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Bishop Butler

His life, writing & theology.

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Butler's Life and Times

Chronology of Bishop Joseph Butler, 1692-1752
Dates Location Life Work
1692-1712 Wantage Born May 18, 1692
1712-1714 Tewkesbury Student at Jones' academy letters to Clarke
1714-1718 Oxford student at Oriel College more letters to Clarke
1719-1726 London preacher at the Rolls Chapel Fifteen Sermons
1725-1740 Stanhope rector of Stanhope The Analogy of Religion (1736)
1738-1750 Bristol and London bishop of Bristol, dean of St. Paul's Six Sermons
1750-1752 Durham and London bishop of Durham Charge to the Clergy
1752 Bath Died June 16, 1752

Childhood in Wantage (1692-1712)

  • 1692 May 18. Butler was born at Wantage in Berkshire, the youngest of the eight children of Thomas Butler, a prosperous shopkeeper. There is some uncertainty regarding the date of his birth (Spooner 1901).

Student at Tewkesbury (1712-1714)

In preparation for the Presbyterian ministry, Butler was sent to Mr. Samuel Jones' academy, initially located in Gloucester.
  • 1713 November 4. First letter to Samuel Clarke, sent anonymously with the aid of Thomas Secker.
  • 1713 November 10. First reply from Clarke.
  • 1713 November 23. Second letter to Clarke.
  • 1713 November 28. Second reply from Clarke.
  • 1713 December 5. Third letter to Clarke.
  • 1713 December 10. Third reply from Clarke.
  • 1713 December 16. Fourth letter to Clarke.
  • 1713/14 January 29. Fourth reply from Clarke.
  • 1713/14 February 3. Fifth letter to Clarke.
  • 1714 March. Butler examines the principles of non-conformity with Presbyterian divines. Is confirmed by William Talbot.
  • 1714 April 8. Fifth reply from Clarke. The two month delay in answering was caused by Clarke's having lost Butler's letter.
  • 1714 April [?]. In his sixth letter to Clarke (undated), Butler states that he left Gloucester three weeks previously.

Student at Oriel College, Oxford (1714-1718)

  • 1714/15 March 17. Matriculates, Oriel College, Oxford.
  • 1715 Butler becomes close friends with Edward Talbot (admitted Oriel 1709, elected a fellow 1712).
  • 1716 June. Thomas Secker visits Butler at Oxford. (folio 7)
  • 1717 September 30. Seventh letter to Clarke. Butler says of his education at Oxford: "We are obliged to mis-spend so much time here in attending frivolous lectures and unintelligible disputations, that I am quite tired out with such a disagreeable way of trifling ..."
  • 1717 October 3. Seventh reply from Clarke.
  • 1717 October 3. Eighth letter to Clarke.
  • 1717 October 9. Eighth reply from Clarke.
  • 1717 October 10. Ninth letter to Clarke.
  • 1718 October 18(?). Butler graduated B.A.
  • 1718 October 26. Ordained deacon by Bishop Talbot at Salisbury.
  • 1718 December 21. Ordained priest by Bishop Talbot at St. James, Westminster; Samuel Clarke, rector.

Preacher at the Rolls (1719-1726)

  • 1719 July. Butler appointed Preacher at the Rolls Court, London, by Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls, on the recommendation of Edward Talbot and Samuel Clarke.
  • 1719. Letter of Thanks. Sometimes ascribed to Butler.
  • 1720. Thomas Secker says he kept up his correspondence with Butler and that around May he received an offer that Bishop Talbot would provide for him if he went into orders because Butler had mentioned him to Edward Talbot. f.9 Later in the year, Butler introduced Secker to Edward Talbot. f.10
  • 1720 December. Edward Talbot dies. On his deathbed, he recommends Butler and Secker to his father, Bishop Talbot.
  • 1721 March 27. Butler is collated by Bishop Talbot to the prebend of Yetminster Prima in Salisbury Cathedral. Secker says Dr. Rundle, chaplain to Bishop Talbot recommended Butler to Mr. John Evans of Oriel, but then gossips that Rundle was jealous of Butler.
  • 1721 June 10. Butler awarded Bachelor of Law degree (B.C.L.).
  • 1722. William Talbot translated to murham and collates Butler to the living at Haughton-le-Skerne, near Darlington. Rundle is Butler's domestic chaplain. Bishop Talbot ordains Secker and presents him Houghton-le-Spring.
  • 1724. Benson is given a rich prebend of Durham.
  • 1724 August 4. Butler resigns Haughton into the Bishop's hands.
  • 1724 August 5. Butler again takes the oaths for Haughton.
  • 1725 January. Butler is still in need of family support and receives £100 from an older brother.

