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Douglas, James (1753-1819) (DNB00)


DOUGLAS, JAMES (1753–1819), divine, antiquary, and artist, third and youngest son of John Douglas of St. George's, Hanover Square, London, was born in 1753. Early in life he was placed with an eminent manufacturer at Middleton, Lancashire, near the seat of Sir Ashton Lever, who was then forming his famous museum. Instead of attending to business he assisted Sir Ashton in stuffing birds; and his friends removed him to a military college in Flanders, where he gained reputation by the translation of a French work on fortification (Burke, Commoners, iv. 601). Another account, however, states that he was at first employed by his brother abroad as an agent for the business, and was left without resources in consequence of some misconduct (Addit. MS. 19097, f. 82, ‘from private information’). Afterwards he entered the Austrian army as a cadet, and at Vienna he became acquainted with Baron Trenck. Being sent by Prince John of Lichtenstein to purchase horses in England, and jocosely observing that he thought his head grinning on the gates of Constantinople would not be a very becoming sight, he did not return, and exchanged the Austrian for the British service. He obtained a lieutenant's commission in the Leicester militia, during the heat of the general war then raging, and was put on the staff of Colonel Dibbing of the engineers, and engaged in fortifying Chatham lines.

Leaving the army he determined to take orders, and entered Peterhouse, Cambridge (Cooper, Memorials, i. 14). He is said to have taken the degree of M.A., but his name does not appear in ‘Graduati Cantabrigienses.’ In January 1780 he married Margaret, daughter of John Oldershaw of Rochester, who had previously been an eminent surgeon at Leicester; and in the same year he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and entered into holy orders. The early part of his ministry was at Chedingford, Sussex. On 17 Nov. 1787 he was instituted to the rectory of Litchborough, Northamptonshire, on the presentation of Sir William Addington, and towards the close of that year he was appointed one of the Prince of Wales's chaplains. He resigned Litchborough in 1799 on being presented by the lord chancellor, through the recommendation of the Earl of Egremont, to the rectory of Middleton, Sussex. In 1803 he was presented by Lord Henniker to the vicarage of Kenton, Suffolk. The closing years of his life were spent at Preston, Sussex, where he died on 5 Nov. 1819.

He painted some excellent portraits of his friends both in oil and miniature. In 1795 he contributed to Nichols's ‘Leicestershire’ a delicate plate of Coston Church engraved by himself. He also engraved the well-known full-length portrait of Francis Grose, the antiquary.

His works are: 1. ‘A General Essay on Military Tactics; with an introductory Discourse, &c., translated from the French of J. A. H. Guibert,’ 2 vols. Lond. 1781, 8vo. 2. ‘Travelling Anecdotes, through various parts of Europe;’ in 2 vols., vol. i. (all published), Rochester, 1782, 8vo (anon.); 2nd edit. with the author's name, Lond. 1785, 8vo; 3rd edit., Lond., 1786, 8vo. Written much in the manner of Sterne, and illustrated with characteristic and humorous plates drawn and etched by the author. 3. ‘A Dissertation on the Antiquity of the Earth,’ Lond. 1785, 4to. 4. ‘Two Dissertations on the Brass Instruments called Celts, and other Arms used by the Antients, found in this Island,’ with two fine aquatinta engravings. This forms No. 33 of the ‘Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica,’ vol. i. 1785. 5. ‘Nenia Britannica, or a Sepulchral History of Great Britain, from the earliest period to its general conversion to Christianity,’ Lond. 1793, fol., dedicated to the Prince of Wales. Published in numbers (1786–93) at 5s. each. This fine work contains a description of British, Roman, and Saxon sepulchral rites and ceremonies, and also of the contents of several hundred ancient places of interment opened under the personal inspection of the author, who has added observations on the Celtic, British, Roman, and Danish barrows discovered in Great Britain. The tombs, with all their contents, are represented in aquatinta plates executed by Douglas. A copy preserved in the Grenville collection at the British Museum contains the original drawings and also numerous drawings which were not engraved. The relics found by Douglas in his excavations and engraved in this work were sold by his widow to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, who in 1829 presented them to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. 6. ‘On the Urbs Rutupiæ of Ptolemy, and the Limden-pic of the Saxons,’ in vol. i. of ‘Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica,’ 1787. 7. ‘Discourses on the Influence of the Christian Religion on Civil Society,’ Lond. 1792, 8vo.

[Addit. MS. 19097, ff. 81, 81 b, 82; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors (1816); European Mag. xii. 465; Gent. Mag. lxiii. 881, lxxiii. 785, lxxxix, 564; Lit. Memoirs of Living Authors, i. 164; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), pp. 664, 954; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 650, vi. 455, 893, vii. 458–61, 698; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 659, viii. 685, ix. 8, 71, 88.]

T. C.