BYROM, JOHN (1692–1763), English poet, writer of hymns and inventor of a system of shorthand, was born at Kersal Cell, near Manchester, on the 29th of February 1692, the younger son of a prosperous merchant. He was educated at Merchant Taylors school, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in 1714. His first poem, “Colin to Phoebe,” a pastoral, appeared in the Spectator, No. 603. The heroine is said to have been Dr Bentley’s daughter, Joanna, the mother of Richard Cumberland, the dramatist. After leaving the university Byrom went abroad, ostensibly to study medicine, but he never practised and possibly his errand was really political, for he was an adherent of the Pretender. He was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1724. On his return to London he married his cousin in 1721, and to support himself taught a new method of shorthand of his own invention, till he succeeded (1740) to his father’s estate on the death of his elder brother. His diary gives interesting portraits and letters of the many great men of his time whom he knew intimately. He died on the 26th of September 1763. A collection of his poems was published in 1773, and he is included in Alexander Chalmers’s English Poets. His system of shorthand was not published until after his death, when it was printed as The Universal English Shorthand; or the way of writing English in the most easy, concise, regular and beautiful manner, applicable to any other language, but particularly adjusted to our own (Manchester, 1767).
The Private Journal and Literary Remains of John Byrom, related by Richard Parkinson, D.D., was published by the Chetham Society (1854–1857).