Correspondence of Rev. Philip Doddridge

Scope and Content

Original letters (46 items) of the nonconformist divine Philip Doddridge to his wife Mercy (née Maris), written between 2 October 1730 and 12 June 1751; with one to him from Colonel J[ames] Gardiner, 16 November 1742.

Administrative / Biographical History

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), Independent minister and writer, was born on 26 June 1702 in London. In October 1719, at the age of seventeen, he became a student at the academy of the Independent minister John Jennings, first at Kibworth Harcourt, south-east of Leicester, and then from July 1722 at Hinckley. He left Hinckley in June 1723 and took up residence at Kibworth, where he quickly established a reputation as a preacher. In 1729 he founded at Market Harborough what was to become the most influential of eighteenth-century dissenting academies. In January 1730 Doddridge moved to Northampton and set up his academy in his house in Marefair; he moved it to larger premises in Sheep Street in 1740. The academy attracted not only English dissenters but also Scottish presbyterians, members of the Church of England, and several students from the Netherlands. Doddridge was supported by assistants drawn from his former students, and many students went on to assume prominent roles in the dissenting churches across Britain.

Doddridge travelled widely as a minister, and was said to have preached over 140 sermons in 1743. He published many works. The family expositor, or, a paraphrase and version of the New Testament is the longest and the one to which Doddridge attached most importance. His published collections of sermons preached at Northampton included Sermons on the religious education of children (1732), Sermons to young persons(1735), Ten sermons on the power and grace of Christ (1736), and Practical discourses on egeneration (1741). Until a few months before his death Doddridge continued to do all he could to further the cause of protestant dissent and evangelical Christianity at home and abroad. He died, following an illness, at Lisbon on 13 October 1750, aged 49.

Source: Isabel Rivers, 'Doddridge, Philip (1702-1751)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller H.M. Fletcher in April 1958.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Philip Doddridge.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MS 1209).

Custodial History

Sold at auction at Sotheby's on 22 April 1958 (Lot 414).

Related Material

For other Doddridge material see: 

  • Northampton Central Library: family correspondence, 1734-1790;
  • Dr William's Library, London: correspondence and papers (ref.: GB 123 L1-2, 29, 46, 94-99, 105, 159--76, 185, 215, 218, 227-28, 234-35) and lecture notes (ref.:GB 123 28.129-131);
  • British Library, Manuscript Collections: hymns (ref.: GB 058 Add MSS 42558, 49197 ) and copy correspondence with Lord Lyttelton, 1738-1751 (originals at Yale University), (ref.: GB 058 RP1778);
  • Oxford University, Harris Manchester College Library: lecture notes (ref.: GB 459 MS Orton 1);
  • Devon Record Office: letters to his daughter Mercy, 1748-1750 (ref.: GB 027 138M/F1201-09).

For a small collection of Colonel James Gardiner, see National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections (ref.: GB 233 Acc 11647).


Some of the letters are printed, but with omissions of whole sections and numerous alterations and interpolations (added in pencil on the letters, which were used as printer's copy), in The correspondence and diary of Philip Doddridge, D.D.: illustrative of various particulars in his life hitherto unknown: with notices of many of his contemporaries; and a sketch of the ecclesiastical history of the times in which he lived / edited from the original mss. by his great grandson John Doddridge Humphreys, Esq, 5 vols (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1829-31).

See also the note on the letters in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 41 (1958-9), p.12.