Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition


(1686-1737), English man of letters, the son of Dr Gilbert Budgell, was born on the 19th of August 1686 at St Thomas, near Exeter. He matriculated in 1705 at Trinity College, Oxford, and afterwards joined the Inner Temple, London; but instead of studying law he devoted his whole attention to literature. Addison, who was first cousin to his mother, befriended him, and, on being appointed secretary to Lord Wharton, lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1710, took Budgell with him as one of the clerks of his office. Budgell took part with Steele and Addison in writing the Tatler. He was also a contributor to the Spectator and the Guardian,—his papers being marked with an X in the former, and with an asterisk in the latter. He was subsequently made under-secretary to Addison, chief secretary to the lords justices of Ireland, and deputy-clerk of the council, and became a member of the Irish parliament. In 1717, when Addison became principal secretary of state in England, he procured for Budgell the place of accountant and comptroller-general of the revenue in Ireland. But the next year, the duke of Bolton being appointed lord-lieutenant, Budgell wrote a lampoon against E. Webster, his secretary. This led to his being removed from his post of accountant-general, upon which he returned to England, and, contrary to the advice of Addison, published his case in a pamphlet. In the year 1720 he lost £20,000 by the South Sea scheme, and afterwards spent £5000 more in unsuccessful attempts to get into parliament. He began to write pamphlets against the ministry, and published many papers in the Craftsman. In 1733 he started a weekly periodical called the Bee, which he continued for more than a hundred numbers. By the will of Matthew Tindal, the deist, who died in 1733, a legacy of 2000 guineas was left to Budgell; but the bequest (which had, it was alleged, been inserted in the will by Budgell himself) was successfully disputed by Tindal's nephew and nearest heir, Nicholas Tindal, who translated and wrote a Continuation of the History of England of Paul de Rapin-Thoyras. Hence Pope's lines—

      "Let Budgell charge low Grub Street on his quill,

      And write whate'er he pleased—except his will."1


Budgell is said to have sold the second volume of Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation to Bishop Gibson, by whom it was destroyed. The scandal caused by these transactions ruined him. On the 4th of May 1737, after filling his pockets with stones, he took a boat at Somerset-stairs, and while the boat was passing under the bridge threw himself into the river. On his desk was found a slip of paper with the words—"What Cato did, and Addison approved, cannot be wrong." Besides the works mentioned above, he wrote a translation (1714) of the Characters of Theophrastus. He never married, but left a natural daughter, Anne Eustace, who became an actress at Drury Lane.

See Cibber's Lives of the Poets, vol. v.

1 Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, lines 378-379.