Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Townsend, William Charles

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TOWNSEND, WILLIAM CHARLES (1803–1850), historical and legal writer, born in 1803, was the second son of William Townsend of Walton, Lancashire. He matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, on 4 July 1820, graduating B.A. in 1824 and M.A. in 1827, and on 25 Nov. 1828 he was called to the bar by the society of Lincoln's Inn. He first attached himself to the northern circuit, and afterwards practised at the Cheshire and Manchester assizes. Later he obtained a large practice on the North Wales circuit. In 1833 he was elected recorder of Macclesfield. In March 1850 he was appointed a queen's counsel, and in the same year became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. He survived these preferments only a few weeks, dying without issue on 8 May at Burntwood Lodge, Wandsworth Common, the house of his elder brother, Richard Lateward Townsend, vicar of All Saints', Wandsworth, Surrey. He was buried in the vaults of Lincoln's Inn. In 1834 he married Frances, second daughter of Richard Wood of Macclesfield, who survived him.

As an author Townsend was unequal. His works embody great historical and legal knowledge, but their value is impaired by a want of proportion. While the ordinary reader is fatigued by detail, the student often finds necessary information lacking. He was the author of: 1. ‘The Pæan of Orford, a poem,’ London, 1826, 8vo. 2. ‘The History and Memoirs of the House of Commons,’ London, 1843–4. 3. ‘The Lives of Twelve Eminent Judges of the Last and of the Present Century,’ London, 1846, 8vo. 4. ‘Modern State Trials revised and illustrated,’ London, 1850, 8vo. He also contributed poems to Fisher's ‘Imperial Magazine’ as early as 1820.

[Gent. Mag. 1850, ii. 218; Blackwood's Mag. 1850, ii. 373; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Chester Courant, 15 May 1850.]

E. I. C.