Mortimer, Thomas (DNB00)
|←Mortimer, Roger de (1374-1398)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39
MORTIMER, THOMAS (1730–1810), author, son of Thomas Mortimer (1706–1741), principal secretary to Sir Joseph Jekyll, master of the rolls, and grandson of John Mortimer (1656?–1736) [q. v.], was born on 9 Dec. 1730 in Carey Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields (cf. Student's Pocket Dict.) His mother died in 1744, and he was left under the guardianship of John Baker of Spitalfields. He went first to school at Harrow, under the Rev. Dr. Cox, and then to a private academy in the north, but his knowledge was chiefly due to his own efforts. In 1750 he published 'An Oration on the much lamented death of H.R.H. Frederick, Prince of Wales,' and as it was much admired he began to study elocution to qualify himself as a teacher of belles-lettres. He also learnt French and Italian in order that he might better study his favourite subject, modern history. In 1751 he translated from the French M. Gautier's 'Life and Exploits of Pyrrhus.' In November 1762 he was made English vice-consul for the Austrian Netherlands, on the recommendation of John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich [q. v.], secretary of state, and went to Ostend, where he performed his duties in a most satisfactory manner. The reversion of the consulship was promised to him by two secretaries of state, Lord Sandwich and the Marquis of Rockingham, and he was strongly recommended by Sir J. Porter and his successor, Sir W. Gordon, English ministers at Brussels, but through an intrigue of Robert Wood, under-secretary to Lord Weymouth, he was suddenly dismissed from the vice-consulship in 1768, and the post given to Mr. Irvine (The Remarkable Case of Thomas Mortimer). It was said that he had been too intimate with Wilkes, and too warm an opponent of Jesuits and Jacobites, and was dismissed because he did his duty as an Englishman, to be replaced by a Scotsman (Whisperer, No. 57, 16 March 1771). He returned to England and resumed his work in literature and private tuition (cf. Elements of Commerce, 1780).
Mortimer died on 31 March 1810 in Clarendon Square, Somers Town (Gent. Mag. 1810, i. 396). There is a print of him in the 'European Magazine,' vol. xxxv. He married twice, and had a large family. A son, George, captain in the marines, published in 1791 'Observations during a Voyage in the South Seas and elsewhere in the brig "Mercury," commanded by J. H. Cox, esq.' (cf. Biog. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816).
Mortimer was a voluminous writer, chiefly on economic subjects, and complained when near eighty, says D'Israeli in 'Calamities of Authors,' of the 'paucity of literary employment and the preference given to young adventurers.' His largest work was 'The British Plutarch' (6 vols. 8vo, 1762; 2nd ed., revised and enlarged, 1774; translated into French by Madame de Vasse, 1785-6, Paris, 12 vols. 8vo), which contains lives of eminent inhabitants of Great Britain from the time of Henry VIII to George II.
Besides some pamphlets, Mortimer's economic publications were: 1. 'Every Man his own Broker; or Guide to Exchange Alley,' Lond. 12mo, 1761; 13th ed. 1801; the materials were supplied by his own experience on the Stock Exchange, where he states that in 1756 he 'lost a genteel fortune.' 2. 'The Universal Director,' Lond. 8vo, 1763. 3. 'New History of England,' dedicated to Queen Charlotte, Lond. 3vols. fol. 1764-6. 4. 'Dictionary of Trade and Commerce,' Lond. 2 vols. fol. 1766; 'a more commodious and better arranged, but not a more valuable, work than that of Postlethwayt' (McCulloch). It embraces geography, manufactures, architecture, the land-tax, and multifarious topics not strictly within its sphere. A similar but not identical 'General Commercial Dictionary' by Mortimer appeared in 1810, 3rd ed. 1823. 5. 'The National Debt no Grievance, by a Financier,' 1768 (cf. Monthly Review, 1769, p. 41). 6. 'Elements of Commerce,' Lond. 4to, 1772; 2nd edit. 1802; translated into German by J. A. Englebrecht, Leipzig, 1783. This is a suggestive book of considerable merit, showing great knowledge of the works of previous economists. The material had been used by Mortimer in a series of lectures given in London. The author claims that from his suggestion Lord North adopted taxes on menial servants, horses, machines, post-chaises, &c., and that Lord Beauchamp's proposal for preventing arrests for debts under 6l. was derived from the same source. 7. 'Student's Pocket Dictionary,' Lond. 12mo, 1777; 2nd. edit. 1789. 8. 'Lectures on the Elements of Commerce, Politics, and Finance,' Lond. 8vo, 1801. 9. 'Nefarious Practice of Stock Jobbing,' Lond. 8vo. 10. 'A Grammar illustrating the Principles of Trade and Commerce,' Lond. 12mo, published after his death in 1810. He published revised editions of his grandfather's 'Whole Art of Husbandry' in 1761, and of Beawes's 'Lex Mercatoria' in 1783, and translated Necker's Treatise on the Finances of France,' Lond. 3 vols. 8vo, 1785.
[Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Extraordinary Case of Thomas Mortimer; European Mag. vol. xxxv.; Reuss's Register of Authors; McCulloch's Lit. of Pol. Econ. pp. 52, 53; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. i. 268, 315, 4-56; notes kindly supplied by W. A. S. Hewins, esq.]