Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baxter, William (1650-1723)

BAXTER, WILLIAM (1650–1723), scholar, was born in 1650 at Lanhigan in Shropshire—son of a brother of the great Richard Baxter [q. v.] When he proceeded to Harrow at the very late age of eighteen, he could neither read nor understand one word of any language but Welsh. He soon, however, acquired much classical learning. His first publication was a Latin grammar, called ‘De Analogia, sive arte Linguæ Latinæ Commentariolus … in usum provectioris adolescentiæ,’ 1679.

He made his mark at a bound by his ‘Anacreon,’ published in 1695. It bore his name not only over England but Germany and Holland. Later opinion pronounced it bold to temerity in its readings and conjectures. It was reprinted in 1710. Joshua Barnes [q. v.] charged Baxter with borrowing largely in the second edition from his edition of ‘Anacreon’ of 1705, but Barnes afterwards appears to have retracted the charge (Stukeley's Memoirs (Surtees Soc.), i. 95–6). In 1701 appeared Baxter's celebrated ‘Horace,’ which J. M. Gesner made the basis of his edition, published in 1752 and also in 1772. Baxter's edition was republished in 1725 and in 1798. Bishop Lowth pronounced it ‘the best edition of Horace ever yet delivered to the world.’ In 1788 Zeunius incorporated in an edition of Horace all Baxter's and Gesner's notes. A serious fault of Baxter's Horace is his abuse of Richard Bentley.

In 1719 he published his dictionary of British antiquities under the title of ‘Glossarium Antiquitatum Britannicarum, sive Syllabus Etymologicus Antiquitatum Veteris Britanniæ atque Iberniæ temporibus Romanorum.’ Prefixed is a fine portrait of the author, engraved by Vertue after Highmore, when Baxter was in his sixty-ninth year. This erudite work was republished by the Rev. Moses Williams. To the same editor we are indebted for Baxter's posthumous work, his glossary or dictionary of Roman antiquities, under the title of ‘Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, sive W. Baxteri Opera Posthuma.’ Unhappily it went only through the letter A; but there is a fragment of the life of the author written by himself accompanying it. Among the minor writings of Bowyer is ‘A View of a Book entitled “Reliquiæ Baxterianæ” in a Letter to a Friend.’ This is an acute and pleasant analysis of the work. He had prepared an edition of Juvenal with commentary and notes; but, in spite of Moses Williams' proposals, it never appeared. Besides his critical labours Baxter from the outset pursued physiological studies. These and other subsidiary investigations bore fruit in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ and ‘Archæologia.’ He was ‘one of the hands’ in the translation of Plutarch's ‘Morals’ (1718). He carried on an extensive correspondence with all the prominent men of his generation. His profession was that of a schoolmaster, first in a boarding school at Tottenham High Cross (Middlesex), and later as master of the Mercers' School, London, where he remained for upwards of twenty years. He died 31 May 1723.

[Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, ut supra; Nichols's Anecdotes, i. 163–5; Monthly Review, N. S. xxv.; Archæologia, i.; Richard Baxter's Life.]

A. B. G.