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SM L77. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photo: Lewis Bush
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Bust of Dr Dodd, executed for forgery in 1777

Bronze, on a marble pedestal

Museum number: L77

On display: Library-Dining Room
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

The execution of Dr Dodd for forgery was the talk of London in the spring and early summer of 1777. William Dodd (1729-77) was a man of letters best known for editing The Beauties of Shakespeare, an anthology of quotations first published in 1752. He later became a clergyman, whose fashionable attire earned him the nickname ‘the Macaroni Parson’, eventually becoming Chaplain to King George III in 1766. He was also a prominent Freemason. In 1774 a anonymous letter to the Lord Chancellor recommending Dodd for the living ot St George's in Hanover Square and offering 3,000 guineas if he were to be appointed, was traced back to Dodd's wife. Although he denied all knowledge of her actions Dodd was dismissed as Royal Chaplain and spent a period abroad. By 1776 he was back in England and his Patron the Earl of Chesterfield had a Chapel built for him in Charlotte Street, Buckingham Gate, London. His income was very much reduced and his pursuit of advancement inevitably led him into debt and in February 1777, he sought to satisfy his creditors by presenting a forged bond for £4,200 drawn on his benefactor Lord Chesterfield. The Earl disowned the Bond and despite paying back the money, Dodd was arrested four days later and convicted of capital forgery.

Dodd was sentenced to death and hanged at Tyburn on 27 June 1777 despite a popular campaign to obtain mercy for ‘the unfortunate divine’ including a number of petitions and the support of Dr Johnson, who wrote a number of speeches and prayers published under Dodd’s name. Soane must have been impressed by this news story in the year prior to his grand tour, because nearly half a century later in 1825 he purchased this small bronze bust. A great admirer of Shakespeare, Soane also owned at least two editions of Dodd’s most successful work.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by John Soane at the Charles Yarnold Sale (auctioneer Mr. Southgate), 11 July 1825, Lot 6, Bust of Dr Dodd in bronze, for 15 shillings.


'John Ruffell: Understanding the Rev William Dodd LLD' in Skyline (the Magazine of the Firends of City Churches), November 2020, pp.10-11, ill.p.10

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