WHARTON, Hon. Goodwin (1653-1704), of St. Giles in the Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Mar. 1653, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Philip, 4th Baron Wharton, by 2nd w. Jane, da. and coh. of Arthur Goodwin of Winchendon, Bucks.; bro. of Hon. Henry Wharton and Hon. Thomas Wharton. educ. privately; Protestant academy, Caen 1663-4; travelled abroad (France, Italy, Germany and Holland) 1664-6. unm., 2s. illegit. by Lucretia Knowles.1
Lt.-col. of horse, regt. of Lord Macclesfield (Hon. Charles Gerard) 1694-d.
Chairman of the committee of elections and privileges 28 Nov. 1696-8; ld. of Admiralty 1697-9.
J.p. Bucks. 1697-d., dep. lt. 1702-d.
Wharton had a very strict Calvinistic upbringing under the same dissenting tutors as his brother Thomas, with whom he went to Caen. The prevailing emotion of his youth appears to have been fear of his father, and speaking of his own experience, he told his son:
when God has blest you with children let your carriage be to them, both inwardly and outwardly, equally kind. ... Prescribe them not so much outward awe of you or respect to you as may hinder them from freely communicating their thoughts.
At first, like his brothers, he sought relief in drink and debauchery. Of an inventive and ingenious mind, he obtained a patent in 1675 for his ‘new inventions for buoying up ships sunk in the sea’ and for ‘the more easy landing and lading of goods’, and the following year he secured another patent for 14 years for a new engine ‘for raising water, for quelching fires, draining mines, and flooded lands’. He wrote in his autobiography that his fire-engine ‘signally put a stop to the great fire at Southwark’ in 1677, and that the King was so pleased that he rewarded him with a baronet’s patent to sell; unfortunately, he added, ‘I could never find a fool to buy it’.2
Wharton ‘intruded’ himself into the Green Ribbon Club in January 1679, but Shaftesbury ‘fell on’ him ‘about being with the heads of both parties’, and he was ignominiously expelled. He was first elected for East Grinstead in August as a country candidate, probably with the assistance of his brother’s friend, William Jephson. An inactive Member of the second Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges. He delivered his maiden speech with becoming modesty on exclusion on 11 Nov. 1680:
I have not yet troubled you since I had the honour to be here. ... I know my own inabilities in comparison to many abler and wiser than myself, but I cannot be silent when I hear the justice of the House questioned.
He made a bitter personal attack on the Duke of York, criticizing his capacity as a naval commander, and declaring
the Duke has done his utmost endeavour to ruin this nation, and to destroy us all. ... I do not think that you will choose a prince that will not speak the truth to inherit the crown.
He was interrupted by Lord Castleton (George Saunderson): ‘To hear a prince thus spoken of, I am not able to endure it’. Later on, replying to a suggestion that the Duke might turn Protestant, he said
I do not think it possible that any person that has been bred up in the Protestant religion, and hath been weak enough (for so I must call it) to turn Popish, should ever after ... be wise enough to turn Protestant.
The same session he made another speech ‘to expose vice’, noting in his autobiography
I found a strong interest or impulse upon me to speak things which were afterwards in the mocking world reflected upon, and were generally so misrepresented and aggravated that it was a long time a great grief to me, my father himself once reflecting scoffingly upon it.
He did not stand in 1681.3
Wharton, who had been leading a lonely life, regarded himself as ‘generally hated and slighted by my own relations’. In 1683, he went to live in the house of a Mrs Parish, a Roman Catholic medium, who became his mistress, and, as he wrote in his autobiography, put him in touch with the soul of his dead mother, and raised spirits for him and for his friend John Wildman I. Under Mrs Parish’s influence, his visions had a strong Roman Catholic flavour, and he conversed with the Pope, the Cardinals, and St. Peter. He also thought himself to have married the queen of the fairies, and to have been proclaimed king of the fairies in Moorfields. In his private world, he was irresistible to women, some real, like the Duchesses of Portsmouth and Mazarin, and his stepmother, and some spirits, and begat legions of children by them. He and Wildman also experimented in alchemy, and in the use of magic to find treasure. With the aid of ‘George’, the disembodied spirit of an executed felon, Wharton and Wildman looked for the breastplate of the high priest of the temple at Somerset House, and investigated a house in Holborn thought to contain treasure guarded by spirits, but without success. An experienced deep-sea diver, Wharton also sought to salvage wrecks in places as far apart as the Scillies, Jersey, and Scotland. All these ventures proved costly. He was arrested for debts amounting to £700 in September 1684, and released when his father paid them, but he soon fell into further financial difficulties. In November 1687, he asked his father for the provision his mother had made for him out of Wooburn, but his father refused to show him the settlement, and ‘with an oath threatened to disinherit me absolutely’, and after being subjected to ‘some days’ confinement and threats’ he agreed to settle £900 a year upon him. However, his father never paid more than £350 p.a. of this, paid nothing at all for some years, and would not settle his further debts.4
In September 1688, Wharton went to Portsmouth ‘out of curiosity to see the new fortifications’. Its governor, the Duke of Berwick, sent him a message that ‘the times were dangerous, and therefore I should give him an account of my business, or go out of the garrison, or be confined’. He was arrested and sent to the Tower, but was bailed by his friends. In November, while his two brothers had gone to join the Prince of Orange, Wharton went to pay his court to James, who received him well, having believed that he too had ‘gone to the Dutch’. Next month, he went to Henley where his brother Thomas introduced him to the Prince of Orange, but, as he noted, ‘I could easily perceive that the news upon the King being gone and my coming being so late, I was looked upon but indifferently, as many now flocked in to him apace’. He further observed that the Prince ‘wanted to get the entire kingdom, though by his declaration pretended to the contrary’, and that ‘many people were very discontented at the Prince’s management, saying they are cheated’. At the 1689 election he stood with Jephson for Chipping Wycombe, but was defeated by a local Whig, Thomas Lewes. The first Lord Macclesfield ‘expressed a particular kindness’ to him, but his offer to raise a regiment in Ireland was rejected by the King. On the death of his brother Henry, he was chosen at a by-election for Westmorland with the support of Sir John Lowther III, but left no trace on the records of the Convention, which was dissolved within a month.5
After 1690 Wharton became one of the most frequent speakers and influential Whigs in the House. He had conformed to the Anglican Church, and was a regular communicant at St. Paul’s Covent Garden. By a woman called Lucretia Knowles, a chemist and a practitioner in magic, he left an illegitimate son, Hezekiah Knowles alias Wharton, who became an army officer. His visions ceased after her death in 1703, and they may have been elaborate charades arranged for him first by Mrs Parish and later by Lucretia Knowles. It is also possible they were hallucinations produced by ‘the bends’ as a result of his deep-sea diving. He died on 26 Oct. 1704 and was buried at Wooburn.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: B. M. Crook / Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning
This biography is based on Add. 20006-7 (Wharton’s autobiography).
- 1. B. Dale, The Good Lord Wharton, 34-7; J. Carswell, The Old Cause, 30-7; PCC 23 Bond, 60 Gee; St. Giles in the Fields par. reg.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 203, 336; 1676-7, p. 143.
- 3. HMC 7th Rep. 474; EHR, xl. 246; Grey, vii. 448-9.
- 4. K. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 236-7.
- 5. HMC Le Fleming, 214, 265; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 286.
- 6. Information from Mrs. Z. Cowan; Luttrell, v. 480; Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 544.