Moral & Political Philosophy

Horae paulinae

Evidences of Christianity

Natural Theology

Occasional Sermons

Posthumous Sermons

Miscellaneous Writings










William Paley, DD


G W Meadley


To which is added


An Appendix.




Printed for the Author by J Graham,

And sold by Cradock and Joy, Ave Maria Lane, London,

And J Deighton, Cambridge:








the friends


civil and religious liberty,

of private happiness.


public virtue,

these memoirs are








When Dr Paley’s character as a man and services as a writer are considered, it is somewhat singular that no account of him, beyond the passing tribute of an obituary, and an article in the General Biography, [Vol. VIII, p. 588-592] has hitherto appeared. After a lapse of three years, nothing more ample has even been promised to the public. This surely is not well. The Memoirs now offered, to supply, in some degree, so strange a neglect, or at least to provoke the exertions of some abler pen, are in the compiler’s own estimation very far from complete. The acknowledged talents of some of Dr Paley’s earlier and more intimate friends, from whom an authentic detail of his life might most naturally be expected, ought perhaps to have deterred from the attempt one who knew him only in his later years. But a persuasion, that the whole of any eminent character can never be duly appreciated, except from the views of different observers, on the one hand, and, on the other, an anxious wish to bear testimony to the merits of a much respected pastor, and to perpetuate his memory amongst his last parishioners more especially, have produced the present publication.

No pains have been spared to procure accurate intelligence from the most respectable quarters, though several enquiries have been made without success. To those gentlemen who have assisted him with information of dates or facts, the writer acknowledges himself highly obliged, and trusts that what is recorded in the following pages will be found substantially correct. For many particulars, he is exclusively responsible himself, having cultivated Dr Paley’s acquaintance, from the period of his coming to Bishop-Wearmouth, with no common interest and attention.

It often happens, that the cast of an author’s sentiments may be traced to something peculiar in the habits or situation of the man. It is often lamented, that the man should be very unlike the author. But in the case of Dr Paley, the author is only a more grave and dignified exhibition of the man himself: and those who knew him personally, enjoy much more vividly, on that very account, every quaintness of phrase and every shrewdness of remark that occurs in his writings. His biography therefore should by no means be composed on too solemn and sombre a plan. For unless his originality and humour in common life be brought forward, there is no clue to discover the sources of that strong home touch of his pen, that practicality and tact in his reasoning, in which he has very rarely been excelled. Hence the lighter anecdotes related in these Memoirs became necessary to a just delineation of his character, though their undue intrusion has been avoided, as they form the relief rather than the groundwork of the design.

The writer is happy in being able to introduce some sketches of Dr Paley’s more serious conversation, and of his judgment on the transactions or questions of the day; and the sentiments of such a man, on the great points of public discussion, can hardly be read with indifference. In considering certain arguments advanced by Dr Paley, to which the writer cannot assent, he has stated his own opinions without reserve: but he has never attributed, either the conduct or the reasoning of so candid an enquirer, to unworthy motives, from a conviction that a liberal utility, the criterion of his moral theory, was at the same time his practical rule in life. In many doubtful cases, men equally well intentioned may and will differ: yet no dispassionate person will hastily impeach the integrity of another’s mind, who is conscious of the purity of his own.

It is hoped that a more copious detail of Dr Paley’s life many hereafter be presented to the world, that no circumstance of any moment regarding such a man may be lost. But if after all no abler pen shall undertake the task, and a re-publication of these imperfect Memoirs be ever called for, it shall be the earnest endeavour of the writer to supply every deficiency, which is already felt, or which hereafter may be pointed out to him.

The annexed Letter, on Dr Paley’s early character and performances, is the contribution of a learned and estimable friend, to whose kindness the present work is indebted for much correction and improvement.

In the Appendix will be found some of Dr Paley’s minor productions, which, though not absolutely new to the public, are comparatively little known. It was, however, almost entirely printed off, before the late collective republication of his Sermons and Tracts appeared from a London press.


Bishop Wearmouth,

January 1st 1809


Links to Meadley Memoir

Meadley Memoir Part 1

Meadley Memoir Part 2

Meadley Memoir Part 3

Meadley Appendices