Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weston, Stephen (1747-1830)

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WESTON, STEPHEN (1747–1830), antiquary and man of letters, born at Exeter in 1747, was the eldest son of Stephen Weston (d. 19 Jan. 1750), registrar of Exeter diocese from 15 Aug. 1735 until his death, who married Elizabeth Oxenham of South Tawton, Devonshire. Stephen Weston (1665–1742) [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, was his grandfather. It appears from the cathedral register that he was baptised in private on 8 June 1747 and received into the church on 10 July. He was educated at Blundell's school, Tiverton, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 7 June 1764, and abode as sojourner from 4 July 1764 to 7 July 1768. An interesting letter on his life at Exeter College is printed by the historical manuscripts commission (10th Rep. pt. i. App. p. 406). His degrees were B.A. on 29 Jan. 1768, M.A. on 14 Nov. 1770, B.D. on 2 May 1782, and he was a Devonshire fellow of his college from 1768 to 1784. About 1771 he accompanied Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde of Devonshire as tutor in a protracted tour on the continent, and never lost his love of travel. To Paris he was devoted. He witnessed the events of the revolution in 1791 and 1792, but fled from the French capital about the middle of August in the latter year as from a city in which you might be ‘killed by mistake or for six livres.’ After the treaty of Amiens in 1802 he hastened to visit Paris again, and during the summer of 1829, when over eighty, he was seen almost daily at its theatres and other places of amusement.

On the nomination of Lord Lisburne, a friend in early life, Weston was admitted on 29 March 1777 to the rectory of Mamhead, Devonshire, on the hill overlooking the river Exe, and during his incumbency he rebuilt the parsonage-house. He was instituted on 17 Jan. 1784 to the rectory of Little Hempston, near Totnes in the same county, where he purchased and placed in the north chancel window of the church some curious stained glass which had been in Marldon church (Worthy, Devon Parishes, ii. 77–81). He vacated his fellowship in 1784 by marrying Penelope, youngest daughter of James Tierney, a commissioner of accounts, of Cleeve Hill in Mangotsfield parish, Gloucestershire. She died at Caen in Normandy late in 1789 or early in 1790, of consumption, in her thirty-second year; and late in 1790 Weston resigned the living of Mamhead, but he retained the benefice of Little Hempston until 1823.

After the death of his wife, Weston devoted himself to art and literature. He was elected F.R.S. on 1 March 1792 and F.S.A. on 18 Dec. 1794, and lived for some years among the dilettanti in London. He was dubbed by Mathias and George Steevens ‘Classic Weston’ (Pursuits of Literature, 3rd dialogue), and he had a numerous circle of lady admirers who fed his vanity. His reminiscences are said to have been contained in about fifty volumes, but inquiry has been made for them in vain (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. i. 194, 397). At the age of eighty-two he died in Edward Street, Portman Square, London, on 8 Jan. 1830. He left 5l. per annum to the poor in each of the parishes of Little Hempston, Mamhead, and Marylebone. His portrait, probably by Sir Joshua Reynolds, hangs in the hall in Exeter College, and was engraved by Freeman. There were also two private prints of him, one by Harding from a picture painted at Rome in 1775; the other, etched about 1828 by Mrs. Dawson Turner. A further print was from a bust by W. Behnes in 1824.

