Jortin, John (DNB00)

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JORTIN, JOHN, D.D. (1698–1770), ecclesiastical historian and critic, was born in the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, on 23 Oct. 1698. His father was Renatus Jortin (d. 1707), a Huguenot exile from Brittany, of good family, educated at Saumur, who came to London about 1687, altered his name to Jordain, was appointed in 1691 gentleman of the privy chamber, and was secretary successively to Admirals Sir Edward Russell (afterwards first earl of Orford), Sir George Rooke, and Sir Clowdisley Shovell, and perished with the last-named in the wreck of the Association off the Scilly Isles on 22 Oct. 1707. Jortin's mother was Martha, daughter of the Rev. Daniel Rogers of Haversham, Buckinghamshire. He was registered at his baptism by the name of Jordain, but after the father's death he and his mother always used the name of Jortin. He was educated at the Charterhouse School, and admitted pensioner at Jesus College, Cambridge, on 16 May 1715. While an undergraduate he was selected by his tutor, Styan Thirlby, to translate some passages from Eustathius for the notes to Pope's ‘Homer,’ and noticed an error in Pope's translation, which Pope silently corrected in a later edition. He graduated B.A. January 1719, was elected fellow of his college on 9 Oct. 1721, and graduated M.A. 1722, when he published a small volume of Latin verse. In 1723 he was taxator to the university. He took holy orders in 1724, and in January 1727 was presented to the vicarage of Swavesey, Cambridgeshire, a college living, which he held along with his fellowship till his marriage in 1728.

On 1 Feb. 1731 Jortin resigned his living, and became reader and preacher at a chapel-of-ease in New Street, within the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. He started in 1731 a magazine, ‘Miscellaneous Observations upon Authors, Ancient and Modern,’ which came to an end in 1732 (see list of contributors in Nichols and Disney). The two volumes were republished (1732–4) in a Latin translation at Amsterdam, where the serial (‘Miscellaneæ Observationes Criticæ’) was continued by Jacques Philippe D'Orville and Peter Burmann the younger. Some critical papers by Jortin, probably written for his own magazine, were published, one in a magazine called ‘The Present State of the Republick of Letters’ for August 1734, others separately; the most important are the articles on Spenser and Milton. Whiston relates that about 1736 Jortin told him he had left off reading the Athanasian creed for some time. In 1737 he was presented by Daniel Finch, third earl of Nottingham and seventh of Winchilsea, to the vicarage of Eastwell, Kent. He soon resigned this preferment, on the ground of ill-health. Zachary Pearce, the rector of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, appointed him (20 March 1747) to a chapel-of-ease in Oxenden Street in that parish, on which he resigned the chapel in New Street. He preached on 21 Feb. 1748 the sermon in Kensington Church when Pearce was consecrated bishop of Bangor. This brought him under the notice of Thomas Herring [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury. At the instance of Herring and Thomas Sherlock, then bishop of London, he was chosen Boyle lecturer in 1749. He did not, as was customary, publish the lectures, but turned two of them into dissertations (on prophecy and miracle). These he incorporated into ‘Remarks on Ecclesiastical History,’ of which the first volume appeared in 1751. In the same year Herring presented him to the rectory of St. Dunstan's- in-the-East, where Vicesimus Knock or Knox [q. v.] was for many years his curate. In 1755 he received from Herring a Lambeth degree of D.D. One of his dissertations of that year, ‘On the state of the dead, as described by Homer and Virgil,’ in which he treated of the antiquity of the doctrine of a future state, was fiercely attacked by Warburton, whose assistant he had been at Lincoln's Inn from 1747 to 1750. His reputation rose on the publication (1758–60) of his life of Erasmus. He resigned his chapel in Oxenden Street in 1760. Thomas Osbaldeston, on being translated from the see of Carlisle to that of London, made him his chaplain on 10 March 1762, gave him the prebend of Harleston in St. Paul's Cathedral, and presented him in October to the vicarage of Kensington, which he held with St. Dunstan's. He declined in November 1763 the rectory of St. James's, Westminster. In April 1764 he was made archdeacon of London, and his charges, like his sermons, were much admired, but he withheld them from publication, remarking ‘they will sleep, till I sleep.’

