Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carpenter, William (1797-1874)

CARPENTER, WILLIAM (1797–1874), miscellaneous writer, son of a tradesman in St. James's, Westminster, was born in 1797. He received no school education, but at an early age entered the service of a bookseller in Finsbury, first as an errand-boy, and then as an apprentice. By persevering self-study he acquired several ancient and modern languages, and devoted himself with special eagerness to biblical subjects. While at Finsbury he made the acquaintance of William Greenfield, editor of Bagster's ‘Polyglot Bibles.’ With him he edited for some time the ‘Scripture Magazine,’ which was afterwards expanded into the ‘Critica Biblica’ (4 vols. 1824–7). Devoting himself entirely to literary pursuits, he wrote a number of works on theological and general subjects, and was connected in succession with numerous periodicals. He was editor of the ‘Shipping Gazette’ in 1836, of the ‘Era’ in 1838, of the ‘Railway Observer’ in 1843, of ‘Lloyd's Weekly News’ in 1844, of the ‘Court Journal’ in 1848, of the ‘Sunday Times’ and ‘Bedfordshire Independent’ in 1854. He also edited a morning paper. As a journalist he issued a publication entitled ‘Political Letters’ (1830–1). This he maintained was not liable to the stamp duty on newspapers, and he issued it partly to try the question. A prosecution followed at the instance of the authorities in the court of exchequer. At the trial (14 May 1831) Carpenter defended himself, was convicted, and was imprisoned for some time in the king's bench (Report of Trial prefixed to Collected Political Letters). From his prison he edited the ‘Political Magazine’ (September 1831 to July 1832, republished as ‘Carpenter's Monthly Political Magazine,’ 1832).

Carpenter threw himself with great zeal into the cause of political reform. In connection with this he wrote ‘An Address to the Working Classes on the Reform Bill,’ 1831; ‘The People's Book, comprising their chartered rights and practical wrongs,’ 1831; ‘The Electors' Manual,’ 1832; ‘The Political Text Book, comprising a view of the origin and objects of government, and an examination of the principal social and political institutions of England,’ 1833; ‘Peerage for the People,’ 1841; ‘The Corporation of London as it is, and as it should be,’ 1847. Between 1851 and 1853 Carpenter was honorary secretary to the Chancery Reform Association, for which he wrote a good deal. He also wrote a little treatise, ‘The Israelites found in the Anglo-Saxons,’ 1872. Carpenter was troubled with defective eyesight, and was, notwithstanding his remarkable activity, in somewhat poor circumstances for some time before his death, which took place at his residence in Colebrooke Row, Islington, 21 April 1874.

Carpenter published: 1. ‘Sancta Biblica’ (a collection of parallel passages), 3 vols. 1825, dedicated to George IV. 2. ‘Calendarium Palestinæ, exhibiting the Principal Events in Scripture History,’ 1825. 3. ‘A Popular Introduction to the Study of the Scriptures,’ 1826. 4. ‘Old English and Hebrew Proverbs explained and illustrated,’ 1826. 5. ‘A Reply to the Accusations of Piracy and Plagiarism, in a letter to the Rev. T. H. Horne,’ 1827. 6. ‘An Examination of Scripture Difficulties,’ 1828. 7. ‘Scripture Natural History’ (1828, republished Boston, U.S., 1833; Latin translation, Paris, 1841). 8. ‘Popular Lectures on Biblical Criticism and Interpretation,’ 1829. 9. ‘A Guide to the Practical Reading of the Bible,’ 1830. 10. ‘Anecdotes of the French Revolution of 1830,’ 1830. 11. ‘A Popular History of Priestcraft abridged from W. Howitt's Book,’ 1834. 12. ‘A Reply to W. Howitt's Preface to the Abridged History of Priestcraft,’ 1834. 13. ‘The Life and Times of John Milton,’ 1836. 14. ‘The Biblical Companion,’ 1836. 15. ‘Relief for the Unemployed; Emigration and Colonisation considered,’ 1841. 16. ‘Clark's Christian Inheritance’ (5th ed. 1843). 17. ‘A Comprehensive Dictionary of English Synonyms’ (6th ed. 1865). 18. ‘An Introduction to the Reading and Study of the English Bible’ (3 vols. 1867–8). The following have also been included in a list of Carpenter's works: ‘Mneiophile, a Dictionary of Facts and Dates;’ ‘Critical Dissertation on Ezekiel's Temple;’ ‘Wesleyana;’ ‘Life of Cobbett’ (whom he knew intimately); ‘Small Debts, an Argument for County Courts;’ ‘Machinery and the Working Classes;’ ‘The Condition of Children in Mines and Factories.’ He also edited and abridged Calmet's ‘History of the Bible.’ His scriptural treatises have been very popular in America.

[Men of the Time, 8th edit. 1872, pp. 192–3; Sunday Times newspaper, 3 May 1874, p. 8, col. 1, Brit. Mus. Cat.; Preface to Introduction to the Reading and Study of the English Bible.]

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