Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 41.djvu/8

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Nichols
Nichols
2

NICHOLS or NICHOLSON, JOHN (d. 1538), protestant martyr. [See Lambert.]

NICHOLS, JOHN (1745–1826), printer and author, was born at Islington on 2 Feb. 1745. His father, Edward Nichols, a baker, son of Bartholomew and Isabella Nichols of Piccadilly, was born on 18 Oct. 1719, and died at Islington on 29 Jan. 1779; and his mother, Anne, daughter of Thomas Wilmot of Beckingham, Gainsborough, was born in 1719, and died on 27 Dec. 1783. Besides John, only one child, Anne, survived; she married Edward Bentley, of the accountant's office of the Bank of England. Nichols was for eight years a favourite pupil of John Shield, who had a school at Islington, and it was proposed that he should enter the navy. This plan, however, fell through when his uncle, Thomas Wilmot, an officer and friend of Admiral Barrington, died in 1751; and in 1757 Nichols was apprenticed to William Bowyer the younger [q. v.], the printer. A ‘Report from the Committee appointed to enquire into the original Standard of Weights and Measures in this Kingdom’ (1758) was, Nichols says, one of the first works on which he was employed as a compositor. Bowyer was a man of education, and Nichols seems to have received a very fair classical training under his auspices. At sixteen he was writing verses at Bowyer's suggestion (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 37), and in 1763 he published two poems, which were followed in 1765 by verses in Dr. Perfect's ‘Laurel Wreath,’ and prose essays in Kelly's ‘Babbler’ and the ‘Westminster Journal,’ signed ‘The Cobbler of Alsatia’ (‘Life’ by A. Chalmers in Gent. Mag., 1826, ii. 489 seq.)

In 1765 Bowyer sent Nichols to Cambridge, to negotiate with the vice-chancellor for the management of the university press. The proposal came to nothing, because the university determined to keep the property in their own hands. Early in the following year Bowyer took Nichols into partnership, returning to his father half the apprentice fee (Lit. Anecd. iii. 286), and in 1767 they removed from Whitefriars to Red Lion Passage, Fleet Street. In 1774 they jointly edited ‘The Origin of Printing, in two Essays [by Dr. Middleton and Meerman]. With occasional Remarks and an Appendix.’

Nichols's important literary work began in 1775, when he edited an additional volume of Swift's ‘Works,’ which was followed by ‘A Supplement to Dr. Swift's Works, with Explanatory Notes,’ in two volumes, in 1776 and 1779. In 1776 he edited the ‘Original Works’ of William King, D.C.L. [q. v.], in three volumes. In these, as in several subsequent undertakings, Nichols received considerable assistance from Isaac Reed, who, like Richard Gough, Dr. Richard Farmer, Dr. Birch, Dr. Parsons, Warton, Sir John Pringle, and others, had already been attracted by the young man's antiquarian tastes. Bowyer died in 1777, and left to Nichols, who was an executor, the residue of his personal estate, after numerous bequests (ib. iii. 289). Nichols erected a monument to his ‘patron’ at Leyton (Lysons, Environs of London, iv. 169). In the same year (1778) he joined a friend, David Henry, in the management of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and from 1792 until his death he was solely responsible for that important periodical, and himself constantly wrote for it. In 1780 he published, with the assistance of Gough and Dr. Ducarel (Lit. Anecd. vi. 284, 391), ‘A Collection of Royal and Noble Wills, with Notes and a Glossary;’ a valuable ‘Select Collection of Miscellaneous Poems,’ in four volumes, followed by four more in 1782, in which he was aided by Joseph Warton and Bishops Percy and Lowth (ib. iii. 160, vi. 170); and the first numbers of the ‘Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica,’ which was completed, in eight volumes, in 1790, to be followed (1791–1800) by two supplementary volumes of ‘Miscellaneous Antiquities.’

Nichols had married, in July 1766, Anne, daughter of William Cradock. She died on 18 Feb. 1776, and in June 1778 he remarried Martha, daughter of William Green of Hinckley, Leicestershire, by whom he was father of John Bowyer Nichols [q. v.] In 1781 Bishop Percy was godfather to another of Nichols's sons, Thomas Cleiveland, who died on 2 April of the following year. Nichols was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and he became an honorary member of the Society of Antiquaries at Edinburgh in 1781, and received a similar honour from the Society of Antiquaries at Perth in 1785. In 1781–2 he was in correspondence with the Rev. William Cole on literary matters, and promised to visit Cole, in company with Steevens, in 1783 (Addit. MSS. 5831 f. 128 b, 5993 f. 71, 6401 f. 149). In 1782 he went with Gough on an antiquarian pilgrimage to Croyland and Spalding, and experienced great courtesy from the family of Maurice Johnson, founder of the Gentleman's Society at Spalding (Lit. Anecd. vi. 125). At this time, too, Nichols became an intimate friend of Dr. Johnson, whose ‘Lives of the English Poets’ were then passing through his press. Nichols often had to appeal for ‘copy,’ and Johnson frequently asked for books he required, and thanked his correspondent for information. On 20 Oct. 1784 Johnson wrote from Lich-