Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stoddart, John

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STODDART, Sir JOHN (1773–1856), journalist, eldest son of John Stoddart, lieutenant in the royal navy, was born at Salisbury on 6 Feb. 1773. His only sister, Sarah, married, on 1 May 1808, William Hazlitt [q. v.] He was educated at Salisbury grammar school, and matriculated on 25 Oct. 1790 from Christ Church, Oxford, where he was elected a student in 1791, and graduated B.A. in 1794, B.C.L. in 1798, and D.C.L. in 1801. He was admitted a member of the College of Advocates in 1801, and from 1803 to 1807 he was the king's and the admiralty advocate at Malta. Returning to England, he practised in Doctors' Commons, and from 1812 to 1816 was a leader-writer on the ‘Times.’ In February 1817 he had a difference with the ‘Times,’ and started a rival daily, entitled ‘The New Times,’ which was soon amalgamated with the ‘Day.’ For a short time it appeared as the ‘Day and New Times,’ but dropped the first half of the title in 1818, and survived as the ‘New Times’ until about 1828. During the period of his editorship he was scurrilously known as ‘Dr. Slop,’ and was the subject of several satires, of which ‘A Slap at Slop’ (1820) ran through four editions. His connection with the ‘New Times’ probably ceased in 1826, when he was appointed chief justice and justice of the vice-admiralty court in Malta, and on 27 July was knighted by George IV at St. James's Palace. Finding that the Maltese complained that former judges were imperfectly acquainted with their language, he made himself master of Italian. He gave entire satisfaction in his office, and the islanders had perfect confidence in his decisions. He published in 1830–2 (3 parts) ‘Trial by Jury: a Speech on the opening of a Commission in Malta for establishing a modified Trial by Jury, translated from the Italian.’ During an outbreak of cholera in the island he devoted himself to its suppression with great success. Returning to England in 1840, he made progress in an etymological theory, which he believed would supplant that of Horne Tooke, and he embodied it in a work called ‘Glossology, or the Historical Relations of Languages.’ Of this work he completed the first part only, which was published in 1858 in the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana.’ He died at 13 Brompton Square, London, on 16 Feb. 1856. In 1803 he married Isabella, eldest daughter of the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, bart. She died on 2 Feb. 1846, having had, among other children, three sons: Henry Moncrieff, who died while a pupil at the Charterhouse; John Frederick, a member of the Scottish bar in 1827, a judge in Ceylon in 1836, who died of a jungle fever while on circuit on 29 Aug. 1839 (Gent. Mag. 1840, i. 110); and William Wellwood, vicar of Charlbury, Oxfordshire, who died at Genoa on 21 Nov. 1856.

Stoddart published in 1801 ‘Remarks on the Local Scenery and Manners of Scotland,’ London, 2 vols. 8vo. Of his writings on legal subjects, the most important was ‘A Letter to Lord Brougham,’ one in the minority of the law lords by whom the great Irish marriage case, Queen v. Millis, was decided in 1844, and, as Stoddart endeavoured to show, erroneously decided. On this case he also published in 1844 a pamphlet entitled ‘Irish Marriage Question: Observations on the Opinions delivered by Lord Cottenham in the Irish Marriage Case,’ 1844. His legal acumen was also shown in his article ‘The Head of the Church’ in the ‘Law Review,’ February 1851, pp. 418–36. He translated from the French of Joseph Despaze ‘The Five Men, or a review of the Proceedings and Principles of the Executive Directory of France, with the lives of the present Members,’ 1797; and, with Georg Heinrich Noehden, Schiller's ‘Fiesco,’ 1796, and ‘Don Carlos,’ 1798. To the quarto edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana’ he contributed ‘Grammar’ (i. 1–193), and the introductory chapter on ‘The Uses of History as a Study’ (ix. 1–80); and to the octavo edition, 1850, an introduction to the ‘Study of Universal History,’ besides ‘Glossology’ in 1858.

[Law Magazine and Law Review, 1857, iv. 124–30; Gent. Mag. 1856, xlv. 524.]

G. C. B.