Paley, William, 1743-1805

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William Paley, English theologian and moralist.

From the guide to the William Paley manuscript material : 2 items, 1790-1802, (The New York Public Library. Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle.)

William Paley was born in July 1743 in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, to William Paley (d. 1799) and Elizabeth Clapham (d. 1796). The elder Paley was the vicar of Helpston, as well as headmaster of Giggleswick grammar school. The younger Paley was the eldest of four children and the only son. He attended Christ's College at Cambridge University, graduating in 1763. Paley was ordained as an Anglican priest on December 21, 1767 and was appointed to the vicarages of Dalston and Appleby in Leicestershire in 1776. He resigned the vicarage of Appleby in 1782 to become the Archdeacon at Carlisle. In 1793 he left Dalston to accept the vicarage of Stanwix near Carlisle. He received the prebend of St. Pancras in the Cathedral at St. Paul's in 1794 and the subdeanery of Lincoln the following year. Paley retained the archdeaconry at Carlisle until his death on May 25, 1805.

William Paley is best known as a Utilitarian philosopher. He authored several influential works on Christianity, ethics, and science, which include "The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy" (1785); "A View of the Evidence of Christianity" (1794), which was required reading for entrance to Cambridge University until the twentieth century; and "Natural Theology" (1802). He was responsible for the best known teleological argument in English Theology for the existence of God.

William Paley married Jane Hewitt (d. 1791) of Carlisle on June 6, 1776. She died in May 1791, leaving four sons and four daughters. He remarried Miss Dobinson of Carlisle on December 14, 1795. Paley was buried in Carlisle Cathedral next to his first wife, Jane.

From the description of William Paley letter, 1777 April 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122654170

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn George Wilson Meadley: Annotated Memoirs of William Paley, c.1808-1831 Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
referencedIn Boswell's Life of Johnson : including Boswell's Journal of a tour to the Hebrides and Johnson's Diary of a journey into North Wales, edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated, 1464-1897 (inclusive), 1724-1874 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Paley, William, 1743-1805. William Paley letter, 1777 April 19. Flugschriften des Fruhen 16 Jahrhunderts
creatorOf Paley, William, 1743-1805. Letter to Edward Law : Carlisle : ALS, 1791 Aug. 18. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf William Paley manuscript material : 2 items, 1790-1802 The New York Public Library. Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle.
referencedIn Wright, William Aldis, 1831-1914. Notes of William Aldis Wright chiefly on undergraduate university studies [manuscript], 1848-1907. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Dickinson family library, 1810-1977. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Locker-Lampson, Warburg, Grimson autograph album, 1552-1890. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Books from the library of Amos Bronson Alcott, 1579-1893. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Paley, William, 1743-1805. Autograph letter signed : Lincoln, to Christopher Hutchinson, 1800 Jan. 14. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Autograph File, P, 1554-2005. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Milledoler, Philip, 1775-1852. Notebooks, [18--]. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Lee, Mary Hutchinson. John Lee papers, 1763-1851. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Deodatus Babcock Notebook, 1819 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn John Lee papers, Lee, John papers, 1763-1851 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888 person
associatedWith Babcock, Deodatus. person
correspondedWith Boswell, James, 1740-1795 person
associatedWith Dickinson family, collector. family
associatedWith Ellenborough, Edward Law, Baron, 1750-1818. person
associatedWith George Wilson Meadley person
associatedWith Hutchinson, Christopher, person
associatedWith Lee, Mary Hutchinson person
associatedWith Lee, Mary Hutchinson. person
associatedWith Lee, Mary Tabitha person
associatedWith Locker-Lampson, Frederick, 1821-1895 person
associatedWith Milledoler, Philip, 1775-1852. person
associatedWith Percy, Thomas, 1729-1811 person
associatedWith Ray, Gordon Norton, 1915- person
associatedWith Wright, William Aldis, 1831-1914. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Leicestershire (England)
Ethicists--Great Britain--19th century--Correspondence
Letter writing--18th century
Theologians--Great Britain--18th century--Correspondence
Theologians--Great Britain--19th century--Correspondence
Ethicists--Great Britain--18th century--Correspondence


Birth 1743-07

Death 1805-05-25





Ark ID: w62v3d3h

SNAC ID: 50469034