Garnett, John (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21
Garnett, John

by Richard Garnett
The ODNB pushes Garnett's birth a year or two earlier, and corrects the name of Philip Skelton's biographer; other sources dispute that John Garnett, Dean of Exeter was the Bishop's son.

GARNETT, JOHN (1709–1782), bishop of Clogher, was born at Lambeth in 1709. His father, John Garnett, was rector of Sigglesthorne, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. His grandfather had been vicar of Kilham, and his great-grandfather a merchant in Newcastle. He graduated at Cambridge B.A. in 1728, and M.A. in 1732; was fellow of Sidney Sussex College, and Lady Margaret preacher to the university. In 1751 he went to Ireland as chaplain to the Duke of Dorset, lord-lieutenant, and in 1752 became bishop of Ferns, whence he was translated to Clogher in 1758. A very favourable account of his conduct in that see is given by Lynam, the biographer of Philip Skelton [q. v.], who calls him `a prelate of great humility, and a friend to literature and religion. Though he had but one eye he could discover men of merit.' Garnett's patronage of Skelton no doubt propitiated Skelton's biographer; but it is nevertheless evident that it would require an exceptional bishop to discern the claims of so exceptional a genius, a kind of Patrick Bronte plus great learning and first-rate abilities, who, says Lynam, `would have continued in a wild part of the country all his days had not Providence placed Dr. Garnett in the see of Clogher, who was remarkable for promoting men distinguished for literary qualifications.' Elsewhere Lynam calls him 'a pious, humble, good-natured man, a generous encourager of Literature, kind to his domestics, and justly esteemed by all those who had an opportunity of knowing his virtues.' Campbell, in his `Philosophical Tour,' confirms this account. The only work of Garnett, besides some occasional sermons, is his `Dissertation on the Book of Job,' 1749 (second edition 1752), a work now perhaps best remembered from Lord Morton's remark on seeing it at the Duke of Newcastle's, to whom it was dedicated, that it was `a very proper book for the ante-chamber of a prime minister.' In fact it possesses other merits than the inculcation of patience; the author's theory, by which the book of Job is referred to the period of the captivity, and the patriarch regarded as the type of the oppressed nation of Israel, being remarkably bold and original for a divine of the eighteenth century. The execution is unfortunately in striking contrast, being prolix to a degree which would have taxed all Job's patience, and surpasses ours. Garnett died in Dublin 1 March 1782. His son, John Garnett, was appointed dean of Exeter in February 1810, and died 11 March 1813, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.

[Ross's Celebrities of the Yorkshire Wolds; Lynam's Memoir of Philip Skelton preflixed to his Works; Campbell's Philosophical Tour; Gent. Mag. 1782 and 1813; Grad. Cantabr.; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hib.; Baker's St. John's Coll. pp. 706-8.]

R. G.