The works of Weston comprised oriental translations, descriptions of travel, and theological treatises, and many of them were at the date of publication of remarkable interest. They comprise: 1. ‘Viaggiana: Remarks on the Buildings, &c., of Rome’ (anon.), 1776; another edit. 1790. 2. ‘Hermesianax, sive Conjecturæ in Athenæum,’ 1784 (his own copy, with manuscript notes, is in the Dyce collection, South Kensington Museum. A review by Porson of it appeared in Dr. Maty's ‘Review,’ April 1784, pp. 238–243, and is included in Kidd's ‘Tracts of Porson,’ pp. 38–47). 3. ‘Attempt to translate and explain the Difficult Passages in the Song of Deborah,’ 1788. 4. ‘Turtle Dove: a Tale [in verse] from the French of M. de Florian’ (anon.), Caen, 1789. 5. ‘Winter Assembly, or Provincial Ball,’ 1789. 6. ‘Letters from Paris during the Summer of 1791’ (anon.), 1792; 2nd vol., as ‘Letters from Paris during the Summer of 1792’ (anon.), 1793. 7. ‘Elegia Grayiana græce: Interprete Stephano Weston,’ 1794. 8. ‘Conjectures, with Short Comments and Illustrations of Various Passages in the New Testament,’ 1795 (these were incorporated in the fourth edition of William Bowyer's ‘Critical Conjectures on the New Testament,’ 1812). 9. ‘Horatius Flaccus, cum locis quibusdam e Græcis scriptoribus collatis,’ 1801; another edit. 1805. 10. ‘Conformity of European with Oriental Languages,’ 1802; enlarged, 1803. 11. ‘Spirited Remonstrance from Rajah Soubah Sing to Emperor Aurungzebe,’ Persian and English, 1803. 12. ‘The Praise of Paris: a Sketch of the French Capital in 1802,’ 1803 (cf. Notes and Queries, 7th ser. ix. 26–7). 13. ‘Dares et Entellus, or Bourke and the Chicken, Carmine Latino,’ 1804. 14. ‘Werneria, or Short Characters of Earths. By Terræ Filius [i.e. Weston],’ 1805; pt. ii. by Terræ-Filius Philagricola, 1806. 15. ‘Moral Aphorisms in Arabic and a Persian Commentary in Verse,’ 1805. 16. ‘Fragment of a Tragedy lately acted at the British Museum, or the Tears of Cracherode [at the theft of his prints]’ (anon.), 1806. 17. ‘Fragments of Oriental Literature, with an Outline of a Painting on a Curious China Vase,’ 1807. 18. ‘A Short Account of the Late Mr. Porson. By an Admirer of a Great Genius,’ 1808; reissued in 1814 with ‘Porsoniana; or Scraps from Porson's Rich Feast.’ 19. ‘Short Notes on Shakspeare by way of Supplement to Johnson, Steevens, Malone, and Douce,’ 1808. 20. ‘Ly Tang: an Imperial Poem in Chinese by Kien Lung. With Translation and Notes,’ 1809. 21. ‘A Specimen of Picturesque Poetry in Chinese. Inscribed on a Cup by S. W.,’ 1810? 22. ‘Remains of Arabic in Spanish and Portuguese Languages,’ 1810. 23. ‘Conquest of the Miao-tsé. By Kien Lung,’ 1810 (cf. Quart. Review, iv. 361–72). 24. ‘Specimen of a Dictionary in English and Chinese,’ 1811. 25. ‘Siao-cu-lin; or a Small Collection of Chinese Characters,’ 1812. 26. ‘Persian Recreations; or Oriental Stories by Philoxenus Secundus,’ 1812; reissued as ‘Persian Recreations: or New Tales,’ 1812. 27. ‘Persian Distichs from Various Authors,’ 1814. 28. ‘Fan-hy-cheu: a Tale in Chinese and English. With Notes and a Short Grammar of the Chinese Language,’ 1814. 29. ‘Greek, Latin, and Sanscrit compared,’ 1814. 30. ‘A Slight Sketch of Paris in its Improved State since 1802. By a Visitor,’ 1814. 31. ‘Ode to Catherine the Great, 21 Jan. 1785,’ translated 1815. 32. ‘Episodes from the Shah Nameh, by Ferdoosee. Translated into English Verse,’ 1815. 33. ‘Chinese Poem inscribed on Porcelain [A.D. 1776]. With a Double Translation and Notes,’ 1816. 34. ‘Two Sketches of France, Belgium, and Spa, 1771 and 1816,’ 1817. 35. ‘La Scava: an Excavation of a Roman Villa on the Hill of Chatelet, 1772. With a journey to the Simplon and Mont Blanc’ (anon.), 1818. 36. ‘Nyg,’ 1818. 37. ‘Enchiridion Romæ: the Buildings, Pictures, &c., of Rome,’ 1819. 38. ‘Extracts from a Journal, June to September, 1819 [on France, Belgium, and Germany, anon.],’ 1820. 39. ‘Chinese Chronicle by Abdalla of Beyza. Translated from the Persian,’ 1820. 40. ‘Tareek Kataice: Chinese Chronology,’ 1820. 41. ‘Voyages of Hiram and Solomon,’ 1821. 42. ‘A Trimester in France and Switzerland, July to October 1820. By an Oxonian,’ 1821. 43. ‘Visit to Vaucluse in May 1821. By the Author of the “Trimester,”’ 1822. 44. ‘Petrarchiana; Additions to the “Visit to Vaucluse,”’ 1822. 45. ‘Catechism’ of 1589; reprinted 1823. 46. ‘Annotations on the Psalms,’ 1824, 47. ‘The Englishman Abroad: pt. i. Greece, Latium, Persia, and China; pt. ii. Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal,’ 1824, a medley of pieces in prose and verse, with translations. 48. ‘Historic Notices of Towns in Greece and other Countries that have struck Coins,’ 1826; 2nd edit. 1827. 49. ‘Short Recollections in a Journey to Pæstum,’ 1828.

Weston contributed many articles to the ‘Archæologia’ on coins and medals between 1798 and 1818, and supplied notes, signed ‘S. W.,’ to Johnson and Steevens's ‘Shakspeare’ (1793), and to the new edition (1802) by S. Rousseau of John Richardson's ‘Specimen of Persian Poetry: or Odes of Hafiz.’ He was a contributor to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ to Nichols's ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (see ix. 44, 496), and to the ‘Classical Journal,’ and he supplied poems, signed ‘W. N.,’ to the two volumes of ‘Poems, chiefly by Gentlemen of Devon and Cornwall,’ 1792. Auction catalogues of the ‘remaining portion of his library’ and of his ‘Greek and Roman coins and medals’ were issued in 1830. Among the books of the Kerrich bequest, which was rejected by the university of Cambridge, was ‘a complete collection of Stephen Weston's tracts, many of them of the greatest rarity, given by the author himself to Mr. Kerrich’ (Prothero, Henry Bradshaw, p. 183).

[Boase's Exeter College Fellows, ed. 1894, p. 151; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Gent. Mag. 1790 i. 179, 1830 i. 370–3; Notes and Gleanings, v. 6–9 (by R. W. C., i.e. Cotton, who possessed a bulky volume of his Collectanea); Polwhele's Devon, ii. 36; Watson's Porson, pp. 44–5.]

W. P. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.278
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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373 i 14 Weston, Stephen: for Cleave Hill read Cleeve Hill