Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smalbroke, Richard

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SMALBROKE, RICHARD, D.D. (1672–1749), bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, son of Samuel Smalbroke (d. 21 May 1701) of Rowington, Warwickshire, by his wife Elizabeth (d. 5 May 1722), was born in 1672 at 19 High Street, Birmingham. He matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 15 June 1688, aged 15; and was elected demy of Magdalen College in the ‘golden election’ of 1689, when seventeen (including Joseph Addison) were elected. He graduated B.A. 1692; M.A. 26 Jan. 1694–5; was elected fellow 1698, and became B.D. on 27 Jan. 1706–7, and D.D. 1708. In 1709 he was appointed chaplain to Thomas Tenison [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, who gave him (1709) the rectory of Hadleigh, Suffolk; this he held till 1712. He was canon of Hereford, 1710, holding what was known as ‘the golden prebend;’ vicar of Lugwardine, Herefordshire, 1711; treasurer of Llandaff, 1712, being the last to hold that office; and rector of Withington, Gloucestershire, 1716.

Smalbroke printed in 1706 a university sermon combating the strange view of Henry Dodwell the elder [q. v.] that immortality is conferred by baptism. In 1711 he entered the lists against William Whiston [q. v.], criticising (1714) Whiston's attempt to place the Clementines on a level with the New Testament, and treating (1720) the Arian worship of our Lord as an act of idolatry. In a letter to Bentley (1722) he contributed to the discussion of the authenticity of 1 John v. 7.

In 1723 he was elected, and in 1724 consecrated, to the see of St. Davids. He was an active prelate, enforced the reading of the Athanasian creed, and is said to have mastered the Welsh language sufficiently to be able to officiate in it. It is curious that in a charge delivered in August 1728 he commends, as ‘the valuable performance of a writer otherwise justly of ill-fame’ (p. 34), the treatise on the authority of Scripture by Faustus Socinus; with the result that this work was translated into English by an Anglican clergyman, Edward Coombe, and published in 1731 with a dedication to Queen Caroline. Thomas Woolston [q. v.] dedicated to Smalbroke his third ‘Discourse’ (1728) on the miracles of our Lord. Thus challenged, he published an elaborate examination of Woolston's argument. It was unfortunate that he began by applauding the prosecution of the author he was confuting; on this point, however, Daniel Waterland [q. v.] came in 1730 to his defence. He further invited the scoffs of the profane by calculating the mercy which expelled six thousand demons (‘legion’) from one man, and sent only three apiece into ‘each hog.’ Incidentally he attacked the quakers, whom Woolston admired.

In 1731 he was translated to the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. Two years later he contributed 100l. to the new buildings of Magdalen College. His charge of 1735 speaks of ‘extraordinary local efforts to spread popery.’ In 1744 he charged against methodists, anticipating George Lavington [q. v.], by his affirmation that ‘these new itinerants copy the popish pattern.’ Samuel Pegge the elder [q. v.] accused him of ‘filling the church at Lichfield with his relations.’ He died on 22 Dec. 1749, and was buried in Lichfield Cathedral. He married a sister of Richard Brooks, M.D., and left three sons and four daughters. The last of his descendants was his son Richard Smalbroke, D.C.L., of All Souls' College, Oxford, who died on 8 May 1805, aged 89, having been chancellor of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield for sixty-four years. Thomas Smalbroke, a Socinian writer in 1687, was probably related to the bishop.

A portrait, painted by T. Murray, was engraved by Vertue in 1733 (Bromley, Engraved Portraits, p. 272).

Besides sermons and charges, he published: 1. ‘Reflections on Mr. Whiston's Conduct,’ 1711, 8vo (anon.). 2. ‘The New Arian Reproved: or a Vindication of some Reflections,’ 1711, 8vo. 3. ‘The Pretended Authority of the Clementine Constitutions confuted,’ 1714, 8vo. 4. ‘Idolatry charged upon Arianism,’ 1720, 8vo. 5. ‘An Enquiry into the Authority of the … Complutensian Edition of the New Testament,’ 1722, 8vo; reprinted in ‘Somers' Tracts,’ 1809, xiii. 4to; and in Burgess's ‘Selection of Tracts … on 1 John v. 7,’ 1824, 8vo. 6. ‘A Vindication of the Miracles of our Blessed Saviour,’ 1729–1731, 8vo, 2 vols.; for quaker criticisms of the second volume, see Smith's ‘Bibliotheca Anti-Quakeriana,’ 1873, pp. 398 sq. 7. ‘Some Account of … John Hough … Bishop of Worcester,’ 1743, 4to (anon.). 8. ‘Some Account of … Edmund Gibson … Bishop of London,’ 1749, 4to (anon.). His politics are attacked in ‘Remarks on Two Charges … by a Friend to Truth and Liberty,’ 1738, 8vo, signed at the end ‘A Revolutional Tory,’ and ascribed (improbably) to Josiah Owen [q. v.]

[Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire (1870), pp. 692 sq. (article by Arthur West Haddan [q. v.]); Chalmers's General Biographical Dictionary, 1816, xxviii. 70; Foster's Alumni Oxon. iv. 1366; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. 1815, ix. 484; Whiston's Memoirs, 1753, p. 216; Hunt's Religious Thought in England, 1871, ii. 417 sq.; Beresford's Lichfield (1883), pp. 261 sq.; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. i. 164.]

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