Webster, William

, ar learned and laborious divine, grandson to bishop Sparrow, was born in December 1689,. and having been admitted a student of Caius-college, | Cambridge, there took his degrees of B. A. 1711, M. A. 1716, and D. D. 1752. In 1715 he was made curate of St. Dunstan in the West, London; and in 1725, edited the “Life of General Monk,” from the original manuscript of Dr. Skinner. This volume he Dedicated to the countess Granville, and to John lord Gower, who were descended from the family of Monk. His next production was, “The Clergy’s Right of Maintenance vindicated,” 8vo, which is also inscribed to lord Gower, who was afterwards his patron.

In 1729 he published “Two discourses; the first concerning the nature of error in doctrines merely speculative, shewing that the belief of such doctrines may be required of us as necessary terms of salvation; wherein also the case of positive institutions is considered: the second, shewing that the doctrine of the Trinity is not merely speculative. In answer to the arguments of Mr. Sykes and Mr. Chubb; with a preface, containing some remarks on the present times, particularly in relation to the Clergy.” In 1730 he published a translation of father Simon’s “New Testament,” with notes, &c. 2 vols. 4to and in the same year, “The duty of keeping the whole Law a discourse on St. James ii. 10, wherein are some seasonable remarks on the deists,” 8vo.

In 1731 he was removed from his curacy at St. Dunstan’s, and published in that year “The fitness of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ considered; in answer to the principal objections against them,” 8vo; and also two pamphlets and a letter in a newspaper, in defence of bishop Hare, who had been attacked by Gordon, the translator of Tacitus, on account of some passages in a 30th of January sermon. Being now out of employment, his eldest brother was at the expence of obtaining for him his doctor’s degree in divinity; but in August of the same year, 1732, bishop Gooch gave him the curacy of St. Clement Eastcheap, with a salary of 70l. and in February following he was presented by a relation to the rectory of Deptden in Suffolk, worth 102l. a year.

In 1733 Mr. Bowyer printed for him “A vindication of Eustace Budgeli,” probably in the affair of Dr. TindalPs will; and in that year he began “The Weekly Miscellany,” a periodical paper, under the name of “Richard Hooker, esq. of the Inner Temple,” but it was not much relished, nor of long continuance. In 1740 he was editor of a pamphlet concerning the woollen manufactory, the materials for which were furnished by one of the trade, and | above 8000 of them were sold. During the remainder of his life, at least until 1757, he published a number of temporary pamphlets, and occasional sermons, with so little advantage to himself, that in the last mentioned year we find him soliciting the archbishops and bishops for charity. This was not altogether unsuccessful, although it does not appear to have satisfied his wants. In 1741 he had resigned his rectory and curacy for the vicarages of Ware and Thundridge, which, he informs us, were not very productive. His last publication was “A plain narrative of facts, or the author’s case fairly and candidly stated.” This he survived but a few months, dying Dec. 4, 1758.

Dr. Webster does not appear to have been entitled to much more respect than he received. He was undoubtedly a man of learning and acuteness, but so eager for profit and promotion, as seldom to regard the means by which they were acquired. One instance may suffice to give an idea of his character in this respect. In his “Plain narrative of Facts,” he informs us that he wrote a pamphlet (on the woollen trade) which had such great reputation all over the kingdom, that, without knowing who was the author of it, it was said that “he deserved to have his statue set up in every trading town in England.” Yet, when the demand for this pamphlet subsided, he actually published an answer to it, under the title of “The Draper’s Reply,” of which two or three editions were sold!1