Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skinner, John (1772-1839)

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SKINNER, JOHN (1772–1839), antiquary, born in 1772, was the son of Russell Skinner of Newtown House, Lymington, Hampshire, by his wife, Mary Page of Tottenham High Cross, Middlesex. He was educated at Cheam, and entered Trinity College, Oxford, on 16 Nov. 1790, graduating B.A. in 1794 and M.A. in 1797. In 1794 he went to Lincoln's Inn, but, determining to relinquish law, he took holy orders. After having been curate of South Brent, Somerset, for four months, he was instituted to the living of Camerton in the same county in September 1800.

Skinner was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and devoted much time to antiquarian studies. He formed a large collection of Roman and native antiquities which had been discovered in the neighbourhood of his parish. He was also an enthusiastic etymologist, but his philological theories were extremely wild. He attempted to find a secret significance in every letter which entered into the composition of Celtic names, and in support of his theory wrote a work on the origin and analysis of language, which was not published. He committed suicide on 12 Oct. 1839. He left a son, Fitzowen Skinner, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and a daughter, Anna, married to William Robert Augustus Boyle of Lincoln's Inn.

Skinner contributed several papers on antiquarian subjects to the ‘Archæologia’ of the Society of Antiquaries, and to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ He also left a record of his travels and researches in ninety-eight manuscript volumes, profusely illustrated with watercolour drawings, which he bequeathed to the British Museum on condition that they were not opened for fifty years (Addit. MSS. 33633–730). With the exception of a tour in Holland, 1788–9 (vol. i.), a tour in the north of England, 1825 (vols. li–lvii.), and a French tour (vols. lxxii–lxxix.), his journeys were confined to the south of England, and chiefly to Somerset and the neighbouring counties. The accounts of local antiquities are remarkably elaborate. The collection is prefaced by an introduction by the author, and the last two volumes contain an index.

Skinner's portrait was painted by George Patten [q. v.] Another portrait by S. C. Smith, executed for Sir Richard Hoare, was preserved at Stourbridge, Worcestershire.

[Gent. Mag. 1840, ii. 661; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886.]

E. I. C.