Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/White, James (1803-1862)

946849Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 — White, James (1803-1862)1900Edward Irving Carlyle

WHITE, JAMES (1803–1862), author, born in Midlothian in March 1803, was the younger son of John White of Dunmore in the county of Stirling, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Logan of Howden in Midlothian. After studying at Glasgow University he matriculated from Pembroke College, Oxford, on 15 Dec. 1823, graduating B.A. in 1827. He served as curate of Hartest-cum-Boxsted in Suffolk, and on 27 March 1833 he was instituted vicar of Loxley in Warwickshire. Ultimately, on succeeding to a considerable patrimony on the death of his wife's father, he resigned his living and retired to Bonchurch in the Isle of Wight. In this retreat he turned his attention to literature, in which he had already made some essays, producing between 1845 and 1847 a succession of Scottish historical tragedies, works of some merit, though only moderately successful. Another tragedy, ‘John Savile of Haystead’ (London, 1847, 8vo), was acted at Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1847. At a later time he brought out several historical sketches of a popular character, written with considerable power of generalisation. The best known is ‘The Eighteen Christian Centuries’ (Edinburgh, 1858, 8vo), which reached a fourth edition in 1864.

White died at Bonchurch on 26 March 1862. He married in 1839 Rosa, only daughter of Colonel Popham Hill. By her he had one son, James (1841–1888), and three daughters. White possessed a charming style, and interested his readers by his clearness of thought and his ability in selecting and arranging detail. He was the friend of Charles Dickens, who in 1849 took a house at Bonchurch for some months in order to be near him. One of his tragedies was dedicated to Dickens. His portrait was painted in 1850 by Robert Scott Lauder.

Besides the works already mentioned, White was the author of:

  1. ‘The Village Poorhouse; by a Country Curate,’ London, 1832, 12mo.
  2. ‘Church and School: a Dialogue in Verse,’ London, 1839, 12mo.
  3. ‘The Adventures of Sir Frizzle Pumpkin,’ London, 1836, 8vo.
  4. ‘The Earl of Gowrie: a Tragedy,’ London, 1845, 8vo.
  5. ‘The King and the Commons: a Drama,’ London, 1846, 8vo.
  6. ‘Feudal Times; or the Court of James III: a Scottish historical Play,’ London, 1847, 16mo.
  7. ‘Landmarks of the History of England,’ London, 1855, 8vo.
  8. ‘Landmarks of the History of Greece,’ London, 1857, 8vo.
  9. ‘Robert Burns and Walter Scott: two Lives,’ London, 1858, 12mo.
  10. ‘History of France,’ Edinburgh, 1859, 8vo; 2nd ed. 1860.
  11. ‘History of England,’ London, 1860, 8vo.

Some translations from Schiller by White were published in ‘Blackwood's Magazine,’ xliii. 267, 684, 725.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, s.v. ‘White of Kellerstain;’ Gent. Mag. 1862, i. 651; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Foster's Index Eccles.; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Forster's Life of Dickens, ii. 394–6, iii. 104.]

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