Stone, John Hurford (DNB00)

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STONE, JOHN HURFORD (1763–1818), political refugee, was born at Taunton, Somerset, in 1763. Losing his father in childhood, he was sent to his uncle, William Hurford, coal merchant and common councilman in London, and, with his younger brother William, he appears to have succeeded to his uncle's business. Being a unitarian, he became intimate with Price and Priestley, and his radical opinions, coupled with his acquaintance with continental languages and literatures, attracted to his dinner table Fox, Sheridan, the poet Rogers, Talleyrand, and Madame de Genlis. A prominent member of the Society of the Friends of the Revolution (of 1688), he presided in London in October 1790 at the reception of a deputation from Nantes, at which the downfall of French despotism was celebrated. In September 1792 he was in Paris, and was chairman at a dinner of British residents and visitors held to commemorate the French victories in Belgium; Thomas Paine and Lord Edward Fitzgerald were present. Madame de Genlis, on quitting Paris, entrusted some manuscripts to Stone, which he confided to Helen Maria Williams [q. v.], who, apprehensive of a domiciliary search by Jacobin inspectors, destroyed them. He advanced twelve thousand francs for a scheme for procuring the escape of M. de Genlis from prison, a debt of honour which the widow afterwards refused to discharge. He returned to London in February 1793, but was again in Paris in the following May, when he was a witness in favour of General Miranda. On the arrest of British subjects in the autumn of 1793, in retaliation for the capture of Toulon, he was imprisoned for seventeen days at the Luxembourg. He was again arrested, with his wife, Rachel Coope, in April 1794, probably on account of his Girondin sympathies, but was released on condition of quitting France. He accordingly went to Switzerland, but was speedily allowed to return to Paris, and in June 1794 obtained a divorce. This presumably marks the date of his liaison or secret marriage with Miss Williams. Tone found them living together in 1796. In January of that year Stone's brother William was tried at the Old Bailey for ‘treacherously conspiring with John Hurford Stone, now in France, to destroy the life of the king and to raise a rebellion in his realms;’ but being shown to have acted entirely under his brother's influence in harbouring William Jackson (1737?–1795) [q. v.], he was acquitted, whereupon he retired to France and became steward to an Englishman named Parker at Villeneuve St. Georges. Stone himself, who published in Paris a caustic pamphlet on the trial, became agent in Paris for O'Reilly's pottery works at Creil, and subsequently started in business as a printer. He undertook some government contracts, brought out an edition of the Geneva (French Protestant) Bible, and was ruined by a costly Latin edition of Humboldt's ‘Cosmos.’ He was naturalised as a Frenchman in 1817, simultaneously with Miss Williams. He died in the following year, and his tombstone in Père-Lachaise (beside which Miss Williams was afterwards buried) describes him as an enlightened champion of religion and liberty. Under the name of Photinus he published in French in 1800 a letter to Du Fossé in advocacy of unitarianism. An intercepted letter from him to Priestley in 1798 was printed by Cobbett in America; it elicited from Priestley a repudiation of Stone's desire for a French invasion of England.

[Gent. Mag. 1796; Life of Tone; Mém. de Madame de Genlis; Early Life of Samuel Rogers; Alger's Englishmen in French Revolution; Fitzpatrick's Secret Service under Pitt (which confuses the two brothers).]

J. G. A.