Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Butler, John (1717-1802)

BUTLER, JOHN (1717–1802), bishop of Hereford, was born at Hamburg. As a young man he was a tutor in the family of Mr. Child, the banker (Chalmers). He was not a member of either university, though in later life he received the degree of LL.D. from Cambridge. He married for his first wife a lady who kept a school at Westminster; his second was the sister and coheiress of Sir Charles Vernon, of Farnham in Surrey, and this marriage considerably improved his social standing. Having taken orders he became a popular preacher in London, and in 1754 he published a sermon, preached at St. Paul's before the Sons of the Clergy. In the title-page he is described as chaplain to the Princess Dowager of Wales. In the same year he also published a sermon preached before the trustees of the Public Infirmary. He was installed as a prebendary of Winchester in 1760. In the title-page of a sermon preached before the House of Commons at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on the occasion of a general fast in 1758, he is described as minister of Great Yarmouth and chaplain to the Princess Dowager. In spite of this relation to the princess's household, in 1762 he issued a political pamphlet addressed to the 'Cocoa Tree' and signed 'A Whig.' In this pamphlet, which ran to three editions, he bitterly attacked Bute and the conduct of the ministry since the accession of George III. He was appointed chaplain to the Bishop of London (Dr. Hayter), received the living of Everley, Wiltshire, and on the recommendation of Lord Onslow was made one of the king's chaplains. In 1769 he was made archdeacon of Surrey. During the American war he issued a number of political pamphlets, under the signature of 'Vindex,' in which he strongly supports the policy of Lord North. He reaped the reward of his services in 1777, when he was appointed bishop of Oxford, being consecrated at Lambeth on 25 May. Butler had now adopted strong tory principles, and on 30 Jan. 1787 preached before the House of Lords on the death of Charles I. While bishop of Oxford he helped Dr. Woide to transcribe the Alexandrine MS. of the Bible. In 1788 he was translated to the bishopric of Hereford. He died in 1802, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, leaving no children. At the advanced age of sixty he had undergone the operation of cutting for the stone. His published works are: # 'An Answer to the Cocoa Tree, by a Whig,' 1762. # 'A Consultation on the Subject of a Standing Army,' 1763. # 'Serious Consideration on the Character of the Present Administration.' # 'Account of the Character of the Rt. Hon. H. B. Legge.' # Sermons and charges of various dates, republished in a collective edition, 1801.

[Gent. Mag. lxxii. pt. i. 233, ii. 1170; Letter to the Cocoa Tree, by a Whig, in Collected Pamphlets B. (Brit. Mus.); Chalmers's Biog. Diet, vii. 455; Watt's Bibl. Brit. i. 177; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Nichols's Lit. Anec. ix. 10.]

B. C. S.