Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 35.djvu/394

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Major
Major
388

cognomento Major,' and on this Buchanan founded his famous epigram: —

 Cum scatent nugis solo cognomine Major,
  Nec sit in immenso pagina sana libro,
 Non mirum titulis quod se veracibus ornat:
  Nec semper mendax fingere Creta solet.

This somewhat insolent sarcasm was written when Buchanan was about twenty-one, and full of the new spirit of humanism, and was perhaps aimed rather at the system than the man. Major was noted for his independence and veracity, and indeed the only stain on his moral character was his approbation of persecution, but this was common to all parties at the time.

Major's 'History,' by which he is now best known, was printed at Paris in 1521, and was republished in 1740 by Freebairn in Edinburgh. It has recently been translated into English for the first time under the auspices of the Scottish History Society. This edition contains an estimate of Major's character and writings by the translator, Mr. Archibald Constable, a life of the author by Sheriff Mackay, and a complete bibliography of Major and his disciples, with a collection of Major's prefaces to his works by Mr. T. G. Law. All his literary work was in Latin, and was originally published in Paris or Lyons.

[Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 113; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 93; Life, by Sheriff Mackay, prefixed to Major's History, Edinburgh, 1892; P. Hume Brown's Life of George Buchanan; Scottish Review, July 1892, art. v., 'John Major,' by T. G. Law; Hist. of Early Scottish Literature, by Dr. Ross; Mackenzie's Scottish Writers, ii. 309; Allibone's Dict. of English Literature.]

G. W. S.


MAJOR, JOHN (1782–1849), bookseller and publisher, born in 1782, was son of Samuel Major of Duke Street, West Smithfield. He commenced business in a shop situate in the gateway of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Thence he removed successively to Skinner Street, Fleet Street, and Great Russell Street, where his advice was much sought on account of his extensive knowledge of bibliography. When Dibdin, in November 1815, threatened to burn all the remaining copies (about 110) of the fourth volume of the ‘Bibliotheca Spenceriana,’ for which he was unable to find purchasers, Major took them over on liberal terms (Gent. Mag. vol. lxxxv. pt. ii. pp. 391, 513). He was afterwards a warm supporter of Dibdin's publications. He subscribed for no fewer than fifty copies of Dibdin's edition of ‘Thomas à Kempis’ (1828), and was the publisher of Dibdin's ‘Reminiscences’ (1836). But he suffered his affairs to become so entangled in Dibdin's speculations, that his failure followed. After struggling on for a few years longer, first at 29 St. Martin's Court, Leicester Square (1838), and latterly at 6 Museum Street, Bloomsbury (1839), Major abandoned business altogether, and on the recommendation of the Right Hon. Thomas Grenville obtained an asylum in the Charterhouse, where he died on 9 Jan. 1849. He left a son, John Stenson Major, a composer and teacher of music.

Major is well known by his beautiful edition of Walton and Cotton's ‘Complete Angler,’ with introduction and illustrative notes. It was first published in 1823; other editions succeeded respectively in 1824 (with 86 plates and woodcuts), 1835 (reprinted in 1839), and 1844 (re-edited, with new set of plates, and reprinted in 1847). The last and choicest edition was prepared by him while in the Charterhouse. He also published Walton's ‘Lives’ (1825), Walpole's ‘Anecdotes of Painting,’ with additions by the Rev. James Dallaway, 5 vols. (1826); Bunyan's ‘Pilgrim's Progress,’ with life by Southey (1830); ‘Hogarth moralized,’ with explanations by Dr. Trusler (1831 and 1841); Defoe's ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ and other finely printed and illustrated books.

Between 1825 and 1836 Major was a frequent contributor of rhymed squibs on the politics of the day to ‘John Bull.’ In 1837 he published ‘A Poetical Description of Bartholomew Fair, by One under a Hood;’ in 1843 a rhymed version of Dean Swift's ‘Advice to Servants,’ with twelve woodcuts by Kenny Meadows. Another specimen of his verse, entitled ‘Rational Madness, a Song for the Lovers of Curious and Rare Books,’ adapted to the tune of ‘Liberty Hall,’ was privately printed. In conjunction with his son he issued a little work called ‘The Pastoral Week,’ which is described as a ‘production of the genuine Waltonian school, both music and verse.’

[Gent. Mag. 1849, pt. i. pp. 322–3; Dibdin's Library Companion, 1825, p. 526; Dibdin's Reminiscences; Blakey's Literature of Angling, 1856, pp. 331–3.]

G. G.


MAJOR, JOHN HENNIKER, second Lord Henniker (1752–1831). [See Henniker-Major.]


MAJOR, JOSHUA (1787–1866), landscape-gardener, born in 1787, carried on his business at Knostrop, near Leeds, and long held a prominent position in his profession. He assisted in the formation of the first Sunday school in Leeds, of which he was