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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 37

William Dodd papers


Letters and petitions compiled by Samuel Johnson on behalf of condemned prisoner William Dodd, with letters from Dodd to Edmund Allen, and related papers.


  • 1777

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

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.


.1 linear feet (1 volume)
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).

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.


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.

Physical Location

Hyde Case 9

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

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).

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).

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler
Link to catalog
Dodd, William, 1729-1777. William Dodd papers: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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