Forster, Edward (1769-1828) (DNB00)

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FORSTER, EDWARD (1769–1828), miscellaneous writer, born at Colchester, Essex, on 11 June 1769, was the only son of Nathaniel Forster, D.D. (1726?–1790) [q. v.], rector of All Saints in that town. After receiving some instruction at home, he was placed at Norwich grammar school, then presided over by his father's intimate friend, Samuel Parr. On 5 May 1788 he matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he divided his time in desultory study of medicine and law. Towards the end of 1790 he married Elizabeth, widow of Captain Addison, and youngest daughter of Philip Bedingfeld of Ditchingham Hall, Norfolk (Burke, Landed Gentry, 4th edit. p. 80). In order to renew his acquaintanceship with Parr, Forster took a house at Hatton, Warwickshire, where he resided for some time; but his wife, by whom he had no children, lived only four years after their union. He ultimately became a member of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. on 21 Feb. 1792, and entered himself at Lincoln's Inn on 15 June of the same year (Foster, Alumni Oxon. p. 478). Deciding, however, to become a clergyman, he was ordained priest by Porteus, bishop of London, in 1796. He proceeded M.A. on 16 Feb. 1797 (Oxford Graduates, 1851, p. 237). On 3 Aug. 1799, being then resident at Weston, Oxfordshire, he married as his second wife Lavinia, only daughter of Thomas Banks, R.A. [q. v.], the sculptor (Gent. Mag. lxix. pt. ii. 716). He now entered into an engagement with a bookseller, William Miller of Old Bond Street, subsequently of Albemarle Street, to issue tastefully printed editions of the works of standard authors, illustrated by the best artists of the day. His first venture was an edition of Jarvis's translation of ‘Don Quixote,’ 4 vols. 8vo, 1801, ‘with a new translation of the Spanish poetry, a new life of Cervantes, and new engravings.’ Having been successful in this, he published some works of less importance, while he was preparing for the press a new translation, from the French of Antoine Galland, of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ 5 vols. 4to, London, 1802, with twenty-four engravings from pictures by R. Smirke, R.A. During the same year he brought out in quarto an edition of ‘Anacreon,’ for which Bulmer furnished a peculiarly fine Greek type; the title-plates and vignettes were from the pencil of Mrs. Forster. Various editions of dramatic authors, under the titles of ‘British Drama,’ ‘New British Theatre,’ ‘English Drama,’ some of them illustrated with engravings from designs by the first artists, successively employed his time.

In 1803 he was presented to the rectory of Aston Somerville, Gloucestershire, by an old friend, Lord Somerville, who had procured for him the appointment of chaplain to the Duke of Newcastle in 1796; but there being no parsonage-house on the living residence was dispensed with, and he settled in London, where his pulpit oratory was in demand. He was from 1800 to 1814 successively morning preacher at Berkeley and Grosvenor chapels; and at Park Street and King Street chapels, in which he divided the duty alternately with Sydney Smith, Stanier Clarke, T. F. Dibdin, and other admired preachers. In 1805 Forster entered into a correspondence with Scott on the subject of a projected edition of Dryden, subsequently abandoned. Forster had at a later period intended publishing an ‘Essay on Punctuation,’ which he had made his especial study, and on which his views were approved by Scott. An elegant quarto edition of ‘Rasselas,’ with engravings by A. Raimbach, from pictures painted for the purpose by Smirke, was issued by Forster in 1805; it was followed in 1809 by a small privately printed volume of verse, entitled ‘Occasional Amusements,’ which appeared without his name. But his chief publication was the splendid work in folio entitled ‘The British Gallery of Engravings,’ consisting of highly finished prints in the line manner from paintings by the old masters ‘in the possession of the king and several noblemen and gentlemen of the United Kingdom.’ Descriptions in English and French accompany each engraving. The first number of this work appeared in 1807, and in 1813 the first volume only was completed, when, the expenses considerably exceeding the profits, it was found necessary to abandon its further publication altogether. After the peace of 1815 Forster removed with his family to Paris, his finances having suffered by his publications. He was then engaged in publishing a ‘Plautus,’ and three volumes were already completed, when it was stopped by the sudden death of the printer. About a year after he had settled in Paris Forster began to preach in the French protestant church of the Oratoire, and eventually obtained a grant from the consistory for the use of the church when it was not required for French service. Here he officiated until the autumn of 1827, when ill-health compelled him to resign. In 1818 he was appointed to the post, founded at his suggestion, of chaplain to the British embassy, which he continued to hold until his death. In 1824 the Earl of Bridgewater made him his chaplain. Forster died at Paris on 18 Feb. 1828, after a lingering illness, and was buried in the cemetery of Père la Chaise in that city. He left a widow and three daughters, for whose benefit were published ‘Sermons preached at the Chapel of the British Embassy, and at the Protestant Church of the Oratoire, in Paris, by Edward Forster, with a short Account of his Life’ [edited by Lavinia Forster], 2 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1828. Forster had been elected F.R.S. on 10 Dec. 1801, and F.S.A. previously. He was also an active supporter of the Royal Institution from its commencement, was appointed honorary librarian by the directors, and was engaged to deliver lectures there during three following seasons.

[Gent. Mag. xcviii. pt. i. 566.]

G. G.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.129
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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13 ii 9 Forster, Edward (1769-1828) : for Somerville Aston read Aston Somerville