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An English rhetorician, logician, economist, theologian and moral philospher, who also served as Dublin's Archbishop of the Church of Ireland (1831-1863), Richard Whately was born at Cavendish Square, London, the youngest of nine children of the Reverend Dr Joseph Whately (1730-1797) of Surrey, and his wife, Jane (nee Plumer). Educated at a private school near Bristol and later at the University of Oxford, from where he graduated with a BA (1808) and MA (1812). During his time at university he won the 1810 English essay prize and the following year was elected a fellow of Oriel College.
After graduating in from Oxford in 1812 Whately was employed as a private tutor, establishing a reputation as a dedicated, if unconventional, teacher who also took delight in disregarding Oxford conventions. During his residence at Oxford University Whately also wrote his tract, 'Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte,' a light-hearted and witty critique of excessive scepticism as applied to the Gospel history.
After his marriage in 1821 Whately was required to move out of his residence at the university and he subsequently settled in the town. The following year he was made Bampton lecturer. His lectures, 'On the Use and Abuse of Party Spirit in Matters of Religion,' were also published in 1922. In August 1823 Wahtely and his wife moved to Halesworth in Suffolk, but returned to Oxford in 1825 when he was appointed Principal of St. Alban Hall. During the next four years he published a series of essays, including 'Some of the Peculiarities of
the Christian Religion (1825), 'On Some of
the Difficulties in the Writings of St Paul (1828) and 'On
the Errors of Romanism Traced to their Origin in Human Nature' (1830). While he was at St Alban Hall he also pubolished a treatise on logic entitled Elements of Logic, which is perhaps the work most associated with him. Two years later he published another treatise, Elements of Rhetoric.
In 1829 Whately was appointed Professor of Political Economy at Oxford. His tenure was short-lived, however. A mere three years after taking up the position he accepted the appointment of Archbishop of Dublin. Interestingly, one of his first acts after arriving in Dublin was to endow a chair of political economy at Trinity College. Whately remained Archbishop until his death.
A great talker and a keen wit, Whately was also much addicted to argument, in which he used others as instruments on which to hammer out his own views. In his later years he is said to have tended more towards didatic monologue.