Woodhead, Abraham

, whom Dr. Whitby pronounces “the most ingenious and solid writer of the Roman (catholic) party,” and who merits some notice from his name occurring so frequently in the popish controversy at the latter end of the seventeenth century, was the son of John Woodhead of Thornhill in Yorkshire, and was born in 1608 at Meltham in the parish of Abbersbury, or Ambury, in that county. He had his academical education in University college, Oxford, where he took his degrees in arts, was elected fellow in 1633, and soon after entered into holy orders. In 1641 he served the office of proctor, and then set out for the continent as travelling tutor to some young gentlemen of family who had been his pupils in college. While at Rome he lodged with the duke of Buckingham, whom he taught mathematics, and is supposed about the same time to have embraced the communion of the church of Rome, although for a long time he kept this a profound secret. On his return to England he had an apartment in the duke of Buckingham’s house in the Strand, and was afterwards entertained in lord Capel’s | family. In 1648 he was deprived of his fellowship by the parliamentary visitors, but merely on the score of absence, aod non-appearance, when called. After the restoration he was reinstated in his fellowship, but rinding it impossible any longer to conform, he obtained leave to travel, with the allowance of a travelling fellowship. Instead, Kbwever, of going abroad, he retired to an obscure residence at Hoxton near London, where he spent several years, partly in instructing some young gentlemen of popish families, and partly in composing his works. Here he remained almost undiscovered, until a little while before his death, which happened at Hoxton, May 4, 1678. He was buried in St. Pancras church-yard, where there is a monument to his memory.

Woodhead was considered as one of the ablest controversial writers, on the popish side, in his time, aqd some protestants have paid respect to his abilities and candour. Most of his works were printed at Mr. Obadiah Walker’s private press, and some of them have been attributed to him. Wood gives a long list of about twenty-three articles, some of which are translations. The principal of his original writings is his “Guide in controversies,” or more fully, “A rational account of the doctrine of catholics, concerning the ecclesiastical guide in controversies of religion: reflecting on the late writings of protestants, particularly of archbishop Laud, and doctor Stillingfleet, on this subject; in four discourses” under the initials R. H. 1666, 1667, and 1673, 4to. Wood adds, “Many stick not to say, which is a wonder to me^ that he was the author of” The Whole Duty of Man“and of all that goes under the name of that author.” The protestant writers with whom he was involved in controversy, and in whose lives or writings his name occurs, were, Peter Heylyn, Stillingfleet, archbishop Wake, Drs. Aldrich, Smalridge, Harrington, Tully, Hooper, and Whitby. 1


Ath. Ox, vol. II. Dodd’s Cb. Hist. Biog. Brit. art. Wake.