Baker, Thomas

, a very ingenious and learned antiquary, was descended from a family ancient and wellesteemed, distinguished by its loyalty and affection for the crown. His grandfather, sir George Baker, knt. to whom our author erected a monument in the great church at Hull, almost ruined his family by his exertions for Charles I. Being recorder of Newcastle, he kept that town, 1639, against the Scots (as they themselves wrote to the parliament) with a “noble opposition.” He borrowed large sums upon his own credit, and sent the money to the king, or laid it out in his service. His father was George Baker, esq. of Crook, in the parish of Lanchester, in the county of Durham, who married Margaret, daughter of Thomas Forster of Edderston, in the county of Northumberland, | csq. Mr. Baker was born at Crook, September 14, 1656. He was educated at the free-school at Durham, under Mr. Battersby, many years master, and thence removed with his elder brother George, to St. John’s college, Cambridge, and admitted, the former as pensioner, the latter as fellow-commoner, under the tuition of Mr. Sanderson, July 9, 1674. He proceeded, B. A. 1677; M. A. 1681; was elected fellow, March 1680; ordained deacon by bishop Compton of London, December 20, 1685; priest by bishop Barlow of Lincoln, December 19, 1686. Dr. Watson, tutor of the college, who was nominated, but not yet consecrated, bishop of St. David’s, offered to take him for his chaplain, which he declined, probably on the prospect of a like offer from Crew, lord bishop of Durham, which he soon after accepted. His lordship collated him to the rectory of Long- Newton in his diocese, and the same county, June 1687; and, as Dr. Grey was informed by some of the bishop’s family, intended to have given him that of Sedgefieid, worth six or seven hundred pounds ayear, with a golden prebend, had he not incurred his displeasure, and left his family, for refusing to read king James the Second’s declaration for liberty of conscience. Mr. Baker himself gives the following account of this affair: “When the king’s declaration was appointed to be read, the most condescending thing the bishop ever did was coming to my chambers (remote from his) to prevail with me to read it in his chapel at Auckland, which I could not do, having wrote to my curate not to read it at my living at Long-Newton. But he did prevail with the curate at Auckland to read it in his church, when the bishop was present to countenance the performance. When all was over, the bishop (as penance I presume) ordered me to go to the dean to require him to make a return to court of the names of all such as did not read it, which I did, though I was one of the number.” But this bishop, who disgraced Mr. Baker for this refusal, and was excepted out of king William’s pardon, took the oaths to that king, and kept his bishopric till his death. Mr. Baker resigned Long-Newton August 1, 1690, refusing to take the oaths; and retired to his fellowship at St. John’s, in which he was protected till January 20, 1717, when, with one-and-twenty others, he was dispossessed of it. This hurt him most of all, not for the profit he received from it but that some whom he thought his sincerest friends came so readily into the new measures. | particularly Dr. Robert Jenkin the master, who wrote a defence of the profession of Dr. Lake, bishop of Chichester, concerning the new oaths and passive obedience, and resigned his precentorship of Chichester, and vicarage of Waterbeach, in the county of Cambridge. Mr. Baker could not persuade himself but he might have shewn the same indulgence to his scruples on that occasion, as he had done before while himself was of that way of thinking. Of all his sufferings none therefore gave him so much uneasiness. In a letter from Dr. Jenkin, addressed to Mr. Baker, fellow of St. John’s, he made the following remark on the superscription “I was so then I little thought it should be by him that I am now no fellow; but God is just, and I am a sinner.” After the passing the registering act, 1723, he was desired to register his annuity of forty pounds, which the last act required before it was amended and explained. Though this annuity left him by his father for his fortune, with twenty pounds per annum out of his collieries by his elder brother from the day of his death, August 1699, for the remaining part of the lease, which determined at Whitsuntide 1723, was now his whole subsistence, he could not be prevailed on to secure himself against the act, but wrote thus in answer to his friend “I thank you for your kind concern for me; and yet I was very well apprized of the late act, but do not think it worth while at this age, and under these infirmities, to give myself and friends so much trouble about it. I do not think that any living besides myself knows surely that my annuity is charged upon any part of my cousin Baker’s estate or if they do, I can hardly believe that any one, for so poor and uncertain a reward, will turn informer or if any one be found so poorly mean and base, I am so much acquainted with the hardships of the world, that I can bear it. I doubt not I shall live under the severest treatment of my enemies or, if I cannot live, I am sure I shall die, and that’s comfort enough to me. If a conveyance will secure us against the act, I am willing to make such a conveyance to them, not fraudulent or in trust, but in as full and absolute a manner as words can make it and if that shall be thought good security, I desire you will have such a conveyance drawn and sent me by the post, and I’ll sign it and leave it with any friend you shall appoint till it can be sent to you.” He retained a lively resentment of his deprivations and wrote himself in all his books, as well as in those which he gave | to the college library, “socius ejectus,” and in some “ejectus rector.” He continued to reside in the college as commoner-master till his death, which happened July 2, 1740, of a paralytic stroke, being found on the floor of his chamber. In the afternoon of June 29, being alone in his chamber, he was struck with a slight apoplectic fit, which abating a little, he recovered his senses, and knew all about him, who were his nephew Burton, Drs. Bedford and Heberden. He seemed perfectly satisfied and resigned and when Dr. Bedford desired him to take some medicine then ordered, he declined it, saying, he would only take his usual sustenance, which his bedmaker knew the times and quantities of giving he was thankful for the affection and care his friends shewed him, but, hoping the time of his dissolution was at hand, would by no means endeavour to retard it. His disorder increased, and the third day from this seizure he departed. He was buried in St. John’s outer chapel, near the monument of Mr. Ash ton, who founded his fellowship. No memorial has yet been erected over him, he having forbidden it in his will. Being appointed one of the executors of his elder brother’s will, by which a large sum was bequeathed to pious uses, he prevailed on the other two executors, who were his other brother Francis and the hon. Charles Montague, to layout 1310l. of the money upon an estate to be settled upon St. John’s college for six exhibitioners. Mr. Masters gives a singular instance f his unbiassed integrity in the disposal of these exhibitions. His friend Mr. Williams, rector of Doddington, had applied to Mr. Baker for one of them for his son, and received the following answer

