Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rutledge, James

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James Rutlidge in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

RUTLEDGE, JAMES or JOHN JAMES (1743–1794), publicist, was the grandson of an Irish Jacobite who settled in France, and was son of Walter Rutledge (d. 1779), a banker and shipowner at Dunkirk, who assisted the Pretender in his expedition of 1715, and was consequently created a baronet by him. James accordingly styled himself ‘chevalier’ or ‘baronet.’ Born, probably at Dunkirk, in 1743, he was brought up to speak both French and English. He entered, without pay, Berwick's Franco-Irish cavalry regiment; but on its being disbanded in 1762 he returned to Dunkirk, where he married a shipowner's daughter. In 1772 his father-in-law's embarrassments induced him to go to Paris, with a view to selling his reversionary interest in his father's property near Rheims; but his father's want of affection for him, the rapacity of his stepmother and her children, and the dishonesty of a notary reduced the proceeds, he asserted, to a very small sum. Thenceforth he lived by his pen, and he did much to make English literature known in France. He did not indeed, as is stated by the ‘Biographie Universelle,’ assist in Letourneur's translation of Shakespeare, for he criticised that translation as inaccurate; but in ‘Observations à l'Académie’ (1776) he extolled Shakespeare, in reply to Voltaire, as far superior to French dramatists. He wrote a long letter to Goldsmith, accompanied by an imitation in French of a portion of the ‘Deserted Village,’ and published this, with Goldsmith's reply. In 1783 he was cast in damages at the suit of the notary, Deherain, whom he had libelled, and, in default of payment, was imprisoned. The revolution gave scope for his mania for delation. He charged Necker with a conspiracy to deprive Paris of bread, covered the walls of Paris with denunciations of him, became the spokesman of the bakers in their grievances against the millers, and in November 1789 was arrested on the charge of usurpation of powers, in proposing to raise a loan for the bakers on easier terms than those offered by the municipality. Released in the following January, he renewed his scurrilous attacks on Necker and his family. He was a leading member of the Cordeliers' Club till his expulsion in November 1791; but in 1790 he was refused admission to the Jacobin Club, then consisting mainly of moderate men, on account of his calumniating disposition. After the death, on 13 July 1793, of Marat, who had applauded his denunciations, he seems to have fallen into obscurity, but was imprisoned by the committee of general security in the following October. His death, in March 1794, passed unnoticed except in the necrology of the Petites Affiches.

Rutledge's numerous productions include: 1. ‘Thamar: tragédie,’ 1769, 8vo. 2. ‘Mémoire sur le caractère et les mœurs des Français comparés à ceux des Anglais,’ 1776, 8vo. 3. ‘La Quinzaine Anglaise,’ London, 1776, 8vo; this sketch, which depicts the rapidity with which a ‘plunger’ may be reduced to destitution by the harpies of Paris and purports to be a posthumous work by Sterne, to whose works it bears no sort of resemblance, was translated as ‘The Englishman's Fortnight in Paris,’ by ‘An Observer,’ Dublin, 1771. The writer states that attempts had been made to suppress the work in Paris. A species of sequel, entitled ‘Le Second Voyage de milord ——,’ appeared in 1779. 4. ‘Le Train de Paris, ou les Bourgeois du Tours,’ 1777, 8vo. 5. ‘Les Comédiens ou le Foyer: comédie,’ 1777. 6. ‘Le Babillard,’ 1778, an imitation of the ‘Tatler.’ 7. ‘Calypso,’ 1784–5. 8. ‘Le Creuset,’ January to August 1791.

[Manuscripts at the Archives Nationales and Musée Carnavalet, Paris; Mémorial au Roi, 1770, and biographical data in his other works; Grimm's Correspondance Littéraire; Lallemant's Maréchal-de-camp Warren; Aulard's Club des Jacobins; Paris newspapers, 1789; Alger's Englishmen in French Revolution; Journal d'Adrien Duquesnoy, Paris, 1894; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. G. A.