Walker, John (1692?-1741) (DNB01)

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WALKER, JOHN (1692?–1741), a Cambridge scholar and coadjutor of Bentley in his proposed edition of the Græco-Latin Testament, was son of Thomas Walker of Huddersfield, and was educated, like Bentley, at Wakefield school, where he was under Edward Clarke. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a pensioner on 24 May 1710, at the age of seventeen. He was Craven scholar in 1712. He graduated B.A. in 1713, and was elected minor fellow on 28 Sept. 1716 (see E. Rud, Diary, ed. Luard, Cambridge, 1860). He took his M.A., and was elected socius major and sublector tertius in 1717.

Walker was amiable and attractive, and ready to work with others, as well as learned. The firstfruits of his studies that have come down to us are emendations on Cicero, ‘De Natura Deorum,’ printed at the end of the edition of Dr. John Davies, master of Queens' College, in 1718, and honourably mentioned in the preface. They are mostly bold or ingenious conjectures, after the manner of Bentley, and show a wide range of reading. Pearce also incorporated some notes of Walker's in his edition of the ‘De Officiis’ in 1745 (see p. xiv). While working for the New Testament he also helped Bentley with various readings of manuscripts of Suetonius and Cicero's ‘Tusculans.’ For his own part he was preparing an edition of Arnobius, and left large materials for the purpose to Dr. Richard Mead [q. v.] One valuable volume of this collection now belongs to Professor J. E. B. Mayor of Cambridge, and contains notes and conjectures well worthy of attention, as well as collations of the Paris and Antwerp manuscripts, the second of which is a copy from the first, and was then at Brussels.

In the summer or autumn of 1719 he went to Paris, as Bentley's emissary, for the purpose of collecting various readings for the proposed Græco-Latin New Testament, which had been projected by Bentley about 1716. J. J. Wetstein had been first employed; but, after Wetstein's return to Switzerland, Bentley was naturally glad to have one of his own scholars as his confidential assistant. Walker was kindly received at Paris, especially by the Benedictines, and, after some suspicion of a clash of literary interests between their project for an edition of the ‘Versio Itala’ and Bentley's undertaking, he was aided by them in his work. Thuillier, Sabatier, Mopinot, and Montfaucon were his chief friends, and the latter regarded him as a son. He remained in Paris apparently nearly a year. Bentley thus writes of him at the end of his ‘Proposals,’ published in 1720: ‘The work will be put in the press as soon as money is contributed to support the charge of the impression. . . . The overseer and corrector of the press will be the learned Mr. John Walker of Trinity College in Cambridge; who with great accurateness has collated many MSS. at Paris for the present edition. And the issue of it, whether gain or loss, is equally to fall on him and the author.’ Walker had, in fact, collated the whole New Testament in five Latin manuscripts at Paris, and part of it in nine others, besides noting the readings of four Tours manuscripts collated by Léon Chevallier, which were given him by Sabatier. These collections are contained in the volume numbered B. 17. 5, in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge (Ellis, pp. xxxv foll.; Old Lat. Bibl. Texts, i. 55, foll., where they are all identified). Next year (1721) he returned to Paris, this time to collate Greek texts. The readings of the manuscripts from the Royal, Coislin, St. Germain, and Colbert collections in Trinity College (B. 17. 42, 43) probably belong to this date or to the following years. The winter of 1721-2 was, however, spent in Brussels in the company of Charles Graham, third viscount Preston (d. 1739), grandson of James II's ambassador at Paris. Here Walker collated the manuscript of Arnobius (and Minucius Felix) already mentioned, and the Corsendonk Greek Testament (now at Vienna, Imp. Lib., cursive 3), and succeeded in identifying many of the manuscripts used by Lucas Brugensis. When the fear of the plague had abated, Walker returned to Paris, and seems to have remained there till 1723.

