Johnson, Thomas (fl.1718) (DNB00)

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JOHNSON, THOMAS (fl. 1718), classical scholar, born at Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, was elected from Eton to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, on 13 Aug. 1683, which he held until 1695, and graduated B.A. in 1688, M.A. in 1692 (Addit. MS. 5817, ff. 81–3). He was usher of Ipswich school in 1689. Having had to divorce a bad wife, he fell heavily in debt, had his goods seized, and was committed to prison. On obtaining his discharge in 1705 he was appointed an assistant-master at Eton, but was still harassed by his creditors (Hearne, Collections, Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 127, ii. 67–8). In September 1711 he was keeping a school at Brentford, Middlesex (ib. iii. 233), and in 1715 he was chosen head-master of Archbishop Harsnett's grammar school at Chigwell. In 1718 the Bishop of London made a New-year's gift to the school so as to enable the governors to obtain, by purchase, Johnson's resignation (Chigwell Kalendar, 1887, pp. 22, 39). Johnson was a capable scholar, but egotistical and conceited (Hearne, ii. 98, 120). Owing to his dissolute life he lived during many of his later years, and at last died, a beggar.

Johnson gained considerable reputation in his day by his edition of ‘Sophocles,’ with a Latin version and notes. In 1705 he published at Oxford the ‘Ajax’ and ‘Electra,’ and in 1708, at the same place, the ‘Antigone’ and ‘Trachiniæ;’ but the ‘Œdipus Tyrannus,’ ‘Philoctetes,’ and ‘Œdipus Coloneus’ did not appear until after his death in 1746. A collective edition of the seven tragedies was issued in 1745, 4to, and was frequently reprinted. He also edited ‘Gratii Falisci Cynegeticon, cum Poematio cognomine M. A. Olympii Nemesiani Carthaginensis,’ with other writers on hunting, 8vo, London, 1699. He was to have revised and compared with the Greek the English version of Madame Dacier's translation of Homer's ‘Iliad’ (5 vols. 12mo, London, 1712), but he merely contributed six pages of meagre notes on the first four books.

Johnson likewise published: 1. ‘Novus Græcorum Epigrammatum et Poematiωn Delectus,’ 2nd edit., 8vo, London, 1699, which is still in use at Eton. 2. ‘Phædri Fabularum Æsopiarum libri quinque,’ 8vo, London, 1701. 3. ‘Decerpta ex Ovidii Fastis,’ 12mo, London (1711?). 4. A translation of St. Evremond's ‘Essay in Vindication of Epicurus and his Doctrine,’ appended to John Digby's version of Epicurus's ‘Morals,’ 8vo, London, 1712. 5. ‘A Collection of [Latin] Nouns and Verbs … together with an English Syntax, containing all the Latin rules,’ 12mo, London (1713?); 2nd edit. 1723. 6. Selections from Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses,’ 12mo, London (1713?) (cf. Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 297).

Johnson has been confounded with 1. Thomas Johnson, M.A., who printed at his own expense a beautiful edition of Cebes's ‘Tabula,’ 8vo, London, 1720; and with 2. Thomas Johnson (d. 1737), fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge (B.A. 1724, M.A. 1728), who was senior university taxor in 1732 (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, iii. 642), and afterwards chaplain at Whitehall. He died in July 1737 (Hist. Reg. xxii.; Chronolog. Diary, p. 14). He was one of the four editors of Stephens's ‘Latin Thesaurus,’ 4 vols. folio, 1734–5, and in 1735 published an edition of Puffendorf's ‘De Officio Hominis et Civis,’ 8vo, London; other editions, 1737, 1748, 1758. His other writings are: 1. ‘An Essay on Moral Obligation: with a view towards settling the Controversy concerning Moral and Positive Duties’ [anon.], 8vo, Cambridge, 1731, written in answer to pamphlets by Thomas Chubb and another. 2. ‘The Insufficiency of the Law of Nature,’ 8vo, Cambridge, 1731. 3. ‘A Letter to Mr. Chandler, in Vindication of a Passage in the Lord Bishop of London's second Pastoral Letter,’ 8vo, Cambridge, 1734. 4. ‘Quæstiones Philosophicæ in justi systematis ordinem dispositæ … Ad calcem subjicitur appendix de legibus disputandi,’ 12mo, Cambridge, 1734 (other editions, 1735, 1741).

[Harwood's Alumni Eton. p. 269; Addit. MS. 5873, ff. 26–7; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. iv. 494, viii. 410; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 386.]

G. G.