Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Travis, George

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TRAVIS, GEORGE (1741–1797), archdeacon of Chester, only son of John Travis of Heyside, near Shaw, Lancashire, by Hannah his wife, was born in 1741, and educated by his uncle, the Rev. Benjamin Travis, incumbent of Royton, Lancashire, and at the Manchester grammar school, which he entered in January 1756. He matriculated from St. John's College, Cambridge, as a sizar in 1761, and graduated B.A. in 1765 and M.A. in 1768. He was fifth senior optime and chancellor's senior medallist in 1765. He was ordained in that year, was appointed vicar of Eastham, Cheshire, in 1766, and rector of Handley in the same county in 1787, and he held both benefices till his death. In 1783 he was made a prebendary of Chester Cathedral, and in 1786 archdeacon of Chester. He is described as a ‘gentleman and scholar,’ and is said to have been ‘familiarly acquainted with the law of tithes.’ He came into prominence in 1784 by the publication of his ‘Letters to Edward Gibbon,’ in defence of the genuineness of the disputed verse in St. John's First Epistle, v. 7, which speaks of the three heavenly witnesses. The first edition was printed at Chester, the second in London in 1785, and the third and enlarged edition in 1794. He is remembered chiefly by having called forth Porson as an antagonist. The great critic's famous ‘Letters to Archdeacon Travis in Answer to Defence of the Three Heavenly Witnesses’ appeared in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ in 1788–9, and were republished in 1790. An additional letter is given by Kidd in his edition of Porson's ‘Tracts, &c.’ (1815). Gibbon himself said ‘the brutal insolence of Mr. Travis's challenge can only be excused by the absence of learning, judgment, and humanity.’ Porson's answer to the ‘wretched Travis’ is justly described by Gibbon as ‘the most acute and accurate piece of criticism which has appeared since the days of Bentley.’ Travis was also attacked by Herbert Marsh in his ‘Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis,’ 1795 (cf. Baker, St. John's College, ed. Mayor, 1869, ii. 757).

Travis married, in 1766, Ann, daughter of James Stringfellow of Whitfield, Derbyshire, and died without issue on 24 Feb. 1797 at Hampstead. A monument, with a profile portrait, was erected to him in Chester Cathedral. Two miniature portraits of Travis were in the possession of the late Rev. Thomas Corser of Stand in 1866.

[Manchester School Register (Chetham Soc.), i. 67; Gent. Mag. 1797, i. 351, 433; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ix. 79; Gibbon's Autobiographies, ed. Murray, 1896, p. 322; Watson's Life of Porson, 1861, p. 57; Ormerod's Cheshire, 2nd edit. i. 292; Wirral Notes and Queries, 1892, i. (with engraving of monument at Chester); Kilvert's Memoirs of Bishop Hurd, 1860, pp. 153, 318.]

C. W. S.