Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mortimer, John (1656?-1736)

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MORTIMER, JOHN (1656?–1736), writer on agriculture, only son and heir of Mark Mortimer, of the old Somerset family of that name, by his wife Abigail Walmesly, of Blackmore in Essex, was born in London about 1656. He received a commercial education, and became a prosperous merchant on Tower Hill. In November 1693 he bought the estate of Toppingo Hall, Hatfield Peverel, Essex, which he greatly improved; a number of fine cedar trees planted by him on the estate are still in existence. Mortimer was thrice married. His first wife, Dorothy, born at Hursley, near Winchester, on 1 Aug. 1660, was the ninth child of Richard Cromwell, and it is supposed that the ex-protector's return to England in 1680 was prompted by a desire to be present at the wedding. She died in childbirth (14 May 1681) within a year of the marriage. He married, secondly, Sarah, daughter of Sir John Tippets, knight, surveyor of the navy, by whom he had a son and a daughter; and thirdly, Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Sanders of Derbyshire, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. The second son by his third wife was Dr. Cromwell Mortimer [q. v.]

Mortimer's claim to remembrance is based upon his work entitled 'The whole Art of Husbandry, in the way of Managing and Improving of Land' (London, 1707, 8vo), which forms a landmark in English agricultural literature, and largely influenced husbandry in the last century. The writer states that he had read the best books on ancient and modern agriculture, and inspected the practice of the most diligent husbandmen in most countries. After duly digesting these he had added his own experiences. The book, which treats not only of the usual branches of agriculture, but also of fish-ponds, orchards, and of the culture of silkworms, and the making of cider, is justly said by Donaldson to 'form a very large advancement in the progress of agriculture from the preceding authors on the subject. Trees and fruits do still occupy too much room, but the animals are more largely introduced and systematically treated.' The work was dedicated to the Royal Society, of which Mortimer had been admitted a member in December 1705 ({sc|Thomson}}, Royal Society, App. p. xxxi). A second edition was issued in 1708, and a third in 1712, 'containing such additions as are proper for the husband- man and gardiner (sic) ... to which is added a Kalendar, shewing what is to be done every month in the flower garden.' It was translated into Swedish by Serenius in 1727, and a sixth edition, with additions, and revised by Thomas Mortimer [q. v.], the writer's grandson, appeared in 2 vols. 8vo, 1761.

Mortimer also wrote 'Some Considerations concerning the present State of Religion, with some Essays towards our Love and Union,' London, 1702, a severe indictment of sectarian animosities, and a sensible pamphlet, 'Advice to Parents, or Rules for the Education of Children,' London, 1704.

[Donaldson's Agricultural Biography, p. 41 (containing an abstract of the contents of the Art of Husbandry); Waylen's House of Cromwell, 1891, p. 21; Morant's Essex, ii. 133; Wright's Essex, ii. 743; Stukeley's Diaries and Letters (Surtees Soc.), i. 233 n.; Watt's Bibl. Brit. p. 687; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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