of Giouat, France, and rose to be an admiral of the white (cf. Gent. Mag. 1831, ii. 177–8). The father, who was elected F.S.A. on 8 Dec. 1743, died in 1766. William's guardians after his father's death were Charles Philip Yorke, fourth earl of Hardwicke [q. v.], lord chancellor, and his maternal uncle, Hans Sloane, and he succeeded to the estate of Sewardstone, on the borders of Epping Forest, which had been the property of the family since 1673. He was educated at Harrow, but at the age of seventeen purchased a commission as ensign in the 10th dragoons, and, obtaining leave of absence, studied at the military academy of Angers. Subsequently he was stationed with his regiment at Edinburgh, and there first made the acquaintance of young Walter Scott (cf. Lockhart, chap. xv.). On 17 July 1780 he increased his resources by marrying Mary, youngest daughter of Ambrose Isted of Ecton, Northamptonshire, by Anne, sister and coheiress of Sir Charles Buck, bart., of Hanby. Thereupon he retired from the army, and, purchasing the residence of Bevis Mount, near Southampton, settled down with every material advantage to a literary life. At first he mainly devoted himself to a close study of the Latin and Greek classics.
Sotheby's earliest publication was a volume of ‘Poems’ (1790), which chiefly consisted of a narrative of a walking tour which he and his brother Thomas made through north and south Wales in 1788. To this were appended a number of sonnets with an epistle in heroics on physiognomy (Bath and London). A reissue in 1794 was embellished by thirteen engravings by J. Smith.
Meanwhile, in 1791, Sotheby removed to a house in London, and thenceforth divided his time between the metropolis and his property at Sewardstone, where he occupied Fair Mead Lodge. Like his predecessors in the ownership of Sewardstone, he acted as a master-keeper of the adjoining Epping Forest. In London literary society Sotheby soon became a prominent figure. He joined the Dilettante Society in 1792, and was thenceforth one of its leading spirits. In 1794 he was elected fellow both of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries. He entertained the best known men of letters of the day, and benevolently interested himself in the struggles of young authors. Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Samuel Rogers, Sir George Beaumont, Mrs. Siddons, Joanna Baillie, Maria Edgworth, Byron, Tom Moore, Southey, and Hallam were among his guests and intimate associates. Scott, who ‘ever retained for him a sincere regard,’ owed to him on his visits to London ‘the personal acquaintance of not a few of their most eminent contemporaries in various departments of literature and art’ (ib. chap. xv.) In 1806 Sotheby took Scott to Hampstead to visit Joanna Baillie, at whose house Rogers recorded a meeting with Sotheby and Mrs. Siddons at dinner a year earlier (Clayden, Rogers, i. 22). Sotheby made in 1800 elaborate manuscript corrections in the proof-sheets of ‘Richard I,’ a tedious poem by his friend Sir James Bland Burges [q. v.] (these sheets are now in the British Museum). In 1809 Sotheby joined another friend, Sir George Beaumont, in encouraging Coleridge to bring out ‘The Friend,’ and in 1812 he, with Beaumont and Sir Thomas Barnard, received subscriptions for Coleridge's ‘Lectures on the Drama’ at Willis's Rooms (Lamb, Letters, ed. Ainger, i. 255; Coleridge, Works, with memoir by J. Dykes Campbell, 1893, p. lxxxv; Knight, Wordsworth, ii. 102).
Meanwhile Sotheby by his skill as a translator secured for himself a wide literary reputation. In 1798, after rapidly acquiring a knowledge of German for the purpose, he published a translation of Wieland's German poem ‘Oberon,’ which had already achieved European popularity. The author, to whom Sotheby sent a copy of his performance with a sonnet, expressed unbounded satisfaction. A second edition, with illustrations by Fuseli, appeared in 1805. In 1802 Sotheby based on it a masque in five acts of blank verse called ‘Oberon, or Huon of Bourdeaux,’ which he dedicated to George Ellis [q. v.] An equally good reception awaited Sotheby's verse translation of Virgil's ‘Georgics,’ which appeared in 1800 (2nd edit. 1815). Jeffrey, in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (July 1804), somewhat oracularly declared it ‘capable of being advanced to the high distinction of being the most perfect translation of a classic poet now extant in our language.’ John Wilson (‘Christopher North’) asserted that it ‘stamped’ Sotheby ‘the best translator in Christendom’ (Noctes Ambros. ed. Mackenzie, iii. 456–7). It was reissued in the sumptuous ‘Georgica Publii Virgilii Maronis Hexaglotta’ (London, 1827, fol.). This finely printed volume was issued at Sotheby's expense, and was presented by him to many of the sovereigns of Europe. He vainly appealed to Scott to review it. Besides Sotheby's English version, it included a Spanish version of the ‘Georgics’ by John de Guzman, a German version by J. H. Voss, an Italian version by Francesco Soave, and a French version by James Delille.
Although Byron described Sotheby in his ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’ (1809)