiplace: for Sept. read Aug.