Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Foster, John (1731-1774)

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1043789Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20 — Foster, John (1731-1774)1889Gordon Goodwin

FOSTER, JOHN (1731–1774), upper master of Eton School, born at Windsor, Berkshire, in 1731, was the son of a tradesman and alderman of that borough. At an early age he entered Eton School under the care of the Rev. Septimius Plumptre, then one of the assistant-masters. From Eton, where he exhibited remarkable attainments as a classical scholar, he proceeded in 1748 to King's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow. In 1750 he was elected to one of the Craven university scholarships. The following year he contributed to the Cambridge ‘Luctus’ on the death of Frederick, prince of Wales, an excellent copy of Latin hexameters. Two more of his college exercises were printed, as ‘Oratio habita Cantabrigiæ in Collegio Regali IV. non. Februarias die fundatoris memoriæ sacro. Accedit etiam, ab eodem scriptum, Carmen Comitiale,’ 4to, Cambridge, 1752. He took the degrees in arts, B.A. in 1753, M.A. in 1756, and was created D.D. per literas regias in 1766. In 1754 he gained one of the members' prize dissertations for middle bachelors. It was entitled ‘Enarratio et Comparatio Doctrinarum moralium Epicuri et Stoicorum Dissertatio,’ 4to, London, 1758. Shortly afterwards he returned to Eton as an assistant-master, at the personal request of Dr. Edward Barnard, then the head-master. On Barnard being elected provost, 21 Oct. 1765, he made interest for Foster to succeed him in the mastership, and carried his point. Foster was not successful in his administration of the school, ‘his government was defective, his authority insufficient.’ In March 1772 he accepted a canonry at Windsor (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, iii. 410), and in July of the following year resigned the mastership of Eton. In the hope of recruiting his health, which had been sadly shattered by his efforts to cope with the difficulties of his headship, he visited the ‘German Spa,’ but died there in the summer of 1774 (Gent. Mag. xliv. 390). His remains were afterwards removed to Windsor, and deposited near those of his father, in the parish churchyard, with a Latin inscription written by himself, which is accurately printed in Lysons's ‘Magna Britannia,’ vol. i. pt. ii. p. 472 (Berkshire). His will, the codicil of which is dated 6 June 1774, was proved at London on the following 30 Aug. (registered in P. C. C. 301, Bargrave). By his wife Mary (? Prior), who survived him, he left a daughter, Mary. Foster also published ‘An Essay on the different Nature of Accent and Quantity, with their use and application in the pronunciation of the English, Latin, and Greek languages: containing an account … of the ancient tones, and a defence of the present system of Greek accentual marks, against the objections of J. Vossius, Henninius, Sarpedonius, Dr. G[ally], and others. (Marci Musuri Cretensis ad Leonem X. Carmen … Recensuit et Latine … vertit Johannes Foster.’ Gr. and Lat.) 2 pts. 8vo, Eton, 1762. The second edition (8vo, Eton, 1763) contains ‘some additions from the papers of Dr. Taylor and Mr. Markland; with a reply to Dr. G[ally]'s second Dissertation in answer to the Essay.’ A third edition, ‘containing Dr. G[ally]'s two Dissertations against pronouncing the Greek language according to accents,’ was issued at London in 1820.

[Harwood's Alumni Eton. pp. 336–7; Gent. Mag. vol. liii. pt. ii. pp. 1005–6, vol. liv. pt. i. pp. 180–2, vol. lx. pt. ii. p. 875; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii., iii. 24–5, iv. 342–3, viii. 424, ix. 639; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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