Bentley had communicated his undertaking to Archbishop Wake in 1716, and this naturally led to intercourse between the archbishop and Walker. The first extant evidence of this is a letter from Walker at Brussels, 24 Nov. 1721 (Old Lat. Bibl. Texts, i. 66), in answer to a kind one of Wake's, perhaps the beginning of their friendship. Wake showed him many marks of favour, and Walker collated a great number of his manuscripts. These collations are found, some in B. 17. 42, 43, and others in B. 17. 34. A selection of Walker's readings is also found in a Greek Testament in Christ Church Library, where the Wake MSS. themselves are (Wake, Arch. Gr. 35). Altogether Walker seems to have collated some seventy-eight Greek manuscripts, containing the whole or parts of the New Testament.

His course of promotion was as follows: He became dean and rector of Bocking, Essex, in the archbishop's patronage, 15 Nov. 1725. At Lady day 1726 he received his last dividend as fellow of Trinity. He became chancellor of St. David's on 17 July 1727. His marriage followed six months later, 26 Jan. 1727-8. He was made D.D. under royal commission (together with Richard Walker the vice-master) on 25 April 1728. A year later Wake appointed him archdeacon of Hereford on 3 Feb. 1728-9, and on 12 Dec. 1730 he was instituted rector of St. Mary Aldermary in the same patronage. He also became incumbent of St. Thomas the Apostle in the same year. He was also chaplain to King George II. He died on 9 Nov. 1741, at the early age of forty-eight.

Walker married Charlotte Sheffield, one of the three natural daughters of the well-known John Sheffield, duke of Normanby and Buckinghamshire (d. 1721) [q. v.], by Frances Stewart, who afterwards married Hon. Oliver Lambart (she d. 1750-1). These daughters (and their brother) took the name of Sheffield under their father's will. Mrs. Walker had a fortune of some 6,000l., and bore her husband six sons and four daughters. One of their sons, Henry, became fellow of King's College, B.A. 1757, M.A. 1760. Mrs. Walker is described as ‘a woman of violent and turbulent temper,’ but professed much respect for her husband, to whom she erected a monument in the chancel of Bocking church, with a laudatory character (Old Lat. Bibl. Texts, i. 65), which all extant evidence confirms. It asserts that his ‘uncommon learning and sweetness of temper, joined to all other Christian perfections, and accompanied with a pleasing form of body, justly rendered him the delight and ornament of mankind.’

The later course of his studies and the reasons for the collapse of his great literary project are matters of conjecture and inference. He certainly went on collating Greek manuscripts till after 1735, as the Greek Testament numbered B. 17. 44, 45 is one of J. Wetstein and G. Smith's, Amsterdam, 1735, and contains collations of manuscripts, some of them brought to Archbishop Wake in that year. Wake died in 1737, and left his manuscripts to Christ Church, Oxford, and therefore Walker's work on them was probably done before that. Bentley himself was in perpetual strife in his later years, and had a paralytic stroke in 1739. Walker's own health was delicate, and he may have had warnings of approaching death. Something of the kind seems necessary to explain the fact that Bentley, making his will on 29 May 1741 (six months before Walker's death), left his Greek manuscripts brought from Mount Athos to the college, and ‘the rest and residue of his library’ (including, apparently, Walker's collations in the volumes now at Trinity College) to his nephew Richard, and did not mention Walker. Bentley himself died six months after his younger friend. There is no trace of a quarrel between them. It seems therefore that Walker's premature death was the chief cause of the failure of all this preparation, and the operation of this simple circumstance has been strangely overlooked by Bentley's biographers. Bentley used to call Walker ‘Clarissimus Walker,’ probably to distinguish him from his two contemporaries at Trinity College, Richard the vice-master and Samuel.

Walker's collations of Latin manuscripts are decidedly better than Bentley's, although they are not as perfect as his reputation for scholarship and his neat writing would lead one to hope.

[Life of Bentley [q. v.] and Old Latin Biblical Texts, i. (St. Germain, St. Matthew), Oxf. 1883, esp. pp. v, xxiii-xxvi, 55-67; Gent. Mag. 1741, p. 609; Hennessy's Nov. Rep. Eccl. 1898, pp. cxxx, 300, 302. The contents of the volumes at Trinity College are given (not quite accurately) in A. A. Ellis's Bentleii Critica Sacra. Information has also been supplied by friends at Cambridge and elsewhere. Walker's will, which has been consulted, is at Somerset House.] John Sarum.