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William Dodd

Short Name: William Dodd
Full Name: Dodd, William, 1729-1777
Birth Year: 1729
Death Year: 1777

William Dodd (29 May 1729 – 27 June 1777) was an English Anglican clergyman and a man of letters. He lived extravagantly, and was nicknamed the "Macaroni Parson". He dabbled in forgery in an effort to clear his debts, was caught, convicted, and, despite a public campaign for a Royal pardon, became the last person to be hanged at Tyburn for forgery.

Dodd was born in Bourne in Lincolnshire, the son of the local vicar. He attended Clare Hall in the University of Cambridge from 1745 to 1750, where he achieved academic success and graduated as a wrangler.[1] He then moved to London, where his spendthrift habits soon left him in debt. He married impulsively on 15 April 1751, to Mary Perkins, daughter of a domestic servant, leaving his finances in an even more precarious position.

At the urging of his concerned father, he decided to take holy orders, and was ordained a deacon in 1751 and a priest in 1753, serving as a curate in a church in West Ham, then as a preacher at St James Garlickhythe, and then at St Olave Hart Street. He became a popular and fashionable preacher, and was appointed as a chaplain in ordinary to the King in 1763. He became a prebend in Brecon, and was a tutor to Philip Stanhope, later 5th Earl of Chesterfield. He became chaplain to the King, and became a Doctor of Laws at Cambridge University in 1766. After he won £1,000 in a lottery, he became involved in schemes to build the Charlotte Chapel in Pimlico, and bought a share of the Charlotte Chapel in Bloomsbury. Despite his profession, he continued his extravagant lifestyle, and became known as the "maccaroni parson". In 1772, he became rector of Hockliffe, in Bedfordshire, and vicar of Chalgrove

In 1774, in an attempt to rectify his depleted finances, he attempted to obtain the lucrative position of rector of St George's, Hanover Square. He wrote a letter to Lady Apsley, wife of the Lord Chancellor, offering her £3,000 to secure the position. The letter was traced back to Dodd, and he was dismissed from his existing posts. He became an object of public ridicule, and was taunted as Dr Simony in a play by Samuel Foote in the Haymarket Theatre. He spent two years abroad, in Geneva and France, while the scandal subsided. He returned to England in 1776. In The Luck of Barry Lyndon Thackeray has his protagonist refer to meeting 'Dr Simony' in Soho and to a friendship with Foote.

In February 1777, he forged a bond for £4,200 in the name of his former pupil, the Earl of Chesterfield, to clear his debts. A banker accepted the bond in good faith, and lent him money on the strength of it. Later the banker noticed a small blot in the text and had the document re-written. When the clean copy was presented to the Earl to sign, in order to replace the old one, the forgery was discovered. Dodd immediately confessed, and begged time to make amends. He was, however, imprisoned in the Wood Street Compter pending trial. He was convicted, and sentenced to death (see the full record of the trial under External References below.) Samuel Johnson wrote several papers in his defence, and some 23,000 people signed a 37-page petition seeking a pardon. Nevertheless, Dodd was publicly hanged at Tyburn on 27 June 1777.

He wrote several published works, including poems, a novel, and theological tracts. His most successful work was The Beauties of Shakespeare (1752). He also wrote a Commentary on the Bible (1765–1770), and composed the blank verse Thoughts in Prison while in Newgate Prison between his conviction and execution.


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