Anthony Collins 1676-1729
Anthony COLLINS 1676-1729
Born at Isleworth, Middlesex, son of Henry Collins, lawyer. Matriculated at King's College, Cambridge 1693, but did not graduate; he was admitted at the Middle Temple in 1694 but did not pursue a legal career. His family wealth, combined with that acquired through his marriage to Martha, daughter of the banker Sir Francis Child, gave him independent means.
Collins was close to John Locke, and to other noteworthy contemporary philosophers like Matthew Tindal and John Tindal, and he became known as a prominent advocate of freethinking. He published numerous works critical of traditional religious positions, including An Essay concerning the use of reason (1707) and A Discourse of free-thinking (1713). He stirred up much controversy, and A Discourse was publicly burnt. Around 1716 he moved from London to Great Baddow, Essex where he served as a JP and county treasurer.
Collins assembled a significant library, and claimed, no doubt justly, that his collection of writings by Anglican theologians could rival anyone's. He also owned extensive and unusual manuscript collections of Biblical criticism. In his will, he left all his library to his widow Elizabeth (his second wife), but his manuscripts and papers to his friend Pierre Des Maizeaux. Des Maizeaux sold these, soon afterwards, to Elizabeth Collins. She auctioned the printed books, which were sold in London in two sales beginning 18 January and 9 March 1731, but destroyed or otherwise suppressed the manuscripts. The books ran to over 15,000 volumes, in over 7000 lots.
- Will of Anthony Collins, The National Archives PROB 11/634/269.
- Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
- Bibliotheca Antonii Collins, [London, 1731], ESTC t53910, t53911.
- Dybikowski, J. "Collins, Anthony (1676–1729), philosopher and freethinker." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.