Fleetwood, William

, an English bishop, was descended from the family of Fleetwood just mentioned, and born in the Tower of London, in which his father, JefFery Fleetwood had resided, Jan. 21, 1656. He was educated at Eton, whence he was elected to king’s college in Cambridge. About the time of the revolution he entered into holy orders; and from the first was a celebrated preacher. He was soon after made chaplain to king William and queen Mary; and by the interest of Dr. Godolphin, at that time vice-provost of Eton, and residentiary of St. Paul’s, he was made fellow of that college, and rector of St. Austin’s, London, which is in the gift of the dean and chapter of St. Paul’s. Soon after he obtained also the lecture of St. Dunstan’s in the West, probably by his great reputation and merit as a preacher. In 1691 he published, 1. “Inscriptionum Antiquarum Sylloge,” &c. 8vo. This collection of ancient inscriptions consists of two parts: the first, containing remarkable pagan inscriptions collected from Gruter, Keinesius, Spon, and other writers the second, the ancient Christian monuments the whole illustrated with very short notes for the use of the young antiquary. In 1692 he translated into English, revised, and prefixed a preface to, 2. “Jurieu’s plain method of Christian Devotion, laid down in discourses, meditations, and prayers, fitted to the various occasions of a religious life;” the 27th edition of which was printed in 1750. In the mean time he was highly distinguished by his talents for the pulpit, which rendered him so generally admired, that he was frequently called to preach upon the most solemn occasions; as, before the king, queen, lordmayor, &c. In 1701 he published, 3. “An Essay upon Miracles,” 8vo, written in the manner of dialogue, and divided into two discourses. Some singularities in it occasioned it to be animadverted upon by several writers, particularly by Hoadly, in “A Letter to Mr. FleetvVood, 1702;” which letter is reprinted in Hoadly’s tracts, 1715, in 8vo. The author of Fleetwood’s life assures us that the bishop did not give up his opinions, though he disliked, | and avoided controversy. This essay is said to contain the substance of what he would have preached at Mr. Boyle’s lectures, in case his health would have permitted him to undertake that task when it was offered him.

About a week before king William’s death, he was nominated to a canonry of Windsor; but the grant not having passed the seals in time, the house or commons addressed the queen to give that canonry to their chaplain. His patron, lord Godolphiri, laid the matter before the queen, who said, that, if king William had given it to Mr. Fleetwood, he should have it; and accordingly he was installed in 1702. In 1704 he published, without his name, a piece entitled, 4. “The Reasonable Communicant; or, an explanation of the doctrine of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” This book, of which there haVe been several editions, has, in the catalogue of the tracts distributed by the society for propagating Christian knowledge, been given to another person; but it is agreed, at length, to be Fleetwood’s. In 1705 he published, in two volumes, 8vo, 5. “Sixteen Practical Discourses upon the relative duties of parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and servants; with three sermons upon the case of Self-murder.” About this time he took a resolution of retiring from the noise and hurry of the town; much to the concern of his friends and admirers. His parishioners of St. Austin’s were so deeply affected with it, that, among other temptations, they offered to keep him a curate but nothing could divert him from his resolution so that he gave up his preferments, and withdrew to Wexham, a small rectory of about 60l. a year in Buckinghamshire. Here he enjoyed the tranquillity and pleasure of that privacy for which he had so much longed, in a commodious house and gardens; and what made this retirement more agreeable, was its nearness to his beloved Eton. Here also he indulged his natural inclination for the study of British history and antiquities, which no man understood better; and, in 1707, gave a specimen of his great skill therein, in 6. “Chrbnicon Preciosum; or, an account of the English money, the price of corn, and other commodities, for the last 600 years. In a letter to a student of the university of Oxford” without his name, but improved ina second edition, with plates, published in 1726.

He did not remain long in this retirement; for, in 1706, upon the death of Beveridge, he was nominated by the | queen to the see of St. Asaph, without any solicitation, or even knowledge of his own; so that, as he assured a friend, the first intelligence he had of his promotion was from the Gazette. He was but just gone out from waiting as chaplain, when his predecessor died; upon which one of the ladies of the bed-chamber asking the queen whom she intended to make bishop of St. Asaph her majesty replied, “One whom you will be pleased with whom 3*ou have lately heard preach I intend it for Dr. Fleetwood.” This spontaneous goodness of the queen contributed to reconcile him to the world again; for he thought he saw the hand of God in it, and so was consecrated in June 1708. Tn this station he acted in the most exemplary manner. His biographer tells us, that “his great and clear reputation, his uncommon abilities and unblemished life., which set off the episcopal character with so much lustre, his obliging and easy deportment, free from the least tincture of pride, or shew of superiority, did not only place him above all indecent treatment, which was a great point gained in those unequal times, but procured much reverence and affection to his person from a clergy that almost to a man differed from him in principle.

In the mean time he preached often before the queen, and several of those sermons were printed. He attended the house of lords constantly, and acted there with dignity and spirit. He visited his diocese; and his charge to his clergy, published in 1710, shews that he was a zealous, but not a furious churchman. Yet he was highly disgusted with the change of the ministry that year, and withdrew from, court. He could not he induced to give any countenance to the measures of the new ministry, though endeavours had been used, and intimations given by the queen herself, who had a great value for him, how pleasing his frequent coming to court would be to her. The same year, he published without his name> a piece entitled, 7. “The Thirteenth Chapter to the Romans vindicated from the abuses put upon it. Written by a Curate of Salop, and directed to the Clergy of that County, and the neighbouring ones of North Wales, to whom the author wisheth patience, moderation, and a good understanding, for half an hour.”* Upon the pretended authority of this chapter, the regal power had been magnified in such a manner, that tyranny might seem the ordinance of God, and the most abject slavery to be founded in the principles of religion. Thfc | bishop was highly offended with this doctrine; and in this pamphlet argues, “that this chapter of St. Paul requires of the people any more submission to the higher powers, than the laws of their several countries require.

