Wanley, Humphrey

, a literary antiquary of great learning and accuracy, was the son of the rev. Nathanael Wanley, some time vicar of Trinity-church in Coventry. This Nathanael Wanley was born at Leicester in 1633, and died in 1680. Besides the vicarage of Trinity-church, it is probable that he had another in Leicestershire, from the following title-page, “Vox Dei, or the great duty of self reflection upon a man’s own wayes, by N. Wanley, | M. A. and minister of the gospel at Beeby in Leicestershire,London, 1658. He was of Trinity-college, Oxford, B. A. 1653, M. A. 1657, but is not mentioned by Wood. The work which now preserves his name is his “Wonders of the Little World,1678, fol. a work to be classed with Clark’s “Examples,” 2 vols. fol. or Turner’s “Remarkable Providences,” containing a vast assemblage of remarkable anecdotes, &c. many of which keep credulity on the stretch. As these were collected by Mr. Wanley from a number of old books, little known, or read, it is not improbable that such researches imparted to his son that taste for bibliographical studies which occupied his whole life. At least it is certain that Humphrey, (who was born at Coventry, March 21, 1671-2, and was bred first a limner, and afterwards some other trade), employed all his leisure time, at a very early period, in reading old books and old Mss. and copying the various hands, by which he acquired an uncommon faculty in verifying dates. Dr. Lloyd, then bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, sent him to Edmund-hall, Oxford, of which Dr. Mill was then principal, whom he greatly assisted in his collations of the New Testament. Hearne says, that during his stay in this hall, he attended but one lecture, which was in logic, which he swore he could not comprehend. Dr. Charlett, master of University-college, hearing of Wanley’s attention to matters of antiquity, induced him to remove to his own college, which he soon did, residing at the master’s lodgings, who, says Hearne, “employed him in writing trivial things, so that he got no true learning.” He certainly acquired the learned languages, however, although it does not appear that he attended much to the usual course of academic studies, or was ambitious of academic honours, as his name does not appear in the list of graduates. By Dr. Charlett’s means he was appointed an under-keeper of the Bodleian library, where he assisted in drawing up the indexes to the catalogue of Mss. the Latin preface to which he also wrote. Upon leaving Oxford, he removed to London, and became secretary to the society for propagating Christian knowledge; and at Dr. Hickes’s request, travelled ovor the kingdom, in search of Anglo-Saxon Mss. a catalogue of which he drew up in English, which was afterwards translated into Latin by the care of Mr. Thwaites, and printed in the “Thesaurus Ling. Vet. Septen.” Oxon. 1705, fol. He was soon after employed in arranging the | valuable collections of Robert earl of Oxford, with the appointment of librarian to his lordship. In this employment he gave such particular satisfaction, that he was allowed a handsome pension by lord Harley, the earl’s eldest son and successor in the title, who retained him as librarian till his death. In Mr. Wanley’s Harleian Journal, preserved among the Lansdowne Mss. in the British Museum, are several remarkable entries, as will appear by the specimens transcribed below .*


This journal, which begins in March 1714-15, and is regularly continued till within a fortnight of his death, is kept with all the dignity as well as the exactness of the minutes of a public body. For instance, “March 2, 1714-15, present, my lord Harley and myself. The secretary related, that the reverend and learned Mr. Elstob deceased some time since; and that he having seen Mrs. Elstob his sister, and making mention of the two Mss. which Mr. Elstob had borrowed from the library (being 34. A. 16. and 42 A. 12.), she said, she would take all due care to see them restored. My lord Harley expressing some cornpassion on the unexpected decease of Mr. Urry of Christ-church, the secretary shewed that two Mss. borrowed for his use by the present bishop of Rochester (Dr. Atterbury), whila dean of Christchurch, are not yet restored and that he had a note under the bishop’s hand for the same. My lord undertook to manage this matter.” “July 21, 1722. This day it pleased the most illustrious and high-born lady, the lady Henrietta Cavendish Holies Harley, to add to her former bounties to me, particularly to a large silver tea-pot formerly given to me by her noble ladyship, by Bending hither (to this library) her silversmith with a fine and large silver tea-kettle, lamp and plate, and a neat wooden stand: as in all duty and gratitude bound, I shall never cease from praying Almighty God to bless her and all this noble family with all blessings temporal and eternal.” “August 4, 1725, Mr. Pope came, and I shewed him but few things, it being late.” There are many more, and some very curious, extracts, from this journal in Mr. Nichols’s “Literary Anecdotes.

Mr. Wanley remained in this situation until his death, which happened July 6, 1726, and was occasioned by a dropsy. He was twice married, first to a widow, with several children; the second time, only a fortnight before his death, to a very young woman, to whom he left his property, which was considerable.

About 1708, he first began to compile the catalogue of lord Oxford’s Mss. and proceeded as far as No. 2407 of the present printed catalogue. Throughout the whole, he shews great learning and judgment, and his strictures are so just, that there is much reason to lament his not having lived to put the finishing hand to a work, for which he was in every respect so well qualified. This, which was said of Wanley, in the preface to the first edition of the printed catalogue in 1762, may still be repeated, without any disrespect to his successors, because it is to be feared that much useful information was lost by his death. | Besides these labours, Wanley published a translation of Ostervald’s “Grounds and principles of the Christian relicrion, explained in a catechetical discourse for the instruction of young people.” This was revised by Dr. Stanhope, and primed at London, 1704, 8vo. Hearne, who seems to have had a pique at Wanley, represents him as an unsteady, capricious man; and of this there are some evidences in his own journal. Hearne likewise asserts that he was imprudent and dissipated, but for this we have no other proof, and if he left considerable property, he had not been unwise in that respect. There is an original picture of him in the Bodleian library; another, half-length, sitting, in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries. A mezzotinto print of him was scraped by Smith, in 1718, from a painting by Hill. 1

1 Nichols’s Bowyer. Letters from Eminent Persons, 1813, 3 vols. 8vo. Preface to the Harleian Catalogue. Dibdin’s Bibliomania.