Clayton, Robert

, bishop of Clogher, was born at Dublin in 1695, a descendant of the Claytons of Fulwood, in Lancashire, whose estate he became possessed of, by right of inheritance. His father, Dr. Clayton, minister of St. Michael’s, Dublin, and dean of Kildare, sent him to Westminster-school, under the private tuition of Zachary Pearce, afterwards bishop of Rochester, with whom he held a lasting friendship. From Westminster school Dr. Clayton removed his son to Trinity college, Dublin, of which, in due time, he became a fellow, and afterwards made the tour of Italy and France. From whom Mr. Clayton received holy orders, what preferments he had before he was raised to the episcopacy, and when he took his degrees, we are not informed; only we find that he was become D. D. in 1729. In 1728, having come into the possession of an affluent estate, in consequence of his father’s decease, he married Catharine, daughter of lord chief baron Donnellan, and gave her fortune, which was not considerable, to her sister. He behaved with the same generosity to his own three sisters, and gave to each of them the double of what had been bequeathed to them by their father’s will.

Soon after Dr. Clayton’s marriage, he went with his lady to England, and while at London, a person in distressed circumstances applied to him for assistance, with the testimony of Dr. Samuel Clarke for a recommendation, upon which, instead of the usual donation on such occasions, he gave to the necessitous man the sum of three hundred pounds, which was the whole that he wanted to make him easy in the world. This circumstance introduced him to Dr. Clarke, and the result of their acquaintance was, Dr. Clayton’s embracing the Arian principles, to which he adhered during the remainder of his life. Dr. Clarke having carried to queen Caroline an account of Dr. Clayton’s remarkable beneficence, it made a powerful impression on her majesty’s mind in favour of his character; which impression was strongly enforced by her bed-chamber woman, Mrs. Clayton, afterwards lady | Sundon. Such a powerful interest procured an immediate recommendation to lord Carteret, then chief governor of Ireland, for the very first bishopric tbat should become vacant, and accordingly, he was advanced to that of Killala, January 1729-30. In this situation he continued till November 1735, when he was translated to the see of Cork, and in 1745 to that of Clogher. Excepting a letter written to the royal society upon a subject of no great consequence, his first publication was an “Introduction to the History of the Jews,” which was afterwards translated into French, and printed at Leyden. His next work was “The Chronology of the Hebrew Bible vindicated: the facts compared with other ancient histories, and the difficulties explained, from the flood to the death of Moses; together with some conjectures in relation to Egypt during that period of time; also two maps, in which are attempted to be settled the journeyings of the children of Israel,1747, 4to, and containing a variety of observations which deserve the attention of the learned reader. In 1749 he published a “Dissertation on Prophecy,” in which he endeavoured to shew, from a joint comparison of the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Revelation of St. John, that the final end of the dispersion of the Jews will be coincident with the ruin of the popedom, and take place about 2000. This was followed by an “Impartial Enquiry into the time of the coming of the Messiah,” in two letters to an eminent Jew, printed first separately, and then together, in 1751. In the same year (1751), appeared the “Essay on Spirit,” a performance which excited very general attention, and was productive of a fruitful controversy. Its object was to recommend the Arian doctrine of the inferiority of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to prepare the way for suitable alterations in the Liturgy. His biographer, who is at the same time his warm panegyrist, allows that in this performance he has indulged too freely in imagination and conjecture; and that he might have confined the question with greater advantage to the direct and simple standard of Scripture. The work, after all, was not Dr. Clayton’s, but one of his adoption, the real authoi being a young clergyman in his diocese, who shewed the manuscript to his lordship, but had not the courage to print it in his own name. The bishop, with what is called a romantic generosity, conveyed it to the press, and managed the affair in such a manner, that the treatise was universally ascribed to | him in all the attacks to which it was exposed, and the sentiments certainly were his.*


The controversy to which the Essay on Spiritgave rise, continued but a short time. The best answers to the work were, A Full Answer, &c.“1753, 8vo, by the late rev. William Jones, the friend and biographer of bishop Home, and A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity,“in three parts, with an Appendix, by the rev. Dr. Randolph, father to the present bishop of London. Dr. Kippis expresses his opinion that the ” Essay on Spirit,“and the tracts in defence of it, were the means of diffusing the Arian sentiments, which, however, he adds, ”are at present upon the decline, the Unitarians tending fast to the doc­ trines of Socinus.“On the ”Essay on SpiritDr. Warhnrton says in a letter to Dr. Hurd, 1751: ” The bishop of Clogher, or some such heathenish name, in Ireland, has just published a book. It is made up out of the rubbish of the heresies; of a much ranker cast than common Arianism. Jesus Christ is Michael, and the Holy Ghost, Gabriel, &c. This might be heresy in an English bishop, but in an Irish, ’tis only a blunder. But thank God, our bishops are far from making or vending heresies; though for the good of the hurch, they have excellent eyes at spying it out wherever it skulks or is hid."

One effect of this conduct was, his being prevented from rising higher in the church. In 1752, he was recommended by the duke of Dorset, then viceroy of Ireland, to the vacant archbishopric of Tuam, but this was refused, solely on account of his being regarded as the writer of the Essay.

