Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bolton, Robert (1697-1763)

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BOLTON, ROBERT, LL.D. (1697–1763), dean of Carlisle, was born in London in April 1697. His father was a merchant in Lambeth, who died when his son was in his third year. It has been erroneously stated that he was a native of Northamptonshire (Gilpin, Memoirs, ed. Jackson, 1877, p. 80). He received his first education at Kensington, and thence proceeded to Oxford, being admitted a commoner of Wadham College on 12 April 1712, where he was subsequently elected a scholar. He commenced B.A. in 1715, and M.A. 13 June 1718, 'expecting to be elected fellow in his turn; but in this he was disappointed, and appealed without success to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the visitor' (Chalmers, Biog. Dict.) In July 1719 he was transferred to Hart Hall, and soon afterwards took holy orders. In 1722 he was chosen fellow of Dulwich College, and, on the resignation of Dr. Joseph Butler, preacher at the Rolls Chapel, London, 1729, on the nomination of Sir Joseph Jekyll, master of the rolls. He was a favourite with John Robinson, bishop of London, with whom he resided, for about two years. From Ruffhead's 'Life of Pope' it appears that he became acquainted at Fulham with Mrs. Grace Butler, of Rowdell, Sussex, and on the death of her daughter Elizabeth, Bolton wrote an epitaph for her gravestone in Twickenham churchyard. The epitaph led Pope to write some verses on the same lady, which Ruffhead printed, according to his own account, for the first time, but they before appeared in the 'Prompter,' No. viii., and afterwards in the works of Aaron Hill, who by mistake ascribes Bolton's original epitaph to Pope (Chalmers). As fellow of Dulwich College, he took up residence there on 10 March 1722, but resigned his fellowship on 1 May 1725. He then removed to Kensington, living mainly upon a small fortune he possessed, and became intimate with William Whiston, to whom he was indebted for introduction both to Jekyll and to Lord Hardwicke. John Whiston, in a manuscript contribution to an early edition of Chalmers's 'Biographical Dictionary,' claims that Bolton was in sympathy with his father's (William Whiston) opinions, and for long hesitated to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, but that 'at last he did so, as articles of peace, and so far as authorised by Scripture.' Bolton was preferred to the deanery of Carlisle by Hardwicke, and admitted 1 Feb. 1734-5. Later (1738) he was instituted vicar of St. Mary's, Reading. He held both benefices conjointly for life, and was non-resident (from 1738 at least) in his deanery, though he raised 400l. for augmentation of poor livings in the diocese of Carlisle.

He published a considerable number of books. His first was a sermon on Galatians vi. 10 'before the hospitals' in London, 1739. This was succeeded by another on the 'Wo denounced by Christ to them of whom all men shall speak well,' 1722. These works were well received, and he became extremely popular as a preacher on special occasions. The most characteristic of his productions was his 'Deity's Delay in punishing the Guilty considered on the Principles of Reason,' 1751. Bolton issued a collection of tracts (so called) on the 'Choice of Company,' on 'Intemperance in Eating and Drinking,' on 'Pleasure,' on 'Public Worship,' and 'Letter to a young Nobleman on leaving School' (1761 and 1762). He died in London on 26 Nov. 1763, having come to town to consult Dr. Addington. He was buried in the church-porch of St. Mary's, Reading, and his own and the epitaphs of his family are still to be read there.

[Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, iii. 247; Genealogical and Biographical Account of the Family of Bolton, New York, 1868; MS. of Chancellor Waugh, Carlisle, in possession of Mr. Fergusson, Carlisle; Gilpin's Memoirs; Burn and Nicholson's Cumberland, 1777, and Jefferson's Carlisle, 1838; Funeral Sermon by Wray; Coates's History of Reading; Hutchinson's Cumberland, 1796; local researches.]

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