Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Boucher, Jonathan

418833Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06 — Boucher, Jonathan1886William Prideaux Courtney

BOUCHER, JONATHAN (1738–1804), divine and philologer, the son of a Cumberland 'statesman,' was born at Blencogo, a small hamlet in the parish of Bromfield, between Wigton and Allonby, on 12 March 1738, and was educated at Wigton grammar school. When about sixteen years old he went to America to act as private tutor in a Virginian family, and remained engaged in tuition for some years, the stepson of George Washington being numbered among his pupils. Having resolved upon taking orders he returned to England, and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1762. For many years he had charge, in turn, of several ecclesiastical parishes in America. He was rector of Hanover, in King George's County, in 1762; then of St. Mary's, in Carolina; and lastly, in 1770, of St. Anne's, in Annapolis. Whilst resident in the new country he lived in intimate friendship with Washington. They often dined together, and spent many hours in talk; but the time soon came when they 'stood apart.' Boucher's loyalty was uncompromising, and when the American war broke out he denounced from the pulpit the doctrines which were popular in the colonies. 'His last sermon, preached with pistols on his pulpit-cushion, concluded with the following words: "As long as I live, yea, while I have my being, will I proclaim God save the king."' Washington shared in the denunciations of Boucher; but when the loyal divine published the discourses which he had preached in North America between 1763 and 1775 he dedicated the collection to the great American general, as 'a tender of renewed amity.' Some time in the autumn of 1775 he returned to England, and soon after his struggles in opposition to the advancement of the cause of the colonies were rewarded by a government pension. In January 1785 he was instituted to the vicarage of Epsom, on the presentation of the Rev. John Parkhurst, the editor of the Greek and Hebrew lexicons. This living he retained until his death, which happened on 27 April 1804. Boucher was considered one of the best preachers of his time, and was a member of the distinguished clerical club, still in existence (1886), under the fantastic title of 'Nobody's Club.' He was thrice married. His first wife, whom he married in June 1772, was of the same family as Joseph Addison; the second, Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Foreman, was married on 15 Jan. 1787, and died on 14 Sept. 1788; by his third wife, widow of the Rev. Mr. James, rector of Arthuret, and married to Boucher at Carlisle in October 1789, he left eight children [see Bouchier, Barton]. Some portions of Boucher's autobiography were printed in 'Notes and Queries,' 5th ser. i. 103-4, v. 501-3, vi. 21, 81, 141, 161.

Boucher was a man of widespread tastes and of intense affection for his native county of Cumberland. His anonymous tract, containing proposals for its material advancement, including the establishment of a county bank, was signed 'A Cumberland Man, Whitehaven, Dec. 1792,' and was reprinted in Sir F. M. Eden's 'State of the Poor,' iii. App. 387-401. To William Hutchinson's 'Cumberland' he contributed the accounts of the parishes of Bromfield, Caldbeck, and Sebergham, and the lives included in the section entitled 'Biographia Cumbrensis.' The edition of Relph's poetical works which appeared in 1797 was dedicated to Boucher, and among the 'Original Poems' of Sanderson (1800) is an epistle to Boucher on his return from America. He published several single sermons and addresses to his parishioners, and issued in 1797, under the title of 'A View of the Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution,' thirteen of his discourses, 1763-1775. His 'Glossary of Archaic and Provincial Words,' intended as a supplement to Johnson's Dictionary, to which he devoted fourteen years, was left uncompleted. Proposals for publication under the direction of Sir F. M. Eden were issued shortly before his death, and the part including letter A was published in 1807, but did not obtain sufficient encouragement to justify the continuance of the work. A second attempt at publication was made in 1832, when the Rev. Joseph Hunter and Joseph Stevenson brought out the Introduction to the whole work and the Glossary as far as Blade. The attempt was again unsuccessful; and it is understood that most of the materials passed into the hands of the proprietors of Dr. Webster's English Dictionary. A certain J. Odell, M. A., an Epsom schoolmaster, published in 1806 an 'Essay on the Elements of the English Language,' which was intended as an introduction to Boucher's work.

[Gent. Mag. (1804), pt. ii. 591, by Sir F. M. Eden (1831), 450; Nichols's Illust, of Lit. v. 630-41; Sir J. A. Park's W. Stevens (1859 ed.), 131-9, 169; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ix. 75-6, 282-4, 5th ser. ix. 50, 68, 89, 311, 371; Manning and Bray's Surrey, ii. 620, 625; Allen's American Biog. Dict. (3rd ed.), 105-6; Hawks's Eccles. Hist. of the United States, ii. 269.]

W. P. C.