Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adolphus, John Leycester

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579143Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01 — Adolphus, John Leycester1885Francis Espinasse

ADOLPHUS, JOHN LEYCESTER (1795–1862), barrister-at-law and author, was the son of John Adolphus [q. v.] He received his first education at Merchant Taylors', and, as head monitor, was elected, in 1811, a scholar of St. John's College, Oxford. In 1814 he gained the Newdigate English verse prize, of which the subject was ‘Niobe,’ in 1816 took a second class in classics, and in 1818 was awarded the chancellor's prize for an English essay. In 1821 appeared anonymously the work which afterwards made his reputation, ‘Letters to Richard Heber, Esq., containing critical remarks on the series of novels beginning with “Waverley,” and an attempt to ascertain their author.’ The volume displayed great acumen and remarkable delicacy. The demonstration that Sir Walter Scott was the author of the Waverley Novels rested chiefly on the coincidences of style, treatment, and sentiment in Scott's acknowledged poetry and prose, and in his then unacknowledged fictions; but collateral evidences of various kinds, accumulated with industry and detailed with much ingenuity, were amply adduced. Scott was highly pleased with the work. Writing to his friend Richard Heber, then member for the university of Oxford, to whom Adolphus had addressed his ‘Letters,’ he expressed his belief that they were the handiwork of his correspondent's brother, Reginald, afterwards bishop of Calcutta, and he spoke most favourably of the volume in the Introduction to the ‘Fortunes of Nigel.’ On learning who was the author, Scott gave him an invitation to Abbotsford, and Adolphus paid him several visits there between 1823 and 1831, of which he contributed interesting accounts to Lockhart's ‘Life of Scott.’

In 1822 Adolphus was called to the bar of the Inner Temple. He joined the Northern circuit, and received the local rank of attorney-general of the then county palatine of Durham. In conjunction successively with R. V. Barnewall and T. F. Ellis, he produced reports of the cases tried in the King's and Queen's Bench from 1834 to 1852, when he was made by Lord St. Leonards judge of the Marylebone County Court. He was a bencher of the Inner Temple, and soon before his death, which occurred on 24 Dec. 1862, he had been appointed steward or legal adviser of his old Oxford college, St. John's. Adolphus was for years an active member of the General Literature Committee of the Christian Knowledge Society. He was the author of ‘Letters from Spain in 1856 and 1857,’ published in 1858, and of many metrical jeux d'esprit. One of these, ‘The Circuiteers, an Eclogue,’ parodying the forensic style of two eccentric barristers on the northern circuit, Macaulay is said to have pronounced to be ‘the best imitation he ever read’ (Notes and Queries, 3rd series, v. 6). Adolphus was engaged in completing his father's ‘History of England under George III’ at the time of his death.

[The late Mr. John Adolphus, by D. C. L., Times 30 Dec. 1862; Memoir in Gentleman's Magazine for February 1863; Mrs. Henderson's Recollections of John Adolphus.]

F. E.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.3
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
142 i 4-3 f.e. Adolphus, John L.: for received . . . . attorney-general read became solicitor-general
2 f.e. after Durham insert 1855