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MS Hyde 37

Dodd, William, 1729-1777. William Dodd papers: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Hyde Case 9
Call No.: MS Hyde 37
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Dodd, William, 1729-1777.
Title: William Dodd papers,
Date(s): 1777.
Quantity: 1 collection (1 volume (.1 linear ft.)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Letters and petitions compiled by Samuel Johnson on behalf of condemned prisoner William Dodd, with letters from Dodd to Edmund Allen, and related papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

*2003JM-121. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Custodial History:

These papers were originally collected by Edmund Allen. By 1926, they were the property of collector A. Edward Newton. At Newton's Parke-Bernet sale on 1941 May 14, they were acquired by Donald and Mary Hyde.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Rick Stattler

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

William Dodd Papers (MS Hyde 37). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

Originally bound with this collection were three letters from Samuel Johnson to Edmund Allen concerning the Dodd case. They are now with the Samuel Johnson Letters, MS Hyde 1, item (2).

Biographical / Historical

The Rev. William Dodd (1729-1777), a London-area clergyman, found himself desperate for money to pay debts. On 1777 Feb. 1, he forged the name of a former pupil on a bond in an effort to obtain £4200. He was arrested a week later, convicted on Feb. 22, and sentenced to death on May 16. Author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) became interested in the case through the efforts of his friend and neighbor, printer Edmund Allen (1726-1784). Over the next several weeks, Johnson wrote several letters, speeches and petitions on Dodd's behalf. Although one of Johnson's petitions gathered twenty-three thousand signatures, and his words had helped generate widespread public sympathy for Dodd's case, clemency was not granted. Dodd was executed on June 27.


All of this collection, with the exception of items (7), (16), and (28), was published in Papers Written by Dr. Johnson and Dr. Dodd in 1777, edited by R.W. Chapman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926). Much of the collection was more recently published in The Macaroni Parson and the Concentrated Mind: Samuel Johnson's Writings for the Reverend William Dodd, edited by O.M. Brack (Tucson, Ariz.: Chax Press, 2004). Other items were published in The Letters of Samuel Johnson: The Hyde Edition, edited by Bruce Redford (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992).


The papers are described in the order in which they are bound, which is roughly chronological. Item numbers correspond to page numbers on the original items.

Scope and Contents

This collection includes seven autograph documents in Samuel Johnson's hand written on Dodd's behalf: items (4), (8), (10), (23), (24), (27), and (29). It also includes eleven autograph letters from Dodd to Edmund Allen, as well as several transcripts of related documents in Allen's hand, and two autograph letters addressed to Dodd. The volume bears the inscription J. Winter Jones, Br. Mus.John Winter Jones (1805-1881) served as Principal Librarian at the British Museum from 1866 to 1873. The volume also bears a bookplate from A. Edward Newton (1864-1940).

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