Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sheppard, John (1785-1879)

SHEPPARD, JOHN (1785–1879), religious writer, born on 15 Oct. 1785 at Frome, Somerset, where the family had resided since the Restoration, was son of John Sheppard by his wife Mary Kelson, daughter of John Banger of Piddletown, Dorset. He left school in 1800 to enter the woollen trade, in which most of the family were engaged. In 1806, after his father's death, he and his mother joined the anabaptists, a body to which many of his relatives belonged. With John Foster (1770–1843) [q. v.], baptist minister in Frome from 1804, Sheppard developed a lasting intimacy. The death of his uncle, Walter Sheppard, who made him his heir, enabled him to relinquish business. Determining to essay medicine, he matriculated at Edinburgh University towards the close of 1812, but was soon diverted to the study of philosophy and Hebrew. During two years' residence at Edinburgh he formed friendships with Thomas Chalmers [q. v.] and with Pinkerton the antiquary. In 1816 and 1817 he made tours through France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and studied for some months at Göttingen. In 1823 Sheppard published his ‘Thoughts preparative or persuasive to Private Devotion,’ which went through five editions in as many years. From that period until his death he devoted himself to religious authorship, to lay preaching, and foreign travel. He died at Frome on 30 April 1879, and was buried in the dissenters' cemetery. He was twice married.

His works include: 1. ‘Athaliah,’ translated from Racine, 1815, 12mo. 2. ‘Letters on a Tour in France,’ London, 1817, 8vo. 3. ‘An Autumn Dream,’ poem, London, 1837, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1841. 4. ‘Cursory View of the State of Religion in France,’ London, 1838, 12mo. 5. ‘On Dreams,’ London, 1847, 12mo. 6. ‘On Trees, their Uses and Biography,’ London, 1848, 12mo. 7. ‘The Foreign Sacred Lyre,’ London, 1857, 8vo. 8. ‘The Christian Harp,’ London, 1858, 8vo.

[Memoir in T. G. Rooke's edition of ‘Thoughts preparative to private Devotion,’ London, 1881, 8vo; Ryland's Life and Letters of Foster, passim; Letters in a Journey to France, &c.; Burke's Landed Gentry, 8th ed., p. 1834; for a letter to Byron and the reply, Moore's Byron, ii. letter 469.]

E. I. C.