Worthy sir, I can assure you I am not alone in the disposal of these exhibitions, nor is it any qualification by the settlement to be the son of a clergyman. In the disposal of them I have commonly had regard to those that want them most, and I thank God that is not your son’s case. But I will do him that right to say, he wants no other qualifications,” &c.

Mr. Baker likewise gave the college lOOl. for the consideration of six pounds a-year (then legal interest) for his life and to the library several choice books, both printed and ms. medals, and coins besides what he left to it by his will which were “all such books, printed and ms. as he had, and were wanting there.” All that Mr. Baker printed was, 1. “Reflections on Learning, shewing the | insufficiency thereof in its several particulars, in order to evince the usefulness and necessity of Revelation, London, 1710,” which went through eight editions; and Mr. Boswell, in his “Method of Study,” ranks it among the English classics for purity of style; a character perhaps too high, yet it is a very ingenious work, and was at one time one of the most popular books in our language. Its principal fault is, that the author has too much depreciated human learning, and is not always conclusive in his arguments. 2. “The preface to bishop Fisher’s funeral sermon for Margaret countess of Richmond and Derby, 1708” both without his name. Dr. Grey had the original ms. of both in his own hands. The latter piece is a sufficient specimen of the editor’s skill in antiquities to make us regret that he did not live to publish his “History of St. John’s college, from the foundation of old St. John’s house to the present time; with some occasional and incidental account of the affairs of the university, and of such private colleges as held communication or intercourse with the old house or college collected principally from Mss. and carlied on through a succession of masters to the end of bishop Gunning’s mastership, 1670.” The original, fit for the press, is among the Harleian Mss. No. 7028. His ms collections relative to the history and antiquities of the university of Cambridge, amounting to thirty-nine volumes in folio, and three in 4to, are divided between the British Museum and thfe public library at Cambridge the former possesses twenty-three volumes, which he bequeathed to the earl of Oxford, his friend and patron the latter sixteen, in folio, and three in 4to, which he bequeathed to the university. Dr. Knight styles him “the greatest master of the antiquities of this our university;” and Hearne says, “Optandum est ut sua quoqn^ collectanea de antiquitatibus Cantabrigiensibus juris taciat publici cl. Bakerus, quippe qui eruditione summa judicioque acri et subacto polleat.” Mr. Baker intended something like an Athenae Cantabrigienses on the plan oLthe Athenae Oxonienses. Had he lived to have completed his design, it would have far exceeded that work. With the application and industry of Mr. Wood, Mr. Baker united a penetrating judgment and a great correctness of style, and these improvements of the mind were crowned with those amiable qualities of the heart, candour and integrity. He is very frequently mentioned by the writers of his time, and always with high | respect. Although firm in his principles, he corresponded with and assisted men of opposite ways of thinking, and with the utmost readiness made them welcome to his collections. Among his contemporaries who distinguished themselves in the same walk with himself, and derived assistance from him, may be reckoned Mr. Hearne, Dr. Knight, Dr. John Smith, Hilkiah Bedford, Browne Willis, Mr. Strype, Mr. Peck, Mr. Ames, Dr. Middleton, and professor Ward. Two large volumes of his letters to the first of these antiquaries are in the Bodleian library. There is an indifferent print of him by Simon from a xnemoriter picture but a very good likeness of him by C. Bridges. Vertue was privately engaged to draw his picture by stealth. Dr. Grey had his picture, of which Mr. Burton had a copy by Mr. Ilitz. The Society of Antiquaries have another portrait of him. It was his custom, in every book he had, or read, to write observations and an account of the author. Of these a considerable number are at St. John’s college, and several in the Bodleian library, among Dr. Rawiinson’s bequests. A fair transcript of his select ms observations on Dr. Drake’s edition of archbishop Parker, 1729, was some time ago in the hands of Mr. Nichols. Dr. John Bedford of Durham had Mr. Baker’s copy of the “Hereditary Right,” greatly enriched by him. Dr. Grey, who was advised with about the disposal of the books, had his copy of Spelman’s Glossary. Mr. Crow married a sister of Mr. Baker’s nephew, Burton; and, on Burton’s death intestate in the autumn after his uncle, became possessed of every thing. What few papers of Mr. Baker’s were among them, he let Mr. Smith of Burnhall see and they being thought of no account, were destroyed, excepting the deed concerning the exhibitions at St. John’s, his own copy of the historyof the college, notes on the foundress’s funeral sermon, and the deed drawn for creating him chaplain to bishop Crew, in the month and year of the revolution, the day left blank, and the deed unsubscribed by the bishop, as if rejected by him. 1


Nichols’s Life of Bowyer, vol. V. Masters’s Life of Baker, 1784, 8vo. In Lord Orford’s Works, vol. II. is a piece of declamation, under the name of a life of Mr. Baker, sometimes elegant, but oftener flippant, absurd, and erroneous. Some particulars of Mr. Baker may be gleaned in —Gent. Mag. vols. LII, LIV. LVI. LVII. and LXI.