Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robertson, Joseph (1726-1802)
ROBERTSON, JOSEPH (1726–1802), divine and writer, born at Knipe, Westmoreland, on 28 Aug. 1726, was the son of a maltster whose family was long established at Rutter in the parish of Appleby. His mother was the only daughter of Edward Stevenson of Knipe, a relative of Edmund Gibson [q. v.], bishop of London. Robertson was educated at the free school at Appleby, and on 17 March 1746 matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. on 19 Oct. 1749, and took holy orders about 1752, being appointed curate to Dr. Sykes at Rayleigh, Essex. In 1758 he was presented to the living of Herriard in Hampshire, and married. He became rector of Sutton, Essex, in 1770, and in 1779 vicar of Horncastle, Lincolnshire, by the gift of his relative, Dr. Edmund Law, bishop of Carlisle.
Robertson devoted much time to literary work, and won reputation as a critic. In 1772 he revised for the press Dr. Gregory Sharpe's posthumous sermons, and in the same year edited Algernon Sidney's ‘Discourses on Government,’ at the request of Thomas Hollis, to whom the work has been wrongly ascribed [see under Hollis, Thomas, 1720–1774] (Hollis, Life, 1780, p. 448). He was a voluminous writer in the ‘Critical Review,’ to which he contributed more than two thousand six hundred articles between 1764 and 1785. He also wrote in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and produced a learned work on the authenticity of the ‘Parian Chronicle’ (London, 1788, 8vo), which was answered by John Hewlett [q. v.]
Robertson died of apoplexy on 19 Jan. 1802, in his seventy-sixth year. His wife, a daughter of Timothy Raikes, chemist, of London, survived him, but his children all died in infancy. Robertson was tall, handsome, and urbane in manner.
Besides separate sermons, a translation of Fénelon's ‘Telemachus’ (1795), and the works already mentioned, Robertson's chief publications were: 1. ‘A Letter to Sauxay on the Case of Miss Butterfield, a Young Woman charged with Murder,’ London, 1775, 8vo, with ‘Observations on the same,’ 1776, 8vo. 2. ‘Essay on Culinary Poisons,’ London, 1781, 8vo. 3. ‘Introduction to the Study of Polite Literature,’ London, 1782, 12mo; other edits. 1785, 1799, and 1808. 4. ‘An Essay on Punctuation,’ London, 1785, 8vo; 5th edit. London, 1808, 8vo; answered by David Steel in ‘Remarks on an Essay,’ &c., London, 1786, 12mo. 5. ‘Observations on the Act for augmenting the Salaries of Curates,’ published under the name of Eusebius, Vicar of Lilliput, London, 1797, 8vo. 6. ‘An Essay on the Education of Young Ladies,’ 1798, 12mo. 7. ‘Essay on the Nature of English Verse,’ London, 1799, 8vo; 5th edit., 1808, 12mo.[Reuss's Register of Living Authors; Rose's Biogr. Dict.; Gent. Mag. February 1802, p. 108; Monthly Mag., March 1802, p. 133; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; European Mag. July 1788 p. 24, and April 1797 p. 260; English Review, April 1788, p. 275; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 557, iii. 392, 251–5, 298, 299, 500–6, iv. 540, viii. 157, 483–4.]