Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wollaston, Francis (1731-1815)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

WOLLASTON, FRANCIS (1731–1815), author, born on 23 Nov. 1731, was the eldest son of Francis Wollaston (1694–1774) by his wife Mary (1702–1773), eldest daughter of John Francis Fauquier, and sister of Francis Fauquier [q. v.], the writer on finance. William Wollaston [q. v.] was his grandfather. During his earlier years he received much friendly assistance in his studies from Daniel Wray [q. v.] (Nichols, Illustr. of Lit. Hist. i. 12). He was educated at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, matriculating in June 1748, and graduating LL.B. in 1754. He was intended for the study of law, and entered Lincoln's Inn on 24 Nov. 1750; but, feeling some moral hesitancy in regard to an advocate's duties, he turned his mind to the church. He was ordained deacon at the age of twenty-three, and priest in the following year. About Christmas 1756 he undertook the morning preaching at St. Anne's, Soho. In the summer of 1758 he was instituted to the rectory of Dengie in Essex, on the presentation of Simon Fanshawe. In 1761 he was presented to the rectory and vicarage of East Dereham in Norfolk, and in 1769 to that of Chislehurst in Kent, resigning the vicarage of Dereham.

In 1772, when a bill was promoted in parliament to relieve the clergy and students at the universities from the necessity of subscribing to the Thirty-nine articles, and to substitute a simple declaration of their faith in the scriptures, Wollaston advocated the design in ‘An Address to the Clergy of the Church of England in particular, and to all Christians in general’ (London, 1772, 8vo), in which he proposed to apply for relief to the bishops, and through them to influence the legislature. The attempt, however, was unsuccessful, and the bill was rejected in the commons by a large majority.

On 13 April 1769 Wollaston was elected a fellow of the Royal Society; on 3 April 1777 he was appointed precentor of St. David's; and in 1779 he was appointed rector of the united London parishes of St. Vedast, Foster Lane, and St. Michael-le-Querne. He retained all his preferments until his death on 31 Oct. 1815 at the rectory, Chislehurst. On 11 May 1758 he married Althea (1739–1798), fifth daughter of John Hyde of Charterhouse Square. By her he had ten daughters and seven sons, of whom Francis John Hyde Wollaston [q. v.] and William Hyde Wollaston [q. v.] are separately noticed.

Besides the work mentioned and some sermons, Wollaston was the author of: 1. ‘The State of Subscription to the Articles and Liturgy of the Church of England,’ London, 1774, 8vo. 2. ‘Queries relating to the Book of Common Prayer, with proposed Amendments,’ London, 1774, 8vo. 3. ‘A Preface to a Specimen of a General Astronomical Catalogue,’ London, 1789, 8vo. 4. ‘Specimen of a General Astronomical Catalogue,’ London, 1789, fol. 5. ‘Directions for making an Universal Meridian Dial, capable of being set to any Latitude,’ London, 1793, 4to. 6. ‘Fasciculus Astronomicus; containing Observations of the Northern Circumpolar Region,’ London, 1800, 4to. 7. ‘A Portraiture of the Heavens as they appear to the Naked Eye,’ in ten plates, London, 1811, fol. He also published ten astronomical papers in ‘Philosophical Transactions’ between 1769 and 1793. In 1793 he privately printed a few copies of an autobiography entitled ‘The Secret History of a Private Man’ (London, 8vo), which he distributed among his friends. There is a copy in the British Museum Library. Several letters from Wollaston, chiefly to the Duke of Newcastle, are also preserved in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 32887 f. 501, 32888 f. 198, 32892 f. 155, 32896 f. 360, 32902 f. 330).

His youngest brother, George Wollaston (1738–1826), divine, was born in 1738. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1758 as second wrangler, M.A. in 1761, and D.D. in 1774. He was chosen mathematical lecturer for Sidney-Sussex, and while at Cambridge he collaborated with John Jebb (1736–1786) [q. v.] and Thorpe in editing ‘Excerpta quædam e Newtoni Principiis’ (Cambridge, 1765, 4to). He was contemporary at the university with the poet Gray, Thomas Twining [q. v.], Richard Farmer [q. v.], and William Paley, and with the three bishops, Beilby Porteus [q. v.], Samuel Hallifax [q. v.], and Richard Watson (1737–1816) [q. v.], with all of whom he was intimate. In December 1762 he was presented to the rectory of Dengie in Essex, and in 1764 to that of Stratford in Suffolk. In March 1774 he resigned Stratford, and was collated by the archbishop, Frederick Cornwallis [q. v.], to the rectory of St. Mary Aldermary with St. Thomas the Apostle in the city of London, which he resigned in 1790. On 17 Feb. 1763 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He died on 14 Feb. 1826 at his house, Greenside, Richmond, Surrey. On 16 June 1765 he married Elizabeth (d. 24 April 1784), eldest daughter of Charles Palmer of Thurnscoe Hall in Yorkshire. By her he had one daughter, Elizabeth Palmer, married to James Cave, vicar of Sunbury in Middlesex (Gent. Mag. 1826, i. 276).

[The Secret History of a Private Man; Burke's Landed Gentry; Gent. Mag. 1815 ii. 476, 1816 i. 275; Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, 1809, x. 210, 211; Davy's Suffolk Pedigrees in Addit. MS. 19156; Lincoln's Inn Records, 1896, i. 438; Hennessy's Novum Repert. Eccles. London. 1898, p. 300; Knowledge, 1896, p. 202.]

E. I. C.