MC:PR30/1/C3/8 Papers on Benjamin Wheeler, 1817-19
Guardbook bound in dark green covers, with “Dr. Benjamin Wheeler” on the spine. As with MC:PR30/1/C3/2, the binding is identical with the other books created by Bloxam, but the lettering on the spine is different from the others. It is not listed by Macray as being among the volumes given to the College by Bloxam, but the evidence of the binding, suggests that the contents of this volume were found by Bloxam among Routh’s papers after his death, and sorted and bound up by him.
Benjamin Wheeler was a Fellow of Magdalen College from 1761–77. He was educated at New College and was elected to a scholarship at Trinity College, where he matriculated in 1751. He obtained a BA in 1755 and an MA in 1758. He was elected to a Fellowship at Magdalen College in 1761, became Bursar in 1766, Professor of Poetry in 1766–76, Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy in 1767–82, and Proctor in 1768, and was made a DD in 1770. Wheeler became Rector of Candlesby in 1772 and retained the living until his death in 1783. In 1775 he became Dean of Divinity and was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Oxford. He was named Regius Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church in 1776. Wheeler died of an apoplectic fit on 22 July 1783. The young Routh knew Wheeler and clearly respected him (see Middleton, Dr. Routh, pp. 4–5).
The lectures in this volume were published by Thomas Horne in his edition of Wheeler’s Theological Lectures (1819, pp. 1–144). Horne had matriculated from Christ Church in 1755 aged 18, and then been a Fellow of Trinity College. He later became Master of the Manor House School at Chiswick, and died in 1824. A proof copy of Horne’s edition is in the Routh Library, as is a copy of the book as published.
As will be seen from the correspondence here (especially letters Fols. 12–13), there were plans to publish up to three volumes of Wheeler’s works, but the response to the first volume published in 1819 was so poor, both in terms of reviews and of sales, that Thomas Horne’s son thought it inadvisable to publish any more.
The writers of these letters include both Thomas Horne, who edited the lectures for publication, and his son, also called Thomas Horne, who matriculated from Christ Church in 1790, and succeeded his father as Master of the Manor House School. To tell them apart, they are therefore called here “Thomas Horne the elder” and “Thomas Horne the younger”.
Fol. 1: Note in Routh’s hand on the identity of Benjamin Wheeler.
Fol. 2: Note by Routh, written on the blank portion of a letter sent on 16 Dec 1817, in which he expresses his opinion on Wheeler’s lectures. He thinks them good, and suggests that Thomas Horne should consult with others to seek their opinion.
Fol. 3: Letter from Thomas Horne the elder (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 15 Jan 1818. Horne understands that Routh considers some portions of Wheeler’s lectures inferior to others, and asks him to provide more details.
Fol. 4: Letter from M. Wheeler (sister of Thomas Wheeler; address, St. Giles’) to Martin Routh, 15 Mar (year not given; 1818?). Wheeler sends Routh a letter from Thomas Horne, which evidently discusses financial aspects of the publication of her brother’s works. She is most grateful to Routh for his support in the venture.
Fol. 5: Letter from Thomas Horne (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 19 Mar 1818. Horne discusses fine details relating to the publication of Wheeler’s lectures.
Fol. 6: Letter from Thomas Horne the elder (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, postmarked 6 Sep 1817. Horne warmly thanks Routh for agreeing to review Wheeler’s lectures, and assist with their publication. He has had the lectures transcribed, but would be happy to arrange for Routh to see the originals, if he wishes.
Fol. 7: Letter from M. Wheeler (address, Oxford) to Martin Routh, 3 Dec 1818. Wheeler sends Routh the text of Thomas Horne’s preface to the first volume of her brother’s divinity lectures for his comments. She thanks him for sending her a letter from an unnamed Primate.
Fols. 8–10 are loose.
Fol. 8: Letter from M. Wheeler (address, St. Giles) to Martin Routh, 13 Nov (year not given; 1818?). She understands that the unnamed Primate will sanction the publication of her brother’s lectures.
Fol. 9: Letter from M. Wheeler (no address given) to Martin Routh, 26 Aug (year not given; 1818 or 1819?). Wheeler returns the four first sheets of the lectures to Routh with her thanks. She understands that Mrs. Sheppard will be visiting Magdalen soon, and hopes to call on her.
Fol. 10: Letter from M. Wheeler (no address given) to Martin Routh, Monday 28 Dec (1818). Wheeler thanks Routh warmly for all his assistance in the publication of her brother’s lectures. She discusses some slight inaccuracies in the biographical sketch of her brother written by Thomas Horne.
