Wise, Francis

, a learned antiquary, and Radcliffe librarian at Oxford, was born in the house of his father Francis Wise, a mercer at Oxford, June 3, 1695. He received the first part of his education in New college school, under the care of Mr. James Badger, a man very eminent as a schoolmaster. In January 1710-11 he was admitted a. member of Trinity college, and in the summer following was elected scholar of that house. He took the degree of M.A. in 1717, and about this period was employed by Mr. Hudson, as an underkeeper or assistant in the Bodleian | library, an admirable school for Mr. Wise, who had a turn for literary history and antiquities. In 1718 he became probationer, and in the following year actual fellow of his college. In 1722 he published “Asser Menevensis de rebus gestis Alfredi magni,” 8vo, very elegantly printed, and with suitable engravings, &c. The year preceding this, (172 J) the hon. Francis North, afterwards earl of Guildford, entered of Trinity college under die tuition of Mr. Wise, for whom he entertained a great esteem through life. From this nobleman he received the living of Eljesfield near Oxford, a very small piece of preferment, and not worth above 251. a year at most, but peculiarly agrefeable to our author, who contrived to make it a place of some importance to curious visitors. He took a small estate there, on a long lease, under lord Guildford, and converted a cottage upon it into an agreeable retirement, by building one or two good rooms, and laying out a garden with a piece of ground adjoining, scarcely before of any use, in a very whimsical but pleasing manner. In this little spot of a few acres, his visitors were surprised to meet with ponds, cascades, seats, a triumphal arch, the tower of Babel, a Druid temple, and an Egyptian pyramid. These buildings, which were designed to resemble the structures of antiquity, were erected in exact scale and measure, to give, as far as miniature would permit, a just idea of the edifice they were intended to represent. From the time that his illustrious pupil left Oxford, Mr. Wise constantly resided in his family at intervals, and divided his time between the seat of the Muses, and the elegant mansion of his friend and patron. In 1726 he was elected custos archivorum; and in 1727 took his degree of bachelor of divinity.

In 1738, Mr. Wise published a Letter to Dr. Mead concerning some antiquities in Berkshire, particularly showing that the White Horse was a Saxon monument, 4to. This pamphlet was answered by an anonymous person (supposed to be one Asplin, vicar of Banbury) who in his pamphlet, entitled “The Impertinence and Imposture of Modern Antiquaries displayed,” insinuated a suspicion that Mr. Wise was no friend to the family on the throne. This insinuation gave Mr. Wise great uneasiness, as he then had in view, some preferment from the officers of state (the place of Radcliffe Librarian). He therefore drew up in 1742, another treatise, called “Further Observations upon | the White Horse, &c.” and was vindicated also both in his political principles and antiquarian conjectures by a friend (the Rev. Mr. North, F.S.A.) who then concealed his name. (See North, George).

In 1745, he was presented by Trinity college to the rectory of Rotherfield Greys, in the county and diocese of Oxford; and on May 10, 1748, he was appointed Radcliffe librarian. In 1750, he published his “Catalogue of the Coins in the Bodleian library,” folio, which he had designed, and taken subscriptions for, above twenty years before, but through the smallness of his income he was unable to bear the expense of engravings, &c. This work he dedicated to his friend and patron the earl of Guildford, and in it has given some yiews of his house and gardens at Ellesfield. After this period he resided chiefly in this pleasing retreat, and pursued his researches into antiquity. In 1758, he printed in 4to, “Some Enquiries concerning the first inhabitants, learning, and letters of Europe, by a member of the Society of Antiquaries, London;” and in 1764, another work in 4to, entitled “History and Chronology of Fabulous Ages considered.” No name is prefixed to these performances, but at the end of each we have the initials F. W. R. L. (Francis Wise, Radcliffe librarian). These were his last publications. He was after this period much afflicted with the gout, and lived quite retired at Ellesfield till his death, which happened Oct. 6, 1767. He was buried in the churchyard of that place, and by his own direction, no stone or monument perpetuates his memory. In his life-time he had been a benefactor to the Bodleian library by supplying from his own collections many deficiencies in the series of their coins; and after his death, his surviving sister, who resided at Oxford, and was his executrix, generously gave a large and valuable cabinet of his medals, &c. to the Radcliffe library. 1


Memoirs drawn up by Mr. Huddesford of Trinity college, for Dr. Ducarel, and transcribed from the Doctor’s ms Collections, vol. K. now in the possession of our obliging friend John Nichols, esq. See also his Literary Anecdotes.