Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sanford, John Langton

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SANFORD, JOHN LANGTON (1824–1877), historical writer, born at Upper Clapton, London, on 22 June 1824, studied at University College, London. Afterwards entering at Lincoln's Inn, he read in the chambers of Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Richard Quain [q. v.], and was called to the bar in 1855, but never practised. From 1852 to the end of 1855 he was joint editor of the ‘Inquirer,’ established as a unitarian organ in 1842. From 1861 till his death he contributed to the ‘Spectator.’ The occupation of his life was the study of English history. He published in 1858 ‘Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion’ (some of which appeared originally in the ‘Christian Reformer,’ under the signature of ‘Sigma’). ‘The Great Governing Families of England,’ which appeared in 1865, 8vo, in 2 vols., was written in conjunction with Mr. Meredith Townsend, and was originally contributed to the ‘Spectator.’ Sanford's ‘Estimates of English Kings’ (published in 1872, 8vo) was also reproduced from the ‘Spectator.’

On points of genealogy and of topographical and parliamentary history Sanford's knowledge was singularly minute and full; his power of realising the personages of history, great and small, was marked by keen sensibility and a wide range of sympathies. Among his closest friends were Walter Bagehot [q. v.] and William Caldwell Roscoe [q. v.] For many years his eyesight was failing, and early in 1875 he became totally blind. After the death of his sister Lucy he removed, in May 1876, from London to Evesham, Worcestershire. He died at Evesham on 27 July 1877, and was buried in the graveyard of Oat Street Chapel.

[Inquirer, 4 Aug. 1877; information from R. H. Hutton, esq.; personal recollection.]

A. G.