Fol. 11: Draft letter from Martin Routh to an unnamed addressee, undated, but written on the back of a fragment of a Chapel music list dated 2 Feb 1818. Routh discusses details of printing Wheeler’s lectures, in particular concerning page lengths, the number of copies to be printed, and the costs of the whole process.
Fol. 12: Letter from Thomas Horne the younger (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 6 Sep 1824. Horne has heard via Wheeler’s sister that, notwithstanding the poor reviews and sales of the first volume of Wheeler’s works, Routh thinks that the remaining volumes should be published. He now explains that only half a dozen copies of the book were sold (which he didn’t tell Wheeler’s sister; but see Fol. 15 below), and that Hatchard (John Hatchard, 1768–1849; publisher and bookseller) has recommended that the unsold volumes be sold for waste paper. He himself therefore advises against publishing any more of Wheeler’s works.
Fol. 13: Letter from Thomas Horne the younger (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 11 Sep 1824. Horne assures Routh that, in spite of the poor reception of Wheeler’s published works, he has a high regard for the man himself. The problem is that the public do not agree, and so there is no point in publishing any more of his work.
Fol. 14: Epitaph (in Latin) composed for Benjamin Wheeler by Thomas Horne the elder. This was written on a part of a letter sent to Wheeler’s sister dated 22 Apr 1818.
There then follow the texts of Wheeler’s six lectures. Fol. 6 shows that they had been transcribed, and the text of the lectures in this volume is a transcript: on the inside front cover is a list of editorial conventions followed by the transcriber, who signs himself “J.N.” The lectures are separately foliated, and are titled thus:
Lecture 1: “Introductory Lecture.”
Lecture 2: “Of natural religion, and of its principles of theology.”
Lecture 3: “Of natural theology, as it respects the moral attributes of the Deity.”
Lecture 4: “Of the general ground and foundation of revealed religion: and of the nature of its evidences.”
Lecture 5: the first 18 leaves of this lecture, with its title, are missing in this transcription.
Lecture 6: “On the state of man before and after his fall”.
Fol. 15: Letter from M. Wheeler (address, St. Giles) to Martin Routh, 8 Nov 1819. Wheeler thanks Routh for sending her two hares, and asks after members of his family. She has heard from Thomas Horne: 40 copies of her brother’s book have been sold already, and he is evidently not bothered by reviews of it.
The following items were found loose at the end of this book:
No. 1: Letter from Thomas Horne the elder (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 4 Sep 1818. Horne wonders whether it would be better to publish Wheeler’s works in two or more volumes; he himself prefers the latter. He also agrees that it is best to publish just one volume now, to test the public’s response.
No. 2: Letter from Thomas Horne the elder (address, Chiswick) to Martin Routh, 13 Mar 1819. Horne thanks Routh for his support in publishing Wheeler’s sermons.
No. 3: Letter from Thomas Horne the younger (address, Chiswick) to M. Wheeler, 6 Sep 1824. Horne now explains to Wheeler that, although he admires the content of her brother’s work, he can see no circumstances to encourage them to publish any further volumes of it.
No. 4: 2 sheets of an incomplete manuscript copy of Dialogus in Theatro Sheldoniano habitus inter Ricardum Hely Hutchinson et Davidem Henricum Urquhart, 1773 (composed by Wheeler). There is an edition of this in College Library. Richard Hely Hutchinson and David Henry Urquhart matriculated from Magdalen as gentlemen commoners in 1772 and 1771 respectively. The dialogue is written in hexameters and is supposed to be between a Fellow living in his College and one living in the country “Socius Collegii Commorans, et Parochialis”.
No. 5: Letter (2 sheets; one quarter of the first sheet missing) from Henry Kett (1761–1825; Fellow of Trinity College; address, Trinity College) to Martin Routh, 4 Dec (no year given; must be 1793). Kett had lost to James Hurdis (D. 1782–8; F. 1788–1800) in the election for the Professorship of Poetry held that year. Evidently still upset and angry at his defeat, he expresses his feelings at some length. In particular, Kett feels that Routh treated him unfairly, claiming that Routh had promised him his support, and then went back on his word. This letter has nothing to do with the remaining contents of this book, and seems to have been inserted here at an unknown date. See also MC:PR30/1/C1/3 Fols, 11, 16, 27, & 51, MC:PR30/1/C4/4 Fol. 210 and MC:PR30/1/C4/10 Fols. 24–32 for other letters from this correspondent.
Return here to the introduction to this section.