Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Postlethwayt, John

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POSTLETHWAYT, JOHN (1650–1713), chief master of St. Paul's School, born 8 Oct. 1650, was fourth son of Matthew Postlethwayt, and Margaret (Hunton). His father's family had long been settled at Bankside in Millom, Cumberland. After attending the neighbouring school of Whicham (Carlisle, Endowed Grammar Schools, i. 199), he went to Merton College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. 1674, M.A. 1678. When Dr. Tenison, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, established the school known by his name in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, of which he became rector in 1680, Postlethwayt was appointed master of it. In this office he showed such ability that in 1697, on the resignation of Dr. Thomas Gale [q. v.], he was chosen high master of St. Paul's. The strong recommendation given him by Tenison is printed in Stow, ed. Strype, i. 168. Evelyn, Bentley, and Wake, the future archbishop, also gave him testimonials.

He proved an eminent schoolmaster, and St. Paul's School prospered under his rule. When his strength failed, he taught in his sick-chamber. He died unmarried, 26 Sept. 1713, and was buried in St. Augustine's, Old Change, on the 30th. By his will, dated 5 Sept. 1713, he bequeathed the advowson of Denton rectory, Norfolk, which he had purchased of the Duke of Norfolk, to Merton College.

A voluminous mass of Postlethwayt's correspondence is in the possession of a collateral descendant, Mr. Albert Hartshorne, F.S.A., of Bradbourne Hall, Derbyshire. It shows, among other matters of interest, that the establishment of the lord almoner's professorship of Arabic at Oxford was due to Postlethwayt. Through Postlethwayt's influence with William III, Arabic studentships, as they were at first called, were established in Oxford in 1699. The first holders of these offices under the crown were two of Postlethwayt's pupils, John Wallis and Benjamin Marshall.

Matthew Postlethwayt (1679–1745), a nephew of the preceding, son of George and Elizabeth Postlethwayt, graduated B.A. 1702–3, M.A. 1706, from St. John's College, Cambridge. In 1703 he was ordained to the cure of Whicham. In 1707–8 he became vicar of Shottesham in Norfolk; and in 1714 rector of Denton, of which his uncle, John Postlethwayt, was patron, and where, in 1718, he rebuilt the rectory-house. In 1742 he was made archdeacon of Norwich and rector of Redenhall, Norfolk. He died in 1745. His portrait, by Cufaude, shows him to have been a tall, spare, dark-complexioned man. He was twice married, first, to Elizabeth Rogerson, and, secondly, to Matilda, sister of Sir Thomas Gooch, afterwards bishop of Norwich. He published two sermons. Some of his correspondence is in vol. 6209 of the Additional and Egerton MSS. in the British Museum, and much more in the possession of Mr. Hartshorne.

[Communication by Mr. Hartshorne in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 2 Feb. 1888; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. vi. 808–11; Gardiner's Admission Registers of St. Paul's School, p. 65; Bishop Patrick's Autob. p. 128; Funeral Sermon by Dr. John Hancock, 1713, entitled The Christian Schoolmaster, reprinted in Wilford's Memorials, 1741, p. 511.]

J. H. L.