Watkins, John (DNB00)

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WATKINS, JOHN (fl. 1792–1831), miscellaneous writer, born in Devonshire, was educated at Bristol for the nonconformist ministry. Becoming dissatisfied, he conformed to the English church about 1786 with his friend Samuel Badcock [q. v.], and for some years kept an academy in Devonshire. His first independent publication appeared in 1792, entitled ‘An Essay towards the History of Bideford,’ Exeter, 1792, 8vo. The work is of much local interest. In the preface Watkins notes that it ‘originated in the intention of giving some small assistance to the present ingenious historian of Devonshire.’ The list of subscribers includes the names of Richard Watkins of Bristol, and William Watkins of Bideford. Chapter x. consists of the depositions in a trial for witchcraft held at Exeter on 14 Aug. 1682. The work was reprinted and published at Bideford in 1883. In 1796 appeared ‘The Peeper: a collection of Essays, Moral, Biographical, and Literary’ (London, 1796, 12mo; 2nd edit. London, 1811, 12mo), dedicated to Mrs. Hannah More. These were followed by a number of publications of a varied character, some anonymous and some under his name. The most important of them was perhaps his ‘Universal Biographical and Historical Dictionary,’ which appeared in 1800, London, 8vo. It went through several editions, the latest dated being 1827, and was translated into French, with additions, in 1803 by Jean Baptiste L'Écuy (Paris, 8vo). Watkins removed to London soon after beginning to write, probably about 1794. His latest preface is dated 30 May 1831. The date of his death is unknown. On the title-pages of his later publications his name bears the initials of the degree LL.D., but it does not appear whence he obtained the honour.

Besides the works already mentioned, Watkins was the author of: 1. ‘A Letter to Earl Stanhope, in which … the Conduct of Great Britain and her Allies is Vindicated,’ 1794, 8vo. 2. ‘A Word of Admonition to Gilbert Wakefield, occasioned by his Letter to William Wilberforce,’ 1797, 8vo. 3. ‘Scripture Biography,’ 1801, 8vo; several editions, latest 1830, 12mo. 4. ‘Characteristic Anecdotes of Men of Learning and Genius,’ London, 1808, 8vo. (cf. Blackwood's Mag. viii. 243). 5. ‘History of our Lord Jesus Christ Harmonised,’ 1810, 8vo. 6. ‘Boydell's Heads of Illustrious and Celebrated Persons, with Memoirs,’ London, 1811, fol. 7. ‘The Family Instructor,’ 1814, 3 vols. 12mo. 8. ‘The Important Results of an Elaborate Investigation into the Case of Elizabeth Fenning,’ London, 1815, 8vo. 9. ‘Memoirs of Sheridan,’ London, 1816, 4to; 3rd edit. 1818, 8vo. This was the first life of Sheridan to appear. It seems to have been put together immediately after his death. It was in two volumes, and professed to describe Sheridan's private as well as his public life. Croker censured it in an article in the Quarterly Review (lxxxiii. 561) as a work ‘neither of high pretension nor of felicitous execution.’ Its prolixity was generally condemned, but it seems to have attained a wide circulation. 10. ‘Memoirs of Queen Sophia Charlotte,’ London, 1819, 8vo. 11. ‘Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Lord Byron,’ London, 1822, 8vo; German translation, Leipzig, 1825, 8vo. 12. ‘A Biographical Memoir of … Frederick, Duke of York and Albany,’ London, 1827, 8vo. 13. ‘The Life and Times of “England's Patriot King,” William IV,’ London, 1831, 4to. He also translated from the Latin George Buchanan's ‘History of Scotland,’ with a continuation, London, 1827, 8vo, and wrote a memoir of Hugh Latimer, prefixed to his ‘Sermons,’ London, 1824, 8vo.

[Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

E. I. C.