Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Seaton, Thomas (1684-1741)

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SEATON, THOMAS (1684–1741), divine, hymn-writer, and founder of the Seatonian prize for sacred poetry at Cambridge, born at Stamford in 1684, was admitted a sizar of Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1701, under the tuition of Mr. Clarke, bedel of the university. He graduated B.A. in 1704, was elected a fellow of his college, and commenced M.A. in 1708. After taking holy orders, he became chaplain to Daniel, earl of Nottingham, on whose presentation he was instituted to the vicarage of Ravenstone, Buckinghamshire, on 9 Nov. 1721. He died at Ravenstone on 18 Aug. 1741, and was buried there on the 23rd. A large tombstone was erected to his memory in the churchyard, with a Latin inscription, which has been printed by Lipscomb (Hist. of Buckinghamshire, iv. 320, 323).

By his will he devised his estate at Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, to the university of Cambridge, on condition that out of the rents a prize should be annually awarded to a master of arts of that university who, in the judgment of the vice-chancellor, the master of Clare Hall, and the Greek professor, had composed the best English poem on the attributes of the Supreme Being or some other sacred subject. The first poem was printed in 1750, and the publication has continued uniformly to the present time, except in 1766, 1769, and 1771. Many of these compositions will be found in ‘Musæ Seatonianæ. A complete Collection of the Cambridge Prize Poems, from their first institution … to the present time. To which are added two poems, likewise written for the prize, by Mr. Bally and Mr. Scott’ (London, 1773, 8vo).

Seaton was himself the author of: 1. ‘The Divinity of our Saviour proved: in an Essay on the Eternity of the Son of God,’ London, 1719, 8vo; in answer to Whiston. 2. ‘The Conduct of Servants in Great Families. Consisting of Dissertations upon several Passages of the Holy Scriptures relating to the Office of a Servant,’ London, 1720, 12mo. 3. ‘The Defects of the Objections against the New Testament Application of the Prophecies in the Old, exposed; and the Evangelists Application of 'em vindicated,’ London, 1726, 8vo. 4. ‘A Compendious View of the Grounds of Religion, both Natural and Reveal'd: in two dissertations,’ London, 1729, 12mo. 5. ‘The Devotional Life render'd Familiar, Easy, and Pleasant, in several Hymns upon the most common occasions of Human Life. Composed and collected by T. S.,’ London, 1734, 12mo; reprinted Oxford, 1855, 12mo.

[Addit. MS. 5880, f. 39 b; Cambridge Book of Endowments, p. 152; Camden's Britannia, ed. Gough, ii. 177; Carter's Cambridge, p. 394; Cooke's Preachers' Assistant, ii. 298; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iv. 243; Critical Review, 1782, p. 69; Graduati Cantabr. 1823, p. 419; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ii. 506.]

T. C.