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A Brief Biography of William King

by Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition

William King (1663-1712), English poet and miscellaneous writer, son of Ezekiel King, was born in 1663. From his father he inherited a small estate and he was connected with the Hyde family. He was educated at Westminster School under Dr Busby, and at Christ Church, Oxford (B.A. 1685; D.C.L. 1692). His first literary enterprise was a defence of Wycliffe, written in conjunction with Sir Edward Hannes (d. 1710) and entitled Reflections upon Mons. Varillas’s History of Heresy ... (1688). He became known as a humorous writer on the Tory and High Church side. He took part in the controversy aroused by the conversion of the once stubborn non-juror William Sherlock, one of his contributions being an entertaining ballad, “The Battle Royal,” in which the disputants are Sherlock and South. In 1694 he gained the favour of Princess Anne by a defence of her husband’s country entitled Animadversions on the Pretended Account of Denmark, in answer to a depreciatory pamphlet by Robert (afterwards Viscount) Molesworth. For this service he was made secretary to the princess. He supported Charles Boyle in his controversy with Richard Bentley over the genuineness of the Epistles of Phalaris, by a letter (printed in Dr Bentley’s Dissertations ... (1698), more commonly known as Boyle against Bentley), in which he gave an account of the circumstances of Bentley’s interview with the bookseller Bennet. Bentley attacked Dr King in hisDissertation in answer (1699) to this book, and King replied with a second letter to his friend Boyle. He further satirized Bentley in ten Dialogues of the Dead relating to ... the Epistles of Phalaris (1699). In 1700 he published The Transactioneer, with some of his Philosophical Fancies, in two Dialogues, ridiculing the credulity of Hans Sloane, who was then the secretary of the Royal Society. This was followed up later with some burlesqueUseful Transactions in Philosophy (1709). By an able defence of his friend, James Annesley, 5th earl of Anglesey, in a suit brought against him by his wife before the House of Lords in 1701, he gained a legal reputation which he did nothing further to advance. He was sent to Ireland in 1701 to be judge of the high court of admiralty, and later became sole commissioner of the prizes, keeper of the records in the Bermingham Tower of Dublin Castle, and vicar-general to the primate. About 1708 he returned to London. He served the Tory cause by writing for The Examiner before it was taken up by Swift. He wrote four pamphlets in support of Sacheverell, in the most considerable of which, “A Vindication of the Rev. Dr Henry Sacheverell ... in a Dialogue between a Tory and a Whig” (1711), he had the assistance of Charles Lambe of Christ Church and of Sacheverell himself. In December 1711 Swift obtained for King the office of gazetteer, worth from £200 to £250. King was now very poor, but he had no taste for work, and he resigned his office on the 1st of July 1712. He died on the 25th of December in the same year.

The other works of William King include: A Journey to London, in the year 1698After the Ingenious Method of that made by Dr Martin Lister to Paris, in the same Year ... (1699), which was considered by the author to be his best work; Adversaria, or Occasional Remarks on Men and Manners, a selection from his critical note-book, which shows wide and varied reading; Rufinus, or An Historical Essay on the Favourite Ministry(1712), a satire on the duke of Marlborough. His chief poems are: The Art of Cookery: in imitation of Horace’s 805Art of PoetryWith some Letters to Dr Lister and Others (1708), one of his most amusing works; The Art of Love; in imitation of Ovid ... (1709); “Mully of Mountoun,” and a burlesque “Orpheus and Eurydice.” A volume of Miscellanies in Prose and Verse appeared in 1705; his Remains ... were edited by J. Brown in 1732; and in 1776 John Nichols produced an excellent edition of his Original Works ... with Historical Notes and Memoirs of the Author. Dr Johnson included him in his Lives of the Poets, and his works appear in subsequent collections.

King is not to be confused with another William King (1685-1763), author of a mock-heroic poem called The Toast (1736) satirizing the countess of Newburgh, and principal of St Mary Hall, Oxford.