Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/St. John, James Augustus
ST. JOHN, JAMES AUGUSTUS (1801–1875), author and traveller, was born in Carmarthenshire on 24 Sept. 1801. When he was seven his father died, and in his education at the village school he was assisted by the local clergyman, who taught him classics and modern languages. When sixteen he came to London, and immediately afterwards joined the staff of a Plymouth radical newspaper; and on the publication of the ‘Oriental Herald,’ by James Silk Buckingham [q. v.], in 1824, he was appointed assistant editor. In partnership with David Lester Richardson [q. v.], he started the ‘Weekly Review’ in 1827. The paper appeared for three years, and was then sold and became the ‘Court Journal.’
Meanwhile St. John removed with his family to Caen. His life there, and the frequent excursions he made in the provinces, form the basis of his ‘Journal of a Residence in Normandy’ contributed in 1826 to ‘Constable's Miscellany.’ In 1830–1 he was in Paris, and subsequently in Switzerland. Leaving his family behind him at Lausanne, he set out in 1832 to Egypt, and travelled there and in Nubia, mostly on foot. The record of this journey was published in two volumes in 1834, under the title of ‘Egypt and Mohammed Ali.’ He returned through Italy in 1834, and the European portions of this tour form the subject of ‘There and back again in search of Beauty’ (2 vols. London, 1853). He then returned with his family to London. The events of 1848 called him to Paris. Subsequently he wrote forcible letters in the liberal interest under the signature of ‘Greville Brook’ in the ‘Sunday Times,’ and supplied political leaders for many years to the ‘Daily Telegraph.’ In 1868 he brought out an elaborate ‘Life of Sir Walter Raleigh’ (2 vols. 1868, 1 vol. 1869), in which he embodied some researches previously made at Madrid and Simancas. In his last years he became blind. He died in London in September 1875. He had married in 1819 Eliza Agar Hansard, and by her had had a large family. Three of his sons—Percy Bolingbroke, Bayle, and Horace Stebbing Roscoe—are noticed separately.
St. John's works were of a varied character. In addition to those mentioned above, he wrote:
- ‘Anatomy of Society,’ London, 1831.
- ‘Lives of Celebrated Travellers,’ 3 vols. London, 1831.
- ‘Margaret Ravenscroft,’ a novel, 3 vols. London, 1835.
- ‘Tales of the Ramad'han,’ 3 vols. London, 1835.
- ‘Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece,’ 3 vols. London, 1842.
- ‘Sir Cosmo Digby: a Tale of the Monmouthshire Riots,’ 3 vols. London, 1843.
- ‘Egypt and Nubia,’ London, 1845.
- ‘Views in the Eastern Archipelago’ (descriptions accompanying), London, 1847.
- ‘Oriental Album’ (descriptions accompanying), London, 1848.
- ‘Isis, an Egyptian Pilgrimage,’ 2 vols. London, 1853.
- ‘Philosophy at the Foot of the Cross,’ London, 1854.
- ‘Nemesis of Power,’ London, 1854.
- ‘Preaching of Christ,’ London, 1856.
- ‘Ring and the Veil,’ a novel, 3 vols. London, 1856.
- ‘Louis Napoleon,’ a biography, London, 1857.
- ‘Education of the People,’ London, 1858.
- ‘History of the Four Conquests of England,’ 2 vols. London, 1862.
- ‘Weighed in the Balance,’ a novel, 3 vols. London, 1864.
He also edited: ‘Masterpieces of English Prose Literature,’ 6 vols. London, 1836–8; ‘Pilgrim's Progress,’ London, 1838; John Locke's ‘Works,’ London, 1843 and 1854; Milton's ‘Prose Works,’ London, 1848.
[Men of the Time; Sala's Life and Adventures, i. 397; autobiographical information in his own Works; Brit. Mus. Cat.]