Rector of Stanhope (1725-1740)

  • 1725 June 10. Bishop Talbot presents Butler with Stanhope, in Weardale, known as the Golden Rectory.
  • 1726 July 12. Butler celebrates Holy Communion, his last act at the Rolls. Butler can now afford to resign the Rolls and Haughton, and leaves London for Stanhope. Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel published.
  • 1729 September 6. Second edition of Fifteen Sermons (date of preface). Portrait of Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752).
  • 1730. Tindal publishes Christianity as Old as the Creation.
  • 1730 October 10. Bishop Talbot dies.
  • 1731. Butler's father, Thomas Butler, dies.
  • 1732. Secker mentions Butler to the queen, and she checks with Archbishop Blackburne.
  • 1730's. Butler engages in correspondence, now lost, with Henry Home (Lord Kames) on the evidences of natural and revealed religion.
  • 1733. Butler becomes chaplain to Lord Chancellor Talbot (Charles, son of Bishop Talbot and older brother of Edward).
  • 1733. Butler awarded D.C.L., but he seems to have used LL.D.
  • 1734. The men in Butler's circle are all bishops by now: Secker (Bristol), Benson (Gloucester), Rundle (Derry), Berkeley (Cloyne).
  • 1736 May. Analogy of Religion published.
  • 1736 July. Butler appointed Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline.
  • 1736. Charles Talbot, Lord Chancellor, presented Butler to the Prebend of the second Stall in Rochester Cathedral.
  • 1736. Anonymous review of Analogy in Bibliotheque Raisonnee des Ouvrages Des Savans De L'Europe.
  • 1737. Letter to the Weekly Miscellany, replies by "Philanthropus" (Thomas Bott), and by Thomas Chubb.
  • 1737 March 28. Butler calls on David Hartley and has a talk recorded by John Byrom.
  • 1737 November 20. Queen Caroline dies, after asking Archbishop Potter to take care of Butler, her Clerk of the Closet. The king soon summoned Butler to preach before him.
  • 1738. Richard Price studies Butler's Analogy.

Bishop of Bristol (1738-1750)

