This is the day that … the ‘Macaroni Parson’ died, in 1777.
Dr William Dodd was a Church of England clergyman … “one of the most popular and successful preachers of the 18th century” says his biographer.
The nickname ‘Macaroni Parson’ was given to him because of his dandyish dress – the kind of attire worn on the Continent. But even royalty flocked to hear him preach. He became chaplain to King George III.
His oratory, like his dress sense, was flamboyant, and his socialite connections included Thomas Gainsborough (who painted his portrait), the Countess of Huntingdon, Samuel Johnson and Johann Sebastian Bach.
He founded charities, wrote voluminously, edited The Christian’s Magazine (in which he attacked John Wesley’s ‘perfectionist’ teachings), penned a commentary on the Bible, and forged a cheque for four thousand pounds sterling, signing Lord Chesterfield’s name! Found out … Dodd was tried at Old Bailey, found guilty, and visited in prison by John Wesley.
Speaking of Dodd’s composure under sentence of death, Wesley wrote, “Such a prisoner I scarce ever saw before, much less such a condemned malefactor.”
Augustus Montague Toplady (author of the hymn Rock of Ages) paid a visit, as did William Romaine.
Lady Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, wrote Dodd “a long and almost unreadable letter.”
Samuel Johnson and his friends gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition to save Dodd’s life, but to no avail. On 27 June, 1777, William Dodd was hung at Tyburn – at the age of 49.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.