After a short illness he died of bronchitis on 5 Sept. 1770, saying on his deathbed, ‘I have had enough of everything.’ He was buried in Kensington new churchyard, where a flat stone bears a brief Latin inscription to his memory. A portrait is at Jesus College, Cambridge. Another, engraved by John Hall from a painting by E. Penny, is prefixed to his ‘Tracts,’ 1790. He married, about February 1728, Ann Chibnall (d. 24 June 1778) of Newport Pagnel, Buckinghamshire, and left issue a son and daughter. The former, Rogers Jortin (d. July 1795, aged 63), of Lincoln's Inn, and one of the four attorneys in the court of exchequer, married, first, Anne (d. 1774, aged 36), daughter of William Prowting (d. September 1794, aged 86), surgeon, and first treasurer of St. Luke's Hospital fo Lunatics; secondly, Louisa (d. 1809), daughter of Matthew Maty, M.D. [q. v.] Jortin's daughter Martha (d. 21 March 1817, aged 86) married George Darby, rector of Whatfield, Suffolk.

Jortin's ‘Erasmus,’ based on the life by Jean Le Clerc, is a respectable piece of work, but has long been superseded. His five volumes of contributions to ecclesiastical history are still valuable, not merely for the store of curious material which they contain, illustrating the history of Christian ideas up to the Reformation, but for keen judgments on men and manners, and an engaging lightness of style, spiced with epigram. ‘Wit without ill nature and sense without effort,’ says Dr. Parr, ‘he could at will scatter upon every subject.’ By John Hey [q. v.] and later writers Jortin is unduly decried as flippant. He thought and wrote like a cultured layman. Though he regarded the niceties of theological speculation as ‘trifles,’ he treated them in detail, with a mind utterly disengaged from ecclesiastical bias. From one of his posthumous tracts it is clear that he interpreted the obligations of subscription in the laxest sense. His personal character was remarkably gentle and kindly. He was fond of music, and played the harpsichord.

He published:

  1. ‘Lusus Poetici,’ 1722, 8vo; reprinted, 1724, 8vo, 1748, 4to; also, with additions, in No. 8.
  2. ‘Four Sermons,’ &c., 1730, 8vo.
  3. ‘Remarks on Spenser,’ &c., 1734, 8vo.
  4. ‘Discourses concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion,’ &c., 1746, 8vo (seven sermons), 4th edit. 1768, 8vo.
  5. ‘Remarks on Ecclesiastical History,’ &c., 1751, 8vo; vol. ii. 1752, 8vo; vol. iii. 1754, 8vo; reprinted 1767, 8vo, 2 vols.; posthumous additions were 1773, 8vo, 2 vols.; the whole reprinted, 1805, 8vo, 3 vols.; rearranged and annotated by William Trollope, 1846, 8vo, 2 vols.
  6. ‘The Life of Erasmus,’ &c., 1758, 8vo; ‘Remarks upon the Works of Erasmus,’ &c., 1760, 8vo (forming a second volume); improved edition, 1808, 8vo, 3 vols.; abridged by A. Laycey, 1805, 8vo.

Posthumous were:

  1. ‘Sermons and Charges,’ &c., 1771–2, 8vo, 7 vols. (seven sermons in the last volume are translations from the French; see Gent. Mag. November 1784, p. 826); 3rd edit. 1787, 8vo, 7 vols. (edited by Ralph Heathcote); 4th edit. 1809, 8vo, 4 vols.; abridged by George Whittaker, 1826, 8vo, 3 vols.; a volume of extracts, with title ‘Subjects of Religion illustrated,’ &c., was edited by G. Heathcote, Winchester, 1792, 8vo.
  2. ‘Six Dissertations,’ &c., 1775, 8vo; reprinted 1809, 8vo.
  3. ‘Tracts, Philological, Critical, and Miscellaneous,’ 1790, 8vo, 2 vols. (edited by Weeden Butler, with memoir by Rogers Jortin); reprinted 1810, 8vo, 2 vols.

He contributed ‘Miscellaneous Remarks’ on Tillotson's sermons to Birch's ‘Life of Tillotson,’ 1752, 8vo; a letter ‘Concerning the Music of the Ancients’ to the ‘Essay on Musical Expression,’ 1753, 8vo, by Charles Avison [q. v.], and ‘Some Remarks’ to Neve's ‘Animadversions,’ 1766, 8vo, on Phillips's ‘Life of Reginald Pole.’ He saw through the press Markland's ‘Supplices Mulieres’ of Euripides, 1763, 4to; reprinted 1775, 8vo. His critical remarks on Virgil were reprinted in Donaldson's ‘Miscellanea Virgiliana,’ 1825, 8vo. The later editions of his works were collected with title ‘Various Works,’ 1805–10, 8vo, 11 vols.

[Account by R. Heathcote, 1787; Advertisement by R. Jortin, 1790; Memoirs by John Disney, 1792; Account by G. Heathcote, 1800; Life by W. Trollope, 1846; Whiston's Memoirs, 1748, pp. 298 sq.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd.]

A. G.