Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shepherd, William
SHEPHERD, WILLIAM (1768–1847), dissenting minister and politician, was born in Liverpool on 11 Oct. 1768. His father, a respectable tradesman, took an active part in the political life of that town, of which he was a freeman, and died in 1772. His mother, Elizabeth (d. 1787), was daughter of Benjamin Mather, dissenting minister at Over Darwen. Under the supervision of his uncle, Tatlock Mather (d. 1785), minister of a presbyterian (unitarian) congregation at Rainford, near Prescot, William was successively educated at Holden's academy near Rainford from 1776 to 1782, by the Rev. Philip Holland [q. v.] from 1782 to 1785, at the dissenting academy at Daventry from 1785 to 1788 under Dr. Thomas Belsham [q. v.], and at the New College, Hackney, from 1788 to 1790 under Belsham, Kippis, and Price. On the completion of his academic course in 1790 he became tutor to the sons of the Rev. John Yates of Toxteth Park chapel, Liverpool, and while thus engaged made the acquaintance of William Roscoe [q. v.], who greatly influenced his tastes and character. In 1791 he became minister of the presbyterian (unitarian) chapel at Gateacre, near Liverpool, and on marrying next year Frances, daughter of Robert Nicholson, merchant of Liverpool, moved to the old parsonage, ‘The Nook,’ Gateacre. There he opened a school, which he long carried on with great success. An enthusiast for civil and religious liberty, he in May 1794 went to London to visit his friend and college companion at Hackney, Jeremiah Joyce [q. v.], who had been committed to the Tower on a treasonable charge. When the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield [q. v.] was sentenced in 1799 to two years' imprisonment, Shepherd took charge of his son and eldest daughter, besides visiting Wakefield in Dorchester gaol. On 27 May 1796 he was enrolled a burgess of Liverpool, and took an active part in municipal affairs in the advanced liberal interest. He was an eloquent speaker, and several of his speeches were printed.
Meanwhile Shepherd devoted himself to literary work. His interest in Italian literature, aroused by his friendship with William Roscoe, led to his publication in 1802 of a ‘Life of Poggio Bracciolini,’ London, 4to (2nd ed. 8vo, Liverpool, 1837), and he edited for private circulation, from the manuscript in the Royal Library at Paris, ‘P. Bracciolini … Dialogus an seni sit uxor ducenda,’ 4to (Liverpool, 1807). The ‘Life,’ which was received with general approbation, was translated into French, German, and Italian, and on 10 July 1834 the senate of the university of Edinburgh conferred on him the degree of LL.D. On 17 Nov. 1829 his wife died, and the management of his household passed to his adopted child, Hannah, the youngest daughter of his old friend, Jeremiah Joyce. He died at ‘The Nook,’ Gateacre, 21 July 1847, and was buried in the yard of the chapel. A marble tablet in the chapel, with inscription by the first Lord Brougham, was erected in 1850, and is surmounted by a bust in marble, the work of Isaac Jackson of Liverpool. His fine library was sold in Liverpool in December 1848.
Of the numerous portraits of Dr. Shepherd, the best is that by T. H. Illidge, which now hangs in the Art Gallery of Liverpool. There are other portraits by Cornelius Henderson (at Brougham Hall, 1844) and by Moses Haughton (watercolour), in the possession of the Rev. George Eyre Evans of Whitchurch. A fourth has been twice engraved, by Robert William Sievier, and by Thomson for the notice of Shepherd in the ‘Imperial Magazine’ for April 1821. A fine miniature on ivory of Shepherd as a young man is in the Manchester College, Oxford. A bust portrait, life-size, by a local artist, had a large sale.
Apart from the works noticed, pamphlets, and sermons, Shepherd's chief publications were: 1. 'Every Man his own Parson,' 12mo, Liverpool, 1791. 2. 'The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan,' in 'Liverpool Mercury,' 1813. 3. 'Paris in 1802 and 1814,' 8vo, London, 1814; 2nd ed. 8vo, London, 1814. 4. 'Systematic Education, written in conjunction with J. Joyce and L. Carpenter,' 8vo, London, 1815; 2nd ed. 8vo, London, 1817; 3rd ed. (with plates) 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1823. 5. 'The Fatal Effects of Religious Intolerance,' 8vo, Liverpool, 1816. 6. 'Poems original and translated,' 12mo, London, 1829.[Miss Joyce's Memoir of Shepherd, privately printed; Imperial Mag. 1821, p. 378; Masson's De Quincey, 1889, ii. 128; information in the hands of the writer, his great-nephew.]