Maxwell, William (1732-1818) (DNB00)

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MAXWELL, WILLIAM (1732–1818), friend of Dr. Johnson, born 24 Aug. 1732, was eldest son of John Maxwell of Falkland, in Donagh parish, co. Monaghan, archdeacon of Clogher 1762-83, by his first wife, Isabella, daughter of the Rev. John Leavens of Ardee, co. Louth. He was admitted a pensioner at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was elected scholar in 1750 and graduated B.A. 1752, M.A. 1755, B.D. and D.D. 1777 (Todd, Graduates, 381). His health suffered through study, and he travelled abroad with his relative, Lord Farnham, until it was re-established. About 1755 he was introduced to Johnson by George Grierson, the government printer at Dublin. For several years he was assistant preacher at the Temple Church when the Rev. Gregory Sharpe, D.D., was master; in 1775, through the favour of his relative, the Hon. Henry Maxwell, bishop of Meath, he obtained the rectory of Mount Temple, co. Westmeath. On his return to Ireland, Johnson, who had been for many years his 'social friend,' and always 'spoke of him with a very kind regard,' took an affecting leave of him. His house at Falkland was of considerable size, with a good library, the relics of which are preserved at Trough Lodge, the seat of the Ancketills. When he was required to reside more regularly on his benefice, he resigned the rectory, and about 1780 removed to Bath, allowing the house at Falkland to fall into ruins. It is, however, asserted that he was there at the time of the rebellion, and that the rebels fired into his bedroom to kill him. He died at Bennett Street, Bath, 3 Sept. 1818, and was buried in Walcot Church, where his widow erected to his memory an enormous monument, with the family escutcheon and the motto, 'Je suis pret.' His first wife was Anne, eldest daughter of William Burrell Massingberd of Ormsby, Lincolnshire, whom he married on 6 Dec. 1777, and by whom he had four children. Three of them died without issue; the youngest, Anne, married at Queen Square Chapel, Bath, on 21 Jan. 1818, Henry Francis Lyte [q. v.], and died at Berry Head, Brixham, Devonshire, 7 Jan. 1856. Maxwell's first wife died at Bath, and some time later he married in Ireland Miss Jane Ellis, who died without issue 21 May 1847, aged 82, and was buried by her husband's side in Walcot Church. He left by his will bequests for the better education of the poor at Donagh; on the old school-house at Glaslough in that parish was placed an inscription to the effect that it was built in 1821 from his last designs. Two oval portraits in pastel of the first Mrs. Maxwell and her son, both dated 1784 and signed by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and one of Dr. Maxwell, not dated or signed, are in the possession of Miss Hogg.

Maxwell was very proud of his friendship with Johnson, copying him ' in wig, general appearance, and in manner.' He furnished Boswell with considerable collectanea (in which some of the doctor's best sayings are embodied) on Johnson's life before 1770. The greater part of them were inserted in Boswell, 1st edit. i. 330-45, but some further anecdotes were given by him in the additions to the second edition. He is said to have written some political pamphlets, one on the Falkland Islands, and another addressed to Pitt on taxation as it affected Ireland.

[Gent. Mag. 1819, pt. i. p. 92; Monkland's Literature of Bath, Supplement, pp. 7-8; Shirley's Monaghan, pp. 160-2, 299; J. Silvester's Walcot Church, p. 47; Isaac Taylor's Family Pen, i. 298-300; Boswell, ed. Croker, 1831, i. 373, ed. Hill, ii. 116; T. Hutchinson's Diary i. 430; information from his great-grandson,. Mr. H. Maxwell Lyte, C.B.]

W. P. C.