Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Earle, William Benson

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EARLE, WILLIAM BENSON (1740–1796), philanthropist, eldest son of Harry Benson Earle, was born at Shaftesbury, Wiltshire, in 1740, but his life was passed at Salisbury, with the history and charities of which city his name is inseparably associated. After spending his boyhood, first at the school in the Close, and then as a commoner at Winchester College, he proceeded to Merton College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1761, M.A. in 1764 (Cat. of Oxford Graduates, ed. 1851, p. 203). He then made the grand tour of the continent (1765–7). On his return he prepared several tracts, in which he describes the more striking portions of his travels. Two of these, viz. ‘A Description of Vallombrosa’ and ‘A Picturesque View of the Glaciers in Savoy,’ he communicated to the ‘Monthly Miscellany.’ A third is ‘A Letter to Lord Littelton, containing a description of the last great Eruption of Mount Ætna, A.D. 1766,’ Lond. 1775, being the sequel to the reprint of a letter on the eruption of the same mountain in 1669 addressed to Charles II by Lord Winchilsea. On the death of his father in 1776 Earle succeeded to an ample fortune. In 1786, having discovered who was the real author, he published a new edition of Bishop Earle's ‘ Characters,’ which on its first appearance only bore the name of the publisher and editor, Edward Blount [q. v.] He was an excellent musician, and composed several glees; also a ‘Sanctus’ and a ‘Kyrie,’ which are still occasionally performed in Salisbury Cathedral. He died at Salisbury on 2 March 1796, and was buried at Newton Toney. By his will he bequeathed large sums to various learned and charitable institutions. A profile of him was engraved by Prince Hoare in 1769 at the expense of the Society of Arts.

[Gent. Mag. lxv. 95, lxvi. 353, 1113; Benson and Hatcher's Old and New Sarum, 649–52; Cat. of Music in Brit. Mus.; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. v. 346; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 492.]

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