Johnson and His Circle


Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). The Hanging of Dr. Dodd. [ca. 1777]. Ink and watercolor on paper. *2003JM-28

Clergyman and author William Dodd's extravagant tastes and fashionable dress earned him both the unflattering nickname "The Macaroni Parson" and a lifetime spent in debt. Pressed by creditors, he made the disastrous decision in 1777 to forge a £4200 letter of credit from the Earl of Chesterfield, whose son he had tutored for several years. The fraud was quickly discovered, and despite prompt restitution and a jury recommendation for mercy, Dodd was sentenced to death. Johnson became closely involved with a campaign to spare Dodd's life, writing several speeches published under Dodd's name, including The Convict's Address to His Unhappy Brethren. The effort was unsuccessful, however, and Dodd was executed in June 1777. Rowlandson's drawing captures the crush of spectators gathered to witness the hanging, while Lord Chesterfield watches from the comfort of his carriage.