Notwithstanding his difference with the ministry, when a fast was appointed to be kept, Jan. 16, 1711-12, he was chosen by the house of lords to preach before them; but, by some means or other getting intelligence that he had censured the peace, they contrived to have the house adjourned beyond that day. This put it indeed out of his power to deliver his sentiments from the pulpit; yet he put the people in possession of them, by sending them from the press. Though without a name, from the spirit and language it was easily known whose sermon it was. It gave offence to some ministers of state, who now only waited for an opportunity to be revenged; and this opportunity the bishop soon gave them, by publishing, 8. “Four Sermons; viz. On the Death of queen Mary, 1694; on the Death of the duke of Gloucester, 1700; on the Death of king William, 1701; on the Queen’s accession to the throne, 1702. With a preface,1712, 8vo. This preface, bearing very hard upon those who had the management of public affairs, was made an object of attack, and, upon a motion made for that purpose in the house of commons, an order was made to burn it, which was accordingly done on the 12th of May. The bishop, knowing this to be the effect of party rage, was very little affected with it; but rather pleased to think that the very means they had used to suppress his book, was only a more effectual way of publishing and exciting the whole nation to read it. It was owing to this, certainly, that it was printed in the Spectator, No. 384, and thereby dispersed into several thousand hands. This same year, and indeed before his sermons, he published, but without his name, 9. “The Judgment of the Church of England in the case of LayBaptism, and of Dissenter’s Baptism; by which it appears that she hath not, by any public act of hers, made or declared Lay-Baptism to be invalid. The second edition. With an additional letter from Dr. John Cosin, afterwards bishop of Durham, to Mr. Cordel, who scrupled to communicate with the French Protestants upon some of the modern pretences,” 8vo. This piece was occasioned by the controversy about Lay-Baptism, which was then au object of public notkv. | In 1713, he published without his name, 10. “The Life and Miracles of St. Wenefrede, together with her Litanies, with some historical observations made thereon.” In the preface, he declares the motives which induced him to bestow so much pains upon this life of St. Wenefrede; and these were, that the concourse of people to the well which goes by her name was very great that the papists made use of this to influence weak minds that they had lately reprinted a large life of this saint in English; that these considerations might justly affect any protestant divine, and th,at for certain reasons they affected him in particular. Upon the demise of the queen, and the Hanover succession, this prelate had as much reason to expect that his zeal and services should be rewarded, as any of his rank and function: but he did not make any display of his merit, either to the king or his ministers. However, upon the death of Moore, bishop of Ely, in 1714, Tenison, then archbishop of Canterbury, strenuously recommended Fleetwood to the vacant see; and he was accordingly, without the least application from himself directly or indirectly, nominated to it.

We have already mentioned ten publications of this author, besides occasional sermons, of which he published many that were very excellent. There remain yet to be mentioned some pieces of a smaller kind; as, II. “The Counsellor’s Plea for the Divorce of sir G. D. (Downing) and Mrs. F.1715. This relates to an affair which was brought before -the house of lords. 12. “Papists not excluded from the Throne upon the account of Religion. Being a vindication of the right reverend lord bishop of Ban go r‘ a Preservative, &c. in that particular. In a short Dialogue,1717. 13. “A Letter from Mr. T. Burdett, who was executed at Tyburn for the murder of capt. Falkner, to some attorneys’ clerks of his acquaintance; written six days before his execution,1717. 14. “A Letter td an Inhabitant of the Parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, about new ceremonies in the church,1717. 15. “A Defence of Praying before Sermon, as directed ’by the 55th canon.” All these were published without his name. The indefatigable labours of this prelate brought him at length into a bad state of health, which made life troublesome to him a good while before his death. He died at Tottenham, in Middlesex, whither he had retired for the benefit of the air, Aug. 4, 1723 and was interred in the | cathedral church of Ely, where a monument was erected to him by his lady, who did not long survive him. He left behind him an only son, Dr. Charles Fleetwood, who inherited his paternal estate in Lancashire; and had been presented a few years before by his father, as bishop of Ely, to the great rectory of Cottenham, in Cambridgeshire, which he did not long enjoy.

Bishop Fleetwood’s character was great in every respect. His virtue was not of the fanatical kind, nor was his piety the least tinctured with superstition; yet he cultivated and practised both to perfection. As for his accomplishments, he was inconteslibly the best preacher of his time; and for occasional sermons, may be considered as a model. He was also very learned, but chiefly distinguished as an antiquary. Dr. Hickes acknowledges him as an encourager of his great work entitled “Linguarum Veterum Septentrionalium Thesaurus,” and Mr. Hearne often confesses himself much obliged by many singular instances of his friendship. In the “Richardsoniana,” are two anecdotes of bishop Fleetwood, which we shall not copy, because we doubt their authenticity. If true, they would prove that the religious opinions of our prelate were extremely lax." 1

1 Life by his nephew, Dr. William Powell, dean of St. Asaph, prefixed to his Works.-Biog. Brit.