Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Johns, William

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JOHNS, WILLIAM (1771–1845), unitarian minister and author, born in 1771 in the parish of Kilmanllwyd in Pembrokeshire, assisted his father in farm-work until he was sixteen, but acquired a fair knowledge of Latin and began the study of Greek at the village school. At the age of sixteen he placed himself as sub-tutor under Dr. Williams at Oswestry, and a year later was admitted as a student in the dissenting college at Northampton. The liberal opinions of the principal, Mr. Horsey, led Johns, who had been brought up a strict Calvinist, to adopt unitarian views. He left Northampton after the usual term of study to be minister of the presbyterian congregation at Gloucester; removed in the year following to Totnes in Devonshire, where he married; and afterwards became classical tutor in Manchester New College. In 1800 he resigned his appointment, and after spending a few months as master of a small free school at Wrexham, became minister of the presbyterian (unitarian) church at Nantwich in Cheshire, where he also opened a private school, and proved himself a very able teacher. In 1804 he removed his school to Faulkner Street, Manchester, where he conducted it with notable success for nearly thirty years. In the autumn of 1804 John Dalton (1766–1844) [q. v.], then professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Manchester New College, came to live with his family, and remained with them till 1830. Johns was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and for many years was joint secretary with Dalton, and later on was vice-president of the society. The numerous papers he read before the society show wide and accurate knowledge both of literary and scientific subjects. While at Manchester he also preached to the small congregation at Partington in Cheshire, and afterwards accepted the ministry of the congregation of Cross Street (now called Sale), another Cheshire village, five miles from Manchester, which he held till shortly before his death. He died at Eaglesfield House, Higher Broughton, on 27 Nov. 1845. He wrote: 1. ‘Etymological Exercises on the Latin Grammar,’ 1805, 18mo. 2. ‘A Tract addressed to the Spirit of the Age,’ 1812. 3. ‘Remarks on the Use and Origin of Figurative Language’ (from the ‘Memoirs’ of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Soc.), 1812. 4. ‘Four Dialogues … relating chiefly to Mystery and the Trinity, Original Sin,’ &c., 1813, published under the anagrammatic name of ‘William Hison.’ 5. ‘The Importance of the Scriptures,’ &c., 1813, 8vo. 6. ‘Practical Botany,’ 1826, 8vo. 7. ‘The Spirit of the Serampore System,’ 1828, 8vo. 8. ‘An Essay on the Origin of Greek Verbs,’ 1833, 12mo. 9. ‘An Essay on the Interpretation of the Proem to John's Gospel,’ 1836, 8vo. He edited in conjunction with J. R. Beard the ‘Christian Teacher’ from 1832 to 1843, and contributed many papers to the ‘Monthly Repository’ and its successor, the ‘Christian Reformer.’

[Christian Reformer, 1846; Brit. Mus. and Manchester Free Library Catalogues.]

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