The next appearance of Dr. Clayton from the press, was in a work undoubtedly his own, “A Vindication of the Histories of the Old and New Testament; in answer to the Objections of the late Lord Bolingbroke; in two letters to a young nobleman,1752, 8vo; a work of great ability, in which some of lord Bolingbroke’s objections to several parts of scripture are well exposed and confuted. In 1753, he published “A Journal from Grand Cairo to Mount Sinai, and back again. Translated from a manuscript written by the Prefetto of Egypt, in company with the Missionaries de propaganda Fids at Grand Cairo. To which are added, some remarks on the origin of hieroglyphics, and the mythology of the ancient heathens.” Dedicated to the Society of Antiquaries, London, 4to and 8vo. The bishop, having become possessed of the original Journal from Grand Cairo to Mount Sinai, and which had been mentioned by Dr. Pococke in his Travels through the East, communicated this translation of it to the Society of Antiquaries, with a view of exciting them to make some inquiry into certain ancient characters, which, as appears from the Journal, are discovered in great numbers in the Wilderness of Sinai, at a place well known by the name of Gebel el Mokatah, or the Written Mountains. It does not appear that any measures were taken by the Society of | Antiquaries; but the celebrated Mr. Edward Wortley Montagu, who went from Cairo to the Desert of Sinai, with, the express purpose of seeing and describing the objects proposed by the bishop, was greatly disappointed, and convinced that the characters were not written by the Israelites; and we believe the researches of more recent travellers have been equally unsuccessful.

In 1754, the bishop of Clogher favoured the literary world with the second part of his “Vindication of the Histories of the Old and New Testament,” but written with more ingenuity than judgment. His account of the formation of the earth and of the deluge, was successfully attacked by Mr. Alexander Catcott. Our prelate’s next publication was in 1755, and consisted only of some letters which had passed between his lordship, when bishop of Cork, and Mr. William Penn, on the subject of baptism, in which he contended that the true Christian baptism is to continue to the end of the world; whereas the baptism of the Holy Ghost ceased with the ceasing of miracles. We have already noticed that his object in publishing the “Essay on Spirit” was to recommend Arianism, and consequently, alterations in the Liturgy. He now determined to avow the same sentiments in his legislative capacity; and accordingly, on Monday the 2d of February, 1756, he proposed in the Irish house of lords, that the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds should for the future be left out of the Liturgy of the church of Ireland. The speech which our prelate delivered upon this occasion being taken down in short-hand, was afterwards published, and passed through several editions. Though so declared and avowed an attack upon the establishment was regarded in a very unfavourable light, no measures were taken for calling Dr. Clayton to an account for it till he had published the third part of his “Vindication of the Histories of the Old and New Testament,1757, in which he renewed his attacks upon the Trinity, and gave up so many doctrines as indefensible, and advanced others so contradictory to the thirtynine articles, that the governors of the church of Ireland determined to proceed against him. Accordingly his late majesty ordered the lord-lieutenant to take the proper steps toward a legal prosecution of the bishop of Clogher. A day was fixed for a general meeting of the Irish prelates at the house of the primate, to which Dr. Clayton was summoned, that he might receive from them the notification 1 of their intentions. A censure was certain; a deprivation was | apprehended. But, before the time appointed, he was seized with a nervous fever, of which he died February 26, 1753. It is on all hands agreed, that the agitation of mind into which the bishop was thrown by the prosecution commenced against him, was the immediate cause of his death. When informed of the prosecution, he consulted a celebrated lawyer on the subject, and asked him if he thought he would lose his bishopric? “My lord,” he answered, “I believe you will.” “Sir,” he replied, “you have given me a stroke I’ll never get the better of.” What followed is surely very inconsistent with the story reported by his biographer, namely, that after he had delivered hi$ speech in the house of lords, the bishop declared “that his mind was eased of a load which had long lain upon it and that he now enjoyed a heart- felt pleasure, to which he had been a stranger for above twenty years before.

In private life Dr. Clayton displayed many amiable qualities. The objects of his chanty were uncommonly numerous; the sums bestowed by him large, and given with such privacy that his beneficiaries seldom saw the hand by which they were relieved. Being a member of the linen board, he got a great many wheels and reels for the poor about Clogher, and thus kept the most of them employed. As to his literary abilities, it is apparent from his writings that he was a man of a great capacity, of a vigorous imagination, but deficient in judgment, and too Frequently carried into the regions of conjecture.

Our prelate left behind him several works in manuscript in the possession of his executor, Dr. Barnard, dean of Derry, but these have not been thought worthy of publication. Dr. Clayton was a member of the royal society, and of the society of antiquaries. He maintained a regular correspondence with several gentlemen of eminent literature in this country; and, among the rest, with the learned printer, Mr. Bowyer, to whom he made a present of the copy-right of all his works published in England. His Lancashire estate he bequeathed to his nearest male heir, Richard Clayton, esq. chief justice of the common pleas in Ireland; but the greatest share of his fortune fell to Dr. Barnard, who married his niece. Some interesting’ anecdotes of the bishop are given in Burdy’s Lite of the rev. Philip Skelton, to whom he was neither a liberal nor impartial patron. 1


Biog. Brit Nichols’s Bowyer. Burdy’s Life of Skeltow, p. 84, 98, 101, 107, 128. Warburton’s Letters, p. 68, 4to edition,