Johnson, Richard (d.1721) (DNB00)

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JOHNSON, RICHARD (d. 1721), grammarian, was a fellow-student at St. John's College, Cambridge, with Richard Bentley (1662–1742) [q. v.] They both graduated B.A. in 1679. Johnson took no higher degree, though in his ‘Grammatical Commentaries’ he styles himself M.A. He was head-master of the free school at Nottingham from 1707 to 1718. At one period the corporation endeavoured to eject him for incompetency, and urged through their counsel at the trial that much learning had made him mad; but Johnson won his case by producing a certificate of ability to teach, which he had obtained from the trustees under pretence of applying for another appointment. There is no doubt, however, that he was suffering from mental disease. He drowned himself in the small stream which runs through Nottingham meadows, known locally as Tinker's Leen, in October 1721, and was buried at St. Nicholas, Nottingham, on the 26th of that month.

He was an uncommonly accurate Latin scholar, and his attack on Bentley's ‘Horace,’ despite its virulent personalities, is a very scholarly production (see No. 6 below). His works are: 1. ‘A Treatise of the Genders of Latin Nouns, by way of Examination of Lilly's Grammar Rules, commonly called Propria quæ maribus. Being a Specimen of Grammatical Commentaries, intended to be published … upon the whole Grammar,’ London, 1703, 8vo. 2. ‘Grammatical Commentaries; being an Apparatus to a new National Grammar, by way of Animadversion upon the Falsities, Obscurities, Redundancies, and Defects of Lilly's System now in use; in which also are noticed many Errors of the most eminent Grammarians, both antient and modern,’ London, 1706, 8vo. 3. ‘A Defence of the Grammatical Commentaries against the Animadversions of E. Leeds (under the name of “An Old Man”),’ London, 1707, 8vo. 4. ‘Cursus Equestris Nottinghamiensis: carmen hexametrum,’ London, 1709, 4to. 5. ‘Noctes Nottinghamicæ, or Cursory Objections against the Syntax of the Common Grammar, in order to obtain a better: Design'd in the mean time for the use of Schools,’ Nottingham, 1714 and 1718, 8vo. 6. ‘Aristarchus Anti-Bentleianus: Quadraginta Sex Bentleii Errores super Q. Horatii Flacci Odarum Libro primo, spissos nonnullos, et erubescendos: item per notas universas in Latinitate fœdissimos Nonaginta ostendens,’ 2 parts, Nottingham, 1717, 8vo; described by Gilbert Wakefield as ‘replete with accuracy of erudition and sprightliness of wit.’ Bentley's biographer, Bishop Monk, admitted that ‘many of Johnson's strictures are well founded,’ though he protested against Johnson's abuse. 7. ‘Additions and Emendations to the Grammatical Commentaries. With a Reply to Mr. W. Symes,’ Nottingham [1718], 8vo.

[Bailey's Annals of Nottinghamshire, iii. 1117; Creswell's Printing in Nottinghamshire, pp. 16–19; Deering's Nottingham, p. 158; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1216; Monk's Life of Bentley, 2nd edit. i. 8, ii. 3–7; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. i. 771; Life of Gilbert Wakefield, 1792, p. 95; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

T. C.