Potter, John (fl.1754-1804) (DNB00)

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POTTER, JOHN (fl. 1754–1804), dramatic and miscellaneous writer, born in London about 1734, was said to belong to the same family as John Potter (1674?–1747) [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury. His father, possibly the John Potter, a native of Kent, who entered Leyden University in 1714, seems to have been vicar of Cloford, Somerset, and to have published ‘The Authority of the Old and New Testament considered: a reply to the deists’ (1742); ‘A System of Mathematics’ (1753); and ‘A System of Practical Mathematics, with a plain Account of the Gregorian or New Style’ (1757). Potter received a good classical education, studied mathematics ‘principally with his father,’ and made some progress in music. In 1754 he published a volume of poems. About two years later he settled in the west of England, and in 1756 established, at Exeter, a weekly paper, called ‘The Devonshire Inspector.’ In 1762 he returned to London, and ‘for a time read the music lecture at Gresham College.’ Extracts were published the same year as ‘Observations on the present State of Music and Musicians, with general rules for studying Music; to which is added a Scheme for erecting and supporting a Musical Academy in this Kingdom.’ In the same year he published the ‘Hobby Horse,’ a satire in Hudibrastic verse, and in 1765 the ‘Choice of Apollo,’ a serenata, with music by W. Yates, which was performed at the Haymarket. Baker doubtfully assigns to him two pieces produced at Drury Lane in 1764, ‘The Rites of Hecate’ (said by Victor to be by Mr. Love) and ‘Hymen’ (also attributed by Baker to one Allen). Becoming acquainted with Garrick, he wrote ‘several good prologues and epilogues,’ and through Garrick was introduced to Tyers, the proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens. For the entertainments at Vauxhall Potter wrote ‘several hundreds of songs, ballads, cantatas, &c.’ To the ‘Public Ledger’ he contributed theatrical criticism, and in one of his contributions, ‘The Rosciad, or a Theatrical Register,’ attacked Garrick. In November 1766 he charged Garrick with having slandered him to Tyers, and threatened to publish a statement on the subject. Garrick denied the imputation, but reproached him with the authorship of the ‘Rosciad’ (Garrick, Corresp. 1831, i. 247–8). Potter's dramatic criticisms were collected in the ‘Theatrical Review,’ ostensibly written by ‘a society of gentlemen independent of managerial influence.’ Other works which Potter issued during this period of his career were: ‘The Words of the Wise,’ 1768, 12mo, ‘consisting of moral subjects digested into chapters in the manner of his “Economy of Human Life;”’ a poor edition of Gayton's ‘Festivous Notes on Don Quixote,’ 1768; ‘Music in Mourning, or Fiddlestick in the Suds, a burlesque satire on a certain Mus. Doc.,’ 1780. He also essayed a series of somewhat freely conceived novels: ‘History and Adventures of Arthur O'Bradley,’ 2 vols. 1769; ‘The Curate of Coventry,’ 2 vols. 1771; ‘The Virtuous Villagers,’ 2 vols. 1784; ‘The Favourites of Felicity,’ 3 vols. 1785; and ‘Frederic, or the Libertine,’ 2 vols. 1790.

In 1777 Potter quarrelled with Tyers's successors at Vauxhall, and resigned his position there. Soon afterwards he went abroad, and ‘communicated what intelligence he could procure for the service of government.’ In 1784 he seems to have graduated M.D. at Edinburgh, and was admitted in London a licentiate of the College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1785. He was then described as a native of Oxfordshire (Munk, Coll. of Phys. ii. 358). He practised medicine at Enniscorthy, but left Ireland during the rebellion of 1798. In 1803, when living at 47 Albemarle Street, London, he published ‘Thoughts respecting the Origin of Treasonable Conspiracies,’ &c. Thenceforth he supported himself by literature, and produced ‘Olivia, or the Nymph of the Valley,’ a two-volume novel, London, 1813.

Reuss also assigns to Potter ‘A Journal of a Tour through parts of Germany, Holland, and France,’ and a ‘Treatise on Pulmonary Inflammation’ (both undated), and says he published ‘The Repository,’ ‘The Historical Register,’ and ‘Polyhymnia.’ Baker further says that he corrected and added to Salmon's ‘General Gazetteer’ and Ogilvy's ‘Book of Roads,’ and also indexed Dryden's ‘Virgil’ and other works.

[The accounts of Potter are contradictory and confusing. See Baker's Biographia Dramatica, ed. Reed and Jones, i. 577–9, ii. 100, 316; Literary Memoirs of Living Authors, 1798, vol. ii.; Reuss's Register of Living Authors, 1804, vols. i. ii.; Musik. Conversations-Lexikon, viii. 153; Watt's Bibl. Britannica; Brit. Mus. Cat.; authorities cited.]

G. Le G. N.