  • 1738 Easter. Secker offends Butler.
  • 1738 May 24. John Wesley's experience.
  • 1738 August 27. Walpole notifies Butler the King has nominated him to the See of Bristol.
  • 1738 August 28. Butler accepts.
  • 1738 December 3. Butler consecrated at Bristol, allowed to hold prebend at Rochester and rectory at Stanhope in commendam, resigns Salisbury.
  • 1739 February. Hume sends Butler his Treatise.
  • 1738/39 February 16. Butler preaches before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Remarks on slavery.
  • 1739 February 24. Butler meets with George Whitefield.
  • 1739. Butler has a fifteen minute meeting with John Wesley in June or early August, then meetings of over an hour each on August 16 and 18.
  • 1740 Monday in Easter week. London Hospitals Sermon.
  • 1740/1741 January 30. Sermon on the martyrdom of King Charles I (House of Lords).
  • 1740 Prebendary of Postpool.
  • 1740 May 24.Butler installed as Dean of St. Paul's.
  • 1740. Resigned Rochester Prebend and Stanhope.
  • 1740. As Dean of St. Paul's, presented Mr. Barton, his teacher in Wantage, with the Rectory of Hutton in Essex.
  • 1741. Agreement on Mucking Manor.
  • 1742 June 13. Add Mss 9815 (in Steer).
  • 1742. Hume to Kames on Butler's approval of political essays.
  • 1743. Wesley's Earnest Appeal mentions Butler.
  • 1745 May 9. London Charity Schools sermon.
  • 1747 June 11. Sermon to House of Lords.
  • 1747 October 10. Archbishop Potter dies.
  • 1747 October 12. Newcastle sees the Bishop of London (Gibson); he declines. An offer made to the Bishop of Salisbury (Sherlock).
  • 1747 October 13. Sherlock declines; Bishop of York (Herring) is warned.
  • 1747 October 15. Second offer to Sherlock.
  • 1747 October 17. Herring replies to warning.
  • 1747 October 18. Sherlock again refuses.
  • 1747 October 20. Herring warned again.
  • 1747 October 21. Herring replies to second warning; Sherlock again refuses.
  • 1747 October 22. Offer made to Herring.
  • 1747 October 24. Herring accepts.
  • 1747. Letter to a Friend.
  • 1747 December 22. Letter to a Lady.
  • 1748 March 31. London Infirmary sermon.
  • 1748 September 25. Letter to Newcastle.
  • 1748 September 28. Letter from Newcastle.
  • 1749 February 14. Dinner with Byrom.
  • 1749. Fourth Charge at Bristol.
  • 1750. Plans for Episcopacy in America.
  • 1740's. Undated incidents in Bristol: building, gift of cedar, marble cross, Tucker anecdote.

Bishop of Durham (1750-1752)

  • 1750 July 31. Butler nominated to Durham.
  • 1750 August 5. Letter to Newcastle.
  • 1750 August 13. Letter of thanks.
  • 1750 August 22. Letter to George II.
  • 1750 October 16. Translation to Durham confirmed.
  • 1750 November 9. Enthroned in Durham by proxy.
  • 1751 June 28. Butler arrives in Durham and is greeted by Sir John Dolben.
  • 1751 June 30. Entertains the corporation of Durham in the castle.
  • 1751 July 4. Entertains the mayor and aldermen of Newcastle.
  • 1751 July 17. Arrives in Newcastle.
  • 1751 July 19. Travels to Alnwick. Butler's letter to the Duchess of Somerset was written after he saw Auckland and was received by the Duchess.
  • 1751 July 20. Arrives Berwick.
  • 1751 July 22. Visits Bamburgh deanery.
  • 1751 July 23. Back to Alnwick.
  • 1751 July 25. Visits Morpeth.
  • 1751 July 26. Final visitations in the Archdeaconry of Northumberland.
  • 1751 July 27. Returns to Durham.
  • 1751 July 30. Visitation of Easington and Chester deaneries at Durham.
  • 1751 August 27. Visitation of Darlington and Stockton at Stockton. Corporation of Stockton dines with Butler.
  • 1751 September 1. John Sharp preached in Auckland Castle.
  • 1751 September [early]. Henry Carr discusses rental of lands.
  • 1751 October 14. Henry Carr spends the day with Butler.
  • 1751 December 1. Letter to Newcastle re Eglinham.
  • 1751 December 12. Mandate to install Thomas Chapman in the third stall.
  • 1752 January 1. Thomas Chapman installed.
  • 1752 [early in the year] Letter to George Bowes.

Death at Bath (1752)

  • 1752. Butler's health declines, and he is advised to go to Bristol.
  • 1752 April 22. Date of Butler's will.
  • 1752 April 25. Date of the codicil.
  • 1752 [?]. Visits Seeker at Cuddesden.
  • 1752 June 4. Butler is moved to Bath.
  • 1752 June 16. Dies at Bath.
  • 1752 June 19. Corpse carried back to Bristol.
  • 1752 June 20. Interred at the foot of the episcopal chair, Bristol Cathedral.