Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burrow, James

BURROW, Sir JAMES (1701–1782), legal reporter, was the son of Thomas Burrow of Clapham, Surrey, and was born on 28 Nov. 1701. In 1733, at the age of thirty-two, he obtained the post of master of the crown office and retained it until his death. In 1725 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple, was elected a bencher in 1754, became reader in 1764, and treasurer in 1765. He was elected F.S.A. in April 1741, and F.R.S. in April 1737, and subsequently became honorary member of the Société des Antiquités at Cassel. For two short periods he discharged the duties of president of the Royal Society (the first lasting from September to November 1768, the second from July to November 1772), and when the society presented an address to the king on 10 Aug. 1773 Burrow received the honour of knighthood. He was the owner of Starborough Castle in the parish of Lingfield, Surrey, and he died there on 5 Nov. 1782, being buried in the chancel of Lingfield Church. His epitaph, with unusual frankness, sums up his virtues in the phrase: ‘The convivial character was what he chiefly affected, and it was his constant wish to be easy and chearful himself and to see others in a like disposition.’ A portrait by Vanloo of Burrow was presented by him to the Royal Society, and hangs in the meeting-room. A whole-length print of him in his official dress was engraved by James Basire in 1780 from a painting by Arthur Devis.

Burrow's merits as a law reporter have been universally acknowledged. His collection of ‘Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of King's Bench during the time of Lord Mansfield's presiding’ was published in 1756–72, the fourth edition appearing in five volumes in 1790. The first volume of his ‘Reports of Cases adjudged in the Court of King's Bench since the death of Lord Raymond’ came out in 1766, and the last—there were five in all—was issued in 1780. In 1773 he turned aside at the request of his friends to publish separately, in anticipation of its inclusion in his general volume of ‘Reports,’ his ‘lucid and valuable’ narrative of ‘The question concerning literary property determined by the court of king's bench, 20 April 1769, in the cause between Andrew Millar and Robert Taylor,’ a question which dealt with the much-vexed point of the copyright of books. ‘The Decisions of the Court of King's Bench upon Settlement Cases from the death of Lord Raymond, March 1732,’ were chronicled by him in two volumes in 1768, to the second of which was added a tract entitled ‘A few Thoughts upon Pointing,’ and a second continuation, bringing the decisions down to Michaelmas sessions 1776, was edited by him in that year. His tract on pointing was struck off with a separate title-page in 1768, and was reprinted in an enlarged and improved form in 1771. Burrow was the author, under the thin disguise of ‘A Member of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries,’ of a pamphlet called ‘A few Anecdotes and Observations relating to Oliver Cromwell and his Family … to rectify several errors … by Nicolaus Commenus Papadopoli in his “Historia Gymnasii Patavini,”’ 1763; and Watt attributes to him a tract entitled ‘Serious Reflections on the Present State of Domestic and Foreign Affairs. With proposals for a new Lottery,’ 1757. Five papers on earthquakes were contributed by him to the ‘Philosophical Transactions.’

[Thomson's Royal Society, p. 13; Weld's Royal Society, ii. 45–6, 65; Gent. Mag. (November 1782), p. 551; Manning and Bray's Surrey, ii. 346–7, 359; Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, i. 138; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, iii. 177–8; Masters of Bench of Inner Temple (1883), p. 75.]

W. P. C.