User:Rich Farmbrough/DNB/J/o/John Charnock

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{{subst:Quick infobox|John Charnock|1756|1807|}} John Charnock (born 1756 died 1807), author, son of a barrister of some eminence, born on 28 November 1756, was educated at Winchester and Merton College, Oxford. While at the university he began to write political essays in the periodicals of the day, but afterwards devoted himself entirely to the study of naval affairs, and served in the navy for some time as a volunteer. Particulars of his career at this time are entirely wanting; but it appears that his eccentric mode of life, and possibly also his marriage, occasioned a serious breach between him and his father, and threw him on his own resources, so that the studies which he had undertaken as a pastime became, in the end, his principal means of livelihood. A friendship which he had contracted with Captain Locker, the correspondent of Nelson and lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital, gave a definite direction to his work, and led to the publication of his 'Biographia Navalis' (6 vols. octavo, 1794-8), or 'Impartial Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of Officers of the Navy of Great Britain from the year 1660', in which he was largely aided by the collections of Captain Locker. As Locker was personally acquainted with many of the officers whose lives are related, and had for years made himself the storehouse of naval tradition, his assistance gave the book a peculiar value; but the author had little access to original authorities, and, though painstaking to a degree, he had very hazy ideas as to the credibility of evidence. The book is useful, but it should be used with caution. On the completion of the 'Biographia Navalis', Charnock devoted himself to the compilation of a 'History of Marine Architecture' (3 vols. quarto, 1801-2), a work which, especially in its more modem part, has a deservedly high reputation. In 1806 he published a 'Life of Lord Nelson', which, he says in the preface, was suggested, 'almost in the form of a request', by Captain Locker, 'even during the life of his lordship'. The information and the letters communicated by Locker gave the book, at the time, a value far above that of the numerous catchpenny memoirs which crowded into light; but as the letters, which Charnock had robbed of their personal interest by translating them into more genteel language, have been since correctly printed in Sir Harris Nicolas's great collection the book has become obsolete. Charnock died on 16 May 1807, and was buned in the old churchyard at Lee, where a plain slab marks his grave. He left no family; but his widow, Mary, daughter of Peregrine Jones of Philadelphia—'whose exemplary conduct in the vicissitudes of her husband's fortune secured to her the lasting respect of his friends'—survived to a ripe old age, and died on 26 May 1836, in her eighty-fourth year. She lies under the same stone as her husband.

Besides the works already named, Charnock was also the author of 'The Rights of a Free People', octavo, 1792;' A Letter on Finance and on National Defence', octavo, 1798, and many smaller pieces. [DNB 1][1]


  1.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

    J. K. L.

    (1887). "Charnock, John (DNB00)". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 0.

DNB references[edit]

These references are found in the DNB article referred to above.

  1. Brydges's Censura Lit. v. 332. This memoir, contributed by a familiar friend of Charnock, is extremely vague in all matters of personal interest, and obscures the narrative with a sepia-like cloud of words, leaving us in doubt whether Charnock did not die in a madhouse or in a debtors' prison. All that appears certain is that he was in misery and in want, though the picture may be exaggerated.

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