Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trotter, John Bernard

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TROTTER, JOHN BERNARD (1775–1818), author, born in 1775 in co. Down, was the second son of the Rev. Edward Trotter, and younger brother of Edward Southwell Trotter, who assumed the name of Ruthven [q. v.] He was educated at the grammar school at Downpatrick, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, on 1 June 1790, graduating B.A. in the spring of 1795. He visited London in 1798, entering as a student at the Temple, and during his stay he made the acquaintance of Charles James Fox. Having sent Fox a pamphlet entitled ‘An Investigation of the Legality and Validity of a Union’ (Dublin, 1799, 8vo), and some verses, Trotter was told that both Fox and Mrs. Fox liked them very much.

After the conclusion of the peace of Amiens in 1802, Trotter was invited by Fox to accompany him to Paris to assist him in transcribing portions of Barillon's correspondence for his ‘History of the Early Part of the Reign of James II.’ He returned home before Fox, and was called to the Irish bar in Michaelmas term 1802.

Trotter became Fox's private secretary after his appointment as foreign secretary on 7 Feb. 1806 in the administration of ‘All the Talents.’ On Fox's death on 13 Sept. Trotter returned to Ireland. In 1808 he published a ‘Letter to Lord Southwell on the Catholic Question,’ and in 1809 ‘Stories for Calumniators,’ in which the characters were drawn from living models and he himself appeared as Fitzmorice. His ‘Memoirs of the latter Years of Fox’ appeared in 1811, attained a third edition within the year, and disappointed readers without distinction of party. The ‘Quarterly Review’ thought him unjust to Fox, and held that he had misrepresented the relations between him and Sheridan (vi. 541); while James Sharp published ‘Remarks in defence of Pitt against the loose and undigested calumny of an unknown adventurer.’ Landor wrote ‘Observations,’ of which a few copies got into circulation (Forster, Life of Landor, p. 165). According to Allibone (iii. 2458), Buckle wrote in his copy of Trotter's book: ‘An ill work by a weak man.’

Trotter's later life was passed in poverty and privation, and in his last years his misfortunes tended to disturb the balance of his mind. In 1813 he made his last political effort while in the Marshalsea at Wexford, writing a pamphlet on the Irish situation, entitled ‘Five Letters to Sir William Cusack Smith,’ which reached a third edition within the year. He died on 29 Sept. 1818, ‘in a decayed house in Hammond's Marsh in Cork,’ in unspeakable destitution, the out-patient of a neighbouring dispensary. The misery of his last days was lightened by the devotion of an Irish peasant boy whom he had educated to be his companion, and of his wife, a young woman whom he had married in prison about five years before. In 1819 appeared a series of letters by him, entitled ‘Walks through Ireland,’ the record of the wanderings of his later years, with a biographical memoir prefixed.

[Memoir prefixed to Walks through Ireland, 1819; Moore's Diary, iii. 129; Records of Trinity College and King's Inns Dublin; Memoirs of Fox; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Gent. Mag. 1818, p. 472.]

F. R.