Biography of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury

The following shows a selection of principal dates (OS) and events. It is based largely on the biography compiled by Voitle (= Robert Voitle, The Third Earl of Shaftesbury 1671-1713 [Baton Rouge and London, 1984]), but includes some details from the Day Book (= The Journal or Day Book from Lady Day 1681, kept in the Shaftesbury Archives at Wimborne St Giles).

1671 Anthony Ashley Cooper born 26 February in London, eldest of seven children from the marriage between Anthony Ashley Cooper (1651-1699, the future second Earl of Shaftesbury)1 and Lady Dorothy Manners (c. 1656-1698)2; first years spent with his parents at St Giles’s House on the family’s Dorset estate.
1674 Guardianship for Anthony, his brother John (b. 1672)3 and any further siblings legally transferred in March to their grandfather (1621-1683, created Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672, but now no longer Lord Chancellor); exact date of move to Earl’s household unknown
1675-1679 John Locke, physician, secretary and life-long friend to the first Earl, takes charge of the boys’ education; a governess (Elizabeth Birch) is chosen who is fluent in Greek and Latin.
1680-1686 Attends E. Birch’s school in Clapham; first Earl flees to Holland November 1682, dies there 21 January 1682/3; Anthony (after death of grandfather Lord Ashley) sent in the summer or autumn of 1683 to Winchester College, where he remains probably until the end of 1685; tutored after this (mostly in London) by Daniel Denoune.4
1687-1689 Leaves in July 1687 to begin his grand tour, together with Sir John Cropley (1663-1714, from this period onwards one of Shaftesbury’s closest friends) and Denoune, probably joined later by Thomas Sclater Bacon5: they travel to Holland (visiting John Locke), France (spending some months in Paris), Italy (Turin, Milan, Modena, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples), then north via Genoa, Verona, Venice, through Austria to Vienna, on to Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, returning to England in May 1689.
1690-1695 Periods of study, but also increasing involvement in family affairs and estate business; work may have begun in 1694 on An Inquiry concerning Virtue.
1695-1698 MP (Whig) for Poole from May 1695 to July 1698; first signs of serious ill health (asthma); prepares Select Sermons of Dr Whichcot and the Preface for printing (edition appears to have been published in late 1698); works with John Toland on The Danger of Mercenary Parliaments (also published in 1698); mother dies end of June 1698 (buried 6 July).
1698-1699 First retreat, largely for the sake of his health, to Holland (Rotterdam) late July 1698-May 1699; in contact there with Benjamin Furly, Pierre Bayle, Jean Le Clerc, and Philipp van Limborch; starts work on his Chartae Socraticae and the Askemata; in his absence John Toland has the Inquiry concerning Virtue published (1699); after return to England buys a new London residence in Little Chelsea.
1699-1703 Death of father 2 November 1699; Shaftesbury first takes his seat in House of Lords 19 January 1699/1700; publication of the pamphlet Paradoxes of State January 1702; composition of The Adept Ladies probably in same month; politically active until accession of Queen Anne 1702, engaged in family affairs and running of Dorset estate.
1703-1704 Second retreat August 1703-August 1704, again in Rotterdam; continues work on Chartae Socraticae and Askemata; finishes The Sociable Enthusiast and has a number of copies printed privately; returns to England seriously ill.
1705-1709 Years of intermittent relapses, parliamentary and local (Dorset) politics, family duties, and study; A Letter concerning Enthusiasm (written in 1707) published 1708; eight-month courtship of Lady Anne Vaughan abandoned June 1709; the Moralists and Sensus Communis published in 1709; marriage to Jane Ewer (c. 1689-1751) on 29 August 1709; couple takes up residence in Reigate.
1710-1711 Publication of Soliloquy May 1710; Miscellaneous Reflections, revised Inquiry, and preparations for Characteristicks completed by March 1711; birth of only child Anthony Ashley Cooper 9 February 1710/11; decision taken to move to Naples for reasons of health; the three volumes of Characteristicks published in March and April 1711; leaves England 2 July 1711, reaching Naples five months later; household moves into the Palazzo Mirelli at Chiaia.
1711-1713 Revision of the 1711 Characteristicks, illustrations planned and commissioned for new edition; work on proposed Second Characters; Earl dies 4 February 1712/13 at Chiaia; second edition of Characteristicks published April 1715.

1 Shaftesbury’s father studied for a time at Oxford, entering Trinity College in April 1666: J. Foster, Alumni Oxonienses (Oxford, 1891-2), I, 324, possibly before succumbing to the “disfiguring malady” (Voitle 2) which left him something of a recluse (and was perhaps the reason why Dryden alluded to the first Earl’s son as “a shapeless Lump”: Absalom and Achitophel 172) the portrait painted by Samuel Cooper (V&A: — if it does indeed show the future second Earl — is then likely to have been painted in 1665 or 1666. The Day Book entries made by Shaftesbury’s father betray a liking for chocolate and include frequent medical expenses; he made rare trips to London (e.g. in April 1685 “to kiss ye King’s hand”) and purchased the occasional book: Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662); Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (unclear which edition); Thomas Fuller, The Holy State (again edition unknown).

2 The couple sat in 1678-9 for Sir Peter Lely; cf. the two prints — Lord Ashley and Lady Ashley — in London’s National Portrait Gallery (Archive Collection).

3 See Reading Room, John Ashley.

4 A Scotsman, probably the Daniel Denoune (Denoun, de Noune) who studied medicine at Utrecht and graduated there on 27 June 1684. The dedication in his thesis (Disputatio medica inauguralis, de phthisi, etc.) includes names which suggest that Denoune hailed from East Lothian, perhaps from Pencaitland (see

5 T. Sclater Bacon (of Gray’s Inn, Middlesex), later MP for Cambridge, d. 1736. Very little is known about his acquaintance with Shaftesbury; cf. A Catalogue of the Library of T.S. Bacon (London, [1737]; auction 14 March 1736/7), which lists e.g. a 1683 life of the first Earl, A Letter concerning Enthusiasm, the 1711 Characteristicks, and Maurice Ashley’s Cyropaedia.