1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amhurst, Nicholas

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AMHURST, NICHOLAS (1697-1742), English poet and political writer, was born at Marden, Kent, on the 16th of October 1697. He was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, and received an exhibition (1716) to St John's College, Oxford. In 1719 he was expelled from the university, ostensibly for his irregularities of conduct, but in reality, according to his own account, because of his whig principles, which were sufficiently evident in a congratulatory epistle to Addison, in Protestant Popery; or the Convocation (1718), an attack on the opponents of Bishop Hoadly, and in The Protestant Session . . . by a member of the Constitution Club at Oxford (1719), addressed to James, first Earl Stanhope, and printed anonymously, but doubtless by Amhurst. He had satirized Oxford morals in Strephon's Revenge; a Satire on the Oxford Toasts (1718), and he attacked from time to time the administration of the university and its principal members. An old Oxford custom on public occasions permitted some person to deliver from the rostrum a humorous, satirical speech, full of university scandal. This orator was known as Terrae filius. In 1721 Amhurst produced a series of bi-weekly satirical papers under this name, which ran for seven months and incidentally provides much curious information. These publications were reprinted in 1726 in two volumes as Terrae Filius; or the secret history of the University of Oxford; in several essays .... He collected his poems in 1720, and wrote another university satire, Oculus Britanniae, in 1724. On leaving Oxford for London he became a prominent pamphleteer on the opposition side. On the 5th of December 1726 he issued the first number of the Craftsman, a weekly periodical, which he conducted under the pseudonym of Caleb D'Anvers. The paper contributed largely to the final overthrow of Sir Robert Walpole's government, and reached a circulation of 10,000 copies. For this success Amhurst's editorship was not perhaps chiefly responsible. It was the organ of Lord Bolingbroke and William Pulteney, the latter of whom was a frequent and caustic contributor. In 1737 an imaginary letter from Colley Cibber was inserted, in which he was made to suggest that many plays by Shakespeare and the older dramatists contained passages which might be regarded as seditious. He therefore desired to be appointed censor of all plays brought on the stage. This was regarded as a “suspected” libel, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of the printer. Amhurst surrendered himself instead, and suffered a short imprisonment. On the overthrow of the government in 1742 the opposition leaders did nothing for the useful editor of the Craftsman, and this neglect is said to have hastened Amhurst's death, which took place at Twickenham on the 27th of April 1742.