Semple, James George (DNB00)

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SEMPLE alias SEMPLE-LISLE, JAMES GEORGE (fl. 1799), adventurer, who also passed under the names Maxwell, Harrod, and Grant, was born at Irvine in 1759, and was the son of James Semple, formerly an exciseman, who eventually laid claim to the extinct title of Viscount Lisle. In 1776 he was serving in America, where he was taken prisoner, but was released in 1777, and returned to England. He then became acquainted with Mrs. Eliza Gooch the novelist. Marrying a goddaughter of the notorious Duchess of Kingston [see Chudleigh, Elizabeth], he accompanied the latter to the continent. There he claims to have accompanied Frederick the Great during his bloodless campaign of 1778, to have been introduced to the Empress Catharine of Russia, to have accompanied Prince Potemkin to the Crimea, and to have designed a uniform for the Russian army. He also visited Copenhagen. Returning to England in 1784, he was arrested for obtaining goods by false pretences, and on 2 Sept. 1786 was sentenced to seven years' transportation. Released on condition of quitting England, he repaired to Paris, where he represents himself as serving on General Berruyer's staff, and as witnessing in that capacity the execution of Louis XVI. Returning to England in time to avoid arrest, he was again, on 18 Feb. 1795, sentenced to transportation for defrauding tradesmen. Disappointed in his hopes of pardon, he stabbed himself in Newgate in 1796, when about to be shipped for Botany Bay, and tried to starve himself to death. He recovered, however, and in 1798 was despatched in the Lady Jane Shore transport, bound for Australia. During the voyage a mutiny broke out, Semple's warning of the plot having been disregarded by the captain, Wilcox. Semple, with several others, was allowed to put off in a boat, landed in South America, and, after many adventures, reached Tangier, where he surrendered, and was sent back to England. He was committed to Tothill Fields prison, and at the time of publishing his autobiography in 1799 was still confined there. Nothing further is known of him. A portrait engraved by Barlow is mentioned by Bromley.

[Life, 1799; Mem. of the Northern Impostor, 1786; Life of Mrs. E. S. Gooch, 1792; Ann. Register, 1796, App. p. 46, and 1798, App. p. 60; Gent. Mag. 1796.]

J. G. A.