Sanders, Robert (DNB00)

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SANDERS, ROBERT (1727–1783), compiler, the son of Thomas Sanders, who occupied a humble station in life, was born at Breadalbane in 1727. He was apprenticed to a comb-maker, but, having an ardent passion for reading and a ‘prodigious memory,’ he acquired, without any master, a fair knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He appears to have served as usher in various schools in the north of England previously to coming, about 1760, to London, where ‘he followed the profession of a hackney writer.’ In 1764 he compiled ‘The Newgate Calendar, or Malefactor's Bloody Register,’ which came out in numbers, and was republished in five volumes. In 1769 he was employed by George William, first baron Lyttelton [q. v.], to correct for the press the third edition of his ‘History of the Life of Henry II;’ a nineteen-page list of errata was appended. In 1771, partly from his own survey, but chiefly from Ray, De Foe, Pennant, and similar sources, Sanders compiled a serviceable itinerary, which was published in weekly numbers under the title of ‘The Complete English Traveller, or a New Survey and Description of England and Wales, containing a full account of what is curious and entertaining in the several counties, the isles of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey … and a description of Scotland’ (reissued London, 1771, fol., under the pseudonym of Nathaniel Spencer). To the topographical descriptions of each county are added brief memoirs of eminent natives. Sanders's knowledge of Hebrew proved useful in his next work, an edition of the Bible, with learned annotations, which first appeared in numbers, but was reissued as ‘The Christian's Divine Library, illustrated with Notes,’ in two volumes folio, 1774. The work appeared as by Henry Southwell, LL.D., rector of Asterby, Lincolnshire, but this divine merely lent his name for a fee of a hundred guineas. Sanders was paid twenty-five shillings a sheet. In the same year he issued anonymously ‘The Lucubrations of Gaffer Graybeard, containing many curious particulars relating to the Manners of the People in England during the Present Age; including the Present State of Religion particularly among the Protestant Dissenters,’ 1774, 4 vols. 12mo. This was a satire upon the leading dissenting divines of the metropolis, Dr. Gill being portrayed as Dr. Half-pint, and Dr. Gibbons and others in equally transparent nicknames. Obscure as Sanders was his gibes seem to have been resented. A manuscript note in the British Museum copy of the satire explains that Sanders was once a student at an independent academy (in Hackney), from which he was ignominiously expelled; but this explanation does not seem to accord with the ascertained facts of Sanders's career. Towards the end of his life he projected a general chronology of all nations, and had already printed off some sheets of the work under the patronage of Lord Hawke, when he died of a pulmonary disorder on 24 March 1783. Sanders was a self-created LL.D.; his headquarters in London were the New England, St. Paul's, and New Slaughter's coffee-houses. His sharp and querulous temper kept him in a state of warfare with booksellers and patrons. In a begging letter which has been preserved, dated 1768, he makes allusion to a wife and five young children.

[Gent. Mag. 1783, i. 311, 400, 482; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes; Cushing's Pseudonyms, p. 542; Timperley's Hist. of Printing, 1842, p. 729; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Allibone's Dict. of English Literature; Granger's New Wonderful Museum; Smeeton's Biographia Curiosa, 1822; James Lackington's Memoirs, 1760–90.]

T. S.